The mantises are an group of insects made up of about 2,200 species. Although they are often confused for stick insects, grasshoppers and crickets, they are actually more closely related to termites and cockroaches. They are usually known as praying mantises because they adopt a prayer like stance. They are found virtually worldwide in tropical and temperate environments. If you have ever wondered what these insects eat, keep reading to find out.
What does a praying mantis eat?
All species of praying mantis are carnivores (meat eaters) and unlike most insects they are exclusively predators. This means that they only catch and kill live prey, rather than scavenging their food. Most species are ambush predators and wait for their prey to come close enough to catch, but there are a few species that will actively hunt prey. The praying mantis catches and holds their prey with their forearms, which contain tiny spikes to help them grip their prey. The most common foods eaten by mantises are other insects, but some of the larger species are known to eat frogs, lizards, snakes, birds, fish and rodents. They are also known to be cannibalistic, which means that they eat other mantises. This usually occurs around the time when they mate.
Did you know?
Because mantises eat other insects, but do not eat plant matter, they are sometimes used as a live form of pest control in organic gardening!
In the United States many people believe that it is illegal to kill a praying mantis and those who do could be fined. However, this is simply a myth and has never been true.