Praying mantis are ferocious hunters, and are even known to cannibalize members of their own species. With their long, spiny forearms, large jaws and super-fast reflexes, these alien-like insects present a real threat to bugs like grasshoppers, crickets and moths. But are praying mantis harmful to humans, and can they bite you?
What are praying mantis?
Praying mantis are a type of insect found in temperate and tropical climates throughout the world. They get their name from the appearance of their front legs, which are large, prominent and bent, as though in prayer. These unique-looking bugs may appear pious, but they’re actually fearsome predators. Those long front legs are covered with tiny spines and can move at lightning speed, snatching up passing moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and any other passing prey.
They praying mantis will even feast on members of their own species, and female mantis are notorious for decapitating males after (or even during) reproduction. They do this because the male bugs are packed with nutrients that the females can use to produce eggs; in fact, she may lay twice as many as usual if she cannibalizes her partner. In some cases, male mantises may make up the majority of a female mantis’s diet during breeding season.
There’s no doubt that praying mantis are ferocious insects, but do we humans have anything to fear?
Can praying mantis bite humans?
Praying mantis mainly eat insects, but may also take down spiders, frogs, lizards, and even small birds! However, they won’t try to attack anything as large as a human, and aren’t known to bite people.
Before you get complacent, this doesn’t mean praying mantis can’t bite you. They may take a nibble if they mistake a finger for a smaller prey animal, but this is very unlikely to happen. Even if you do receive a bite from a praying mantis, you are unlikely to be injured. Larger specimens may be able to break the skin, but this won’t cause anything more serious than some light bleeding.
When are praying mantis most likely to bite you?
Praying mantis are most likely to bite you if they confuse a finger for potential prey. Therefore, you are most at risk of mantis bites while gardening, when you may accidentally stick your hands into their hiding place. You may also receive a bite if you deliberately provoke a praying mantis.
Are praying mantis dangerous?
Unless you happen to be an insect or a small amphibian, praying mantis are not dangerous. They aren’t venomous and, though their bites may be a little painful, they won’t cause any lasting harm. You are also highly unlikely to suffer any kind of allergic reaction from a praying mantis bite.
What should you do if a praying mantis bites you?
Praying mantis aren’t poisonous, but you should still take care of bites. In the unlikely event that you are bitten by a praying mantis, wash the affected area thoroughly with warm water and soap. This is especially important if you are bitten hard enough to break the skin. If you are bleeding, you may need a band-aid.
How to protect yourself from praying mantis bites
If you live in a region where praying mantis are native, you may be at risk of bites while gardening, hiking, or taking part in other outdoor activities. The best way to prevent bites is to wear gloves while gardening, and long pants and socks in grassy or wooded areas. You may also wear insect repellent to prevent praying mantis and other insect bites. If you see a praying mantis, don’t be tempted to try to handle it, as they’re more likely to bite you if they feel threatened.
How to safely handle a praying mantis
It’s best to leave praying mantis (and all other wildlife) alone if you want to avoid bites.
However, some people choose to keep praying mantises as pets – and if that’s the case, you need to know how to handle them carefully!
Despite their formidable hunting skills, praying mantises generally make docile pets and can usually be handled safely. If you want to hold a mantis, simply hold your hand near or in front of the insect.
Keep in mind!
If it wants to make your acquaintance, it will climb aboard and walk from hand to hand.
Let the mantis set the terms of its handling and, if it tries to climb off, let it go without attempting to restrain it. Trying to force the mantis into a petting session may make it feel threatened, and it may be tempted to nip you to make an escape. Physically restraining the mantis may also cause injury to the bug.
Praying mantis are deadly hunters but, unless you happen to be an insect, amphibian or a small lizard, you have very Iittle to worry about.
Praying mantis aren’t known to bite humans. They are not aggressive insects, nor are they poisonous. However, just because they’re unlikely to bite you doesn’t mean they can’t! Praying mantises may bite if they feel threatened, or if they mistake a finger for a prey animal. The best way to avoid bites is to wear gloves while gardening, cover up with long pants in grassy or wooded areas, and never try to hand a wild praying mantis.
If you do get bitten, don’t worry! Praying mantis aren’t poisonous, aren’t know to trigger allergies and, in most cases, won’t even break the skin. If you receive a nibble from a larger insect, wash the affected area with soap and warm water to clean out the wound.