How to Care for a Pet Praying Mantis – A Full Guide

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The praying mantis. A magnificent, fascinating creature with a unique look. With the triangular head, gulping eyes, and folded front legs, patiently waiting for prey to come close enough, it is quite an appearance. Now you have chosen the fascinating praying mantis to be your pet, and you will not regret this decision. It is a beautiful, hardy pet that is easy to care for and even comes with low costs. 

As a whole, a praying mantis does not require much as a pet. It needs a small tank with a lid that allows the air to circulate and the mantis to hang from, something in the tank that the mantis can climb on, some substrate on the bottom, misting with water twice a day, and some feeder insects.

In the following, you will find all the information you need to start with keeping a praying mantis, what to feed your pet, how to catch one, and which praying mantis species is the best for beginners.

How do You Start With Keeping Praying Mantis?

The praying mantis is native to many countries around the world, which makes it very easy to start with keeping one.

There are many different species of praying mantis in the world with different shapes, sizes, and colors.

Some look like flowers, such as the Orchid flower mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) or Devil Flower Mantis (Idolomantis Diabolica), others camouflage themselves as dead leaves, such as the Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa), and some are tiny and brown, live on the ground, run really fast and look like little crickets.

The ones, that you might have seen in your neighborhood, are probably green or brown and hide between branches, bushes, and fields. 

The most common praying mantis that can be found in other places than the tropical rainforests are the European Mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis), and the Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina).

To start with keeping a praying mantis, you only need a small tank for the mantis with something to allow the mantis to climb on, such as an artificial plant or simply a stick, a lid that allows air to circulate (mesh will do), and also allows the praying mantis to hang upside down, and of course the praying mantis itself. 

You should also acquire some bottled spring water and a clean, unused spray bottle, as well as some fruit flies, that are unable to fly. They can be bought at a local pet store. The flies are prey, and water is needed to regularly increase the humidity in the tank. 

The habitat should be prepared with some substrate on the bottom, that can soak up water. A paper towel is also just fine for this purpose. If too much water is on the ground, the praying mantis could drown. And the substrate helps to regulate the humidity in the tank.

If you want to know how to prepare the home for your praying mantis, scroll down to “How to prepare a container for a praying mantis”

Is it Easy to Take Care of a Praying Mantis?

Praying mantis as pets are fairly easy to take care of. 

A praying mantis is a very peaceful and patient insect (at least towards humans), that is rather hardy. No praying mantis is poisonous or aggressive, it won’t bite or sting and therefore makes a harmless pet that won’t (and can’t) hurt you. 

As a whole, praying mantis are easy to handle and easy to care for. They come with low maintenance, low costs, and don’t need much space. A praying mantis as a pet only needs a small tank, some sprays of spring water per day to increase humidity, and some feeder insects.

The care your praying mantis needs is highly dependent on the species and the age of the mantis.

While some tropical praying mantis species, that are not native to your area, might require additional heating, most other praying mantis species, especially the ones that you can catch in your neighborhood, don’t need any additional equipment in the tank.

Baby mantis (also referred to as “nymphs”) need feeder insects more frequently than adult mantis.

But no matter if baby or adult, they all need high humidity and you should at least twice a day spray inside of the tank with some bottled spring water. Be careful, not to drown your mantis.

Praying mantis do not like direct sunlight, but like to be kept in an area with indirect sunlight. It is better to keep the praying mantis tank away from heating or cooling vents.

The tank itself needs to be cleaned every now and then because the high humidity can cause mold in the substrate on the bottom.

But since the tank is very small, and the substrate is either just a paper towel or some soil, peat, or vermiculite, the cleaning process should not take too much time.

Can I Keep a Praying Mantis in my House?

As long as your house is not crazy air-conditioned and the praying mantis can stay in a place that is somewhat similar to the temperature outside (of course not in winter), it is absolutely safe to keep a praying mantis in the house.

Yes, a praying mantis can be kept in the house. It is even possible to keep a praying mantis in a house plant without a tank or container around. As long as the plant is regularly sprayed with water, and the mantis can catch enough prey to survive, it will stay in the plant.

Can Praying Mantis Harm You?

A praying mantis is a harmless, non-poisonous insect that has no ambitions to hurt or harm you. It is an aggressive predator towards prey and other praying mantis (which also goes under “prey”), but not towards humans.

It is possible for a praying mantis to accidentally scratch you, while it is peacefully walking on your hand, but it won’t harm you. And even if a praying mantis mistakes your finger for prey and bites it, it is very unlikely that it bites through your skin.

