- Scientific Name: Phyllocrania Paradoxa
- Native in: Tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and Madagascar
- Average Size as an Adult: males 1.8 in – 2.2 in (approx. 4.5 cm – 5.5 cm); females 2 in – 2.5 in (approx. 5 cm – 6.5 cm)
- Diet: Carnivorous, flying insects such as flies
- Lifespan: Males 1 year; females 1.5 years
- Temperature: 75° F – 90° F (approx. 24° C – 32° C)
- Humidity: 50% – 60/70%
- Overall difficulty rating: Easy – Medium
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa is commonly referred to as “Ghost Mantis” due to its’ impressive camouflaging skills. It is a praying mantis species that can be found almost everywhere south of the Sahara in Africa and in Madagascar. It thrives in tropical and subtropical regions and it is not too picky on humidity and temperature. The Phyllocrania Paradoxa is a medium-sized mantis that is relatively easy to keep, compared to other praying mantis species. What’s special about this species is its appearance. The Phyllocrania Paradoxa mimics dead and dried-up leaves and the camouflage skills are simply astonishing and very impressive. Depending on the environment it will adapt the colors to become almost invisible.
The males have the ability to fly after the last molt.
Just like all praying mantis species, the Phyllocrania Paradoxa is carnivorous and waits motionless for its prey to come close enough to get caught. Depending on the size of the praying mantis, it can be fed with fruit flies (Drosophila Melanogaster) in L1 and L2, and bigger fruit flies (Drosophila Hydei) in L2 and L3. Larger praying mantis can also be fed with larger flies such as houseflies, crickets, or smaller cockroaches.
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa is known to be less aggressive towards conspecifics than other praying mantis species, but cannibalism can never be fully excluded. This species is often kept in groups of around 5 individuals as adults. Younger individuals (L1 – L4) can be kept in bigger groups.
If you plan to use twigs or branches from outdoors instead of a pet shop, you should put the wood in the oven for 15 minutes at 212° F (approx. 100° C) or microwave them for 20 seconds to kill off any potential parasites. It’s safer to go with wood from pet stores to make sure that no pesticides or parasites are introduced to the container.
Cage for L1 / L2
When the Phyllocrania Paradoxa nymphs are still very young (L1, L2) they can be kept in plastic jars. The plastic jar should have a hole in the lid with a mesh material glued in so that the praying mantis can dangle from the ceiling. It also allows the air to circulate and to prevent mold. The interior of the plastic jar can be equipped with wood wool or small twigs and leaves to allow the praying mantis to climb around in the container.
It is important that the praying mantis have enough space (at least 2 – 3 times the lengths of the body) beneath them when they dangle from the ceiling. Otherwise, they might be in trouble when they molt and hit any kind of decoration or the floor.
The floor can be covered with some kitchen paper cloth which needs to be exchanged every few days to keep the container clean and free of any molt.
Cage for L3 / L4
Once the praying mantis gets bigger (L3, L4) they should move into a slightly bigger container with more opportunities to climb on twigs and branches. The size should be at least 7 in x 7 in x 7 in (approx. 18cm x 18cm x 18cm).
Don’t put too much decoration into the cage to give your praying mantis enough space to molt without hitting any wood.
Cage for L5 and bigger
Once the Phyllocrania Paradoxa reaches L5, it should move into an enclosure of at least 7.9 in x 7.9 in x 7.9 in (approx. 20 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm) for individuals or 11.8 in x 11.8 in x 17.7 in (approx. 30 cm x 30 cm x 45 cm) for a group of 3 to 4 adults. As mentioned earlier, this species is one of the very few that can be kept in groups due to a lower aggression level than other praying mantis species, but cannibalism is always possible even for this species.
The floor can be covered with soil, sand, kitchen paper, or bark. Praying mantis very rarely walk on the ground, therefor the only purpose of the floor cover is to look pretty and to hold the humidity.
You can use bark or mesh materials on the walls as well to allow the mantis to move along the walls.
Twigs and branches can be used inside the container, as well as artificial plants.
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa can be kept at a temperature between 75° F and 90° F (approx. 24° C – 32° C) during the day and the temperature may drop down to 68° F (approx. 20° C) at night. This species does forgive small mistakes and is rather hardy.
