African Mantis :
The African Mantis, or more specific and scientific Sphodromantis lineola, is a large and fierce species of mantis. It is commonly kept as a pet because of its size and fierce hunting techniques and its relatively easy care.
Her natural habitat lies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Mantis Species list :
courtesy to : www.keepinginsects.com/praying-mantis/
Mantis species :
There are around 2300 species of praying mantis on the Earth of which a few hundred are being kept as pets. Every species is different in shape, size, behavior, life history traits and specific needs. That’s why every species that I have owned has its own page on this website. There you can read all about its appearance, behavior, growth and of course how you can keep and raise them in captivity. Every page is its own caresheet that can be printed and kept to use as a ‘manual’ of your pet.
The species that are listed on this website are:
African Mantis – Sphodromantis lineola
Dead Leaf Mantis – Deroplatys desiccata
Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis – Pseudoharpax virescens
Ghost mantis – Phyllocrania paradoxa
Giant Asian Mantis – Hierodula membranacea
Indian Flower Mantis – Creobroter pictipennis
Orchid Mantis – Hymenopus coronatus
Spiny Flower Mantis – Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii
Unicorn Mantis – Pseudovates arizonae
Egyptian Pygmy Mantis – Miomantis paykullii
European Mantis – Mantis religiosa
Budwing Mantis – Parasphendale affinis
Thistle Mantis – Blepharopsis mendica
Devils Flower Mantis – Idolomantis diabolica
Wandering Violin Mantis – Gongylus gongylodes
Chinese Mantis – Tenodera sinensis
Carolina mantis – Stagmomantis carolina
A nymph of Sphodromantis lineola in the brown variety.
Appearance and varieties
This species of praying mantis is usually green, but there are also beige and brown varieties. The difference in color is mainly due to the environment in which the animal is kept. The brown varieties can have beautiful purple eyes as can be seen on the pictures on this page.
This is one of the larger species of praying mantis that is being successfully kept in captivity. The females are about 8 cm long, the males are a bit smaller with 6 to 7 cm. The males are thinner with wings that are slightly longer than their body. The females are larger, with wings that extend just to the end of the abdomen. On their wings they have a yellowish dot.
African Mantis nymph in green variety
Sphodromantis lineola is a fierce kind of praying mantis. She will actively chase prey once she has spotted it. Females can handle very large prey. Males can sometimes be a bit intimidated by VERY large prey such as locusts, so it is better not to give them extremely large prey. When the adults of this species feel threatened it may raise its wings and move its front arms sideways to expose an orange colored area.
African Mantis adult female – brown variant
Environmental conditions :
The ideal temperature is about 25 ° C, but a temperature between 22 and 30 ° C is perfect too. At night the temperature can be allow to drop, but it should be at least 17 ° C to ensure proper development. When exposed to temperatures below 5 ° C the mantis may not survive.
This species does not have high demands on the humidity, but it is important to spray about 2 times a week to allow the mantis to drink. A target air humidity is about 50% – 60%.
As with all species of praying mantids, this species needs a cage that is at least 3 times the length of the animal in height, and at least 2x the length of the animal in width. For an adult this means is at least 24 cm in height and 16 cm in width. A nice size for a terrarium would be 30 x 20 x 30 cm (hxwxd), so there is room for lots of fake plants and perches.
African Mantis nymph
Group housing :
Because Sphodromantis lineola is such an active predator, group housing is not succesfull. Sooner or later only one will be left in the enclosure, because it ate all the others. Young nymphs are less cannibalistic than older ones, so nymphs that are L4 or younger can be kept together when ample space and food is provided.
Head of a Sphodromantis lineola in the brown variety with purple eyes.
Breeding and reproduction :
The adult females of this species bigger and heavier than the males. The difference between males and females can be seen from L4, as the sexes have a different number of segments on their abdomen.
Approximately 2 to 4 weeks after the last molt, in which the mantis becomes adult, a mating attempt could be made. Make sure that the female eats very well before you put the male in her enclosure. The female can be very aggressive to the male. (To read more about mantis mating and keeping the male alive, read this) Mating can take several hours, the male must subsequently be removed from the residence if you want him to live.
