Feeding a praying mantis is a fun and educational way to observe the natural world while caring for an animal. A praying mantis is a very popular predatory insect that is known to have a fierce appetite. The feeding of these animals is very simple when done correctly.
Feeding a praying mantis
Make sure you have the right habitat for food. This can be done within the space of the praying mantis, but make sure it is not a very large space where all the points cannot be reached, so that the praying mantis can reach and eat its prey.
Capture or buy some small live insects. Pet stores generally have some aphids or small insects for food. If you want to be braver, you can take a net for insects and capture them alone.
Choose the right insects to feed your praying mantis. Praying mantises, like humans, change size in their lives and you want to make sure that you will not give them a dam that can overcome it or that it is not suitable for their age. These animals prefer to eat aphids, flies, moths, caterpillars and other insects with a soft interior. Spiders are also allowed if they are less small and dangerous than your mantis.
Put the insect chosen in the habitat of the praying mantis. You can do this by placing insects on a branch or leaf, and leaving them in the mantis space. In the case of flying insects, you should catch them in a cup or a jar and open the lid inside the feeding space, closing it quickly after releasing them.
Feed your mantis regularly by repeating these steps when necessary. Since the praying mantis have great appetites, it is important to feed them with large amounts of insects every two days. If you want, you can also pay attention to the individual food preferences of your mantis.
Remy Lo has been a freelance writer since 2002. He covers a wide range of topics, from politics to personal improvement, and has been published in a literary magazine and several websites.
Where do the mantis live?
Praying mantis is a species that adapts very well to the environment where it lives. Usually perches on branches, leaves and stems, in thickets, humid forests, where its color goes practically unnoticed.
This insect is native to North Africa, Europe, Asia. It was artificially introduced in North America, its presence is now considered worldwide where you can find a temperate climate with a diversity of vegetation.
This insect is most often found in areas of fields and orchards, grasslands or places rarely intervened by man.
The praying mantis prefers deciduous forests and scrubland areas, finding a great variety of them distributed in the different continents of the planet.
Praying mantis feeding
The praying mantis is a carnivorous insect exclusively. The attack technique used by this insect is stalking, remaining absolutely motionless in front of its victims, using its sharp sense of sight and mobility of its head (capable of moving 180º). It keeps its front legs folded up waiting to attack, once it attacks it uses the thorny edges of its legs to grab the victim and be able to ingest it.
This insect does not have a predilection in its feeding, it usually consumes invertebrates such as crickets, grasshoppers, ants, flour worms, flies and although it seems incredible there are reports of Mantis ingesting small mice, hummingbirds and lizards.
Mantis habitat cleaning
Although the mantis does not need great care in terms of hygiene, it is necessary that you have about five minutes each day to spray water and clean the terrarium of the remains of food and of the droppings that they leave, because if you do not, the waste can hinder the movement of the insect and even cause death.
Step 1: Materials for Habitats
Ventilated container - The lid of the container must have at least one side open (see photo above). The size of the slots does not matter since you are going to cover them with cloth or mesh. The minimum size of the container depends on the mature size of the species of mantis to be housed. The length and width of the container must be at least twice the length of the adult mantis, and the height three times that of the mantis. This will provide enough space to move and hunt. The maximum size is more subjective and depends on the species as well. The bigger the cage, the harder the mantis will have to find its food. For species that will not harass their prey and will not fall to the ground, a habitat that is too large can prove fatal.
There are several brands that make good containers - low cost, easy to modify, and available in most pet stores. The photo above is of the brand 'Critter Carriers'. Other growers, especially those with large amounts of mantis, often use plastic cups. These can be found in the supermarket and serve as an ideal and convenient cage for offspring before they become adults. Most mantis should be raised with two cages - one small when they are young, and one larger for adults.
Soft mesh - The mesh has two purposes. The first is to prevent the dam from escaping from the container. The second is to provide the mantis with a surface from which you can move. For offspring and small mantis, a thin cloth can be used. If you find yourself in a bind, you could use a paper towel, but it is not ideal. For an option that will look better, look for a fabric with holes narrow enough to prevent fruit flies from escaping through them. Adult mantises will require a mesh with larger holes because the air flow is better and meshes with large holes create a safer surface from which mantis can move. Getting the mesh size right can be a bit difficult. A mesh that is too thin will be bad for the molt, and on the other hand the mantis can get caught and break the legs in the holes of a mesh that is too wide, and the dams can escape from holes that are too large. Avoid metal meshes, because they can damage the mantis if a sharp part is exposed. I have used a non-slip carpet mesh purchased from Ikea that have soft fibers.
