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Do you want a praying mantis for a pet? A praying mantis, also called a mantid, is an insect. But it is not just an ordinary kind of insect. Mantids are interesting creatures that can pounce like a cat, turn their head like an owl, eat like a wolverine, and fly like a bird. Over in Asia some people used to keep mantids as pets, teaching them to eat from their hand. Would you want to keep one? Read on and see.

Most kinds of mantids live in warm climates, but the European mantid can live in the northern United States. When mantids hatch, they are only 1/4 inch long, but they can often grow up to be more than 3” long—longer than your middle finger! God gave them coloring to blend in with their surroundings: from grass-green to light brown, like a twig. You probably have some of these fascinating creatures in your own yard, but you will have look very carefully to find one.

Mantids have big appetites. They eat all kinds of other insects, spiders, and even other mantids. Sometimes a very large mantid may eat a salamander or other larger creature. When mantids hunt, they sit with their front legs folded up until a bug comes along. Then they snap down on it with their front claws, and bring it close to their mouth so they can eat it. After their meal they carefully clean off their catching hooks, like you wash your hands.

Besides being fascinating to watch, these insects are also helpful. Because they eat bad insects, mantids are good to have in your garden and yard. God made insects in many shapes and sizes, but I think the mantid is one of the most interesting of them all. Just watch one for awhile and see for yourself!

A Science Project Idea: Keeping Your Own Praying Mantis

If you want to keep one as a pet, you will first need a place to keep it. Try to find a container with a lid, but make sure it will have enough air. A large jar, a glass gerbil cage, a box with clear plastic on one side to look through, or a greenhouse will all work. Put some sticks and rocks in its new home so it has something to climb on.

Now you need to collect food for it. Mantids will eat anything that moves if it is not too big. Fields, gardens, under old logs, and in old sheds are good places to find insects and spiders. Grasshoppers, crickets, bad garden bugs, and daddy longlegs are all good to try. You can feed it with your fingers or tweezers. Move very slowly or the mantid will get frightened.

Don’t keep more than one mantid together, or else they will probably eat each other. In the fall it may lay eggs. These look like a foamy mass attached to a stick or wall. Put the eggs out in your garden or flower bed, where they will hatch next spring. When you can’t find any more food for your mantid, it would be best to let it go outside again.