Praying mantis is peculiar in so many ways. They don’t only surprise us with their stunning looks, but they also exhibit very interesting behavior.
You’ve definitely heard that a female praying mantis can eat the male after mating – but does that always happen?
Can you keep two praying mantis together in an enclosure? In most cases, this is not a very good idea. In fact, this is the first thing you will learn if you decide to start keeping multiple mantises as pets.
However, some mantis species are more communal than others and can actually cohabitate in the same enclosure.
Here is everything you need to know about keeping two or more mantis together.
Can two praying mantis live together?
Have you ever seen a swarm of mantis? Or a family of mantis? You probably haven’t, unless you’ve witnessed nymph hatching. That’s because mantis are very solitary creatures.
In nature, the only these insects spend extended time together is in the ootheca, while they are still eggs.
One ootheca can contain anywhere from 30 to a couple of hundreds of tiny mantis, but as soon as they hatch, they will disperse.
Once they find a suitable spot, mantids prefer not to move very much. In fact, they are very territorial and can spend their whole lives around the same bush, for example.
In nature, the only time when two mantis come together intentionally is when mating (and that’s not always a very peaceful encounter either).
As you can see, it is not natural for mantis to live together in a confined space. For two mantis to spend a life together peacefully is possible, but actually quite rare. But what happens if two mantis are housed together?
Do praying mantis always eat each other?
Cannibalism is a common phenomenon among mantis, but that doesn’t mean that a mantis will fight to death every time it meets an individual of its own species.
What mantis are famous for is, of course, sexual cannibalism, where the female eats the male after mating, but actually larger mantis will sometimes eat smaller members of their own species too. If they are hungry enough, it seems.
“Adult praying mantids are solitary and territorial, but they do not have a high propensity for eating their mates. The mantids in the study that led to this common myth were underfed specimens.” – Kate Crumley, Extension Entomology
Still, as long as they are well-fed, mantis don’t necessarily eat each other. The tendency towards cannibalism depends on the species too.
Some species of mantis seem to be much more peaceful towards the members of their own species, while some are more aggressive.
Even in species where sexual cannibalism is common, males can fight back, and research has shown that only a small percentage gets eaten by their partners.
Can I keep male and female mantis together?
While it might work out in some cases, it is generally not advisable to keep a male and a female mantis together in an enclosure.
Will they automatically start trying to eat each other if you do put them together? It depends. In some species, the mantis will not mate and probably not attack each other if kept in the same enclosure until they are adults.
Still, even though they can tolerate each other, most mantis appear to be irritated if another mantis enters their personal space.
The level of tolerance depends on the species and other factors. Hunger and the size of the enclosure can impact the behavior of the mantises.
If kept together, they should be well-fed and the enclosure should be large, with lots of objects to perch on or hide behind.
When a female and a male mantis reach the adult stage, they can be housed together to promote breeding. This is usually done when two weeks have passed from the moment the mantids have reached the adult stage.
The female mantis sometimes eats the male. It can happen before or after mating, or even during. Sometimes, the male will survive. If you want to keep the two mantis alive after mating, you should separate them again.
Not sure how to tell whether your mantis is male or female? The sure-fire way to know is by counting segments on the abdomen (“belly”) of the mantis.
The abdomen of a female mantis will consist of 6 segments, while on a male mantis there will be 8. You can see the segments clearly if you look at the underside of the belly.
Click here to learn more about keeping praying mantis as pets.
Will baby praying mantis eat each other?
While there is always a chance that mantis will eat each other, babies are typically less ferocious than adults. When they first hatch from the ootheca, mantis nymphs will typically not have a huge appetite.
They would rather feast on fruit flies and the like than on members of their species.
The exact moment that the baby mantis need to be separated is hard to predict. However, as they grow older (and this happens fast) they will become more hungry and aggressive towards their brothers and sisters. You will have the highest chance of keeping baby mantis alive together in an enclosure if the enclosure is large with lots of hiding places and if you provide a constant stream of food. However, the safest method is always keeping each mantis in its own separate container.
What mantis can be kept together?
You might have heard about ‘communal’ species of praying mantis. It is commonly said that some species of mantis are not cannibalistic or that they are communal, but one should keep in mind that these are not absolutes.
Every species of mantis can (and probably will) eat a member of its species if the conditions are right. Research has shown that the most relevant factor there is hunger.
A hungry mantis will often attack another mantis, while one with lots of food and space probably won’t.
Still, the experience of many mantis keepers has shown that some species do tend to do well together. Below is a list of the best ‘communal’ mantis species to keep as pets. Just keep in mind that risk is always involved.
Ghost mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa) is the most common recommendation for those looking to keep two or more mantis together. They are not only fairly peaceful but also stunningly beautiful and relatively easy to care for.
Mantis belonging to the genus Miomantis are also said to be fairly communal, but the results can vary from species to species.
Miomantis paykullii, referred to as Egyptian Mantis or Egyptian Pygmy Mantis, is said to be especially tolerant to members of its own species. However, cannibalism can still occur in absence of food.