Carolina Mantis are one of the more common mantis in the US and can be found natively in the Southern US but have been found in the majority of the continental US and Mexico. They are also the state insect of South Carolina! They are easy maintenance pets and very beneficial to gardens as they can eat upwards of several hundred bugs per season. They are often great for new mantis owners due to their variety of colors and patterns as well as being relatively easy maintenance.
- Species: Stagmomantis carolina
- Diet: Small insects
- Hydration: Misting, amount varies on the type of enclosure
- Habitat: Glass/plastic solid-sided with mesh ventilation or fully mesh enclosure
- Personality: Docile and Sedentary
- Lifespan: Approximately 10 months
- Size: Females are 2-2.5 inches, Males are about 2.2 inches
- Care Level: Beginner
- Compatibility: Housed alone
What is a Carolina Mantis?
The Carolina Mantis is native to North and South Carolina and often found across most of the continental 48 states and in Mexico. It is often bred and produced for the pet market and to be a beneficial insect for gardens as they consume high levels of pest bugs.
Due to them being native to the US they can be safely released in most areas. They are considered to be in the medium to large size category.
The males and females are easy to identify by appearance alone. The males average about 1.7 to 2.2 inches in length (smaller than females). Males also have longer wings and a long, thinner body. They are typically brown in color with green legs and can also have spots or banded markings.
The females average about 2 to 2.5 inches in length. They have short wings as they are almost completely flightless, their wings do not reach the end of her body. Females also have a shorter body that is bulky in the middle.
Their colors range from bright green to brown and grayish, they also can have spots and banded markings. In both sexes, the nymphs can adjust their colors with each molt to match their environment up until they reach their final adult molt.
Mantis go through 3 life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Eggs are laid at the beginning of winter and hatch in early spring. By late summer the mantis have matured and begin to prepare for laying the next generation.
The average lifespan is 10-12 months. It takes about 5 months to mature from newborn to adult. There are some cases of them living upwards of 14 months in captivity/ideal conditions.
The states are labeled as “Lx”, x refers to the molting state. Upon hatching they are labeled as L1 and with every molting that number increases.
The Egg Stage
Mantis start out in an egg inside a protective shell called an ootheca that contains upwards of over 200 eggs. They hatch after about 3-8 weeks.
The Nymph Stage
Once they hatch they are referred to as nymphs. Often when nymphs first hatch, especially in the wild they will consume some of their siblings as their first meal.
Within the first 10 days they will go through their first molt (L2). During their time as nymphs, they will grow and have to go through 7 to 9 molts to reach their adult size. The nymphs can live together until the 3rd instar (L3) and then they need to be moved to individual housing. They can be separated earlier if needed due to aggression or guarding over food.
Soon they will reach the sub-adult stage, the stage directly before their final adult molt. During this stage you will see their wing buds fully coming in.
The Adult Stage
2 weeks after their final molt the adults will be at peak maturity to mate and repeat the life cycle for the next generation. Typically once they reach the adult stage they have about 5 months left of their lifespan.
These mantis can be kept in a variety of housing types. The two most common types are tanks or terrariums that have glass or plastic sides and a mesh lid on top or a fully mesh enclosure. Due to the mantis’ cannibalistic nature that should be housed individually.
The enclosure needs to be minimum three times taller as the mantis is long, three times longer than the mantis is long, and twice as wide as the mantis is long. For an average size female, you will be looking at 7.5 inches tall x 7.5 inches long x 5 inches wide enclosure.
For nymphs and younger mantis, it is recommended to have a smaller enclosure to allow them to catch their food easier or to move them into a smaller enclosure for feeding time.
Type of Enclosure
There are two main types of enclosure that are frequently used, one with solid sides made of either glass or plastic and a mesh or an enclosure made of full-mesh material. For enclosures that have solid sides, ventilation is key, at least 20% of the enclosure needs to be either mesh or have ventilation holes.
The additional rule of thumb is that the higher the temperature, the more ventilation is required. Small fish tanks and even large jars can be used as enclosures as long as they have the proper mesh on top or holes are provided.
The age range of your mantis also can affect the type of home needed for them. Young newborn nymphs can easily escape from larger mesh and ventilation holes.
