Generally speaking praying mantis are solitary insects. The vast majority of praying mantis are not just carnivores, they are also cannibals. This means that attempting to keep two more praying mantis together tend to end in tears – and in one fat mantis.
While there are a few exceptions it is safest to assume that two praying mantis cannot live together for fear of them eating each other.
Do Adult Praying Mantis Eat Each Other?
Praying mantis are probably most famous for the female’s willingness to eat her mate. While studies in the wild show this doesn’t happen on every mating, it does happen a fair amount of the time.
Perhaps this is why there is little in the way of courtship for praying mantis. The males tend to be much smaller and want to avoid getting eaten if possible. Instead of a big show they tend to silently creep up behind their chosen mate before pouncing on her from behind.
While this is the best-known example of praying mantis eating each other, in truth a hungry praying mantis will eat any living creature that it can catch – assuming it isn’t toxic or distasteful.
This means that adult praying mantis will happily eat each other given a chance, even when no mating is involved.
This is most likely where two or more praying mantis are trapped in a confined space such as an enclosure at home. Here there is simply nowhere for the mantis to hide or escape from one another, and it becomes almost inevitable that one will eat the other.
Do Baby Praying Mantis Eat Each Other?
You might assume that cannibalism is confined to adult praying mantis. You might think that babies will be far more gregarious. But that isn’t always the case.
On hatching most baby praying mantis have little in the way of appetite. As a result their brothers and sisters don’t appear as a tasty morsel. However within days, if not hours, that all changes.The baby mantis develop an appetite, and watch out any other small mantis sitting nearby.
For exotic pet keepers breeding praying mantis this hatching period can be crucial. The egg case will suddenly erupt with tiny ant-like baby mantis. After a short while the mantis will begin to disburse. They can be kept together for a short while, however soon enough it will become obvious that numbers are dwindling and they must be separated.
Can I Keep Pet Praying Mantis Together?
There are a handful of pet praying mantis species that can be kept communically. However these are the exceptions rather than the rule. Most commonly-kept praying mantis species will almost inevitably eat one another, so should be kept alone.
The same goes for wild-caught praying mantis. While it can be tempting to gather up a wild mantis you find in your yard and keep it as a pet, be sure to house them separately to avoid a nasty accident.
Which Praying Mantis Will Live Together?
Exotic pet keepers are a creative bunch and are constantly experimenting with different species. So far, only a handful have been found that can be kept together.
An important caveat is necessary however – even these “communal” praying mantis can end up eating one another in some circumstances. If you try to keep any praying mantis together, therefore, you should accept that you’re taking a chance.
That said here are some mantis that have been kept together successfully in the past by hobbyists…
Ghost Mantis – Ghost mantis are probably the best-known mantis that can be kept together. Ghost mantis are reasonably easy to keep, come in a range of colors, and achieve only modest dimensions. As a result a small number of them can easily be kept in a reasonably-sized cage if you so desire.
Miomantis / Flower Mantis – Less commonly kept together are the flower mantis of the genus Miomantis. These are small, stunningly-beautiful insects, and tend to be more expensive to buy than ghost mantis. They are well worth keeping though, even if you opt for only a single specimen – and they are some of the most attractive praying mantis around.
Why Do Praying Mantis Eat Each Other?
Praying mantis typically live quite short lives. In temperate areas, for example, praying mantis tend to overwinter inside a specially-constructed egg case known as an ootheca. The ootheca has a foam-like outer coating which prevents the eggs inside from freezing over winter.
As the weather warms up in spring the baby mantis hatch.
They then eat, and eat, and eat.
Their goal is to reach maturity as soon as possible – typically in the summer months.
They then go on to produce the next generation before generally dying as the temperatures drop in fall.
All this means that praying mantis are quite short-lived and need to grow as rapidly as possible. This gives them an insatiable appetite, and means they will eat almost anything they can catch. Even other praying mantis.
While it can seem barbaric, the reality is that the offending mantis is really only following their biological rulebook and trying to grow to adulthood as quickly as possible.
How Do You Keep Praying Mantis Together?
If you decide to try keeping praying mantis together then there are a number of basic tips you should bear in mind.
Choose the right species – As mentioned above, only a small number of praying mantis species can be kept together. The first step if you want to keep praying mantis communally is selecting the right species. Don’t make the mistake of assuming any and all praying mantis can be successfully kept together as this most certainly isn’t the case.
Select similar-sized specimens – Attempting to keep a number of hatchling praying mantis with a much larger specimen is unlikely to be successful. It is best to pick only specimens of a similar size if you’re going to try such an experiment.
Provide plenty of space – The more space your praying mantis have to avoid each other the less likely it is they will cannibalize each other. The general rule for a single praying mantis is to provide a space that is at least twice as wide as the mantis is long, and at least three times as high. However when keeping praying mantis together I recommend providing far more space for each specimen.
Offer spare perches – It’s not just space you should be generous with. Offer a host of different perches inside your praying mantis cage to once again make it easier for your pets to avoid one another.
Be generous with your feeding – Lastly, a hungry mantis can be a dangerous thing to other cage mates. It is wise therefore to be generous with your feeding. In this way, there should be a handy feeder insect nearby when your praying mantis next develop an appetite. As a result, his or her siblings should hopefully not look quite so appealing.