How to tell if a praying mantis has a parasite? 4 Symptoms of praying mantis parasite

In this article, we embark on a journey to understand how to tell if a praying mantis has a parasite. By familiarizing ourselves with the telltale signs, we can take prompt action to protect our insect companions from potential harm. Whether you are an experienced keeper or new to the world of mantises, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to ensure the optimal health of your cherished mantis community.

As devoted keepers of praying mantises, our commitment extends beyond providing a safe and nurturing environment. One critical aspect of their well-being is being vigilant for any signs of potential health issues, including parasitic infestations. Parasites can pose a significant threat to the health and vitality of our beloved mantises, making it crucial to recognize the indicators of their presence early on.

praying mantis parasite

Most common praying mantis parasites

In the intricate ecosystem of praying mantises, parasites can present significant challenges to their well-being. One of the most common parasites found in mantises is Chordodes formosanus, also known as the horsehair worm.

Chordodes formosanus

The horsehair worm is a parasitic nematomorph, belonging to the phylum Nematomorpha. These slender, thread-like worms are renowned for their peculiar life cycle, which involves parasitizing and manipulating their hosts.

Life Cycle of horsehair worm

Horsehair worms lay their eggs in water, and once hatched, their tiny larvae seek out suitable insect hosts, including praying mantises. The larvae enter the host through ingestion of contaminated water or by penetrating the insect’s cuticle.

Parasite manipulation of the host

Once inside the mantis, the horsehair worm larvae evade the host’s immune system and begin their parasitic manipulation. They develop and grow within the host’s body cavity, absorbing nutrients from its tissues. Interestingly, while the horsehair worm larvae are inside the mantis, they do not cause immediate harm or noticeable symptoms.

Emergence and reproduction

As the horsehair worm larvae reach maturity, they release chemicals that alter the host’s behavior. This manipulation induces the mantis to seek water, where it eventually succumbs to the parasitic influence. Once in the water, the fully developed horsehair worm emerges from the mantis’s body, free to continue its life cycle and lay more eggs, perpetuating the parasitic process.

how to tell if a praying mantis has a parasite

How to tell if a praying mantis has a parasite?

As dedicated keepers of praying mantises, it is essential to be vigilant in identifying any signs of parasitic infestations that may affect the well-being of these remarkable insects. While some symptoms may not manifest immediately, early detection is crucial for prompt intervention and protection of your mantis community. Here are key indicators to help you tell if a praying mantis has a parasite:

  1. Changes in Color and Physical State: One notable impact of praying mantis parasite is the noticeable change in the mantis’s color and physical appearance. Infested mantises may appear paler or exhibit abnormal coloration, displaying a stark contrast to their healthy counterparts.
  2. Weakness and Loss of Appetite: As the parasitic manipulation takes hold, mantises infested with horsehair worms often become visibly weak and lethargic. Their once voracious appetite diminishes, and they may display disinterest in food or refuse to eat altogether.
  3. Lethargy and Inactivity: Infested mantises often display a state of lethargy and inactivity, spending extended periods immobile or lying at the bottom of their enclosures. This loss of energy and activity deviates significantly from their usual agile and alert behavior.
  4. Zombie-Like Behavior: Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Chordodes formosanus infestations is the alteration of the mantis’s behavior. As the horsehair worm matures within the host, it releases chemicals that manipulate the insect’s nervous system, making praying mantis feel dehydrated, compelling it to seek out water. This “zombie-like” behavior coerces the mantis to leave its typical habitat, which can lead to dangerous situations, such as drowning or increased vulnerability to predators.

How to prevent praying mantis parasites?

By implementing careful practices and maintaining a clean environment, you can create a thriving mantis community while minimizing the risk of parasites. Here are essential steps to prevent praying mantis parasites:

  1. Maintain a Clean Habitat: Regularly clean and sanitize the enclosure to create an environment less conducive to parasites.
  2. Provide Proper Nutrition: Offer a diverse and nutritious diet to support mantises’ overall health and immune system.
  3. Regular Health Checks: Monitor mantises’ appearance and behavior for early detection of abnormalities.
  4. Isolate Infested Mantises: If you suspect a mantis is infested, separate it from others to prevent spread.
  5. Prevent Contaminated Water: Ensure water sources are clean and free from potential parasitic larvae.
  6. Use Food from Proven Sources: Only feed mantises with food from reliable sources, avoiding catching prey from the wild to reduce parasite risks.

By following this checklist, you’ll safeguard your mantises from parasitic infestations and create a thriving and healthy mantis community

Managing Praying Mantis Horsehair Worm Infestations: A Swift and Effective Approach

Dealing with a praying mantis infested by the peculiar horsehair worm, Chordodes formosanus, calls for prompt action to safeguard the mantis’s well-being. If you suspect an infestation, the easiest way to rid the mantis of the parasite is through a simple yet effective method: submerging its abdomen in water.

Submerging the Abdomen in Water: When exposed to water, fully developed horsehair worms will instinctively emerge from the mantis’s body cavity. By gently placing the mantis’s abdomen in water, you can encourage the horsehair worm to leave its host, breaking the parasitic cycle.

Observation and Care: After the horsehair worm has emerged, carefully remove it from the water to avoid further contact with the mantis. Observe the mantis closely for any signs of stress or discomfort, and ensure it has access to dry and safe surroundings. You can try hand feeding your mantis if it’s too weak to catch prey itself.


As dedicated keepers of praying mantises, we hold the key to ensuring the well-being of our cherished insect companions. Vigilance in recognizing and addressing parasitic infestations, particularly the intriguing horsehair worm, is essential for their survival.

Through our proactive care, clean habitats, and proper nutrition, we create an environment where these remarkable creatures can flourish. Together, we stand as guardians of our mantises, safeguarding them from the challenges nature may present, and nurturing a vibrant and joyful mantis community.

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2 thoughts on “How to tell if a praying mantis has a parasite? 4 Symptoms of praying mantis parasite”

  1. Dr. Mark Brown

    Parasitic infections vs infestation
    Infections occur internally while infestations occur externally.

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