It FINALLY happened! The praying mantis egg case hatched!
Actually it was more like a volcanic eruption; only instead of lava, tiny insects poured out. I had nearly given up on that egg case – it was dried out and had been sitting outside in a jar (rain and shine) since late February. I kept a butterfly net over it just in case and Emma and I checked on it almost every day. Then one day last week, finally, I saw what I had been waiting for – dozens and dozens of tiny praying mantises crawling all over the jar!
Some had escaped but most of them hadn’t because they couldn’t climb up the glass inside of the jar. I grabbed my camera, Emma squealed, and suddenly I had to figure out what I was going to do with all these tiny bugs! I set the jar on its side so that most of them could escape, and prepared the little dollar-store bug viewer for its home.
Well, Emma did that, actually. She doesn’t let mommy take over when it comes to this type of thing – she loves every minute of it and was very excited about her new pets.
We put three praying mantis nymphs in the viewer and I let some of the babies go near a bush by our house and the rest in a small wooded area nearby (didn’t want them finding their way in my house).
Quick note: There were SO MANY of them – but now when I go outside and look in those areas I can’t find even one! I know that many will be eaten and they will have eaten each other as well, and also they tend to stay very still while waiting for dinner to pass by so would be hard to find anyway, but I really expected to be able to find one or two. They will probably show up when I least expect it… like in my hair one day. :-p
So You Want A Praying Mantis Egg Case?
I actually found our egg case in my yard stuck to the top of a branch on a bush. So they can be found! It was unexpected because I live in the city and have never seen a praying mantis in our yard. Apparently they’re sneaky. ;-) Anyway, I was looking for a butterfly cocoon and happened to catch a glimpse of the praying mantis egg case instead. For more on that, including photos, go read my post: Epic Nature Study Find – Praying Mantis Egg Case.
You can also purchase egg cases online, however. Here’s a great deal I’ve found for you and they have lots of good reviews: A 3-pack of egg cases at Planet Natural is $11.95 with free shipping to the US. (I am not affiliated with them in any way.)
As I said before, I kept my egg case in a jar outside with netting over it. I waited 4 months but that’s because I found mine in the winter. If you order egg cases, I would order them in Spring or Summer and expect a 6-8 week wait…. maybe longer.
Now You Have Baby Mantises
We kept three babies and released the rest. I recommend keeping three or four because sometimes one or two die. I put them all in the same jar for the first few days and they were fine, but when I saw a couple mild “battles” (fighting with their long arms and jumping back away from each other), I separated them. Their habitats now are large jars with netting secured over the top with a rubber band. I put a layer of dirt on the bottom but I don’t think that’s really necessary since they spend most of their time hanging around on the twigs I put in the jar. Another option for housing would be this Praying Mantis Kit. Whatever you choose, make sure the holes aren’t large enough for the baby mantises to escape!
Fact: Praying mantis nymphs are TINY!
You’ll need to feed the mantises small insects to begin with. I sent Emma running through the birch trees with a butterfly net and we found that lots of tiny green bugs (I believe they are called lacewings) could be captured this way. I just gently pick up the bugs from the netting and put them in the jars. You don’t want to smoosh them – you want them alive so that the mantis can see and catch them. It’s really quite fascinating to watch! Their mantis heads swivel around and watch the bugs crawling around, and if it gets too close those lightning-fast arms grab them and he begins eating them alive.
You can also make a fruit fly trap by leaving fruit in a small container with a lid partially on it. When there are a few fruit flies inside, put the lid on and stick it in the freezer for a minute. They will be slow and you can put them in with the mantis easily. As the mantises grow, they’ll need bigger prey like flies and crickets.
The mantises will also need water, so be sure to mist the inside of the mantis habitat with water every day. I also read that you can put a wet paper towel inside the jar – this is also supposed to assist with molting, which they do multiple times before becoming an adult.
Note: If you don’t want to bother with catching food for the mantis, you can buy wingless fruit fly larvae.
Learning Ideas for Kids
This post shares some great ways to make learning about praying mantises fun for kids! A couple extra ideas I would add:
– Dissect egg case after all of the nymphs have left it.
– Measure the nymph weekly as it grows, recording the measurements on a chart.
– Find some books about Praying Mantises at the library. One we especially like is 20 Fun Facts About Praying Mantises.
– Have the children draw/paint a praying mantis, and add the picture to their nature journal (if they don’t have one, definitely start one!).
– Find and share photos of different species of praying mantises – they are amazing! There is even one that looks exactly like an orchid.
See Our Mantises After They Hatched:
I hope you enjoy hearing my conversation with Emma about Roly-Polys… my kids are so funny!