Honestly, I had never heard of this until one of our Master Naturalist brought it to my attention this week. Praying mantis, which are known to be major predators on many insects, have been known to sit on hummingbird feeders and ambush hummingbirds.
Praying mantis are amazing animals, really. They are predatory insects related to grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches. There is… whatever they can catch. They typically sit motionless allowing the selected prey to cross within range and snag them with their forearms, which are usually folded in a way that it appears they are “praying”. Their legs and forearms are armed with spikes that allow the mantis to grabs and hold the prey while they begin devouring with their strong, sharp jaws. Well camouflaged, they will sit on flowers, bushes, and trees awaiting an opportunity to strike.
There are 11 species of mantis found in Florida. Most are between 1-4 inches and feed on a variety of insects. Many of these insects are pests within our gardens and, thus, the mantis is beneficial in our gardens. But it appears that the larger members of the group, the four inchers, will also take prey as large as themselves. There are reports of mantis taking small lizards and amphibians – they are also known cannibals. But a hummingbird?
Apparently, yes… but very rare.
First, the mantis would have to be quite large – one of the four inchers, and quite fast – hummingbirds are not fools. But on rare occasions, they have made the grab. Most likely, the mantis was sitting on the feeder because it attracts other insects that are easier for mantis to kill and consume – a hummingbird would be a lucky grab. Those who have observed it also notice that the mantis does not consume the entire bird – just what it can get from cutting and consuming the internal structures.
So how would you avoid a potential hummingbird – mantis conflict?
First, the probability of this happening, even if the mantis is on the hummingbird feeder, is very low. However, you can move the feeder away from shrubs and trees where mantis frequent. If you find one on your feeder, use a stick and move the animal to a nearby shrub or tree. Remember they are actually more beneficial than harmful.
Audubon News. Praying Mantis vs. Hummingbird. https://www.audubon.org/news/praying-mantis-vs-hummingbird.
Borror, D.J., R.E. White. 1970. Insects of America North of Mexico. Easton Press. Norwalk CT. pp. 404.
Harrison, L. 2017. The Predatory Praying Mantis. Gardening in the Panhandle. http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2017/07/14/the-predatory-praying-mantis/.
Montanari, S. 2017. Praying Mantis Devours Hummingbird in Shocking Photo. National Geographic. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/mantis-hummingbirds-predation-photograph-animals/.