There’s no denying that praying mantis are fascinating animals, but do they make good pets?
The answer is really that it depends on what you want from a pet. In this article we’ll look at both the good things about keeping praying mantis as pets, as well as the downsides you should consider before getting started…
Why Praying Mantis are Good Pets
Let’s start with the good stuff – all the reasons why you should consider keeping a pet praying mantis.
Easy to Care For
Generally praying mantis have very simple requirements as pets.
You’re unlikely to need to spend lots of time or money to give them everything they need. Of course if you’re planning to keep a mantis that you found in your garden then things are even easier, because you know that your environment is perfect for mantids.
To learn about how to keep praying mantis please consider the following article on this site.
Can Be Caught
Living in the UK I’m not lucky enough to have praying mantis roaming my garden, but in many parts of the world they can be found in the right season.
I’ve seen them in many European countries, and of course there are several species which are native to the USA.
The fact that you can potentially catch a pet praying mantis straight out of your garden is pretty amazing, and can save you the cost of actually buying one from a pet store or breeder.
Simple & Cheap Housing Requirements
Alongside my praying mantis I also keep and breed day geckos. From heat lamps to UV bulbs, day geckos require so much specialist equipment that buying one is a serious investment. Praying mantis, however, are a very different kettle of fish.
Most common praying mantis species can be kept in simple and cheap cages. For example a glass or plastic aquarium can make a decent home. Many household objects such as old sweet jars or food storage boxes can also be repurposed into mantis cages.
In truth, there’s probably something in your home right now that could be turned into a praying mantis cage today. This makes life a whole lot easier and cheaper for you.
Fascinating to Watch
If you’re sat at home reading about praying mantis then I guess you already realize just how fascinating they really are.
Mantis may not move around very often, but watching them hunt is a truly unforgettable experience. And if you’re lucky enough to get mantis eggs so you can watch the youngsters growing and thriving then you’re in for a real treat.
It’s basically like your own on-demand wildlife documentary – all from the comfort of your own home.
Suitable for Children (With Supervision)
Praying mantis can prove good pets for children if they are fully supervised. Praying mantis are best kept as pets to watch rather than as something to handle. With care and supervision, however, most specimens can be carefully handled. A praying mantis can therefore make a cheap and easy first pet for children if they are supervised during routine maintenance.
Why Praying Mantis are Bad Pets
So far, so good. You could be forgiven for thinking that praying mantis are the perfect pet. But of course that’s simply not true. Now we need to look at the other side of the coin and consider the downside to keeping praying mantis as pets…
No Pet/Owner Bond
Many pet owners desire a “bond” with their pet. They want a dog that comes when its called, or a cat that enjoys snuggling up on the sofa. And that’s something that you just don’t get with a praying mantis.
If you’re fine having a pet that you can just watch, and maybe handle occasionally, then that’s great. If you want to feel some affection from your pet then a mantis may not be the best option for you.
Praying mantis don’t live very long. Most common species hatch in the spring, grow all summer long before mating and laying eggs before winter sets in. Kept indoors in a nice warm home they may live quite a bit longer than in the wild, but they’re still not going to be around very long.
Requires Live Feeder Insects
Praying mantis are predators, that survive by catching and eating insects smaller than themselves.
This has two ramifications when it comes to keeping praying mantis as pets. Firstly, you’re going to have to source and handle live insects to feed them. For some people this can be an issue.
Secondly, praying mantis don’t instantly kill what they catch – they just start munching. While it is a normal part of nature, some people find it gluolish to watch a cricket or cockroach being slowly eaten alive.
Low Activity Levels
Praying mantids are ambush predators. That means that they sit motionless for hours on end, waiting for an unsuspecting prey item to come within striking distance.
In terms of pet care that means that praying mantis don’t “do” much. You’re more than likely to just see it sitting still in the same place for hours on end. Of course, when it’s feeding time things can quickly hot up!
Younger Nymphs Can Be Challenging
While larger praying mantis can be quite easy to care for, small nymphs can be oddly suicidal. If you’re thinking of catching a large praying mantis in your garden to study and observe then this shouldn’t be an issue.
On the other hand if you’re planning to buy a mantis from a pet store or breeder then just appreciate that the smaller the specimen the more challenging it will be to look after.
Not the Easiest Pets to Breed
Many exotic pet keepers – myself included – take enormous pride in trying to captive breed my animals. Perhaps you’d like to try breeding praying mantis, so you can watch their full lifecycle from beginning to end? If so, you could be in for a challenge.
You’re sure to have heard stories of female praying mantis eating their mates. These stories are true. Even if you can get your mantids to breed then you’ve got to look after the eggs and then rear the tiny young.
Personally I think these challenges are part of the experience and should be embraced – for some other people however they could be a step too far.
Can Be Expensive to Buy
Catching a praying mantis in your garden is obviously free.
This is primarily a result of the difficulties often encountered when trying to breed them.
Adults Can Fly
When praying mantis reach maturity they have long wings and are capable of flight.
Males, in particular, can be quite strong flyers as they tend to be lighter and slimmer than the more tubby females. This means you need to be careful when handling adult mantids, ensuring that your windows are closed, or your pet may make a successful break for freedom.
Sharp Front Legs
Praying mantis aren’t aggressive towards humans as a rule. I have held hundreds of mantis over the years without incident. All the same, they do have sharp spines on their front legs which are used to impale prey insects. As a result there is always a chance – no matter how small – that a praying mantis could give you or your children a little nip.
Conclusion: Are Mantids Really Good Pets?
In this article I have hopefully provided a balanced view as to whether praying mantis make good pets.
Weighing up the pros and cons I think that mantis make great, low-effort pets.
They’re ideally suited to people with little space available and those who want a pet that they can watch. Cheap and easy to care for they’re an animal that we can all add to our lives. And once you’ve got a single mantis goodness knows where it will lead – as this is normally just the start of a rapidly growing exotic pet collection!
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