African Mantis – Species Profile & Facts
Okay, so you’ve decided you’re into insects and plan on getting the biggest, scariest, most intimidating type of Mantis you can get your Mantis-lover hands on. At this point, your choice is obvious and straightforward – the African Mantis.
You may also know it by its alias – The Giant African Mantis, which is a pretty descriptive name. Now that you’ve made up your mind, the next thing to know is the specifics about the species that will make caring for it a lot easier. This includes information about its diet, natural environment, domestic habitat, reproductive behavior, etc.
This article will provide you with some insight critical into the African Mantis’s world, teaching you how to care for it and keep it alive and healthy for as long as possible. Here’s what to know about this Mantis species.
African Mantis Natural Habitat
The African Mantis typically resides in Sub-Saharan Africa, in more humid and vegetation-rich regions. This will provide the Mantis with plenty of hunting opportunities, a lot of hiding spots, and a humid and warm environment to reproduce and thrive. It’s not that hard to mimic those environmental requirements at home.
A small terrarium with vegetation, branches, and vines for the Mantis to climb and hunt from should do. Fortunately, the Mantis, like the vast majority of the specimens belonging to its species, is a stealthy, immobile hunter. It loves to pick a spot, set the ambush, and wait for unfortunate small creatures to wander in its area.
This behavior makes it easy for you to mimic its natural habitat with ease, not having to worry about the size of the terrarium, the overall comfort, or other irrelevant factors.
African Mantis Characteristics
There are over 2,400 species of Mantids, each with its unique physical characteristics. The problem is that many look similar to one another, so, since the truth is in the details, learning the African Mantis’s unique characteristics is essential to avoid choosing the wrong specimen.
The African Mantis contains a lot of subspecies, each with its different physical characteristics. The type you’re interested in is among the largest specimen, with the females reaching 3.1 inches, while the males are settling for about 2.3 to 2.7 inches. The males are always smaller and less intimidating, which is common in Mantids and insects in general.
They come in green, beige, or brown color varieties, with thin bodies and big, translucent eyes. Green Mantids tend to have green eyes, while the brown ones will display eyes more purple-ish in color.
It’s also worth noting that males are generally thinner, with wings exceeding their bodies’ length. Females are bulkier (heh) with shorter wings and a more prominent abdomen. They also display a yellow dot on their wings, which is another thing that differentiates them from males.
– Size & Growth
Like I’ve stated previously, females tend to reach 3.1 inches in length, but it’s not uncommon to have them smaller or bigger than that. Its growth rate and overall size depend on the environmental conditions (lower environmental temperatures will inhibit their growth rate), food (too much or too little is equally bad for different reasons), etc. The Mantis males are always smaller than the females by at least half an inch.
The African Mantis’s growth process is similar to any other Mantid. They molt several times during their lifespan, approximately 5-7 times before it reaches full maturity. The process can be strenuous for the Mantis, requiring a humid environment to facilitate a successful molting. A dry habitat can cause the Mantis to fail to exit its older exoskeleton, often killing the insect.
The entire molting process can last approximately 2 hours, give or take, resulting in a slightly larger Mantis each time.
The female African Mantis is a scary predator. Unlike other Mantids, she will only stay still until she observes the prey. That’s when she will begin to actively hunt the victim, often killing and consuming prey as large as her own body. Males, on the other hand, are shier in nature. They may get scared by larger prey.
With that in mind, you should give them different-sized prey to make sure they can consume it safely. When threatened, the African Mantis will spread its arms sideways and raise its wings to display its aggressive behavior. They can do this when faced with intruders, other Mantids, or even yourself if you annoy them.
African Mantids are not great team-workers. Which is common for this species of insects. They will quickly attack and even eat members of the same species just like they would do with any other insect. This includes the female attacking the male whenever he gets too close, including during the reproductive season.
