When people hear “Praying Mantis”, this is usually the species they’re picturing in their heads. That’s perhaps due to this insect’s huge popularity and commonality. Despite its name, the European Mantis can actually be found on four continents.
Besides Europe, this insect also exists in Asia, Africa, as well as North America. Fun fact, by the way— despite the European Mantis being an introduced species in North America, it’s become the official state insect of Connecticut.
All in all, the European Mantis’ popularity isn’t surprising. Not only can this insect be found almost anywhere in the world, but it’s also a great pet for insect enthusiasts. They’re cheap and easy to care for, they’re quiet and gentle with humans, and they’re interesting to observe throughout their life cycle.
European Mantis Natural Habitat
In the wild, the European Mantis covers the central and southern parts of Europe, where temperatures are warmer. It can also be found in countries such as Germany and Poland, albeit in smaller numbers. This wide area includes a variety of climates, such as temperate continental, oceanic, and Mediterranean.
This means that the European Mantis can survive in a wide range of environments with different temperature and humidity levels. From warm and humid summers, to warm and dry summers, and even to cool summers, the European Mantis is highly adaptable and resilient to a variety of temperature and humidity levels.
However, when temperatures drop too low, this insect quickly succumbs to the cold weather. Once summer comes to an end and adult mantises are done mating, they start dying off. However, when kept in captivity, they can survive for a lot longer.
European Mantis Characteristics
If you’re interested in keeping a European Mantis as a pet, you probably want to learn more about it first. This way, you can decide whether this is the right pet insect for you.
Below, I’ll explain everything you need to know about the European Mantis, including the more interesting bits like its personality and life cycle. So, keep reading to find out whether this mantis is a good pet match for you!
The European Mantis has a graceful elongated body and two pairs of slender back legs. When not used for defense or hunting prey, this mantis’ front legs are bent close to its body in a praying-like posture. But don’t be fooled by the innocent body language. Like other mantises, the European Mantis’ forelegs are covered in lots of pointy spikes.
The head looks like an inverted triangle with long, thin antennae, a pair of huge, rounded eyes, and a tiny, beak-like mouth. While the typical body color is light green, the European Mantis can also be yellow, brown, and even black.
All European Mantises have two pairs of thin, delicate wings. But only male mantises can make use of these wings, thanks to their smaller, lighter bodies. Females are larger and heavier than males, and they have shorter wings and abdomens.
– Size & Growth
As I’ve already mentioned, female European Mantises are larger than males. Females of this species grow up to 3.14 inches in length, while males are on average 2.75 inches long. Despite their smaller body size, males have longer wings, abdomens, and antennae. Females have stockier builds.
During the nymph stage European Mantises are way smaller than adult mantises, but they still closely resemble their adult form. As they transform from nymph to adult, mantises go through a process called molting. They have to shed their rigid exoskeleton to grow. It takes about 7-9 molts for a mantis to reach its full adult size, after which molting stops.
The European Mantis looks cute and innocent on the outside. But this insect is actually bold and feisty. Its favorite activity is observing and chasing its prey, after all. When it isn’t already after its prey, the European Mantis sits still and calm, waiting for a worthy opponent to show up. They’re incredible predators with swift movements and a sharp instinct.
They get stressed easily when handled or touched too much. The European Mantis enjoys its personal space, so don’t force it to interact with you if it doesn’t feel like it. Luckily, they’ll let you know when they’re irritated.
When threatened or stressed, the European Mantis will strike its intimidating pose at you by standing tall and lifting its wings and forelegs. That’s their way of saying “go away”.
The European Mantis’ main defense strategy is its deimatic behavior. That’s when an animal or insect makes itself look as big as possible to scare away enemies. When threatened, the European Mantis adopts an upright posture and opens up its mouth. It also spreads its wings out wide and lifts its forelegs as high as possible, revealing the sharp spikes underneath.
This mantis doesn’t just use its forelegs and teeth to devour prey. They can also serve as powerful weapons for self-defense. If scaring the enemy doesn’t work, the European Mantis can also strike a powerful blow with its spikes. If all else fails, males can also fly away.
– Life Cycle
Like other mantis species, the European Mantis goes through an incomplete metamorphosis cycle. Unlike other insects, mantises don’t go through a larval stage. Instead, their lifecycle has just three stages— egg, nymph, and adult.
Females lay eggs in an egg case called the ootheca. They attach the ootheca to tree branches. Egg development and hatching are influenced by environmental factors, more specifically by temperature and humidity. In nature, European Mantis eggs overwinter, and hatching happens in spring.
The baby mantises start their first molt shortly after hatching. After molting for the first time, they already look very similar to adults, although they’re significantly smaller.
Then, throughout its nymph stage, the young mantis goes through additional molts every 14 days. After 8-9 molts, the adult mantis emerges with fully developed wings and bodies. Typically, adults are ready to feed and breed right after their last molt, continuing the life cycle.
European Mantis Care
The European Mantis doesn’t differ that much from other Praying Mantis species. And due to its widespread presence in the wild, it’s safe to assume that the European Mantis is adaptable to various climates with different temperature and humidity levels.
However, we’re interested in creating the ideal living conditions for your pet insect. “Good enough” doesn’t cut it, if you want your pet to live the longest, healthiest life. That’s why I suggest reading the following care guide for the best results with your European Mantis.
