Feeding baby praying mantis (newly hatched)

FYI to anyone who has or wants to know what you can feed praying mantis babies right after they hatch. The egg sack i have been "protecting" (i thought) til spring has just hatched a day ago and its only december, my plan was to let them go after they hatched in the spring, but since i didnt keep the sack cold, it hatched now. After i freaked out for abit seeing i have about 50 or more TINY mantis all over the container i put the sack in, i called and called ALL over but no one would take them, and i cant let them just die. Everything i read about them says they only eat LIVE bugs..and they have to be small...really really small..like pinhead crickets or fruit flies...well...YUCK..i dont want that in the house...but if thats what they need then so be it..UNTIL...i called a bait store and the guy (i wanted to KISS him for this info) told me to put RAW MEAT on a string so it sticks in small peices and hang it in the container..IT WORKS!! they went right for it!! SOOOO.........if you dont want or cant get tiny live food for them...FEED THEM RAW HAMBURER MEAT on a string!! this picture is the mom, isnt she beautiful! haha..i mean it!

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Javin0077 years ago
You'll want to know that just like keeping a wild bird as a pet, if you only feed the mantids the raw meat from a string, there's a good chance that when released to the wild, they won't do well fending for themselves. (They will, however, be much more apt to adapt due to instinct.) More importantly, the Chitin that all insect exoskeletons are made of is in very small amounts in beef. In fact, if you ever gave your dog something called "Program" to get rid of fleas, all Program does is flush the Chitin out of his system. When the fleas lay their eggs, they can't hatch. Insects absolutely NEED Chitin, and mammals do not. I would strongly recommend adding any kind of insect to their diets. Far better than hung hamburger is hung pieces of nightcrawler (bait store) and as they get older and larger, start putting live mealworms and crickets in with them. This will both teach them how to hunt, as well as give them the needed nutrients to grow up healthy.
esun Javin0075 years ago
Praying mantises are insects... they don't learn to hunt; it is purely instinctual. I agree with the chitin statement though.
Javin007 esun5 years ago
Actually, do this experiment yourself. You CAN actually "teach" an insect NOT to hunt. Take mantids from a young age, and hand-feed them until their adults, then put them in the wild. They'll die of starvation. While hunting IS instinctual, just as with any higher animal, instinct can be overridden.
esun Javin0075 years ago
Yeah it's good for them to eat live insects, but they USUALLY only eat or will strike at moving objects they identify as food. It is innately programmed, as they are insects. It is hard to override instinct in insects.

Also, I asked my Animal Behavior teacher, who has a Ph.D. in spider behavioral ecology, just to be sure and she told me that hunting in insects is, yes, innate.

And a question I have about your previous statement:
How do you know the mantids will die of starvation once you release them. Are you supposed to put radio tracking devices on them and monitor their movement?
Javin007 esun5 years ago
Newp, if I had radio tracking devices that small, I'm sure I'd find a much more sinister use for them. However, when I was a kid I would often keep mantids as pets. At first, it was one or two attached to a "leash" at the end of my bed. (It was something I'd read in an old "Foxfire" book about how people hundreds of years ago would sometimes tether them near where they wanted to get rid of pests.) I became so interested in them that instead of letting them eat bugs, I started collecting bugs to hand feed them. This is a hobby I still have to this day, and in the late summer/fall I'll find a large mantid near the end of her lifespan and keep her as a pet until she dies of natural causes. My last one was named "Pearl" and she even had a neat personality. We don't give insects nearly enough credit.

At any rate, when I was a kid I would often find the ootheca (egg sacks) and hatch them indoors in a fairly large fish tank.  I'd raise them on small ants and aphids (and a considerable amount of cannibalism) and eventually let them go.  Occasionally I would take one as a pet from a young age, and hand feed it.  After a short amount of time, it would actually learn where I preferred it to stay.  It would stay in that general area and wait for me to bring its food.  Literally every time I kept one for a month or two, then tried to return it to the aquarium (where the crickets, grasshoppers, and de-winged flies were dropped in to feed them) my "pet" would end up dying without eating anything, while those that had stayed in the tank having to fend for themselves survived just fine.  

I wasn't intentionally doing an experiment at that point, but I did learn that you can actually "train" insects, even to the point of training them to be less likely to follow their own instinct.  

