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Keeping Stick Insects and Praying Mantis

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 5 Apr 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Insects Stick Insects Praying Mantis

There are upwards of a million species of insects in the world but of all of these, stick insects and praying mantis are probably some of the oddest and certainly amongst the most popular of invertebrate pets.

Neither kind of insect is particularly demanding to keep and provided their fairly simple needs are met, they generally do well in captivity – although some of the larger kinds can certainly keep you busy when it comes to collecting enough food.

Housing

The housing requirements of both these kinds of insects are fairly similar – and call for little more than a jar or wide mouthed bottle of appropriate size, although stick insects and praying mantis can obviously also be kept in aquarium tanks if you prefer.

The only real thing to bear in mind when selecting a home for your pets is that both of these insects need to be able to hang downwards to shed their skins, so the tank needs to be able to accommodate a branch for them to hold onto and give them sufficient height for shedding. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the distance from branch to base is at least three times the length of the insect itself.

How big the container needs to be depends on the species of insect you are keeping and its age; if the animal isn’t fully grown, it’s probably worthwhile starting it off in a suitably-sized small home and then moving it to larger quarters as it gets bigger. This will help you be able to see your pet better and also avoid any danger of throwing it out with the leaves when you clean the tank out – which can be a particular problem if you have a large number of young stick insects in the same container.

Since most species of both praying mantis and stick insects come from tropical or semi-tropical regions, they will need to be kept warm – around 25 degrees C (77F) – although some kinds, such as the familiar Indian Stick Insect (Carausius morosus), thrive at room temperature.

Most – but not all – stick insects require fairly humid surroundings, the commonly sold Indian Stick Insect again being one of those to buck the trend and live in much less moist conditions than many of its relatives. Some humidity is required by praying mantis, a gentle misting of its container every couple of days usually being all that is needed.

Food And Feeding

Diet is one big difference between these two kinds of insects; whereas stick insects are plant-eaters and most species can be happily kept together, all of the world’s 2000 or so species of praying mantis are carnivores and distinctly cannibalistic when the circumstances arise. For obvious reasons, the mantis is a solitary pet!

All stick insects seem to find bramble a very acceptable food, with many other kinds also enjoying the leaves of oak, hawthorn and privet. It’s important to provide their food as fresh as possible, so keep an eye on things and replace it if it’s beginning to look wilted and past its best. Unless you’re sure about pesticide use around the area you’re harvesting for food, it’s a good idea to wash the leaves and stems routinely – which is also a good practice to follow if you collect material from the roadside.

Suitable prey for praying mantis depends entirely on the animal’s size, since they are very unfussy in terms of what kind of other insects they’ll eat. Young ones will need fruit flies, or very small crickets, while adults will consume large crickets and almost anything else you can catch from your garden – though if you do go hunting for them, remember to avoid any areas that have been treated with pesticides.

Good First Species

A range of different species are to be seen from time to time in exotic pet shops and on dealers’ lists, including:

  • Indian Stick Insect (Carausius morosus)
  • Australian Giant Spiny Stick (Extatosoma tiaratum)
  • Small Spiny Stick Insect (Aretaon asperrimus)
  • Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata)
  • West African Green Mantis (Sphrodomantis viridis)
  • African Praying Mantis (Sphrodomantis lineola)

Whether you choose a mantis or a stick insect, keeping these fascinating creatures could hardly be easier – it’s not surprising that so many exotic pet keepers started out this way.

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