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Old 22-06-2011, 03:38 PM
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Default So you want a praying mantis?

Well there has been a lot of questions about mantids recently, I thought I'd make a post about my experiences with them, so hopefully it will help people decide which one is best for them!

Part 1, housing

Rule 1: Always use a tank that is 3 times the size of the mantis.

If you decide to get a young nymph (or 10) you are able to keep them in a plastic pint glass. I get all of mine from a pound shop, you get them in groups of about 8-10. I then go to any material shop (can also use charity shops) and get some fine material. It needs to be fine as the fruit flies will escape out of it, I found out the hard way! See a picture of the material I use below this section [1.1a/b]. Then get an elastic band, and put it round the top so it looks something like this [1.2]. Then get something sharp, I use nail scissors as they have a point and cut a small hole in the material. After this get an old sponge (or a new one, only like 25p from wilkinsons) and cut it into a bit of a square and place it in the hole. This can be used for feeding and watering so you don't have to take the elastic band off every time. [1.3]

Next up is for medium mantids(some species don't grow as big), they will grow out of the pint cup pretty quick, for this stage I just use anything in the shops I can find, this means jugs and pot from wilkinsons, one I like had a white lid for £1.65, but anything can be used as long as it is 3 times the size of the mantis [1.4]. I just cut a section of the tub out and glue gun the material onto it. You can either do this or get more of your material and put it over the top with an elastic band.

For large mantids you can use any tank/ tub as long as they have enough room to move and catch their food, but also not too much space so they are not able to catch any. A popular choice for people is a Faunarium, you will need to adjust the size accordingly depending on the species as some grow a lot larger than others. This means some will be fine with a medium one, others will need large. You can also keep them in plastic sweet jars, which I get from a shop near mine, if a place sells sweets you can always go in and ask, they usually give them out for free. For these we cut out a section and glue in mesh again [1.4]

1.1a


1.1b


1.2


1.3


1.4



Part 2, substrate

Most things can be used for substrate, coir, compost, vermaculate [2.1], even tissue paper [2.2], as long as it can retain humidity. You only need about a couple of centimeters of coir at the bottom, they don't need a lot it is mainly for retaining humidity.

2.1


2.2


Part 3, furnishings

Rule 2: Always have something the mantis is able to climb so they can reach the top to the bottom, I use a stick from the garden but some use a piece of tissue along the side.

Rule 3: Never over crowd the tank

For the pint pots I only use 1 stick the length of the pint pot going from top to bottom, this then means they can get to the top where they mainly like hanging off, also it doesn't over crown the pot so they can moult fine. [3.1] As the pot gets bigger I put in a few more sticks, but don't over crowd the pot as moulting issues can still happen. You can also add in fake plants or any other decoration you wish.

3.1


Part 5, feeding

Rule 4: Always check before buying what your mantis species eats, some can only be fed on flying food.

I feed my mantids every 2 days as long as we have flies available, but they are able to go a week without food easily, if they have a fat abdomen it can be longer. The recommended time to feed mantis is every 3-4 days but I like to keep mine nice and fed up. It is a myth that you can feed mantids till they explode, when they are full they will simply stop feeding.

For small nymphs you can feed on fruit flies, if they are really small flightless fruit flies. Although most will take flightless, these are so much easier than the ones that fly. To get them into the pint cup you can use a pooter [5.1]. For this you can cut a hole in the culture and stick the clear end in, some flies will run into the clear tube, then take it out (putting your finger over the hole on the pooter) and blow on the blue end while pointing the clear end into your mantis tub. Sounds complicated but it really is easy!

For blue bottles and green bottles we go to any fishing tackle shop and get green bottle and blue bottle maggots. I use the plain coloured ones as I'm worried about the dyes in the coloured ones, although many argue it is fine. It is down to your personal choice, although I feel it's better to be safe than sorry! I get half a pint at a time and keep them in the fridge, this lasts us months and we have 27 mantids! Many don't like the idea of keeping them in the freezer but they are in a sealed box and they don't hatch in the fridge. We take out a handful every few days and this means we have a constant supply, although sometimes they takes a while to hatch. You'll need to keep them somewhere warm them you take them out and within a week you should have flies, but it's usually about 2 weeks for blue bottles.

