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Ghost Stories

Here is a collection of my experience raising mantises, mostly Ghosts.

Phyllocrania (leaf head) paradoxa,

The Ghost Mantis

let me start with some of the reasons I love this species

Ghosts are very tough at many temperatures and humidity levels, and tolerate each other’s presence. I feel calling them communal isn’t quite right, though it is the common term, as they don’t seem to interact with each other beyond moving out of the way or occasional cannibalism. They are just more interested in smaller prey, so they don’t tend to eat each other until food runs low. Adult females become more aggressive and I usually separate them out and house single.

Another perk of this species is that the males get to the same size as females, which is not common in many mantises, though they do live shorter lives once mature. My first experience with pet mantises was an orchid that ended up being a male, which was beautiful but far from my expectation. I have a more detailed video on mantis sexual dimorphism here.

I have found that some species can overeat, but ghosts can be left with extra food in the enclosures with no negative results. Also, they don’t often mismolt, a common problem with other mantises.

All around a great species to keep.

Some issues with the species include their tendency to prefer flying foods, and while they will hunt down crickets, they mostly like things to walk by. I have been able to feed them on flightless flies all the way up to adult, and the constant snacking helps them stay uninterested in each other, as I have had many cannibalism cases start when they both grab the same larger feeder. If fly culturing isn’t your thing, they can also be fed dubia, red runners, crickets, and mealworms. They can be fed from tweezers if approached slowly, as they often get shy, or you can place the mantis and the prey in an empty deli cup for a few moments to allow the mantis to easily spot and catch the prey, then return the critter to their decorative enclosure once done eating. Keep in mind, mantis feeders can become a danger during molts, so removing feeders during premolt is a must.

I usually have my mantises let me know what water schedule they prefer. Every enclosure holds water differently, and seasonal changes will also apply, so it is hard to give strict misting advice. I have found to try every other day or two, and if they bow to drink mist them more frequently in the future, if they seem uninterested in water less misting would be fine. That being said, I have noticed (and also read in Orin Mcmonigle’s Keeping Praying Mantis, an absolute must have read for any mantis enthusiast, along with his book on amblypygi) that wetter conditions results a in greener or darker mantis while dryer kept specimen results in tans and light browns. This may be from wild mantises developing the ability to mimic the environment through seasonal vegetation changes. The same has been found with enclosure decoration colors for other species; flower species have been found to turn more pink or yellow given that color’s presence in the cage, but I have not tested further. As for ghosts, females are the only ones that have been found to become green, males range from light tan to dark brown. They change shades with each molt.

The nymphs are easy to sex pretty early, as the crown of a male is much taller, thinner, and more intricate. The males of this species (and many other mantises and roaches) also have longer thicker antenna to pick up female pheromones.

As for food, a variety is suggested to be sure nutrients are not being missed, and I sometimes powder my feeders with bee pollen to mimic the foods they would be getting in the wild. Mantises are mostly sight based predators, and often prefer pollinators, a reason they may not be the best addition to flower gardens. They also enjoy a bit of honey, and I mix up a honey-water-nutritional yeast liquid to feed as well, a health tonic for many of my inverts that are having health problems or as a treat.

Female ghosts will lay ootheca (egg cases) whether or not they are fertile, and can lay as many as 10 or more. Males can have their lives extended by handfeeding, as it seems they mostly forget to eat, mind only big enough to think about one thing.

Another thing I have noticed about this species in contrast to keeping the species often found in the US, introduced European or Chinese mantises, is that the body shape of the nymphs keep them healthier in captivity. Naturalized species you can catch outside or hatch from garden centers are actually rather hard to keep, as they naturally hang upside down from the top of any enclosure, and slowly they can have issues with their abdomen being pulled downward by gravity, resulting in the nymph bending in half and not being able to eat or molt properly. It is a terrible thing to experience. Ghosts and other tropical nymphs happen to already have the V body shape, so they do much better in artificial settings.

I keep most of mine in the larger soft fabric butterfly enclosures pictured, and also keep single females in 32oz containers. I use the disposable socks as tops; mantises don't push out like most other insects would. Also, as you can see in the pictures of my shelves, I light from underneath so that mantises don't collect at the lights, which can prompt cannibalism. Lighting from below helps them and their feeders spread out into the entire enclosure. I also use indoor greenhouses to keep certain groups more humid, just be sure to use a low watt bulb to avoid overheating. I am always on the lookout for nice fake flowers at thrift stores.

I have, on a few occasions, had issues with the wire mesh at the top of exoterras, as with tarantulas getting their feet stuck, mantises can sometimes get their front claws stuck in stiff mesh, so now I tend to avoid or replace it. Ghosts are a species that can climb smooth surfaces, so they can access many places in an enclosure without needing sticks to climb, which a few more ornate species demand.

The main mantis enclosure size rule of thumb is to let them have enough room to molt hanging upside down, so an enclosure with vertical open space that is about 3X the length of the mantis is needed. For most keepers a gallon fish tank with a fabric top would work great for a single ghost. The larger end of the scale depends on how/what you feed, but usually it is found that larger enclosures cause issues for the mantis to find its food, so much larger than a 10 gal for 1-3 would be a bit much, and as I mentioned before that can be avoided by having a smaller 'feeder' enclosure you can add each mantis into so that it can find its food easily. Keeping their abdomen plump like a xmas light bulb is best in communal settings. Usually that means feeding them all they will eat at least once a week Also, misting is the best way to water them, I have never seen them seek out water in a dish.

Also, because they count on cryptic coloration, they are quick to play dead, in contrast to common mantises that are known to put up a bit of a fight. Ghost will roll over 'dead' when handled, which makes them a great choice for younger kids to handle without being intimidated. Their other trick when they are too small to look like leaves is that right out of the ooth they mimic ants, a critter most predators avoid due to the acid content.

Thanks so much, I have other detailed mantis care videos on my YouTube Channel if you would like more details! : Arthropod Ambassadors

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