The praying mantis is a unique insect that comes in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. It is the master of camouflage and makes a perfect predator in disguise. The majority of praying mantis species live in the depth of tropical forests all around the world, but some species have managed to adapt to the climate in North America and many parts of Europe.
After seeing a praying mantis in nature, in a botanical garden, or in the zoo, you might be wondering, if it is possible to keep this magnificent insect as a pet at home.
Yes, it is possible to keep praying mantis as pets. In fact, a praying mantis is a great pet that is easy to care for, easy to handle, comes with low maintenance and low cost, and is rather hardy. It only needs a small container and makes a harmless, peaceful, educational, and pretty cool pet.
In the following, you can find all the information you need to decide whether the praying mantis is a good pet for you, or not.
Can I Keep a Wild Praying Mantis as a Pet?
A praying mantis is a truly fascinating insect and the only insect in the world that has a 3D vision. Many praying mantises that can be acquired online are raised in captivity and have never lived in the wild. But what about the praying mantis that lives outdoors? Is it possible to keep them as pets as well?
You can keep a wild praying mantis as a pet. A praying mantis is a very undemanding insect that makes a wonderful pet. A wild praying mantis can be treated the same as a mantis that was raised in captivity. It is possible to catch a mantis in nature and keep it as a pet.
Finding a praying mantis in the wild can be a challenging task. But if you have praying mantis living in your area, you might even be able to attract them to come to your own garden!
How can I Attract Praying Mantis to My Garden?
Praying mantises are a useful add-on to a garden. They are carnivores and eat insects of all kinds, including many insects that are commonly known as pests.
As a whole, an organically grown garden without any pesticides that offer hiding spots and a wide range of insects will affect a praying mantis. On warm and dry days, watering the garden will increase the humidity and thereby also attract praying mantises.
Praying mantises also hunt beneficial insects such as bees and bumblebees, but overall they are still rather beneficial to a garden.
Therefore attracting praying mantis to a garden has become a thing in recent years, even leading to the possibility to buy praying mantis egg cases (oothecae) and releasing freshly hatched praying mantis to the garden.
If you want to try a natural way, here are some ideas on how to attract praying mantis to your garden.
Praying mantis cannot stand pesticides, so if you want to attract mantises, it is important to stop using anything that can potentially kill insects. After all, praying mantises are still insects that will be killed by pesticides.
Create Hiding Spots for the Praying Mantises
Another thing to do is to make the garden as praying mantis-friendly as possible. That includes some hiding spots for the mantis, many high, and possibly bushy plants.
Attract Insects That can Become Prey for the Praying Mantis
Plant flowers that attract insects. The insects are prey for praying mantises. Without food, praying mantises will rather avoid a garden.
Make Sure to Keep Your Garden Hydrated
Praying mantises like humidity. They need very humid air to be able to molt properly.
Especially on hot and dry summer days you can moist and water your garden to attract praying mantises.
Water your plants before the sunrise and after the sunsets. If plants are wet when the sun is high, the sun rays can burn your plants.
Where can I Find a Praying Mantis?
Praying mantis are camouflaging predators that hide between tall plants. The best places to look for praying mantises are places with high insect traffic, where the mantis can hide.
There are always a lot of insects close to water. If you know a river or lake with organically grown plants around, that could be a great place to look for praying mantises.
Don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a praying mantis. They are really good at hiding and you might have come across a mantis without even noticing. Don’t give up. Sometimes they hide in trees and bushes and on the bottom side of leaves.
Praying mantises don’t have populations everywhere, so there is a possibility that there are no praying mantises in your region. You can still go to botanical gardens or zoos to watch praying mantis in “action”. Well, most of the time, they just hang around, holding perfectly still. But it’s still a fascinating and fun thing to watch.
How do I Get a Praying Mantis?
There are four possibilities to get a praying mantis: Catch one by yourself in nature, collect an ootheca, buy a living praying mantis, or buy an ootheca online.
Before you start looking for a praying mantis to catch or an ootheca to collect, check the local regulations on catching and keeping insects. Some regions have strict rules when it comes to keeping wild insects.