You can also feed brown crickets locusts and roaches, but there have been known deaths caused by crickets, so using these will be at your own risk, sometimes feeding some crickets isn't bad, but personally I wouldn't use them as the only part of the diet. Also some mantids e.g flowers can only be fed on flying food, so none in this category can be used.

You can also use food from the garden you can catch yourself although there is always the worry of pesticides, I personally have never seen this problem and have safely fed mantids on food from my garden. For this you can catch flies, moths, nothing that can harm your mantid e.g bees or ladybirds.

It's best to check before hand what kind of food your mantis will be fed on, then you are able to check the shops around to to make sure you are able to cater for it's needs.

5.1


Part 6, watering

I water my mantids when I'm doing the feeding. This is every 2 days and I use a garden mister from B&Q/ wilkinsons. You can buy a bottle used for seedlings which gives off a mist and is perfect. I just give them a squirt and make sure the substrate is damp and there is a few droplets on the side so the mantis can drink. For some species, e.g Gongylus gongylodes, they prefer dryer conditions so once a week would be better for a very light misting. It's always best to check how much humidity your mantis requires.

Part 7, heat

For most mantids they are ok at room temperature but there are some, e.g orchid, that are best kept at higher temperatures. For this we just use a heat mat and place the tank near it. Although generally as long as your house isn't freezing your mantis will be fine without added heat. Again it is best to check what kind of heat your mantis requires before getting it, just to be sure.

Now we've covered the housing it's onto the actual mantids!

Part 8, moulting

This is the process mantids go through to get bigger, this is where they will find a high spot and push their way out of their old skin. Before this process your mantis may start acting a bit differently, this means they will refuse food and not move for a long time. Mine generally go without feeding for a day or two but it can be longer. I'm not sure exactly how many moults they have in their lifetime but I think it is around 6-7.

After moulting they will be soft as their exoskeleton hardens so it's best not to offer food for a few days, as they get closer to adult it's best to wait a bit longer to offer food. As they are reaching adulthood I wait around 4 days before offering food.

It's also best not to disturb them right after a moult as you may harm them while they are still soft, although I do give ours a very light mist after a day or two just to give them something to drink.

When you mantis is an adult they will have wings.

Part 9, sexing

It is harder to sex mantids while they are young but generally from 3rd instar onwards you will start being able to tell. It may take longer for some species, it depends on the size. Also some mantids are much easier to sex than others.

Generally females will have 6 abdominal segments and males will have 7 or 8, this is the best way to tell for smaller nymphs. As they mature to adult it will be much easier to tell. The males will be smaller and more slender with wings extending the tip of their abdomen. The females will be much bigger. [9.1]

For some species e.g ghost mantids you can tell the sex a lot easier by looking at the crest on top of their head, the females will have 1 kink [9.2], the males will have 2 [9.3].

9.1 - breeding pair of peacock mantids, the male is much smaller than the female. (Male on top)


9.2


9.3


Part 10, breeding.

First off if you get a group of nymphs and want to try and breed some of them you will need to slow down the males maturing as they will grow faster than the females, they also die quicker as well. To slow ours down we keep them cooler and feed them less, this means feeding every 4 days instead of every 2.

When the female matures you will need to wait around 6 weeks, this will then allow her to reach sexual maturity. This will reduce the chance of her eating the male. There are some signs to look out for, she will start calling, I have never seen this behaviour myself so I couldn't tell you what it looks like! The sign I have seen though is she will start laying ooths, although you don't have to wait until this. As long as you wait the 6 weeks then she should be ready, you can wait longer if you wish.

You only need to mate them the once and get a successful pairing for her to lay lots of fertile ooths. So you won't need to breed them again after every ooth laid, although some people do breed more than once.
- an ooth is an egg case mantids produce, it is different shapes for different mantids but they are quite big so you will be able to see it.

You need to feed the female up until she won't eat any more, and give the male something to eat. I put the female into the males tank, this then means they get to it quicker. You will want to do this initial pairing in a wide open space, we usually just let ours do their thing in our room free, this is so then the male can fly off safely after. Although you can put the male into the females tank, or put them both in a totally different tank.

The actual mating can take days, so you can put some flies in to keep her fed up.

