Introduction: Praying Mantis Garden
I love mantises! They can turn their heads to look at you, they walk on you fearlessly, they look gnarly, they bend down to drink water like giraffes and the way they hunt is 100% heavy metal; there is no cooler bug on Earth! You should definitely go out and get some. Growing up around NYC I think I saw one or two in my thirty one years of life.
We found some praying mantis eggs for sale online at Natures Good Guys one day while bored during quarantine. We've decided to make little terrariums for them and maybe try and sell the little habitats as a summer business project for the kids. So far we have the seeds planted in the terrariums, 2/10 mantis oothecas hatched ( these are the egg pods that contain up to 200 mantises each ), and a booming supply of pet food for the bugs.
The attached doodle is my conception of the final product. The other images show how many mantises came from one egg ( and I think many more had died in the egg, the eggs were in the sun during one scorching hot, dry day ). And the kids love holding these bugs and think they're cute.
Mantis eggs ( ~$5 each on the internet )
Cages ( as cheap or as expensive as you want )
Fruit fly cultures ( ~$ 25 )
Soil ( free or cheap at the garden shop )
Step 1: Hatching Mantis Eggs
Nothing to it but patience. In the previous step you can see that I suspeded the eggs from an old clothes hanger. I've seen them hatch just laying on the ground on youtube, and this kit from Nature's Good Guys seems to indicate that they'll hatch fine just sitting in this cup. So we are hatching half outside from the hanger, and half just laying in the cup to see which gives better results.
They take a few weeks to hatch. We leave them outside just in case of an accident. These bugs are cute, but still not welcome in the living room.
For now the mantises live in a big box outside with plenty of food and water. We'll move them to their own houses soon. It said online that they might eat each other, but in two weeks we have seen no such cannibalistic behavior.
Step 2: How to Raise Mantis Food and Your Wife's Blood Pressure
When baby mantises hatch they can't eat large bugs and even ants might be too ferocious for them to eat; flightless fruit flies are the recommended food. We bought some fruit flies from timberline and then some additional culturing materials from josh's frogs. The little fruit flies stay in a tiny bottle and produce maggots and baby flies at an astounding speed. We went from one jar to five in a couple of weeks. Honestly I feel bad for the little genetically modified buggers being stuck in a tiny vessel for their short lives before going to a violent end at the hands of a vicious predator.
A jar of maggots really hurts the aesthetic of your bedroom. One day we'll have a garage or shed for this nasty stuff.
These pictures don't adequately convey the millions of fruit flies we now have.
Step 3: Make Terrariums
We bough plastic quart containers ( the ones wonton soup comes in ) to make our little gardens. They can be had on amazon at 2 dozen for 10 dollars. You can probably find a better price, but these are quite sturdy.
We planted seeds from jalapenos, scotch bonnets, bell peppers, and pears that we got at the grocery store. We are also trying to reroot some cilantro to plant this as well.
When the plants start to sprout we'll get the mantises in the container. We might also put some branches in there from the park and move the mantises over early.
Step 4: Additional Care Notes and Questions
Keep the mantises hydrated! We're keeping wet paper towels in the bottom of the box and we spray the sides of the enclosure four or five times a day. The mantises are always eager to drink from the droplets. Just make sure not to put too much water, these bugs will drown. We saw one mantis walk right into little pool of water at the bottom of the enclosure and nearly die, we had to gently push it out with a paper towel.
When they grow a bit more you will need to move them to larger food than the fruit flies. For now we are planning to just get random ants and beetles from the yard, but if this doesn't work out you can buy crickets and meal worms from pet stores.
Here is a question for you Instructablers: Have any of you ever seen an ootheca hatch just a few mantises? We had one that only contained two. I fear that the pod might have just dried out in the heat and killed all but two. I haven't seen any information about this on any forums, however. If nothing more comes from the egg sac in a few more weeks we're going to cut it open and see what's inside.
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