If you want to know more about the possibility of a praying mantis harming you, you can check out this article that I wrote.

Are Praying Mantis Good Pets?

Praying mantis can be great pets. They don’t need much space, come with low maintenance and low costs, and are really easy to care for.

The lifespan of a praying mantis is usually less than one year, therefore you should not get too attached, but it also means that you are not making a decision for the next few years when you get a praying mantis.

You can’t cuddle a praying mantis or teach it various tricks, but it is still very educational and fun to watch. 

What Does a Praying Mantis Need?

These are the things a praying mantis needs:

  • Some kind of housing, such as a container or tank with a lid that allows air to circulate
  • A substrate on the floor of the container
  • Something to climb and hang on in the container
  • A few dashes of bottled spring water need to be sprayed in the container twice a day for a high humidity
  • Feeder insects every day as nymphs and every few days as adults

Every praying mantis needs individual housing, as they are cannibalistic and chances are high, they eat each other if they live together.

Praying mantis species that you find in your area are already used to the climate, temperature, and prey. 

That means that no special equipment such as a heater is needed in the tank.

If you scroll down a few inches you will find all the information on how to prepare a tank for a praying mantis, what they eat and how you feed them.

How to Prepare a Container for a Praying Mantis

As mentioned above, the majority of praying mantis species should be housed individually. Baby praying mantis do not eat each other yet, after they hatched, but after their first or their second molt, they should be separated to avoid cannibalism.

Now that every single mantis has its own tank, let’s look at the structure of the tank.

The cage of a praying mantis can be a normal plastic bucket or glass jar from your kitchen. You can buy mesh lids for jars that you already own.

You can also acquire an insect box with nylon mesh or an insect cage made out of mesh, that can be folded. This last one is often used for butterflies but is also perfect for a praying mantis.

A praying mantis is pretty hardy and will be happy in any container you prepare, as long as it meets these requirements:

Container Size

It should be at least 3 times the height and twice the length of the praying mantis. The height is very important because praying mantis enjoy climbing and when they prepare to molt, they hang somewhere in the cage upside down and crawl out of the old exoskeleton (=skin). If they hit the ground during the molting process, they might die.

The container should not be too big, otherwise, there is a possibility that a praying mantis cannot find the prey and starves.

Container Lid

A praying mantis always needs something on top of the container to be able to hang upside down and a lid that allows air to circulate.

The best option is a mesh lid, that allows both of these things. You can also use a paper towel as a lid and use a rubber band to hold it in place.

Or you use the original lid, cut out the middle part and clue some mesh in that place. Whatever you choose, make sure that the holes are too small for feeder insects to escape. You don’t want to have fruit flies all over your place.

Substrate

The floor of the container should be covered with some kind of substrate that can soak in water.

Various things are possible. The easiest is a paper towel. Other things that work are eco earth, cocoa husk, Sphagnum moss, peat, soil, or vermiculite. You simply need anything that can retain the humidity and slowly release it over time.

The substrate is also there to make sure that the praying mantis does not drown on the ground if too much water was sprayed in the tank.

Humidity Level

All praying mantis species need a high humidity level to be able to shed properly.

If the humidity is too low during their molt, the exoskeleton might be too hard to crawl out and the praying mantis can lose a limb or even die during the attempt of leaving the old skin.

Therefore it is very important to regularly mist the container with some water. The best option would be bottled spring water.

The required humidity can vary between the praying mantis species. A tropical praying mantis needs a higher humidity than a European Mantis.

Something to Climb On

Praying mantis need something to climb on and something to hang from. They don’t need real plants in the container.

Artificial plants or sticks are a perfect solution. You can even put a popsicle stick in the container and the praying mantis will happily climb on it.

How do You Keep Praying Mantis Alive in a Container?

The weekly duties of keeping a praying mantis include regular misting, feeding, and cleaning.

Misting

You can use a spray bottle that creates very small water drops and mist the container twice a day. When you notice that the mantis is preparing to molt, you can mist a bit more to make sure that the humidity is high enough.

You can spray 1-2 sprays of water on the walls or directly into the substrate. 

A praying mantis will drink the water directly from the tiny drops that occur on the walls of the tank.

Cleaning

If you notice any mold, get rid of the substrate, clean the tank and put new substrate in. Since the humidity is always high in the tank, mold is very common.

Always keep an eye on the substrate and make sure that the tank is clean.

