Mantises are content to hang from a safe place watching for prey, and need a few elements to thrive in their enclosure. A place to molt is the most important aspect, allowing the mantis room to hang and shed their skin, about 3x the height of the mantis. Fabrics and other décor to cling from is good as well. Avoid chemicals such as pesticides on houseplants and cleaning product residue. Air flow is also important, enhanced with side vents in the enclosure more than just top holes. Mantises need very little exercise room, most of the setup is for the keeper’s enjoyment. If the enclosure gets too complex it can be best to have a second feeding station enclosure where feeders can’t hide, especially if using roaches, mealworms, and other burrowing feeders. Temperatures between 60-80*F are ideal and special lights are not needed, ambient is fine.
Mantises are sight-based predators, so they eat whatever moves. Avoid dangerous prey such as bees, ants, wasps, spiders, toxic butterflies/moths, black soldier fly, stinkbugs, and others. These arthropods protect themselves with chemicals that can harm the mantis, either by stinging or having poison in their body. Even crickets are very protein hungry and will take any chance to harm a mantis, especially if the mantis is molting and vulnerable. The safest foods for your mantis tend to be flies and roaches. Red Runner roaches and blue bottle flies are favorite feeders, as well as mealworms, dubia, and more. With feeders that tend to bury themselves, feeding with tongs is best to be sure they are not loose in the mantis enclosure, or you can also have a smaller ‘feeding’ enclosure with no substrate so the mantis can find and hunt down its meal before going back into a regular setup. Hydei fruit flies are a must for mantises at young ages.
Mantises don’t search for standing water such as a dish, but instead drink mist droplets from dew forming in the wild as temps fluctuate. They also obtain moisture from their food. Smaller nymphs dry out quickly while adults can hold their internal hydration well. Misting every other day or so with clean chemical-free water is best, as well as ensuring the enclosure has enough air flow to dry out in between watering sessions. Every enclosure holds water differently (mesh vs plastic, side ventilation, etc.) so it is good practice to watch your mantis and see if it is thirsty to best inform how often you water. If the mantis bows down to drink, water a little more often going forward, if it does not seem interested in watering time it may be best to skip a day.
The most intimidating time for new mantis owners as well as seasoned keepers is molting. Pre-molt is a time where your mantis will be very fat and still, and it is important that they have had plenty to drink before that time. Internal hydration is key, much more important than ambient humidity when it comes to successful molts. Well hydrated mantises that are left undisturbed by extra feeders will molt straight down from a tight grip, usually under a leaf or from the top of the enclosure, and often they wait for the dark of night to do so, as they are completely helpless during the process, which is usually only a few minutes for smaller mantises, and only maybe 15 or so for larger specimens, with another 30 mins to an hour for adults to pump their wings full. Mantises (as well as most insects) only get their wings with their last molt, and are adult after that point. The amount of molts varies between species as well as between sexes within certain species.
Mantises found in the PNW must live through their lives and breed after spring and before winter, giving them about 8 months to live and start the next generation. Mantises available as pets are often tropical and can live through the seasons. Females can grow for about 8 months or so, and live another 8 months as adults, individuals often push past those estimates to live around 2 years total. Males live a faster life and pass away a few months after turning to adult. Once mantises pass of old age they make beautiful pinned specimen to display, striking others with curiosity and prompting stories of how exciting mantises are to keep as pets!
Thanks so much, I have other detailed mantis care videos on my YouTube Channel if you would like more details!
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