Today I caught a juvenile praying mantis in the bushes outside the office. There are only two species in Michigan it looks to be the more common Chinese Praying Mantis. I had to stop at the pet store today on my way home to get some supplies for the rats so I picked up a few things to make a mantid habitat. All told I think I spent about $15. I have done a fair bit of insect rearing in the past and it really isn’t all that hard. My first job as an undergrad was to tend a colony of giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches at a research lab at the University of Michigan. Keeping a colony of insects running is about as difficult as keeping a couple house plants alive, if not easier. You basically need to provide food, water, and shelter, and sometimes muck with the climate. Since praying mantis live wild in Michigan you don’t really need to make a lot of climate considerations other than not placing the animal’s cage in direct sun light.
To create the habitat I got a $10 two-gallon plastic terrarium at the pet store. I also picked up a small bag of gravel for about $2.50 and a dozen small crickets for a buck. To create a habitat I rinsed out the terrarium and place some gravel on the bottom. I then added some sticks and fresh twigs I found in the yard. Praying mantises like to hunt while perched in grass and brush so it is important to provide some vertical features in the terrarium. For water I took an old plastic container (like a yogurt cup), cut it down to about an inch high, and then cut a clean sponge to fit the cup. The mantis and its pray can drink up water from the sponge without the water spilling everywhere. Once the cup is filled the sponge should stay wet for at least a few days at a stretch. Praying Mantises will only eat live food, so I picked up a half dozen small crickets, but I fear they may be too large for such a tiny mantis. To supplement that mantis’s diet I am going to add a moldy piece of fruit that has fruit flies to the terrarium. The hope is that the mantis will eat the fruit flies until it reaches a suitable size to capture the crickets. To capture the fruit files I put half an apple out by my dumpster over night. The apple should provide food for the fruit flies and the crickets for at least two weeks.