Home | Amphibians | Hatching Praying Mantid Egg Cases to Feed Tiny Amphibians and Invertebrates

Hatching Praying Mantid Egg Cases to Feed Tiny Amphibians and Invertebrates

Mantis Laying EggsDietary variety is the key to success in rearing many herps and invertebrates.  Unfortunately, options for newly-transformed frogs and salamanders, Poison Frogs and other small species and hatchling spiders are limited. A diet of fruit flies, springtails and pinhead crickets sometimes suffices, but as I learned when rearing the endangered Kihansi Spray Toad, other foods are often necessary.  Praying Mantid Egg cases (properly termed “oothecum”), which may be collected or ordered from commercial dealers, are a useful but under-appreciated resource for those who keep small insectivorous pets.

Foreign Mantids in the USA

The 2 most-commonly encountered mantids (or mantises) in the USA are both introduced (not native).  The largest and most widespread is the Chinese Mantid, Tenodera aridifolia sinensis, brought here in 1896 to battle insect pests.  The European or Praying Mantid, Mantis religiosa, arrived as a stowaway around the same time.  They and the world’s other 2,400+ species, consume vast numbers of beneficial and harmful insects…in fact, a single Chinese Mantid may consume 20,000 or more insects in its lifetime!

Purchasing and Using Mantid Egg Cases

Millions of Chinese Mantid egg cases are sold annually as a form of biological insect control, but herp keepers have not caught on to their value as a feeder insect.  Each egg case will produce 100-400 tiny, soft-bodied hatchlings.  Please check this supplier’s website for further information.

The egg cases are quite tough, and need only a daily spraying as care.  Best of all, they can be stored in the frig until needed (in the wild, egg cases are produced in the fall, and remain dormant until spring).  If not used immediately, the young mantids will feed upon one another, or can be supplied with fruit flies or aphids.  Even an occasional feeding of mantids can be of great value to the health of your smaller herps.

Collecting Your Own Egg Cases

Mantis eggsYou can also collect your own egg cases (usually legal, but check local laws). Begin searching in September (in the USA) and continue throughout the winter.  Check fields, weedy city lots and overgrown roadside vegetation…they are usually deposited on tall, stout grasses or shrubs, generally 3-5 feet above ground.  The egg cases are well-camouflaged (deer mice and other animals love to eat them) but once you get the right “search image” you’ll find them to be surprisingly abundant in many habitats.

Observing and Keeping Mantids

Allowing a child to watch a mantid egg case hatch will be a thrilling experience for all involved (if you plan to release the insects, do not bring the case indoors until early spring; the young will hatch in mid-winter at room temperatures).  I did so just last week, and can assure you that my 3-year-old naturalist cousin had a great time and learned a wonderful lesson (please see photos of him holding an egg case and releasing the mantids).

Mantids are also fascinating captives in their own right.  I’ve kept and bred a number of species, and am glad to see they are gaining favor with hobbyists here in the US, and in zoo collections. Please see the article below for details.

Other Insect Alternatives

Mantis BabyLacewings and other tiny insects that are sold to nurseries and gardeners are also potentially useful herp foods.  Please check out those offered by the Beneficial Insect Company, and look for my articles on other species in the future.  Please also see the article below to learn more about collecting small, native insects.  In the meantime, I’d appreciate hearing your ideas and experiences.


Further Reading

Collecting Leaf Litter Invertebrates

Mantid Natural History

Keeping Mantids in Captivity

About Frank Indiviglio

Read other posts by

Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
Scroll To Top