Praying Mantis – Keeping Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 Praying Mantis Food & Feeding http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/praying-mantis-food-feeding/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/praying-mantis-food-feeding/#respond Mon, 10 Jul 2017 07:00:45 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1971 Praying mantis are carnivorous predators. In the wild praying mantis will eat almost anything they can safely capture. Being diurnal predators (active by day) that primarily use their powerful sense of vision to capture prey their most common foodstuffs are invertebrates of varying types. Small vertebrates may also be eaten when the opportunity arises, including […]

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Praying mantis are carnivorous predators.

In the wild praying mantis will eat almost anything they can safely capture. Being diurnal predators (active by day) that primarily use their powerful sense of vision to capture prey their most common foodstuffs are invertebrates of varying types.

Small vertebrates may also be eaten when the opportunity arises, including small lizards and amphibians. There are even videos recording praying mantis successfully catching and eating hummingbirds at a feeder or goldfish from a bowl.

That said, praying mantis are surprisingly smart about what they can and cannot eat. Praying mantis soon learn what size of prey they can subdue, and also learn to identify those invertebrates – such as some beetles – that are either unpalatable or toxic.

Praying Mantis Food in Captivity

praying mantis photo

As pets, it is most common to feed praying mantis on a range of feeder insects freely available from breeders. Generally speaking the size of the prey item should correspond to the body length of the praying mantis; smaller mantids eat comparatively smaller insect prey.

Praying Mantis Food for Hatchlings

Baby praying mantis are tiny when they hatch; often only a centimetre or so in overall length. They therefore require tiny insect prey to start them off, with bigger insects being accepted as they begin to grow.

For hatchling praying mantis two foods are likely to be the most effective:

Pinhead Crickets 

crickets photo

So-called because of their diminutive size, pinhead crickets are freshly-hatched brown or black crickets that have recently emerged from their egg. Measuring just a millimetre or two in length, they are an ideal size for praying mantis.

There are, however, a number of weaknesses to pinhead crickets as food for baby mantis. The first of these is that pinhead crickets have a nasty habit of becoming dehydrated and dying early.

Buy a tub of pinhead crickets from a pet store, and most of them will have died within days. This can be remedied by the provision of moisture-rich food such as slices of carrot, potato or apple, but adds to the effort of keeping the livefood going long enough to get your money’s worth.

The second, and arguably larger issue, is that pinhead crickets tend to spend the majority of their time on the floor of the cage, while the young praying mantis will spend most of their time up high, away from the floor.

For this reason, your baby praying mantis may not notice the tiny crickets dashing around the floor of their cage. Unless you’re lucky, your mantis will also have to pluck up the courage to come and pick these crickets off the floor of the cage one-by one.  

Fruit Flies 

drosophila photo

Fruit flies are a similar size to pinhead crickets, but tend to have rather longer lives. It is simplicity itself to buy a “fruitfly culture” from most good reptile shops. Within a week or so of bringing it home, you should find that dozens – even hundreds – of fruit flies should start to hatch within the culture. These can then be fed to your baby mantis.

Unlike crickets, fruit flies are far more likely to climb or fly up to the top of the cage – putting them pleasantly within striking distance of your baby mantis. When combined with the ease of breeding fruit flies, this makes them my personal preference for the basis on my praying mantids’ diets.

Indeed, while I offer pinhead crickets occasionally to add variety, I tend to purchase these tubs when my fruit fly cultures are running dry – and I know I may have to wait some weeks before the next batch of flies become available.

How to Handle Tiny Insects

drosophila photo

It is worth mentioning at this juncture that handling tiny insects as food for your praying mantis is far from easy. How do you control a buzzing swarm of fruit flies, ensuring that they make it into your praying mantis cage rather than simply flitting off around your home? Here there are three possible options…

Refrigeration – The first option is to gently chill the feeder insects in your refrigerator. Pop the tub into the fridge for 10 minutes or so and you’ll find that the livefood becomes much slower and easier to handle. Of course, as they warm back up so their speed of movement will increase so this is only a temporary situation. It is not ideal if you have plenty of mantis to feed, or if your family dislike the idea of sticking crickets in the fridge.

A Pooter – A pooter is a simple device consisting of two plastic tubes, with a clear plastic vessel between them. A filter is placed over one of the tubes. To use the pooter, put one tube over the top of the hapless feeder insect you’d like to catch, then suck hard on the other. The insects will find themselves vacuumed up into the collection pot, safely protecting your mouth from the insects by the filter.

From here, it is quite simple to open the collection pot and tip the insects into your praying mantis cages.

I have found that pooters can work with fruit flies, but tend to be particularly effective for pinhead crickets. In a single “suck” you can dump dozens of crickets into the collecting pot, then tip a handful into each of your praying mantis cages.

Larger Rearing Cages & Stealth – Possibly the easiest method of all, and the one I use to rear whole egg cases (ootheca), is to keep the baby praying mantis together until they reach a more manageable size.

In truth, such a method will always result in the loss of some mantids, as the youngsters are just as keen to eat one another as they are the fruit flies or crickets lovingly provided for them.

As a result, I would not recommend this method for keepers buying a small number of hatchling mantids. Instead is a technique for keepers that have successfully bred their mantis, and are trying to rear the contents of a whole ootheca.

In this manner, I fill a large cage with hundreds of tiny twigs, giving a three-dimensional climbing frame, allowing the baby mantids to avoid each other as much as is possible. Every so often, I take a fruit fly culture and bang it firmly on a table to knock the flies to the bottom. Before the flies have a chance to respond I then unscrew the lid, open up the baby mantis cage and shake the fruit fly culture over the top.

Dozens – even hundreds – of flies will tumble into the cage before the lid is replaced. In this way, my baby mantids have an almost non-stop supply of flies which simply needs to be topped up from time to time.

Of course, as time goes on, so will the number of mantis you lose, so I try to only use this method until the babies reach a more manageable size of 2-3cm before splitting them into individual cages.

Praying Mantis Food for Juveniles and Adult Mantis

drosophila photo

As praying mantis grow, so they become ever-easier to feed. The reason is simple; not only are larger praying mantis more resilient and easier to keep themselves, but larger insect prey is also much easier to handle. As your praying mantis grows you’ll find it simpler to grab a cricket or two than it was to fuss about with a cloud of rapidly-moving fruit flies!

Here are some of the more common feeder insects suitable for praying mantis, though once again you should take care to select insects of a suitable size for your mantis.

Crickets 

Crickets come in a range of different types, including brown, black and silent crickets. Within these types, it is normal possible to buy crickets of varying sizes – from youngsters right up to the huge adults of black crickets. The nice thing about feeding crickets, therefore, is that irrespective of what size your mantis is, there’s likely to be a corresponding size of cricket ready to become dinner!

While crickets are possibly the most popular food item for larger mantis, as stated earlier, they do have a nasty habit of staying on the ground rather than obligingly climbing up towards your waiting mantis.

Personally speaking, I also find the chirp of the adult male crickets thoroughly irritating too; especially on those occasions when an escapee successfully wedges itself behind the fridge or a heavy piece of furniture on a hot summer night. The chirping soon sends me round the bend! For this reason, I personally am less likely to feed crickets to my mantis than other prey types listed below.

Locusts

locust photo

One of my favorite feeder insects for my mantis are locusts. These are available in a wide range of sizes once again, but do not produce the noise that crickets can. Of course, locusts can also grow considerably larger than crickets, helping to make a really “meaty” meal for larger species of praying mantis.

Just as importantly, I have found that locusts are far more likely to climb up the sides of the praying mantis cage, or to rest in the twigs that I provide each of my mantis as a perch. They therefore come into far more regular contact with the mantis, and are more easily picked off.

Lastly, in my experience locusts are much easier to handle. While crickets often jump and move very quickly, locusts are on the whole much slower and jump less regularly. If you’re going to be picking up feeder insects by hand (as I do then) then locusts tend to be much easier to work with.

Waxworms

Waxworms are the caterpillars of wax moths; they’re fat and juicy and loved by praying mantis. Just as good, when the caterpillars themselves pupate they turn into fluttery moths; perfect for your praying mantis to catch from way up on their perch.

Mealworms

mealworms photo

Mealworms aren’t worms at all – they’re the larval stage of the Tenebrio beetle. Studies suggest that mealworms aren’t as rich in nutrients as many other types of feeder insect. They are, however, very simple to look after and to handle.

They can therefore make a handy change from crickets or locusts on occasion. Indeed, it is quite simple to breed these insects at home, so for anyone worried about running out of insect prey, they are an easy “plan b” to keep on hand at all times to fill in any gaps in your supply of locusts or crickets.

Blow Flies

For mid-sized praying mantis blowflies are one of my favorite prey items. Be sure to buy the maggots (or “gentles”) from a pet supplier – not from a fishing shop where they may contain chemicals.

The maggots can be left to pupate in a small pot lined with sawdust, then the pupae can be sprinkled into your praying mantis cages. As the flies hatch they’ll find themselves restricted to the cage, making a perfect flying food for your younger mantids.

These flies are arguably the easiest livefood of all to deal with, as the pupae are inert, so there is no chance of them escaping – by the time the adult flies actually hatch out they’ll be confined to the mantis cage, ready to become a juicy snack!  