They can often be raised in a fully mesh enclosure that has a zipper open front which gives them proper ventilation and access to care while also keeping them safely contained and away from predators.
Mesh butterfly enclosures can also be used as safe and reliable housing for the younger nymphs.
Temps and Humidity
The enclosure needs to be kept at a steady temperature of 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit to allow for the longest lifespan of your mantis. Under the cage heat mats and ceramic heat emitter bulbs can also be used to release heat but they produce no light.
The humidity of the enclosure needs to be kept between 60-80%. They can be misted up to twice a day if needed to keep the humidity up (may be necessary for full-mesh enclosures). ( *NOTE* Standard tap water is not safe for your mantis unless you have well water.
Otherwise, you need to use spring water with no added fluoride or any other additives. Reverse Osmosis (RO) water can also be used or distilled water).
Ventilation is key because stagnant humidity can cause health problems for the mantis as well as promoting mold growth in their home.
If Mold is Found
If mold is found within the enclosure the mantis needs to be moved out immediately into a temporary holding enclosure.
Decorations can be cleaned with mild dish soap or can be soaked with a vinegar/water solution. Make sure all decorations are dry before they are replaced into the enclosure. Change out substrate as needed.
To prevent future mold reduce the frequency that you are misting the enclosure and/or add more ventilation. Remember that the higher the heat of the tank, the more ventilation is necessary to help prevent mold outbreaks.
Details and Decorations
The base of all good enclosures are substrates. There are many options to choose from depending on the type of enclosure you are going for. Paper towels can be used to provide an easy maintenance environment, especially for growing young nymphs together. Sphagnum moss, coco fiber, orchid bark, sand, sand/coco fiber mix, and soil peat can also be used as a proper substrate.
Coco fiber can come in compressed blocks that can be rehydrated so if storage is an issue that may be the best option. Keep in mind that certain substrates will hold more humidity than others (Coco fiber will hold more than sand for example).
If you are looking for a less hands-on option for cleaning then a living vivarium may be a good option for you! These tanks rely on microfauna such as isopods and live plants to fully sustain itself.
Mantis love to have the ability to climb and hide within their enclosures. Plastic foliage can be used as long as there are no sharp edges, but silk plants are recommended above those.
Any type of wood can be used as well to allow them to get to the top of the tank. If you are using wood found outside you should bake it at 250 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes. (Do not leave wood unattended in the oven as this is a potential fire hazard). This assures that the wood is free from any potentially dangerous microorganisms.
Artificial flowers can also be a great way to provide a pop of color to the tank! As long as the mantis has enough room to get around comfortably on the ground of the enclosure and to climb and perch at the top you can decorate the tank as minimalistic or all out as you desire!
Another essential piece of decor for the enclosure is a “molting strip”. A molting strip is a several inch long strip of a grippable surface (netting, screen, mesh, some fabrics, some shelf liners) at the very top of the enclosure that allows the mantis to hang upside down and molt appropriately.
Any decorations that need to be adhered to the enclosure can be safely by using hot glue, industrial adhesive and caulk, wood glue and staples/nails/screws can be used in wood decorations, sewing can also be used safely. Avoid any velcro or tape anywhere in the enclosure as it can cause serious injuries and even prove to be lethal if the mantis were to get stuck in it.
Decorations and the interior of the enclosure can be cleaned with mild dish soap or soaked in a vinegar/water solution. Make sure that everything has been rinsed thoroughly and dried before reintroducing your mantis to them.
If uneaten meals are removed daily then the substrate will not have to be replaced often unless there is a mold outbreak.
Carolina Mantis Care
The Carolina Mantis is an easy maintenance pet requiring minimal hands-on care and easy to find food for.
In the wild, these mantis will catch and consume butterflies, moths, wasps and bees, as well as flies, and caterpillars. This opens up many options for variety in feeding your pet.
Some of the most common and easy to find options include crickets, smaller grasshoppers, mealworms, dubia roaches/tropical spotted roach (these are illegal in some states so check your state regulation), houseflies, and fruitflies.