The substrate - The purpose of the substrate is to provide a constant source of moisture to help maintain habitat moisture. Depending on the species, it may be necessary to maintain a constant humidity inside the container. Coconut fiber and paper towels are common substrates. The moss, although it looks great, is usually avoided because it provides a good hiding place for prey. For species that live in dry climates, it is not unusual for the container to be left bare.
Decor - This is up to you, the cultivator. Generally, natural elements are used, but more creative assemblies also exist, such as a cage lined with colored sponges. Depending on the species, the color of the decoration can affect the color of the mantis, which is one of the most interesting and fun aspects of raising the mantis. Avoid using sharp materials and make sure you leave enough space for the mantis to move and move.
Glue - Any glue that is safe for animals can be used in habitat decoration. Some popular types are hot glue and silicone glue. For this instructable, a silicone glue has been used.
Step 2: Habitat Preparation
The first step to configure the habitat is to cut and paste the mesh. Put the mesh on the lid of the container, and using this as a template, cut the mesh with 1-2 "extras on each side. From each corner, cut to the center 1-2" (so that the mesh is flat on the lid ). Fix the mesh to the lid by applying glue on each corner of the lid, and apply a few other drops around the lid. You can also install the decoration. Keep in mind that the mantis will spend most of its life hanging from the ceiling.
Next, cut a piece of mesh to be installed on an inner side of the container. Paste it in place. Smaller mantises can end up trapped in the mesh if you're not tense enough, which can kill them. For aesthetic reasons, I don't stick the perimeter of the mesh, just the corners. If you care about the safety of your mantis, you can apply glue around the entire perimeter.
Once the glue has dried, rinse the container. It is important to rinse the parts with glue to remove any chemical residue or sticky stain. While it is easy for us to free our fingers of some glue, a mantis can be easily trapped in it. Now, line the bottom of the container with 1 "of substrate. The cage is ready for the mantis!
If your house is cold or you are raising a mantis that requires a warmer environment, be sure to install a suitable heat source, such as a heat lamp. Do not place it too close to the cage so as not to melt the plastic or overheat the mantis. If your mantis has special temperature requirements, it may be useful to install a thermometer. Start with the lamp away from the cage and slowly approach it until the proper temperature is achieved. LED and CLF bulbs do not work because they do not produce much heat. An incandescent or ceramic bulb will be necessary. A 60w incandescent bulb will work but increasingly they are harder to find as new models hit the market. I have not found any advantage of using a special bulb, and there are no resources to suggest that they are necessary to breed the mantis.
Step 3: Food
Fruit flies - For the young, these are the main food. Any pet store with reptiles and / or insects must have them. There are two varieties that are usually sold - the smallest Drosophilia melanogaster and the biggest Drosophila hydei. They are sold in cultures that will be sustained for a few weeks. When buying a batch of flies, look for a container in which there are not many dead flies in the bottom and in which you can see some adult flies in the substrate (pieces of paper or cardboard, for example). Fruit flies only live one day, so introducing a large amount into the cage will lower the culture's reproduction rate and you will have plenty of dead flies at the bottom of the cage within a day. Mantis will only eat live prey. Fruit flies will serve as food for most mantis until they have shed their skin three times.
Irons - Crickets are generally available in the same stores that sell fruit flies. Crickets are very useful, as they come in many sizes, and are an easy-to-use food source for the rest of the life of the adult mantis. Many mantis breeders disapprove of crickets as a food source, and you have good reasons, but crickets work very well for beginners. It may be surprising but crickets are predators and can kill and kill a mantis. Luckily, this can be avoided. Never introduce more crickets than the mantis can eat immediately. A mantis with a full stomach will ignore other dams, and from here the danger may arise. If a hungry cricket catches a mantis shedding the skin, it will kill and eat it. And a loose cricket can peel a mantis from the ceiling and make it fall, which can be fatal. If crickets that are too large are used, the mantis can be overcome and killed. In general, crickets should be larger than the head of the mantis but less than half of the body of the mantis. Some mantis are more aggressive than others. The less aggressive the mantis, the smaller the crickets should be. Phantom mantis are less aggressive than the flower varieties of India and China. The most important thing is that crickets have not been fed carrots. Crickets fed with carrots become poisonous to mantis. Within a week after eating crickets fed with carrots the mantis mouth will turn black and then a viscous black liquid will start to flow from the mouth or anus and the mantis will die. Luckily, large pet stores like Petco don't usually feed their crickets with carrots. But it is always a good idea to ask before buying them.
