Praying mantis are one of the most fascinating and bizarre-looking insects that exist. Their triangular head with huge eyes, their folded forearms, as well as their slowly rocking movements, give them an alien-like appearance. They are fascinating to watch in botanical gardens, zoos, in your own garden, or even as pets.
As a whole, praying mantis are great educational pets that are easy to care for. They are completely harmless for humans and easy to handle. In most parts of North America, they are widely available and come with low maintenance costs. Native praying mantis are super cool pets for beginners.
Are Praying Mantis Good Pets for Beginners?
Praying mantises are among the biggest insects we know. There are far more than 2000 different praying mantis species that we have discovered so far.
The fact that praying mantis are easy to keep and require very little maintenance makes them a great pet for beginners. Praying mantis also rarely live for longer than a year so they are great pets for testing if keeping pets, in general, is for you or not.
The majority of mantis live in tropical rain forests, which makes it hard to find and observe them.
That is why there is still a lot unknown about these fascinating creatures.
These are the biggest praying mantis.
How Expensive are Praying Mantis?
The alien-like insects are very affordable pets. If you live in a region where praying mantis are native, and you are lucky enough to find one, they are literally free, because you can simply catch one. But you can also buy a praying mantis online for a reasonable price, depending on the species.
Praying mantis only need small tanks. The thumb rule for the size is 2 times the width of the mantis and three times the height.
Praying mantis molt upside down and need enough space to crawl out of the old skin. If the tank is not tall enough, the mantis could die during the molting process.
A praying mantis is not demanding when it comes to tank equipment. A real or also fake plant to climb on is enough.
The lid should be a net or plastic with holes to allow air circulation, and that’s about it for the tank. You can use any tank you find and don’t have to buy anything fancy and new.
You can also acquire a container lid with mesh and use jars that you already have at home.
The food for mantis is also cheap. You can buy it in pet stores or catch small insects by yourself. Make sure that the area in which you collect the mantis food is completely pesticide-free.
Praying mantis can be very sensitive to pesticides.
Handleability of Praying Mantis
Praying mantis are fairly easy to handle. If you come close to the praying mantis with your hand, it will likely climb on it and peacefully walk around on your hand. You should never grab a praying mantis, because they are small and fragile creatures. Grabbing them can harm or even kill them.
As long as a praying mantis has not reached adulthood, it cannot fly. Only after the final molt, a praying mantis develops wings.
For most of the species, only the males can fly, while the females jump as the wings cannot support the weight of the female.
Towards humans, praying mantis are peaceful and calm. They will happily walk around on your hand and arm and when you put them back in their small container, they usually just chill somewhere upside down.
you can read our full care guide for praying mantis right here if you want to know more.
How Hard is it to Care for Praying Mantis?
Praying mantis are very easy to care for. They only need small tanks (twice the width and three times the height of the mantis) and no extra equipment such as a heater, special lighting, or a humidifier. But they do need a lot of humidity, so make sure to spray some spring water in the tank several times a day to make sure, the praying mantis is not too dry. They need a lot of humidity especially when they want to shed.
Mantis eat small insects. The size of the prey is dependent on the size of the mantis. Baby mantis can eat tiny fruit flies, while adult mantis will happily go after cockroaches, centipedes, and even smaller mammals.
You can either buy feeder insects at your local pet store or catch the insects in your backyard or neighborhood, as long as no pesticides are used in that area. Praying mantis only eat living prey.
If you offer them dead insects, they won’t touch them.
Make sure, not to overfeed the praying mantis. When a mantis is still a baby, it needs to be fed once or maximum twice a day.
You can clearly see if the abdomen is still big from the last meal, or if more food is required. Adult mantis should not be fed more than 3 times per week.
Depending on the species, praying mantis can live from several months up to about a year.
Therefore getting a praying mantis is not a lifetime decision and you can also always set the praying mantis free if you cannot take care of it anymore.
How Hardy are Praying Mantis?
A pet praying mantis is a very fragile pet. Especially when it comes to molting. Keep in mind, that a praying mantis is still an insect and insects sometimes die without any obvious reasons. Mantis need a lot of humidity to thrive, and if there is not enough humidity in the tank during their molt, they can lose limbs or simply die during the process of crawling out of the old skin.
How can I Get a Praying Mantis?
There are several species that were able to spread throughout North America, and many other parts of the world, that are not tropical. Depending on the climate, the praying mantis species that live in your region can vary. The most common species in North America are the Chinese Mantis, the European mantis, and the Carolina Mantis in the southern parts. The European mantis can also be found in many parts of Europe.
If you are looking for a good beginner species, you should go with a native species. Praying mantis that already live in a certain area are already used to the climate, humidity levels, and food.
In many regions, praying mantis are widely available in nature. And if you cannot find a living praying mantis, you can search oothecae. An ootheca is an egg case of the praying mantis.
It can usually be found from October to February / March, depending on the region. It is a 1-inch big foam sack, which is attached to branches or twigs. The colors can be anything between cream and brown.
An ootheca can contain anything between a dozen and 400 praying mantis eggs.
If you can’t find any praying mantis or oothecae, you can still acquire praying mantis and oothecae online in many parts of the US.
You are only allowed to keep species that are already native, to make sure that the ecosystem does not suffer.
Can a Praying Mantis Hurt you?
A praying mantis is a very peaceful pet. As long as you are not a tiny fruit fly, and stay in your human form, a praying mantis will never attack you. It is not poisonous and is known for being very calm and patient as a pet.
Praying mantis are also known for being ambitious predators, attacking and eating prey while still alive, and even cannibalizing their own kind.
But humans are (luckily!) not prey and therefore praying mantis will not hurt you.
We also have a full article on why praying mantis are not dangerous to humans that you can read right here.
What is the Lifespan of a Praying Mantis?
The lifespan of a praying mantis depends on the species and habitat. The praying mantis species that are native to North America usually have a life expectancy of around one year in a perfect environment without any predators. Some praying mantis can even live up to 18 months, but that is very unusual.
If you want to know how long praying mantis can live and if you want to read more about their different life stages then consider reading our article about the live cycle of praying mantis.
The majority of praying mantis do not reach adulthood. Only around one-fifth of the nymphs that hatch survive the first few molts.
If you keep a praying mantis as a pet, it can last anything between a few months and up to a year.
These are the best praying mantis species for beginners.
Here is a full article on the question if a praying mantis can recognize a human.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