Proper Maintenance and Care of Praying Mantises
Mantis Care Information
This live mantis care sheet is based on about 20 years of experience raising large numbers of praying mantises as pets and answering peoples' questions about them.
A video about breeding and then below the various categories of care information.
Please keep in mind that any live insect care sheet on the Internet will likely reflect the experiences of a single person. While I like to think my credibility is high, due in part to the fact I own the mother of all mantis websites--Mantidforum.Net, I would like to be very clear about the benefit of owning a good book on the subject. There is really only one out there and I will not pretend that my mantis care sheet even begins to cover what is available in the book "Praying Mantids Keeping Aliens", by Orin McMonigle. While the care sheet below is undoubtedly one of the best and most extensive online care sheets on the subject, I make no effort here to write an entire book's worth of content. Please feel free to email me with specific questions. Also, please read the section about Buying Mantises if you are considering your first pet mantis. There are some important things you should be aware of.
Having said that, live praying mantids (the words mantis and mantid are roughly interchangeable) are not difficult insects to keep as pets. However, when they are newly hatched (1st instar) you have to check their condition almost daily. Through the third instar (the third instar is the stage after they've shed their skin twice) they should be watched over closely.
Each subsequent instar results in a more stable, stronger pet. I don't recommend buying a live pet praying mantid that is less than 3rd instar. Mantises generally shed their skin about 7 times. Females often shed their skin one or two times more than males. This allows mantises from the same clutch (siblings) to mature at different times, which in turn prevents inbreeding in nature. While inbreeding is an issue for many insects, I've seen no clear evidence of it in mantises.
Above are some rare photos capturing that brief moment of birth as the baby praying mantises slide out of their individual cylindrical cells within the egg-cases. (edit: when I took the photos back in 2001 this was one of the first images on the web of the event, however, the hobby has grown and more people have digital cameras these days.)
One question I'm commonly asked is whether certain species are difficult. With few exceptions, the care instructions provided below will apply to most mantis species. Yes, orchid mantises are easy to keep alive. They are the same as all other mantids but do fall into that category of bugs that have a little bit of extra trouble during the molting process, due to their unusual morphology.
Their widely-lobed, petal-like legs make the molting process more difficult than it is for their thin-legged relatives. This doesn't mean these are a difficult pet. It simply means you must be a little bit more careful about the humidity levels for these bugs. Additionally, very small mantis species (like Miomantis spp.) hatch out incredibly small and do best on feeder insects which are smaller than the smallest fruit flies available on the market.
Live springtails are an okay food source for the first instar of Miomantis, though small strains of live Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies work better. Finally, exotic pets like the devil's flower mantis are difficult because they're one of the few captive species that lack the typical suction cups on the bottoms of their feet. This makes it impossible for them to climb glass or plastic, requiring them to need very special cages that provide many footholds while retaining humidity.
After reading this, you will still probably have to experiment a bit to really fine tune your methods. As with rearing any captive animal, the goal is to most closely mimic the animal’s native habitat and environmental conditions.
There are only a few critical factors for successfully raising young mantids, and disregarding even one of these for just a few days could result in death.
- Buying Live Mantises
- Life Cycle
- Live Foods or Feeders