Feeding Praying Mantis

mealworms photo

It is next to impossible to overfeed a praying mantis; they’ll eat as much as they need, but won’t get “overweight”. If anything, feeding your praying mantis plenty of food will enable them to grow that much faster, reaching maturity in less time than a similar mantis on a stricter diet.

Generally speaking I like to try and keep livefood in the cages of my baby mantis at all time, assuming that the mantis can effectively escape from the prey item, by resting on a twig or hanging from the roof of the cage.

Once my mantis are big enough to be housed individually I maintain careful feeding charts, in order to monitor how often the mantis are eating and when moults are likely arising. Uneaten food is removed the following day, before trying again the day after. Over time you’ll develop your own routine, though I find that most praying mantis will eat almost daily.

The only warning sign to look out for is a mantis that suddenly goes off it’s food after having eaten heartily for some weeks. This is especially so if the mantis looks “fat” to the eye. Such a praying mantis is likely coming up to change it’s skin.

When a praying mantis changes its skin, it suspends itself from a twig, splits open the old skin, and slides out to inflate its new coat of armour. Hanging from just two legs, while your skin is soft and pliable is fraught with danger, and mantids have been known to fall or be knocked down by larger prey items still in the cage.

As a result, when I find a mantis that goes off it’s food I like to make a note, then withhold food until a few days after their impending moult is successfully completed. In this way I avoid any annoyance to my mantis, and ensure that they are able to moult successfully.    

Photos c/o JR Guillaumin, treegrow, Tadamasa Sawada, tillwe & velacreations

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Praying Mantis Cages & Housing http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/praying-mantis-cages-housing/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/praying-mantis-cages-housing/#respond Fri, 12 May 2017 14:06:59 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1518 Praying mantis are still quite an unusual pet, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that you local pet store is unlikely to sell specialist praying mantis cages. Instead, the praying mantis keeper must be willing to think creatively, and to reuse other containers to create a suitable cage for their mantids. In this article, […]

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Praying mantis are still quite an unusual pet, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that you local pet store is unlikely to sell specialist praying mantis cages.

Instead, the praying mantis keeper must be willing to think creatively, and to reuse other containers to create a suitable cage for their mantids.

In this article, therefore, we’re going to look at some of the better cages for praying mantis that can be ordered online or found in your local pet store.

Whatever option you choose, arguably the most important element of all will be the dimensions of the cage you select. Mantis experts recommend a cage at least three times as tall as your mantis is long, and at least twice as long as their body length. So think 3x mantis tall, and 2x mantis wide and deep.

Lastly, before we talk about the best cages for praying mantis, it can be wise to consider how large your mantis will grow in time.

Buying an adult or subadult should present very few problems. However, if you’re buying a youngster that is set to grow considerably larger then you may want to plan ahead.

Doing so means you can select a cage that will fit your mantis comfortably for months to come, rather than continually having to upgrade as your mantis moults.

mantis photo

The Best Mantis Cages for Adult Praying Mantids

Let’s start with a discussion on the best cages for large mantids as these are typically the easiest to accommodate and can also make the most attractive displays.

Exo Terras

Exo Terras have revolutionized the housing of many exotic pet species. These cages may not be the cheapest option, but they do manage to combine both seriously good looks with a large dose of practicality.

Exo Terras are available in a wide range of different sizes, including tall cages like this one which are perfect for an adult mantis. The front-opening glass doors make feeding and cleaning much easier, while these can be securely locked shut the rest of the time.

Lighting hoods can even be bought for Exo Terras, which can help to create a truly mesmerizing display and/or to heat the cage in the coldest of weather.

For my money, these are the best option, especially when I want to create an eye-catching display of my mantis.

Faunariums

A range of similar cages are sold under a range of different names. In brief, they are clear plastic containers, with a removable grilled lid. This lid allows plenty of air flow; some mantids may even use the lid as a perch to hang from.

While these cages are typically cheaper than Exo Terras, you do need to be careful to ensure that you select a model tall enough for your pet. Sadly, the majority of models seen for sale are the “low and long” variety rather than a more practical “tall and slim” shape.

Also, with so much air movement these cages can be more challenging to heat effectively in cooler months, and tend not to lend themselves to attractive displays as the Exo Terra does.

In warmer weather, however, these can provide a low-cost alternative to the Exo Terra.

Small Fish Tanks

Glass fish tanks can be purchased in a range of different sizes. The smaller models may sometimes be used successfully to house praying mantis, though once again carefully consider the height of the cage.

Another consideration is the security of such a cage; you’ll want to be sure to select a tank with a tight-fitting escape-proof lid, though these aren’t always the easiest to find.

As fish tanks tend to be “sealed units” ventilation in such cages can also be poor, so it may be necessary to bore some holes into the lid of the tank, or to cut out a section and replace this with metal gauze.

Mesh Cages

A growing number of mesh cages are available to entomologists and reptile-keepers. Traditionally these are used by those keeping and breeding butterflies, and are also excellent housing for chameleons. They can, however, also make good housing for praying mantis.

The fact that many taller mesh cages can be found also helps to make them an appealing option.

If there is a downside to such a cage it is of course all the ventilation. Such cages can be quite difficult to heat using a traditional heat mat, and instead generally require the use of a heat lamp. Such lamps can be far more expensive to buy, especially as you’ll need all the mounting for the lamp, as well as a thermostat to prevent it overheating.

As a result, while mesh cages can make excellent cages for mantis, in colder weather they are rarely the best solution, requiring some considerable thought (and often investment) to heat suitably.

In the summer months, however, they can serve as an excellent “back up” if you suddenly find yourself in need of a few spare cages, and can be bought very cheaply indeed.

Upcycled Household Containers

For the creatively-minded a range of glass or plastic household items can make suitable cages for praying mantis. Anything from tall tupperware boxes intended for pasta, to sweet jars, through to glass vases may all potentially be used.

Assuming they can be securely sealed to prevent escape, can be heated without too much difficulty and are of the right dimensions as discussed above then almost anything may be used.

Sometimes it can be quite fun to surf Amazon or visit your local cookery or hardware store to look at all the various tubs, containers and jars on offer, and find some that can make perfect;y-acceptable mantis cages.

The Best Mantis Cages for Hatchlings & Youngsters

Smaller praying mantis require extra care. The younger a mantis is, the more fragile it tends to be.

Additionally, of course, extra care must be taken to ensure that a tiny mantis cannot escape through any tiny holes or gaps. Equally, placing a tiny mantis into a giant cages can make keeping an eye on him or her more challenging, and can make life harder for your pet when it comes to locating their food.

Small Exo Terras

For smaller mantis, there are also smaller Exo Terras. The much-loved Exo Terra Nano, for example, is perfect for many species of mantids as they are growing. With great visibility, the mesh grill on top for ventilation and being easily heated these can be one of the best praying mantis cages for young mantis.

Upcycled Household Containers

As with adult mantis, a range of household items may be used to house smaller mantids. Many people use plastic deli cups and suchlike for the tiniest hatchlings. A piece of muslin, or net curtain material, may be cut to size and secured over the top with an elastic band.

Another technique that I have had great success with is to use old cricket tubs. The floor of the tub is lined with kitchen paper, before the tub itself is placed on its end. The kitchen towelling then becomes more of a “wall” than a “floor”, allowing the mantis to grip successfully to the vertical plastic sides of the tub.

Such a container costs nothing (thanks to all the crickets I get through) and provides a suitable home for many species of mantis.

As with adults, the key is to think creatively. Ensure heating, ventilation and dimensions are met, then select the best-looking or most cost-effective solution you can find. With imagination, all sorts of containers can make great praying mantis cages.

What do you like to use to house your mantids? Why not leave your experiences in the comments section below to help other people…?

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Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/chinese-mantis-tenodera-sinensis/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/chinese-mantis-tenodera-sinensis/#respond Mon, 17 Apr 2017 14:02:22 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1530 Tenodera sinensis is one of the more widespread species of praying mantis. Originally from Asia (hence the common name of “Chinese Mantis”) they have been introduced to other parts of the world. Most notably this species was believed to have been introduced to the USA by a plantsman in the 1890s. It is now widespread, […]

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Discover how to keep Chinese praying mantis as pets. Tenodera sinensis is one of the very best pet praying mantis, perfect for beginners to the world of exotic pets.Tenodera sinensis is one of the more widespread species of praying mantis.

Originally from Asia (hence the common name of “Chinese Mantis”) they have been introduced to other parts of the world. Most notably this species was believed to have been introduced to the USA by a plantsman in the 1890s.

It is now widespread, and may survive even in cold and frosty areas, where the insulative properties of the egg case (ootheca) allow the eggs to survive over winter.

The Chinese mantis has become rightly popular among pet keepers, being easy to look after and breed, which makes them readily available and cheap to buy.

While Tenodera sinensis may be found in a wide range of different colour forms, the brown adults tend to be particularly note-worthy, as they possess a bright blue stripe along the side of the wing.

Growing to some 8-10cm on average this is a good-sized and interesting species that makes an ideal first pet praying mantis.

Wild Habitat

tenodera photo

Like most mantids, Tenodera sinensis typically rests off the ground, where it hunts for any prey it can capture.

Grasslands tend to be particularly popular with this species, but they may also be encountered in bushes, trees and even gardens. This species is believed to hunt more towards the tops of plants, rather than lower down as in some species.