– Diet & Nutrition
The European Mantis is carnivorous. It eats a variety of live insects, sometimes including insects larger than themselves. Anything this mantis can catch and restrain makes for a great feast. Much of the mantis’ feeding experience has to do with following and catching its prey.
For European Mantises kept in captivity, I recommend offering them a varied diet consisting of multiple feeder insects. Carrion flies, crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, and any other insect are just fine. As long as you rotate the types of insects you feed your mantis, it should be able to cover all of its nutrient needs.
If you catch your feeding insects, make sure they don’t come into contact with pesticides, as these might be harmful to your mantis. Always keep your European Mantises separate, as this insect is prone to cannibalism. They have voracious appetites, and females usually eat the males during mating.
You can use any type of enclosure you like as long as it meets a few important requirements. Most importantly, the enclosure should be large enough to allow free movement. That means it should be at least twice as wide and deep as your mantis’ body length. In addition to this, it also needs to be at least three times as tall as your mantis.
Besides size, the enclosure must offer good ventilation, and it should be easy to heat. If you use an enclosure such as a tank, you can provide ventilation and make it escape-proof by using a mesh or a net screen as a top lid. Last but not least, don’t forget the tank décor! I recommend using any reptile-safe substrate, as these are the best for maintaining humidity.
You can also use a wet cloth for the same effect. It makes cleanup a lot easier, and it adds additional moisture to the enclosure. But a substrate adds a lot more to the visual experience both for you and for your pet insect. Besides the substrate, you should also add a variety of twigs and branches for your mantis to climb and hang on.
Unlike other insect species, the European Mantis doesn’t have drastic humidity requirements. As long as you maintain an air humidity above 40% and up to 65%, your mantis will be happy.
Keep in mind that when the humidity surpasses 50%, mold starts forming easily. To monitor the humidity levels in the enclosure, you can use a hygrometer. Mist the enclosure and the substrate when humidity levels fall below 40%.
The ideal temperature range for European Mantises is 73-82°F. When temperatures drop too low, these mantises quickly succumb to the cold weather. Depending on where you live, the room temperature might not be 73°F and above throughout the year. If that’s the case, you can use a heating pad or a lamp to warm up the enclosure.
– Health Problems
The European Mantis is predisposed to the same health issues as other Praying Mantis species. But don’t worry, these aren’t imminent dangers. They might just happen if the environmental conditions are suboptimal. Low humidity levels during molting, for example, can cause a variety of deformities such as missing limbs.
That’s because the dried-out skin is too rigid for the mantis to come out without wounding itself. Sometimes, the legs might get stuck in the old skin. Missing limbs can also be a consequence of cannibalism. This is the least concerning health problem, as young nymphs can fully regenerate their bodies during the following molting.
Most other health problems result from either bacterial and fungal infections or parasites. Dark spots on the eyes, body, and wings, as well as vomiting and appetite loss, are examples of ailments caused by such infections.
There’s not much you can do to fix these issues, as there aren’t any medications designed for mantises. But you can try to raise the temperature to the upper 82°F limit, and lower the humidity to around 30% to help strengthen your bugs’ immune systems.
Crooked wings are a common deformity in praying mantises. This problem arises when the insects don’t have the proper tank setup for molting. Praying Mantises need branches to hang down from, especially during and after molts.
When adults emerge from their old skin, the wings aren’t fully straight. If the insects can’t hang upside-down, there won’t be any gravitational force to pull on the wings and straighten them out.
Another issue that might arise is with female mantises, especially if they don’t get the chance to breed. When females put off oviposition for too long, their abdomen might continuously expand until it bursts.
The European Mantis isn’t the easiest to breed due to its cannibalistic tendencies. But you can make it happen if you take some extra steps and precautions! Always feed the female mantis before introducing a male into the enclosure.
That way, the male can approach her without being eaten alive! If you notice any signs of aggression from the female mantis, remove the male from the enclosure and try again after a while.
Typically, the European Mantis is ready to reproduce 2-4 weeks after reaching adulthood. Once a male approaches its female partner, mating can take a few hours. Once you’re sure that the mantises have finished breeding, remove the male from the enclosure. Provide the female mantis with sticks and branches where she can climb to place her ootheca.
Once the female is done laying her eggs, you should move her to a different enclosure. That’s because the eggs need to be exposed to lower temperatures for proper development.
In the wild, European Mantis eggs are exposed to cold temperatures throughout the winter, and they hatch at the start of spring. After around 8 weeks of cold exposure, you can start slowly raising the temperature back up. The eggs will hatch quickly thereafter.
The European Mantis is an interesting, beautiful species. The best part is that you can find it in multiple areas across the world. You can catch it in the wild, or buy it from specialty shops. It makes a great pet for insect enthusiasts of all ages. It’s a quiet, but dynamic insect, and watching it hunt its prey is an aesthetic experience.
The European Mantis isn’t that difficult to take care of once you set up the enclosure. Finding a well-sized enclosure and maintaining suitable temperature levels are the most important factors.
Proper humidity levels and maintaining a varied diet will also play a large role in the insect’s long-term health. I hope you found this information helpful!Mantids