Female Deroplatys desiccata head and arms
Adult female African Mantis – Sphrodomantis lineola
Dead Leaf Mantis
The Dead Leaf Mantis, or Deroplatys desiccata, is a large mantis from Malaysia that is camouflaged as a dead leaf. It looks amazing! They are not very easy to keep and breed, but it is definately possible.
An adult female of the Dead Leaf Mantis Deroplatys desiccata
Appearance of the Dead Leaf Mantis :
This species of praying mantis is always brown, but the shade of brown may vary between individuals. Their brown color is not solid all over, but it has dark and light spots to mimic a dead leaf. On their back they have a huge shield (prothorax), making it look even more like a dead leaf. This feature can be seen almost all species in the Deroplatys genus.
This is one of the largest species of cryptic mantis kept in captivity successfully. They are about as big as the commonly kept species (Sphodromantis, Hierodula) but are very well camouflaged. Females are about 9 cm long, the males are a bit smaller with their 7 or 8 cm. Males have a small shield on their prothorax and their body is not as wide as that of the females. Males have wings that extend almost one centimeter past the abdomen, while females have wings that reach just up to the abdomen.
Lined African Mantis Sphodromantis Lineola Female
African mantis Sphodromantis lineola
The head of an adult female of the Dead Leaf Mantis – Deroplatys desiccata
Behavior of the Dead Leaf Mantis
Deroplatys desiccata is a pretty docile species of praying mantis. They can be easily ‘scared’ by large prey or the hand of their owner, making them run away franticly or display a death feigning behavior (play dead). During this display the mantis will lie motionless on the floor, legs folded or stretched out. They do not move even when you touch them. Sometimes they suddenly get up and start running away. When adult, Deroplatys desiccata can also display its wings when threatened. This is called a deimatic display, designed to scare off predators. The mantis shows its front wings that have a large black spot on them, and it shows the hind wings that have black and white stripes on them. When the wings are raised suddenly, these colors become visible and can scare away predators such as birds. During the deimatic display the mantis will also raise its forelegs to show a red area with bright black and white stripes (zebra pattern).
An adult female of the Dead Leaf Mantis Deroplatys desiccata
Environmental conditions for keeping this mantis
The ideal temperature is about 26 ° C, but keeping them warmer is also good to about 35 ° C. Do not keep them cooler than 22 ° C. At night you can allow the temperature to drop until 18 ° C.
This species likes a slightly higher humidity, so it is important to spray water reguarly. A target humidity is about 50 to 80%. Keep the enclosure well ventilated.
As with all species of praying mantis, the enclosure needs to be at least 3 times the length of the animal is height, and at least 2x the length of the animal in width. For an adult female this means the enclosure has to be at least 27 cm in height and 18 cm in width. A nice size for a terrarium would be 30 x 20 x 30 cm or bigger, so there is room for perches and decoration such as dead leaves.
An adult female of the Dead Leaf Mantis on my hand
Group housing with Dead Leaf Mantises
Deroplatys desiccata is not very aggressive to members of its species, but it is better not to house them together in one enclosure. Sooner or later cannibalism will happen. Until L4 (fourth instar) the nymphs can be kept together when fed constantly.
Close up of female Dead Leaf Mantis head – Notice the three ocelli (extra eyes) on the head
Breeding Deroplatys desiccata :
When adult, the differences between males and females are not to be missed. The male is long and slender, while the female is broad and bulky. She has a huge shield on the prothorax, while the male has a small shield. For nymphs you can use the sexing method of counting the number of segments on the abdomen, as described here.
Approximately 2 to 4 weeks after both partners reach adulthood, a mating attempt can be made. Make sure that the female has eaten a lot in the days before the mating attempt. The female can be quite aggressive to the male, so if you see excessive aggression you have to remove the male and try again later. Try to minimize disturbance. Mating can take several hours, when the male leaves the back of the female he must be removed from the enclosure to keep him alive.
Adult male Deroplatys desiccata
Subadult female of Pseudoharpax virescens
Nymph of Deroplatys desiccata – female
Video of a Dead Leaf Mantis (Deroplatys desiccata) female molting into subadulthood
Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis
The Gambian Spotted-Eye Flower Mantis, or Pseudoharpax virescens, is a small mantis species from Gambia (West Africa).