This species is considered to be highly affected by environmental temperature and, by extension, food availability. In cooler areas the eggs hatch in early spring and throughout the summer. A process known as “clumping” has been observed in this species, whereby multiple oothecae in the same area hatch largely at the same time.

It seems likely that this influx of hatchling mantids is an evolutionary adaption to overwhelm potential predators. All the same, studies suggest that 90+% of all nymphs die in the wild, with their first instar being the most dangerous.

Hatchlings will normally remain close to their hatching site, but after their first moult (at L2) they will then begin to disperse.

The mantids feed voraciously throughout the warmer weather, with higher food densities strongly correlated with faster growth and, as a result, earlier production of eggs. The reverse is also true; in cooler years the females may take longer to mature, which consequently results in more deaths from cold as the seasons change.

tenodera photoMild winters may see oothecae hatching too early, before a supply of insect prey is available, which also has a significant impact on their population numbers.

The climate can therefore have a significant impact on this species, and experts predict that this species will slowly move northwards in America to deal with this.

In terms of mating, studies in the wild suggest that contrary to popular opinion, both sexes are equally mobile. While the adult males are slim and fly well, it has long been known that the heavier and more thick-set females tend not to fly as well.

Scientists have discovered, however, that females travel just as far as males in the search for a mate, but that they tend to do so on foot rather than using the power of flight.

The better-fed a female is, the more likely a male is to survive his encounter; one analysis showed that males of this species have an 83% chance of surviving their first mating, though it does seem their success rate drops over time.

Caging for Chinese Praying Mantis

Praying mantis typically moult by anchoring their back legs to a twig or other piece of plant material, splitting open their current skin and then “sliding” out of it. This has severe repercussions for the pet owner.

It is critical that a cage of suitable height is provided for Tenodera sinensis or they may not moult successfully. Problems with moulting are one of the more common causes of death in captivity.

Generally speaking a cage for Chinese mantids should be at least three times the overall length of your mantis in height, and twice the mantid’s body length both in width and depth.

A range of different cages may be suitable for mantids in captivity, and in many cases household objects can be easily turned into a suitable container. Made from plastic or glass, the cage should prevent the escape of your mantis, while still providing suitable ventilation.

For youngsters, deli cups may be used, with a piece of muslin cut to size and fitted over the top with an elastic band.

Alternatively anything from tupperware boxes to old sweet jars may be used if they are of suitable dimensions.

Possibly the most attractive of all the caging options, ideal if you really want to create the most attractive and eye-catching cage possible are Exo Terra glass terrariums.

Coming in a range of different sizes, the Exo Terra not only looks great but also offers a range of practical benefits. They come with a front-opening door for easy access, a metal mesh lid for ventilation and an attractive “artificial rock” background for your mantis to rest on.

What is more, specially-built lighting hoods may also be purchase separately for these cages. The addition of a low-wattage bulb can make your mantis look all the more attractive, while helping to keep them warm during cool weather.

Whatever option you choose, be sure to avoid any potentially harmful chemicals. It is generally best to purchase a cage specifically for your mantis, rather than to re-use household items which may have been exposed to detergents, bleaches and so on.

Tank Decor

Very little is needed in the form of decor for your mantis. One critical piece of equipment should be twigs or branches to act as “perches” for your mantis. These should be positioned in such a way that your mantis can make their way to the ground to hunt if desirable, but also have enough vertical height in places to facilitate moulting.

Besides the importance of perches, some form of substrate on the bottom of the cage can help to moderate humidity, as well as making cleaning easier.

For tiny mantids a simple substrate of kitchen towel or vermiculite may be used. These are cheap to buy and easy to replace.

For larger Chinese mantids a wider range of materials may be used. Personally, I like to use coconut fibre, which is a renewable resource, looks great and is excellent at absorbing excess moisture.

tenodera photo

Temperature & Humidity

Most praying mantis won’t drink from a bowl, but dehydration is to be avoided. The solution is simple; the cage should be gently misted every few days with a houseplant spray gun.

Purchase a mister specially for your pets to avoid the risk of them being contaminated with chemicals. By spraying not just the perches, but also the walls and back of the cage, not only will humidity increase gently but your Tenodera sinensis will be able to drink from the water droplets.

Chinese mantids tend to do best in warmer environments, where they will eat more and grow faster. In captivity this means that a temperature of around 24’C should be provided; heaters should only be turned off in the warmest of weather.

The easiest way to heat a praying mantis cage is through the use of a heat mat. This can either be placed beneath the cage (where only half the floor area should be warmed) or attached to the wall of the cage (on the exterior).

In warmer weather it can be wise to use a matstat to control the temperature given out by your heatmat to avoid overheating. A thermostat should always be used if you opt to purchase one of the lighting hoods, as even low wattage bulbs can quickly heat up the small cage of a praying mantis.

Lastly, a thermometer should be considered essential for monitoring the temperature within your Chinese mantis cage, ensuring that the “hotspot” remains at a suitably temperature, especially in colder weather.

tenodera photo

Feeding Chinese Mantis

Tenodera sinensis has a healthy appetite.

In the wild they will eat almost anything small enough to catch. This doesn’t just include the ubiquitous insect prey, but some specimens have even been recorded catching and eating newts and hummingbirds.

This species has even been recorded eating the poisonous caterpillars of Monarch butterflies. Tenodera sinensis was recorded as gently removing the guts of the caterpillars (to eliminate the toxins) before consuming the remainder of the larva.

Interestingly, experiments in the laboratory have shown that nymphs may also accept pollen as a source of food.

It is therefore unlikely that you will struggle to provide food that interests your mantis. Anything from crickets and locusts, to roaches and waxworms will be taken, with mantids only refusing food some days before or after a moult.

It is difficult to overfeed a mantis, so base your feeding volume and regularity on how your Tenodera sinensis responds. If he or she seems to be constantly hungry then consider feeding more food items.

Take note, however, that you should ensure no livefood is present when a skin change approaches, lest they interfere with the sensitive moulting process.

Handling

Tenodera sinensis can be safely handled by most people. Try to keep hands flat, and allow the mantis to gently walk across them. Fingers held up like prey infront of them may be “caught” – this isn’t always a comfortable experience.

As a reminder, adults are winged, and males can fly surprisingly well. As a result, take care when handling adults to ensure that your pet cannot make a break for freedom when you least expect it.

Discover how to keep Chinese praying mantis as pets. Tenodera sinensis is one of the very best pet praying mantis, perfect for beginners to the world of exotic pets.

Images c/o platycryptus, judygva (back in town and trying to catch up), Jim, the Photographer & urasimaru

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African Praying Mantis (Sphodromantis) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/african-praying-mantis-sphodromantis-care-sheet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/african-praying-mantis-sphodromantis-care-sheet/#respond Fri, 31 Mar 2017 13:58:34 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1532 The term “African mantis” tends to refer to a closely-related group of praying mantis. All from the genus Sphodromantis, you may find species for sale including Sphodromantis centralis, Sphodromantis lineola and Sphodromantis viridis. The care of each of these species is near-identical in my experience, and as many specimens are misidentified by sellers it makes […]

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This care sheet reveals how to keep the African praying mantis as a pet. It is an ideal species for beginners to the care of praying mantis, as you will learn. Care sheet covers everything from housing to heating, feeding and handling. The term “African mantis” tends to refer to a closely-related group of praying mantis.

All from the genus Sphodromantis, you may find species for sale including Sphodromantis centralis, Sphodromantis lineola and Sphodromantis viridis.

The care of each of these species is near-identical in my experience, and as many specimens are misidentified by sellers it makes to group them all together.

The African mantis – in this case Sphodromantis centralis – was the very first praying mantis I kept.

It couldn’t have been a better introduction, as these mantids achieve a reasonable size (roughly 8cm) which makes them comfortable to hold. They’re also sturdy praying mantis, accepting of a range of conditions in captivity.

They’re surprisingly easy to breed, though you may get through a few males before an egg case (ootheca) is produced.

This ease of breeding then naturally makes them one of the more common species of praying mantis to be found in the pet trade, and also one of the more reasonably priced.

For anyone looking for a good “starter” mantis as a beginner, you could therefore do a lot worse than Sphodromantis.

sphodromantis photo

African Mantis Caging

First things first; while hatchlings may initially put up with one another, within weeks of hatching the youngsters will start to devour one another.

This means that African mantids should always be kept alone to avoid cannibalism. If you opt to buy more than one, therefore, you’ll need a separate cage for each.

As praying mantids of all types tend to be quite short-lived (a matter of months as an adult) I generally believe it makes sense to purchase a number of mantids at the same time. This therefore maximizes your chances of ending up with a breeding pair, which then allows you to culture the species in the long term.

As praying mantis are still quite unusual pets, and are not as commonly bred as – for example – tarantulas, it makes sense to buy a number of specimens when they are available. Finding additional specimens some weeks or months later may not be a simple thing to achieve.

The specific caging used for Sphodromantis will depend rather on the size of the mantis you purchase. Tiny hatchlings are best kept in small clear plastic or glass containers; anything from deli cups to pill containers may be used successfully over the short term.

As your mantis grows, so too should their housing. A range of household containers can be used to house mid-sized mantids, such as ice cream tubs or old sweet jars.

Larger mantids tend to be easiest to maintain in dedicated cages. They also look far more attractive, which is of course a big reason for keeping mantids in the first place. It always seem s bit pointless when someone keeps their praying mantis in a sub-standard cage, where it cannot be properly seen and enjoyed.

