The Brown Praying Mantis- Lifecycle, Habitat, Behavior and Benefits

The Brown Praying Mantis- Lifecycle, Habitat, Behavior and Benefits

Insects are generally taken as pests in our daily life. Very few insects are beneficial to us. One of them is the brown praying mantis.

The praying mantis belongs to a carnivore class of insects, who feed on other small insects and pests. This amazing insect has a triangular head and front appendages joint in a stance which makes them look as if they are praying. But instead, on the contrary, they are preying. Depending on their habitat, surrounding environmental conditions, the praying mantis shows wide range of colours, from pea green, red, brown and even pink. The most common are green and brown. The mantis is able to hide itself using its body colour as camouflage and attacks on its prey. The lifespan extends from about six months to upto a year.

1. An easy introduction to praying mantis

brown praying mantis

The brown praying mantis belongs to genus Mantodea. These insects are close relatives to cockroaches and termites. The brown mantis lives mostly in tree trunks and branches and therefore has adopted the colour brown. It measures from about a centimetre to 4 inches long. The triangular head is equipped with two large eyes and three smaller ones that appear like dots. The head is freely movable and gives the mantis a wide angle viewing of about 300 degrees. The female mantis lays about a hundred eggs at a time in grayish hard cases which remain attached to the tree trunk, branches or leaves. The mantis is an expert hunter. It waits near flowers to catch insects looking for nectar. The baby mantis which hatches from the eggs are miniature carbon copies of their parents.

2. How the mantis looks like?

Mantids are arthropods, that is, they belong to same class as crabs, shrimps, cockroaches. The entire body is divided into three main parts- head, thorax, abdomen. The head is triangular in appearance with two large compound eyes and three miniature eyes. The large compound eyes have about 180 degrees visibility. The simple eyes lie in between the compound eyes and appear like dots. Thorax region is elongated and resembles a neck. Front legs appear out from the thorax. Front legs are equipped with modified raptorial grasp for catching and holding on to the prey firmly. Sharp spikes are mounted on the grasps.

Mantis can hide expertly for their prey. Their body colour aids in this process as mostly the mantids are green or brown. This colour enables them to mix freely with the surroundings. The mantids wait eagerly for their prey and move absolutely unnoticed. Their hunting reflexes are invisible to human eye and within a fraction, they can trap and kill the prey.

3. Camouflage ability of the mantis

brown praying mantis

The brown praying mantis has a camouflaged body colour. It stays in tree branches, twigs, trunks etc and waits patiently for the prey. The green mantids are more common in the nature. They hide themselves efficiently in the leaves, twigs and near flowers. This camouflage ability of the mantis helps it to become an expert hunter in the insect world.

4. How the life cycle of brown praying mantis works?

Like every other insect, the life cycle of a brown praying mantis, from the eggs. Four stages of the life cycle has been given as follows:

  • Eggs

The females lay about 100 eggs prior winter. These eggs are lain on a firm stem, leaf, branch or trunk. The outer liquid sac hardens to a protective covering and is called ootheca. This sac withstands all harsh weather conditions till mid spring, when the eggs hatch and the nymphs come out.

  • Nymph

The Nymphs appear to be like miniature caricatures of their parents. After hatching out, these creatures tend to stay around the eggs for a couple of days. During this period, the Nymphs show cannibalism and start preying on each other. After they have grown, the brown praying mantis now spreads away and preys on other insects like flies and fruit flies.

The Nymphs show few stages of developmental growth. These stages are known as instars. During each stage, the mantis sheds off its exoskeleton by a process called molting. The body segments grow and thus the nymphs need to shed their skeletons often. A brown mantis would require three to four such shedding before moving on to next stage. During this time, the nymphs remain vulnerable and are preyed often by bats and birds.

  • Adolescent

The adolescent stage of mantis appears after Nymphs. In this stage the mantis appears larger than before. Here also, it needs to shed off its exoskeleton occasionally. During this phase, the mantis slows down its metabolism, consumes less food and moves very sluggish. The molting period takes about an hour or more and during this phase the mantis needs to stay in one place. It is during this particular time, they are hunted down. By summer, molting of Adolescent Mantis ends.

