Hatchling Mantids: All You Need to Know for a Thriving Insect Buddy

Hatchling mantids, also known as mantises, are fascinating insects that play a vital role in controlling garden pests. With their captivating appearance, these insects are recognizable by their elongated bodies, triangular heads, and specialized front legs used for grasping prey.

There are several species of mantids, such as the native Carolina mantis and the non-native Chinese mantid. While their specific characteristics may vary slightly, all mantids share some key features:

  • Triangular head with large, compound eyes
  • Raptorial front legs for grasping prey
  • Two pairs of wings (though rarely used for flying)

Understanding the life cycle, behaviors, and proper care of hatchling mantids is essential for anyone interested in cultivating these helpful insects in their garden or as pets.

Getting to Know Hatchling Mantids

Praying Mantis Lifecycle

  • Egg stage: A female mantis lays an egg case called an ootheca, containing up to 200 eggs.
  • Hatchling stage: After 4-6 weeks, nymphs emerge from the ootheca and begin to molt.
  • Nymph stage: Nymphs go through several molting stages, resembling smaller versions of adult mantises.
  • Adult stage: After the final molt, adult mantises reach sexual maturity and can mate and lay eggs.

Types of Mantis Species

Some well-known mantis species include the Carolina mantid and the Chinese mantid. Here are two unique examples:

  • Orchid Mantis: Known for its beautiful, flower-like appearance that helps in camouflage.
  • Ghost Mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa): Distinguished by its leaf-like body shape, aiding in stealth and hunting.

Comparison Table:

Species Size Color Appearance
Orchid Mantis 1.2-2.4 inches (adults) Pink, white Resembles an orchid flower; mainly found in Asia
Ghost Mantis 1.8-2 inches (adults); less than an inch (nymphs) Green, brown Leaf-like body shape; widely distributed in Africa

Hatching and Caring for Mantids

Understanding the Ootheca

The ootheca is an egg case that contains the mantid eggs. Female mantids create and attach the ootheca to branches or other structures. Here are some characteristics:

  • Cream to light brown color
  • Sponge-like texture
  • Protects eggs from predators and harsh weather conditions

Mantids can be either carnivorous or parthenogenic. Parthenogenic species don’t need a male to reproduce, laying unfertilized eggs that produce only females.

Temperature and Humidity Requirements

Mantid hatchlings have specific temperature and humidity requirements to ensure proper development:

  • Temperature: 75-85°F (24-29°C), use a reptile heat pad or heat mat
  • Humidity: 50-70%, maintain by misting the enclosure

Example: A heat mat can provide a consistent temperature needed for hatchlings’ growth.

Proper Ventilation and Housing

Housing mantid hatchlings can be done in either a plastic or glass container. But, ensure adequate ventilation:

  • Use a fine mesh or small holes for air circulation
  • Larger enclosure needed as hatchlings grow
  • Keep container clean to prevent mold

Here’s a comparison table for housing options:

Housing Type Pros Cons
Plastic Lightweight, cheaper Less durable
Glass Durable, easy to clean Heavier, more expensive

Feeding Hatchlings

Mantids are carnivorous insects, and their diet primarily consists of live insects. Examples of food for hatchlings include:

  • Fruit flies
  • Small cockroaches
  • Aphids

When feeding mantid hatchlings:

  • Provide water by misting enclosure
  • Feed nutritious live insects for proper growth
  • Remove uneaten food items to prevent rotting and bacterial growth

Mantis Breeding and Mating

Breeding Basics

  • Females produce ootheca (egg cases) after mating
  • Ootheca contains numerous eggs
  • Eggs hatch into nymphs (juveniles)

Breeding mantids starts with the females laying eggs in foamy protective cases, called ootheca. Inside an ootheca, there are numerous eggs that hatch into nymphs or juvenile mantids after incubation.

Mating Process

Molting stages

  • Male and female mantids molt multiple times
  • Adult mantids emerge after their final molt

During their lives, both male and female mantids go through a series of molting stages, with their final molts resulting in adult mantids, who are then ready to mate. An interesting aspect of mantis mating is the male’s need to deposit a spermatophore within the female, ensuring that the eggs are fertilized.

Cannibalism in Mantids

In some cases, the female mantis may engage in cannibalism during the mating process, consuming the male. This is more common in species such as the Chinese mantis.

Species Cannibalistic behavior
Chinese mantis More common
Carolina mantis Less common

Not all mantis species exhibit this cannibalistic behavior. For instance, the Carolina mantis is less likely to consume its mating partner than the Chinese mantis. However, cannibalism might still be observed under certain conditions or when resources are scarce. This behavior ensures that the female mantis has enough nutrients to produce healthy offspring.

