rule of thumb: The minimum size for mantids is easy to define on your own:
- Length = Width = 2x Size of the mantid
- Heigth = 3x Size of the mantid
Also for keeping groups of mantids for communal species, if possible, minimum sizes should be followed to avoid stress for the animals. Terrarium Generally every container with enough ventilation (s. "ventilation")can be used. The most beautiful are glass-terrariums. Sometimes small glass-terrariums with two ventilation areas are available. The ceiling should be covered with fly-screen or fine mesh, so the mantids can hand from it. This is very important for molting.
The least expensive and easiest way to keep mantids, especially when you have more mantids, are plastic containers. Recommendable are 5 or 6 liter boxes.
Ventilation: avoid stagnant air and water. A habitat should have two opposite ventilation areas. (One should be on a lower and the other one on a higher position.) Most often containers (like for spiders) have just one ventilation area. These are not recommended. This can cause stagnant moisture and still air which can kill your mantis. Sometimes decorative terrariums can be useful for mantids which have to be kept at a high moisture (like Hymenopus coronatus).
Humidity: The relative humidity (rh) is one of the most important parameters for a successful keeping and breeding of mantids. It helps with molting and the well-being of the mantids. Every species has its own requirement to the humidity, depending on their origin between low (desert/semi-desert) and high (rain-forest) humidity. Thus the origin or the habitat should be known. If it is not possible to define the origin or the habitat you have to test it. Therefore small groups have to be split up (if possible). The first group should be kept at low rh (30 - 50%), the second at a medium rh (50 - 70%) and the third at a high rh (70 - 100%).
Temperature: Mantids choose the optimal temperature on their own, if they can. For that it is important to create a temperature gradient within the terrarium. A heater can spot a maximum temperature (especially for mantids from desert regions). In smaller terrariums it is not possible to create a temperature gradient, so you have to choose a medium temperature, between minimum and maximum (male nymphs often need a lower temperature than female nymphs, s. "Growth and Lifespan"). Also the behavior can show the well-being of the mantid. If it sits at the ventilation area it could be too hot inside. High temperatures are worse than lower.Diapause Some species, for example from Europe, have a diapause in winter. Within this time the metabolism sinks and the growth nearly stops. Depending on species and origin the diapause happens in a larval stage, adult or in the ooth. If you want to keep mantids from regions with a cold winter (like Europe, northern Asia and Russia), you have to create the correct atmosphere. The start can be the stop of molting. This is the time where you have to lower the temperature until you reach 5°C- 15°C (optimal is often 10°C). The diapause often starts at the middle of autumn and ends at the beginning of spring. For the exact times look at temperature diagrams of the habitats. Species who have a diapause (depending on their origin) are for example:
- Ameles decolor
- Ameles heldreichi
- Ameles spallanziana
- Empusa fasciata
- Empusa pennata
- Geomantis larvoides
- Iris oratoria
- Mantis religiosa
- Pseudoyersina brevipennis
- Pseudoyersina lagrecai
- Pseudoyersina paui
- Rivetina baetica
- Rivetina nana
Growth and Lifespan: Growth- and Lifespan depends on temperature and the amount of food. A cooler climate leads to a slower development and a longer lifespan of the nymphs, as well as a less food. Sometimes a longer larva state is inposed if feeding is sparse. Thus the growth-span can be retarded strongly. Therefore you can retard the growth of male nymphs, which often need 1- 2 molts less than females. But pay attention, that the temperature will not differ to much from the optimum temperature. Growth: This issue will not be examined extensively or scientifically. The larva-states are mentioned as "Lx", the "x" stands for the number of the actual molting-state. At the hatching the nymphs are named as L1 (no molt). Shortly after the hatch, the nymphs molt for the first time, so they are "L2". Thus a freshly hatched "ready" nymph is named as "L2". Every molting increases the number. So a "L5"-nymph has molted 4 times.
In principle, the development of the mantids starts with the development of the eggs in the adult female. The eggs look like rice grains. Depending on the species, the growth of the eggs starts days till weeks after the imaginal-molting. The abdomen of the female gets bigger and she is more omnivorous, so you have to feed her more often. A soon as the eggs are ready to be fertilized, the female starts to secret pheromones. She is bending her abdomen to the ground to spray the pheromones.
