Have you encountered a beautiful mantis specimen and thought it would be nice to keep it as a pet? It happened to many. While purchasing mantises or their eggs is common practice, catching one in the wild is just more adventurous.
Well, yes, you can definitely keep a wild praying mantis as a pet. In fact, these insects make for wonderful pets and are fascinating to watch. All you need to do is ensure a proper enclosure for your mantis and feed it on a regular basis so it can enjoy a long life
The only thing that could be stopping you from keeping a wild mantis is local legislation. Keeping mantises is generally not forbidden, though, but it is sometimes the case with certain protected species.
3 Reasons Why Keeping a Wild Praying Mantis Is a Great Idea
Keeping a wild mantis is not only doable, but also a very exciting and educating experience, especially if you have never kept a mantis before. These natural predators are one of the best insects to keep as pets.
Here are some of the reasons for keeping a wild mantis as a pet is a great idea:
#1 Catching One Is Easy
In most corners of the world, you’ll be able to find a mantis in the wild fairly easily. All you need to do is open your eyes and pay a lot of attention. The thing about mantises is that they often prefer to stay hidden, so they will choose a background similar to their colour. You’ll usually find green and brown mantises hanging around bushes, on branches and sometimes in the leaves on the ground. Since mantises usually hatch in early spring, your best chances of catching one start after that.
To catch a wild mantis, you’ll probably want to use a jar or a similar container. You’ll also need something to close the jar with that will let enough air inside. The easiest way is to secure a piece of cling wrap over the top (perhaps use a rubber band) and poke holes in it.
Once you’ve found your mantis, all you need to do is get it inside the jar without scaring it off. Since mantises are usually quite calm this is not very difficult to do. You might try catching it with the jar, or you can gently pick up the mantis with your hand. Use gloves in that case if you want to avoid getting bitten. Mantises are not poisonous, but they can sometimes bite. You’ll want to make sure to touch only the thorax or the abdomen of the mantis (that means, the main part of its body). Avoid touching the legs, or the head as mantises are gentle and can be easily hurt.
If you manage to do this, you’ll have your new pet.
#2 They Are Fascinating to Watch
While a mantis might not seem that interesting from the first sight, once you keep them in an enclosure you’ll begin to notice how fascinating they are. Mantises have been described as cats of the bug world. They are clean, they are wise, and they have their own character. Watching a mantis stalk its prey is something you must experience in order to understand it.
#3 You Can Learn a Lot
Keeping a wild mantis let’s you learn more about these insects and their life cycle. When you adopt a local mantis, you’ll also be learning more about the natural world around you. Keeping a mantis is a great experiment for kids to introduce them to the world of bugs. However, you really don’t have to be a child in order to enjoy keeping a mantis!
Can You Tame a Wild Praying Mantis?
What taming means when it comes to a mantis is hard to define. However, wild mantises can definitely adapt to human presence. They are known to be actually quite tame. Sometimes they can even learn to stay on your hand or eat from a spoon (not every mantis will do that though). When you catch a mantis in the wild, it might take some for it to get acclimated to the new environment. It could be scared of your movements, and likewise it might surprise you with the speed of its own movements. With time, though, they tend to be pretty timid, or, in the ‘worst’ case, disinterested with your presence.
Is It Illegal to Keep a Praying Mantis as a Pet?
No, keeping a mantis that you found in the wild is (most likely) not illegal. The rumor on this comes from the laws in some states that prohibit the keeping of exotic mantis species. In some cases, special permits are required for keeping exotic mantis species.
When it comes to keeping a wild mantis, there is probably nothing preventing you. Mantises, in general, are not endangered species. However, in some countries certain species of mantids can have a protected status, so you might want to check local legislation, just to be on the safe side. In Germany, for example, catching Mantis religiosa is forbidden. Still, many countries don’t even have any laws covering the question of keeping a wild mantis (which means it’s allowed).
Legal issues aside, any people wonder – is it ok to keep a mantis found in nature? This is an interesting question and one that is rarely discussed. Keeping a wild animal like a wolf or a fox would start heated discussions, but keeping a bug seems to be an area no one really talks about.
Well, there is really nothing wrong with keeping a mantis you found in the area where you live. If you find the mantis in the autumn, you can also extend its life by keeping it as a pet. As temperatures drop, the mantis would die if left outside in that case.
Most Common Mantis in the Wild
In order to find out how to properly care for your newly-caught mantis, you will need to understand which species it is. Here is how to recognize the 3 most common mantis species:
The European mantis (mantis religiosa) is one of the most common and widespread species from the family of mantids. It is pretty much what most of us imagine when we think of a mantis. Although it’s called ‘European’ mantis religiosa can be found in Asia, Africa and North America.
The European mantis is typically bright green, although some of them can assume various shades of yellow and brown too. The females are usually about 8 cm long with the males being somewhat smaller.
You’ll recognize the European mantis specifically by the marks on its front legs. At the top of their front legs, these mantises have distinct black spots with a white circle in the middle (could also be yellow). The mantis will display those spots when scared along with spreading its wings. They are meant to resemble a large eye.
Little known fact: Mantis religiosa is the official state insect of Connecticut.
Carolina mantis (stagmomantis carolina) is a species native to North and South America. It is widespread in the United States.
The body of this mantis follows a typical silhouette with a prominent triangular head and large eyes. It is fairly similar to the European mantis, but it’s somewhat smaller (females are around 6 cm long, with males being a bit smaller). The color of the Carolina mantis can vary from green to gray to brown.
The color of the Carolina mantis will actually depend on the environment it was born in. This mantis can also adjust the color every time it molts.
There is quite a big difference between males and females of the Carolina mantis. The males are not only smaller, but also thinner. They also have long wings and often use them to fly. The female Carolina mantis, on the other hand, has a fairly bulky abdomen (or the “belly”). Her wings are shorter too and they usually can’t fly.
The Carolina mantis is the official state insect of South Carolina.
The Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis) looks fairly similar to the two species described above. However, it is the largest one with females often being more than 10 cm long. The color scheme is also similar to the European and Carolina mantis – often green but varying into the shades of brown and gray.
Besides the size, the key feature that will let you recognize a Chinese mantis is a green stripe on the edge of its wings. This stripe is bright green and it’s very prominent if the mantis is brown. If the mantis is green, then the stripes will be harder to notice.
Don’t let the name fool you, the Chinese mantis is not found only in China. It is actually very widespread in the US too, among other countries.
Adopting a wild mantis is a great way to learn more about these creatures. However, catching a mantis is just one part of the job. Once you have your new pet, you’ll also need to identify the exact species and provide suitable conditions (and food) for it to keep on living in captivity. This is not terribly difficult, but we recommend you do your research in advance. Mantids are fairly sensitive, so if you take the trial and error approach you could easily end up accidentally killing your new pet.
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