How to Care for a Praying Mantis




Praying mantids are very easy pets to take care of, and are very rewarding in return ( AKA a very interactive pet.)
And I mean come on who doesn't want a awesome flying predator bug as a pet ? :D

Before I get a thousand comments saying owning a praying mantis is illegal!
read this Snopes article
I also looked on the US fish and wildlife endangered species list and found nothing at all.

Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Dictyoptera (Mantids and Cockroaches)
Suborder Mantodea (Mantids)
Family Mantidae

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Step 1: Finding and Catching the Mantid.

Finding the mantis is the hardest part, but it is also the most fun, so grab your ipod and get outside.
You will want to look in tall grasses, flowers, small shrubs, short trees, pretty much anywhere lots of bugs are. The best time to find a mantid is late July to first frost (this is when they are big enough to find and are out of hiding to mate)
Don't worry if you cant find one you can buy mantis egg/ootheca at a good garden shop
or order a praying mantis here

Catching a mantid is very easy, all you need is your hand (or a stick) and a jar with a lid that has holes in it, or another container of some sort .

Do not grab the mantid it will bite you (It hurts really bad), let it walk onto your palm.
If the mantid has wings you will need to "shield" it with your other hand so it doesn't fly away.
If you are afraid of picking it up use a stick to gently corral it into a jar, put the lid on carefully so you don't catch one of its legs.

Step 2: Faking the Habitat

If you want your mantis to be happy/healthy you will need to copy his or her environment.
here is a list of mantis species if you want to look up your mantid
supplies needed
A cage at least twice as wide and three times as tall as the mantid. Glass aquariums work great.
A screen or plastic lid for the cage, plastic lids need air vents.
A ground covering such as mulch, pebbles,dirt, sand, or nothing if you want to see all the left over bug guts :P .
A light, nothing special a normal light bulb will work but It is easier just to use a aquarium light.
twigs,rocks,plants things to climb/molt on.
A water dish filled with pebbles or a small sponge or a small spray bottle with a mister.
A place to keep crickets this is what I used

Crickets smell really bad so you might want to keep them out side with a light bulb or heat lamp in the winter .

When planning your pseudo habitat keep in mind where you found your mantis, what it was on,
try to recreate its original habitat. It doesn't have to be too detailed the mantid won't know the difference any way :).
Another tip try not to make the cage too big or it will be hard for the mantis to find its prey.
Grass for the bottom of the cage is not a good idea unless you have the cage were it can get at least eight hours of non direct sun each day.

Step 3: The Cage

A good mantid cage should have several sticks and thick ground covering (1 to 2 inches )
some of the stick need to be horizontal so the mantid can hang upside down and molt.
My aquarium is forty gallons but that is over kill. :)
you will also need a lid home made or store bought it doesn't mater.(you really shouldn't have a solid lid it gets too humid and hot )

Step 4: Feeding the Beast !

Feeding your newfound friend is always fun to watch :)
(not for the faint of heart they are very messy/gory eaters)

How do you know its hungry ?
usually the mantid's eyes will turn from clear to black when it is hungry
(not always the case but it is a good indicator)
other than that mantids will pretty much Always eat

What do I feed it?
moths crickets butterflies grasshoppers ect are all good sources of food, if you get tired of finding bugs you can always buy them from a pet store (or mail order suppliers )
Buying crickets gets expensive real quick so I breed my own

How do I feed it ?
I usually put five or six crickets in a jar and pour them into the cage (carefully cause you don't want stinky crickets or moths all over your house )
if your mantid doesn't see the insect/s you can use a stick (or your hand) to move the food toward it.
if it still doesn't eat you can use a piece of small gauge stiff wire to impale the insect and "offer" it to the mantid (I had to do this two or three times before the mantid got used to the cage.)

All pictures and text is created by me unless otherwise noted

I will be adding more info as I get time so if you have any questions about mantids just leave a comment and I will try my best to answer them .
and as always constructive criticism is welcome :D



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    39 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I got 3 mantids in my back porch, one female and two males. I mated two of them together and I am going to keep the eggs. I will keep the nymphs as pets, so would I need aphids for the newly hatched?

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    They are also wild Chinese mantids. My favorite species so far. And I am sure it is legal to keep a wild one in Tennessee


    Tip 1 year ago on Step 3

    Don't keep moving your Mantis around or it will be nervous and scared.


    2 years ago

    So my mom found a praying mantis inside her house, one of her potted plants she moved back inside, i figured a mantis would be a great pet for my baby boy to watch grow. But she only hangs from the ceiling and i never see her come down. Shes still eating though...shes a little sadistic. She likes her light and i was wondering if its normal for them to jusy sit on the light?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    it's possible it's too cold or maybe not enough ventilation?
    are there enough sticks/twigs in the cage?

    they are pretty much apex the predators of the bug world haha kinda scary to watch hunt


    3 years ago

    "so grab your ipod and get outside"????
    Otherwise, its well written!


    3 years ago

    I own a purple winged mantis, which I found in my backyard, it looks very similar to the mantis under 'Feeding The Beast' I'm not sure how regularly I should feed it


    3 years ago

    I own a purple winged mantis, which I found in my backyard, it looks very similar to the mantis under 'Feeding The Beast' I'm not sure how regularly I should feed it


    3 years ago

    Make sure to keep your pet mantids well fed. Remember all species of Mantid are voracious predators. Many kept as pets die due to starvation. Last year the female Carolina mantis I caught was able to eat a couple dozen crickets a week.


    4 years ago

    Ok sooooo... I got an egg case not too long ago and I let all of the nymphs go! I found one the other day that is now about an inch long. I was going to get small, flightless fruit flies for him to eat, but I don't know if he is big enough to start eating crickets it if he is too small to eat the fruit flies! Help!


    4 years ago

    Can a preying mantis chew through thread mesh ? Someone please tell me on Twitter:@MrWatson


    4 years ago on Introduction

    could you expand the catching praying mantises part I can't find any (been searching every day for 3 days so far) and buying one isn't an option =(


    6 years ago on Introduction

    We are not allowed to have the as pets in some areas. I live in Pennsylvania and it is illegal to keep them as a pet because they are protected.

    Hi Matt, great instructable!! I found out last summer that they love to catch and eat hummingbirds! Did you know that? There was one who parked on top of the hummingbird feeder. The little birds were very upset & watched the mantis closely, flying around it. They would not eat while he was on the feeder, and I finally googled praying mantis, and there was a you tube video of mantis eating hummingbird. My boss killed the mantis :( but I am glad I did not see him eat a bird, that would have been worse! Keep up the good work.


    Reply 7 years ago on Step 4

    That's correct for the wild but captive mantises can live 18 months or even more depending on species.

    Mantis eyes turn black in low light, it has nothing to do with hunger. If they're black in bright sunlight then it's probably about to die.

    Some are picky about food too, preferring mostly flying/buzzing bugs. Generally the common Chinese mantis will eat almost anything it can hold but they get picky some times so trying different foods is a good idea. I have never had to hand feed them unless they are sick/injured.

    Mantises need a lot of air because they're so large so any proper enclosure needs good side-flow air (ie. aquariums aren't the best unless you want to cut holes in the sides). Insects don't have lungs so they can't force air in and out so they need lots of fresh air. They're maximum size is directly related to how much oxygen they can get.

    Mist with water every once in a while to keep the humidity up but no so high you get mold, the mist should dry completely within a couple hours. Misting is especially important right before they molt. They get most of their water from the bugs they eat but will often need extra water before they molt because they stop eating for a few days (plus the water helps with the molt). There is no need for a water pan in the cage unless you're keeping the prey alive for a long time.