Praying mantis are an interesting group to breed. Not
only are they an excellent food source for most chameleons but they are interesting as pets in their own right. Newly hatched nymphs are eagerly eaten by small chameleons, including brookesias.
As there are so many species, from many different habitats and ecosystems, it is not possible to
give one simple set of guidelines regarding their care. As a rule of thumb, any
exotic mantis require high humidity whereas most local ones do not. Like all
wildlife, there are exceptions.
Feeding most mantis is straight forward as they are aggressive predators and will eat most insects
including crickets, cockroaches, grasshoppers, flies and moths, even silkworms. This is not always the case and some foreign
species will only eat flying insects and eating crickets will be fatal, so check carefully before feeding.
Sexing the adult mantis is generally easy. The female will often
be larger and, in some cases, will only have rudimentary wings or none at all, while the smaller male is normally able to
fly. Breeding mantis can be a challenge as the female has a deserved reputation
for eating males but so long as the female has been well fed, the male may survive. To avoid problems ensure the female is
fat, leaving her several weeks before introducing her to the male. Pairing can
last a few minutes or several hours.
Once mated the female should be fed heavily and somewhere between two and four weeks later she will produce
an ootheca, containing between 30 to 200 eggs, which will benefit from light spraying.
Nymphs will normally hatch from one to four months later and the majority will hatch at the same time. After drying out they will scatter to find their own little perch where they will wait for food.
Fruit flies make an ideal food source for newly hatched nymphs but some nymphs are very small, so springtails
and aphids are needed. Despite their cannibalistic tendencies most nymphs can
be kept together for the first few instars - if ample food is available. A few
species can be kept together until they are adults but most cannot so when the number in the cage starts to drop it is time
to separate them. The length of time spent as nymphs varies but is normally between
two and four months. Adult females can live for over a year and produce more
than six ootheca.
Please click here for an overview of Praying Mantis species sometimes available in South Africa