Mantis Watch 2009: HATCHED!

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I woke up this morning to the news that the mantids had begun hatching from the egg case (aka ootheca) and were filling up that little bag.

I honestly didn’t think it was going to happen and had been wondering if the case was a dud. Turns out I was just too impatient. I bought my egg case about 3 weeks ago and have since learned that the case requires that much time with fairly steady warm temperatures and reasonable humidity. If you’ve got a case that isn’t hatching, don’t give up on it.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Here’s another photo of the tiny critters moving about. I opened the bag and placed it in a small tank so the babies could hatch and harden their exoskeletons in a sheltered spot. It’s a bit cold out there right now and I’m slightly worried about throwing them to the weather wolves, so-to-speak. Only a few hours old and I’m clucking around like a mother hen. About praying mantids, insects designed to fend for themselves moments after emergence.

Please note I am NOT keeping these mantids as pets. There are simply too many of them, and a tank is not an appropriate environment for so many mantids. Plus, they’ll be ready to eat their first meal in a day or two. I did put two scouts outside (we’re calling them Bill & Ted) to see how they do before unleashing the masses. The remaining, oh, 100 odd mantis nymphs will be going outside very soon, although I’m keeping one for a short time to watch its progress. He/she is already in a separate container away from his/her’s cannibalizing siblings. If you’d like to learn more about keeping mantids, there’s a ton of information online.

Photo by Davin Risk All Rights Reserved
This is the tiny mantid I plan to keep. He/she remains unnamed. Any suggestions?

Isn’t he/she a beauty? Such fascinating little critters.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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30 thoughts on “Mantis Watch 2009: HATCHED!

  1. That’s pretty awesome.

    Some would say I’m a dumb adult, but I was a pretty dumb kid. One summer some friends and I found a praying mantis and were sure he was an alien, so we attached fireworks to him….

    What I wouldn’t give to see all those “aliens” patrolling the garden now.

  2. They really are alien-like, although I’m sure the Alien films have helped that perception along.

    Their movements are so incredible. I kept them for short periods as a kid and could sit and watch them for hours. I’ve been hissed at by adults found outside too. They are tough little guys/gals.

    And after they eat they clean themselves and their antennae!

  3. NEAT! When I’ve hatched them before, in order to keep them alive and watch them inside for a while I had to buy some food for the ones I kept.. because they are so little they need little food, I fed mine wingless-fruit flies or pinhead crickets (available at pet stores that specialize in reptiles and amphibians). You can call around to find what pet stores have that.

    Here’s some pics of mine:

  4. I didn’t think mine were going to hatch either … I gave up and then one morning last week I had about 50 of them crawling on my curtains (and I had to capture them all in a mason jar helping them in with the lid) … it made me about an hour late for a party but then I had a story to tell when I finally arrived

  5. I had one in my classroom named Elmo…he died when we went to camp and we had to have a funeral. He was the first and only class pet I’ve had….so far, except the worms in the worm bin.

  6. Neat! We had some hatch on a houseplant that we brought inside once and had a bajillion crawling all over the living room. They were everywhere! We caught as many as we could and took them outside and deposited them all over the yard. My dad says there’s a mantis now that hangs around this one pepper plant and I have to wonder if it’s a decedent of those ones in the house. Probably not, but it’s more fun to believe it is.

  7. We got some mantids inadvertently in a lavender plant that we bought. Unfortunately, the pest control truck drove by within hours of their emergence. I haven’t seen any since, so they’re presumed dead. =( I hope yours fare better!

  8. Lucky! I’m still waiting to see if my mantis streak continues…at least one in the garden every year for last 10 years! Found two cases in the garden last fall, gave one away. I hear that when the babies hatch the first thing they eat are…each other!!! So if your count diminishes…look for the fat, happy one!

  9. I just found a baby on one of my pepper plants that I suspect is the progeny of a rather large one I found last summer. I was trimming my african basil and found myself almost eye to eye with something that did not look at all like african basil! Needless to say, I backed out of range of those super-fast graspers and watched her (presumably) for the rest of the summer until she disappeared sometime around September, hoping that she at least laid a few eggs before she left. I wish they ate aphids, since the little buggers are decimating my poor dill.