Subadult female of Pseudoharpax virescens
Appearance of the Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis :
This species of praying mantis has a white to creamy underside of its body, a mid to dark green back and shiny green wings. In adult P. virescens mantids you can also see some pink accents and an orange patch under the wings. The hindwings of the adult mantis are bright red. These red wings are used as a confusion mechanism for predators. If the mantis is sitting idle it looks green, but when it spreads its wings it will show bright red coloration that can be confusing for a predator (like a bird or chameleon).
This kind of praying mantis remains very small. The adults are about 3 cm long, that’s a bit longer than one inch.
Behavior of Gambian Spotted-Eye Flower Mantis
Pseudoharpax virescens is very ‘confident’ for its size. They easily attack prey much larger than themselves. If a prey is seen, it is pursued with a typical vibrating hunting walk. The vibration causes the mantis looks more like a part of the environment, like a leaf or branch moving in the wind, than a predator. Once it has approached close enough to its prey it will catch it very quickly.
Environmental conditions for keeping this mantis species.
The ideal temperature is about 24 ° C, but can vary between 20 ° C and 30 ° C. At night you can allow the temperature to drop to around 17 ° C.
This species has a required humidity of about 50 to 70%. For most enclosures this is achieved misting with clean water once very 3 days. How often you need to mist depends on the ventilation of your terrarium, more ventilation means more spraying.
As s with all species of praying mantis, this species needs an enclosure that is at least 3 times the length of the animal in height, and at least 2x the length of the animal in width. For an adult this means is at least 9 cm in height and 6 cm in width. A nice size for a terrarium would be 15 x 10 x 10 cm, so there is room for lots of fake plants and perches. Larger is always better, as long as you know the mantis still finds its food.
Group housing and Pseudoharpax mantis species
This species is cannibalistic, like almost every kind of praying mantis. It is adviced not to keep more than one mantis together in one enclosure. Very young nymphs (up to L3) can still be kept together, if well fed.
Subadult female of Pseudoharpax virescens
Breeding the Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis
It is possible to breed the Gambian Spotted-Eye Flower Mantis in captivity. It is not that hard, even though some other species are definitely easier to breed. This is how you can breed with this manti species:
First you have to make sure you have males and females of the same age. The females of this species are slightly larger than males as adults. The gender of older nymphs and adults can be determined based on various characteristics. The length of the antennae can be seen if you’re dealing with a male or a female. The antennae of the male are longer and wider than of the female. The base of the antennae are orange-brown in males for the last two instar stages, while that of black females. From around instar level L4 you can count the number of segments on the abdomen of the mantis. Females have six, while males have a 8. This method of sex determination is an early nymph stage, but can sometimes be difficult for the untrained eye. To read more about checking the sex of your mantis, check out our Male or Female mantis? page
Approximately 2 to 4 weeks after the last molt, a mating attempt should be made. Make sure that the female ate a lot before the male is introduced. It is good to distract the female with some food when you place the male with her. Mating can take several hours. There is a high risk of cannibalism for the male, as the Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis females can be very aggressive and always hungry.
The Gambian Spotted-Eye Flower Mantis female produces small ootheca with around 15 eggs each. The ootheca are light brown in color and deposited on branches or the top of the terrarium. Keep the ootheca the same as the parents and make sure the humidity is high. To read more about keeping ootheca of a mantis, read our page taking care of mantis eggs.
Head of a subadult female of Pseudoharpax virescens
The Ghost mantis, also know as Phyllocrania paradoxa, is a species that has a beautiful leaf-like body. It’s color is usually dark brown, but can also be sand, light brown or even green. The natural habitat of the Ghost mantis is Madagascar and continental Africa.
To learn more about keeping this mantis as a pet, continue reading this caresheet!
