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The Praying Mantis has lived among us for centuries. Their beauty and mystique stirs our curiosity. Long and slender, quick yet graceful they stand on top of the insect world as regal creatures of the fields even in all their many colors of camouflage.
 
My brother, JSY, who has traveled around the world as an exotic pet collector and I have been fascinated with the Praying Mantis ever since we were little. This website is dedicated to this beautiful creature of nature. I have provided original commentary of our experience raising the praying mantis as a loyal pet and just observing the praying mantis in their natural habitat as well. We will also provide videos and articles from other experts as well.
 
We will be providing a whole host of information including the praying mantis life cycle, eggs, natural enemies, fascinating facts and the praying mantis as pets. I hope you enjoy this website for the praying mantis as we share it with you.
 
Origins of the Name    

A praying mantis, or praying mantid, is the common name for an insect of the order Mantodea. The word is sometimes misspelled “preying” mantis, understandably since they are natural predators. They are in fact named for the typical "prayer-like" stance. The word mantis is actually derived from the Greek word mantis for prophet or fortune teller. The preferred pluralization is mantids, though there is some usage of mantes or mantises. The world's largest praying mantis was recorded at about 18 centimeters long, in Southern China, in 1929. That is almost the length of a human’s forearm!    
 
The preying mantis has a three segmented body, with a head, thorax and abdomen. The abdomen is elongated on which some praying mantis have wings as adults. Females have strong and large cerci. The first thoracic segment, the pro thorax is elongated and from it arises the modified spiked foreleg. Their famous forelegs is extraordinarily powerful for their size and crushes the prey in half. Their mouth parts have several strong cutting components to tear and consume through insect exteriors.
 
The Prayer Stance
 
 
Mantids, with their huge compound eyes mounted on the triangular, almost alien-like head, have a large field of vision. Their keen sight for detecting movement of prey and the flexible movement of the head to bring their prey into their binocular field of view are one of the keys to their hunting. They are able to turn their head 180 degrees forexcellent vision and hearing. Their antennae are most likely used for smell.  With all these cool features, the one extraordinary and unique aspect of this creature is its prayer stance.  A praying mantis praying is a wonder to behold.  It has been one of nature's signature symbol of spiritual connection between earth creature and creator.
 
Where to Find a Praying Mantis
 

One popular search around the web is this:  where to find a praying mantis.  So obviously people are looking.  This is a very good question because it took me years before I first learned about the mantis in books til I finally saw one in real life.  The fact is, you can dig up under a brick in your back yard and find worms, bugs or ants in the dirt.  Mantids are not as numerous as other insects.  You really have to look in high places so to speak.
 

Praying mantises can be found in all parts of the world with mild winters and sufficient vegetation during the late spring to late summer months. Praying mantis will spend most of their time in a garden, forest or other vegetated area.

Interesting Praying Mantis Facts

As an apex carnivorous insect, the praying mantis feeds mainly on other insects. It is, however, documented that larger praying mantises are able to consume small reptiles and even small mammals or birds. These praying mantis facts are well documented in many praying mantis videos.


An interesting praying mantis fact is that they are often the prey of large frogs, monkeys, larger birds, bats and snakes. Similar sized spiders and giant hornets are also natural enemies.

 As notorious cannibals, praying mantis will also prey on each other, usually during the nymph stage and often during mating. 

As part of the final praying mantis life cycle stage often does not develop wings until the final molt. Some praying mantis do not develop wings at all, or may have small wings that cannot function for full flights, just short and jumping bursts.

 It will often fly when the adult female begins to emit pheremones which attract males for mating. As with the black widow spider, it is a common belief that all males become the unfortunate meal of the female praying mantis. This provides sufficient protein for the female for the egg producing.

 Enemies

The male often fly at night as they seem to be attracted to artificial lights. This is a time however, when bats feed and they use their ultrasonic sound waves to track their prey. Bats are one of the mantids most formidable natural enemies. The frequency of these ultrasonic sound waves can locate the distance of the bat's prey.

