A praying mantis is a type of insect known for being a great hunter. “Praying” comes from the way these insects hold their front legs below their head, as if they were in prayer.
Despite its excellent hunting skills, a praying mantis is unlikely to ever bite you. Read on to find out why, as well as what to do on the off chance one of these insects does bite you.
Praying mantises can be found almost anywhere, from forests to deserts.
These insects a have a long body — 2 to 5 inches in length, depending on the species — and are usually green or brown. Adults have wings but don’t use them.
Like other insects, praying mantises have six legs, but they only use their back four legs to walk. This is because those front two legs are used mostly for hunting.
They usually sit on the stems or leaves of tall plants, flowers, shrubs, or grasses to hunt. Their coloring serves as camouflage, allowing them to blend in with the sticks and leaves around them, and then wait for their food to come to them.
When prey comes near, the praying mantis quickly grabs it with its front legs. These legs have spikes to hold the prey so that the mantis can eat.
Two traits strengthen the hunting abilities of praying mantises: They can turn their heads 180 degrees — in fact, they are the only type of insect that can do this. And their excellent eyesight allows them to see movement up to 60 feet away.
Eating prey isn’t the only feeding that praying mantises do. Females will sometimes bite a male’s head off after mating. This gives her the nutrients she needs to lay eggs.
Praying mantises mostly eat live insects. They never eat dead animals. Despite their small size, they may eat spiders, frogs, lizards, and small birds.
Praying mantises aren’t generally known to bite humans, but it is possible. They could do it by accident if they see your finger as prey, but like most animals, they know how to correctly identify their food. With their excellent eyesight, they’re likely to be able to identify you as something bigger than their usual prey.
Praying mantises are nonvenomous, which means they aren’t poisonous. If you do get bitten, all you have to do is wash your hands well. Here’s how to do it:
- Wet your hands with warm water.
- Apply soap. Either a liquid or bar is fine.
- Lather your hands well, until they are covered in soap bubbles.
- Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you rub the back of your hands, your wrists, and between your fingers.
- Rinse your hands with warm water until all the soap is off.
- Dry your hands completely. This is an important, but often overlooked, part of making sure they’re clean.
- Use a towel (paper or cloth) to turn off the faucet.
There are a few ways you can protect yourself against a potential praying mantis bite. The best is to wear gloves while gardening.
You should also wear long pants and socks while outside in the woods or tall grass. This will help protect you from insect bites in general.
Being bitten by a praying mantis is unlikely. They prefer insects, and their excellent eyesight makes it unlikely they’ll mistake your finger for one.
But bites can still happen. If you do get bitten by a praying mantis, simply wash your hands thoroughly. They’re not poisonous, so you’ll be unharmed.