The giant Asian Mantis, Hierodula membranacea, is one of the largest mantis species and makes a fantastic beginner species. It can be found in tropical places across Asia, hence the name, and has even become invasive in certain warm places. It is easy to handle and hardy compared to most other mantises, not caring too much about the particulars as long as a few basic conditions are met. The giant Asian mantis is one of the most popular species of mantis in the hobby, and for very good reason.
The giant Asian mantis is a very large mantis, with a body between 3 and 4 inches long. Males are smaller than females and generally slimmer than the heavyset females. Their wings also are not nearly as long as those of the females, which have wings longer than their abdomen. The giant Asian mantis is primarily green, but brown and yellow varieties are seen. These mantises can change their color fairly rapidly, often only taking a day or two. This phenomenon is likely based off of changes in their environment.
Different mantis species hunt in very different ways. Many sit still and wait for prey to come passing by, taking the opportunity to strike. The giant Asian mantis, however, takes a much more active approach. They will hunt prey, often moving quite quickly, and are not picky about the items they select. They are not a skittish or fearful species and will often attack very large prey. They make fearsome displays if they feel threatened, though they are generally quite docile when interacting with their keepers. Unlike some more sensitive species they are not easily bothered by passing foot traffic and take handling quite well.
Setting up a Giant Asian Mantis Enclosure
This section covers the details of setting up an enclosure for your Giant Asian Mantis.
The giant Asian mantis does not need a particularly quiet location and is a good species to keep in places they get a lot of traffic. They are not disturbed by noise or vibration and do not find frequent contact with humans too stressful. That being said, it is very important to keep your mantis enclosure out of direct light to prevent overheating. You should also keep the mantis away from cold drafts, mold, and excessive levels of humidity without the proper ventilation.
Because the giant Asian mantis is so large the enclosure should be large enough to match. Mantises require a significant amount of space to allow them to hang vertically to molt or else they may encounter molting issues, which are often fatal. To prevent bad molts you should provide your mantis with a vertical space that is at least 3 times the length of the mantis.
In the case of the giant Asian mantis you should provide a minimum of 9 inches of empty space from the top of the substrate to the area in which the mantis can hang. Netcages provide excellent ventilation and many climbing opportunities and is one of the best choices for keeping a mantis of this species. A glass tank with a mesh lid will work well too, which will at least allow the mantis to hang from the top of the enclosure. If you do use a glass terrarium, however, you will need to watch the humidity closely to avoid health issues.
Giant Asian mantises are generally found in tropical forests and as such feel the most comfortable in vegetation. Mantises will appreciate thick plant cover and are happy with either living or artificial plants. Sticks and wood can be used to allow your mantises to climb and hang upside-down. Just make sure any decorations do not have pointy or sharp edges to prevent injuries. It is also extremely important that, if your enclosure has smooth sides, that your mantis has a way to reach the mesh lid of the enclosure. You can place a stick going into the upper corner of the enclosure, secured with silicone caulking or a clip, to allow your mantis to reach the mesh so it can molt.
Your giant Asian mantis will be happy with many different kinds of substrate provided it is absorbent and can help regulate humidity. For this species, keep the substrate dry so it can absorb excess water.
- Paper towels: work in a pinch. They must be changed often and soil quickly, however.
- Coconut coir: sterile and excellent for moisture regulation. It is also very affordable.
- Soil: should be sterilized in the microwave or oven before use and only organic soil should be used to avoid pesticides. If you keep living plants in the enclosure soil is a good option..
- Bark: if you struggle with high humidity bark will keep things on the drier side. Absorbent, attractive, and safe.
Most species of Hierodula, the giant Asian mantis included, are best kept at a constant temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. You can provide heat to your mantis by attaching a heat mat to the tank, covering no more than half the floor to allow the mantis to move between cool and warm regions of the enclosure. It is a good idea to use a thermometer to keep track of the temperature so that you can avoid wide fluctuations in temperature, which can weaken your mantis and make them more susceptible to disease.