When I grew up I worked with some of the world's top entomologists in Cairo Egypt (I was Army, doing medical research) and when I talked to them about my experiences as a child, they were not at all surprised.  They had no problem believing that insects could, just like every other creature, be "taught" to some degree, even when that teaching went against their ingrained instinct.  

This is very easy to attempt this experiment yourself.  You will see that within HOURS, not days, a mantis will lose its instinctual fear of you and happily accept food from your hand without trying to attack.  Do this for long enough, then try to reintroduce the mantis to the wild (or in this case, a controlled environment) and you will see that in many cases, the mantis will lose its desire to hunt for food, and will actually wait for you to feed it until it dies.

Despite the tiny brain, I think there's a lot more going on with insects and animals than we give them credit for.  Our own brain is not that much different, only in scale.
PollyC10 Javin0073 months ago

Oh my goodness, your just like me! I have been into praying mantinds for 3 years and name them as well! Today I went to the nursery because my Manty laid 3 egg sacs, but never hatched, and found a baby one, actually it found me!I so love her and named her Mini Manty! Everyone calls me the "Mantid Whisperer" because they appear out of nowhere and suddenly there on my arm or leg !!

I find them fascinating and wish I was an entomologist. I can't believe how many species there is! Hers my Mini Manty...

I agree totally with what you say. In fact when they realize they are not in jeopardy, I would go as far as to say a Mantid will seek you out.
They are intelligent little creatures and like human company, and will very gladly eat what you give them, and live in close proximity to you.
I often befriend a mantid (usually at the end of autumn) who wants to be indoors (it's their choice, always) living in herbaceous plants on my kitchen windowsill. They will resist being put back outdoors and if you do put them out will wait for you in the same spot, then readily get on your hand to be transported back indoors, and one I have even had make his way from outdoor plants BACK to the front door and be waiting on it. Also they love being picked up and carried around on your sleeve. They can certainly seek you out.
One female laid FOUR egg cases over time when she was living indoors with us and would attempt to reach out for your hand to get carried about the place.
We as humans should stop being so vain as to decree categorically what can and can't form bonds in the animal and insect world, and just observe more.
Thankyou Javin, for confirming for me what I had already discovered for myself.
My last Mantid for this winter has just passed away not half an hour ago, and I am glad that I had him share his last weeks with me. Bye Pat, you'll be missed.
I am sure though that come next autumn there will be another mantid who needs a home. I'll be ready...

around 2 years ago when i was at school there were these kids that were throwing a mantis at eachother and laughing saying "Oh my god it sticks that's awesome" I walk up to them and one says "watch this" and I was horrified not of the mantis but how they were treating (what with my family being very respectful of species rights) to which I responded "Well duh, if you were being thrown at something that if you didn't cling on to it you would be hurt you would do the samething" I told them to give it to me they put it in my hand and could tell this thing was terrified because it bit me of course I understood why and whe it calmed down but remained still is when my curiosity was peaked when I remembered when my mom told me that she loved the because when they would climb on her and it tickled so i rolled up my sleeve to my sweatshirt (what with it being autumn) to try and get it to walkup my arm and it looked up at me and I looked at it and it walked up my arm without me giving it a nudge or anything like it understood what I wanted and it did tickle a little, and some jerk decided to walk up behind me and it was on my shoulder he grabbed it off my shoulder crushed it and threw it on the ground i was pissed and if i weren't for the little kids coming out I would have beaten him within an inch of his life I was so worried for it so I moved it into the grass where it wouldn't get stepped on the next day I look over to where I put it and guess what's propped up against the wall the little mantis I was so releved that it was okay and so what I did was I hung out with the mantis for a while and then what I did was I took it over to the side of the school and placed it down so it could be free the next day there it was again and yes I am sure it was the same one propped up at the same spot just chillin' and when I walked near it, it climbed up to the window-sil as if to say 'Hey it's you' and it felt like it was grateful that I cared about it I got a little teary eyed so what I did was I decided I would bring it home I put my hand down next to it and sure enough it walked onto my hand and when got on the bus my bus driver gve me a look of confusion and I told her i was taking it home she didn't care as long as it didn't get loose you know from my hand and it sort of gave me look like 'please don't make me leave' the liitle kids were a little stupid cause they were like "are you gonna kill it?" to which i responded "No i am taking it home so I can take care of it" and then the same kid was like "can I kill it." and then I repeated myself an he just kept asking if he could kill it and I just kept ignoring him and I just sat by the window well away from the kid and it just sort of just watched me the whole time and i had no where to keep it so i kept it outside and it survived for like a two weeks and then somehow it got decapitated an it was a small ball shaped nub where its head would be attached completely inconsistant with if it were to have mated and by the way male mantis' die a week after fertilzation even if the female doesn't eat it.

