This page gives a brief guide to rearing mantids. Further information may be found in some of the books that have been published on mantids.
Choosing your mantis
The availability of species is constantly changing, so it is not sensible to become fixated on a particular species. The best choices for beginners are some of the typical mantids. Species of Miomantis, Sphodromantis, Polyspilota, and Tenodera are frequently available, relatively cheap, and usually easy to rear. Beginners should generally avoid the more exotic looking species - they are often more difficult to rear, and more expensive.
Whether to buy an ootheca, nymphs, or adults is very much a personal choice and is likely to depend on price and availability. Nymphs are usually cheaper than an ootheca or adult but a single nymph is no use if you intend to breed mantids. If you buy two or three nymphs they may not all survive to adult and you may end up with only one sex. Buying an adult female is risky, she may be old and about to die, or she may not have been mated. Oothecae are relatively cheap and have the potential to give you many nymphs, assuming the ootheca came from a mated female, has not already hatched, and has not dried out; unfortunately few breeders are willing to sell oothecae.
There are many possibilities for mantis cages. The main requirements are that the cage is escape proof, has a suitable surface on which the mantis can climb, and is at least three times as high as the mantis is long. A reasonably tall cage is needed to allow room for the mantis to shed its skin. If you wish to see your mantis you will need either the top or one side of the container to be clear; mantids can however be reared in translucent containers.
It is possible to keep mantids free-range, on pot plants on a window sill. The free range method usually has a high mortality rate with small nymphs because of spiders in the house.
Commonly used cages include disposable plastic cups, jam jars, and sweet jars; I have also used 35mm film canisters, supermarket salad pots, yogurt pots, margarine tubs, and even curry-sauce containers from the fish and chip shop! If the sides are transparent, the lid of the container can be made from nylon mesh (e.g. net curtain material), and secured with an elastic band. If the container is opaque, cling-film or polythene can be used to give a clear top.
One thing which should be considered when selecting the cage is the size of the mantis. It is best not to keep a single small mantis in a very large cage. A small cage means the food is always relatively close to the mantis and therefore easier to catch; this is particularly relevant if the prey is fairly inactive.
If you buy a mantis nymph from a specialist dealer it will probably be in a small clear plastic cup and you can and move it to a larger container as it grows. To provide them with a suitable surface to walk on, either put one twig diagonally across the pot, or hang some strips of kitchen roll down the sides. Leaving the bottom of the cage bare makes it easier to clean out and easier for the mantis to spot its prey.