Appearance of the Ghost Mantis :
The Ghost mantis Phyllocrania paradoxa mimics withered leaves by its dark body covered in leaf-like decorations. On its head it has a striking asymmetrical cone that helps to distort its body outline to look more like a leaf. In this way it is camouflaged among the fallen leaves in its natural habitat; the forest of Madagascar and Africa. They can remain unseen by predator such as insect-eating birds while waiting for its own prey. The most common color for this praying mantis species is dark brown, but sometimes you can find light brown or even green specimens. The color of the skin is determined by the environment, a more humid environment provides a greener individual. Phyllocrania paradoxa is about 5 cm long when adult, with little difference in size between the sexes. The males are thinner with wings that reach past the abdomen. The females are bigger and heavier than the males. They also have a wider prothorax and their wings extend to just the end of the abdomen. The difference between the sexes can also be seen when still in the nymph stadium, because males have a more indented extension on the head.
This is the head of a male Ghost mantis – Phyllocrania paradoxa
This is a side view of a Ghost mantis nymph – Phyllocrania paradoxa
Behavior of the Ghost mantis :
The Ghost mantis is a quiet kind of praying mantis. It is a typical sit-and-wait predator. Relying on her camouflage it waits patiently until an unsuspecting prey comes along. Once she sees her prey, she will attack very fast. Before the prey realizes it, he is already firmly stuck between the claws of this predator. P. paradoxa will rarely actively chase its prey, it will rather wait for an opportune moment to strike. Sometimes this kind of praying mantis is a little scared and easily intimidated by its prey. Especially the adult males can run away from large prey instead of attacking. Also large tweezers or the hand of the owner can make this mantis refuse its prey. When this happens during feeding, just wait fifteen minutes and try again.
Ghost mantis – Phyllocrania paradoxa
Food for a Ghost Mantis :
In nature, Phyllocrania paradoxa mainly eats flying prey such as flies. Therefore it should be preffered to feed flies instead of crickets to Ghost mantids. But this species of mantis also feeds well on crickets, small grasshoppers and other insects. The size of its prey should be approximately the size of the head of the mantis. This species is not as strong as some other species, making it less fit to catch very large prey items. An adult female can eat adult crickets without a problem, but I prefer to feed them smaller crickets or flies.
Environmental conditions for this mantis species:
The ideal temperature for the Ghost mantis is around 26 ° C, but a temperature between 20 ° C and 30 ° C is also okay. The temperatures can be allowed to drop, but should at least be 18 ° C. This species prefers a relatively high humidity. The RV (relative humidity) should be approximately 60 to 90%. This can be achieved by spraying with water about 5 times a week for the average enclosure. The enclosure of this species of mantis should be at least 3 times the length of the animal in high, and at least 2x the length of the animal in width. For an adult this means is at least 15 cm in height and 10 cm in width. A nice size for a terrarium would be 20 x 20 x 30 cm, so there is space for lots of fake plants and perches. Dead leaves in beautiful autumn colors as decorations in the terrarium fit the looks of this mantis perfectly. Sometimes they can hardly be spotted because of its perfect camouflage!
Gorgeous picture (by Devid Camerlinck) of a male Ghost mantis head and body.
Group housing of Ghost Mantises :
The special “feature” of this species of mantis is that multiple animals can be kept in one enclosure without cannibalism. Other species will attack and eat each other, even it there is plenty of food. The Ghost mantis is often quiet and non-aggressive, also to other Ghost mantids. Of course the mantis does need plenty of space and enough prey items such as flies, because when food is running low these mantids will also turn on each other. The individuals also need to be of the same instar, you cannot combine animals that differ too much in size. Keeping a large group of Ghost mantids in a big enclosure can be a beautiful sight. Keep in mind: the risk of cannibalism is very small, but the risk still exists.
Breeding Phyllocrania paradoxa
This species can be allowed to breed by most insect enthousiasts. You need to focus on good environmental conditions.
First you need to find a male and a female of around the same age. The females of this species are slightly larger and broader than the males. Already in the nymph instars you can see this difference. The sex difference can also be spotted when looking at the antennae; the base of the antennae of the male is wider and antennae are also longer in lenght. From around L4 (fourth instar) a keen eye can distinqish the sexes easily.
Approximately 2 to 4 weeks after the last molt, a mating attempt should be made. Make sure that the female is well fed before introducing the male. When you group house these mantids, you don’t need to do anything to ensure mating. The mantids will mate when the time is right, and usually you will not even see this happening because it is a night. Mating can take several hours and it only very rarely happens that the male will be cannabalized by the female.