If you’ve ever bred praying mantis then you’ll no doubt have seen their egg cases or oothecae as they’re often referred to.
Female praying mantis lay numerous eggs together in one single neat little package, then produce a “shaving-foam” type of substance which they cover the eggs in. After a short while this “foam” dries to the consistency of polystyrene packing material.
The end result in a tidy mass of eggs covered all over by a thick material which helps to protect the eggs from extremes of temperature as well as from physical damage.
These oothecae really need to be removed from your praying mantis cage after being laid to enable you to more accurately incubate the eggs and rear the youngsters. The problem is that female praying mantis glue these egg cases in place so some skill is required when it comes to removing praying mantis eggs from the cage.
Whilst it is possible to peel praying mantis eggs off the side of whatever glass or plastic container you’re keeping them in there is always a risk that you will damage the eggs in the process because they will be stuck on firmly and it will require quite some effort to dislodge them.
As a result there are two better ways worth knowing of separating the adult female praying mantis from her eggs without risking any damage to the ootheca itself.
The first method involves giving up on removing praying mantis eggs themselves and instead removing the female. Once the female has matured and has been mated, invest in a number of cages of a suitable size. A female will normally lay a number of egg cases after just a single mating though they may not all be fertile and they will typically reduce in size with each successive laying.
However in this way one can wait till a female mantis lays eggs and then move her into the next cage you have ready and so on. Over time you will end up with a number of cages empty apart from an ootheca which you can then care for properly.
The alternative method of removing praying mantis eggs is to deliberately place objects in the cage that can be removed, but which will hopefully encourage the female mantis to lay eggs on them. For example it can be a smart idea to place an assortment of twigs and branches into the female’s cage – not just for her to rest on – but additionally she is quite likely to lay eggs on them.
One could even go a step further and modify cheap plastic containers like ice cream tubs as homes for adult praying mantis so that even if they stick their eggs to the wall of the “cage” it is easy to cut round the egg case with a pair of scissors and remove it to a suitable incubation area before placing the adult female into a new container.
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20 thoughts on “Removing Praying Mantis Eggs”
The nest for the eggs is kind of cool and scary at the same time. Reminds me a bit of Alien.
I have a mantis who laid eggs on the screen top of her enclosure. I have to remove them but I don’t want to damage them. Help!
Jennifer – So long as you’re gentle I normally find that an ootheca can be gently peeled off, and they still normally hatch just fine. Gently does it! 🙂
My female mantis is laying her eggs as we speak. Im curious, will she pass away after she has laid them, or will she stay alive in captivity?
Hi Amelia – an adult female mantis won’t die just because she’s laid eggs, but of course adult mantis only have a finite lifespan – typically some months. Therefore you may get several more egg cases before she finally passes.
In the wild, what happens to the ootheca after it has hatched? When I find them in the wild, are they from that year or can they be from a previous year?
Hi Meggie – that’s a really interesting question! I would assume that over time they will rot away, but my guess is that this process could take quite some time. Therefore I think it is possible that “empty” oothecae could be some years old potentially.
I have one on my dogwood tree in the front yard that is two years old.
I have a praying mantis on my cement steps outside. After a couple of days of no movement, I thought it was dead but when I touched it, she moved and I noticed something underneath which I’m assuming is the sac. But it’s on the cement, and not separated from the mantis. Looks like she has lost part of a leg so can’t get to a tree or a bush. I am in NJ and it’s going to get very cold here tonight/tomorrow. I want to help save the sac, assuming that is what I am seeing, without hurting the mom or the eggs, is this possible? Should I move her to my garden?
I have a sac on my spray hose! Mama was there and I put those hose down near her in the garden. I Need my hose! So you are telling me that I can gently remove it? I have no interest in watching the babies hatch, Im just worried about where I place it and not upsetting the Mama …
Hi Tess – yes you should be fine moving it. It can always be relocated to a suitable bush, tree or fence to hatch out when it’s ready.
Help! I am kind of freaked out, but there was a mantis on the inside of our screen door two days ago and now there is an egg sac stuck to the screen (More like a gremlin egg vs. alien) …. How do I get it off without damaging the screen? I am on the third floor of an apartment building.
Hi Jen – if you’re gentle yet firm then the egg case should peel off leaving very little mess or resideue.
We rescued a female praying mantis October 26 2019. We have her in a nice habitat and feed her 2 crickets every other day. We also have a small damp sponge in her habitat and mist the area with water every other day. Today she laid an ootheca!!! We are pretty excited. Tomorrow we will put the twig that the ootheca is attached to in a large jar with cotton muslin on top. The muslin will be held with a rubber band. As I understand it the egg case should be kept in temperature 12-20 degrees Celsius. This is very exciting for us!!!
Fantastic news Linda – keeping my fingers crossed for you!
I’ve been watching a Mantis about a mo th now. She has laid eggs all over our shed..and now is laying them in the doorway…so they have to be removed. How long until the sac is hard enough to be removed. And also..its September..will her eggs hatch before winter or can they be I. The sac until spring?
Hi Chris – The egg case should have hardened properly within a day or so of laying, so can always be moved at that time. Most mantis eggs won’t hatch until the following spring, so you should be fine to leave them over winter before moving them if you like.
Years ago I purchased ootheca from an online insect farm. I was thrilled when the sacs hatched in my Staten Island, NY garden. Ever since then i have had Praying Mantis in my garden, entertaining me & my grandchildren. I have found new ootheca every fall since then, once leaves fall from garden shrubs, and new mantis hatching in late spring. I guess they can be generations of my long legged friends from at least 6 years ago. Yesterday I spotted a formed ootheca on one rod of seagrass, but for the first time (and excited) I observed a very swelled large green female Mantis forming her ootheca on another rods. Realizing landscapers were going to come the next day & cut it back, I carefully tried to trim away the overgrown grasses on the outside of the shrub, away from where she way laying. I then put a trellis around the rest of the shrub to protect she and her pods. I guess she felt my presence, because soon afterward she detached from forming her beginning very small pod and abandoned it. Will she continue to lay her eggs somewhere else – I have many deciduous shrubs in my garden & usually find the ootheca once leaves are gone in late fall. I feel I tampered with nature and shouldve left her alone, but knew the seagrass was going to be cut down & trashed. Hopefully she moved on to another shrub. Will she continue to do lay her eggs?
Hi Camille – Female mantis will often lay many egg cases after a successful mating. Even if she was interrupted laying one, it seems pretty likely she’ll move on and try laying again when she finds a suitable position.