Solitary Praying Mantis

Praying mantis are solitary insects. That means that they live and hunt alone and don’t live in hives like bees or colonies like ants. Most praying mantis species are cannibalistic and will happily devour their conspecifics as a snack. 

Therefore it is important to separate praying mantis, once they have shed for the first time. Baby mantis can be kept together right after hatching. But if you don’t separate them after their first molt, they might start eating each other.

If you are planning to let your praying mantis mate, you have to be very careful, because female praying mantis, especially hungry ones, are very willing to eat the male any time before, during, or after the mating process. 

Some species can be kept communal, such as the Ghost Mantis. As long as Ghost mantis are well fed, they can be kept together and won’t kill each other like the other species would do.

Feeding

While a baby praying mantis needs to be fed every day, an adult praying mantis only needs food every two to three days.

If you want to know what praying mantis do and don´t eat then consider reading out guide on what praying mantis eat which includes a full list of their favorite food.

Praying mantis are carnivores. That means that they only eat meat. For small mantis prey can be fruit flies, while bigger mantis can be fed with normal flies, cockroaches, crickets, and even centipedes. Always make sure that the size of the prey is small enough for the mantis to eat and that the prey does not at some point start eating the mantis.

Right before the mantis starts to molt, it does not need food and will just ignore any prey in the tank. Remove the prey if the praying mantis does not want it. Otherwise, the prey might become a predator to your pet. 

Praying mantis only eat food that moves. Therefore you can only feed your mantis insects, that are alive. 

You can catch your own food in their neighborhood if you are 100% sure that no pesticides are used in the area. Praying mantis are very sensitive to pesticides.

If you are unsure, you can acquire feeder insects from your local pet store. Pet stores usually sell fruit flies that are genetically bred in a way that they come without wings.

This is very useful if you don’t want fruit flies all over your place.

What do Praying Mantis Eat?

All praying mantis species are carnivores. They only eat meat in form of insects, amphibians, reptiles, and even small mammals. Only living and moving creatures are interesting for them and they will ignore dead insects. Mantis do not eat plants, fruits, or vegetables. 

Baby praying mantis enjoy springtails. If the humidity in the tank caused mold or fungus to grow on the substrate, you can throw in springtails in the bedding and they will eat the fungus, clean the floor, and become food for the mantis.

The prey you offer your mantis should be small enough that it cannot hurt your pet. 

Learn more about the praying mantis diet here.

What can You Feed Praying Mantis?

These are insects you can offer your pet praying mantis, depending on the size of your pet. Springtails, fruit flies, ants, crickets, moths, cockroaches, mealworms, spiders, centipedes, or grasshoppers.

You can basically feed your mantis any insect, as long as it is small enough and pesticide-free. 

A praying mantis is a carnivore and will not eat plants, fruits, or vegetables.

Do Baby Praying Mantis Eat Ants?

Praying mantis eat all insects, and that includes ants. But ants come in many different sizes, therefore a baby praying mantis might be able to eat a small ant.

But bigger ant species such as the carpenter ant might become a predator for the praying mantis baby, instead of food. Always make sure that the prey you offer your baby mantis is small enough.

How Long can Praying Mantis Live Without Food?

Nymphs should be fed every day, but adult praying mantis do not need food every day.

An adult praying mantis can go several days without food. Some can even survive without food for up to two weeks.

If your mantis ignores the insect you put into the tank, just remove it and try to feed your mantis again the next day. 

You can see on the stomach of the mantis, if it is still full from the last meal, or if it is thin and empty.

What do Praying Mantis Drink?

A praying mantis does not need a bowl with water. They drown easily, therefore it is better to regularly mist the tank and spray the water on the substrate and the walls. The praying mantis can drink the tiny drops of water that are on the walls of the container.

You can use bottled spring water for your praying mantis.

Tap water often contains chlorine, sometimes even chloramine, and other substances that won’t harm humans but can kill praying mantises.

What is the Lifespan of a Praying Mantis?

The lifespan of a praying mantis is divided into three life stages. The first one is the egg cage, then the praying mantis becomes a nymph, and then there is the adult stage.

It starts with the ootheca, the praying mantis egg case. 

When a praying mantis hatches, it is called an L1 or First instar. The body of the praying mantis grows but the exoskeleton does not. Therefore several molts are necessary until a mantis can reach adulthood.

During a molt, the mantis separates from the old “skin”, which is called “exoskeleton” and crawls out of the old skin already with a soft, new exoskeleton on. That new exoskeleton hardens after molting.

