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Orchid Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis Care Guide

(Generalised for the hobby not Genus/Species specific)

 

Most mantis need to be kept at a higher temperature to the UK as they mainly originate from Africa, Asia, South America and other warmer climates. 

This may mean keeping them in a room with a space heater to ensure it's warm all the time or using a heat mat (with mat stat) or heat bulb (with dimming thermostat), particularly in the colder months. 

A thermostat is a necessity. You simply cannot not attach one to your heating equipment or you are risking your new friends life and a possible fire hazard.

Different species will have different temperature requirements. So make sure to delve into the species specifics either online or via a facebook group. 

Praying Mantis Advice, Care & Chat 

 

If using heat mats, ensure they’re placed on the side of the enclosure and not underneath so they can move away from the heat.

  

Mantis don’t do well in high humidity environments for prolonged periods of time, it is good practice to spray once a day on an evening (some may need spraying more or less often depending on species. Ensure you allow their enclosures to fully dry out in between misting) and check species specific humidity. Which can vary between nymph and adult of the same species.

 

A water bottle on a mist setting with spring water is recommended (tap water has added chemicals that may harm your mantis). I personally use Repti Safe which gets rid of all those nasties. 

Mantis will drink this water from the leaves or the droplets on the sides of their enclosures, but also get water from the foods that they eat.  

It is important to have a thermometer and hygrometer in your mantis enclosure to ensure correct temperature and humidity levels are  maintained.  


 

Adult size & Gender Determination  

 

Males tend to be smaller than females. This is more pronounced in certain species, for example an orchid mantis,  where the adult male is about half the size of the adult female. The sexual dimorphism between the male and female orchid is also extremely noticeable.

Depending on species, mantis can vary from 3cm when fully grown, right up to 17cm, so best to do your research on the specific species you’re interested in. This is particularly important when choosing which enclosure to go for.  

 

Most become adults at I7 for males and I8 for females but there are certain species e.g. African lined mantis  that both the male and female reach adulthood at I10.  Orchid males hit adult at I7 and the female I9.

You can determine gender around L3/4 (species dependent) by counting the abdominal segments. Males have 7/8  abdominal segments and females have 5/6. However this method is not reliable until after I3/4, the difference in segments before this is not guaranteed.

Some species have other signs that help determine gender, such as shields and crowns, so better to research the individual species.

 

Feeding  

 

Mantis eat predominantly flying prey, progressing from smaller fruit flies

Drosophila melanogaster (Small) to Drosophila hydei (Large) when first hatched to approx I3 (Species specific), to green bottles and then blue bottle flies.  

They may also enjoy wax worms and wax moths as a treat.  

Some mantis will also eat small or medium locusts as they get bigger. Supervision with locusts is required as they can and will nibble your mantis as it moults if you are not careful. Always remove prey if not eaten within x amount of time.  

Mealworms are not recommended due to their chitin (skin) being difficult to digest for the mantis.

Crickets should never be fed to your mantis as they carry diseases that may harm your mantis and they’ve also been known to bite or even kill mantis.  

 

There is no set rule for how often mantis should feed, go by the size of their abdomen. A flatter abdomen  indicates hunger, a satisfied mantis will have a plump abdomen.

 

I feed my adults twice weekly, nymphs 3x a week and hatchlings every other day.

 

I always like to encourage a mixed and varied diet for mantis as I believe it improves health and fertility.

List of used foods -

 

Fruit flies

House flys

Curly wing flys

Green bottles

Blue bottles

Locusts

Dubias

Moths

Waxworm and moth (treat)

 

I’ve also fed maggots with no consequential side effects.


 

Moulting

 

Signs of an impending moult are a wide stance at the top of their enclosure, lack of movement, loss of appetite and pulsating of the abdomen.

 

Moulting is the process of shedding the exuvia and replacing the exoskeleton and it is how mantis grow.  

Mantis tend to moult on average every 3 weeks. Some moult more often than this and can moult as often as every 2  weeks, others may even go 4 or more weeks. The longest moult seems to be between Sub Adult to Adult.

A mantis requires 6-9 moults to reach adulthood dependent on species and  

gender. You know they’ve reached adulthood when they grow their wings.  

 

The time between moults can vary due to the age of your mantis, the  

temperature and humidity you’re keeping them at, the species of mantis and even  

how much and how often they’ve been eating.  

The whole process can take 20-30 minutes, unless it's moulting into  

adulthood which will take significantly longer due to needing to ‘inflate’ its wings.  

It’s important not to disturb this process as it can cause a mismoult which  

can lead to injury or death.  

After a mantis has moulted it is not fully dry for 24-48 hours (less time in younger mantis and longer the closer to adulthood).   It is important to wait until your mantis is fully dried before trying to feed or handle them, do not be tempted to rush this process as they are still very fragile at this time. 


 

Housing  

 

A well ventilated 32oz cup with a mesh top is sufficient most mantis for the first few moults dependent on size. At which point they may need moving to a bigger enclosure.  

A general guide is the enclosure height should be at least 3 times taller than the mantis and twice as wide.   

A smaller enclosure may mean the mantis does not have enough room to moult which can cause injury or death.   

Acrylic or mesh enclosures are best. 

Some species need entirely mesh enclosures (for example thistle mantis), a butterfly mesh cube of appropriate size for your species is an inexpensive way to house these types of mantis. 

You can also buy some specific acrylic mantis enclosures ready with mesh/organza tops.  

Whichever option you choose, you must ensure the tops of the enclosure are mesh/organza. 

This gives ventilation but also allows the mantis a place to hang to moult from.  

In the bottom of the enclosure, you can use kitchen roll or substrate such as coco fibre, ensuring you are cleaning it out regularly to prevent mould or bacteria growth.  

Decoration branches or twigs should be bought from a shop where it will be ready treated. If you bring it out  of your garden, ensure it is washed and then put in the oven for 1 hour at 100°C to ensure you kill any pests or bacteria. 

I personally prefer a bio active environment which is a self cleaning contained world for your mantis.

Some flower mantis have difficulty climbing the sides of acrylic enclosures so mesh needs to be added to the sides, or kept in a mesh enclosure. Again check species specific requirements.

Your enclosure must have adequate cross ventilation as their environment being too humid for prolonged periods can kill your mantis.  

 

Keep their enclosures minimalist with a few places to hang from until adult to prevent obstacles to moulting.  They can be kept in a bigger enclosure from earlier but may need to be moved to a smaller container for feeding to ensure they are not having problems catching their prey.  

Mantis are better kept individually due to high risk of cannibalism, some may be kept communally like Ghost mantis, but need to be kept full to reduce the risk of cannibalism. However, I cannot stress this enough that cannibalism is still likely, especially around the Sub Adult stages.

If housing multiple mantis separately but in the same room, ensure they are not next to each other or you  create a ‘screen’ between them as if they can see each other they may rub their faces against their enclosures to  get a better look, causing an injury called ‘eye rub’.  

*Never house a mantis in a glass container, this does not allow for adequate ventilation and will ultimately kill a mantis* 

 

On a personal note, if you want a mantis to thrive and not just survive then there enclosure, heating, humidity and diet need to be correct. Anything less and they are just surviving.

If you pop them on top of a reptile tank because it's slightly warmer and believe that is adequate I'm afraid it is not. Just like a reptile if they get cold you are slowing down their life span and their metabolism (Ability to digest food).

So please look into the needs of your new friend well. Thank you.

Mantis House

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