Interestingly enough, according to Yager and May, praying mantids are able to hear these ultrasonic sounds and when the frequency begins to increase rapidly, indicating an approaching bat, the praying mantis will stop flying horizontally and fly down  at a high speed towards the safety of the ground. This sudden descent will be of a downward spiral or an acrobatic loop motion.

This is one of the facts that I have yet to see in the recent posted videos. It is believed that the praying mantis' one single ear serves the sole purpose for detecting and dodging these type of bat attacks. Again these are another of the one of the things that make this a most fascinating insect. Read more on praying mantis enemies...



Mating and Reproduction

The infamous reproductive process in many praying mantis species, as noted previously, is marked by a post-sexual cannibalism of the male by the hungry female, and is an ongoing subject of research and legend. The roots of this insect cannibalism remains to this day the subject of some debate, with some considering submissive males attempting to gain selective genetic advantages for their offspring. This theory is supported by a quantifiable increase in the duration of copulation among male praying mantises who are cannibalized, in some cases doubling both the duration and the chance of fertilization.

A study by J. P. Lelito and W. D. Brown indicated that the male mantis seemed to approach hungry females with more caution, and were purposely mounted on hungry females for a longer time, and thus actively avoiding being devoured by the female.

My brother, who has had an extended experience with mating these insects, will tell you that male mounting can be a very long process.  I have recently heard of a mounting of almost 24 hours!

It is during the dismounting that the male mantids will take the greatest risk during copulation, for it is at this time that female mantis can take hold of the male and begin to devour him.

 Have the thought pattern of these submissive males evolved to such an extent as to alter these legendary mating patterns? However, contrary to popular belief the female mantis does not always cannibalize the male after mating. This allows for the male to mate with multiple females, thus producing a wider range for egg producing. Read more on praying mantis facts...

Eggs

The life of the mantid starts in an ootheca egg mass. Taking place usually in the fall on a small branch or twig, the egg mass then hatches in the spring or sometimes early summer as the temperature rises and helps facilitate the time for the hatching of the numerous eggs.

Live mantids are available online.  I know of someone who bought a live mantid for sale and had it shipped to his house.  This was a few years ago so I don't know what the current shipping regulations for transporting live insects are.

In any case, you can buy a live mantid online, or purchase praying mantis eggs for about $20 - $30 these days.  You'll see many ads that have praying mantises for sale but do your research and follow proper instructions.

Moreover, keeping a mantids as a pets is still a responsibility for those who are prepared to care and feed for them as real pets, not just insects.  

The natural lifespan of a mantid in the wild is about 10 - 12 months, but some mantids kept in captivity have been sustained for 14 months. In colder areas, female mantids will die during the winter. Males tend to suddenly die about 2 to 3 weeks after mating in the fall (U.S. Mantids) Read more on praying mantis eggs

Kung Fu Praying Mantis

The movement and speed of the preying mantis as inspired many myths, stories, and superstitions.  For centuries, praying mantises have been a staple of some styles of martial arts that mimic their fluidity.  Southern Praying Mantis style is one particular mantis kung fu style that originated in Southern China.

A Wonderful  Pet

As noted above, mantids are often kept as pets, their unique behavior and appearance and entertaining hunting abilities making them popular in the exotic pet trade, even rivaling tarantulas and scorpions. An average-sized insect container or fish tank will make a great home. They require branches to climb on, insects to hunt and water to drink. They will drink sprayed water out of a bottle and eat crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms that are usually available in pet stores.

Please note, the mantid has a unsatiable appetite and if fed too much, their abdomen can be known to burst, killing the mantis. Hatchlings should ideally be fed on a diet of fruit flies or similar small flies. This is what we fed some hatchlings a few years ago and it proved to be successful. Read more on praying mantis as pets...

Please Note: Check with your local county ordinances before keeping mantids as pets as there may be some restrictions in some areas.