After the first molt, a praying mantis becomes an L2 or Second instar. This continues until L7 for males and L8 or L9 for females. 

After the last molt, the praying mantis is an adult with wings that is able to reproduce.

The periods between the molts vary a lot depending on the age and the species of the mantis. Some species only live for several weeks while others have a lifespan of a year and more.

The molt itself can take anything between half an hour and several hours. Do not rush your mantis and do not try to help during that process.

The last stage of the praying mantis, after their final molt, is the longest they live in. During adulthood, the praying mantis will try to mate and reproduce.

You can learn more about the lifespan of a praying mantis by reading one of our other articles that is exclusively about the life span of a praying mantis.

How can You Tell a Male and Female Praying Mantis Apart?

As long as a praying mantis has not at least shed 5 times or more, it is not possible to tell the males and females apart.

The bodies of insects are always divided into head, thorax (middle part), and abdomen (bottom part). Once a praying mantis is big enough that the individual segments of the abdomen can be counted, it is possible to say whether a praying mantis is male or female. The female usually has 6 abdomen parts, while the male has 8.

If you are still unsure, you can wait until adulthood. It becomes very clear if a praying mantis is male or female, especially if you see both sexes. 

The body of a male praying mantis is always smaller, in most cases thinner and the wings of the males are longer than the bodies. The body of a female praying mantis seems shorter and stockier and the wings are not long enough to cover the abdomen.

The abdomen of an adult praying mantis is bigger because she will lay the eggs and the foam around them and starts producing both in her abdomen after the final molt, while male mantis do not produce eggs.

How to Catch a Praying Mantis?

If you are lucky and live in an area with wild praying mantis, you can try to either catch a mantis or collect an ootheca with many praying mantis eggs. 

As a whole, praying mantis are harmless insects. You can find them hiding in trees, bushes, and other vascular plants. Gently put your hand under the praying mantis to make it walk on your hand and never grab it.

Praying mantis are non-poisonous and peaceful towards humans. If you find a praying mantis, you should not grab it, because they are still fragile insects. But if you offer them your palm, they might just step on your hand.

Before you walk outside and catch any insect, you should check out the local regulations on catching and keeping insects in your area. 

Where can I Find Praying Mantis Eggs?

Oothecae are egg cases that are laid by female praying mantis in last summer or autumn. They can be collected until spring when the eggs hatch. 

The oothecae can be found on branches and twigs and can safely be removed. If you plan to collect an ootheca, make sure to store it outside or in a fridge so that the outdoor temperature is simulated.

Otherwise, the praying mantis will hatch after a few weeks and you cannot release the nymphs because they will freeze and die.

And even if you are planning to keep some of the praying mantis in your house, oothecae contain anything between a dozen and a few hundred eggs.

This is a bit too much to handle at home, also because every nymph needs its own tank because they are cannibalistic towards each other.

How Many Eggs do Praying Mantis Lay?

A praying mantis can lay several oothecae during adulthood. One ootheca usually contains between a dozen and a hundred eggs. An ootheca can contain up to 400 eggs, but this is very unusual.

The first ootheca that a praying mantis lays contains more eggs than the second, which contains more eggs than the third, and so on.

A female praying mantis will always lay oothecae, no matter if she mated or not. Without mating, the eggs won’t hatch because they are not fertilized.

Where can I Find Praying Mantis in the Wild?

Most praying mantis eat insects. Some also go for amphibians and reptiles, but the majority will be happy with insects of all kinds. 

As a whole, the best place to look for a praying mantis is a place with many insects where the mantis can camouflage between leaves and branches and wait for prey to come close enough.

Great places are bushes and plants close to water, as insects tend to fly around a lot there rivers and lakes are. Praying mantis can hide on the downside of leaves or between twigs. 

Tall, vascular plants are great for praying mantis to hide in.

Praying mantis do not exist in all parts of the world. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t find any praying mantis in the wild. If you want praying mantis as pets, you can also order them online. 

Which Praying Mantis Species is Best for Beginners?

The best beginner species are the local praying mantis. Even though tropical mantis seem cooler, the local ones are better for beginners. Praying mantis that already live in your area are used to the climate and temperature and don’t need extra equipment in the tank.

If there are no local praying mantis in your area, there are still many species that are good for beginners because they are hardy, easy to care for, and easy to handle.

They can be acquired online. 

The best species for beginners are the Chinese Mantis, European Mantis, Arizona Mantis, and the Ghost Mantis (they can even be kept communal)..

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