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Tag Archives: Mantis as Pets

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Beyond Tarantulas – The Amazing Diversity of Insects in the Pet Trade

Tarantulas and scorpions have long been invertebrate pet staples, with over 150 species being captive bred in large numbers.  However, insect keeping, always popular in Japan but much less so elsewhere, is now coming into its own in the USA.  I recently found that over 50 stick and leaf insect, 30 mantid, 25 cockroach and 25 beetle species, along with numerous grasshoppers, katydids, butterflies and moths, are now regularly bred in captivity.

Velvet Ants, Tarantula Wasps, Giant Water Bugs and innumerable others are also kept in smaller numbers, and are growing in popularity.  An aquatic insect exhibit I recently designed for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, featuring the usually ignored Water Scorpions and Whirligig, diving and water scavenger beetles, is a big hit with visitors.

Grand Possibilities

The potential diversity of insects that may be kept in captivity is limitless, and many exhibit their entire life cycles and full range ofHercules Beetle behaviors in a relatively limited space and time span.  Those who keep insects are offered the real possibility of discovering new information.

Conservation Value

Much of what has been learned by those keeping insects in private and public collections has conservation value.  Captive breeding and reintroduction programs for endangered species ranging from Sphinx Moths in Arizona to Burying Beetles in Rhode Island have yielded promising results.

Other Invertebrates

An astonishing array of other terrestrial invertebrates are also being kept and bred in captivity, including Banana Slugs, trapdoor, orb-weaver, wolf and crab spiders, centipedes, millipedes, Vinegaroons and Sun Scorpions, to name just a few.  

Further Reading

Japan’s Tama Zoo boasts 2 giant insect houses…be forewarned, insect aficionados who visit will emerge in shock, as did I!

Phasmids (walking sticks and walking leaves) have long been popular as captives in Europe. Photos of many of the nearly 3,000 described species, along with natural history notes, are posted here.

Founded in 1892, and with roots dating to 1872, the NY Entomological Society is an invaluable resource for insect enthusiasts. To learn more about this well-respected group and its publications, please visit their website.



Insect Pets – The Beautiful and Voracious Preying Mantids

Mantids (a/k/a praying mantis) are growing in popularity among invertebrate keepers, with a number of species now being regularly bred in captivity. Ranging in size from minute stick-mimics to 10-inch-long behemoths capable of capturing mice and lizards, the world’s 2,400+ mantid species are among the insect world’s most fascinating members, and many are well suited to terrarium life.

Sociable Mantids?

Praying mantids vie with weasels and shrews as the most rapacious of all predators…I once saw a female Chinese mantid (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) catch and consume a hornet while she was copulating! Females of many species eat their mates, often during the act of mating.

However, some species, including the popularly-kept dead leaf mantid (Tenodera aridifolia), get along quite well together. I have raised clutches of dead leaf mantids with very few losses….perhaps several hanging upside down from a branch, as is their habit, are better camouflaged than would be a single individual.

Camouflage Artists

All mantids studied thus far are supremely well-camouflaged, mimicking, among other things, leaves, sticks, bark and lichen. Orchid mantids so closely resemble their namesakes that insects often alight directly upon them, mistaking the spectacularly-colored predators for flowers.

Farmer’s Friend

Insatiable appetites have long endeared mantids to farmers the world over. The Chinese mantid was imported into the USA in 1896 to battle agricultural pests. Exceeding the nation’s 20 native species in size, the Chinese mantid may consume upwards of 2,000 insects during its lifetime. Millions of its egg cases, or oothecum, are still sold annually for use in gardens, greenhouses and farms.

The European or praying mantid (Mantis religiosa) appeared in the USA in 1899, as a stowaway. Armed with a taste for the tree-killing gypsy moth (also a European introduction), the new insect predator quickly found favor in its adopted home. Today both mantids are widely distributed throughout the USA.

My own introduction to mantid rearing, at age 7, involved a famous entomologist and chop meat waved about on toothpicks. I’ll cover that story and mantid care in the future.

Further Reading

To learn more about mantid natural history and biology, please visit


Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by GRBerry.

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