Caring for your New Praying Mantis
The inside scoop from Aqualand on mantid species
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Front view of a male praying mantis. They can bite but usually don't. This guy did.
Origins: Some 1,800 different species of praying mantids thrive around the world – even in Iowa. We sell the ones from Africa and China. If you find an Iowa praying mantis, these instructions will apply to it also. August/September appear to produce the most findable Iowa mantids.
Name: Although some spell it “preying,” the “praying” comes from the way these ravenous insects hold their two front legs -- as if they were praying. Maybe mantids say grace before dining? Their scythe-like forelegs flash out and capture all manner of multi-legged prey.
Cage: Those “critter keepers” with locking tops were made for these guys. You need one cage per praying mantis, because hungry mantids can eat each other. Smaller cages make it easier for them to find their prey. Provide a larger cage as your critter grows.
Climbers. Mantids spend little time walking on the ground. They prefer to climb -- especially on plants. Plastic plants work fine. Hang them upside down from their cage cover. The rascals blend into the vegetation and lurk (usually hanging down) in wait for prey. If anything edible crawls or flies past, your praying mantis will grab it extremely fast and eat it like an ear of corn.
Fliers. Adult praying mantids can fly but usually walk. Bats and birds both like them, so they lay low when possible. They look like a katydid when they fly -- rather awkward, almost a long jump with fluttering wings. You can easily net the fliers with a bird net.
Foods: Crickets and other insects fill the bill. Adult mantids can easily overpower and devour a full-grown grasshopper. Most mantids will learn to take bits of meat from tweezers. They get used to people fast.
Water. They get most of their moisture from their prey. But a small water bowl couldn’t hurt. Misting their cage guarantees their moisture. You can see them licking up moisture from the slots in their cage top with their tiny pink tongues.
Temperature: You need no special heater for your praying mantis. Room temperature works fine.
Lighting. Unlike reptiles, your praying mantis needs no special lights. No bones, so no need for vitamin D.
Supplements. Mantids need no extra vitamins or minerals. If you dust your crickets at all, do it lightly and rarely.
Temperament: Somewhat wary at first (because they know that big critters eat little critters), mantids quickly adapt to captivity. Their bulgy eyes (which make up much of their face) work very well. If they spot prey at a distance, they ease toward it very slowly, then strike like lightning. Praying mantids seldom miss. They eat the whole thing, carefully cleaning themselves afterwards.
Stinger 11, June 24, 2007
Just checking out your care sheets and on the mantis page you have placed the wrong information.
Contrary to what you have stated a female mantis has six segments and the male has eight not the other way round. My ghost mantis has laid four egg sacs so far and she has six segments I know she is a female..
Just telling you so you can correct your mistake so you don't carry on giving out the wrong information.
A: You're right. I described them exactly backwards. Thanks for the correction. I've added it to my web page. LA
Breeding. Adult females can wolf down 15 large crickets a day. She needs far less intake for maintenance. If she eats a lot, she puts the extra calories into egg production. Forget the popular legend about her eating her mate. If you keep your female praying mantis well fed, she will not likely devour your male. Your female can lay several foamy egg clusters during her lifetime. The foam hardens to protect the eggs. Some species die after laying their eggs.
Gestation. Some egg cases
take about three months to gestate and hatch.
Some of the imports take as little as two weeks. Our
Baby Mantids. If you want to rear a hatch, have plenty of fruit flies and/or pinhead crickets on hand. Small praying mantids will eat each other unless kept well fed. Plus, baby mantids instantly escape thru those slots in critter keeper cages. Cover their container with cloth. They also go right thru most screen covers.
Handling: At first, some mantids try to bluff you by flaring their wings at you. They consider you a predator. Relax. Very few humans are eaten by mantids. You can handle your preying mantis once he or she gets used to you.
Last Word: Food (and lots of it) ranks at the top of your praying mantis list of requirements. LA.
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