One of the best-known predators in the world, the praying mantis has a strong place in popular folklore as a vicious killer developed with forelimbs that can catch their prey, gripping it before it is devoured. Moreover, praying mantises are famous because the female insect sometimes devours the male after mating (although not always).
There are many examples of praying mantises being able to fight and kill animals bigger than they are, although they themselves do grow quite large (up to 6 inches long). As such, they ambush arthropods primarily, so mantises spend most of their time waiting on flowers and plants, until they can quickly attack an unsuspecting bee or dragonfly. They also have a reputation for stalking their prey with stealthy, slow movements, which have earned them the reputation of being “kung-fu warriors” of the insect world.
While people have always feared the praying mantis, and ancient civilizations considered them to have supernatural powers, they are first and foremost an insect. Therefore, they too have their predators. So let’s have a look at the top animals who prey on the praying mantis.
Main Praying Mantis Predators
Depending on their size, frogs can kill or be killed by mantises. Larger frogs will successfully attack and prey on these vicious insects. However, as the praying mantis can grow to 6 inches in length, it’s been seen attacking and feeding on smaller frogs.
Frogs normally feed on crickets, worms and smaller insects such as dragonflies. Wild frogs are known to try and eat anything regardless of its size, which is how they’ll come across and in conflict with a praying mantis. However, for some frogs, praying mantis is actually toxic (as are ladybugs and millipedes). This is the reason that people keeping frogs as pets are recommended not to feed them to their pets, as they can control their diet.
The next praying mantis predator is lizards, which eat smaller mantises or their young, but usually avoid them because of their spiky legs and ruthless fighting tactics. Unless the lizard is sufficiently bigger than the mantis, it’s unlikely to come out victorious from a fight.
When they are directly threatened, mantises stand tall and spread their forelegs while fanning out their wings as wide as possible. This makes them look bigger than they are and allows them to intimidate an aggressor like a lizard. To defend itself, the praying mantis can then strike or attempt to bite or pinch the lizard.
While a lot of smaller birds famously become prey for the praying mantis, some birds successfully hunt this insect themselves. When praying mantises rest on flowers and other plants waiting to catch butterflies or other flying small insects, an observant bird can swoop down and capture them.
Spiders are major predators of praying mantis, and spiders capture them in webs as long as they are smaller in size. Larger mantises can escape the webs, and the larger the mantis, the more likely it is to actually be a predator to the spiders itself!
5. Large Hornets
The Asian giant hornet is the best-known species of large hornet, and it is a voracious predator. Hornets feed on other insects, such as bees and even other hornets, as well as all types of mantises. The praying mantis is often a favorite in the summer and autumn, and they provide an important source of protein for the queens and drone larvae.
Given that bats are adapted to capture their prey in flight, they are dangerous predators to the praying mantis. A praying mantis feeling in danger from a bat will drop to the ground, but bats have very developed hearing and may hear it before it can hide away. Otherwise, bats successfully attack mantises at night given that they are nocturnal creatures. At night, a mantis can be identified easily as it flutters around lights trying to capture other insects. However, they are sometimes able to identify the echolocation sounds produced by bats, and this gives them an idea of how close they are to being found by a predator. This leads them to stop flying horizontally, and descend to the ground in a spiral movement, where they can hide better. If caught, they have been observed to slash the bats with their spiky legs, often wounding them.
7. Hunting Wasps
Certain Tachyte species – known as hunting wasps – are able to paralyse the praying mantis to then feed it to their young. This predator of praying mantis are hunting wasps and the females are the ones who hunt for prey, sting it to paralyze it, and then seals it in a burrow with one of its eggs. This means the young wasp consumes the captured insect as it develops. This is a particularly skilled insect at capturing and eating the praying mantis, something a lot of insects are not able to do easily.
Generally, mantises are able to protect themselves from predators by using camouflage since their coloring resembles the leaves amongst which they live. The species living on the ground or on tree barks have flattened backs which allow them to avoid casting a shadow which would give them away to potential predators.
Mantises are often kept as pets, but don’t live more than a year, so people often breed them as well. There were at least 31 species of mantis kept and bred in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States, in 2013, and there is even a Mantis Study Group keeping around 50 species in captivity.
As prey, mantises are not a favorite thing to eat for most of their predators as you will have seen that, often, the same species that can hunt it for food can, in turn, be eaten by the praying mantis. They are the only predator known to hunt moths at night, and they are so agile that they can prey on mosquitoes and flies, as well as spiders. Cockroaches, flies, small rodents and birds have all been eaten by the praying mantis.
I hope that this article on praying mantis predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!