There are two popular commercially-available cages suitable for praying mantis. The first of these is the faunarium – in essence a plastic “fish tank” with a solid mesh lid. The design of the lid makes for excellent ventilation and prevents the build-up of mould or fungi that can plague constantly-wet tanks.

The alternative – and my personal favorite – are Exo Terra glass terrariums. Coming in a range of different sizes these are some of the best-looking exotic pet cages available to my mind.

With a front-opening door for easy access and a mesh lid for ventilation there’s little more attractive than an adult female Sphodromantis displayed in an Exo Terra. You can even buy separate hoods for these cages, which can be used to light the tank and really show your specimens off to their best.

Whatever cage you choose there are a number of factors that should be taken into account.

In terms of dimensions, it is easiest to think in terms of how long your mantis is. Their cage should be at least three times this height, and twice this length in width and depth. Remember that African mantis grow rapidly, so don’t judge the dimensions too carefully or you’ll be finding a new cage every few weeks.

Better to go a little large than a little small so they can grow into it. Exo Terra Nanos, for example, can be ideal for mantids anywhere between a few centimetres long to almost adult. While these cages might prove a little more expensive than a re-used sweet jar, if you plan ahead they can therefore work out quite cost-effectively.

The other consideration should be suitable ventilation.

Keeping mantids in cages where the air remains stale and stagnant rarely ends well. This is another benefit of faunariums and Exo Terras, but does mean some modifications may be necessary for other cages.

Holes can be added with an electric drill or a soldering iron. Alternatively a section can be removed, and replaced with firmly-attached gauze.

Note that praying mantis are, by their very nature, excellent climbers. Adults can also fly. Lastly, therefore, you’ll want to carefully check the container for any holes or gaps through which you mantis might escape. Follow these general rules and your mantis should live out a long and healthy life.

sphodromantis photo

Tank Decor

There are really only two aspects you need worry about when it comes to furnishing your praying mantis cage ready for occupation.

The first of these are twigs or branches that your mantis can rest in. I have also found artificial vines work quite well and can be bent to fit most mid-sized cages. The purpose of these twigs is two-fold.

Firstly, they serve as a perch for your mantis to hunt from, while secondly they allow your mantis to moult successfully. At least one part of the twig should touch the ground – so your mantis can come down to hunt – while the other end should be at least twice as high as your mantis is long.

The other aspect of tank decor that your Sphodromantis will require is some form of substrate.

This helps to moderate the humidity in the cage, adds to the overall look of the cage and can make cleaning easier. A range of alternatives may be used; for youngsters a small piece of kitchen towel can suffice, but as mantids grow older I like to use either coconut fibre (my favorite) or a mixture of vermiculite and potting compost. A thin layer is all that is required.

Heating & Temperature

African mantids like a temperature of around 25’C at the hot end of their cage, but they should also always have a cooler area they can escape to.

This allows them to moderate their body temperature, seeking out the area of the cage that suits them.

The easiest way to provide this necessary warmth is with a heat mat.

These can be bought quite cheaply online or from most reptile shops, though it’s important to set them up correctly.

A heat mat should either be placed under your praying mantis cage, or either attached to the side. If you opt to put the cage ontop of the heater then no more than half the floor area should be heated, in order to ensure a cooler area is present.

Heating hatchling praying mantis can of course be rather more complex; how do you heat their tiny tubs without the risk of them overheating?

Here I have found that the easiest option is to place the smaller tubs into a larger cage. A wooden vivarium, old fishtank or even popping smaller containers into the Exo Terra you’ve bought for when it gets bigger can work well.

You then heat this cage by placing the heatmat on the back wall of the cage, which gently heats all the air in the cage and keeps your mantis fit and healthy.

I rotate where the tiny hatchling containers are in this cage each week, in order to ensure that each mantis gets their fair share of the warmest part of the cage.

Whatever option you choose, it can be a wise idea to invest in a reptile thermometer so safely measure the temperature in the hottest part of the cage, ensuring that it is appropriate at all times.

Water & Humidity

Praying mantis need to drink from time to time. In nature they would do this most commonly by licking water droplets of dew or rain off the plants in which they hide.

This is simple enough to replicate in captivity, by gently misting the cage every few days with a houseplant spray gun.

You will often see your African mantis delicately enjoying a drink thereafter. Ensuring that suitable ventilation is present, the cage can be left to dry out a little between spraying, to prevent the growth of mould.

Note that all praying mantids need a humid environment to mould successfully. If and when your mantis goes off it’s food, it is very likely that the next mould is approaching. Under these circumstances it can be wise to increase your spraying to keep the cage nice and moist until the moulting process is complete.

Feeding Sphodromantis

sphodromantis photo

African mantids tend to have healthy appetites and will eat almost anything they can catch. This includes crickets and locusts in captivity. Assuming your Sphodromantis can easily get down to the floor of the cage (as they should) they may also take prey that doesn’t climb; such as mealworms or waxworms.

Smaller specimens will of course eat smaller prey. For the youngest of all my preference is for fruit flies (Drosophila), moving up to small crickets or hatchling locusts as they grow.

For the ultimate in fun, try purchasing some unbleached maggots. Pop the maggots into a tub with some sawdust in it and they’ll turn into black pupae within a few days. A few weeks after this the pupae will hatch into adult flies – perfect food for your mantis, and highly entertaining to watch.

Pro tip: put a few of the pupae into your mantids cage, then pop the rest in the fridge. Do this every few days. After a while the first pupae will hatch out in the cage, meaning you don’t need to try and handle the flies themselves.

The other pupae which have been kept in the fridge will pupate a little later, so over time you’ll have all manner of flies hatching out ready for your mantis to enjoy!

Note that studies have shown how providing more food results in faster growth. This can be handy to remember for two reasons. Firstly, if you want your Sphodromantis to grow as quickly as possible then feed them liberally.

Providing live prey every day or two can really speed up the time to maturity. On the other hand, if you have a few specimens of similar sizes it can make sense to feed more to the females.

In this way they mature faster than they otherwise might. If you time it right, both sexes will then mature around the same time, which makes pairing them up much easier.

Handling African Mantids

If you’re looking for a praying mantis that you can handle then Sphodromantis is an excellent choice.

While the adults have wings, only the male flies strongly. Very rarely will an adult female make a break for freedom. Of course, as only the adult have wings, the jenvules of both sexes can be handled without worry.

It is best to gently coax the mantis onto a flat hand and then lift it out of the cage. There they will sit happily, or will wonder from one hand to the other.

Handling African mantids can be a great experience, and allows you to really look at your mantis at close quarters. Watch that head turning around as he or she tries to figure out what’s going on and who you are.

Just don’t tease your mantis, unless you want to risk them trying to grab your finger with their sharp little forelegs.

This care sheet reveals how to keep the African praying mantis as a pet. It is an ideal species for beginners to the care of praying mantis, as you will learn. Care sheet covers everything from housing to heating, feeding and handling.

Images c/o berniedup, gailhampshire, aspida & aspida

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Best Praying Mantis for Beginners http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-praying-mantis-beginners/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-praying-mantis-beginners/#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 14:55:56 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1510 So you’ve decided that a praying mantis is the right pet for you. You’re excited about the possibility of keeping one of these incredible natural predators, watching them hunting their prey from the comfort of your own home. But where do you start, and what are the best praying mantis for beginners? What Are The […]

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Looking for the best praying mantis to keep as a pet? This article discusses all sorts of different pet praying mantis perfect for beginners to keep in captivity, including the Chinese Praying Mantis, African Mantis and the European Mantis.So you’ve decided that a praying mantis is the right pet for you.

You’re excited about the possibility of keeping one of these incredible natural predators, watching them hunting their prey from the comfort of your own home. But where do you start, and what are the best praying mantis for beginners?

What Are The Best Types of Praying Mantis for Beginners?

There are hundreds of different species of praying mantis known to science, and dozens of these can be found in the pet trade. Many of them differ by adult size, by price and by the difficulty of care.

Unsurprisingly, selecting the right species can be something of a challenge, especially when you’re just getting started in the hobby.

Luckily, there are a number of species that are cheap to buy, reasonably easy to locate and make ideal first pets due to their ease of care…

African Praying Mantis

sphodromantis photo

The so-called “African Mantis” is infact a whole number of similar and closely-related species. All of the members of this group, who are classed together by scientists as “Sphodromantis“, are large, chunky and easy to keep.

Growing to around 8cm in length these are in many ways the “classic” praying mantis to in appearance, coming as they do in a range of colours from lime green through to dark brown.

African mantids were the very first species which I personally kept, and I found them tremendously easy to not only care for, but also to breed in captivity.

Active, full-bodied and very forgiving of beginner mistakes, the African mantis may indeed be the perfect praying mantis for beginners.

Chinese Praying Mantis

Tenodera sinensis photo

Second on our list of the best praying mantis species for beginners is the Chinese praying mantis, also know by the Latin name Tenodera sinensis.

Growing slightly larger than the African mantids, the Chinese mantis is slightly slimmer in profile and is typically a dark brown in colour. Perhaps more excitingly, it also benefits from a bright blue or green stripe along the side of the wing in adults, which not only makes identifying them very easy indeed, but also gives them a rather unusual appearance.

