Friday, July 29, 2005

Hanging Out in the Cage

Hanging upside down in her new breeding cage, this adult female praying mantis gets a taste for crickets. In this cage, which is an old aquarium with a fine mesh top the mantis prefers to hang upside down as she can get better footing clinging to the mesh screening. It is necessary to place a small branch or other bridging so that the crickets can climb up to the top of the cage, as they will not climb up the glass. I keep two females in this cage and they have been co-habiting it for about three weeks without any aggressive acts towards each other. The cage is 24 x 12 x 12. The first thing she does after catching the cricket is to gnaw off its head and drop the unappetizing parts of it to the bottom of the cage. She then leisurely finishes the rest of it.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Feeding your praying mantises

Keeping your mantises fed can be a challenge if you do not live in a large town with a pet store that carries a full range of pet supplies. Mantises eat a lot of fruit flies and I keep mine fed by setting out five gallon buckets with scrap fruit. (cantaloupe, watermelon, etc.) By the end of the day you should have attracted enough to start gathering a few, which is best done in the morning when it is still cool or then again when it cools down in the evening. I use this large funnel which I place on top of the buckets and shake to try and get them to fly out the top and then catch them in the clear plastic containers which I make with old tennis ball containers covered with a fine mesh material on one end. (As shown in the image above) I also feed them crickets, but where I live, (Paradise, Ca.) none of the feed or pet stores sell the small adolescent crickets and only the adult mantis can eat a full grown cricket.
As to other recent happenings. One of the males finally grew its wings and reached adulthood and I thought would be the alpha male. Unfortunately the large female got hungry the following night, and the only trace left of him was a pair of beautiful wings left on the bottom of the cage. She ate the rest. The next male to get wings I am going to take out and put in a separate cage to protect for breeding later in the season. With Mantises it is the male who is smaller and are generally picked on by the females if you are raising them together.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In the cage

These are images of one of the cheap cages I showed how to make in an earlier post, but now it is filled with two month old praying mantises. This type of cage works well for raising mantids, especially if you are feeding winged flies as they do not tend to escape when released, although the mantids will try to escape during the first few feedings until they figure out the routine. The sticks I placed in the cage are not necessary until the mantids are ready to mate, but I did not realize that at the time I put them in and now it would be too disturbing to take them out, but the mantids prefer to cling to the sides of the mesh and the top of the cage is the most popular area. I have found that if you place a single cricket in the cage, it will keep things somewhat stirred up and force fly movement to help the circulation in the cage.
One of the flaws in this type of cage is that you can not see as well as through an aquarium, as the mesh creates a filtered view and lower humidity, but it does allow for good air circulation. The first image shows more close ups of mantid silhouettes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Scoring some catnip

Well you might be wondering what catnip has to do with praying mantises. Most likely you could care less. The fact is I am still exploring the relationship, but the immediate relationship came about by raising and feeding a few mosquitoes to my pet mantids when they were young and in the course of doing that I learned of some experiments which were being done using catnip as a mosquito repellent. I wrote an article about it earlier and posted it on this site. Anyway it seems that there is so much mis-information out there, and the chemical companies (particularly the manufacturers of deet,) have such powerful friends, that the media will not pick up the story, even with the west Nile virus spread through out the country, so I thought I would grow some and test it myself. The photo above is the first one to bloom. I will test it later this fall when my plants reach maturity. If anyone has heard any new news about this please leave a comment. As for myself, I believe the studies I have read, but still want to test it for myself. As for my cat Tessers, she seems to love the stuff and I am saving most of it for her.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Zoomed photo image of Praying Mantis

The mantids are large enough now to be able to distinguish between the sexes and I seem to have an equal mix of both although the males get picked on due to their smaller size and if I do not keep an abundant supply of live flies in the cage the males are the first to become lunch. The mantids are very selective about their food and weary of different kinds of insects that I introduce to them. If I place a different type of fly that they have never seen before into the cage they will watch it very carefully before attacking it even if they seem to be hungry. Some of them will even step back and allow the newly introduced fly wide berth to go by even though the fly may be small. I released the adult black cricket who was keeping the cage clean by eating all the dead remains of flies dropped to the bottom of the cage. The mantids only seem to eat till they are full and do not over indulge. I may be able to let crickets and mantids co-habit in the same cage but for now it is easier to monitor what is going on by keeping them separate. The oldest mantid is about 77 days old and may be starting to grow wings, but I am not sure.
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