Once they have done the deed and he has flown off you can separate them and put them back into their individual tanks, although you should make sure the female has lots of space and lots of sticks to lay her ooths, if she can't find a good place she won't lay.

This is a general breeding guide, for your individual mantid things may be slightly different, it's always best to do some reading before you actually get them to do the deed.

part 11, ooth care

Ooths can take around 4-6 weeks to hatch, although it is temperature dependant. We keep ours in a box with a heat mat with moss at the bottom. They need to be kept humid and not allowed to dry out, but there needs to be some ventilation to stop any mould growing.

Part 12, choosing your mantis!

Pretty much all mantids are good for beginners, some just have slightly different requirements. I will now list the ones I have which I think I good for beginners.

1. Peacock mantis - Pseudempusa pinnapavonis

A very big mantis, these can also be quite aggressive so it's not really a get out and play with pet. When I had my adult female she drew blood with her front arms when she struck at me once! They have a very impressive threat display, so if you want an angry mantis that will take on very large food, this one is for you!

These can be kept at room temperature fine and fed on any of the food sources mentioned above. You will need a bigger tank as this mantis gets older as they grow fairly big.

Female


Male:


2. Flower mantids - Creobroter sp

There is lots of different mantis under this genus. All are very pretty and stay quite small. I have 8 of these at the moment, 2 different species and they are very good hunters, chasing down food as big as them self. They are also quite docile, I can get these out with no problem.

These don't grow very big and can be kept in a pint cup all their life! Also they can be kept at room temperature, although on the warmer side is better. They can only be fed on flying food though, no crickets!



3. Congo green, African mantids - Sphodromantis aurea, Sphodromantis sp

These are very pretty green mantids and are also very angry! Ours are always showing us these impressive threat display. As we have them lined up often we will see 3 threating at each other. They don't grow massive but are quite big.

They can be kept at room temperature fine, and will take down any food that is put into their tank. You will need a medium sized tank to house these in when adults.

Adult male congo.


4. Ghost mantis - Phyllocrania paradoxa

Very, very docile, the most these will do is look at you funny. These are a lovely species of mantid, one of my favourites. They can also be kept communally although I only recommend this if you have a lot and can afford some losses, the females can decide to pray on the males.

They can be kept in a medium sized tank when adult, they don't grow very big. They will take down crickets as well as flies.






5. Giant Asian - Hierodula membranacea

I have never kept these myself, but I want to! These are also a very hardy species and do grow big. They can be fed on any of the food mentioned earlier.

There are obviously other mantids that can be kept as a beginner, but this is just a short list of the ones I feel that would be perfect for anyone wanting to enter the mantid hobby.

Hope this helps!
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Old 22-06-2011, 03:53 PM
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Awesome read, was really interesting
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Old 22-06-2011, 03:54 PM
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Awesome read, was really interesting
Thanks. ^_^ Took me about 3 hours to write.
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by vivalabam View Post
Thanks. ^_^ Took me about 3 hours to write.


Well it was well worth the time it took, was really infromative
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:07 PM
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Nice one Viva.

I used to know faf all about mantids.

Now I do!
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:30 PM
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The bit about ooths isnt completely right. Ooth hatch time is completely dependent on species and some can take longer than 6 months to hatch.

Or......

Just go here.
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:39 PM
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The bit about ooths isnt completely right. Ooth hatch time is completely dependent on species and some can take longer than 6 months to hatch.
I can't edit it, but thanks for that, it was supposed to say species dependent, guess I forgot to put that bit in.
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:41 PM
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I can't edit it, but thanks for that, it was supposed to say species dependent, guess I forgot to put that bit in.

Report the post, and ask them to correct it
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:48 PM
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Mantids on the whole are very, very easy to keep. The best thing is not to over complicate things.

I've found the easiest way to start is by either housing nymphs in cricket tubs stood on their end or if you want to display them use these.

Also, and I know some people keep them just fine but I'd steer clear from flower mantids or cryptic mantids as a first species. Start on Hierodula sp or Sphodromantis sp and then move onto the others after.
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Old 22-06-2011, 04:49 PM
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I can't edit it, but thanks for that, it was supposed to say species dependent, guess I forgot to put that bit in.
Also a bit explaining IGM numbers would be good because these are used a lot especially with different variations of species.

Thats from Selina lol. Forgot Mark was logged in haha
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