The praying mantis is one of the most incredible predatory insects on the planet. As part of our ongoing series on these fascinating creatures, we’ve collected 12 amazing photos of them eating their prey, and literally ripping their victims apart in some cases.
This first image shows a four inch-long praying mantis well into lunching on a lizard – proof of the adaptability of the mantis as a predator, and its ability to ambush and eat not just insects, but prey of a significantly larger size such as lizards, birds and even rodents.
Interestingly, some praying mantises’ names serve as an indicator of their predatory nature. For example, the Creobroter flower mantis’ moniker comes from the Greek “kreo”, meaning flesh, and “broter”, meaning “eating”.
To catch their prey, praying mantises lash out with lightning speed, using their grasping, spiked forelegs to grip onto and hold their victims in place, so that they can kill and eat them. You can see how securely this mantis has the painted lady butterfly in its death embrace as it commences devouring its dinner.
Next, an incredible shot of a praying mantis eating a ladybird. Ladybirds are known to exude an alkaloid toxin when attacked that many predators find unpleasant or even venomous. However, this praying mantis definitely doesn’t seem to have been deterred by the ladybird’s bright warning colors!
Praying mantises will go for anything from small frogs to fish and even snakes when they’re hungry and their predatory instincts take over. Even stinging insects like this yellow jacket aren’t safe from mantises’ keen compound eyes – which, together with their rotating heads, give them an excellent field of vision. The praying mantis subdued this wasp in no time.
Further proof of the praying mantis’ rapacious nature: even highly venomous spiders like this redback – photographed in New South Wales, Australia – can fall victim! We wonder: are spiders’ legs to mantises similar to what lobster claws are to us? Yummy!
Most praying mantises are ambush predators, and often stay hidden or camouflaged as they lie in wait for potential prey. That said, with the way it’s avidly eating the butterfly it’s caught on a brightly colored flower, this Creobroter mantis doesn’t look like it has need for much of a disguise. The butterfly doesn’t know what hit it.
The giant Asian mantis in this photo certainly seems to be enjoying munching on its dinner! Crickets are a popular food source for mantises, especially in captivity – and this one was made short work of by the smiling assassin now enjoying its meal.
This photo is titled "It Was a Ghastly Lunch," and we have to agree it does look a rather grim situation. Trapped in the praying mantis’ deadly clutches, the grasshopper evidently lost its head first. If these images are anything to go by, mantises do seem to show a certain proclivity for decapitating their victims.
A brilliant example of the way praying mantises camouflage themselves comes in the form of the flower mantis. In this image, an orchid mantis disguised to look like the flower it is named for has a double treat. With two flies caught in its vice-like grip, it can choose which is the most succulent of its victims to tuck into first!
Grasshoppers are occasionally confused with praying mantises, but in actual fact are not related at all. On the contrary, they're a favorite snack for the deadly ambush predator we're now so familiar with!
Another stunning orchid mantis caught in the middle of munching on a fly. You can see more flower mantises here.
Is this mantis engaging in some creepy form of lovemaking? The cricket is obviously not responding to its advances – though we can’t think why! We may jest, but female praying mantises are of course known to cannibalize their partners during or after mating – as well as eating whatever else they can catch, naturally!