Tenodera is arguably the most commonly-available species of praying mantis available, and are regularly sold at all stages of their life cycle from ootheca (egg case) through to adult.

Some gardeners even use them as a form of biological control, where the egg cases are placed into a glasshouse, and the hatchling mantids then consume the various plant pests to be found there.

European Praying Mantis

mantis religiosa photo

Originally from Europe, Mantis religiosa is now found right across the globe, having been accidentally transported on exported plants. Once again, this species has a standard praying mantis look to it, and like the African mantis may be found in a wide range of colour forms from green through to brown.

So Which Species Should I Choose?

In truth, these three species are all ideal for the first–time mantis keeper, and very little helps to separate them from one another. The Chinese Mantis is the largest of the three species, and isn’t found in a green form, but besides this any of our top choices are suitable.

Take a look at which of these you can find online, and simply place your order!

What Size Praying Mantis Should a Beginner Buy?

mantis religiosa photoIf you’re a beginner looking for your first praying mantis it does perhaps make sense to discuss the size of the praying mantis you buy. In truth, the smaller a praying mantis is, the harder they tend to be to look after.

In contrast, I have found that the survival rates with larger mantids tend to be much higher, making for an easier first pet.

Adult mantids tend not to have very long lives. Many will live only for a few months before dropping dead in the wild, and captive survival rates may not be much higher. Buying an adult may therefore only buy you 3-6 months of mantis care before you need to buy a replacement, and that assumes the adult isn’t too old when it was bought.

Taking all these factors into consideration, I therefore believe that a mid-sized praying mantis is probably the best place to start. A mantis over 5cm in body length is probably the perfect compromise between longevity and ease of care, so if possible this would be my recommendation.

Buying other sizes is by no means out of the question, if that’s all you can find, as many mantis is better than none. It’s just that if you’re a complete beginner and want the easiest ride possible, all other things being equal, my suggestion would be to start with a half-grown specimen if possible.

Looking for the best praying mantis to keep as a pet? This article discusses all sorts of different pet praying mantis perfect for beginners to keep in captivity, including the Chinese Praying Mantis, African Mantis and the European Mantis.

Images c/o berniedup, James St. John, katunchik & ddqhu

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How to Heat Praying Mantis Cages http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/heat-praying-mantis-cages/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/heat-praying-mantis-cages/#respond Mon, 06 Mar 2017 14:55:38 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1526 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 […]

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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 photo

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:

Heat Mat

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 Cable

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

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.

Room-Based Heating

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.

praying mantis photo

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.

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European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/european-mantis-mantis-religiosa/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/european-mantis-mantis-religiosa/#respond Fri, 03 Mar 2017 14:55:29 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1524 Mantis religiosa, known more commonly as the European Mantis, is considered to be one of the most widely distributed mantis species of all. According to the IUCN it can be found on all contintents “except Antarctica and South America”. The European mantis has a traditional appearance, and can be found in both green and brown […]

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A complete care sheet covering how to keep European praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) as pets. Covers feeding, cages, heating, handling and more. Mantis religiosa, known more commonly as the European Mantis, is considered to be one of the most widely distributed mantis species of all.

According to the IUCN it can be found on all contintents “except Antarctica and South America”.

The European mantis has a traditional appearance, and can be found in both green and brown forms in the wild.

There are two features which help to make this species rather unique.

The first of these is an obvious black dot under the “chest” at the base of the front legs. This is often – but not always – surrounded by a white ring. Identifying this species – especially as adults – is therefore not difficult.

The other unusual thing about Mantis religiosa is that it seems to have an ear half way down their body. It is technically defined by one scientist as a “tympanal auditory organ located in the ventral midline of its body between the metathoracic coxae”.

One final factoid worthy of mention is that scientists have recorded the European Mantis “calling” for mates by releasing pheromones into the air.

The experts found that adult females do not start this activity until a month or so after their final moult.

Tests showed that these pheromones act as a “mating call” to males – who actively approach the females producing it, but ignore those who don’t.

Perhaps even more interestingly there is evidence to suggest that the females stop producing these pheromones after mating, suggesting that this helps to not only attract mates, but to also maximize the male’s chances of success by focusing their efforts only on unmated females.

While the European Mantis may be a surprisingly common one, therefore, it is also a thoroughly interesting one! Growing to around 8cm or so in length, this is a great praying mantis for beginners as it is easy to care for and very forgiving of a wide range of environmental conditions.

Mantis religiosa photo

Wild Habitat of the European Mantis

Originally described by Linnaeus in 1758, as the name suggests this species hails originally from Europe.

It is to be found throughout warmer of the more southerly countries, and can normally be found from the middle of France southwards.

Mantis religiosa photoSince then, however, it has slowly been introduced around the world. Part of this range expanse may have happened by accident, as the egg cases (oothecae) were accidentally transported on plants or timber.

Just as likely, however, is that Mantis religiosa has been deliberately released; it represents an excellent source of biological control when released into a greenhouse.

Traditionally the oothecae hatch in spring, and the youngsters then spend the warm summer months feasting and growing.

In late summer the European Mantis has it’s final moult, and then sets about mating.

As the temperature drops the adult mantids slowly succumb to the weather, while the eggs remain safely protected within their ootheca. Studies have shown that Mantis religiosa egg cases can keep eggs viable even when attacked by frost and snow; quite an impressive feat.

Caging

Cages for European Mantis depend rather on the size of the specimen you buy; hatchlings clearly will be happy with far smaller cages than adults.

As a general rule of thumb, the cage should be at least three times as tall as your mantis is long, and at least twice the length of your mantis in both width and depth.

Many people keep mantis in tall, thin cages as a result, which works well if you have included enough twigs that your mantis can move around with ease. Longer cages may alternatively be used, so long as it meets the suggested dimensions.

For adults, a range of plastic or glass containers may be used. Small fish tanks, for example, can work well. Faunariums are another popular and low-cost option, with the added bonus of a “trap door” in the lid which helps to make feeding easier without the need to remove the whole lid.

For my money, however, my preferred cage for adult praying mantis is a suitably-sized Exo Terra glass terrarium.

These look absolutely fantastic, and particularly when used with one of the lighting hoods, really set your praying mantis display off a treat. Under such conditions I often “landscape” the cage, using moss, dead leaves and artificial plants to create a stunning display for each of my adults.

Juveniles can be kept in anything from plastic jars to Really Useful Boxes.

Whatever option you choose, you should be certain that the cage chosen is:

(a) Escape proof

(b) Offers suitable ventilation

(c) Is easy to heat

(d) Is of suitable dimensions

It should also, ideally, offer you a great view of your pet too. This way you can enjoy the magic of watching your mantis going about it’s day.

Watching a European Mantis hunting, feeding, moulting and mating can all be very memorable experiences; all the better if you can do it from the comfort of your living room!

Tank Decor

In most situations a praying mantis requires just two items of tank decor. The first of these is a substrate on the base of the cage, though some keepers omit even this for hatchling mantis.

Personally I like to use a small piece of moist kitchen towel. This not only helps to gently increase the humidity – as youngsters seem to be particularly sensitive to drier conditions – but also makes cleaning much easier.

Just remove the paper, wipe the cage clean and set it back up again.

In adult mantids I tend to graduate to something rather more attractive, as a key element in keeping and breeding mantids for me is producing a beautiful cage that I can enjoy admiring.

For larger mantids, therefore, I tend to use coconut fibre, though any reptile-safe substrate which effectively moderates humidity will be suitable.

The second aspect of tank decor required for Mantis religiosa is the provision of a perch.

Most European mantis prefer to rest off the ground, so providing anything from a range of twigs to a cage lid that your mantis can rest upon is wise.

Mantis religiosa photo

Heating European Mantis

European praying mantis appreciate a warm “Mediterranean” temperature cage, which typically means a hot spot of around 25’C.

As stated previously, egg cages may survive much colder weather, but a mantis kept warm will normally live longer and grow faster. Without heating, most specimens will die in the cooler months.

A reptile heat mat is normally the cheapest and easiest way to provide artificial warmth for your mantis. Keep a close eye on the temperature provided for the first few days, using a reptile thermometer, to ensure that one end of the cage is reaching the desired temperature, while the other end remains rather cooler.

This temperature gradient is most easily achieved by heating just one half of the cage, and leaving the other without.

Humidity

Mantis religiosa is reasonably forgiving of a wide range of humidities, though extra care should be taken when a moult is on the horizon.

It is normally easy enough to predict this, as juvenile mantids will get visibly “fatter” as time goes on. Some will look almost like they’re going to burst. Then, suddenly one day you’ll find they refuse their food.

Normally within a matter of days you’ll get home to find your mantis has grown considerably, and a ghostly, paper-like old skin is to be found.

Some mantids may eat this, but more often than not it falls to the floor as is ignored.

The best way to offer moisture to your European Mantis is to spray the cage with a houseplant spray gun a couple of times a week.

Watch closely after misting and you may well find your praying mantis drinking delicately from the droplets. This moisture will of course evaporate slowly in the warm environment of a praying mantis cage, raising the humidity.

As stated previously, ventilation is also an important consideration for praying mantis; a stuffy cage with minimal air movement is best avoided.

As a result, be sure that the cage is drying out properly between spraying, or improve the level of ventilation to facilitate this.