To maintain a consistent temperature, you can use a heat lamp on top or on the side of the container, or a heating mat under a part of the cage. Both options work perfectly and will allow the Phyllocrania Paradoxa to live a happy healthy life.
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa lives in tropical and subtropical areas and is used to medium-high humidity. 50% – 70% is a good humidity level for this species. It can be achieved by spraying water into the enclosure on the floor or against the walls or decoration every second day. Make sure to allow proper ventilation to avoid any mold.
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa is a medium-sized praying mantis species with a very intriguing appearance. It mimics dead and dried leaves and can camouflage perfectly between twigs, leaves, and branches. It will become almost invisible to the human eye. The color of the individual Phyllocrania Paradoxa can vary depending on the environment, the praying mantis lives in. The colors can vary from light beige to dark brown, but black or greenish coloring is also possible.
After L4 it is possible to differentiate between the sexes. The males have longer, thinner “crowns” on their heads than the females. The females have rather wide and straight “crowns”.
The antennae of the males are longer and thicker than the ones of the females, and after the last molt, the males have 8 segments while the females only have 6.
The abdomen of the females is bigger than the males because they produce the oothecae.
Males can live up to a year while females can live up to 1.5 years. Females always live longer than the male praying mantis because after finding a partner for reproduction, the males will either be eaten by the females or simply have no further task in life and will die after a while. The females on the other hand have to produce the oothecae and lay those in order to ensure the survival of the species.
If you are planning to breed, you will need an adult praying mantis. Females reach adulthood in L8 (after 7 molts), and males in L7 (after 6 molts). In some cases, the number of molts can vary. You can recognize the final state because both males and females will have wings. Only the males can actually fly. After the final molt, it takes another 1 to 2 weeks for the male and 2 to 3 weeks for the female to be ready to mate.
Even if males and females are the same age, they can mate because the males will live for a few more months after the final molt and can wait until the female is ready to mate. If you want to be extra safe, you can keep the males in a slightly cooler container (but never lower than 68° F (approx. 20° C)) to make sure that females and males reach adulthood around the same time.
Before putting males and females together, make sure that the females are well-fed and not hungry. Otherwise, the females will attack and eat the male before he was even able to mate. If males and females were kept together anyways, they should all be well-fed and will eventually mate without your assistance.
In some cases, the males will hop on the females’ backs and stay there for several hours before the mating process starts. After a successful mating process, the female will start to glue oothecae (egg cases) in different parts of the cage. The humidity should not be increased dramatically, spraying water into the enclosure every second day is enough.
The egg cases of praying mantis are called ootheca. The plural is oothecae. The Oothecae of the Phyllocrania Paradoxa can be up to 2 in (approx. 5 cm) in length and is rather flat and dark brown. The females tend to glue the egg cases to thin twigs. After the final molt, it takes approximately 4 to 5 weeks until the female lays her first oothecae. After that, she will continue to lay oothecae every 1 to 2 weeks. Oothecae of the Phyllocrania Paradoxa can contain up to 50 eggs, but the average is around 25 eggs.
A female Phyllocrania Paradoxa can lay up to 15 oothecae, but usually, the first few ones are the “best” with the most outcome.
The incubation period is the time the oothecae need until the nymphs hatch. This period is 4 to 6 weeks for the Phyllocrania Paradoxa. The temperature and humidity should be the same as for the adults during the incubation time. The average eclosion rate is around 80 nymphs that are usually around 0.2 in (approx. 0.5 cm) when they hatch.
Overall Difficulty Rating
The Phyllocrania Paradoxa is a very popular praying mantis species for beginners and advanced keepers. It is fascinating to look at and rather easy to care for compared to other praying mantis species. It is rather hardy and medium-sized which means that the enclosure does not have to be super big.
The overall difficulty rating is easy to medium for this species.
Here is an article on whether praying mantis can be kept as pets: https://animal-knowledge.com/can-you-keep-praying-mantis-as-a-pet/
Here you can find the answer to your question if praying mantis make good pets: https://animal-knowledge.com/are-praying-mantis-good-pets/
Here is a list of the best beginner praying mantis species: https://animal-knowledge.com/what-are-good-beginner-praying-mantis-species/
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 🙂