Coming from the warmer areas of the world, most praying mantis require a warm cage in order to flourish.
In this guide we’ll look at suitable temperatures for praying mantis in captivity, and how to provide this warmth safely and cheaply.
By the end you should know all you need to in order to keep your pet mantis warm and cosy in even the coldest of weather.
What Temperature Should My Mantis Cage Be?
As praying mantis are cold blooded, they moderate their body temperature in the wild by moving between warmer and cooler areas.
A mantis in the early morning may seek out the sunniest and warmest area possible. As the ambient temperature increases, however, mantids may move away from direct sunlight to avoid overheating.
This same concept should be applied in captivity. This is best achieved by heating one end/side of the cage, but not the other. In this way we have a “hotspot” and a cooler area, and your mantis is free to move around and select the area most suitable for them.
While it is worth considering the specific requirements of the species you decide to keep, as a general rule an area of the cage heated to around 24’C tends to work well. The cooler end can be allowed to drop to around 18’C, and dips in temperature overnight shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
Prolonged periods of cold, however, are a concern.
Praying Mantis Heating Equipment
While the care of praying mantis as pets is still largely in its infancy, meaning there are very few pieces of equipment designed specifically for mantis, we can fortunately borrow a lot of kit from reptile keepers.
Here a range of cheap reptile heaters can be found, many of them ideal for keeping your praying mantis warm and comfortable.
Here are some of the best options:
A heat mat is a flat heating element sandwiched between two sturdy pieces of flat plastic.
These mats are only a millimetre or so in profile, but come in a range of lengths and widths. These are arguably the best all-round heaters for praying mantis, being easily sourced, cheap to buy and costing just pennies per day to run.
Some heat mats – often described as “heat strips” are very long and thin, permitting their use to heat a range of cages if they are placed next to one another.
Heat mats can be placed under your mantis cage(s) – where they should cover no more than 50% of the floor space – or they can be attached to the back of the cage.
Many heat mats these days come with a peel-off surface that can be removed, before the adhesive underneath allows you to gently “glue” the heater to the back or side of your exotic pet cages.
Heat cables are second option, though are really only suited to specific situations. As the name suggests, these are electrical cables of varying lengths which get nice and warm when plugged in.
Due to the shape of this heater, they can be rather more fiddly to fix in place (I tend to use gaffer tape) but are capable of heating many, many cages. When I keep mantis in shelving units I run a heating cable along each shelf, under each cage.
In this way one single heating cable can warm dozens of cages, even if they are kept on separate shelves.
The average mantis keeper with a small collection, however, a heating cable may be “overkill”.
Heat lamps provide not just warmth but also light. Taking into consideration the relatively modest size of most praying mantis cages you will most likely find that only a very low wattage bulb is required.
I find that either a 15 watt or a 25 watt tends to be more than successful, depending on the size of the cage.
It is important to realize that heat lamps and heat bulbs can get very hot to the touch. Even the smaller bulbs are capable of producing a surprising amount of ambient heat too.
When using a heat bulb a number of additional safety precautions are therefore important.
Firstly, your mantis should be kept separate from the bulb, which should be housed behind a bulb cover or a metal grill.
This prevents your mantis clambering onto the bulb and getting burned. Just as importantly it is critical that a thermostat is used with heat lamps, in order to prevent your praying mantis tank from overheating.
Lastly, be aware that you’ll need not just the bulb and thermostat, but also a way of fixing the bulb into the cage.
Personally I only use just bulbs for adults housed in Exo Terra glass terrariums. With the optional lighting hood added, a heat lamp can keep your pet warm in even the coldest of weather, while the light produced really helps to set off the overall appearance of your mantis.
Lastly, some keepers opt to heat larger spaces, and to place their unheated mantis cages into this. On a large scale, some exotic pet keepers use a spare bedroom, garage or shed for their pets, and keep this thermostatically heated to a comfortable temperature around the year.
On a smaller scale, a glass aquarium or wooden vivarium can be heated using one of the heating methods discussed above, and multiple praying mantis tubs can be placed into this. Such a process does of course reduce visibility, but can be useful for heating baby mantis.
Thermostats for Heating Praying Mantis
Thermostats control the amount of electricity getting to your praying mantis heater, and therefore prevent it from overheating. Most heat mats and heating cables produce only a modest heat, and so long as you are heating just one area of the cage then overheating is unlikely. As discussed, a thermostat is critical when using a heat bulb.
One consideration here, however, is what happens as the weather warms up in spring, or cools down at the end of summer. Nights can still be cold, while days can get surprisingly warm, and it’s all too easy to be taken by surprise.
You get up on a chilly morning and are glad you left the praying mantis heater on. Within a few hours of going out, however, the temperature is rising fast and you have to hope that the mantis cage isn’t overheating.
To save this worry, or the annoyance of trying to remember tor turn your heater on and off depending on the predicted weather, a thermostat may be used. As matstats – designed specifically for use with heat mats – are so cheap to buy and easy to use they would seem like a worthy addition to your setup.
How to Heat Large Juvenile and Adult Praying Mantis
For the praying mantis owner with just one or two mantids, probably the easiest and most practical form of heating is the heat mat. These produce a gentle warmth and are easy to install underneath your praying mantis cage.
For keepers with a larger collection it may be more practical to use a heat strip or heating cable, so that dozens of cages can be heated using a single plug. I rarely use heating bulbs with my mantis, due to the additional cost and levels of care that are required to do so safely.
How to Heat Hatchling and Small Juvenile Praying Mantis
Tiny youngsters tend to live in small cages. Creating a thermal gradient in such a tiny environment can be near-impossible. In addition, many people who purchase hatchling praying mantis end up with quite a few specimens.
A dozen small deli cups with a hatchling praying mantis in each one can be challenging to heat.
Here I opt to place them all into a wooden vivarium, and then heat this vivarium by placing a heat mat inside the viv, attached to the back wall. In the well-insulated environment of a wooden vivarium the whole space starts to warm up comfortably, keeping dozens of baby mantids fit and healthy.
In these circumstances a thermometer is critical, in order to monitor the temperature of the tank to ensure that it is suitable.
As my mantis grow, and are moved up into larger cages, I then transition to the aforementioned strategy using heat mats or cables to keep them comfortable.