Houseflies and blueflies - Some mantis are more tiquismiquis with food than others. This depends on both the species and the individual. If a mantis will not eat, and it is not due to a disease or a skin shedding cycle, you might have to switch to one of these two fly varieties to make it eat again. The housefly is fine for mantis that are not yet adult but are too large for fruit flies. And the blue fly is better for mature adults. Due to their small size, many flies are necessary to feed an adult mantis. Flies usually arrive in the form of a pupa and can take up to a week to hatch. You can buy them in bulk and gradually introduce the pupae into the cage. Or you can wait until they hatch and put them in the cage like adult flies. This is better for the mantis. You can put the flies in the refrigerator to cool them to make them easier to grab and put in the cage.
Other foods -Pet stores sell several other types of prey. Cockroaches are the favorite food for serious breeders, and these usually grow their own. There are several types of larva / pupa that also serve. These other types usually require more effort, since dams often hide in the substrate. I usually turn the lid of the cage slightly, with the mantis now standing on the roof, and I introduce the dam and wait until the mantis begins to eat it. Then, I turn the lid over again and put it back in the cage. In any case, you should investigate the various options of feeding the mantis before starting to raise them.
How often do you have to feed them? - You must offer food to your mantis every 2-3 days. This may be to put some prey inside the cage in the morning. If you use crickets, remove from the cage all that have not been eaten at the end of the day. A mantis will continue to eat until it is full, and this can be dangerous, especially for larger mantises. The abdomen of a mantis, if it is too full and heavy, can be folded while the mantis hangs from the ceiling. If this happens, you will have to tilt the container so that the mantis no longer hangs vertically. This makes the mantis have to change position, which prevents the bending from getting worse. A bent abdomen can kill a mantis. Adult females are especially large eaters but the risk of bending the abdomen is cushioned with maturity. The abdomen of an adult female mantis will look very large and swollen, but it is preparing to lay eggs and that is why it is important that you continue feeding it. Mature males will almost never eat too much, although they often do so while they are in the process of maturing.
Step 4: The Mantis Breeding
Spray - Mantis need water and moisture to survive. Generally, you should spray the habitat once or twice a day. An easy way to know if the humidity of the habitat is too low: if the drops of water on the walls of the container evaporate in less than 30 minutes, it is too dry. And if the drops last and last, spray the cage less. A thirsty mantis will also drink water from the walls of the container. The environmental humidity of a house will change during the year, so you must monitor the humidity of your mantis habitat.
Hot - The mantis species recommended in this instructable prefer temperatures of 70ºF. If your home's temperature is colder, you can use a lamp to heat the cage a bit. This is explained in Step 2, it is only cleaned. Most of the cleaning time is spent on the ends of each leg and the antennas.
Cleaning - When the mantis itself is sprayed, it will start cleaning. First the forearms and then the eyes, just like a cat is cleaned with its paws. It may seem that the mantis eats itself. This never happens.
Skin change - As the mantis ages, it will change skin. When a mantis starts to move, it will hang upside down from the ceiling and stop eating 1-2 before moving. It is important to remove any remaining prey from the cage. The molt itself only takes a short time. A small tear will appear on the neck from which the 'new' mantis will emerge. Then, it will hang from the old skin while the new one hardens. Within half an hour, it will move to the ceiling mesh, where it will remain unmoved for several hours. The mantis should not be grasped / handled or fed for a day after molting. If a molt begins before you know it and there is still food in the cage, leave it. It is not ideal, but it is much more dangerous to interrupt the mantis during its molting than to have a dam inside the cage.
Most accidental mantis deaths occur during the molt. If they fall during it, they may end up deformed. If you fail to shed properly, they may end up trapped inside your old skin. This is usually fatal, but not always immediately. A deformed mantis often can no longer hunt and will gradually die of man. An acceptable way to kill a deformed mantis is to place it in the freezer. If the deformation is subtle, it may be that the mantis survives until the next molt, which will often cure the deformation. Much has been written about this subject. Follow the links at the end of this instructable to learn more.
