How to Care for a Praying Mantis as a Pet

Praying mantises are aliens with unique features and astonishing abilities. They are known for their excellent hunting skills and perfect camouflage. These creatures are not just captivating to observe but also play a vital role in the balance of ecosystems by controlling pest populations. They’re fascinating, interesting, and distinctive. That’s why the mantises are often kept as pets. If you like to have this exotic pet, you can buy it in pet shops, there are different types of praying mantis for you to choose from. Or you can go outside and find one.

So, how to take care of a praying mantis as a pet? You need to understand its specific needs, such as its habitat requirements, diet, and behavior. By familiarizing yourself with its world, you can keep it healthy and make it live longer.

Praying Mantis Habitat Setup

Enclosure: Select a mantis enclosure that’s at least three times the height of your praying mantis to allow for adequate climbing and molting space. You can use terrariums or aquariums with fine mesh lids. Ensure the tank is escape-proof, as praying mantises are clever at slipping out through tiny gaps.

Substrate helps maintain humidity levels without posing a risk of mold or bacterial growth. I suggest using coconut fiber, sphagnum moss, or a mix of soil and sand. The substrate should be easy to clean and replace, and it should be deep enough to support any live plants’ root systems you might include.

Plants and decoration: You can add live plants into the enclosure to mimic a praying mantis’s natural habitat and provide climbing and hiding spaces. Adding branches and twigs will give your mantis more places to check out and shed its skin. Just be sure everything is firmly in place to avoid any accidents while your mantis is moving around and hunting.

Temperature: The mantis doesn’t live in cold weather. The best habitat for them is an area with stable temperatures, without any sudden cold breezes or temperature swings.

Sunlight: To keep your pet and plants healthy in their terrarium, they need sunlight. But too much direct sunlight can make the terrarium too hot. Instead, put the terrarium in a spot with indirect sunlight, or use a UVB light. If you use this setup, keep an eye on how much light they get to make sure it matches their natural day and night cycle, and adjust as needed for different seasons.

Praying mantis terrarium setup
Praying mantis cage setup/ Source: Reddit

Misting: Keeping the enclosure humid is really important for your praying mantis. This helps them stay hydrated and makes it easier for them to shed their skin successfully. It also helps the plants live. You should lightly spray the enclosure with water once or twice a day. Just check how humid it feels inside and adjust how much you mist accordingly.

But be careful not to make the substrate too wet or leave water sitting around. Too much moisture can make your mantis sick. It’s best to use a spray bottle with a fine mist setting. This way, water droplets will form on the surfaces and plants in the enclosure, and your mantis can drink water from them.

I don’t suggest putting a cap or a bowl of water in the cage for the praying mantis to maintain humidity. Praying mantises do not drink from standing water like some other pets. Moreover, a water bowl can increase the risk of drowning for your mantis and might not effectively raise the humidity levels across the enclosure, especially in larger spaces.

If you’re looking for an alternative to daily misting, consider a humidifier or an automatic misting system designed for terrariums. These systems can help maintain consistent humidity levels and can be particularly useful in drier environments or larger enclosures.

Feeding Praying Mantis

If you read our article about Praying mantis and its Astonishing Hunting Techniques, you’ll know that this species is a carnivore and only eats live food. They don’t eat plants or fruits and say no to dead prey. You need to find them live insects.

What to feed: Praying mantises have different dietary needs at various stages of their lives. Nymphs require smaller prey to match their smaller size and appetite, such as fruit flies, aphids, or other, small worms, and minibugs. As mantises grow, their prey size should increase accordingly. They will need small roaches and crickets, or houseflies. Adult mantises thrive on a diet of larger insects such as moths, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, rolly pollies, and big flies like bottle flies.

How often to feed:

The feeding schedule for a praying mantis varies with its age. Nymphs should be fed daily due to their rapid growth rate, requiring a steady supply of small insects. Adults, however, can be fed every 2-3 days as their metabolism slows down. The quantity of food at each feeding should be enough that the mantis can consume in one sitting, typically 2-5 insects, depending on the size of both the mantis and the prey. The female mantises need more food than the males.

If you forget to feed them, don’t worry too much. The full-grown mantis can live without food for 2 weeks. On the other hand, the nymphs can just handle it for a few days.

