Caring for your New Praying Mantis

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Praying Mantis Factoids

Origin

Wide spread

Sexual Differences

Females larger

Temperature

Room temp fine 

Attitude

Alert.  Always on the lookout for food.

Security

Needs climbing surfaces

Size

4 to 6 inches

Foods

Mostly insects

Supplements

None needed

Cleaning Schedule

Weekly suffices

Gestation Period

Egg clusters overwinter in vegetation

Brood Size

50 to 200

Baby Demand Fruit flies or baby crickets
Breeding Comments Keep breeders well fed

LA Pic
Front view of a male praying mantis.  They can bite but usually don't.   This guy did.

LA Pic
This gal praying mantis loves crickets.  Excellent candidate for a drive-in movie.

LA Pic
What a cool bug -- and useful, too.            Is this praying mantis waving at his fans?

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.

LA
Preying Mantis captured by Mr. Mike on Aqualand sidewalk September 9, 2006.

LA
September 19, 2006.

LA Pic
Once out of their cages, praying mantids quickly scuttle (or fly) away.

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.

LA Pic
Praying mantids easily walk up most surfaces -- even plastic.

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.

LA
Praying mantids like to explore.  Probably looking for food.

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.

LA Pic
New praying mantis freshly captured from the wild.

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.

LA Pic
Give your praying mantis some variety in its menu -- not just crickets.

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.

LA Pic
Adult mantids look you right in the eye (right before they leap onto your camera).

LA Pic
He cautiously scrutinizes his audience.

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.

LA Pic
No pre-lunch lettuce salad for mantids.  She grabbed her cricket in two seconds flat.

 

LA Pic
Male praying mantis checking out another male.

LA Pic
Male praying mantis abdomens have fewer segments.  Males are smaller and skinnier.

LA Pic
Male praying mantids have six segments.  Females have eight and they're heftier.

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.

LA Pic
These four stooges can't tell she's already full of eggs.  Maybe she's extra cute?

LA Pic
More traditional menages aux deux.

Gestation.  Some egg cases (oothecae) take about three months to gestate and hatch.  Some of the imports take as little as two weeks.  Our Iowa mantids overwinter as eggs.  The adults freeze to death.  Tropical species live longer.  Still, mantids live fairly short lives, like most bugs.

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.

LA
You can find praying mantids in a variety of places.  They rarely run away.

LA
It took these two preying mantids about two minutes to get used to humans.

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.

LA Pic
Praying mantids really like their crickets.

LA Pic
But they need variety in their diet -- grasshoppers fill the bill (and the belly).  Yum.

LA
Excellent equipment for capturing their prey.

Last Word:  Food (and lots of it) ranks at the top of your praying mantis list of requirements.  LA.

© 2000, © 2003, © 2004, © 2006, © 2007   LA Productions

LA
Iowa preying mantis -- much smaller than the Chinese mantids that have taken over.

LA
In the last few weeks she's laid three egg cases.

LA
She's still alive here but died a week later.  (January)

LA
Inch-long mantis captured on my front door in July.

LA
Same guy tripled in size in one month (with his shed exoskeleton).

LA
Four-inch female captured about mid-August.

LA
Introducing the above theoretical male and female.

LA
Looked like a possible lunch, so we separated them.

LA
Mantids show up usually in the fall.  September of 2007.

LA
This one would love to get its "hands" on the previous guy.

LA
Females can crank out a very large egg case.  September of 2007.

LA
Female mantis hanging from top of screen cover.

LA
Mantid eggs squishing up thro the slots in a critter cage top.

LA
Female mantis pumping out eggs on the side of a critter cage.

LA
Different wild-caught Iowa species.

LA

More mantis info at:

Mantids, Newly Hatched
Mantids 2008

    

3600 Sixth Avenue

Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues

Des Moines, IA 50313

515 283-0300

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