Humidity & Ventilation
The giant Asian mantis is quite sensitive to high humidity, which can cause illness and death. The giant Asian mantis prefers a humidity level of around 40-55%. Humidity that is too low can cause serious molting issues and death, while excessive humidity leaves mantises prone to fungal and bacterial diseases. You should keep a hygrometer in your mantis enclosure so you can monitor the humidity levels in the enclosure. You can raise humidity by regularly misting your mantises, preferably each day, and keeping a shallow dish filled with gravel and water in the tank. Mantises generally only drink from water droplets on leaves, however, so will often not drink from water dishes. You can lower the humidity by increasing the ventilation in your mantis cage and using an absorbent substrate, which will protect your mantis from highs and lows of humidity.
The giant Asian mantis is famous for taking on some fierce prey items. It is one of the few predators capable of killing and consuming the fearsome giant Asian hornet and has been known to kill and eat small birds. Captive giant Asian mantises will accept a wide variety of prey, the best of which are as follows:
- Fruit flies: when giant Asian mantises hatch from the ootheca they are extremely tiny and will happily consume fruit flies.
- Crickets: are a common, but not ideal, food source that come in a variety of sizes suitable for most life stages of mantis. The giant Asian mantis is quite aggressive, so crickets are not as likely to attack them. Even still you should make sure no crickets are left in the tank unattended with your mantis, however, as crickets can be aggressive. In addition, do not feed your mantises crickets from the pet shop. You should breed them yourself, as they often harbor dangerous bacteria and viruses that can kill your mantis.
- Flies: flies are a far safer alternative to crickets. Flies can be purchased online or reared yourself. Flies can be difficult to manage, however, as they escape easily and are difficult to catch.
- Mealworms: you should avoid feeding mantises large amounts of mealworm beetle larvae. They reportedly have the potential to block up mantis digestive symptoms and are relatively high in fat.
- Cockroaches: roaches are probably the best feeder insect. They will not harm your mantis and are excellent nutrition-wise. There are many different species of roach you can use that come in a wide variety of sizes. They are quite easy to rear as well and many species make interesting pets in their own right.
- Pinky mice: giant Asian mantises are capable of eating very tiny pinky mice when they are full grown, but this is quite unhealthy and inhumane. You should avoid feeding your giant Asian mantis any kind of vertebrate.
Your adult mantis does not need to feed every day. You can feed every 2-3 days, provided your mantis looks healthy and well-fed. You can hand-feed your mantis with forceps or, if you are feeding flies, directly release them into the enclosure. Very young mantises, however, will need to be fed small prey items every day until they become larger.
Giant Asian Mantis Tank Mates
Interested in keeping other pets with your Giant Asian Mantis? This section teaches you what you should and shouldn’t do.
Giant Asian mantises are very cannibalistic and cannot be kept with their own kind. They will even attack mantises that are the same size as them, often successfully. They will start cannibalizing each other even when quite small. Females also regularly consume males during breeding. They also cannot be kept with other species of mantis, as they will consume them.
There are many species of so-called ‘cleaner’ organisms that can be kept with your giant Asian mantis. Isopods, springtails, millipedes, and small non-climbing cockroaches can be kept in your mantis enclosure. Due to the great size difference it is unlikely your mantis will feed on them, but janitor organisms are kept in breeding groups it is not a problem if your mantis eats a few. Because the giant Asian mantis is so sensitive to high humidity you will need to choose cleaner organisms that are tolerant of dryer conditions.
You should not keep your mantis with any other organism that will eat your mantis. Any smaller creatures in the enclosure are potential prey, however, and as such there are very few creatures that can be kept with your giant Asian mantis. Giant Asian mantises have been known to eat small lizards, birds, and even pinkie mice. This is definitely an insect that should be kept by itself.
It’s generally a good idea to avoid handling your mantis if possible. This is to protect your mantis from injury, as they can be fragile and falls can be fatal. That being said, however, the giant Asian mantis is fairly easy to handle and sturdy as far as mantises go. You can handle your giant Asian mantis by placing your open hand in front of it, gently pressing against its forelimbs. It will generally then climb up onto your hand.
