Besides being one of the most beautiful and peculiar insects in the world, the praying mantis is also a great pet. Catching and caring for a praying mantis is super easy and fun. Just put the pet inside a pot with enough space to accommodate it. To keep your pet praying mantis comfortable, put it in a spacious terrarium with plenty of food.
Method 1 of 4: Capturing the Praying Mantis
Step 1. Look for the insect in flowering shrubs and near woody plants
It's impossible to know exactly where the praying mantis hides. However, they tend to give preference to wood and flower beds. Examine the plants very carefully so as not to be fooled by the insect's slender body and greenish coloration.
- Search around your house. Pay special attention to humid and green places.
- Look in places with lots of insects, especially places where you've seen praying mantises.
Step 2. Protect your hands with gardening gloves
Mantises are not venomous animals, but they bite. To avoid getting bitten, wear a pair of gardening gloves.
If you are bitten by a praying mantis, quickly wave your hand up and down to ease the pain
Step 3. Pick up the praying mantis gently by the abdomen or the chest
The abdomen is the part just behind the back legs of the praying mantis. The chest is the area between the front and middle legs.
- Catch the insect with your protected hand or with an entomological forceps.
- Be careful not to squeeze the praying mantis too tightly. You might end up crushing the pet.
Step 4. Place the praying mantis in a pot
Use an empty pot of at least 470 ml and cover it with plastic wrap. Use a rubber band to hold the plastic in place and make a few holes for the praying mantis to breathe.
- Use a large pot of mayonnaise or hearts of palm.
- Prefer plastic pots as they are less likely to break than glass ones.
- When it's time to capture the praying mantis, it's okay to put it in a small pot. Afterwards, however, you will need to move it to a more spacious terrarium.
Method 2 of 4: Preparing the Terrarium
Step 1. Choose a container that is three times the length of the insect's body and twice as wide
That way the praying mantis will have plenty of room to move. Ideally, use a screen-covered terrarium for animals so that the praying mantis gets the necessary amount of air.
The height of the terrarium should be three times greater than the length of the praying mantis body
Step 2. Line the terrarium with substrate
You can use torn tissues, vermiculite, potting soil, sand, wood chips or pieces of bark. All these materials are able to quickly absorb water and release it little by little, keeping the terrarium humidity relatively stable.
There is neither a maximum nor a minimum of substrate that you need to put in the terrarium. However, so that your pet is always happy and healthy, cover around 2.5 cm to 5 cm
Step 3. Add plants and sticks to the terrarium
Decorate the terrarium with plants that look like the natural habitat of the praying mantis. Also add sticks, reeds, branches, artificial plants and flowers, or plastic decorative branches.
- Artificial plants and branches are widely used in terrariums for lizards and are easy to find in pet stores.
- If you choose to use artificial plants or branches, make sure they do not contain glue or insecticide.
- Place at least one branch three times longer than the praying mantis in the terrarium. The insect will need the branch at the time of molting.
Method 3 of 4: Taking care of the pet
Step 1. Control the temperature and humidity of the terrarium
Optimal temperature and humidity levels will depend on the species of your praying mantis. Place a thermometer and hygrometer inside or beside the terrarium to make sure the environment is in proper condition for the pet.
- If the praying mantis is in a room that is too cold or too hot, move it. Choose a room where it's easier to regulate the temperature.
- To increase the humidity in the environment, spray the substrate with water. The more water you spray, the higher the terrarium's humidity level. Another way to increase humidity is to reduce the airflow at the top of the container.
Step 2. Feed the praying mantis flies and other insects
Praying mantises love to eat flies, cockroaches, grasshoppers, mosquitoes and other small insects. Throw the animals into the terrarium or offer them directly to the praying mantis with tweezers. Just be careful not to squeeze them.
- Praying mantises do not eat dead insects. Soon, you'll need to buy live bugs from a pet store or pick up some bugs of your own in the woods or on a farm.
- After placing the live insects in the terrarium, wait for the praying mantis to catch and eat them. Otherwise, the insects can escape and die, leaving the praying mantis hungry.
- The amount of food needed to keep the praying mantis fed will depend on the species of the insect. Some praying mantis only need to eat once every four days, while others eat once a day.
Step 3. Clean the terrarium once a month
Transfer the praying mantis to a small pot, the size of the container you used to capture it. Then, discard the substrate and wash the terrarium with hot water. Do not use soap. Soap can harm the pet. Place a new substrate in the terrarium and return the plants and branches to the container.
Step 4. Do not place other animals in the same terrarium
Mantises are not very sociable animals. If you place more than one praying mantis in the same terrarium, you can be sure they will fight.
Method 4 of 4: Identifying Your Praying Mantis Species
Step 1. Identify the species based on its location
Each species of praying mantis has its own natural habitat. The Brazilian dragon praying mantis, for example, is endemic to the Atlantic Forest and, therefore, cannot be found in Portugal. Consult a book about the presence of insects in different parts of the world to find out which of the 2,400 species of praying mantis your pet belongs to.
- The Brazilian dragon praying mantis can be found throughout the entire length of the Atlantic Forest, a biome that runs from one end of the Brazilian coast to the other.
- The European praying mantis can be found in Africa, Asia, North America and, of course, Europe.
- Theopropus elegans, in turn, is native to Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Borneo.
Step 2. Measure the praying mantis
Use a ruler to measure the insect. Each species has its own length. The Chinese mantis, for example, can grow to more than 10 cm, while the Carolina mantis is between 5 cm and 6.5 cm in length. Consult a book with detailed descriptions of different types of praying mantis and compare your pet's measurements with that of other species to find out which species it belongs to.
Step 3. Don't try to figure out the species of the praying mantis based on the color
In general, praying mantises are usually green or brown. However, it is possible that insects of the same species have different colors.
Step 4. Talk to an entomologist
Entomologists are specialists in insects. If you are having difficulty identifying the species of your praying mantis, ask a trained professional for help. Look for the entomology department at the university closest to your home or contact an entomology society. Ask if they can help you identify your pet's species.