esun Javin0075 years ago
That's actually rather interesting. Sorry if I seemed obnoxious; I am rather naive. I'm still just a high school student. But when I think of insects I generally think of their behavior to be very flighty, like trying to catch a moth or crane fly. I don't have much experience with raising mantids, as I found an egg sack just a couple of days ago. When I went to collect it, there was a parasitic wasp laying its eggs inside of the sack (that was the main reason I was very interested in it).

I found a praying mantis one day while walking back to my dorm, while we were collecting insects for my independent study (we were putting together a small insect collection for our biology lab). We'd freeze the insects, we didn't use kill jars with chemicals. I carried it back on my hand because I didn't have a container for it. I have to say that it was the most interesting insect I've ever picked up. Half of the time when I catch insects they try to fly or scurry away. However, it would just crawl around on my hand and stop and just look at me for a while. It was really interesting (and rather creepy) to watch.

And yes, I agree that insects do not get enough credit, as do pretty much any other species of animal. Humans can be pretty pretentious :P. I mean we have ideas of religion that say we are the only important thing on Earth and lots of people think that we have stopped evolving and that humans are the "ideal and final species". But I can more clearly see from your story why a lot of animal behaviorists are particularly interested in insects, as my teacher is. I might try doing that experiment when I get more time in the summer.

I'm not quite sure how human and insect brains differ because I've never directly studied it. From what I can assume from reading some general information in books, magazines, or journal articles, is that insect brains are not complex enough to feel pain or to be conscious. The fact that you say you can "train" or condition them to lose their instinctual urges is really interesting, though. For me, it brings into question how learning and conditioning works in any animal.

However, I think that it's kind of difficult for us (humans) to be completely correct and unbiased because we are just very evolved creatures. Our brains (and consciousness) often trick us. I'm just not quite sure how accurate a lot of our assumptions and interpretations are when it comes to these things. Maybe I'm just over-thinking it.
Javin007 esun5 years ago
No worries! You didn't sound obnoxious at all. You sounded like someone who was given conflicting information by an expert in the field. Nothing obnoxious about that. Research is a great thing!  

With the mantis, it's really easy for me to anthromorphisize because of the way they'll actually turn their head to look at you.  I've always thought that made them seem more intelligent.  Once they get to trust you, they'll even be very gentle about taking insects from you. 

I've got some pictures of "Pearl" around here somewhere.  She was my favorite so far.  I actually kept her in my office cubicle at work where she would stay on top of my monitor waiting for her food.  She was there for almost six months, well into winter, before she finally died of old age.  I even had other people at work going out and collecting insects so they could come and feed her.  For all I know she died of obesity and diabetes.  :D

Before going into the veterinary field I thought very much as others do.  That animals are lesser evolved and don't have the same range of emotions that we humans do.  It's very easy to believe this because it strokes our ego.  Then I saw a film about "Koko" the gorilla that learned to speak sign language.  The easy answer there was, "Oh, she's just repeating motions she's learned to get a treat."  Until she started making up her own words for things that her trainers hadn't given her words for.  For instance, she called turkey "christmas bird".  This shows an incredibly complex thought process.  She associated the food with a time of the year, showing that she actually understood the concept of differing times of the year, and then to make up a word because she wasn't given one just floored me.  This got me to rethinking what I "knew" about animals.

It's not a far stretch then to question the lower species, dogs and cats for example.  You begin to see things that you just can't explain through instinct.  Dolphins saving drowning victims, showing an understanding of what the very concept of "drowning" means.  Dogs running into burning buildings to save children that aren't part of their "pack".  Wild animals learning to use primitive tools out of the blue, such as the herons that have observed people feeding fish pieces of bread, and eventually learned to pick up some of the bread themselves and instead of eating it, fly off and dip it into the water to use as "bait" to catch fish.  Instinct simply can't explain this, which only leaves higher brain functions that we don't give them credit for.  

Is it such a stretch to think that perhaps even an insect is possibly smarter than just a mindless mechanical automaton running on pure instinct?
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