If you’ve been thinking about getting a Praying Mantis as a pet, there are several things you should learn about this species first. Unlike dogs, cats, or other common household pets, praying mantids are more of an exotic creature.
What applies to dogs will definitely not apply to mantids. This includes eating habits and hunting behavior. Because, while dogs have adapted to human’s food and eating behavior, mantids have not.
To feed one in captivity, you need to learn what and how it eats. In other words, you will need to adapt to it rather than have the mantis adapt to you.
This article will allow you an in-depth look into the Praying mantis’s eating and hunting habits, allowing you to fully grasp this magnificent creature’s uniqueness. Here’s what you need to know:
Praying Mantis Diet and Nutrition
Before learning what they eat, consider this. Your typical Praying mantis will generally grow up to 5 inches. That’s the raw body length. Some rarer causes will have the insect reach 6-7 inches. This makes for a large, bulky, and scary insect with the potential to hunt prey larger than what most insects would dare. And they do.
While the Praying mantis’s diet revolves around other insects, like butterflies, crickets, beetles, or grasshoppers, they can also consume significantly larger prey than that.
This includes lizards, frogs, large caterpillars, small birds, and even small rodents. And there’s nothing scarier than the concept of an insect eating a mammal when nature has taught us that it’s usually the other way around.
How does Praying Mantis Hunt?
The Praying mantis relies on two distinct senses to locate the prey, assess the distance, the prey’s size, movement, and decide the opportune moment to attack:
- Eyesight – The Praying mantis’s eyesight is as close as you can get to a superpower. Their big, bulky, watery eyes tower on their heads and scout the area for anything worth hunting. The Praying mantis is very sensitive to movement and is able to detect even the minute details that could suggest the presence of a potential prey. Combine this with the mantis’s ability to rotate its head 180 degrees, and you have a fearsome predator on your hands.
- Smell – The mantis will also rely on its smell whenever possible, especially when the prey is closer to the ambush location. That’s generally when the mantis will decide if the intruder is a viable meal or a potential threat. Their antennae do all the work since those are their organs of smell.
Their hunting tactics boil down to sitting and waiting. They are ambush predators, using their camouflage to blend in the environment and render themselves invisible to potential prey. But the thing that makes them such scary predators, able to kill prey larger than themselves, is their claws. They have long, powerful arms with vicious claws at the end, grabbing the prey and preventing it from escaping.
They will also consume their victims alive, which only adds to their viciousness and reputation of brutal and scary insects from hell.
How to Feed a Praying Mantis?
Now that you’ve learned how the Praying Mantis hunts in the wild, the next question arises: How do you feed them in captivity? The answer consists of 3 sub-answers:
- Watch the size of the prey – Once we’ve already determined the type of prey that mantids prefer, we need to discuss the prey’s size next. You should feed your mantis larger prey, and by larger, I mean as close to their body size as possible. This will not only make it smoother for them to hunt it, but it will fulfill their appetite for longer as well.
- Living prey only – The vast majority of mantids will ignore dead prey. They will probably consume it in extreme scenarios when the hunger leaves them no other options. Generally, however, they prefer live prey for them to actively hunt. They will go as far as consuming it while still alive.
- Careful about overfeeding – It’s pretty common for pet owners to overfeed their pets, especially those that they are really fond of. This somewhat comes from the misconception that providing your pets with an abundance of food is good for them. That’s rarely the case, and it’s definitely not true for the Praying mantis or any other mantids. Too much food will affect their health and even kill them in extreme cases. The Praying mantis usually eats once several days in the wild. I recommend sticking to that pattern to ensure that your mantis doesn’t overeat.
Out of all these, the latter point is the most important. Overeating will reduce your mantis’s lifespan and cause significant health issues in the long run. It’s wise to remember this aspect when feeding your mantis. One consistent, juicy meal every 3-4 days should suffice for a healthy adult mantis.
Can Praying Mantis Eat Plants?
While some insects occasionally consume plants like rose, raspberry, white oak, etc., mantids don’t. Their eating behavior revolves around consuming live prey, and their entire arsenal is pretty tale-telling in this sense. You can tell a predator from a plant-eater by their eating tools and behavior.
For the mantis, we have the camouflage aspect, designed to render them invisible to prey, the extended arms armed with vicious claws, and the eyes capable of 360 degrees surveillance. These are all predatorial tools and signs of a carnivorous creature.
In other words, don’t try to feed your mantis plants.
The Praying mantis isn’t too picky about its food. So long as it’s fresh, alive, and small enough to hunt and hold down, the mantis will go for it.
There is also some prey that the mantis will prefer over the others. If you’re interested in learning more about the Praying mantis’s feeding habits, leave a comment below, and I will reply asap.
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