Preying mantis, or preying mantids as the plural is known, are fascinating creatures that have kept me captivated for years and during that time I have kept and bred a surprising number of them.
In this article I’d like to examine basic preying mantis care. Whilst the care of some species will differ to a degree I will be discussing the general setup which I use and have found to work rearing a wide range of species over the years.
The first thing to realize is that in general the larger the preying mantis is, the more hardy, and hence the easier it is to care for. This doesn’t relate so much as to the adult size of the mantis but rather how large a mantis is when you buy it. In essence, hatchling mantids can be a real challenge to rear whilst mantis of a larger size tend to be reasonably simple to look after.
To this end I would recommend that you start your adventure into the wonderful world of preying mantis by either buying an egg case (ootheca) which should yield hundreds of babies giving you a good chance of rearing a percentage to adulthood, or try to find some youngster measuring 3cm or longer. When mantis reach this sort of size they are typically very easy to care for and your success rate will go up markedly as a result.
Preying mantis are typically arboreal (tree dwelling) and so like height in their cage so it is important to select a cage which is taller rather than wider.
For youngsters of a few centimetres I find that a clear plastic tub of around 10-15cm long, such as the ones you buy livefood in, works well. These also typically have some holes pre-punched so that air can circulate and mould will be far less likely to grow.
I have the container and place a few sheets of kitchen towel inside, place the mantis inside and then place the container on it’s end so that it is taller rather than wider. In colder weather some additional heating is required by most mantids and a reptile heat mat typically does a good job of this.
Now let me explain why I use this setup. The clear plastic tubs are cheap or free because I get my livefood in them so I always have a number lying around. The fact that they are plastic means they are easy to clean and the fact that they are clear makes it easy to see the mantis.
By placing some kitchen towel inside you will not only be able to absorb any excess moisture or faecal material, but this also gives the mantis something to hold onto. Most mantis struggle to climb plastic or glass and so providing this “curtain” of kitchen towel gives them something to rest on.
Food is introduced regularly – and the mantids are fed all they will eat on a daily basis. Lastly the tubs are sprayed once or twice a week so that the mantids can drink from the water droplets.
Keeping this regime, you can easily keep numerous mantids happy and healthy in a very small amount of space. Remember that mantids are very cannibalistic and so each one will require it’s own cage until it is time to breed them.
As the mantids grow I move them into larger quarters. Typically small fish tanks with close-fitting lids or one of the plastic containers with a vented lid works well. In a cage this size, suitable for an adult, kitchen towel no longer really cuts it as a place to rest and so I include a number of twigs and branches for them to rest on. Once again, adults are fed on an almost daily basis and given as much as they will eat.
Be certain to remove any livefood not eaten if you are giving anything other than flies because creatures such as crickets or locusts may try to eat your mantis if it starts to moult or at the least can stress it out.
Remember space, humidity, warmth and some suitable places to sit and you’ll be seeing your mantis eat and grow at an amazing rate.