Nurturing a praying mantis as your pet can be a lot of fun. You get to enjoy seeing them grow through different stages while not spending too much to sustain them. Although they are low-maintenance, praying mantises need the right care to stay alive and grow.
How do you care for a baby praying mantis? Caring for baby praying mantises involves healthy feeding, proper enclosure, and monitoring. These aside, the stages in the life cycle of praying mantises are important factors to consider when caring for them.
In this guide, we shall be discussing all you need to know about caring for baby praying mantises. This article emphasizes the living conditions for baby praying mantises and how to put them in place.
Feeding a Baby Praying Mantis
Feeding is a top priority when you are caring for any type of pet and a baby praying mantis is no different.
Immediately after the eggs hatch and they emerge from it, baby praying mantises start feeding. Unlike adult mantises, baby mantises feed mainly on tiny insects & flies. As they grow older, they expand the range of prey they eat.
Praying mantises have a unique feeding pattern in that they do not eat every day. Sometimes they may not require food for up to 4 days. But you should feed them at least once every 3 days.
One prey commonly eaten by baby mantises is the fruit fly. You can also feed the baby praying mantis with aphids, crickets, gnats, and other insects with similar sizes.
The insect or fly to be fed to the praying mantis must be alive. You may stun them before feeding them to the mantis but never kill them.
Whenever you feed the mantises, you should ensure that they eat what you feed them. Sometimes, the prey escapes or hides. When this happens recurrently, the baby mantis may starve.
What Do Baby Praying Mantis Drink
Baby praying mantises get their liquid from the prey they eat. They also drink water droplets on leaves or on the sides of their enclosure. Generally, they only drink very little water.
Since they do not need so much water, you may spray the sides of the enclosure with water every other day. This would help humidify them and serve as a source of water to drink.
Placing a bowl of water in the enclosure for the mantis to drink is not necessary but it can help with humidification.
Stages of Growth
Adult mantises mate during summer and a few even undergo sexual cannibalism. After mating, some females kill or eat the males.
On average, praying mantises live for 6 months to a year and they spend an average of 6 months between the nymph and adult stage.
After mating in the summer, the female mantis lays between 25 – 400 eggs in the fall. Praying Mantises are hemimetabolous. They undergo incomplete metamorphosis.
Praying mantises go through 3 stages of growth: egg to nymph to adult with no pupa stage.
The eggs are laid on surfaces such as firm leaves and stems. They are laid with a special fluid called ootheca. This fluid becomes hard and serves as a protective envelope for the eggs through the cold season.
The eggs remain in the ootheca through winter. They hatch in mid-spring as soon as the weather is warm enough. On hatching, the eggs release nymph, which is the next stage in the lifecycle of praying mantises.
The nymphs are basically miniature mantises; they only differ in size relative to adult mantises. They emerge from the eggs and the ootheca following hatching.
Most times, the first thing they eat when they get out of the ootheca is their fellow baby mantis. They also eat other smaller insects like fruit flies, crickets, and aphids.
The nymphs pass through a series of developmental stages called instars. They undergo a process called molting. While molting, they grow bigger and shed their exoskeleton.
On average, the nymphs molt 6 times before they become adults. In the build-up to the day they molt, the nymphs usually stop eating. They also look bigger because they grow beneath their exoskeleton during this period.
Molting takes between 30 minutes to several hours. While they molt, they hang on to a perch and lose their exoskeleton leaving their soft delicate body. But the exoskeleton is quickly replaced within a few hours.
Molting time is a delicate period for mantises. So, while your baby praying mantis molts, do not feed it. Also, during this period, ensure that there are no insects or flies in its enclosure because they could feed on the mantis or push them off the perch. If a molting nymph falls off its perch, the chances of dying are very high.
On average, it takes about 6 months for nymphs to become adults. When the nymphs grow wings, they won’t molt anymore. At this point, they have reached adulthood.
Earlier, we mentioned that female adults eat or kill male adults after mating. Well, sometimes the female adults do not live too long after. Soon after laying eggs, some female adults die.
On reaching adulthood, a mantis would span between 1 – 6 inches in length. The abdomen of the female adults differ from that of the male adults. Generally, the females have relatively bigger abdomen than the males.
What Type of Enclosure Should They Have
The enclosure for your baby mantis can be anything at all. It could be a box, a net cage, a glass container, a room, or anything at all. As long as the requirements for a mantis are available in the enclosure, it’s all good.
You must provide certain substrates in the mantis’ enclosure. Some of these substrates include sand, dried leaves, barks, and tree branches. With these present, the enclosure feels more like their natural habitat.
The enclosure must be escape-proof. But in trying to make it escape-proof, do not shut out oxygen. Baby mantises need oxygen to survive.
A good option for preventing escape and providing oxygen at the same time is a mesh or gauze. The gauze should have pores large enough to allow oxygen in and small enough to prevent the mantis from getting out.
Apart from ventilation, another important consideration in the enclosure is humidity. You have to find the right balance between ventilation and humidity.
Humidity reduces as ventilation increases. But you can spray water on the walls of the enclosure from time to time to raise humidity.
Most importantly, the enclosure should be safe. It should not contain any harmful material and should be cleaned routinely. It should also be tamper-proof.
What Temperature Is Best in a Baby Praying Mantis Enclosure
After making the enclosure humid and well-ventilated, you also have to get the best temperature for the mantis.
Mantises like other insects cannot generate heat for themselves. They rely on the environment for temperature regulation.
The temperature requirements differ for different species of baby praying mantis. Most species would survive between 68 – 77 °F. But you should check for the specific requirements of the specie you have.
To raise the temperature in the enclosure, you can use a heat mat, a light bulb, or a warming lamp. Before you place the baby mantis in its enclosure, check the temperature with a thermometer. Ensure the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold for the mantis.
Can You Release Them to the Wild
The answer to this depends on the source of the baby mantis.
If you got the baby mantis from the wild, then you can release it to the wild near where you found it. But, if you got it from a breeder or a pet store, you should not release it to the wild.
Common Reasons Baby Praying Mantis Die in Captivity
Even after caring for them as much as you can, baby mantises can still die in captivity. The following are some common reasons they die:
- Excessively hot or cold enclosure
- Excessively humid or dry enclosure
- Mold growth in the enclosure
- Eating poisonous flies or insects
- Attack by bigger pets
Building an enclosure with optimal conditions is one of the most important steps in caring for a baby mantis. Monitoring the mantis and ensuring that it has all it needs at the different stages of development is also essential for their survival.