  • Adults

The adult stage of mantis has one important feature, that it doesn’t require further molting. An adult can be 1-6 inches long. The size varies with the species. Females are easily distinguished from males by their large abdomens. A grown up adult mantis would prey on small insects, birds, mice, mammals or even tree frogs. An interesting phenomenon observed in brown praying mantis is that, the females chew off the head of the males during copulation. After mating, females feed on the rest of the male body. The females also die after laying its eggs. Thus, the newborn mantids are devoid of any parental care and often are endangered because of this. Also, due to avoid of any such care, they end up eating themselves.

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5. What is the observed behavior of Brown praying mantis?

brown praying mantis

The most generic behaviour, observed in praying mantis is their carnivorous character. These creatures can prey on insects, small mammals, frogs, birds or even upon each other. Sexual cannibalism is an interesting feature observed in the mantis. During copulation, the female bites and chews of the males head. The male continues to copulate without head as sensory nerves are in the abdomen region. After it is finished, the female feeds on rest of the body. The Nymphs are observed to have similar behaviour when they remain around each other after hatching.

Upon threatening, the mantis stands upon its two hind legs and spreads out the forelegs with an open mouth which gives an aggressive look to the creature. This usually scares off most of the insects or birds. If they still challenge the mantis, it will use its forelegs to attack, pinch and slash the attacker. The sharp grasps will easily weaken the enemy.

Brown praying mantis may or may not develop wings. After the final moulting, wings appear. Few species have flightless wings. The males generally use wings for short flights when they are attracted to bright lights at night. During mating season, females emit pheromones and the males fly off to them. Also, they use wings at night to catch moths.

6. Where the brown praying mantis lives?

 

Mantis are generally tropical creatures. Their habitat is widely distributed throughout the tropics and sub-tropical forests, as well as temperate climates. A good number of species are found in North and South America, Europe, South Africa, Asia and few parts of Australia. The brown praying mantis prefers to stay in warmer climates with mild winters. Areas with lots of green vegetation, gardens, forests and lush grasslands are heaven for mantis.

Habitat generally affects the colour of the mantis. The brown mantis prefers to live mostly in the tree branches and trunks and gets easily camouflaged from predators like bats, owls, monkeys, birds etc.

Since mantids prefer warm and tropical climates hence it is suggested, if you pet a mantis, you should maintain these conditions in the cage too. Cage humidity should be regulated and kept high all the times to ensure proper living conditions.

7. What are the hunting habits observed in Mantis?

For hunting, the mantis has developed strong forelegs with raptorial grasps. These grasps are equipped with sharp spikes for clutching on to the prey. They hunt during the daytime only.

Mantis is an expert hunter. They have fast hunting reflexes which are not visible to the human eye. The mantis can move slowly, unnoticed and reaches very near to its unsuspecting prey. Once the prey is in a vulnerable position, in a fraction of a second, the mantis grabs it using the forelegs. The spikes help grab on to the prey firmly.

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After capturing the prey, the mantis immediately starts chewing off the live creature. Sometimes, it bites off the neck of its prey to paralyze the prey and prevent it from making further movements.

The diet consists of crickets, grasshoppers, birds, flies, caterpillars, small insects, moths and often mice. Large compound eyes have free movability of 180 degrees which help them to observe the prey closely and look for incoming dangers. The Mantis head is also freely movable, which gives overall visibility of nearly 360 degrees.

8. What makes the mantis a beneficial insect?

praying mantis

 

The praying mantis might be a carnivorous insect, but it has posed serious benefits to the ecological balance. Since the mantis feeds on crickets, moths, cockroaches, mice, ants etc, hence the mantis removes harmful pests off the garden. If you have a couple of plants in your garden, release few mantises. They will keep off harmful pests and insects from your plants. Thus, mantis helps in maintaining the ecological balance by maintaining the prey and predator ratio. Also, you can keep these mantids as pets, and they will help in keeping off flies and cockroaches.

9. What are the harmful incidents you can face with mantis?

If you wish to keep mantis in your garden, they will keep off pests as well as beneficial insects. They don’t discriminate about their prey. Bees, butterflies, silk moths etc will be equally removed by the mantis. These harmful incidents you might face of you keep mantis in your garden.

