Praying mantis care in general (basics)
To keep a praying mantis in a terrarium you should make the following purchases:
- Enclosure with two (!) ventilation areas (to prevent too high humidity)
- Set-up: branches / plants, preferably gauze on lid
- Plant sprayer for water supply
- Feeder insects: flies, crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, moths etc.
- Eventually: feeding tweezers
For heat-loving species additionally: warming lamp or heating mat (and possibly thermometer and hygrometer).
Of course, you won’t need the enclosure if you keep your mantis free on a plant.
Group or single housing
As praying mantises feed on other living insects, there is a general risk that they will eat each other. Due to this risk of cannibalism, individual housing is generally recommended. For the different species, the aggressiveness (= cannibalism danger) is divided into “low”, “medium” and “high”, check it in the shop or lexicon under “General Information”. Species with “low” aggressiveness are often kept together without loss in groups, for the species with “medium” aggressiveness a separation from L2 / L3 is recommended.
For keeping most praying mantises, enclsoures with the dimensions 20 x 20 x 30 cm (LxWxH) have proved to be suitable, in which one adult (because of cannibalism) or several juveniles have enough space. In some species, even the adult animals are less aggressive and can be kept together, for example, the Ghost mantis Phyllocrania paradoxa (but cannibalism can occur always!). For large species enclosures of at least 30 x 30 x 30 cm should be used. To avoid too high humidity, the enclosure should have at least two ventilation areas, e.g. one in front and one in the lid. The commercially available “spider cubes” with only one ventilation area above are therefore not suitable. In addition, the lining of the lid with gauze has proven to be advantageous because many species like to hang upside down on it. When setting up with branches and plants, keep in mind that there is also room for skinning/moulting. A praying mantis needs about twice the body length down to make a successful moult. The bottom of the terrarium can be covered with earth, gravel, sand, moss or kitchen paper. To reach an elevated temperature, a small halogen spotlight is often enough, but even neon tubes can emit enough heat. In order to increase the humidity spray depending on the species between two times a day and every three days with a plant sprayer. Spray on animals as well and surroundings. It is advisable to spray in the evening, so that there is a high humidity at night and in the morning and thus optimal conditions for moultings. The moulting usually takes place in the twilight hours. The temperature can be checked with a thermometer and the humidity can be checked with a hygrometer. In contrast to the commonly held opinion that it should not be below 18 ° C at night, so far I have had no problems with lower night temperatures.
Smaller instars are often raised in smaller enclosures, as you have to offer less food. The feeder insects should often “cross the path” of the praying mantis, as the praying mantises are lurking hunters.
Food and water
All varieties and non-toxic insects (attention to privet-eating phasmids!) and spiders can be fed. Everything is caught up to their own body length. But beware with big crickets! These can nibble at mantises in unobserved moments and hurt dangerously. In addition, crickets tend to hide on the ground, unlike the praying mantis lurking for prey in the upper part of the enclosure. Some types of mantids are more sensitive to the diet and should be fed appropriately. For example, insect prayers lurking in branches or blossoms are suitable for flying insects, whereas ground-praying praying mantises should rather be fed with crawling insects. A cheap and well-digestible diet is, for example, Blue or Greenbottle flies, which develop from maggots that can be purchased in fishing stores. Flies can also be fed with honey so that the praying mantis receive even more energy and vitamins. Dusting the food with vitamin powder is not necessary and UV light is not essential.
How much or how often you should feed a praying mantis depends on the size of the animals. Generally, overfeeding is seldom possible. When it is full they simply fight off feeder insects. The thickness of the abdomen (belly) makes it easy to recognize the nutritional status. If it is clearly round and not flattened, a praying mantis can survive for several days without food. Large species can normally survive longer than a week without food. Attention, the cannibalism rate increases naturally in times with scarce food supply!
Mantises in nature do not drink from water accumulations on the ground, so a water bowl in the enclosure will not be accepted. They quench their thirst by absorbing drops of water that form through rain or morning dew. I did not have any bad experiences spraying the animal directly with a plant sprayer. On the contrary, water drops are often taken directly from the fang arms.
How often an animal has to be fed always depends on the size of it. As a rule of thumb, one fly per day or one grasshopper per week. The decisive factor is the thickness of the abdomen. This should always be clearly round (“well filled”). Food recommendations for different types & stadiums in the mantis lexicon.
Site remaining and robust mantid species (such as the Indian giant mantis Hierodula membranacea) are often kept free on a plant indoors. This plant should be about 10 cm away from the wall, other plants or curtains, etc., as a praying mantis occasionally moves upwards or horizontally, but rarely downwards. From the 5th larval stage (L5), most species are already relatively site remaining and change location only when very hungry or thirsty. However, only females are suitable for free-range keeping in the adult stage, since adult males might fly around when they reach sexual maturity in search of females. If the room temperature does not correspond to the minimum temperature of the species, this can be increased with a spotlight, which is aimed at the plant. The plant should have stable structures to which the praying mantis can cling (e.g., a Ficus benjamini). Feeder insects can be offered directly with tweezers. For water intake, the fang arms and / or the surrounding of the animal should be sprayed wet with a plant sprayer. Too low humidity can be compensated by frequent spraying (up to 2 times a day).