Praying mantis are carnivorous insects, which means that they catch and eat other animals to survive.
The specific foods that praying mantis eat depend on the size of the mantis and the availability of food. The most common foods eaten by praying mantis are invertebrates such as flies, grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies and even some beetles.
Scientific studies have shown that praying mantis are able to “size up” a potential meal and will only attempt to catch those prey items it is confident that it can subdue. While there are cases of praying mantis eating larger prey on occasion – such as small birds, amphibians and fish – these are generally reserved for the largest mantis.
Another important factor when it comes to what praying mantis eat is movement. A potential meal that remains still may not be noticed by the mantis. It is only when an insect is moving around that the praying mantis is able to see it. The more “active” a potential prey item is, therefore, the more likely it is to fall foul of the mantis.
What is a Praying Mantis’ Favorite Food?
Praying mantis have no favorite food. Instead, what they eat is largely dictated by the size of the praying mantis and what potential prey items are in plentiful supply.
The European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) is commonly found resting in long grass in uncut meadows and field boundaries. Here they can be important predators of the local grasshoppers and crickets, though they will try to catch any suitably-sized animal that passes within reach.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Spiders?
Praying mantis are capable of eating spiders.
That said, praying mantis need their prey to move around. This movement helps the praying mantis to spot the prey item. Additionally, praying mantis don’t tend to chase their prey down over long distances. Instead, they remain motionless and wait for prey to come within striking distance.
As many spiders sit motionless on their webs for hours or even days at a time, this inactivity means that they tend to be of little interest to praying mantis. Only if the mantis spots the spider moving around will it take an unhealthy interest.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Ants?
Praying mantis can eat ants, but normally these are only eaten by the smallest hatchling mantis. As praying mantis grow and develop, the tiny body of an ant becomes far less appealing. Instead, larger mantids will normally focus their attention on comparatively larger prey.
It should also be mentioned that ants can represent a danger to praying mantis. Moving in groups, some ants are capable of overwhelming a praying mantis thanks to their numbers. At this point the praying mantis may be killed, bitten into smaller pieces, and then carried back to the ant nest to be fed on.
So while tiny praying mantis may eat some ants, generally speaking ants are best avoided.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Plants?
Praying mantis are carnivores, which means that they don’t eat any plant matter.
This is important as it means that praying mantis do not pose any danger to your garden. Quite the opposite in fact – praying mantis will happily feed on the very insects – like caterpillars and grasshoppers – that can do damage to your plants.
As a result, seeing a praying mantis in your garden should be seen as a good sign, not a bad one.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Each Other?
Praying mantis are known to eat each other if the opportunity arises.
This is most commonly-observed in hatchling praying mantis. Once hatched out of their egg case, some of the first mantis to hatch may consume one or more of their siblings as a first meal.
While a grisly thing to observe, this helps to give the baby mantis a strong head start in life. Subsequently they’re more likely to reach maturity and produce the next generation of mantis.
While it is uncommon for praying mantis generations to overlap in the wild, should a large praying mantis stumble across a much smaller specimen it may also catch and eat it.
In terms of praying mantis as pets, then, most mantis are best kept alone. There are, however, a few exceptions of mantis that will happily live together in colonies.
Do Praying Mantis Eat Their Sloughed Skin?
When a praying mantis moults it is not unusual for them to consume part or all of their sloughed skin. This makes perfect sense. Eating the old skin prevents the praying mantis from wasting the calories that went into producing it. Furthermore, eating their old skin destroys any evidence that the mantis was there, meaning it is less likely that predators will spot them.
How Often Do Praying Mantis Eat?
Praying mantis eat surprisingly regularly.
A growing mantis is happy to eat every day or two.
The period between meals will depend on a variety of factors. For example, if the last meal was small then the praying mantis will get hungry that bit sooner. If the weather is particularly warm then a praying mantis will manage to digest its last meal more quickly, and so will be ready to hunt again sooner.
This insatiable appetite is hardly surprising when you consider their lifestyle. A praying mantis needs to go from hatchling mantis to mature adult between spring and fall. During this time they will moult many times. This rapid rate of growth is fuelled by a big appetite.
Do Praying Mantis Drink?
Praying mantis get most of the moisture that they need from their prey. Every time they catch and eat another insect or arachnid they will also consume the juicy insides. It is interesting to note that the only parts of the insect normally left uneaten are the dry, crusty parts such as legs and wings. The main body of the insect, however, will be eaten in its entirety.
Praying mantis will sometimes drink from water droplets, such as those left on plants by dew or from a summer rain shower.
In captivity, it is recommended to occasionally mist your praying mantis cage using a houseplant mister. This replicates these water droplets, and allows your praying mantis to drink.