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A photograph of a preying mantis after it captured and killed a hummingbird at a bird feeder began circling around social media in August. The image was originally posted to Facebook and came with the following message:

Image: National Geographic

BIRD LOVERS BE AWARE……

This is NOT a pleasant sight but let me tell you…I’ve witnessed it twice. Most people are surprised to learn that the praying mantis will successfully capture, kill, and eat a hummingbird! Typically the insect will position itself on a plant or a hummingbird feeder to which it observes a hummingbird coming repeatedly. Its lightning-fast strike often assures it of success. Because of the relative size difference, it make take over a day for the bird to be consumed. While praying mantis are very beneficial insects in a garden, they should NOT be allowed on hummingbird feeders!

The particular image used was originally published in September 2009 issue of National Geographic under the “Your Shot” section:

I’ve heard of birds eating spiders and spiders eating birds–but who knew that praying mantises can catch hummingbirds! The photo here proves mantises can turn the tables on birds.

“Like many bird watchers in our area, we keep hummingbird feeders filled in our front yard, from April until October,” says Sharon Fullingim, who submitted the photo to “Your Shot.” “Black chinned, broad tailed, rufous, and calliope hummingbirds visit them, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was greeted with this shot this week. I’ve seen the mantis hanging around the feeders before, but didn’t quite believe it would ever ‘score’ lunch!”

There are numerous images online showing hummingbirds being ambushed at feeders, though they have drawn there own skepticism. With National Geographic having published about interactions that ended with mantis’s killing hummingbirds, it takes away a great deal of skepticism.

It’s not hard to imagine a mantis would attempt to kill a hummingbird if they were hungry enough – they usually hand out at feeders waiting for smaller insects to be attracted to the sugar water often placed at them.

Fortunately, despite any skepticism, video evidence removes all doubt that it happens – though the mantis isn’t always successful.

Like in all things, some don’t quite reach their goal (get to devour a hummingbird) but for every missed opportunity there is one that manages the capture.

Despite the fact that a preying mantis is capable of catching and eating a hummingbird, it’s a relatively rare thing to occur.

Even if it is rare, I’m happy I’m not a hummingbird relying on a feeder come lunchtime.

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