We have a guide on how to care for praying mantis where we explain how to get a praying mantis in more detail.
Find a Praying Mantis
Praying mantises can be found in tropical regions all year long and in temperate regions from spring to late fall.
They camouflage themselves between plants in places where insect traffic is high. If you try to catch a praying mantis, do not grab it. Praying mantises are hardy but still fragile insects that can lose limbs if you grab them with your hand. You can hold your hand beside the mantis and it might just walk on your palm.
You can also have a container with you where you can store the mantis until you are home.
Find an Ootheca
Ootheca can be found all year long in tropical regions and in temperate regions from late autumn until spring when the eggs hatch.
An ootheca is an egg case with hardened foam that the female praying mantis laid. It can contain anything between a dozen and around two hundred eggs.
If it is fertilized, the eggs will hatch when temperatures rise. You can find oothecae in trees, bushes, on branches, twigs, but also on fences, walls, and other things that are strong enough to hold the weight of the ootheca.
You will not find oothecae on the ground or on grass.
We also have an article about how to take care of praying mantis eggs that you can read right here.
Buy a Praying Mantis
If you want to buy a praying mantis online, you have a bigger choice of species than in your neighborhood.
In addition to the common Chinese and European Mantis you can also buy the fancy Ghost mantis, Flower mantises such as the famous Orchid Mantis, and many other beautiful species.
Keep in mind, that tropical praying mantis species need other requirements such as higher temperature and higher humidity than the local mantises. You might need species equipment in your tank for special species.
Buy an Ootheca
Ootheca can be acquired online in many regions. They come with a precise manual on how to take care of the eggs until you want them to hatch. You can release all the praying mantises that hatch in your backyard or keep a few as pets to watch.
Always make sure to separate praying mantises after their first molt. Mantises are carnivores and cannibalistic and tend to eat each other.
Is a Praying Mantis a Good Pet?
The praying mantis can be a great pet for you. It is not a pet that will play or cuddle with you, but if you are the kind of person that enjoys watching fish or finds watching nature relaxing, then the praying mantis might be the perfect fit for you.
Praying mantises are very affordable pets that don’t need much maintenance. They are easy to handle, not poisonous or aggressive, and don’t need a lot of space. It is easy to keep a praying mantis as a pet and it is also an educational hobby.
If you want to know all of the advantages and disadvantages of keeping a praying mantis as a pet that you can read right here.
Are Praying Mantises Rare?
There are many different praying mantis species. Despite many myths, all species that can be found in North America are not endangered. But out of the 20 species, some are rather rare.
Species such as the European Mantis, the Chinese Mantis, and the Caroline Mantis are commonly found in many regions, but other species are rather hard to find.
There are many rare praying mantis species that live in tropical rainforests and are not seen often by humans. And since praying mantises cannot survive freezing temperatures, they are rare in colder areas of the world.
What is the Best Beginner Praying Mantis Species?
Some praying mantis species are easier to keep than others. Especially the praying mantis that live in your area in the wild are the best and easiest to keep. They are already used to the temperature and don’t need any special equipment in their tank.
In many parts of the US, it is only legal to keep the local mantises as pets. Imported praying mantis are not allowed to keep because they can potentially endanger the ecosystem if they are accidentally released into the wild.
Depending on where you live, some of the easiest species to keep are the European Mantis, the Chinese Mantis, the Caroline and Arizona Mantis, and the Ghost Mantis.
How to Care for a Praying Mantis?
Praying mantises are great pets. They are easy to care for and easy to handle.
A praying mantis should be kept alone in a tank. The tank you keep the mantis in should be around twice as large and three times as high as the mantis. Of course, it can be bigger, but not too big, otherwise, the mantis won’t be able to find the prey.
We also have a full guide on how to take care of a praying mantis that you can read right here.
A praying mantis needs something to climb on and to hang from to be able to molt upside down. And depending on the age of the mantis it might need daily feeding or a live insect every few days.
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 🙂