Raising Mantids in Different Environments

Keeping Mantids as Pets

Praying mantids make fascinating pets and are relatively low-maintenance. Here are some tips for keeping them healthy and happy:

  • Housing: Provide a well-ventilated enclosure, such as a 10-gallon terrarium, with humidity levels between 40% and 95%1.
  • Climbing: Mantids need vertical structures to climb and attach their egg cases1. Provide branches and twigs in the enclosure.
  • Substrate: Use a substrate like coco fiber to retain moisture and maintain humidity1.
  • Feeding: Mantids eat a variety of insects, such as fruit flies and crickets1. Be sure to provide live food appropriate for the size of your mantid.
  • Water: Lightly mist the enclosure to provide water without making it too wet1.

Handling mantids is possible, but care should be taken because they are fragile creatures1.

Releasing Mantids into the Wild

Before releasing mantids, consider the following:

  • Species: Ensure the mantids are a native species to your region to reduce the risk of introducing an invasive mantid2.
  • Breeding: Keep in mind that mantids can multiply quickly, with hundreds of nymphs emerging from a single egg case1.

When ready to release, follow these steps:

  1. Gently place the mantid on a plant where it can easily camouflage and hunt for prey.
  2. Choose a location free of heavy pesticide use to support their chances of survival.

Mantids in the Garden

Praying mantids can benefit gardens by acting as natural pest control3. For example:

  • They help manage aphid populations, which are harmful to gardens3.
  • They prey on a wide range of harmful insects, contributing to a healthier garden ecosystem.

However, be aware that mantids are indiscriminate predators and may consume beneficial insects as well3.

Pros Cons
Mantids as Pets Low maintenance, Fascinating Fragile, Require live food, Humidity management
Releasing Mantids Natural pest control, Eco-friendly Risk of invasive species, Potential overpopulation
Mantids in the Garden Manage aphids, Support garden health Indiscriminate predators, May consume beneficial insects

Mantis Development and Metamorphosis

Mantis Egg Stage

  • Female mantises lay eggs in cases called ootheca
  • Ootheca protects eggs from predators and harsh weather

Mantids go through a development process called incomplete metamorphosis. This means they have three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.

Mantis Nymph Stage

  • Newly hatched mantids are called nymphs
  • Nymphs resemble miniature adult mantises

Nymphs undergo several moults as they grow. Each stage between moults is called an instar.

Moulting

  • Mantids shed their exoskeleton to grow
  • Nymphs usually go through 4-8 instars

During the last instar, the mantis reaches its adult stage. The major features that differentiate adult mantises from nymphs are:

  • Fully developed wings
  • Greater size and more distinct coloration

Mantis Adult Stage

  • Adult mantises have a greater range of motion
  • Mating and reproduction occur at this stage

Comparison Table:

Feature Nymphs Adult Mantises
Wings Wingless or tiny buds Fully-developed wings
Size Smaller Larger
Coloration Less distinct More distinct
Mating Not applicable Capable of reproduction

In conclusion, mantis development consists of the egg, nymph, and adult stages. Nymphs morph into adult mantises through a series of moults and instars.

Footnotes

  1. Praying Mantids – University of Kentucky 2 3 4 5 6 7

  2. Chinese Mantid – North Carolina State University

  3. Praying Mantid (Mantis) – University of Maryland Extension 2 3

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Hatching Mantids and Mating Hemipterans from Australia

 

bugs of course!
Hi again,
You may remember me from my Christmas time request at identifying my cute little pie dish beetle? But I know how busy you are so I won’t be offended if you’ve forgotten me and my beetle by now – much!. Anyway the reason I’m bugging you (pardon the pun) is that since Christmas I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled right across our wide brown land all the way from Perth to Tasmania and as a direct result of that journey have two pics and one question for you. First I want to say that thanks to your wonderful website I was able to positively identify an egg case that had been carefully attached to our spare car tyre, which had to be transported in our pop up camper due to lack of space elsewhere, as belonging to a preying mantis. Thus their lives were spared as my husband had thought it was some kind of spider egg and was about to crush it. It was not until our trip was underway that it was discovered and as my hubby has a bit of a soft spot for preying mantis he was careful with it from then on. After crossing the Eyre Peninsula in 47c heat, I had a good idea that might trigger an hatching, and so it did, as two evenings later we popped up our camper to find hundreds of tiny preying mantis running about all over our stuff. We carefully removed them from the camper and left the remaining ones to hatch outside. In the morning we carefully removed the egg case and left them to battle against the funnel web spiders which were, unfortunately for them, abundant in that area. Hopefully they already had that species of preying mantis in Victoria, if not- well… they have now. Anyway to make a long story short, I took a pic of the hatch-lings that I thought you might like. The question I have is about the other picture, which I assume are assassin beetles obviously mating. Please correct me if I’m wrong about my identification. These bugs were photographed in Tasmania and many more were found all over town mating merrily. My mother, who lives there, told me that once these bugs couple, they cannot dis-attach, and so the bigger one, presumably the female? drags the little one presumably the male? around until he dies, and then what I don’t know? (not unlike some human marriages I believe) Anyway, I found this information a little hard to swallow, and although I hate to question my mum, I’d really like to know if this is so? Can you verify that for me? Well that’s if from me for now… hope to hear from you when you get time. Kind regards,
Jill Hardman
Western Australia

