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
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
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
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?
If 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.