Praying Mantis

a close up of a Praying Mantis waiting for prey to come close to them

Praying Mantis are a unique and fascinating species of insect that can make great family pets. They have long, slender bodies with large eyes and two raptorial forelegs that they use to catch their prey. Praying Mantis come in a variety of colors, from green to brown to pink, and they can grow up to four inches in length.

If you’re considering getting a Praying Mantis as a pet, you may be wondering what they’re like and if they’re the right pet for you. Praying Mantis are relatively easy to care for, and they can make great family pets. They’re also quite interesting to watch, as they move around their enclosure with grace and agility.

Praying Mantis are a rather large insect that can be found throughout most of the world. It’s thought that they originated in Europe and then were brought to other countries including the US more than 100 years ago. They are commonly found in wooded areas, but can be found near open areas as well. 

Praying Mantises are very territorial, and will attack other insects that threaten their home. They are not aggressive towards humans, and will usually only bite if provoked. 

Praying Mantis are solitary creatures, so they don’t need to be kept with other animals. They also don’t require a lot of space, as they can live comfortably in a small enclosure. They do need a warm and humid environment, however, so you’ll need to provide them with the right kind of habitat.

They eat crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and similar insects. They often will stalk their prey and wait until it’s close to them before latching onto it and sucking out the insides. Praying mantis are often considered to be the perfect pets because they don’t need a lot of care or cleaning. They are messy eaters, and still need their home cleaned after they eat.

Praying Mantis are fascinating creatures, and will provide hours of entertainment for children. They are a perfect companion for someone who enjoys nature.

They are relatively inexpensive, costing around $1 per egg. If you want a lot of eggs they are available online at about $10 per 50 live Mantises.

If you’re looking for a unique pet that is both interesting and low-maintenance, then a Praying Mantis may be the perfect choice for you. They are fascinating creatures to watch , and they can make great family pets. With the right care and attention, your Praying Mantis will be a loyal companion for years to come.

Overall, Praying Mantises can make great family pets if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to care for them properly. They are fascinating creatures to watch, and they can provide hours of entertainment. So, if you’re looking for a unique pet that is both interesting and low-maintenance, then a Praying Mantis may be the perfect choice for you.

Praying Mantis Information

  • Average Length: 2 to 3 inches
  • Average Weight: Less than 20 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Rigid outer skeleton
  • Skin Colors: Brown to Green. 
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Molts every 9 to 15 days
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No 
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: They can have Deformations, Folded Wings, Dark Spots and Egg-bound
  • Average Life Span: Up to 1 year in captivity

Physical Appearance of Praying Mantises

a close up of a Praying Mantis walking up some leaves

Praying Mantises can be all sorts of sizes, shapes and colors. Their ability to camouflage with their surroundings are what protects them from predators. Many Praying Mantis species look like twigs or dead leaves that let them camouflage with their surroundings. They can be green, brown or in some cases pink or purple.

Mantises have large triangular-shaped heads. Mantises can turn their heads 180 degrees letting them look over their shoulders for prey or predators. Their heads can turn so far because of a flexible joint between their head and prothorax.

Praying Mantises have six legs, but it’s their front two that help them catch prey. The speed of their front legs are so fast that it is hard to see them move with the naked eyes. Their front legs called raptorial legs have several spikes that help them pin down their prey.

Praying Mantises have two large compound eyes with three simple eyes located between them. The large compound eyes see depth and motion while the simple eyes detect light.

Most Mantises have only one ear located on the underside of their body, in front of their hind legs. Because they only have one ear, they’re unable to identify where the sound is coming from. The Praying Mantis species that don’t have one ear are deaf because they don’t have any ears.

Many species of Mantises are flightless. Some Praying Mantises species will grow wings, the length of them vary by species. Some of the flightless Mantis species will still grow wings. Some of the flightless species will grow short wings that can’t support flight.

Those species that grow long wings will be able to fly and have wings that are as long as their body. Mantises that have wings, usually have 2 sets of wings. The outer set has a hard layer that acts as protection. The inner set is light, soft and colorless.

The reality is that wings don’t do much for Praying Mantises because of how late in life they grow them. Their wings only develop towards the end of their life span at close to 1 year.

Temperament of a Praying Mantis

a close up of a Praying Mantis eating prey

There are over 2000 different species of Praying Mantis and their temperament varies based on individual species.

They are terrifying and aggressive with their prey, but for their owners Praying Mantis are safe to handle. Praying Mantises normally don’t bite their owners and even if they do, their bite is not harmful. The bite doesn’t cause pain and it’s rare for them to cause bleeding.