All of these options are able to be purchased through the local pet supply store or through online retailers. Do not feed house crickets as they can carry parasites for your mantis, banded crickets should be purchased for their safety.
Young nymphs should be started out on fruit flies and worked their way up the food chain as they molt and grow larger. D. melangaster fruit flies and D. hydei fruit flies are great options for them.
As they start to get closer to adulthood you can move up to houseflies and small crickets until they are large enough to have their full range of food.
Your mantis should be fed every one to four days. This depends on their age (adult females need more food than adult males), size, and body condition score. Uneaten food needs to be removed daily, live food can stress the mantis and dead food can encourage a mold outbreak.
They also need to be misted on average once per day as they drink water droplets off plants. See the section above in Housing Requirements for more information about humidity requirements. ( *NOTE* Standard tap water is not safe for your mantis, unless you have well water.
Otherwise, you need to use spring water with no added fluoride or any other additives. Reverse Osmosis (RO) water can also be used or distilled water).
Carolina Mantis are relatively sedentary as long as they have enough of a food supply. Males are more active than females are because they can fly.
They are more prone to cannibalism due to the female being larger than the male. This size difference as well as their territorial lifestyle leads to them being more suited to living in individual housing for the safety of the other mantis.
Sexual cannibalism has been seen in this species in about 30% of all mating events. It is believed that consuming the male leads to an evolutionary advantage by letting the female get a large meal before laying their eggs. This lets them lay a higher clutch size and a stronger chance of the nymphs living.
The Carolina Mantis goes through between 7 and 9 molts to reach their adult size and maturity. They need to have access to a molt strip at the top of their enclosure so they can hang upside down to molt appropriately, see more details in the “housing requirements” section above.
It is not uncommon for a mantis to go through several days of not eating before they molt. They may also develop a white film across their body as their chitin-carapace gets ready to molt off.
As they mature you will also begin to see their wing buds grow in. The humidity can be raised before they begin to molt, and maintained while they molt, to reduce the risk of getting stuck.
When wanting to breed mantis you first need to acquire a fully mature male and female pair. They need to be about 2 to 3 weeks after their final molt to be sexually mature./p>
A female will be ready to mate once she starts to exhibit “calling” behavior. As mantis do not make any noise this is actually a posture they take. This behavior will typically start about 2 weeks after their final molt. They curl their abdomen up over their back and perform a pulsing motion. They will often do this daily until they mate.
The mating can occur either in the females living quarters or in a separate enclosure. There should be a branch or plant that the male can use to move away from the female after mating for his safety. Once they are introduced the male will take notice of her and the mating process will begin. 2 weeks after mating has occurred the ootheca will be laid.
Sexual cannibalism can be found in all species of mantis, but in reality, it only occurs in less than 30% of courting and mating situations. It has been found that if the female is well-fed she is less like to cannibalize the male. They will often eat the head of the male to ensure a large meal to lay the healthiest eggs possible.
A study done in 2016 used radioactive amino acids to track how the male mantis was digested and used in the process. They found that there were more eggs laid if cannibalism occurred and that a majority of the amino acids were found in the nymphs more so than the mother.
Ootheca (Egg) Care to Nymphs
The ootheca is the clutch of eggs and contains upwards of 200 eggs inside. When it’s laid it has a white foamy substance around it that hardens to provide a protective case. The eggs take 3 – 8 weeks to hatch.
The ootheca needs to be kept around 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% to 70% humidity for the best hatch rate. It also needs to be suspended off of a twig so the front where the nymphs will emerge from is facing downwards. A fully mesh enclosure is recommended due to the incredibly small size of newborn nymphs.
Within 24 hours of hatching the nymphs need to be fed to reduce cannibalism, however, there is an expected rate of premature death and cannibalism. Due to their size, they will need to consume fruit flies for the first 4 weeks before switching to larger food.
In conclusion, Carolina Mantis are a fantastic choice for first-time mantis owners. They thrive easily and come in a variety of patterns and colors as well as having a very docile personality. They are beneficial for gardens and being a US native species means they are able to be released safely in most environments. They are easy to differentiate between the sexes allowing for easier breeding and produce high levels of nymphs at once. They are overall a very rewarding pet!