Health and Disease
Here are some of the main things you need to know regarding health, diseases, and common issues with Giant Asian Mantises.
Molting issues can quickly lead to the death of your mantis. This is why it is important to mist your mantis. If your mantis begins a molt, mist the enclosure more frequently. If your mantis has a bad molt you can use tweezers to remove loose exoskeleton.
The giant Asian mantis is a particularly aggressive mantis and as such overfeeding can be an issue. You do not need to feed your mantis every day and should not feed prey items that are longer than 30% of the body length of the mantis. If your mantis has a swollen, round abdomen you should stop feeding them for at least a couple of days.
Bacterial & Viral Disease
There are a variety of bacteria and viruses that can cause trouble for your mantis. Many of these are transmitted by prey insects, which is why it is best to breed your own feeder insects. Others can be caused by poor hygiene, so be sure to regularly clean the enclosure and prevent moisture build-up. Symptoms of bacterial disease include a darkening of the mouth and abdomen and the leaking of black fluid from the mouth and anus. Some will also cause vomiting and lethargy. Most bacterial and viral diseases are fatal so prevention is critical.
Fungus & Mold
The giant Asian mantis is quite susceptible to fungal disease caused primarily by high humidity and the presence of mold in the tank. Because fungal infections, like bacterial and viral infections, are so often fatal it is important to avoid conditions that allow fungi to thrive. Fungi grow particularly well in high humidity, low ventilation, and unhygienic conditions. Substrate and frass (insect poop) can easily mold in the right conditions. If you notice your mantis has symptoms of fungal infection, immediately increase the ventilation in the enclosure. Keep it warm, as well, and feed your mantis manually with an eyedropper. Mantises can recover, though it does not happen often.
Immature mantises can recover from missing limbs and antennae very easily. If your younger mantis is missing a limb it will likely regenerate it within a molt or two. Adult mantises have finished molting and will not regenerate any limbs, but will usually adapt quite well to the loss of a limb. If a mantis of any stage is missing a raptorial forelimb you may need to help it feed. Mantises with only one raptorial forelimb will still be able to consume small prey. Mantises missing both forelimbs, however, should be euthanized as they will be unable to climb or feed normally.
Bodily injuries are another matter, however. Preventing falls if very important, as falls can cause mantis abdomens to rupture. This is almost always fatal. Even very small wounds that compromise the integrity of the mantis exoskeleton can lead to infection and death, though with good hygiene younger mantises can often molt out of their wounds.
Lifespan and Euthanasia
The giant Asian preying mantis is a long-lived mantis, with some individuals reportedly living nearly 2 years from egg to senescence (death). Older mantises will often show age-related issues like lethargy, weak grip, mobility issues, and vision problems.
If your mantis is seriously injured, ill, or suffering severe age-related deterioration it is likely more humane to euthanize it. The most accessible way for hobbyists to euthanize an insect is the freezer, which will slow your mantis down to an extremely slow level and eventually cause death.
The giant Asian mantis is fairly easy to breed. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to successfully breeding this species of mantis is the aggressive nature of the female, who will often attack and cannibalize the male. There are a few ways to circumvent this, however.
1. Select two mantises of roughly the same age, at least two weeks after they have reached adulthood.
2. Before any breeding efforts you should feed the female very well for a few days.
3. Right before you introduce the male, feed the female a large prey item to keep her well-occupied.
4. If the female attacks the male or is acting aggressively, remove the male immediately and try again at a later date.
A successful mating can take hours. Pay attention, however, as when the female and male separate she may try to consume him. After mating the female will begin to produce egg sacs called oothecae, which will give birth to up to 200 mantises each. The youngest mantises are incredibly small and will not accept food for several hours to a day after hatching. If you do not wish to care for hundreds of baby mantises, however, do not fear. They will begin cannibalizing each other at a quite a young age and once you have the desired number of mantises you can then separate them.