Mantis religiosa photo

Feeding European Mantids

The European Mantis is a carnivore. This means they eat other animals, and virtually anything that can safely catch is potential dinner for them. In captivity this normally means a wide range of feeder insects, from crickets and locusts to mealworms and blowflies. I like to try and vary this as much as possible to offer a full range of vitamins and minerals to my mantids.

Mantis religiosa tends to have a healthy appetite, which is often tied to the temperature. In warmer weather you may find that your mantid’s appetite increases considerably.

Rather than recommending a specific feeding regime it is normally best to slowly develop one of your own, based on how your mantis responds. As a general rule, start feeding your mantis twice a week.

If they always seem to be hungry then consider increasing the frequency of feeding, or offer them more food at each sitting.

Note that as with other mantids, livefood should not be left in the cage for long periods of time as they can annoy your pet. I personally remove anything remaining after a few hours.

As you will no doubt be aware, praying mantis have a nasty habit of eating one another. This is particularly problematic in the breeding season, where studies have found that almost a third of males (31%) get eaten by the female during mating.

What is rather interesting is that males seem to be positively attracted to females that are currently eating something; it’s almost as though she’ll be less interested in eating the male if she’s already part way through eating something else.

This means two things; firstly, Mantis religiosa should always be kept separate unless you want to risk cannibalism.

Secondly, if you ever try to breed this species, consider introducing the male while his mate is busy dusting off a locusts or cricket; not only will the female look more appealing to him, but there’s also a better chance that he’ll make it out in one piece!

European Mantis Handling

Mantis religiosa is a good praying mantis for anyone wanting to handle their pet.

The species is reasonably calm, and even if it does try to grab your finger with it’s front legs this is rarely a painful experience due to their relatively small size.

For keepers who would rather not handle their mantis, there are a range of other ways to transport your pet.

Possibly easiest of all, the twig on which they are resting can simply be removed entirely from the cage, with the insect still attached. This can then be placed into a second cage.

Alternatively, European mantids can be gently “herded” with a pen or paintbrush, encouraging them to step into a plastic tub, where the lid can be gently placed on top.

Remember that the adults have wings, and the males is particular can fly quite well.

As a result, keep windows closed when handling adult specimens to prevent any unwanted escapes.

A complete care sheet covering how to keep European praying mantis (Mantis religiosa) as pets. Covers feeding, cages, heating, handling and more.

Images c/o Roman Vanur, Björn S…, Sudaroviyam சுடரோவியம் & berniedup

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Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/orchid-mantis-hymenopus-coronatus-care-sheet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/orchid-mantis-hymenopus-coronatus-care-sheet/#respond Mon, 13 Feb 2017 14:52:17 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1379 The orchid mantis is one of the world’s most beautiful – and recognisable – praying mantids. Famed for their unique flower-like appearance, the adult mantids vary in colour between a pure white through to rich pinks and purples. With their rounded abdomens, spiked heads and petal-like protrusions on the legs it is little wonder that […]

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The orchid mantis is one of the world’s most beautiful – and recognisable – praying mantids.

Famed for their unique flower-like appearance, the adult mantids vary in colour between a pure white through to rich pinks and purples.

With their rounded abdomens, spiked heads and petal-like protrusions on the legs it is little wonder that these are one of the most popular pet mantids on the market.

orchid mantis photo

Natural Habitat

The Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is one of the world's most beautiful and recognisable praying mantis. Learn how to keep orchid mantids as pets with this detiled free care sheet - perfect for keepers of exotic pets.The orchid mantis comes originally from the humid rainforests of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Interestingly, in contrast to popular mythology these mantids don’t exclusively feed by camouflaging themselves in the blooms of similarly-coloured flowers. Studies have found that they have no preference when it comes to hunting, and are just as happy to hunt away from floral blooms.

It seems that it is the whiter specimens reflect UV light just like a white flower, meaning that to insects there is little visual difference between a flower, or a mantis just sitting on a branch.

Indeed, one analysis showed that orchid mantids actually had a higher hunting success rate away from flowers than when they are sitting on one.

This wild lifestyle impacts the captive care of orchid mantids, which typically require a generous temperature and high humidities if they are to grow successfully to adulthood.

Housing Orchid Mantids

The first challenge that any praying mantis owner has is setting up a suitable cage. With their intricate exosketeletons orchid mantis tend to struggle more with moulting than many other more-streamlined species. It is critical therefore to ensure that they have the space required to mould effectively.

This means that the cage chosen should be at least three times as tall as your mantis is long, and ideally twice the width of your mantid’s body length.

Orchid mantids are notable for the “sexual dimorphism” shown – that is to say that the adult males and females look very different indeed.

While the females may reach an eventual body length of 6cm, most adult males weigh in at just half this. As a result, this mantis can be successfully kept in quite modest-sized accommodation.

A range of containers may be used if of a suitable size. For example, old plastic sweet jars have been used successfully, as have glass or plastic tanks sold in the pet trade.

For larger specimens my personal choice is one of the smaller Exo Terra vivariums. These are available in an assortment of sizes – including those which are much taller than they are long – ideal for keeping mantids. They also offer excellent visibility of your mantis, are easy to heat and offer excellent levels of control over ventilation. In short, they’re the perfect solution.

The only weakness, if there is one, is that Exo Terras are far from cheap.

As orchid mantids themselves are some of the most expensive mantids on the market, however, I personally believe that this investment is warranted. A large adult female orchid, well displayed in an Exo Terra is truly a thing to admire.

orchid mantis photo

Heating Your Orchid Mantis

Orchid mantids like it hot, so besides the warmest summer weather you’ll need to provide some form of artificial warmth. It is interesting to note that orchid mantids thrive at quite a range of temperatures, varying between 15’C and 30’C. As a baseline a temperature of 24-26’C is most suitable.

The reason for this high variance is simple; as adult males are far smaller than females then go through fewer moults, and so mature much earlier. As a result, many keepers soon find that they’re the proud owner of an adult male, with no female to breed him with. In light of this, many keepers separate out their males and females, giving them different care.

The principle difference is temperature. In brief, the higher a temperature that a mantis is kept at, the more it will eat and the sooner it will mature. As a result, many keepers provide warmer temperatures for their females – to speed up their maturity – and lower temperatures for males to slow them down.

The end goal is that both sexes mature at roughly the same time, and that successful mating can follow.

The easiest way to heat your orchid mantis is through the use of a reptile-safe heat mat. These are almost paper-thin heaters, available in a broad range of different sizes. All provide the same gentle level of background heat. One can then either place the mantis ontop of the heat mat, or stick it to the back or side of the cage.

If it is decided to offer different temperatures to the two sexes there are a range of ways this can be achieved. Firstly, males can be placed into cages with higher levels of ventilation, helping to dissipate some of the warmth.

Alternatively, or additionally, females can be given extra insulation or lower levels of ventilation, such as by using a polystyrene or cork tile behind the heater, which effectively bounces far more warmth into the cage itself.

It is advisable to use a thermometer in order to monitor cage temperatures, and ensure that they are kept within safe limits. personally I use digital combined thermometers and hygrometers, with a probe on the end of a piece of wire. This provides a high level of accuracy and makes for easy temperature monitoring.

Water and Humidity

Praying mantids in captivity very rarely drink from water bowls. While some keepers still like to provide such a resource, most keepers have dispensed with what seems like a pointless piece of equipment.

Where mantids do tend to drink is from water droplets in their cage. As a suitable alternative to an open bowl of water, therefore, it is advisable to use a houseplant spray gun to gently mist the inside the cage two or three times a week.

This not only provides drinking water for your mantis, but as the droplets evaporate it is also raises the humidity – and important step to a successful moult.

orchid mantis photo

Tank Decor

Praying mantis don’t require a complex set-up. Indeed, there are really only two aspects that the orchid mantis rearer needs to consider; substrate and perches.

A range of different substrates may be used for orchid mantis. For growing youngsters many keepers use no substrate at all, leaving the floor bare. Alternatively paper kitchen towel works well and is my preferred choice. It does a good job of absorbing excess moisture and is easily removed and swapped for fresh.

As my mantids grow, however, I like to move them to a more naturalistic type of setup. Here I use coconut (coir) substrate or chemical-free potting compost as the base layer of their cage. A small amount of perlite or vermiculite can also be added if required, as these absorbent particles can help to maintain a suitably-high level of humidity.

Please note, however, that while humid conditions are recommended for this species, stale air is not. That means to say that you should be regularly spraying the substrate to keep the cage humid, but that there should be enough ventilation for the air to circulate.

Without this vital element mould and fungus can grow in the cage, making for a thoroughly unhygienic environment for your mantis.

The other critical element for your mantis comes in the form of one or more perches. As orchid mantids typically like to sit up off the ground, in a bush or other plant, it is important to mimic this in captivity.

Furthermore, when a praying mantis moults it attaches it’s legs to a branch and then just slowly slides out of the old skin. Without a perch that is high enough, a mantis may struggle to free itself from the old skin. This is a potentially fatal situation to be avoided at all costs.

It therefore makes sense to provide at least one perch, typically in the form of a twig or branch in the cage. One of the end of the twig should rest on the floor so that your mantis can slowly make their way down if required.

If the cage is large enough then a number of perches may be provided, taking great care to ensure that there is an area of at least twice the mantid’s length beneath the perches, in order to allow for a successful moult.

