Praying mantises

After releasing the newts back outside, I had nothing to inhabit my plastic aquarium tank (37 x 23 x 25cm).  It sat there empty on my windowsill for days until I decided to fill it with soil, moss and ferns, thus becoming a terrarium.

Browsing the internet I managed to stumble across various exotic pet sites, although I didn’t buy anything from them, it was very interesting to see the array of creatures on offer for people to care for. The first one that grabbed my attention was a variety of pygmy chameleon that lives in leaf litter and reaches an adult size of only 7cm! I also only found out recently that people keep a land-based species of hermit crab, although it’s not possible to breed them in captivity. There was also quite a large selection of insects to choose from, and this is when I found the praying mantises. After a day of researching them, I came to the conclusion/impulsive decision to buy a couple. Oddly enough, there’s loads for sale on ebay, and it’s from here that I ended up buying 5 nymphs.

Before I received them in the post, I had to make sure my terrarium (former aquarium, future vivarium) was suitable for housing mantises. The black lid of the container is formed in a grid-like fashion for easy ventilation, any insect would surely crawl out of these with ease, so, conversions had to be made. I bought some mosquito netting, the stuff that’s usually used in tents, and sowed it to a loop of elastic material which ran around the perimeter of the tank (you can see the sides of it poking out from underneath the lid in the image above). This completely covered the opening to the container, so I cut a slit in the top and sowed the mouth of a self-seal bag into it. This meant I could now open and close the ceiling to the enclosure with relative ease, plus, use the black plastic lid as a secondary measure, providing extra security and aesthetic value.

My nymphs arrived the next day, and although they currently measure just under 1cm, I was glad to get them out of their petridish container and into their new home. When older, this species of Miomantis (paykullii, abyssinica or pharaonica, but apparently most likely the first) will grow up to about 4cm, of which i’m glad, as others can reach sizes comparable to a human hand. From what i’ve read, this species also does well communally, by which I mean less likely to eat each other.

I haven’t seen them eat anything yet, even despite small fruit flys walking right past their striking range. They mostly hang upside down on leaves and can be found individually in particular areas, as if territories have been established. Taking photo’s of them with my SLR has proven pretty difficult, I either need to wait til they’re bigger to get a detailed image, or purchase a much needed macro lens. If they haven’t eaten each other by the time I do this, expect some updates!

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~ by Adam Bone on June 5, 2010.

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