At this time the female is ready to mate. After successful copulation the eggs are fertilized and a new generation of mantids starts to develop. An exception is the parthenogenesis, where no males are needed for reproduction. Mostly one copulation is enough for several ooths, this is because females have a reservoir for the sperm. Some time after copulation (depending on species), the female starts to lay the eggs. She builds a so-called "ooth" (ootheca), an egg mass. The eggs aren't laid separately but within a foam of protein which hardens into a tough casing to protect the eggs. Ooths differ variously from species to species in form, color and size. Also the quantity of eggs differ. The growth of the embryos takes place within the ooth.
The time the embryo needs to develop depends on the temperature. Cooler temperatures cause a longer developing time, accordingly a higher temperature a shorter time. But the incubation-temperature should be in the typal scope. In the majority of cases, the incubation-time takes 4- 6 weeks. Another criterion is the humidity. Depending on the origin, the ooth is more or less permeable for water. So the humidity has to fit to avoid the drying-out of the embryos. If all conditions are right, the mantids hatch. This happens in the wee hours of the morning or in the late evening mostly. The hatching nymphs look like worms and are called pre-larvae. During the hatching the larvae slip out of the ooth slowly, when they are out they lower themselves on a "rope", which is often 3 or more times longer then the pre-larvae. (There are also exceptions which do not "roping".) This larva-state is called "L1".
As soon as the nymphs have hardened, they run around in all directions. From this time on, they have to stand on their own. The hardening-time of the "chitin-carapace" can take several hours. The next molt usually occurs 10 days after the hatch. During growth, larva molts several times until it is adult. The number of molts and the time depends on species. Growth is typal scope and depends on temperature and feed. The state before the last molting is called "sub-adult". You can see the rudiments of the wings. When they lift up from the abdomen, the final molt is beginning. and called the "imaginal molt"
After this "imaginal-molt" the mantid is full-grown. This is the adult state and the animal is called adult or "imago". They are now sexually mature growth is completed. Note: Mantids from cooler habitats have a diapause, where the growing stops/ lags. For more information look at "Ventilation/Temperature". The optimal temperatures and humidity for the development should be taken from the origin/ habitat of the mantid, if its known.
Molting: This issue will not be examined extensively or scientifically. In fact own experiences will be reflected. Mantids have a compact chitin-carapace, which can not grow. Thus mantids have to molt to grow. The first molting occurs at the hatching, the last before the sexual maturity. Between those several molts are necessary, during which the larva grows bit by bit. The molting-procedure is always the same. Just the last molting to the imago differs. All mantids molt headfirst, exceptional some rare species like Eremiaphila sp.
The molting is released by certain hormones. The mantid stops eating, a certain time (sometimes days) before the molting. Shortly before, it searches for a place to hang headfirst, like a perch or the top of the terrarium. Now the molting-process starts. By "pumping" the abdomen, air is pressed into the body and the old chitin-carapace is "burst open" at the back. This process can take several hours or even days.
When the carapace bursts, the mantid slips out of it. At first the cervix and head, then the legs and the arms. At last the abdome follows, but not the whole, ca. 1/6 of the abdome remains in the old chin. This process needs about a half hour, but shouldn't take not longer than 1- 2 hours.
Now the pliant chitin-carapace has to harden, after hemolymph and air expended it to a maximum. Therefore the mantid remains with the end of the abdome in her old carapace, sometimes for hours. When the legs have hardened enough, the mantid pulls itself out of the old skin and hardens at an adequate place. Sometimes this takes several days. Not till then, it starts to eat. The imaginal-molting is the same up to the point, when the mantid gets complete out of the old skin. Then it searches for a vertical area. Such an area is necessary to unfold the wings by gravitation and by pumping hemolymph into them. This procedure can take several hours.
During the hardening the carapace and the wings turn dark. Even potentially color adjustments happen directly after the molting. Thus 3 important requirements result for the terrarium and its arrangements: areas where the mantids can hang headfirst are required, like gauze at the top of the terrarium or branches etc. these ones have to be free to the bottom so that there is enough space for the mantid, at least 2 times "length" of the mantid for the imaginal-molting a vertical area is needed, like leaves, vertical branches or a wall of cork It is recommendable to rise the humidity before an expected molting, to avoid getting stuck. Note: Own experiences have shown, that the mantid "grows" between the moltings, that means the chitin-carapace can expend slightly.
