What Do Praying Mantis Eat?
In this article I will make a small reference to the types of prey from which mantids can be fed.
In addition to the insects that I quote below, mantids will attack with intent to eat, practically any insect or small vertebrate that walks near its radius of action and that does not represent a danger identifiable by it.
To feed our mantids, we must be consistent with the characteristics of their species, because not all mantises indiscriminately eat different insects, I explain; some prefer only flying, others not flying because they usually hunt on the ground, camouflaged among the litter, etc. Depending on their natural habits, they will prefer one type of food or another, there are even some mantids that certain types of insects can indigestion or damage.
As I am going to talk about insects that can be purchased in stores and suppliers of live food and others that we will acquire in nature, we must mention the minimum advisable measures that must be carried out when we intend to feed our insects with others of wild origin. These are:
- Inform us of the legislation that governs the place where we are going to capture them.
- If we do not know it, we will have to identify it using the means at our disposal, either through identification and classification guides, asking in amateur forums, etc. The intention is to know with certainty that the insect can not produce damage or death to ours.
- Make sure that the captured insects have not been exposed to any substance that could be toxic or harmful to the health of our mantids.
- In case of doubt of the above, it will be advisable to quarantine the insects for several days; facilitating food, drink and favorable conditions for them to live long enough to observe that they do not lose qualities or vitality during this period (in the latter case we will not use them).
We also have to keep in mind the premise that the food we provide to the insects that will serve, in turn, food to ours, is important, as the vitamins and nutrients they have acquired will benefit their prey. If we provide insects of poor quality and consistency to the mantids, you will have those same characteristics.
Crickets ( Acheta domestica, Acheta bimaculata … ): crickets are excellent prey for mantids, especially in captivity, because they tend to move a lot, attracting their attention and they are not difficult to hunt. They have a semi-hard exoskeleton that mantids easily break with their strong jaws.
Perhaps the only problem that crickets have is their powerful bite that can sometimes slightly damage the mantis. In captivity if there is more than one loose in the container they can eat it, partially or totally, if they attack it in full change.
Together with the blue fly of the meat, they usually compose the main diet of the mantis bred in captivity due to its easy acquisition and its widespread distribution.
Its breeding is relatively easy and allows us to use microcrickets (crickets in their initial phase of life) for the less advanced stages of our mantids, especially from L2 and L3 in medium to large species.
Flies: Flies are undoubtedly the food most consumed by mantids. Some large species can eat more than 30 flies daily without any problem.
The fact that these insects are flying does not prevent the mantis from hunting them, because their speed to throw the tweezers allows them to catch them on the fly, like the butterflies, moths and the like.
The types of flies that are usually used are the following:
- Vinegar or fruit flies :
- Drosophila melanogaster; for all the nymphs in the first stages.
- Drosophila hydei; for large mantis nymphs in small stages and for small mantis species for most of their life.
- Domestic or common fly ( Musca domestica ) , for medium sized mantis nymphs of general sizes and for adult mantis of small species.
- Green fly or imperial fly ( Lucilia caesar ), somewhat larger than the common one and with a metallic green tone, usually breeds in decomposing corpses and in manure. Depending on its size, we will use it for intermediate use between the previous one and the next one.
- Blue fly ( Calliphora vomitoria) , for large nymphs and adults in general. We could consider her as the older sister of the previous one because she belongs to the same Calliphoridae family and is more voluminous.
- Beef ( Sarcophaga carnaria ): undoubtedly the most voluminous and rich we can find to feed our adult mantids and large nymphs. It is distinguished from the previous ones, in addition to its size, by having the thorax striped black and gray and the abdomen checkered. To indicate a curiosity about it, once it is captured and does not see possibilities of escape, it expels the larvae that it has inside, as an attempt of survival of its species.
To breed drosophila and housefly is simple, but in the best case we will need somewhere outside the house to place the breeding vessels, where we can have a temperature above 10 ºC (at least) and that is not directly exposed to the sun. Unless we are able to withstand the smell of the porridge where the larvae grow until they pupate, which I consider difficult when we speak of more than two breeding vessels (I say this from my own experience).
In the fishing shops you can buy larvae called asticot, which belong to the Calliphoridaefamily , to which we will provide heat to get them to puke and obtain flies after the metamorphosis.
As for the flies of the meat, we have no choice but to catch them in season when they are dropped at home.
Grasshoppers and locusts ( Acrida ungarica, Locusta migratoria … ) : Grasshoppers are a large part of the diet of mantids in the wild, since they represent the main predator of the Acrididae.
