Pet of the week: The Giant Asian praying mantis
Saturday 17 October 2009
Hello, looks like a tricky customer...
This is the Giant Asian praying mantis, of the mantid family. The Giant Asian (in fact all praying mantis) looks like nothing else on earth. Part stick insect with a touch of buddhist monk, the tilting head of an inquisitive border collie and the hypnotic eyes of Lily Cole. The "praying" descriptor refers to its prayer-like appearance, not to "preying", as is commonly misinterpreted. Though having said that, he, or more likely she, is a pretty mean predator.
Oh yeah – likes to get her teeth into things does she?
You bet. Mantis will eat all sorts of bugs and creepy crawlies, which is why they were used extensively in farming as pest controllers against aphids and caterpillars (though this application is not encouraged in a suburban garden). Bearing in mind a full-size adult will grow to 8-10cm, they can be pretty intimidating towards an aphid. And the larger ones in the wild will even take on mini rodents, hummingbirds and small reptiles.
So what are the attractions of keeping one as a pet?
Females are generally bigger. They are best observed when feeding, and – here's the nasty bit – they like to hunt and feed on live bugs, so you must not be squeamish if you are thinking of keeping them as pets. They eat every other day and prefer live crickets, flies, etc, which are available from pet stores. Or you can catch them yourself.
How easy are they to look after?
According to Karen Baker of Exotic Pets in Chesterfield, they are easy to keep and require a vivarium about 12in x 12in x 12in made of glass so you can observe them. Being tropical, they will happily exist at room temperature (24-30C), and like humid conditions, so spraying of the inside of the tank with water twice a week is essential. Karen used to keep them as a child and she would take them out of the tank and rest them on plants on her windowsill in the summer. They're quite happy there, and won't stray – unless they get peckish – and will eat any bugs that come their way.
They are wise and have presumably gained the secret of eternal life...
Er, not exactly. In fact they will only live for about a year to 18 months, during which time they will go through several mini-metamorphoses, shedding their skins perhaps seven or eight times in their life cycle. If you're lucky you will get to see them do this.
So how do you manage to keep your mantis zen-tastically happy?
In their tanks there must be some branches and some greenery to spruce it up a bit. The branches will also serve as good hanging posts for the mantis when it comes time for shedding.
A female Giant Asian will set you back about £10. More exotic mantids, such as the spiney flower mantis, will cost a little more. Visit exotic-pets.co.uk or call the ever-helpful Karen on 01246 568390.
Life & Style blogs
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
- 1 Stuart Baggs dies: Apprentice star 'The Brand' found dead aged 27
- 2 Whoopi Goldberg tells Cara Delevingne to suck it up: 'She's not famous. I'M famous'
- 3 Jeremy Clarkson’s Amazon Prime deal to reunite Top Gear trio thumbs nose at the BBC
- 4 Every club should be like Labour – you can’t join as a new member unless you’re already a member
- 5 1000 people played Foo Fighters simultaneously to try and get them to play their city
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Engineering Project Manager ...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer and i...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Document Controller is required to join a le...