While handling them remember to hold them gently and keep your eyes on them. They move fast and if taken out of their tank may escape and climb your walls or curtains. They may try to bite you if you make fast movements or scare them. If they do bite you, avoid shaking your hand because it can hurt your Praying Mantis.

Praying Mantis should be housed alone because they can get aggressive with other Mantises. Keeping them together can lead to cannibalism. Cannibalism is more commonly seen with female Mantises because they are known to eat males. Sometimes the female will behead males during or after mating with them. The degree of their aggression varies depending on the species of Mantises.

Their Compatibility with Children

Praying Mantis are small and don’t usually bite, children can be allowed to play with them without much worry. Younger children should be supervised by an adult when handling the Mantises but children older than 10 years can be left alone with them. Older children should understand how to handle Praying Mantises alone.

Living Space for a Praying Mantis

A Praying Mantis needs an enclosure with a good substrate and branches for decorations. The cage should have a secured lid and be well ventilated. A mesh top with mesh sides can keep the cage ventilated. A small aquarium or reptile enclosure can be used to house Praying Mantis but it’s not always the best option.

a close up of a Praying Mantis walking up a plant

Cage Size

Small glass jars can be used to keep younger Praying Mantis. These should have holes to keep the jar ventilated. For adults Praying Mantis the length and width of their enclosure should be at least three times their height and two times the length of their body. A 1-square foot tank will usually be a good size if you have a smaller Mantis. Avoid keeping them in a larger tank because it will make it more difficult for them to catch prey.

Substrate

Good substrate options include peat, soil or a mixture of both. Soil, sand or vermiculite can also be used. These substrates will help retain moisture. The substrate you use only needs to be about one inch deep.

Decorations

Several twigs should be added inside their enclosure. The twigs should be long enough to reach the top of their tank. This is important because your Mantises need space to hang from the twigs when they are molting. Decorations like potted plants or artificial plants are good if you have the space for it. Try not to put too many things in the tank because your Praying Mantis needs space to move around.

Water Source

Mantises stay hydrated by drinking water droplets that form on tank decorations and from their prey. While Praying Mantis usually don’t drink water, their cage should still have a water source. Even if they don’t drink the water, the water bowl will help keep the cage humid. A small bottle cap can be used as a water source.

Best Climate for a Praying Mantis

a Praying Mantis hanging upside down from a pine tree

The climate needs for your Praying Mantis will vary depending upon the species you get. While some can tolerate a wide variety of climate conditions, some will have very specific needs. Check the needs of the species you get before setting up their tank.

Temperature

African Praying Mantis, the most commonly kept species, needs a temperature kept between 70°F and 86°F. For many people, this will be the normal room temperature of their homes. If an additional heating source is needed to keep this temperature, an under-tank heating mat can be used. 

Humidity

The humidity level varies for different species. For African Praying Mantis the humidity should be at least 60 percent. Regular misting in their tank and keeping a water source inside their tank will keep their enclosure humid.

The Attention a Praying Mantis Needs

Apart from feeding and looking after their tank, Praying Mantises don’t need a lot of attention.

They will need your attention when they are molting. Mantises should not be fed before they start molting. You will know they are going to molt when their skin becomes pale because their exoskeleton starts to pull away from their skin.

While molting your Praying Mantis will hang upside down by their legs. Their cage should not be touched while they are molting because it can interfere with their molting. A Mantis that falls while molting has only a 25% chance of surviving. While molting might only take 20 minutes, their skin can take up to 24 hours to completely dry.

Sometimes your Mantis will lose a limb while molting. Increasing the humidity of the tank may help them regrow their limb the next time they molt.

Health Issues

Common health issues in Praying Mantis are:

Molting Problems

For insects that molt, molting is the most dangerous time for them. If the conditions are not right during the molting process they could die from being trapped in their old body or emerge with deformations.

Humidity is very important to molting. If you know that your Praying Mantis is about to molt it’s always a good idea to raise the humidity level within their enclosure. You’ll want the humidity at least 60%, but between 70% and 80% is better while they’re molting.

Praying Mantises will hang from something in their enclosure when it’s time to molt. If they attach to something too low it’s possible that they’ll be touching the floor of their enclosure while molting. By touching the floor it can deform several different parts of their body while it’s still soft. The best thing to do is make sure that the places they’re likely to hang from are high enough that they won’t touch the bottom of their enclosure.

Unfortunately many of the deformations your Praying Mantis will likely receive will be life long. Depending on the severity of the deformation it could lead to an early death.

