Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis)
Without a doubt, the Chinese mantis was the most popular arthropod to rear from the last class. They are quite easy to rear and observe. Preying mantis eggs are deposited in the fall in an irregular foamlike mass on a twig or plant stem. The egg case winters in the open and is not harmed by cold weather. The young hatch in the spring when average temperatures are high enough. Each egg case (ootheca) contains approximately 250 eggs centrally located beneath a 5-mm insulating outer layer.
Availability: Newly hatched mantids will be available as soon as they emerge from their ootheca, which will most likely be at the end of March or beginning of April.
Feeding: One of the main challenges of rearing a Chinese mantis is finding appropriate size prey items. Mantids feed only on live prey of appropriate size (anything they can overpower), which is in short supply during an early Illinois spring. We can supply you with fruit flies to feed your new hatched mantids. Eventually, your little monster will outgrow these snacks and require larger prey items. Crickets, flies, mealworms, and waxworms are all available from local pet shops (Sailfin, PetsMart). You should feed your mantid at least once a day for the first few weeks, and about once every two days thereafter.
A note for the faint of heart -- mantids usually consume their prey while it is still alive. If you are squemish about such things, choose another arthropod.
Mantids are highly cannibalistic, so house them separately!
Housing: Use a large, open container with a cloth lid secured with a rubber band for your mantid. A good rule of thumb is to keep the enclosure about 3-4 times the length of the mantid's body; for instance, a one-inch long mantis would be best kept in a 3x3x3 inch container, such as a small cup. If the container is too small, mantids may experience developmental difficulties, but if it is too large the mantis will have a difficult time finding the prey.
Mantids require something to hang from when they molt, so prop several twigs against the walls of the enclosure. Also, humidity can be a major problem in the molting process of young mantids. Typically, we lose about 30% of our mantids to molt failure if steps are not taken to raise the humidity. You can easily increase humidity in your mantis enclosure by spritzing the sides with water once a day, or whenever the moisture has disappeared. Take care not to have any large drops of water in the tank, however; newborn mantids can easily get trapped in a water droplet and drown.