This headline may sound like the beginning to a high budget horror film, but it is actually happening around us.
That is right, those innocent looking praying mantises are capturing birds and eating their brains.
In a press release from Switzerland’s University of Basel, there has been cases where carnivorous mantises have snacked on insects or spiders. However, according to the published research, they have been killing and eating small birds on all of the continents. The only area where there has not been a documented bug-bird death was in Antartica.
Two scientists revealed to Newsweek on how the insects capture their flying prey. One biologist from the State University of New York at Fredonia noted that the mantises “pierce the skull to feed on brain tissue.”
Dietrich Mebs, a retired ecologist, told Newsweek that “They just hold [their prey], and they eat them while they are still alive, slowly and slowly until there is nothing left.”
The earliest reported case of this phenomenon happened in 1864. Since then, Live Science reports that through published studies, academic papers, and social media posts – they were able to find more cases. The Huffington Post reports that there has been “147 documented cases, spanning 13 countries” and “67 percent of the cases were between 2000 and 2015.”
If this situation was not already weird enough, carnivorous mantises have a specific bird they prefer to eat. Around 70 percent of the documented instances, the insects have been found earring hummingbirds. They would often wait around hummingbird feeders or gardens in order to catch their prey.
A large number of the mantises who are catching hummingbirds are not native to North America. Granted, according to the press release, native mantises are still taking part in the brain eating action, but it is a lower number. As reported by the Huffington Post, non-native mantises were introduced to North America “decades ago in an attempt at ‘pest control.’”
Well, who would have thought that a part of their idea of pest control is also eating birds! Ever since this revelation, scientists are encouraging people to halt releasing non-native large mantises into the wild.
Sarah is a Hufflepuff living in NYC. When she is not traveling or talking to random animals, she is working as a script writer. Tweet her at @lumpyspacederp