Deformations

Deformations or torn limbs can occur if a Praying Mantis has difficulty molting. Lack of humidity can result in your Mantis getting stuck in their old skin that will cause deformation. Keeping the appropriate humidity and leaving their cage untouched when they are molting can help. Consult a vet for the best advice.

Folded Wings

When your Praying Mantis has their final molt they will emerge with wings. To molt they hang upside down, but after they emerge their head needs to be up. There needs to be enough room in their enclosure for them to hang with their head up so that their wings will unfold and dry properly.

If your Praying Mantis has their wings off to one side it’s not going to affect them much. It will just look off for the rest of their life.

Dark Spots

The most common reason your Praying Mantis will have a dark spot on it is because of feces. It might be their feces, or it could be from one of the insects you’ve fed to them. If it washes off its more than likely feces.

If the spot does not come off with some water, and gets larger it could be a fungal infection. Typically a fungal infection will start with their legs and be brown or black. It’s very important that they be isolated from any other insects you have. Make sure that the temperature is kept warm, and lower the humidity of their enclosure. Try to keep them as dry as you can without lowering the humidity too much.

Egg-bound

An egg-bound Praying Mantis is one that is unable to lay eggs. There are a number of reasons why this could happen, the main two are temperature and humidity. Sometimes it’s because they were laying eggs and it hardened before it had a chance to be deposited, and now blocks new eggs from being laid.

If she is not able to continue laying eggs she will become lethargic and then eventually her abdomen will burst, killing her. Keeping the temperature and humidity higher is a good way to prevent your Mantis from becoming egg-bound.

If you see something stuck, and the temperature and humidity is already up, it may help to hold a wet paper towel to your Mantis to try to soften things so that the blockage can be cleared. If this doesn’t work, call your vet and let them know what your situation is.

General Praying Mantis Care

Your Praying Mantises tank doesn’t need regular cleaning. Mantis are small insects and usually don’t make a mess, except for when they eat. Every few months their cage should be cleaned completely and replace their substrate.

Before you begin cleaning, place your Praying Mantis inside a separate container. Avoid grabbing them because they are delicate and can get injured. Instead let them move inside the containers or walk on your hand.

After removing your Mantis take out any decorations like twigs and plants. Remove their old substrate and scrub the enclosure using hot water. Let the enclosure dry completely. Once their enclosure is dry, add fresh substrate to the bottom and put the decorations back.

Wash your hands completely after cleaning the enclosure. Washing your hands should keep you from getting sick if there was any bacteria in the enclosure.

Feeding A Praying Mantis

praying mantises love crickets

Praying Mantis need to be fed live insects because they won’t eat dead insects. They can be given a variety of feeder insects. Insects like fruit flies, aphids, nymphs, instars or smaller Mantises are good for them. They can also be fed flying insects like moths and house flies. Large Mantis can be fed crickets or mealworms occasionally.

The feeder insects should be gut-loaded before being fed to your Mantis. Gut-loading involves feeding insects with nutritious foods. These nutrients then pass on to your Mantis when they eat the insect.

Insects can be bought at a pet store or caught around your house. Keeping a colony of living insects can be helpful to feed your Mantis, but many families don’t want to keep so many insects at their home.

Praying Mantises should be fed only once every 2 to 4 days. The size of their food will depend upon the size and age of your pet Mantis. Smaller Mantises should be fed small cockroaches or house flies. Increase the size of their food as your Mantis grows. Some Mantis will eat insects as large as their size. Females tend to eat more than male Praying Mantis.

Uneaten prey should be removed after a few minutes, otherwise the prey can injure your Mantises legs. Mantis tend to be messy eaters and can leave behind legs, wings or pieces of their prey while eating. Any uneaten food should be removed daily.

Related Questions:

Why are They Called Praying Mantis?

They are called Praying Mantis because of the way they keep their front legs, the legs they attack other insects with. Mantises keep their front legs in a grasping posture that looks similar to how someone might hold their hands to pray.

Earlier the term “Praying Mantis” was used to denote only a specific species – the European Mantis. Now it is referred to all the large family of Mantises. There are over 2,000 Praying Mantis species.

Is it Legal to Keep a Praying Mantis as a Pet in the US?

Praying Mantis are exotic pets. While most states in the US allow them to be kept as pets, some states have restrictions on keeping exotic pets. Always check your local laws before getting something that could be considered an exotic pet like a Praying Mantis.

Are Praying Mantis Used by Farmers for Pest Control?

Praying Mantis love to eat other insects and many farmers take advantage of this. They are often regarded as a natural pest control because Mantises will eat insects that damage crops. It’s not always great because sometimes they eat up the beneficial bugs as well.