Reproduction Mantids propagate sexually. Just a few exceptions are known, which make parthenogenesis, where no males for the reproduction are needed. From a parthenogenetic ooth only female nymphs will hatch. But almost all mantids have a sexual reproduction. Some days till weeks after the imaginal-molting the adults are sexually mature. This time depends on the species, but also on temperature and feed. 7-14 days is the average. When the female reached the sexual maturity, she starts to secret pheromones, by bending her abdome to the ground to spray the pheromones. According to species, you can sometimes see her spray
As soon as the female secretes pheromones, she is willing to mate. So you try to mature them, by placing the male to the female. When the male absorbs the pheromones with its antennae, it will follow this trace of scent. Thus errant males find the locomotion-lazy females in nature in wide spaces. This kind of communication has advantages compared with other ways: the females do not reveal their position to predators or prey. When the male has the spoor, it follows this track to find the female (often 20cm - 50cm). When the male has found its female, the approach depends on the species. Basically there are two ways of rapprochement. The first one is, that the male goes straight and fast to the female and jumps on her without any courtship behavior. So the male surprises the female. This behavior is typical for smaller species like Odontomantis, Pseudogalepsus und Ameles. More often a courtship behavior takes place. The male closes on the female, but more slowly and with caution to avoid being identified as prey, the male approaches from behind. When the male is close enough it vibrates with its antennae. Probably this "vibrating" becalms the female, but this is not proven. If the female ready to mate it flattens and puts forth its arms. The male recognizes this behavior as an "invitation" and jumps/flies on the female. After jumping on the female, sometimes male sits wrong, but they will correct the position.
As soon as the male has the right position, it holds on tight at the females pronotum with its arms. Some species sit on the females without copulation, after the mounting. The female carries the male on its back, sometimes for several days. This behavior is often shown by Pseudocreobotra and Phyllocrania, for example. The mating starts when the male is searching for the female`s vent. When the male finds it, the female expands the vent, allowing the male to penetrate. After this, the male remains in this position, depending on the species for minutes, hours or even days (this is the specified copulation-period). At the end the male transfers the spermatophore (sperm "packet") to the female, which contains the sperm.
After the transfer the male escapes as fast as possible to avoid being identified as prey. In case of cannibalism during the mating, the copulation is not influenced, because the abdomen can continue independently and transfer the spermatophore. Sexual cannibalism is seldom and can often lead back to a bad nutritional condition of the female. Thus the female should be fed very well, till she doesn't want to eat any more. Furthermore prey can be given to the female while the male is attempting to mate. The female drops out the closure of the sperm-packet and strikes it off or eats it. The males are 2-5 days are ready to mate after the copulation. The female in contrary starts to build an ooth hours, days or weeks after the mating, depending on the species.
After depositing the ooth, several days are needed till the female is ready to mate again. One fertilisation is often enough for several ooths. The females can store sperms to fertilize the eggs later. It is recommendable to repeat the mating after 1-2 ooth, with inbreeders particulary. Is an adult female not being mated, it will build a compensation-ooth (if this is not the right term and you know it, please write us!), probably. Except of parthenogenetic species, from this ooth nothing will hatch. The necessarity to lay this ooth is to survive, because the female starts to build the eggs shortly after her imaginal molting, but they cannot be stored for a longer time. The compensation-ooth is often smaller than fertilized ones. It is not possible to differ unfertilized ooth from fertilized. To get more clarity it is necessary to open the ooth. If larvae are growing, you should see them from the middle of the incubation time. If the incubation time is exceeded, you can open the ooth carefully at a small area. You can find: rice-grain similar eggs, fluid-filled: unfertilized ooth humid eggs, larvae identifiable: fertilized ooth, hatch can follow desiccated and/ or shriveled eggs: the incubation was to dry Sexing: Many species have sex dimorphism (differences between male and female within the same species). A sure method to differ the sexes is to count the abdominal sternites (segments at the abdome-underside). This is possible from ca. L4/L5. The females have 6 segments. The last segment (at the end of the abdome) is large, comparatively, and is called "sub-genital-plate". The males have 8 visible segments. The last two are smaller than the rest and are together nearly as big as the sub-genitalplate of the female.
Celsius is a simple metric scale where water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100 degrees. Every whole degree change in Celsius is nearly 2 degrees in Fahrenheit, this is why it's easier to fine tune a thermostat in F to your perfect comfort level.
2 degrees in Fahrenheit, this is why it's easier to fine tune a thermostat in F to your perfect comfort level.
Here are a few common temperatures to remember:
|Water boils (at sea level)||212||100|
|Really hot, sweating in the shade||100||38|
|Wear a Jacket||65||18|
|Wear gloves and a scarf||50||10|
Here is the easiest method to mentally convert to a temperature that you are familiar with, and it will generally be accurate to within a few degrees. Just remember "Double Add Thirty".