On this website, I will also use the preying mantis spelling often, as I believe this version of the word also accurately describes its predatory instincts.  Also, in the months to follow I hope to produce original praying mantis videos and include more information on the kung fu styles that have been inspired by this insect.

I would like to personally thank all our readers who have supported the evolution and creation of this website so far.  My dream is to expand my research into other countries and study the more exotic species of praying mantises and hopefully create more original videos and pictures.  So I thank you for all your emails and encouragement.  

I am currently working on this website on a part time basis, but hopefully as my support grows in numbers I will have enough resources to work full-time.  I aspire to create more than just a website, but a journey to share with all!

Will you be inspired to buy a praying mantis and keep one as a pet from reading this website?  That is a possibility and one I hope to encourage, if that is your destiny!  - Mantis Man

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Need advice or just have general question or comment?  Check out our advice column at mantis comments page!
 

Here is a sample of my brother's ("the real mantis man") recent reply to one considering a praying mantis as a pet:

Reiterating some of my brother's comments, the mantis is likely an adult with full wings covering the top (or back) of its abdomen- assuming you reside in a temperate zone in the northern hemisphere. If not, let me know; but if so, then yes, its time is limited- especially for a male. Females, if kept warm and fed, can live into late November but their bodies eventually breakdown. If you're not sure about the gender, males would typically have tubular-shaped, 8-segmented abdomen which does not expand when feeding. Females would typically have oval-shaped, 6-segmented abdomens which expand like a balloon.

As far as enclosures, I've used 10-inch pickle jars (with holes in the lid) for mantids about 3-4 inches long and they've survived well; however, now I feel they should have been given significantly more space. For mantids of that size, I would recommend a 14-16 inch plastic pretzel jar with small holes drilled in the cap or punctured in the sides (or both). Plastic terrariums available at pet stores would also work, however they seem more ideal for terrestrial (ground-dwelling) creatures (like most tarantulas, scorpions, etc). Mantids are bush-dwellers, therefore height is more essential than ground-space.

Within an enclosure, the mantis would either be on the ground, on the wall, or clinging up-side-down from the top; however, their ideal position is at an angle between vertical (facing downwards) and up-side-down. This is why a diagonal twig (with branches) is necessary. The twig must be firmly stable within the jar. It must have sufficient branches positioned near the top of the container where the mantis can comfortable straddle its four rear legs while facing downwards. All this is absolutely essential for young mantids shedding their skin (good for adults as well). If you were to raise mantids, I'd give you more details.

As for feeding, follow my brother's suggestions. Be careful not to attempt a prey that is too large. They enjoy grasshoppers, but a large adult locust may be too strong for a mantis to tackle. Moths seem to be a favorite, so you can try keeping a light on in your porch at night. Also avoid "stink" bugs or assassin bugs which may have toxic elements in their anatomy. Mantids are greedy creatures and it is not unusual that they die from food poisoning.

I've never actually kept a water dish- I simply place a couple of layers of wet napkin on the floor of the container, "re-moisting" it when it dries which keeps humidity levels sufficient. A light gentle spray or a few simple drops of water on the napkins, walls, or even on the branches should be sufficient.

Do not panic if the mantis happens to run out of the container. A mantis on the move has a tendency to climb upwards. Use that knowledge to manipulate the mantis back in its container (or where ever you want it to go).

As for ecological and ethical issues, keep in mind that it is mating season for most mantids and that reproduction is survival. The best scenario is that you have a female that is already pregnant. If that's the case, definitely keep her, feed her, and enjoy the next couple of months and you'll have 50-200 more mantids next spring. Let me know when she lays her egg-masses and I can advise you from there. But for mantids that have not mated yet (male or female), they will want to be out in the wild. But I can't tell you what to do.

In any case, if your grandson seems to have a strong, genuine interest in mantids and you feel he's capable of the challenge in raising them, I highly encourage purchasing a few young exotic mantids from specialized dealers. You'll never know where this might lead. Of course, I can provide tips along the way.

I hope this helps!!!

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By Noy Ilao