If you’ve ever seen a praying mantis sitting perfectly still on the ground or on a low-growing shrub, you may have wondered what it was doing there. Most likely, it was hunting, waiting for its next meal to pass by. This leads to the question, what do praying mantises eat and drink? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer this question and more.
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What is a Praying Mantis’ Favorite Food?
Praying mantises are carnivores that eat a variety of foods; in fact, like many predators, they aren’t picky and will eat nearly anything they can catch.
There are over 2,000 species of praying mantis found throughout the world; some are less than an inch long as adults, while others grow up to 12 inches long. As you might imagine, different types of praying mantises target different types of prey.
In general though, all praying mantises seem to prefer eating bugs and insects. Even the smallest species are fierce hunters and will occasionally take down prey much larger and heavier than themselves.
Praying mantises eat all different kinds of insects, from tiny fruit flies to large grasshoppers and cockroaches. They will eat both flying and ground-dwelling insects.
Most praying mantises hunt by sitting perfectly still, large front limbs extended in a “praying hands” position, waiting for prey to pass by. Many insects mistake the motionless insects for twigs and pass by too closely; when they do, the mantis will lunge forward and snatch the insect in its front arms, trapping it and eating it alive.
Praying mantises seem to prefer arthropods, including beetles, butterflies, termites, crickets, and sometimes spiders. They also eat worms and grubs, insect larvae, and small insects like aphids and ants.
Praying mantises sometimes eat other praying mantises as well. Females commonly eat the males after mating, and adults sometimes eat young mantises, or nymphs, especially when no other prey is available.
Praying mantises get most of the fluids they need from humidity in the air and from the prey they eat. That said, they will sometimes drink droplets of dew or rainwater from leaves and grass.
Check out this video to see a praying mantis catching and eating a fly.
What Do Praying Mantises Eat Besides Bugs?
In the above section, we established that praying mantises typically eat bugs and insects. But did you know that some mantises eat other foods as well?
Larger species of praying mantis don’t stop at large bugs. They will also hunt other prey species of the animal kingdom, including:
- Frogs and toads: Many of the larger praying mantis species live in wetland environments, where the air is humid and the food sources are abundant. Along with the wide variety of insects available to them, they will also hunt small frogs and toads.
- Lizards: Some mantises live in drier climates, where lizards are common. Insects can be hard to come by in these environments, so small ground lizards may make up a large portion of their diet.
- Birds: A lot of medium and large praying mantises hunt small birds, especially hummingbirds. They may also hunt other small bird species such as wrens and sparrows.
- Fish: Some praying mantises will hang out near the edges of ponds and marshes, watching for fish. As long as the water is not too deep, they will spring forward to snatch minnows or small, young fish that venture close to the shallow edges.
- Small mammals: Some praying mantises will also attack and eat small mammals, especially mice and young rats. As long as they are able to catch it and hold on, praying mantises will likely eat it regardless of what it is.
Though they enjoy many different foods, praying mantises do seem to prefer their food living. They don’t scavenge or eat carrion, and whether they’re hunting insects, frogs, birds, or mice, they will typically eat their food alive.
What Do Baby Praying Mantises Eat?
Baby praying mantises are on their own from the moment they hatch out of their egg case. In fact, as soon as they hatch, they strike out on their own; any stragglers hanging around may be eaten by the other nymphs or any adults in the area.
Their instinct to hunt comes naturally, and praying mantis nymphs can technically eat anything the adults can eat. The only thing that limits them is their size.
Because they are so small, newly hatched praying mantises usually eat small insects, such as fruit flies, mosquitoes, and aphids. Sometimes they will also cannibalize other nymphs.
When they are young, they only eat about once every few days or so. As they grow, they may eat more frequently and will begin hunting larger prey.
What Eats Praying Mantises?
Praying mantises are sometimes considered apex predators of the insect world, but they are not at the top of the food chain. Though they are skilled hunters in their own right, there are times when they become the hunted and may be killed.
Praying mantises are commonly eaten by larger insect-eating creatures. Some of the animals that eat praying mantises include:
- Bats: Bats are one of the most common praying mantis predators. Though the mantises are able to feel the vibrations of a bat’s echolocation, they aren’t always able to escape in time.
- Monkeys: Praying mantises commonly live in warm, tropical climates, where monkeys are prevalent. Monkeys eat many kinds of insects and plants, and praying mantises frequently end up as part of their regular diet.
- Birds: Though large praying mantises sometimes eat small birds, many larger birds will eat small praying mantises.
- Snakes: Snakes tend to eat whatever they can get, and some types seem to especially prefer insects. Praying mantises are a tasty choice for these snakes.
- Large frogs: As with birds, the hunted sometimes becomes the hunter when it comes to frogs. Larger frogs especially enjoy eating a variety of insects, including small and medium-sized praying mantises.
Praying mantises are opportunistic carnivores, eating just about anything they can catch and hold onto. Though they are apex hunters among insects, they sometimes become the prey of larger animals such as bats, monkeys, and snakes.