Praying mantis are supremely evolved to catch and eat other live creatures. All life stages are carnivorous, including young, hatchling praying mantis.
A young praying mantis will eat any insect or arachnid it can subdue. Praying mantis eggs typically hatch in early spring, to coincide with the emergence of many other insects and arachnids.
Young praying mantis will eat small flies, spiders, caterpillars, ants, baby grasshoppers and crickets, and tiny beetles such as weevils. They will also, if the opportunity arises, eat other praying mantis, which can include their own brothers and sisters.
Praying mantis do not eat plants. This includes the young praying mantis, which are purely carnivorous. They may, however, eat insects that would otherwise damage your beautiful garden.
Praying mantis have strong appetites, and are able to grow rapidly as a result. A young praying mantis may moult it’s skin every few weeks, and will be noticeably larger after each moult. As the mantis grows, it is able to consume larger and larger prey items.
Mantis that have not yet matured, but have developed past the hatchling phase, will eat a very similar diet to newborns. The only real difference is the size of the prey that they can subdue, and therefore the range of different options available.
While a young praying mantis may only be able to catch the smallest baby grasshopper, juveniles are able to catch and eat even fully-grown adult grasshoppers.
How Often Do Young Praying Mantis Eat?
Young praying mantis eat every day or two. If the prey items being caught are small enough then a hatchling praying mantis may even eat more than once per day.
This is in complete contrast to some other invertebrates like tarantulas, which may only eat every 5-7 days. In fairness, though, tarantulas tend to be much slower growing and much longer-lived.
In contrast, praying mantis have evolved to grow rapidly, going from egg to adult in a matter of months. Such a rapid rate of growth means that young praying mantis need a lot of fuel.
The reality is that the more a praying mantis can eat, the faster it will grow up to become a mature adult.
How Long Can Baby Praying Mantis Go Without Food?
Baby praying mantis typically don’t start feeding as soon as they hatch. Instead, they will rely on energy provided from the egg for anything from a few days to a week or so. Only once these energy reserves have been used up will they start to hunt.
This adaptation makes perfect sense, as hundreds of hungry baby praying mantis hatching at the same time could end in a bloodbath. The lack of appetite on hatching means that most of the young praying mantis are able to disappear off into the environment without being picked off by their brothers and sisters.
In this way a baby praying mantis may go without food for the first week or so of its life. After this period, however, most praying mantis will feed regularly. It is common for a mantis to eat every day or two, depending on meal size.
Interestingly, young praying mantis will also stop eating just before and just after a moult. A pet praying mantis that stops eating is likely to be coming up to a moult.
After a praying mantis has moulted it takes a week or so for the new skin to harden up sufficiently to hunt with. During this time the mantis will refuse all food. However, it is only a matter of time till the mantis is once again ready for action.
Under these circumstances a baby praying mantis may go without food for between one and two weeks.
It is important to note, however, if keeping praying mantis as pets, that you should only avoid feeding your pet during this pre/post moult period. Outside of this your baby mantis should be provided with as much food as they will consume.
What Do Praying Mantis Drink?
Praying mantis do sometimes drink from water droplets found on plants. Grass with droplets of dew on, or raindrops left after a storm, will both be used as water dishes by mantis.
That said, most praying mantis will get the majority of their moisture needs as a result of eating other insects and arachnids. Once the praying mantis chews through the tough exoskeleton of the animal, the insides are normally packed with moisture.
What is the Lifespan of a Praying Mantis?
Most praying mantis will live for around 6 months in temperate countries like North America and Europe. While those mantis living further south may have a longer season than those in the north, most mantis hatch in the spring and die in the fall. For most this will mean roughly six months.
Praying mantis have a lot of pack into those few short months. This is why baby praying mantis can have such good appetites. The more they eat, the faster they can grow. The faster they grow, the sooner they reach maturity. And once a praying mantis reaches maturity it is ready to find a mate and produce the next generation of mantids before the cold weather sets in.