Care Guide Series 3:
Care Guide 3.1:
When thinking about housing requirements for praying mantis you really have to consider a number of factors. is the enclosure for a small - medium nymph a sub adult or adult? What is the adult size of the species you are keeping? Can the mantis climb smooth surfaces like glass and plastic?
If you are dealing with a small species or sall to medium sized nymphs then i would suggest using plastic half pint cups / pint cups. They are cheap easy to clean, easy to aquire (most supermarkets stock them) and meet all the typical guidelines for housing mantis. No it doesnt look too exciting but they are practical. They are taller than they are wide, ideal for most mantis species which typically are more arboreal than ground dwelling. Are easily ventilated and with a few minor modifications you can make them very easy to regularly service. Especially when housing lots of individuals.
Setting up cups for rearing mantis
Take a plastic half pint cup and carefully cut a small hole in the side about 2/3 the way up.
Bung the hole with a piece of cotton wool
This allows for easy and quick access to the pot so you can feed the mantis without removing the netting which will be used top off the enclosure.
Then cut a piece of capillary matting (can purchase very cheaply from most garden centers) so that it fits the bottom of the cup.
Soak the capillary matting under a tap and then ring it out leaving it damp not wet.
Place some percing material in the cup. Depending on the species we either use netting on the side walls of the cup, small branches or wood wool.
Cut a piece of netting so that it overhangs the edge of the cup by at least 1/2 inch. Then using an elastic band secure the netting around the rim of the cup.
As the mantis grows increase the size of the cup accordingly.
When the mantis reaches sub adult/ adult size i prefer to move them to a larger more naturalistic enclosure (See details below)
Most species of mantis in this sort of environment will choose to suspend themselves from the netting most of the time. So the cotton wool bung in the side of the pot is especially benificial because as well as saving you hours by not having to remove and replace the mesh lids, you also do not stress your mantis as much by moving them every time you want to introduce food.
Capillary matting is so much more preferable to me because it is easy to clean so can be reused many times before being replaced but also it holds much more moisture than a piece of kitchen roll.
This type of set up is most useful for small nymphs which are more delicate and need to be monitored more closely. it is also very useful when you have 100's of mantis to feed and spray as it can be done quickly and without causing unnecessary stress to the animals.
Sub-adult / Adult set up
When the mantis reaches a sub adult size I prefer to move them to a larger enclosure. There are a few exceptions including small species and species that have especially timid males that get a bit skittish in larger more open spaces. Once the mantis has reached a sub-adult size it should be capable of taking care of itself in a larger environment. I usually go for something like a 30x30x45 cm Exo terra. I mostly keep rainforest species so I use a mixture of coco fibre and potting soil for the substrate, sometimes I mix through a bit of sand too. Then I plant the tank up using grasses, ferns, bromeliads etc and provide a number of branches placed both vertically and horizontally to give them a variety of different perching options. They will of course often sit on the mesh lids regardless of how many perching options you provide. To finish off I also scatter some moss around on the surface of the substrate and around the edge of the tank backing to aid with humidity levels. These enclosures are also suitable for introducing breeding pairs to one another when the time comes. For much larger species like King Mantis and Dead Leaf Mantis I will often use larger enclosures such as a 45x45x60cm Exo Terra.
If you plan on keeping preying mantis then you have to be ok with feeding live prey. Mantis are voracious predators who require a diet consisting mostly of flying insects. They will also accept locust and roaches.
There has been much debate over the years about feeding crickets to mantis. The reason for this is that crickets can carry a number of different diseases and bacterias that can be transmitted to mantis. With the number of different livefoods now available in the pet trade I really think its just better to err on the side of caution, especialy as there are so many other alternitives available.
For small nymphs I reccomend starting with fruitflies. I offer my mantis food every 3 days or so. If i think they are ready to take bigger food then I try the next size up usually green bottle flys (there are smaller flys available but green bottles are whats most available to me) If they take it, great! Then I offer this size food untill they are ready to try the next size up (Blue Bottle flies). If they refuse the larger food item then i remove it and go back to the smaller food item for a few more feeds and then try again.
If the mantis refuses its food by batting away the food as opposed to catching and devouring it, then its possible that your mantis is ready to shed its skin. So remove the food item and make sure the humidity is correct for that species. This does not mean start spraying away! If fact some species will have just as much trouble shedding if it is too wet as they will if it is too dry so make sure you understand the needs of the species you are dealing with. Usually within a day or two of this behaveiour the mantis will shed its skin. During this process the mantis is extremely vulnerable so care must be taken not to disturb them. Dont offer food for a couple of days as the food item can often do more damage to them as the mantis can to it. When offering food after a shed skin I usually try and stick to flies as they are least likely to inflict any damage. Its worth baring in mind that you can offer fly larvae too. As the mantis will often sit on the mesh at the top and the larvae will just wriggle around on the floor. The mantis can then go down and feed as soon as it feels ready.
Where to start? Adults or Larvae?
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