For many keepers this basic setup is perfectly adequate. However, a small number of keepers like to take things up a notch by creating a more naturalistic vivarium for their orchid mantis.

Here all manner of decor may be used, from moss on the floor to live plants to clamber in. Such a vivarium is really only limited by your budget and creativity, and a well-designed rainforest setup with an adult female orchid mantis is really one of the most attractive displays possible.

orchid mantis photo

Feeding Orchid Mantis

Maybe it’s just me, but one of the most exciting things of all when it comes to keeping mantids is feeding time. I never cease to be amazed by their skills at hunting and catching other insects. If you’ve never kept other mantids before then you’re in for a treat!

Like all mantids, orchid mantis are carnivorous. This means that they’ll need to be fed on a range of different insects in captivity. As with all exotic pets, feeding a range of foods over time is advisable, in order to provide the widest range of vitamins and minerals.

In the exotic pet trade as a whole, crickets of various types tend to be the preferable food. Coming in a range of types – including brown house crickets, black crickets and silent crickets – all may be fed to mantis.

That said, one major weakness of feeding crickets is that these insects rarely climb. For an arboreal insect like a mantis, this can be something of an inconvenience. Basically, you mantis will have to spot the insect moving about and slowly creep their way down the perch to catch them.

Not the end of the world, but mildly annoying.

Fortunately, there are a number of other insect prey items which are far more likely to climb (or even fly). Locusts, for example, are available in a range of different sizes and are far more likely to climb up the twigs to “meet their maker”.

Once can even go a step further and feed a mantis on flies. Many livefood suppliers sell reptile-safe maggots (don’t used bleached maggots from bait shops). These can be left to turn into pupae, before tossing these chrysalids into your mantis cage.

Within a week or two they will pupate, and you’ll find them buzzing their way around your mantid’s cage. Soon enough they will be dispatched with impressive efficiency.

Mantids on the whole are capable of eating some impressively-sized prey items. Personally I try to limit the general size of the items given, to prevent too much of a fight.

Mantids tend to be greedy insects, so can be fed as much as they will eat. Most of mine are fed every day to keep them growing as quickly as possible, though you may opt to feed any males in your collection rather less often to slow down their growth rates.

Lastly, when discussing the feeding of orchid mantids it is important to consider the subject of moulting. Skin changes are really the only difficult part o keeping mantids, where a bad moult really can end disastrously.

We’ve already discussed the importance of a suitable temperature and humidity, together with appropriately-placed perches, but the final part of the jigsaw comes from feeding.

Most orchid mantis will go off their food for anything from a few days to a few weeks before they change their skin. Typically the bigger the mantis is, the longer they will fast for. The same applies after a moult, where many won’t eat for a week or two.

Just as importantly, live insects can be a serious issue for a moulting praying mantis. Some insects, such as crickets, may try to nibble at the defenceless mantis, while others may simply cause annoyance or risk knocking the mantis off the perch.

For this reason no livefood should be present in the cage when a moult is anticipated.

Unlike some keepers, therefore, I find the best method is to carefully monitor the feeding of your mantis.

For example, just feed one locust or cricket per day, and be certain that your mantis eats it before another is provided. In this way it becomes easy to see when your mantis goes off it’s food before a moult.

You will often notice that your mantis is looking rather “tubby” as it has been eating so much, so it is hardly surprising that it needs a larger skin to fit into!

When your mantis stops feeding, make a note to give it extra attention. Be certain that no livefood is left in the cage, and be certain that the humidity is right.

All being well, within a week or two you’ll peer into the cage to find that your mantis has successfully moulted. When this is observed, I tend to leave my mantids well alone for a week or so, so that their skin can harden.

At this point, normal feeding can be resumed, though don’t be worried if it takes your mantis a few days more before their appetite returns after this ordeal!

The Orchid Mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is one of the world's most beautiful and recognisable praying mantis. Learn how to keep orchid mantids as pets with this detiled free care sheet - perfect for keepers of exotic pets.

Images c/o Pasha Kirillov, Kaeru & ashengrove

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Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) Care Sheet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/ghost-mantis-phyllocrania-paradoxa/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/ghost-mantis-phyllocrania-paradoxa/#respond Wed, 09 Nov 2016 07:18:59 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1396 The Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) is a stunning species, broadly distributed across Africa and Madagascar. The name itself means “leaf head”, and it’s hardly difficult to see why. These cryptic praying mantids do an amazing job of avoiding predators by resembling plants. Not only is there an unusual leaf-like projection on the top of the […]

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The Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) is a stunning species, broadly distributed across Africa and Madagascar. The name itself means “leaf head”, and it’s hardly difficult to see why.

These cryptic praying mantids do an amazing job of avoiding predators by resembling plants.

Not only is there an unusual leaf-like projection on the top of the mantids head, but the legs also possess leaf-shaped structures. In nature, these mantids will sit motionless for hours on end, just waiting for a suitable insect to walk just a little too close.

Interestingly, studies of Ghost Mantids in the wild suggest that when disturbed by a potential predator this species tends to simply flatten itself against the branch it is sitting in, so provide even better levels of camouflage.

Ghost Mantids as Pets

The Ghost Mantis is a surprisingly small species, when you compare it with many of the other popular pet mantids (such as the Dead Leaf Mantis) with adult females growing to just 4-5cm in body length.

The males can be even smaller that this, though are easily told part by the number of abdominal segments. While females have 6 visible sections, males have 8, so it is possible to sex this species from quite a young age.

There are a number of factors which have made Ghost Mantids popular as pets.

Besides their unusual morphology, Phyllocrania paradoxa is also encountered in a range of different colour forms.

While most are dark brown, specimens may range between a light sandy brown through to a beautiful green colour. It has been suggested that individual specimens may change colour when they moult (as has been seen in a range of other mantis species), most likely in response to humidity.

A moister environment tends to produce a higher proportion of green mantids, while brown specimens tend to be derived from drier conditions.

The other aspect of keeping Ghost Mantids in captivity is that they can be kept in communities when well fed. While almost all the most popular mantis species should be kept alone for fear of cannibalism, it seems that when suitably fed and caged the Ghost Mantis can be kept in groups.

This, combined with their relatively small size and unusual shape, means that Ghost Mantids can make one of the very best display insects around, where a number of specimens can be housed in a single modestly-sized cage.

Cages for Ghost Mantids

Ghost mantids can be slightly more difficult to care for than other popular mantids due to their smaller size. Particular care must be taken with youngsters, lest they manage to squeeze through small gaps in their cage, or become trapped.

For adults, however, the care is reasonably simple. As with other mantids, it is recommended that the cage used should be at least three times as tall as your mantis is long, and at least twice as long.

For single specimens I like to use a small Exo Terra, which provides plenty of space and allows you to create an environment which is both visually-appealing and highly practical. In such a cage one can add pieces of bark, artificial plants and more to give a very naturalistic appearance.

For communal living, where more than one mantis is kept together, I use a larger Exo Terra.

Note that while my preference is always for Exo Terras personally, as I think they look great and include all manner of practical elements (closeable holes for electrical cables, lockable doors, excellent ventilation) one can use almost any glass or plastic container as long as it meets the following criteria:

Suitable ventilation – No pet insect should be kept in muggy, stagnant air. Doing so can encourage bacteria and fungi to grow, which can be a major factor in how long your Ghost Mantis lives. Whether this ventilation takes the form of a metal grill, mesh or holes, it is important that air-flow should be allowed.

Appropriate size/dimensions – We have discussed the size above, but the specific dimensions are also important. Be sure to select a cage that is many times as tall as your mantis is long, in order to facilitate the moulting process.

Tight-fitting lid – Mantids are adept at climbing, and adults can be surprisingly good at flying. Combined with their small size, it is essential to make sure that whatever cage you select cannot be escaped from.

Easy to clean – Lastly, hygiene in all captive animals is key. The cage you choose should therefore make cleaning and routine maintenance as easy as possible. Some of the very narrow yet tall cages used – such as sweet jars – can make cleaning rather more difficult.

Tank Decor

Sourcing the right vivarium is only part of the battle. Next, you need to fit it out appropriately.

Here there are two core elements to consider.

The first of these is one (or more) suitable perches for your Ghost Mantis to rest on. The more of these mantids you keep together, the more different perches you should provide. In this way, your mantids will all be able to have their own personal space rather than vying for the best spot on a single perch.

The easiest perches are simply twigs and branches, which can been immersed in boiling water before use, and scrubbed with a reptile-safe detergent, in order to avoid introducing any pathogens into the tank.

These perches should be carefully positioned in such a way that they:

  1. Touch the ground, allowing your mantis to come down to hunt if required, or get back up off the ground if it falls
  2. Provide sufficient space beneath for your mantis to be able to moult successfully

The second element is a suitable substrate. While many keepers – including myself – use kitchen towel or suchlike for young mantis, a substrate such as coconut fibre works well for adults. This looks beautiful, smells fresh and helps to moderate the humidity in the cage.

As mantids don’t burrow, only a small depth is required, especially if you are opting to heat your mantis cage from beneath.

Heating & Temperature

Hailing from Africa, the Ghost Mantis understandably require artificial heating in all but the hottest months of the year. For young mantids, the easiest solution is normally to heat one large enclosure (such as a wooden vivarium) and to then place all the baby mantids within this.