10. Can we pet a brown praying mantis?

Mantids are nice to humans. No cases of mantids attacking humans have been reported. So far, they are safe to be considered as pets. Mantids need optimal care and support and provide no threat.

11. What are the points to consider before petting a mantis?

pet brown praying mantis

The brown praying mantis can be kept as pet. What one should keep in mind is that, mantids need care and food if they are kept in a terrarium. To stay healthy and strong, they should be regularly fed and given proper living conditions. Here are the few points that will help anyone who will keep mantis as pets.

  • Housing or terrarium

Mantis are not stationary creatures and thus the housing should be done accordingly. An enclosed tank, cage or terrarium would be perfect. The dimensions must be three times longer and at least two times wider than that of the mantis. Since mantids prefer hanging, walking etc, it is suggested to use twigs, branches etc in the cage. A proper substrate should be used here.

A substrate is anything that would absorb water and release slowly to maintain the humidity of the cage. The substrate should not get mold easily and can be anything like vermiculite, potting earth, shredded wood etc. Proper ventilation must be ensured. The cage should be kept filled with grass, twigs, branches, artificial flowers, fake plastic grass etc. These things must be free from synthetic glue or insecticides as they may kill the mantis.

  • Temperature and humidity

Mantis are tropical creatures and need a humid and warm climate. Mantids require a specific level of humidity and temperature in order to survive. They cannot withstand chilly temperatures and thus such temperatures should be avoided. Some mantids live in humids, some in dry grasslands. Depending on the type of your mantis you should design its habitat. You have to regularly spray water into the cage every day or every week depending upon the type of the mantis. If the cage has more holes then water will evaporate out quickly and thus needs to be watered more often to keep humidity high.

  • Feeding the mantis

Since you have kept your mantis a pet, hence you need to feed it. But unlike other pets, mantis don’t eat regularly. Cats, dogs, rodents need to be fed twice at least daily. But mantids should be fed every one to four days alternatively. Few other factors also control their feeding habit like:

  • Female mantids need to be fed more than adult males
  • Mantid types, like desert dry dwellers tend to.eat less frequently.
  • Skinny mantids eat lesser
  • Adults would eat more than the younger ones.

Mantids survive on live insects like flies, roaches, moths, crickets, caterpillars, bugs and many more. Wild mantises often prey birds, mice, humming birds, spiders etc. Thus depending on the size and breed of tour mantis, you can feed it accordingly.

  • How to feed your mantis

Since mantids are expert hunters, they often prefer live preys. You can provide them caterpillars, flies, fruit fly, cockroaches etc. The insects that move about rapidly are easy preys for the mantis. Thus, flies are easy preys. On the other hand, cockroaches and caterpillar tend to hide away from the mantis and thus are difficult preys. If the prey hides somehow, then the mantis would have to starve. So it is best suggested feeding such preys directly to the mantis.

You can use tweezers to feed live insects. If brought close to the mantis, the creature would snatch the prey from the tweezers and start eating it immediately. You should make sure that your mantis eats what you offer or you might change what you offer. But, it should never be kept starved. You can also refer to online guides to feed your mantis based on their type.

  • Cleaning the cage

The mantids are quite cleaner creatures and their terrariums hardly require any cleaning. They eat and cleanse the prey and hardly leave anything over. However, if there are any leftovers, you should clean and remove them and prevent it from getting mold. To clean the terrarium, you need to remove the substrate first and wash off the cage with hot water. Avoid using and detergents, bleach and toxins as these will be very harmful for your pet mantis. After washing, dry the cage, apply fresh substrate and then prepare the cage again with leaves, twigs etc.

If you wish to take care of your mantis according to their species, there are various websites which offer such guides. You can go through these guides and follow the steps accordingly.

12. Where to get your pet mantis?

Finding praying mantis in nature is quite difficult. The females lay eggs in secret places away from common animal sights. It is best to pet mantids from their egg stage. An adult mantis from the forest would die in a terrarium. If you accidentally come across mantid eggs in your garden then feel lucky and pet them. Also, you can purchase mantid eggs from pet shops. These pet shops have variety of mantis eggs and also user guides regarding their feeding, taking care etc.

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