Acridids are endowed with strong legs, but almost always end up dying at the hands of the mantis, who with its powerful jaws will destroy the hard chitin layer of the head and thorax.
Evolution has endowed these insects with a tactic to be able to flee from predators: their hind legs (the ones they use to jump) are easily detached when they are caught by one of them, allowing them to flee from their executioner; the leg will be very difficult to recover, but at least it will have saved the life. Needless to say, this tactic is not relevant when breeding Mantis in captivity, because sooner or later they will cross again and not every day is Sunday for the Acridans.
|Its breeding in captivity is, in my opinion, difficult, because it requires a lot of space, a lot of food and gives off an unpleasant odor (since the acridus defecate abundantly).Therefore, it is advisable to purchase them at any pet store or from our usual live feed provider. There is also the possibility in spring and, above all, in summer to capture them in the wild, as long as we make sure that they have not been exposed to any type of toxic product that may affect our mantids, for which it will be enough to put them in quarantine for a few days feeding them with some vegetable.|
Cockroaches ( Blaptica dubia, nauphoeta, phoetania … ): within the genus Blattodeawe can find many families that accommodate, in turn, an infinity of species. Therefore, there is a rich variety; we can find winged or apterous, small and large, different colors and shapes.
These are insects that reproduce with incredible ease, becoming real plagues in many parts of the world. However, as live food they are great.
They have good exoskeleton because of the proteins and a prominent abdomen that will satisfy our mantis.
|Another point in their favor is that they are tremendously active insects, which attracts the attention of the predator instantly. |
This group is of extensive commercialization by the suppliers of alive food in many varieties, coming from America ( Blaptica dubia ), from Africa ( Nauphoeta cinerea ), Asia or Australia, but we can also find some European like Blattela germanica . Their prices vary, normally, according to the size.
Its breeding in captivity is simple and will give us many joys, although something dangerous if done at home and not taken exhaustive precautions to prevent leaks.
Some small insects: There are many insects of really small size with which we can vary the diet of our species of smaller size, as well as the nymphs of larger species. As an example, we will cite the following:
- Minnows of silver ( Lepisma saccharina ) and fire ( Thermobia domestica ): these are apterous insects, elongated and omnivorous. Its main characteristic is that they have three thin “tails” of similar length at the end of their abdomen and are usually covered with grayish or silver scales and hairs. The first one tends to live in humid microhabitats and the second one can be found in ovens, near hot water pipes and in heating ducts. These insects run very fast, but they do not jump.
- Aphids (family Aphididae ): these small, slow, soft-bodied hemiptera form one of the most destructive insect families. They reproduce at a phenomenal speed and cause severe damage to crops and garden plants. Most species are green, but we can also find them shot, black or brown. They will be very useful to breed tiny nymphs. The most common and easy to find Macrosiphum rosae (pink aphid that we will find as plague in the roses and that is winged in the adult stage) and Aphis fabae (black aphid that attacks the bean, as well as other legumes and plants of spring and summer).
- Collembolae: within the order Collembola we can find thousands of species of different families (some form very widespread pests, such as the Sminthurus viridis of the hay) of insects of a really small size that will be very useful, like the previous ones, to feed tiny nymphs. In this case, we are lucky that some provider that other live food usually has available.
- Others: as long as we respect the essential guidelines for action with insects that we capture in nature (read in the introduction), we can offer as food to our mantids and small nymphs all kinds of small insects such as mosquitoes, weevils, woodworms, cantharides, thrips, dwarf and mealy scale insects, small earwigs, pygmy lobsters, ephemerelides and a long etcetera.
Libelulids: These large insects usually pass during their flights several times in the same area, so they are usually perfect victims for the mantis waiting in the reeds to hunt them in one of the past.
|The dragonflies have enough strength and are provided with powerful jaws, so it will be necessary to be proportional when feeding our mantis with this excellent and nutritious prey. The exposition for the libelulids in these lines is extendable to the entire Odonata order , taking into account, of course, the size of each species within the numerous families of order.|
Hymenoptera: Within this order we can find families such as Vespidae (wasps and similar) or Apidae (bees and bumblebees). It is very nutritious flying insects for their hunters, with the addition that bees and bumblebees, in season, can carry their corbiculum full of pollen, ideal food for our mantids (especially for those who are going to put a ootheca).
They are equipped with strong jaws and a sting with which they can inject poison to their enemies, so you have to be careful when handling them, because the sting is painful. As for the mantis, it is not a danger because it is much faster than those and they will catch them in a quick blow, preventing them from being able to bite; Once in the tweezers there is no risk because they are too hard to drive the sting into them.
