Praying mantis make wonderful pets. In fact, if you’ve never kept a mantis, we recommend this to everyone, no matter the age. Watching these gentle and beautiful carnivores living in an enclosed space is an exciting experience.
But is keeping mantis as pets difficult? Not necessarily. The conditions to be met will depend on the species, but in general, these insects don’t require too much attention as long as you provide a suitable habitat and enough food.
This is especially true if you start with one of the beginner-friendly species.
Here is everything you need to know in order to start keeping a praying mantis as a pet!
Getting a Mantis
Well, if you want to keep a praying mantis as a pet, the first thing you’ll need to do is definitely get a mantis. However, we don’t recommend taking this literally.
It’s best to go through this guide first, understand what your mantis will need, and prepare all the necessary materials, including a proper habitat and food.
To do this right, though, you’ll need to know the species and the life stage of your new pet.
When it comes to mantis, you can easily buy one from a pet store, but you can also catch one in the wild. If buying a mantis from a pet store, most likely you’ll be able to do it online.
Popular species like the Chinese Mantis are often easily available. If you are a beginner, Chinese Mantis is definitely a good mantis to start with.
Some other species that are easy to care for include the African Mantis and Giant Asian Mantis.
You’ll probably be able to buy many kinds of mantis if you look hard enough, but make sure to consider whether it’s the right species.
Species that are not native to the area you live in should not be released in the wild so as not to disturb your local ecosystem.
Moreover, keeping exotic mantis species is illegal or requires a special permit in some places. If you want to venture into the world of exotic mantids, make sure to check the local regulations.
Catching your own mantis, on the other hand, can be a really fun endeavor. Mantis are often fairly easy to find, if you look carefully and at the right time.
You are most likely to find a mantis in the wild during the summer. Look closely around bushes and trees.
If you do find one, you’ll need some kind of container to catch it. A glass jar works well, but make sure to bring a lid with holes poked through so the mantis doesn’t suffocate inside the jar.
You can also often buy the ootheca (that is, the eggcase) of a mantis. Anywhere from about 50 to a couple of hundred mantids will hatch from this.
Probably, not everyone will survive to adulthood. If you are a beginner, we recommend getting an older nymph, rather than an ootheca. Those are much easier to care for, at least the first time you do it.
Taking care of praying mantis is not terribly difficult or work intensive. However, there are still some basic principles you have to follow in order to succeed.
Here is how to ensure your new pet mantis has the living conditions it needs:
Unlike other pets, mantis cannot simply be brought into your house. They will need a home of their own. In other words, you’ll need some kind of enclosure.
You can buy a terrarium for this purpose, or you can upcycle any large container you have laying around. The container should be transparent so you’ll get to see the mantis and the insect gets enough light inside.
When it comes to size, the rule of thumb is to look for an enclosure that is at least as long as 3 times the body length of the adult mantis (the length will depend on the species).
You don’t have to measure it down to the millimeter, but the enclosure should be fairly spacious with enough space for the mantis to move around freely.
Now, you can’t just drop the mantis in an empty jar or terrarium. It will need some furniture. First, there needs to be something on the bottom of the enclosure (commonly called ‘substrate’).
You can use pretty much anything, from soil to sawdust to sand or even tissue paper. This will make the enclosure feel more natural and also stabilize the humidity levels over time.
This is because the humidity will get trapped in the substrate from where it will dissipate slowly over time.
All mantis like to perch on twigs and branches, or sometimes hang from them or hide behind leaves. To keep the mantis happy, you need to provide such opportunities so add some twigs, leaves, or flowers to the enclosure too.
That’s mostly it – a mantis doesn’t need much else.
Temperature & Humidity
Not, even though you made a visually perfect habitat for your mantis, you’ll still need to take care of it. Namely, you need to make sure that the temperature and humidity levels inside the enclosure imitate those in the natural habitat of your mantis.
The requirements will depend a lot on the species. After all, some come from tropical rainforests, others live in the desert, and yet others live in your backyard.
For beginners, we do recommend getting a species that doesn’t require too much care and can live at room temperature (like the beginner-friendly species mentioned above).
With exotic species, you’ll need to take extra care and sometimes even need to invest in extra equipment to keep the living conditions acceptable.
Well, this is one of the reasons why praying mantis are awesome pets. They don’t need you to clean after them. It’s true, mantis don’t really produce almost any waste, and cleaning the enclosure is not required often.
The one thing you might want to get rid of is half-eaten bugs if your mantis decides to leave them around. Those can turn smelly quickly.
Otherwise, you can simply clean out the terrarium every couple of months or as needed. To do this, get the mantis and all the objects out of the enclosure and simply use running water to wash it out.
Do not use detergents as the residue could harm the mantis.
Once your mantis is all settled in, you will need to start providing food for your mantis. All mantis eat only live insects. If the insects are dead, the mantis won’t be interested in eating them.
Mantis will eat almost any living insect (they even eat members of their own species if hungry enough). A common starting food for baby mantids are fruit flies, but grown mantises happily eat crickets, flies, grasshoppers, cockroaches and more.
The key is feeding prey that is the right size. As a rule of thumb, try to find insects that are about ⅓ of the length of the body of your own mantis.
Unlike other pets, mantis don’t need to be fed multiple times per day. Depending on the species, you will need to feed them anywhere from once per day to only once every four days.
To feed your mantis, you can simply put the insect inside the enclosure and watch. Over time, a mantis can learn to be fed with tweezers and even eat from a spoon.
How to Properly Handle a Praying Mantis
Mantis are generally calm creatures which makes them great pets. They are typically docile and can get used to humans.
This doesn’t always happen quickly, though, and sometimes they might be startled by your hand. Don’t worry, the mantis can’t hurt you, but you need to be gentle inorder to avoid hurting the mantis.
When you want to move a praying mantis, never just grab it, especially not by the leg or wing. These insects are fragile and might even lose a limb that way.
The easiest way to pick up a mantis is by letting it crawl onto your hand. If you have to, you can touch its abdomen (the main part of the mantis’ body) but do it as gently as possible. Most mantis will happily crawl onto your hand.
In this quick guide, we’ve covered the basics of keeping a praying mantis as a pet. It’s all you need to know to start growing your first mantis, but there is so much more to learn about these wonderful creatures.
Learning will be much more fun with a live praying mantis by your side, so go ahead and give it a try.
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:3 Best Kind of Praying Mantis to Keep as Pets
Can You Keep Wild Praying Mantis as Pets?
What Do Praying Mantis Eat – The Definitive Answer!
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