I had just an amazing expierence while camping at Big Arm campground on Flathead Lake in Polson Montana. As you know I love insects but my girlfriend is not a big fan. We had set up our tent and put the rain fly on and several hour later Melissa yells from the tent “There’s a praying mantis in here” I’m thinking to myself it’s not even possible. Sure enough here is a female European mantis eating the bugs that were in between the tent roof and the rain fly.
I had never seen a mantis like this and was unsure of the species until I got an internet connection and did a little research. Last year I hatched a few Chinese praying mantis ooths last year but the adults looked different than this one.
Catching “Monty” for the trip home
I brought “Monty” home to Minnesota to do some more studying and take more pictures. I’m also hoping she lays some fertile oothecas because there was a second mantis with her for the first three days.
If you come across a praying mantis in the wild and decide you want to keep it as a temporary pet. It’s important that your gentle when you pick the mantis up. Their legs are very delicate. You can house the mantis in any available container but I recommend it be large enough for the praying mantis to walk around and have space to moult. I use a screeen cage so the insect gets fresh air and it’s also easy for the mantis to crawl on the side of the cage. Put some sticks and leaves in the enclosure and your done. A praying mantis life span is only a year, after they mate and lay their egg cases you know they are getting close to the end of their life cycle.
If you decide to keep a praying mantis your going to need live insects to feed it. This is easy in the summer when bugs are abundent but can be very difficult in the fall and winter if you live in a cold climate like Minnesota or Montana. I have been feeding “Monty” adult house flies that I catch around the house. She eats six to eight flies a day. If you catch a very small praying mantis or are lucky enough to hatch an ootheca you will need small bugs and fruit flies are a perfect choice. You can put a slice of banana in a empty jar and within hours you will have fruit flies showing up. A better option is to buy wingless fruit flies off the internet or at a pet shop. They are a lot easier to control and collect because they can’t fly. You don’t need a water dish as the mantis will get moisture from the insects it eats. Some tropical praying mantis do require higher humidity levels and you will need to lightly mist the enclosure but this is not the case with European praying mantis.
I would recommend releasing the mantis back into the wild after your done watching it eat and taking pictures. It’s best for the praying mantis and it increases the likelihood of coming across another one in the future. Let it go in your garden and hopefully it stays and lays some egg cases for you.