Caterpillars and worms: They are a good food, although you have to be careful because there are many toxic varieties.
They are not too active insects, so they do not call the attention of mantids as much as others, but if they move in front of them they will give themselves away and become easy prey. Some examples of the most used are the Tenebrio molitor , the silk worms ( Bombix mori ), the honey ( Galleria mellonella ), thebes, dola , Zophoba morio , etc.
|All those mentioned by way of example are easy to breed in captivity; each one in its habitual form, of which we will not go into details considering an unnecessary extension in this section (in the network of networks we will find this information without any problem and with the possible variants of each fan).|
Butterflies: The butterflies are a very striking food for the mantids, which will inevitably feel doomed to attack them, either when they alight near them, or when they fly by.
|The normal thing in this case will be to trap them in the wild making use of a butterfly net, although we have the possibility of capturing or raising the worm to feed it and obtain the butterfly after the metamorphosis. The most used in this case are silkworms, for medium-large mantids and those for honey, for small or nymphs of the above.|
Beetles: These insects have a hard exoskeleton due to their high content of chitin, as happens with their elytra that protect the hind wings. For this reason and because many of them are capable of releasing toxic liquids, have a bad taste or are directly poisonous, it is less usual that they are victims of mantids.
Notwithstanding the above, it should be noted that some of the worms that are marketed as live food become beetles, after the metamorphosis, which will facilitate that they are also used to feed our mantids, both when they are chrysalises, and on all, when they are newly transformed and have the exoskeleton in hardening period. This happens with the Tenebrio molitor , theZophoba morio or the tebo ( Pachnoda butana ).
Arachnids: Many spiders are devoured by mantids, because being so active, they attract them with their movements. It is very difficult for the spider to bite the mantis, because it is much faster than that and its claws are too hard to nail the chelicerae.
|It seems absurd to indicate in this case that it will be necessary to be carefully proportional when choosing the prey with respect to the hunter, since it is clear that if we throw a tarantula the size of a hand to one of our mantids, however big, strong And aggressive the latter, we can imagine what would happen (mantis 0 – spider 1). |
Its breeding in captivity is very simple and quite prolific.
Small reptiles and amphibians: Lizards and frogs are perfect prey for large mantids.Although they risk damaging themselves by hunting such large prey, they usually do so.
The larger species, such as Sphodromantis, Pnigomantis, Hierodula or Macromantis, often end up with small snakes, then, of course, an intricate struggle.
This group of vertebrates is very rich in nutrients and their bodies and viscera, being so compact, quite fill the stomach of their hunters.
To breed our own reptiles and amphibians we will need a lot of space, which is why it is not a usual practice to use them for live food.
Small mammals: Field mice are excellent prey for the most voluminous mantids. The hair of the same ones is not usually a serious problem because the mantis tends to tear it and throw it while it devours its prey. To kill him as quickly as possible, he usually cuts the jugular before beginning to devour it.
Like the previous group, they are very nutritious animals and they fill a lot.
Raising laboratory mice or any other “domestic” rodent in captivity is very simple and economical, because it is an animal group so prolific that it will surpass all our expectations.
Small birds : Some birds, such as hummingbirds or small sparrows, are usually the usual prey of large mantids. They usually observe their flight and when they pass close to their reach they catch them with a quick blow. This technique is characteristic of Tenoderas and Sphodromantis that, having greater weight in their abdominal area, can counteract the weight of the bird in the forceps.
Other mantids: If one mantis sees another, either of its kind or of a different species, it will not hesitate to attack and devour it, even if it is of equal size when it is very hungry. In this last case, the dilemma that mantis will be the winner usually depends on which of them see first (and therefore, lurk) to the other and the grip you make with your claws when launching the attack.
In our case it is very common to feed a sick mantis (as long as we are sure that the disease is not produced by some type of microbe or toxic substance) to another healthy one, or an old and useless mantis for breeding. another with better expectations.
