How to Attract Praying Mantises to Your Garden

Updated on March 25, 2019
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.


Praying mantises, or mantids, are the largest insects in your garden. Adults can grow up to 5 inches long. They look frightening, but you want them patrolling your garden. That’s because they are voracious eaters of insects including the ones that can destroy your flowers and crops.

What are Praying Mantises?

Praying mantises are warm region insects. They are found throughout the temperate regions of the world. In all, there are 1800 species. Only 11 species are found in North America. In addition to the native mantids, both the European mantis and the Chinese mantis were introduced into the Northeast US for insect control.

Mantids range in color from brown to green. Their coloration enables them to blend into the landscape, especially in grasses and shrubbery. This camouflage is important so that their prey do not see them. You can find mantids not only in your garden, but also in wilder areas such as pastures, fields and even ditches.

Females lay their eggs in the fall in cases that harden to protect them from the harsh winter weather. The eggs hatch in the spring. The young mature by late summer and then die in the cold winter temperatures after mating and leaving the next generation of eggs behind.

Female laying eggs in a case
Female laying eggs in a case | Source

What do Praying Mantises Eat?

Younger, smaller mantids eat insects exclusively. They have no preferred species. They eat any insects that they can catch including caterpillars, butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and flies. Unfortunately, they also do not discriminate between “good” bugs such lady bugs and “bad” bugs such aphids. They eat everything, even each other if they can’t find anything else to eat.

In the late summer when the mantids have reached their adult size, they branch out to other, larger prey. They have been known to eat lizards, rodents, frogs and even hummingbirds.

How do They Catch a Meal?

Praying mantids are ambush predators. They perch on a stick, grasping it with their middle and hind legs. They sit upright, holding their front legs in the familiar prayer position waiting for a meal to walk or fly by. When an unlucky insect comes within reach, the hungry mantid strikes, impaling the insect on its spiny front legs. This happens literally in the blink of an eye.

Ambush predators catch prey by sitting still and waiting for the prey to come them rather by actively hunting.

Do the Females Really Kill the Males After Mating?

Yes! And it helps the mating process. The female will try to bite off the head of the male because it will stimulate him to copulate. It also prevents him from eating her first. Of course if every male was killed by the females, there wouldn’t be enough males to go around so the males do try to sneak up on the females and quickly inseminate them before jumping away to safety before she has a chance to realize what is going on and eating them.

Hardened egg case in shrubbery
Hardened egg case in shrubbery | Source

How Do I Attract Praying Mantises to My Garden?

Believe it or not, the best way to attract praying mantises to your yard is to plant shrubbery. That’s because the females prefer to lay their eggs in shrubbery to protect them from being eaten by birds. Lots of shrubbery in your yard means lots of places for females to conceal their egg cases. In the spring, you will be rewarded with plenty of hungry baby mantids eager to rid your yard and garden of insects.

You can help matters along in the spring if you find an egg case, by moving it to a shrub in your yard so that the mantids will hatch where they can do the most good for you.

Questions & Answers

  • We lost our pet praying mantis. We’ve had him for only a few days. How do we find him?

    Check the plants in your yard. Your praying mantis would head for the nearest plant to catch a meal.

  • What is usually the host of praying mantis?

    Any kind of shrubbery will attract praying mantis.

  • Which part of Singapore can I find praying mantis?

    You should have no trouble finding praying mantis in Singapore. They are widespread and can be found in forests, scrublands, parks and gardens.

  • We have lost our pet praying mantis. How do we find her?

    Praying mantis only live for a year, so if you had her longer than a year, she might have died. If she got loose outside, she could have moved out of your yard to another yard or wild area. A bird could have even eaten her.

© 2017 Caren White


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    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      6 weeks ago

      I'm not surprised to hear this. Praying mantids seem to have good years and bad years. In my own NJ garden, the past two years I had lots of them but I haven't seen a single praying mantis this year. Hopefully, next year will be better for both of us.

    • profile image

      Bobby Conroy 

      6 weeks ago

      Last yr they just showed up in my garden. Awesome right this yr no luck and my plant r doing good but I def need to some but don’t want babies they seem to me to get eaten a lot I want a bigger one anyways?

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      3 months ago

      All of my hubs are carefully researched It is a matter of historical record that non-native mantids were introduced as pest control. Mantids of any sort are welcome in organic gardens as part of IPM (Integrated Pest Control) which uses beneficial insects to reduce the populations of pests in gardens.

    • profile image

      Colin Purrington 

      3 months ago

      As far as I know, non-native mantids such as the Chinese mantid were accidentally introduced, not brought to United States for pest control. They are now invasive and, per experts, are causing the decline of native mantids such as the Carolina mantid. Not especially good at controlling garden pests, apparently, though if you don't like butterflies they are amazing. All in all, probably a bad thing to have in the garden.

    • OldRoses profile imageAUTHOR

      Caren White 

      24 months ago

      Gina, that is so exciting! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Gina145 profile image


      24 months ago from South Africa

      I had the good fortune of seeing a praying mantis lay her eggs on one of my little trees (bonsai in training) late last summer. It's approaching spring now and I'm anxiously waiting to see if the eggs will hatch.


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