Dear Jill,
Thank you for the wonderful letter. You hatching Mantid Ootheca and accompanying details are fascinating. Your alleged Assassin Bugs are Hemipterans, which includes the Assassin Bugs, predatory species in the family Reduviidae, but they are a different family, possibly Lygaeidae, the Seed Bugs. Most definitely, they are a phytophagous or plant eating species.

Letter 2 – Hatchling Mantids

 

Subject: Mantid hatchlings
Location: San Antonio, Texas
April 6, 2017 1:31 pm
My son called me out into the yard to show me he found praying mantid babies. He was very excited to show them to me and I was very impressed to see he was correct (he is 3). I think I found the oothica they hatched from, we had tons of mantids last summer/fall in our yard, so I am not surprised they laid an oothica there-but I am surprised I never noticed it (on the lip of the lid on the back side of the grill. Even more shocking is we have lit the grill a few times this year unknowing that there were baby mantids there. I am hoping we didn’t harm any of them when we opened the grill! I thought you might enjoy seeing these amazing babies! Enclosed is a photo of what I believe to be the oothica, and a couple of photos of the babies. The video would not send.
Signature: Awestruck and Hawkeyes

Mantid Hatchlings

Dear Awestruck and Hawkeyes,
Thanks so much for submitting your image of hatchling Mantids as well as your wonderful story about your young nature enthusiast.  Because of the quality of the image, we could not confirm that what you believe to be the ootheca on the grill is accurate.

Letter 3 – Hatchling Mantids from Australia

 

Subject: Tiny mantis nymphs in Melbourne
Location: Melbourne, Australia
November 4, 2014 6:55 pm
Hello,
I found these two little mantis nymphs on a capsicum plant in my little boy’s veggie patch yesterday. They would have been no more than 10mm in length. I guess they’re juvenile Garden or False Garden Mantises, but I’ve not seen black/brown ones before, or ones with a curled abdomen.
My little boy is a budding entomologist, so we’re going to have a lot of fun watching these guys grow up. 🙂
(Apologies for the quality of the photos – I only had my phone handy!)
Signature: Jen

Mantis nymph
Mantis nymph

Dear Jen,
We hope to get additional images as these hatchling Mantids grow and mature.

Hatchling Mantids
Hatchling Mantids

Letter 4 – Hatchling Mantids in East LA

 

Subject:  Strange delicate bugs in my kitchen.
Location:  El Sereno, Los Angeles, California
January 29, 2016
should I just let them live in the kitchen? or try to catch them and put them outside?
Christina

Mantid Hatchling
Mantid Hatchling

Cool Christina,
This is a hatchling Preying Mantid.  It should definitely go outside.  It will stalk prey in the garden.

Mantid Hatchling
Mantid Hatchling

Letter 5 – Mantids Hatching

 

Ootheca hatching
Hello Sir,
That’s wonderful what Lisa and Daniel from SHIRTSOFBAMBOO.COM did for WHATSTHATBUG.COM. They’re very kind and generous people to have donated the additional bandwidth. I send my heartfelt gratitude to Lisa and Daniel! Here are a couple of images I took of a Southern Carolina Mantid ootheca while the nymphs were emerging. I hope you can use these images to help promote the fascinating world of bugs. Thank you for one of the best bug websites on the net! Sincerely,
Troy D. (Keyser, WV)

Hi Troy,
We are really indebted to Lisa and Daniel. Thanks for your great Ootheca image.

Authors

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  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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3 thoughts on “Hatchling Mantids: All You Need to Know for a Thriving Insect Buddy”

  1. I say always catch and release, unless they’re causing you serious problems, in which case I believe extermination is acceptable. I prefer to live in harmony with all creatures, even bugs, but sometimes it just isn’t possible.

    Reply

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