In the wild
Almost all the mantises hunt lurking, remaining motionless and balancing on the hind legs, with the captive arms raised in a “prayer” position, ready to jump. The main meaning is sight, which achieves a remarkable sharpness in these insects. The visual field, guaranteed by its large compound eyes, is superior to 200 °. The mantids are attracted exclusively by moving objects and, in the absence of other stimuli, they are not able to recognize static figures and associate their form with that of a prey. When an insect approaches, the mantis instantly turns its head towards it to get a better image of the target. Sometimes, this behavior is accompanied by oscillatory movements of the head in order to evaluate the distance. If the prey is at a suitable distance, usually less than half the length of the body of the m antis, it moves the arms forward and captures the prey with a rapid movement, often less than tenth of a second. The unfortunate victim is devoured while still alive, with meticulous care. G enerally, the m antis leaves only the wings and some m icroscopic undone. The mantids not only hunt small insects, but also a large number of atropods and sometimes even small vertebrates. In exceptional cases, aggressions have been observed to frogs, toads, lizards, snakes, small birds and mice, carried out by the larger and more aggressive species.
In captivity The appetite of the mantis
Praying mantises have a great appetite, but they do not need to eat as often as a warm-blooded animal. For adults, one or two meals a week is sufficient, while the young have to feed more often, every two or three days. In any case, a copy of 1 centimeter can fast for ten days or more (but it is better not to risk too much), while adults can sometimes exceed the month. An index of good health and the correct nutritional status of the animal is the shape of the abdomen, which should always be swollen and prominent, especially in young specimens. The basic rule is to provide a dam that, in the long run, measures about half of the mantis, although smaller and sometimes larger prey will also be consumed. If there is nothing substantial at your disposal, a couple of lighter but successive meals will be enough. To quench their thirst, they drink the drops of water present in the vegetation, but they get most of the liquids from the prey.
There is a certain variety of insects that can be used as food for mantids. Below are the best solutions to feed them, keeping in mind that mantids do not accept dead prey unless they are fed in the mouth. All the insects mentioned below are normally found in pet shops and often also in fishing (with the exception of crickets) as bait, at reasonable prices. The breeding of some types may require a lot of effort and to describe it in detail would require several articles.
They are an excellent food, perhaps the best for most mantids. They can be purchased in pet stores or reproduced in captivity, not without some effort. They should be stored in a well ventilated box and fed with fish scale bait, cat croquettes, vegetables and fruit. Crickets do not like excessive humidity, therefore you should never wet the terrarium and you have to provide water with a trough for canaries or with a bottle cap turned upside down. The temperature should always be kept above 22 ° C. Below 20 ° C some species start to die, but not immediately.
Flies And Larvae
Flies and larvae Flies are excellent prey when they are adults, while larvae are not usually very appreciated, and can even be toxic. The flies are bought in larval stage in the fishing shops at a ridiculous price. It is not worth raising them: the growth of the larvae, on organic matter or rotten meat, has as a consequence unpleasant odors and hygienic problems. However, it is possible to slow down their growth by keeping them in a small box inside the refrigerator. The flies can be fed with sugar and honey, and then offered to the mantids.
The offspring of the genus Drosophila are the best resource for newborn or very young mantids. The mosquitoes, fed with fresh fruit, are very substantial and their sudden movements immediately attract the attention of the small mantids. If many young specimens are available, it may be necessary to breed large numbers of mosquitoes, since they will be the main food. They are found in animal stores or university laboratories, since they are used for genetic studies.
They are the larvae of a nocturnal butterfly, the Galleria mellonella, parasite of the hives. The worms are whitish and quite active, and can be a suitable bait for medium and large mantids, even if they are not too substantial. Adults, with their frenetic movement, are even more suitable. It is better, in any case, not to exclusively feed the mantids with this species, to avoid nutritional imbalances. They are found in fishing stores in the form of larvae, and after a few days they reach the worm stage.
Worms of flour
They are larvae of tenebrionid coleoptera, also available as bait in fishing tents. They must always be fed with vegetables, bread and bran before being supplied to the mantis. They tend to sink immediately into the substrate and to hide from the mantids, therefore, they are not easy prey. However, they are excellent to be supplied with tweezers.
IF A LIVE BAIT IS NOT AVAILABLE
If you can not find live baits in stores, you can find them directly in the wild, taking care not to offer dangerous species such as wasps and spiders. Indeed, although it is difficult for prey to get rid of the mantis, since the most exposed parts are protected, it is better not to take risks. It is also important not to collect insects in areas subject to intensive cultivation, since they often absorb pesticides and toxic compounds in their tissues.
Sometimes, the larvae do not move enough to attract the attention of the mantis, or they bury themselves right away, fleeing from the claws and capture. In any case, if the mantis does not show interest in the prey that is proposed, incisions can be made in the tissues of the prey to release part of the internal fluids. Immediately afterwards, with a small pincer, it delicately approaches the mantis’s jaws, which should begin to eat it by grabbing the prey by itself.
I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide. I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.