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Praying Mantis - what do they eat?

The praying mantis is almost exclusively predatory and carnivorous, with insects forming most of their diet. They will eat basically ANYTHING they can capture, overcome, and usually eat alive!  For this reason mantises are not known to be finicky eaters. They may even practice cannibalism when hungry enough.  Most people keeping mantids as pets will initially feed them flightless fruit flies when they hatch and then switch to larger critters as the mantids grow.

mantis huntingMost praying mantises are ambush hunters that wait for prey to wander close enough.  With amazing speed they will then strike out and grab the unfortunate critter with their oversized, claw-like, fore limbs that allow them to securely hold the struggling meal.  Some specifies do, however, actually chase down their meals.  Some mantids can grow very large and these larger mantid species have been known to prey on fish, birds, snakes, lizards, and even rodents.


  • Flightless Fruit Flies
  • Rice Flour Beetles
  • Small Silkworms
  • Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)
  • Fly Larvae

  • Small and Medium Silkworms
  • Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)
  • Smaller 'snacks' such as Fruit Flies and Larvae
  • Super worms, but only for larger species of Mantid

Praying Mantises are part of a very large family of insects that contain about 2,200 species in nine families that live all over the world in both temperate and tropical climates. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae, which is the creature that most of us think of when we hear the name, "Praying Mantis."

The closest relatives of mantises are termites and cockroaches, and the three are sometimes even ranked as an order rather than suborder.  Confused?  Well, the entire family order and suborder of these insects is the subject of ongoing debate in the entomology world.
compound eye

The structure of the compound eye creates the illusion of a small pupil
Mantis forelegThe name praying mantis refers to the prayer-like stance of the insect (the name is often misspelled as "preying" mantis because they are predatory). Praying mantises are often confused with phasmids (stick-leaf insects) and other elongated insects.

Mantises have two grasping, spiked forelegs called "raptorial legs" in which prey items are caught and held securely.  The movement of the head is also remarkably flexible, permitting nearly 300 degrees of rotation/movement in some species and allowing for a great range of vision without the need to move their bodies.  As their hunting relies heavily on vision, they are primarily diurnal, meaning active during the daytime. 

 Praying Mantis

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