Parasite transmission from insect prey to praying mantis

Tips for Feeding Your Mantis

  • Variety is Key: Offer a diverse range of insects to ensure a balanced diet and keep your mantis interested in hunting.
  • Live Prey: Always provide live prey to encourage natural hunting behaviors and exercise.
  • It’s best not to give the mantis more than two crickets that are about the same size at once. Instead, you can feed it one cricket every other day, and that should be enough.
  • Monitor Health: Adjust the diet and feeding frequency based on your mantis’s activity level and health. A lethargic mantis or one with a lessened appetite may require dietary adjustments.
  • Make sure the food source is not infected with hairworm parasites
  • Hydration: While mantises get most of their water from their prey, occasional misting of their enclosure can provide additional hydration and maintain humidity levels.

Praying Mantis Health and Wellness

Praying mantises may face health issues like not having enough water, not being able to shed their skin properly, and having parasitic infections. You might notice they’re not moving much, not eating, or having trouble shedding. Keep their enclosure clean, make sure there’s enough moisture, and watch for any strange behavior. If you catch problems early and give them the right conditions, you can help prevent a lot of health issues.

Molting is a crucial stage in the growth of praying mantises as they shed their skin to become larger. It’s a delicate time for them, requiring extra care. You should provide them with more humidity and not bother and feed them. They’re vulnerable during this process and need all their concentration to get out of their old skin safely. After molting, give the mantis some space and time to dry off and harden its new skin.

If your mantis loses a limb, it can grow it back, but only when it molts again. Adult mantises can’t regrow lost limbs.

Breeding praying mantis

If you want to breed your praying mantis, do this after they have reached full maturity, which is approximately 5 to 6 months after hatching. Mating in the late summer and early fall can ensure that the female has enough time to lay her eggs before the colder months set in.

Ensure both mantises are well-fed before introducing them to each other to minimize the risk of cannibalism. Slowly introduce the female into the male’s space and watch them carefully. Mating might last for a few hours. Remember, you need to take out the male quickly afterward to prevent the female from eating him.

  • Within a few weeks after mating, the female will lay an egg case. How to tell if a praying mantis is “pregnant”? Well, you’ll see some changes in her behaviors.
  • She may eat more frequently or consume larger prey.
  • As the eggs develop, the female’s abdomen will visibly swell and appear larger than usual.
  • She might become more aggressive or inclined to stay still.

Ways to care for a praying mantis ootheca is just let it be

When the female mantis is ready to lay her eggs, she will start searching actively for a good spot. She’ll check out her surroundings more carefully than usual, often climbing to higher spots in her space.

How to care for a praying mantis egg case? During this stage, you shouldn’t touch or do anything. All you need to do is monitor temperature and humidity closely and make sure they are maintained 75-80°F (24-27°C) and at 60-70%.

Lifespan and Longevity Tips

The lifespan of a praying mantis depends on its species, some species like the Malaysian shield mantis can live for 1.5 – 2 years, while others can live for 6 – 8 months. Generally, their life expectancy is about a year when in captivity. So, how to tell if a praying mantis is dying? If your mantis is about to reach the end of its life, you can see these signs:

  • The mantis stops eating or shows little interest in food.
  • It becomes less active, possibly appearing lethargic or staying on the ground of its enclosure. It may become too weak to eat food even though you feed it directly.
  • It loses weight, lacks coordination, or cannot perch properly. It might seem more tired, struggling to hold its abdomen up and keeping its wings folded.

How to save a dying praying mantis? If your mantis’s time is coming, there’s nothing you can do much to help it. If your mantis is sick, you should talk to someone who has experience taking care of mantises or ask the mantis communities on Quora, Reddit, or Facebook.

To maximize their longevity, you can:

  • Provide a stable environment with optimal temperature and humidity specific to their species’ natural habitat.
  • Keep their living area clean and safe from anything harmful. Regular cleaning enclosure can prevent disease and give your mantis a healthy living environment.
  • Feed them regularly with suitable food and make sure you don’t feed them parasite-infected insects
  • Ensure they have enough room to move around and things to keep them interested.
  • While praying mantises can be handled, you shouldn’t do it too regularly. This can cause them stress. If you want to hold your mantis, do it gently. Let the mantis climb onto your hand at its own pace and avoid handling it when it’s molting or right after eating.

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