Nowadays, the praying mantis seems to be one of the most popular pets among insect aficionados. And even those, who’ve only just begun to dip their toes in the pool of insect-loving (or simple fascination), seem to gravitate towards them as their first (or one of the first) pet of an insect.
And with their growth in popularity, some of the concerns have come forefront as well.
Namely: are praying mantis poisonous to humans? Are they poisonous to pets? How safe is it to keep them? Let’s address them one by one.
Are praying mantis poisonous?
Praying mantis are not poisonous at all. They generally do not attack humans at all. They can bite you though, if you act threateningly around them – or if they mistakenly think of you as prey.
Which is unlikely to happen, since they do know how to correctly identify their food, but if the circumstances align and they think a smaller part of you (like a finger) is a prey – they might attack.
Also, in fact, despite popular belief, praying mantis do not spit any kind of substance on you. Poisonous or not.
How do you treat a praying mantis poisonous bite?
Again, praying mantis are not venomous, so their bites are safe – even if they hurt a bit. But that doesn’t mean you should leave their bite without proper treatment.
If a praying mantis bites you make sure to wash your hands clean. The water should be warm, you should clean your hands very thoroughly – make sure they’re covered in soap bubbles and then wash it for no less than 20 seconds, and dry them fully.
If the bite bleeds, and the bleeding doesn’t stop after you’ve washed your hands, apply a disinfectant, like Lugol’s iodine.
Okay. So regular praying mantis aren’t dangerous. Are brown praying mantis poisonous?
No. Brown is a common color for praying mantis, even though the one we see most often is green. Their coloring can range between any shade of browns and greens.
Are white praying mantis poisonous?
When a praying mantis molts, they become white and look like albinos – or, I suppose, like a different, not-so-common, mantis species. But they are still just regular ol’ praying mantis that aren’t venomous.
The molt periods lasts for only a short while, after which the mantis darkens and re-acquires its brown or green color.
TLDR: no, they’re perfectly safe.
But what about pets! Are praying mantis poisonous to dogs?
No, praying mantis isn’t poisonous for dogs – neither their bites nor they themselves (in case the dog accidentally eats them). Frankly speaking, there’s a chance your dog has already fought a praying mantis (and got bitten or ate one) when out on walks (maybe even multiple times) and you’re none the wiser.
What your dog may suffer from is a gastrointestinal irritation if it manages to eat the praying mantis – add some extra fiber to its diet if that happens, and your pooch will be fine.
Are praying mantis poisonous to cats?
Ditto on cats! The only way a mantis can be of any trouble for a cat is if the cat eats it and its stomach gets a little upset.
Other than that, your pet will be fine (if the cat is the pet in question, of course. Obviously the praying mantis’ fate will be a tad more final).
I live on a farm. What about farm animals, are praying mantis poisonous to cows?
Sigh. Is this about a cow inflating and dying because of a praying mantis bite/eating the praying mantis (I can never remember how it goes, both, I think)?
That’s a myth. I have no idea where that myth comes from – but it’s still a myth.
Praying mantis are pretty prevalent (at least in Europe and Asia), and yet, there hasn’t been one recorded case of a cow dying from praying mantis poison, since – as already said in this article – praying mantis isn’t poisonous.
Just. Please don’t google cows exploding from either eating praying mantis or being bitten by one, okay? That’s not a thing that happens.
Are praying mantis poisonous to horses?
To put another myth to rest – no, praying mantis aren’t poisonous to horses, so a horse won’t instantly die of a praying mantis poison if it eats one (or gets bitten which is unlikely, since mantis doesn’t attack large animals).
What may happen though, is that a horse may get colic from eating a dead bug. Praying mantis is a large insect so that isn’t very likely to happen, but if it does – you’ll know when the horse starts showing signs of colic, so call the vet right away.
Are praying mantis poisonous to chickens?
No. In fact, for a grown chicken a praying mantis is a perfectly acceptable dinner. And even younger chicks seem to find praying mantis a perfectly acceptable prey.
A praying mantis becomes aggressive when threatened and confronts adversaries larger than it fearlessly – its aggressive behavior may scare the chicken off, though the chances aren’t high.
What about more exotic pets! Are praying mantis poisonous to lizards?
No, a praying mantis isn’t poisonous to a lizard. For some lizards, a smaller praying mantis is a common prey, even.
Doesn’t mean a mantis isn’t a danger to a lizard. Lizards are a pretty regular part of a praying mantis diet, especially the larger praying mantis (a pregnant female, in particular).
So if you do have a pet lizard and are thinking about getting a pet praying mantis – keep the two separate. Neither will be poisoned, but they won’t make great friends either.
Interested in praying mantis yet? Here are some interesting facts about them!
The praying mantis is probably one of the most interesting insects out there.
They can be found almost anywhere – woods, deserts, or valleys. The common species spread across The United States are Carolina Mantis (native) and the Chinese Mantis (non-native).
The praying mantis is a large insect – with bodies varying from 2 to 6 inches in length. Like other insects, they have 6 legs, but only utilize the back four to move around.
The front legs are mostly used for hunting. When the praying mantis isn’t hunting, it’s holding the front legs below its head – which often looks reminiscent of a person putting their hands together for prayer. Thus the name “praying mantis”.
(So no, the name doesn’t have anything to do with them preying on anyone, contrary to what I thought in childhood. It was not, in fact, a spelling error).
That said, if their name was spelled in an alternative way, it would still be applicable, since the praying mantis are known to be excellent hunters – capable of killing prey up to 3 times its size! Even birds and spiders belong to their prey.
Despite its frightening looks and reputation, the praying mantis is widely regarded as a beneficial insect. Not only are they accomplished hunters, but they also have a rather large appetite (thus the tendency to go after a prey 3 times their size), so they can act as a form of natural pest control. Some gardeners even get praying mantis specifically to deal with pest infestation.
However, a praying mantis doesn’t discriminate in its food – when it comes to insects, it eats both pests you want to get read of and beneficial insects that help the garden, so unless you have some serious infestation you need to handle, a praying mantis would make a better pet if kept in a lidded container (with some small holes for it to breath, of course).