I believe the mantid is a most fascinating insect. Children are wowed by them. The mantis commands a mystery and intrigue about them.
Their name suggests solitary meditation. What do they actually “pray” about? There have been poems and folk lore written about this insect. There is an ancient Chinese martial art patterned after its very movements.

I remember the first time I’ve seen a mantid was in my backyard many years ago in New Jersey. Prior to that, I have only seen pictures of the mantis in children’s books. So, like many kids, I wished to see the real thing one day. The article in the book was called the “Green Grabber” as many mantids are green and they definitely like to grab!

The illustrations, as I remember it now were quite cartoonish, but I was still intrigued by the pictures of the green insect. I remember distinctively one picture had the mantis on a small leash in the house while a kid slept peacefully nearby! So the Praying Mantis as an insect pet stuck on my mind, and I always wanted one.

It was a clear summer day and I was about 8 or 9 years old and my little brother was about 3 years younger than I. So, this was around the early eighties which shows you old we are! Anyway I remember that we had a neighbor and he was in the backyard with us when we spotted what we first thought was large green grasshopper (some species of mantids can actually hop around like a grasshopper) jumping around in the grass.
As we looked closer we noticed it was the same insect we saw in the children’s book! As we held our breath, we heard a shout, “panta –mantis! PANTA-MANTIS!!" It was our neighbor who was somewhat familiar with the insect, but obviously could not pronounce its name correctly. The rest was history.

This mantid we caught was somewhat smaller than average. Sadly, it could not eat much and eventually died within a few weeks. I think we made the mistake of trying to feed it some black ants from the backyard. Little did we know that these ants could have intimidated the young mantid. Some actually tried to fight back when the mantis approached. Ants are tough, they are little fierce warriors. One of the ants actually bit off one of the mantid’s legs! 
We were just kids then, we did not know what we were doing. As relatives of wasps and hornets, ants can be natural enemies of the mantis. Anyway, that was the end of that. We had kept the mantis in an open medium-sized shoe box with a plastic screen with holes. We could not even afford a real insect cage back then!

It was a few years later, when our family was vacationing in Virginia Beach, when we encountered a much larger and hungrier brown mantis. I forgot the setting where we first spotted it, but all I remember was that we impressed with its size. It may have been near 5 inches in length which was larger that the first one. The mantis may have been a female. And this one was a lot tougher.

I believe the first thing we fed it was a giant moth we spotted near the hotel we were all staying in. The moth was larger than the mantid! We were afraid that the moth would overwhelm the mantis. When we caught the moth and placed it in the cage, it was just a split second and it was lights out for the moth!
Please feel free to share your mantid pet stories here (your email will not be published or displayed).

By Noy Ilao