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African Mantis Care Sheet
The African Mantis, belonging to the Sphodromantis genus is the common name given to a large species of praying mantis commonly found in Africa. It can be found perching on trees and bushes, and use its great camouflage skills for defense and hunting. It is an attractive creature that is very less demanding and relatively easy to look after, and hence makes a great pet. In fact it is one of the largest species of praying mantis that is being successfully kept as a pet.
The African mantis is not a very large or colorful mantis. It is usually green in color, but it can also be seen in brown and cream varieties. The females are larger than the males and can grow up to 8 cm, with wings that extend only till end of the abdomen. The males reach a maximum of 6 to 7 cm and because of this shorter length the wings are slightly longer than their body. Another way to differentiate between a male and female is by counting the number of segments on their abdomen. Males have 8 segments on their abdomen whereas females have only 6 segments. Both sexes are characterized by a white spot on their wings and a yellow coloring on their inner foreleg and this is a feature that is unique to their species .
The African Mantis is generally a docile and calm insect. However, this behavior can totally change when it comes to feeding. While feeding it becomes a rather aggressive type of praying mantis. Once it has spotted its prey, the mantis will vigorously go after it and chase it down.
Temperature plays an important role in the proper growth of these insects. The ideal temperature to be maintained during the day time is between 77-86F whereas the temperature should be allowed to drop to between 70-75F during the night. It is important to maintain the right temperature because higher temperature may shorten their life span while lower temperatures can slow down the metabolism and lengthen their life span. The African mantis can tolerate varying levels of humidity, but it would be ideal to maintain a moderate humidity level of between 50% - 70%. This can be achieved by spraying the enclosure twice weekly. This will not only provide the required humidity but also allows the mantis to drink from it.
Like most of the other praying mantis, your African mantis pet should also be housed in an enclosure that is at least 3 times its length and 2 times its width. The enclosure should be fully ventilated and provided with vines, logs, branches, twigs and fake or live plants so that the environment looks and feels more natural. These elements will also help the insect to climb as well as to hang upside down while molting. The enclosure should also be provided with a suitable substrate such as soil, peat, or compressed coconut fiber which helps to maintain the required humidity levels. Since these are solitary insects, the idea of group housing them should be ruled out. They show cannibalistic behavior and so if many mantises are kept in a single enclosure, you will soon see them killing and eating one another.
The life span of an African Mantis can vary anywhere from ten months to one year.
When it comes to food, the African mantis is not at all choosy. Although, they readily feed on almost anything, their common food items include crickets, flies, locusts, moths, cockroaches and even small mice. Their aggressive nature together with their large size makes them capable of handling prey that is almost their same size. The forelegs of these creatures are spiked which helps them to easily grab and hold their prey.
The mating season of these insects usually begins in fall. The male can be introduced in to the female's cage two weeks after their last molt. The most important thing to make sure is that both the mantids are well fed before mating. After mating, the male usually runs for his life and he has every reason to do so. If by any chance the female is hungry, there is always the possibility of her attacking the male and eating him. The female will lay hundreds of eggs in a foamy mass called ootheca that hardens and protects the eggs from predators and unfavorable environmental conditions. Take care to keep the ootheca in the same temperature and humidity as you keep the adults in. The nymphs, about 100 to 150 of them will emerge after 4 to 6 weeks. The following is a picture of the egg case or ootheca of an African mantis.
As babies, the mantis molts every 1 to 2 weeks and this duration between molting gradually increases as they grow. A female mantis molts seven times throughout her entire life span whereas a male molts only six times. During molting, you can observe your pet mantis hanging upside down. It is better not to disturb the insect at this point. Since the mantis is most vulnerable during the molting process, do not offer any live food, because there is the likelihood of your pet becoming a prey. It is also recommended that you spray the cage before the molting to ensure safe humidity levels.
Since the African mantis largely feeds on insects, they are being introduced into farms and gardens for protecting crops and agriculture from the various troublesome insects or pests that cause damage. In this way they are of great help to humans as a pest controlling agent. People love to keep the African mantis because it is a very simple pet to raise and a fantastic species to own.
Our Mantis care sheet makes it simple to care for this fun and educational pet.
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