Do Praying Mantises Bite?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: November 18, 2021

Out of all the types of insects you may see around your yard or garden, a praying mantis certainly stands out from the crowd. These insects can be up to six inches long depending on their species. Some are dull brown or gray while others are bright green or even yellow. This insect can turn its head 180 degrees and walk up a brick wall!

The big eyes and triangular head of this insect make it look kind of threatening. This may prompt you to wonder: Do praying mantises bite?

Keep reading to find the answer to that question. In addition, discover how a praying mantis attacks its prey, what it eats, and whether it’s true that a female praying mantis will bite off the head of a male praying mantis.

Do Praying Mantises Bite?

Yes, a praying mantis can bite. But, instead of teeth, it has mandibles. Mandibles are strong, sharp jaws that move sideways to cut or tear up food. You’d have to look really closely at a praying mantis to see its mandibles. You’re more likely to notice this insect’s long front legs.

A praying mantis has front legs with serrated edges kind of like a shark’s teeth. So, when it grabs an insect or other prey with its front legs, the insect is held tight and can’t escape.

When a praying mantis is at rest, it folds its front legs up toward its face. This is how it got its name.

Do Praying Mantises Bite
Green European mantis, Mantis religiosa, feeding on a red Dragonfly.

Do Praying Mantises Bite Humans?

Praying mantises do bite humans, but it is very rare. If a praying mantis felt threatened by a human who picked it up or cornered it, the insect would likely take its defensive pose as opposed to trying to bite.

If a small praying mantis measuring two or three inches bit a human the person may not even feel the bite. However, someone may feel a pinch if bitten by a six-inch praying mantis.

Praying mantises are able to grab onto a person’s fingers with their front legs. This can cause mild pinching. However, this would be just as rare as a bite from this insect.

What If a Person is Bitten by a Praying Mantis?

A person who is bitten by a praying mantis may see a red spot that becomes itchy or swollen. Fortunately, praying mantises aren’t venomous, so there’s no danger of the person becoming ill from a bite.

Someone who’s bitten by this insect should wash the area with warm water and soap. If the spot becomes irritated or itchy, calamine lotion can help soothe it.

What Do Praying Mantises Eat?

Though a praying mantis’ bite is not really of concern to a human, it is a big concern for many small insects! A praying mantis is a carnivore eating crickets, spiders, lizards, frogs, and even tiny birds.

Like many other types of animals, the size of a praying mantis dictates the type of prey it consumes. A six-inch-long praying mantis may eat hummingbirds and frogs because it’s able to capture these larger types of prey. Alternatively, a three-inch praying mantis may stick to capturing crickets and grasshoppers because they are easier to grab.

How Do Praying Mantises Attack Their Prey?

It’s easy for a praying mantis to hide in its habitat. This is how it’s able to stalk its prey without being noticed. Once a praying mantis gets close enough to its prey, it reaches out and grabs it with its front legs. Normally, the prey can’t escape this insect’s strong, sharp-edged front legs. When the prey becomes grows still, the praying mantis bites into it with its mandibles. Its mandibles can easily tear into an insect or larger prey.

Why Do Female Praying Mantises Bite Off the Heads of Male Praying Mantises?

Out of all of the facts surrounding this insect, this is one of the most interesting ones. Have you ever heard of a female praying mantis biting off the head of a male praying mantis? Though it sounds very strange, this fact is true.

When a female mates with a male praying mantis she may bite off his head. In fact, she may bite off and eat his head, legs, and other parts of his body. This is part of the reason why praying mantises have a reputation for being aggressive insects. So, the question comes to mind: Why does a female praying mantis do this?

The answer: Scientists aren’t sure why a female bites off the head of a male while mating. One common theory is she eats the male for nourishment so her eggs will be stronger.

While studying this behavior in female praying mantises, scientists noted that this doesn’t happen every time. In fact, they found that the female bites off the head of a male praying mantis only 30 percent of the time. Even so, it’s one of those incredible mysteries of nature.

Do Praying Mantises Bite
A Praying mantis female cannibalizing her mate.

What Are Some of the Predators of Praying Mantises?

Large birds, snakes, and bullfrogs are predators of praying mantises measuring around six inches long. A smaller praying mantis around three inches long has predators including spiders, hornets, and bats. These predators live in or around the same grassland or woodland habitat of praying mantises.

How Does a Praying Mantis Protect Itself Against Predators?

You would think that the bite of a praying mantis is its best defense against predators, but it’s not. This insect’s best defense is its ability to blend in with its environment. A bright green praying mantis can easily perch on a leaf or the stem of a flower while remaining hidden from predators. A brown praying mantis can sit on a stick or on a pile of weeds without being noticed.

Another way a praying mantis protects itself from predators is to make itself appear bigger than its actual size. When it feels threatened, a praying mantis raises its body and starts to shake its front legs. It may spread its wings to add to its size as well. Sometimes this insect moves its head from left to right in a repetitive way in an effort to confuse a predator. All of these defensive tactics may be enough to drive a smaller predator away.

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