Do Praying Mantises Bite?

Written by Lex Basu
Updated: October 31, 2022
© Galuh M/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • Praying Mantises belong to the mantis family which has around 2400 species of insects.
  • They are native to Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa and thrive in a tropical environment.
  • Praying mantises are known for having a rather strange mating ritual which involves the female eating the male after the process.
  • Mantises are well-known predators who eat small reptiles, birds, and even mammals.
  • Someone who’s bitten by this insect should wash the area with warm water and soap.

Out of all the different varieties of insects you may encounter in 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!

Those large eyes and that triangular head may lend this predatory arthropod a rather sinister appearance. Which may prompt you to wonder: Do praying mantises bite? And what does a praying mantis bite mark look like?

The answers to those questions are answered right here. You will also discover how a praying mantis attacks its prey, what it eats, and whether a female praying mantis will actually bite off the head of its male counterpart.

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.

©WildMedia/Shutterstock.com

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?

Praying mantis are not venomous and the bite of a mantis will not do much damage to a human being. Also, it is important to mention that they have three-dimensional vision and it is unlikely that they would ever mistake a human for a prey animal.

What does a praying mantis bite look like? A person who is bitten by a praying mantis may see a red spot that becomes itchy or swollen. Fortunately, as long as you wash off your hand as quickly as possible, you are in no danger of the person becoming ill from a bite. 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.

Does a Praying Mantis Bite Its Prey?

Yes, it does. Because a praying mantis is able to blend in with its surroundings, it is able to stalk its prey without being noticed. Once the insect 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.

Will a Female Praying Mantis Bite Off the Head of a Male Praying Mantis?

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 the female of the speicies do this?

The answer: Scientists aren’t sure why a female praying mantis 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.

©Warren Parker/Shutterstock.com

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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Do Praying Mantises Bite
Do Praying Mantises Bite
© Galuh M/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Lex is a green-living, tree-hugging, animal-lover, who at one time was the mother to twenty one felines and one doggo. Now she helps pet owners around the globe be the best caretakers for their most trusting companions by sharing her experience and spreading love.

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