Caring for your Praying Mantis

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There is much to be learned about these fantastic invertebrates! The primary care of mantids is reasonably straightforward. Still, once you are done reading this highly generalized care sheet, you will want to check out the advanced care sheet and see if there are any special requirements for the species that you own/are interested in owning.

Praying Mantis housing: The general rule of thumb for house a mantid is to provide an enclosure that is three times the length of the mantis in length and at least twice the height of the mantis in height. For example, A flower mantis could live in a 32 oz. Deli cup throughout their entire life and a Sheild Mantis would need a 2-gallon aquarium, 1.5-gallon plastic enclosure, or a 12″ x 12″ net cube. However, a mantis who is not yet an adult will need plenty of room for molting, or you will run the risk of molting problems. For a mantis who is not, however, an adult, you will want a vertical height of about three times the length of the mantis. For an adult, height is not as important, but for your mantis’ comfort, it should be at least twice the length of the mantis in height.

Food: Most species of mantids will eat fruit flies as young nymphs and either houseflies or bluebottle flies from L3 to adulthood. Some species will also eat crickets, roaches, mealworms, superworms, grasshoppers, moths, or virtually any other type of smaller insect you can find for them. If your mantis will not eat, it means one of three things: 1) A young mantis who refuses food is usually about to molt, leave it alone (except for misting) until it has molted. 2) Mantids have an innate sense of what is toxic for them, and what is safe trust your mantid’s instincts! There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests feeder crickets that have been hydrated by feeding them carrots can make your mantis ill. We have tested this theory extensively and found it to be bunk. Potatoes are worse for feeding to crickets than carrots, as vegetables can harbor botulism, 3) It is also natural for a mantis to begin refusing food if it is a female about to lay an oath (most will do this even if unmated) or in its old age…perhaps not unlike other animals in their later stage of life.

Water: The only water your mantis will need is what you provide by misting the enclosure each evening. Often, you will see the mantis sucking up droplets from the side of the container or cleaning water off of their raptorial arms. Do not offer a “water, cup” as your mantis could drown, and most certainly, any feeder insects would drown before being eaten.

Temperature: Many species will do just fine at ordinary household temperatures between 72-76 degrees. Some of the more tropical species (think Africa & Asia) need higher temps, so check your species you may need supplemental heat for them! Additional heat can be provided by placing your mantis near a desk lamp with a 60-watt bulb. Make sure the enclosure is no nearer than 12″ from the bulb, give it a few minutes, and then place your hand near, but not touching, the mantis’ enclosure. The back of your hand (nearest the bulb) should feel barely warm.

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