  10. I may have posted this before, but every time I see or hear of a mantis I’m reminded of a co-worker who was so afraid of them she once used a shotgun to get one out of a tree. LOL Ah, sigh…

  11. The tiny mantid you plan to keep looks like angry
    –like she is giving you the finger–or whatever that is called on a mantid. Don’t have a name, but I read the females EAT the males after mating!
    What a life!

  12. How cute! What about Gus, as in Greedy Gus.

    There’s an Asian rhyme about how they’re so greedy, they’ll eye a passing horse and cart.

    Disclosure: My cat is called Gus.

  13. What about a saint’s name, since they are praying mantids? A quick google search turned up St. Fiacre as the patron saint of gardeners and St. Patrick as the patron saint of organic gardening…

  14. Awwww!
    A couple years ago, I ran into a praying mantis as it was trying to cross the street. Inside the crosswalk. It would start forward, pause when a car would come up, then move again once it was safe to pass. I knew it wouldn’t be long before that beauty would be mush on pavement, so I bent down and laid my hand in front of it. That alien head turned waaaayy around to look up at me, then my hand, then back at me. As if deciding I was safe, it tucked it’s head down and scrambled on. I shielded it from the wind for two blocks and brought it in to my mom’s house.
    She was surprised to see one alive, as cold and windy as it was outside, and said it was probably someone’s pet. I’ve always been something of a mantis nut (used to gather them wild as a kid and keep them as ‘pets’ for a few days) so I asked her if she had something I could keep it in.
    We fed it meats, clipped small bits of branch every day to line a tiny gold birdcage, and generally spent a good deal of time talking to it. My son thought it was the coolest thing ever.
    It went on field trips to school, along with bamboo skewers for the kids in my son’s special ed classes to feed it. Even the least articulate marveled at this strange being brought into their midst.
    Eventually, however, I had to return home. As if understanding this, the mantis gave me one last gift. It deposited a large clutch of foam in one corner of the cage, settled in a beautiful position on a branch, and died. I mourned for days afterwards. She came home with me inside a plastic cup, resting on a bed of tissues to keep her frozen frame from breaking apart. Once there, she lived, free again, on my desk until spring. I took her into the yard and laid her under a fig tree and walked away.
    My mom wrote to tell me she had hung the opened cage outside on her trellis, as asked, in a spot that would get light and warmth, but would be extremely well protected from birds. Weeks later, she would call me, screaming “You’re a mommy! You’re a mommy!”
    ..considering I have a son, I didn’t see how this was suddenly news to her.
    “They HATCHED! There were hundreds of them! All in little lines, climbing out and disappearing into my vines! They were SO TINY!” on and on she went.

    I still miss my little mantis friend. She really cracked me up. When I came out in the morning, she’d be pinned to the corner of the cage, one little digit-tip poking out to wave at me. When I’d open the cage, she’d climb onto me with an eagerness I had come to expect in dogs alone. Her head would tilt and follow me when I talked, if I wasn’t holding her. She loved to ride on my shoulder and stroke my hair. Loved even more when I’d lift her to sit on my glasses or the top of my head.
    …she also ate a little bit of the tip of my aunt’s finger. My aunt, fellow bug-nut, didn’t blame her for not recognizing that “breakfast” had changed from raw meat to LIVING meat.
    I only have a couple pictures of her, but I think my little mantis will always be one of my most loved pets.

  15. My boyfriend found a female Mantid a few years ago that I kept as a pet. We named her Gumdrop XD

  16. Probably a dumb question but, mantids and stick bugs are completely different right? My brother has a pet stick bug but I don’t think Ive ever seen a mantid in my life. Anyone know if they would survive in a Winnipeg climate?

  17. Wow…never knew so many people kept mantids as “pets”. This may be a dumb question but is the plan to keep them inside forever or will it be transitioned to the great outdoors and hopefully stop by for visits? Another question, do they overwinter or do they live for one summer?

    My name vote (for this 30 second period of time) is Matilda Mantid…

  18. so glad to have come across this info. we just hung up a mesh bag in the greenhouse last week but will have to find a white paper bag to put it into instead so that we won’t miss out on their hatching all together.

  19. Well, I now feel I am part of the mantis community….I was taking my sheets off the clothes line and I starting brushing of what I thought was a stem and it was a baby mantis! Finally got it to jump on one of my tomato plants.

    I do have a pod or cocoon of some sort in my garden and have been waiting to see what comes out (almost feels like invasion of the body snatchers, small body however)… perhaps it is a praying mantis pod, just doesn’t look like it opened up yet.

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