To prevent the males from getting killed, you should always feed the female before and during the reproductive act. This will take her mind of the killing for a second so that the male can perform his natural duties.
– Life Cycle
The Mantis’s life begins with an egg. A female can lay hundreds of eggs at once, most of which will result in viable offspring. The newborn Mantis is a nymph, and it will display a voracious appetite, eating pretty much everything that moves, including other nymphs. This will quickly boost its growth, beginning the molting cycle that will last for its entire lifespan.
Few molts in, the nymph will grow into an adult Mantis, large enough to hunt prey as large as its body or even larger. It’s not uncommon to see the African Mantis capturing smaller mice or birds. The Mantis will starve several hours before the molting but will always emerge hungrier, more active, and stronger by the end of it.
African Mantis Care
Now that you know the basic facts about the African Mantis, how do you care for it at home? Are there any special requirements to keep in mind compared to other Mantids species? Let’s have a look:
– Diet & Nutrition
If you want to reach an African Mantis’s heart, you can do it through food. Provide it with sufficient and diverse meals, and the Mantis will love you forever. The good news is that the Mantis will eat whatever live food it can get its long, stingy, scary arms around.
This may include cockroaches, butterflies, flies, crickets, locusts, and anything in between. Avoid giving them poisonous insects, however, like bees, wasps, or even spiders. These may cause them severe problems in the process via stinging or biting, and you don’t want to risk your pet’s life.
You should also avoid throwing dead insects into their pen. The vast majority of Mantids will avoid dead insects. They will go as far as eating their prey alive. That’s how much they appreciate alive, kicking, and juicy bugs. You should also pay attention to overfeeding. The African Mantis has a voracious appetite. It will easily eat more than it can handle. Just like me.
So, even if your Mantis looks like it could use an extra snack, ignore it and keep its appetite in line. If you see its belly close to popping, cut on the feeding for a while.
Unless you’re a fan of Mantis gladiator arenas, I recommend only keeping one Mantis in one enclosure. They don’t shy away from eating other Mantids if they cross their turf. Mantids tend to develop their cannibalistic tastes later on in life, which means adult Mantids are at higher risk of killing and consuming their own.
Other than that, there is no special treatment to consider. Just place the Mantis in its artificial environment, make sure to keep it warm and wet, and feed it occasionally, and you should be fine.
There are several things to keep in mind regarding the environmental requirements of the African Mantis:
- Temperature – The ideal temperature should revolve around 77 to 85 F. The absolute minimum, in unavoidable situations, would be 62 F. Anything below that will impact the insect’s development and growth.
- Humidity – The African Mantis comes from a humid and plant-rich environment. I recommend a humidity level at around 50-60%. A humid environment will help with the molting process, ensure optimal reproduction, and increase the Mantis’s comfort in the terrarium.
- The size of the enclosure – You need to have an enclosure that’s at least 3 times higher than the insect’s length and at least 2 times longer than the insect’s width. If this sounds confusing at a first glance, consider this – the larger the enclosure, the more comfortable the Mantis will be.
– Health Problems
The most common health problems arrive due to unfit environmental temperature, humidity, or poor feeding patterns. For instance, you should only feed your Mantis a fulfilling meal approximately once per week. The food will remain undigested in the insect’s gut until it needs the nutrients. Overfeeding can cause serious health problems.
The first step in the reproductive process begins with eating. You need to feed your female Mantis before introducing the male; otherwise, things can turn ugly. African Mantids don’t discriminate when it comes to their food choices, and being a male of the same species doesn’t come with special treatment.
The mating process itself can last for several hours, after which I recommend removing the male from the enclosure. For its own sake.
Keeping insects as pets might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, being versed in the field can come with unique pleasures since the insect world can be genuinely fascinating. The African Mantis is the living proof of that.
If you’ve decided to get your own African Mantis but still have doubts and questions, I’m ready to provide the answers. Comment below or fill in a contact form, and I’ll respond as fast and as best I can.