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Breeding of praying mantises - Step by step

1. Sexing

Only a few mantid species can reproduce asexually (parthenogenetically). Normally, at least one male and one female are required for breeding. For this purpose, a gender determination must first be made. In general, a breeding trio of at least one female and two males is recommended (often males are not in mating mood, get eaten before mating etc.)

Check if it is a male or female here!

2. Reaching sexual maturity

In general, the female and male should be put together when both reached sexual maturity. Females are ready in about 4 weeks after their last moult, males about 2 weeks after the last moult (adult stage easily recognized by fully developed wings). Small species need a shorter time, large species need longer. A sure sign of sexual maturity in females is the spraying of pheromones to attract the males. Pheromones are unrecognizable to us humans, but one can recognize it by the typical posture. The abdomen is spread as far as possible from the wings. Pheromones are usually sprayed in the evening and in the morning. Males are often restless when ready for mating, wobble noticeably with the antennae and fly around in circles.

It is also possible to successfully mate females before reaching sexual maturity. Once they are adults, they have the ability to store the sperm of males in their body.

3. Mating

For mating, it is best if both animals are about the same time adult. In particular, males of smaller species have a short lifespan and often lose their mating lust a few weeks after their adult stage. If a female is not mated directly after reaching sexual maturity, she can build an unfertilized ootheca. However, since she builds several oothecae, she can still be easily fertilized after that. If males and females developmental stage is far apart from one another, the development of an animal can be accelerated by a greater supply of food and a higher temperature.

After the male has jumped on the female (attention, feed the female well before!), it can stay there for several hours to days before it goes to action. It pushes his abdomen under the wings of the female and connects to the rear end of the female abdomen. Then the spermatophore (container with seeds of the male) is transferred to the female, which can take several hours, but can also be completed in 15 minutes. Then males and females disconnect again, with the male often sitting on the female for a while to hold off any rivals. The female stores the seeds of the male in the body and excretes the empty spermatophore again. She can also bend forward and eat the spermatophore. The seeds of the male are usually sufficient for the fertilization of several oothecae. For higher breeding success chances, females can be mated again. Some females stop with pheromone spraying when mated, which is a relatively sure sign of successful mating.

It may happen that the female eats the male before, during or after the mating, so it is always recommended to keep at least two males. It may also be that a male simply does not come in a mating mood or, despite obvious mating, does not pass a spermatophore. So it is always a good idea to try a second mating with a second male.

4. Oothecae

Females lay their eggs in the form of oothecae on branches or smooth surfaces (leaves or terrarium walls). This happens regardless of whether a successful pairing has preceded. Even unfertilized females build oothecae from which usually nothing will hatch (at least the species kept at M & M Wüst are not capable of parthenogenesis if not mentioned in the description). The building of oothecae takes place usually in the protection of dusk. An ootheca consists of a more or less thick outer protective cover, which can look like foam and has an insulating effect (against heat / cold). Inside are the eggs. Large species can have more than 200 eggs in one ootheca, smaller ones only 20. If none or only a small amount of animals hatch, it may either be due to failed fertilization or dehydration, overheating or cold. In order to avoid drying out, you should occasionally spray the ootheca and/ or the environment to keep the humidity high. However, beware of moldiness (good ventilation needed). Depending on the temperature, it can take between three and six weeks to hatch (sometimes even longer). For the hatching there should be 5 to 10 cm space downwards, as the larvae release themselves on a thread and skin the first time. Before hatching, oothecae can be carefully detached from the ground and re-hung (needled or glued) in a safe environment.

5. Rearing

Since the larvae get eaten by their parents, they should be reared in a separate enclosure. Spray and feed the animals one day after they hatched. In very small species, I have had good experience with wheat aphides, Collembola or freshly hatched firebrats. In most cases, however, first small and then large Drosophila (fruit flies) are sufficient. Since Drosophila and smaller feeder insects often come through the commercial gauze, fineer fabric have proven to be an additional escape protection. The keeping conditions of the larvae are similar to those of the adult animals. Almost always, however, the young should be reared at a slightly higher humidity. Nymphs of aggressive species can be separated to prevent cannibalism (in general recommended from L3 / L4).