Loss of a limb - Accidents can happen when moving / handling your mantis, causing the loss of a limb. Although this is disturbing to the breeder, if the mantis is not yet mature, the limb can be regenerated. When you keep the skin molt, the regenerated limb is sometimes smaller than the original, but it will return to normal size with each molt.
Habitat cleaning - This is usually done for the good of the breeder. To clean the habitat, first transfer the mantis to another container. Remove the decoration and throw away the substrate, the skin of the molt, and any waste. With hot water, clean the inside of the cage. Avoid using soaps and bleach, since any chemical residue left in the cage after cleaning can kill the mantis. If you have to disinfect the cage, a small amount of soap or bleach can be used, but a thorough rinse will be necessary to make the mantis cage safe again.
If fungus or mold appear in the cage at any time, change the substrate and clean it immediately. Fungi often appear in the mantis debris. The appearance of fungus / mold in the cage can mean that the environment is too wet.
Mantis management - I do not recommend that the mantis be handled / grabbed. If you do, there are some simple rules that you must follow to protect yourself and the mantis. To grab the mantis, put a hand a few inches in front of it, and with a finger of the other hand push it slightly through the abdomen. The mantis will usually move slowly towards your hand. Sometimes this startled her and the mantis will jump forward. Don't move your hand away quickly - you can end up damaging the mantis. Once in the hand, the mantis is probably still crawling by the hand. If you move your arm up, put a hand in front of her. Use the same technique you use to remove it from the cage to return it. Adult mantis sometimes fly instead of jumping, and this can be surprising. Dropping a mantis can be fatal to her, especially an adult female. Adult females are often too heavy to fly and their weight can kill them when they fall to the ground.
Food awards - A fun way to interact with your mantis without touching it is to give it a prize (a special meal) or feed it by hand. Mantis like honey. To give honey to your mantis, put a little on the tip of a stick. Touch the mantis mouth with honey and you should start eating it. Many species will do an adorable dance when eating honey. Honey should only be given to adult mantises, as it can be a sticky trap for young. Mantis can eat raw meat, if you have no other food left. As with honey, touch the mantis mouth with some meat and you should start eating it. Neither honey nor meat should be a main food source.
Life expectancy - Mantis usually live a year. Upon reaching maturity, females usually live a few months longer than males. When they are very old, they will begin to lose motor functions, are more likely to fall off the roof, and they may stop eating. Sometimes black dots will appear in the eyes, gradually blinding them. Since they will no longer shed their skin, their exoskeletons will weaken and it is not uncommon to see limb loss. When they are about to die, the mantis will lie on the ground and only move when touched. From this moment onwards death is inevitable and will arrive in a few hours to a few days.
Sex - Mantis exhibit sexual dimorphism. At first, before the mantis has gone through several molts, it can be difficult to get her sex right. After 4 changes, the method of counting the abdomen segments usually works - males have more segments. Females usually also have a final segment much larger than that of the male. Adult males will have longer antennae but will be considerably smaller than females.
Laying eggs - Whether you match the mantis or not, the female will create ootheques (egg deposits). She will produce a foamy dough into which she will lay the eggs. The ooteca is usually fixed to the ceiling, but it is possible to find it in other high places, such as on the tip of a stick or in part of the cage decoration. If the female has not been fertilized by a male, the ootheca will be infertile, less those of some species that are capable of asexual reproduction.
Pairing the mantis - I do not recommend that a beginner try to match the mantis. It is better to gain experience by taking care of individual mantis before trying to reproduce them. If this interests you, see the links at the end of this instructable.
Other behaviors - In addition to the habits and behaviors already mentioned, there are a few more that are convenient to know. When walking, the mantis wobble. The reason for this is not known, but there are two main theories. The first proposes that the wobble mimics a leaf fluttering in the wind, which serves as camouflage. The second assumes that it helps them perceive depth through the movement of the eyes.
When a mantis feels threatened, it will be placed on the hind legs and will show the inside of the forearms. By following the threat, the mantis will put the vertical forearms and start hitting and biting what the threat.
When a mantis is nervous or curious, it will be placed in a similar position, but without showing the inside of the forearms. He will continue with his head what has caught his attention. If it is a prey, the mantis often leans forward and extends its arms before snatching it.