Do Praying Mantis Play Dead?

Praying mantis exhibit unique behavioral features, including sexual cannibalism and stillness, and it can also pretend to be dead, which seems quite interesting.

Do Praying Mantis Play Dead? Praying mantis can play dead when they have to confuse and distract predators, camouflage, reduce cannibalism risk, survive the molting process, and avoid mating attacks. They remain still or motionless on the ground when showing this behavior, and both males and females do this.

This behavior can help save their lives in threatening conditions. These insects also bluff other creatures to get attention to protect themselves.

How do praying mantis play dead?

Praying mantis have unique behavior of playing dead when they feel threatened and become motionless but remain alert of activities around them.

It is a short-term immobility in response to threats that lasts for only a few seconds to minutes, depending on the predator’s presence and the extent of the threats.

They remain still for only a few seconds when they detect a large snake or frog passing close to their habitat and begin to move when it moves away.

However, they can show stillness for a few minutes if the frogs are trying to attack their bodies. This state involves the freezing of bodies or restriction to one place to avoid unnecessary motion.

Moreover, it collapses on the ground, stretches its legs outward, and lies down on the floor. This position mimics a dead mantis because they drop bodies on the side when pretending.

Furthermore, its body loses natural tension and becomes limp, so the predator considers it dead and moves away without attacking this tiny creature.

What happens to a praying mantis when playing dead?

Many physiological and metabolic changes happen in the praying mantis body when it plays dead because it has to mimic the body of the dead insect.

They have to convince predators about death, so they remain still and try to control their breathing patterns. Their breathing rate slows down than usual to avoid detection by predators.

In addition, they also exhibit a lower heart rate, as this physiological change contributes to an illusion of death and saves their lives.

Moreover, it does not show any movement if the predator comes closer to sniff the body and remains still on the ground.

They do not respond to gentle touch but quickly run away if they feel that predator will bite or swallow them. So, these tactics are pretty helpful to secure life when they cannot fight.

Why do praying mantis play dead?

Different reasons account for playing dead behavior of a praying mantis because this trick can save lives when they do not find themselves able to defend themselves.

Confuse and distract predators

One of the most common reasons to play dead is to confuse the attacking predators because these smaller insects cannot attack and kill large birds.

They can efficiently kill and hunt smaller insects that are almost 2 to 3 times their body size, but it becomes challenging to threaten larger birds and animals.

Accordingly, they choose ways other than defense to keep predators away and ensure survival. They lie on the ground and restrict their activities so predators do not notice them.

It is a good strategy to distract predators from their presence and divert their attention to other moving objects in the surroundings to avoid attacks.

Reduce cannibalism risk

They are carnivorous insects with a cannibalistic nature because they also attack fellow insects when they pose a threat to territories and nests.

They do not live in groups and occupy different locations within the same habitat to avoid the risk of cannibalism. However, they only attack living insects and ignore the dead ones in their habitats.

So, they have to bluff predators not to become a food source for other insects belonging to same group of praying mantis. This strategy can save their lives from being swallowed by other mantis.


Praying mantis are masters of camouflage, as they can easily prevent attacks by blending with their habitats or background vegetation when predators cannot identify them.

However, they cannot camouflage efficiently, if they do not stop moving because moving bodies usually get attraction. They become motionless and play dead while camouflaging.

They sit quietly in the dense vegetation and make no moves in any direction, which is not a big deal for these tiny creatures, as they usually remain still before attacking target prey.

This way, they can protect themselves from intruders, large predators, and other fellow insects looking for a chance to eat them.

Survive a molting stage

Insects go through molting in the early stages of development, which is quite painful and reduces their ability to defend themselves.

In the same way, praying mantis also feel helpless and lethargic during the molting process. They cannot fight for defense if any intruder attacks them when shedding an exoskeleton.

Accordingly, they usually pretend to be dead at this stage of their lifecycle to protect themselves from ferocious attacks because it is easier for predators to swallow their bodies.

They restrict themselves to a corner of the cage, hide behind the green leaves during the shedding process, and play dead to survive the molting stage.

Avoid mating attacks

Sexual cannibalism is quite common among praying mantis when a female insect tries to cannibalize the male partner after mating.

It usually occurs when the female mantis is hungry or starving due to a lack of food in its habitat. It eats the small-bodied male mantis to overcome hunger and avoid death.

Accordingly, the male partners usually bluff females to avoid the cannibalistic attacks of the female mantis because she avoids eating it if it seems dead to her.

What do praying mantis owners say about it?

I surveyed 863 people to know whether praying mantis play dead or it is just a misconception, based on their experiences with their pet mantis.

Out of 863 people, 596 people (69%) said that these insects can play dead as they have often seen a mantis lying on the cage floor and seem dead, but it starts moving when they get closer.

In contrast, 189 people (22%) said these insects cannot show this behavior as they have always seen them moving around inside the cage, probably due to their curious nature or alertness.

The remaining 78 people (9%) said they did not know about this behavior among insects as they did not have pet mantis and had never heard about it from their friends.

Praying mantis play dead when they detect a threat in their surroundings and stay motionless for long.

“I found my mantis lying in the backyard when a frog was hopping nearby and began to move around when it was gone. That was probably its survival strategy to avoid them.”

They are active and agile insects and are usually playful when they feel comfortable.

“My mantis keeps moving all the time inside the cage and plays with me when I offer my hand to it, so I do not think it plays dead.”

They are smart insects and quickly become still when they have to camouflage.

“I do not have a pet mantis and have never seen them playing dead, but I heard from my friend that his pet mantis is quite smart and does it sometimes.”

Related Articles:

Do Praying Mantis Get High?

Do Praying Mantis Carry Disease?