For larger specimens, the cage as a whole can be heated. Temperatures of around 25’C are generally recommended, and is best provided through the use of a heat mat.

This can be placed under the tank, or attached to the side, though you should monitor the temperature within on a regular basis. A temperature which is too far away from this ideal can encourage mantids to stop eating, to cause problems with moulting or to even cause heat exhaustion.

Personally I use digital thermometers, with neat little probes on the end of a wire. The wire can easily be fed into my Exo Terras (thanks to the closeable holes provided just for this purpose), allowing me to consult the LCD display at any time to check on temperature and humidity.

Water & Humidity

Praying mantis seldom drink from a water dish, and an open body of water like this can lead to drowning. Mantids, after all, are not known for their swimming abilities.

That’s not to say that Ghost Mantids don’t drink. While they may absorb a reasonable amount of water from their prey, it is not unusual to find them gently lapping at droplets of rain or dew that they find on plants.

In light of this, most praying mantis keepers dispense with a water bowl entirely, and instead rely on regular misting of the tank. Possibly the easiest way to accomplish this is through the use of a houseplant spray gun. Using lukewarm water (not cold water straight from the tap) the tank should be gently misted 2-3 times a week.

Between those mistings, the water can slowly be left to evaporate, increasing the humidity in the cage and avoiding a consistently “soggy” cage. Humidity in the vivarium can be measured using a low-cost hygrometer, and should ideally remain the region of 60-90%.

Feeding Ghost Mantis

Ghost Mantis will eat almost anything that can overpower. While other mantis may take small reptiles (and some can even catch and eat birds) the diminutive size of this species means they feed almost exclusively on invertebrates.

Many praying mantis are fed consistently on a diet of crickets, with the occasional “treat” such as mealworms or baby locusts. Feeding Ghost Mantis, however, can be a little more challenging.

The reason for this is that many keepers report that younger P.paradoxa rarely venture down to the floor of the cage. As crickets rarely climb, this can result in a cage containing plenty of food, none of which is being eaten by your pet.

There are a number of potential solutions here, but possibly the most effective are to feed these mantids on feeder insects which either climb well (such as locusts of an appropriate size) or fly.

Fruit flies can make ideal prey items for baby Ghost Mantis, while larger flies can become an integral part of the adults diet.

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Dead Leaf Mantis Care Sheet (Deroplatys dessicata) http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/dead-leaf-mantis-care-sheet-deroplatys-dessicata/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/dead-leaf-mantis-care-sheet-deroplatys-dessicata/#respond Sat, 22 Oct 2016 06:34:01 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1388 The Dead Leaf mantis is one of the most intriguing mantis species of all. As the name suggests, this incredible insect resembles a dead, crumpled leaf as an adult, perfectly helping it to camouflage in its surroundings. There are a number of different species in the Deroplatys genus, but it is Deroplatys dessicata which is […]

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deroplatys photoThe Dead Leaf mantis is one of the most intriguing mantis species of all. As the name suggests, this incredible insect resembles a dead, crumpled leaf as an adult, perfectly helping it to camouflage in its surroundings.

There are a number of different species in the Deroplatys genus, but it is Deroplatys dessicata which is the largest and certainly the most common in the pet trade.

For this reason it is sometimes known more specifically as the “Giant Dead Leaf Mantis”.

Dead Leaf Mantis Habitat

Originally described by Westwood in 1839, this praying mantis is found across a relatively wide area in South East Asia. Growing to around 8cm-9cm long, the females are typically quite a bit longer than the males, and are easily told apart from an early age by counting the abdominal segments. Females have 6, while males have 7.

The dead leaf mantis has been reported in Borneo, Indonesia, Malysia and Sumatra, where it is most commonly encountered hiding in foliage throughout the forests and scrubland to be found here. The specific literature specifically reports specimens on Labuan Island and Poring Hot Springs.

As might be expected from this part of the world, dead leaf mantids therefore enjoy warm temperatures in captivity, coupled with high humidities.

As a guideline, a tank temperature of 25-30’C is recommended, with mantids that are kept warmer generally eating more and growing more quickly. Humidity levels of 50-80% tend to serve this species well. The higher end of the scale is recommended when moulting time is expected, as this is a dangerous time for such an intricate insect.

Housing

A range of different containers may be used to house dead leaf mantis. From specially-made insect tanks to a re-purposed plastic sweet jar, the most important element are the dimensions.

deroplatys photo

Most praying mantis are almost entirely arboreal, meaning that they sit in trees and bushes rather than on the ground. Here they hunt for their prey, which most commonly comes in the form of flying insects. When a praying mantis moults it attaches it’s back legs to a twig, and then slowly “slides” out of the old skin.

These two elements mean that height is more important than width when it comes to praying mantis housing. Not only should you be able to fit one or more suitably-sized twigs into the cage to act as a perch for your mantis, but there should be enough space for your mantis to hang down when changing their skin. A good rule-of-thumb to apply is that the cage for your mantis should be at least three times as tall as the mantid’s body, and twice as long.

Remember when applying these rules that mantids grow rapidly. They will go through a number of skin changes, increasing in size each time. Many species will go from hatchlings to fully-grown adults in less than a year. Being too precious over size will therefore mean that you’re constantly having to swap cages. It is therefore often best to buy a cage suitable for an adult mantis early on, which he or she can be transferred into when they are half grown.

For a truly memorable display I like to use a tall Exo Terra for my adult females. These cages are easy to heat, look fantastic, and offer a range of practical benefits such as locking doors, a mesh lid for ventilation and pre-made holes for any electrical applications you add.

Temperature & Heating

As described, these tropical insects do best when kept warm. To this end an artificial heater will be required except during the warmest summer months. A temperature of around 25’C is ideal for this species.

The easiest way to provide this warmth is through the use of a heat mat. These can be bought very cheaply in a range of different sizes. The heat mat should be attached to the outside of the cage in such a way that some areas are warmer than others. As with nature, therefore, your mantis will be able to move around and locate the area that suits them best.

While historically many exotic pet keepers have rested their cages on top of a heat mat, for praying mantis this may not be the wisest decision. The reason is simple enough; as arboreal insects Dead Leaf Mantis may not come down to the floor often, and therefore may not benefit fully from the warmth being produced.

An alternative option is to attach the heat mat to one side of the cage, ensuring that a left-to-right temperature gradient is produced.

While opinions on the matter vary, many people recommend the use of a “matstat” in addition – an external thermostat which helps one control the warmth produced by the heater. This is especially beneficial in Spring and Fall, where such a piece of technology can prevent your mantis from overheating on warmer days.

Water & Humidity

Coming from the tropical jungles of South East Asia, the Dead Leaf Mantis has evolved in a humid environment. Moulting can be a particularly problematic time for this species, which may struggle to extricate themselves from their older skin.

It is therefore critical that this species should have their cage sprayed on a regular basis. As this water evaporates so the relative humidity in the cage increases.

Note that as with all exotic pets, ventilation is still important. Air that is trapped in a sealed container for a period of time can lead to mould or mildew build-up. The skill of the mantis keeper is therefore in providing both a high humidity but also reasonable ventilation.

As arboreal insects, Dead Leaf Mantids rarely come down to the floor of the cage, so providing a water bowl is seen as pointless by many keepers. Instead, you will likely see your mantis drinking the water droplets left on the walls of the cage after misting.

Tank Decor

Dead Leaf Mantis are not complex creatures to keep. Once the key requirements of a suitably-sized cage, which is suitably heated and misted, has been provided very few other pieces of equipment will be required.

Broadly speaking there are only two main considerations. The first of these is the substrate which lines the base of the cage. A range of options may be used, from the practical yet unattractive use of kitchen towel, through to proper reptile substrates like coir.

Personally I start my young mantids with kitchen towel, which can be easily removed and replaced on a regular basis. The larger mantids, however, are truly a sight to behold, so I link their cage to reflect this. I provide a centimetre or so of compost or coir to their cage, and sometimes even add dead leaves etc. to really give a naturalistic setup, and helps show them off to their best.

The second consideration is that of somewhere to sit, hunt and moult. This means that suitably-sized twigs or branches should be added to the cage. If these are sourced from nature, these should be sterilized first by immersing them in boiling water, then allowing them to dry thoroughly.

The goal of these twigs should be to provide an area beneath which is at least twice the height of the mantis. In this way moulting should present no problem.

Feeding Dead Leaf Mantis

Like all mantids, Dead Leaf Mantis are carnivorous and will eat almost anything they can catch in the wild. It is not unheard of for mantis to catch small lizards and even birds, but in captivity their diet consists of a range of feeder insects.

These should be provided on a regular basis. As you cannot overfeed a mantis the best course of action is to follow a simple strategy of feeding your mantis then waiting for it to eat. Once the insect has been caught then introduce another. Keep going until your mantis has eaten enough.

Of course, the more you feed your Dead Leaf Mantis, the faster it will grow. For this reason some keepers like to separate out males from females early on. The smaller males are then fed slightly more than the females, with the intention that they will mature at around the same time.

Aim to feed your mantis every day or two, and keep a note of how much and how often your mantis is feeding. In this way you can modify your routine over time to match their appetite.

Photos c/o Flickpicpete (Thanks for 2 million+ views), berniedup & berniedup

The post Dead Leaf Mantis Care Sheet (Deroplatys dessicata) appeared first on Keeping Exotic Pets.

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