Every year, the hummingbird migratory season brings a big dose of happiness to my life. To see the tiny, brightly colored bird darting amongst leaves and flowers is a sight to behold. In the past few years, I even invested in a few hummingbird feeders to attract these lovely birds.
The number of birds visiting my garden just increased and watching them every year fills me with joy. So you can imagine my shock when one afternoon, I saw a praying mantis sitting on one of my hummingbird feeders and eating a small hummingbird. I was horrified because this was a situation I was not aware of or prepared for.
Earlier, I knew that praying mantises helped humans by eating harmful insects and bugs. After some research, I learned that they are fearful predators and that praying mantises can eat hummingbirds.
Do praying mantis kill hummingbirds?
Praying mantises are ruthless predators and have enormous appetites. They are carnivorous. When they are young, mantises prey on softer food such as caterpillars, aphids, mosquitos, etc.
As they grow older, they begin to feed on larger insects like crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and more.
It has been seen that mantises do kill hummingbirds. However, not all varieties of mantises have the ability to do so. Only the largest mantises, those with reach around 3-4 inches in size can kill hummingbirds. The Chinese mantis (Tenodera Sinensis) is one of the largest varieties of mantises and has been known to kill hummingbirds.
How do praying mantis kill?
Praying mantises are built, predators. Their leafy green color and thin arms provide them the ability to camouflage themselves among leaves and twigs.
Additionally, they have the uncanny ability to rotate their heads almost 300°. They get their name from the stealthy posture they hold when they are stalking prey – almost crouching with arms joined together – kind of like they are praying.
Praying mantises can kill prey up to 3 times their size. When they see suitable prey, they strike out with their 2 front legs and grab it, while their 4 back legs are hanging onto a stick or leaf for support. They then start feeding on the animal alive.
Praying mantises prey on animals as large as mice, snakes, and birds as well.
How does a mantis kill a hummingbird?
According to what has been observed, praying mantises do not kill hummingbirds regularly. They will seek to attack such large prey only when they haven’t fed in a long time and are desperate to eat.
When such a situation does arise, the praying mantis will support itself using its back legs and as soon as a hummingbird passes by, the mantis will strike out with its forearms at breakneck speed and grab the bird. But for a mantis to actually catch a hummingbird is quite rare.
Since mantises do not inject poison in their prey to kill them, they start feeding on the living hummingbird. The bird will eventually die as the mantis eats it.
Additionally, mantises have been shown to prey on birds larger than hummingbirds as well. These include vireos and warblers, but since these birds are larger than hummingbirds, the number of successful attacks is even rarer.
Do praying mantis eat hummingbird brains?
Praying mantis pierce the skulls of birds, including hummingbirds to eat the brain matter.
Once the mantis grabs the bird, it will gradually start eating the bird alive. It has been observed that mantises prefer to eat the inner organs, brains, blood, etc, of the bird.
They may not consume the muscles and bones. This makes sense as the inner organs have the highest concentration of nutrients. If the mantis is unable to eat the entire bird, it drops the carcass and other scavengers take advantage of the unexpected feast.
Praying Mantis vs Hummingbirds
Hummingbirds are small birds ranging from barely 2 inches long (the bee hummingbird) to up to 8 inches long (the giant hummingbird).
These birds are known for their bright colors and chattery calls. Despite their small size, hummingbirds are fast fliers – reaching speeds up to 55 kilometers per hour.
Praying mantises are insects, famed for their posture which makes them look like they are praying. The larger species can reach up to 6 inches in length. They have honed predators.
Hummingbirds often visit hummingbird feeders which contain sweet water for them. Praying mantises are smart and often frequent these feeders. They sit there patiently until prey arrives and will attack and eat it. Unfortunately, in some cases, this prey is a hummingbird.
Mantis will not attack hummingbirds unless they are desperately hungry, and even then it is a matter of great skill and luck for them to catch a bird.
How to keep praying mantis away from hummingbird feeders?
Finding a mantis feeding on hummingbird feeders in your garden can be distressing. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent this occurrence.
- First, you can search for egg masses of praying mantises. These are easy to spot. Once you find them you can remove the branch on which you found them and leave the branch in a safe location around 1 mile away from your home.
- Make sure that your hummingbird feeders are hung away from trees and bushes. This is to make sure that praying mantises do not jump to the feeders from the trees.
- Paint the feeder poles red. This serves two purposes.
- First, the color red attracts hummingbirds because these small birds look for bright flowers to feed on.
- Secondly, it has been seen that a lot of varieties of mantises can change their color to some extent to match the object they are sitting on. Most mantises cannot turn red and hence they will be easily spotted by the hummingbirds.
- Another thing you can do is grease the poles so that they are difficult to climb. You can do this with petroleum jelly or any other greasing material that is easily available in the local market.
- Take steps to keep bees and wasps away from the feeders because praying mantises feed on them as well.
- If you see a praying mantis on a hummingbird feeder you can manually remove it and relocate it to a different and safe place.
Which animals can harm hummingbirds?
Hummingbirds are actually a part of the diets of many animals. Frogs, snakes, lizards, and even fish can grab hummingbirds in their range. House Cats enjoy chasing and killing hummingbirds.
Larger birds like hawks, owls, and roadrunners can kill and eat hummingbirds. Squirrels often raid bird nests to eat the eggs and sometimes even these birds.
Even large insects like praying mantises can kill and devour hummingbirds.
How do praying mantis kill? What is the prey of a praying mantis?
Praying mantis are ambush predators. They wait patiently and grab whatever might pass by. Praying mantis prey on aphids, moths, butterflies, small insects, spiders, and even small lizards, snakes, and birds.
This can be surprising to a lot of you but yes praying mantis can kill each other. The female praying mantises usually eat up their male partners while performing coitus.
The female usually starts by eating the male partner’s head, causing rapid spasms leading to more rapid release of sperms.
Is it possible for a Praying Mantis to kill a snake?
Praying Mantis not only kills small insects and small birds like hummingbirds, but these fearsome predators can kill prey more than 3 times larger in size. As a result, they can kill snakes and other small lizards as well.
Praying Mantis in many cases can kill a snake very easily, they strike twice or thrice with the speed of the blink of an eye and can kill small snakes and other prey in an instant with their very sharp mandibles.
Hummingbirds and praying mantises, separately, make great additions to your garden. One adds chips and color while the other feeds on the harmful insect population.
But when these two mixes, it may be uncomfortable. Praying mantises can actually attack and feed on hummingbirds. This can be distressing for you and your family. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by following a few simple tricks. This will keep both species safe and happy!