(Dead Leaf Mantis)
This cryptic mantis lives to mimic dead leaves hence the name. I consider them to be one of the most beautiful mantids out there. Their coloring ranges from dark brown to light brown or somewhere in the brown scope. They also possess a broad prothorax that looks ripped and crumpled like a leaf. When threatened, the dead leaf mantis will freeze and throw itself to the ground with all legs folded to look like a dead leaf.
Females grow up to 12 cm long while males stop at 10 cm. After the 2nd molt, 8 segments can be counted on the males abdomen while 6 on the females. And the females prothorax shield ends in a sharp pointed curve on each side while the males have a rounder shape. Also males tend to be more yellowish than the dark brown females.
This species of mantis do well with a little extra heat. It’s best to keep it around 24-30 C (75-86 F). A heat mat or heat lamp is may be used to maintain the desired temperature. Keep the temperature cooler at night to lengthen the lifespan of the mantis. Warmer temperature speeds up the metabolism of the mantis and will shorten its life span and in contrast, cooler temperature slows its metabolism and lengthens the life span, but both extremes could kill it. Keep humidity at a constant 70-80%.
Their cage should be well ventilated with lots of twigs and leaves for the mantis to perch on. They don’t require much room as they are not active predators, but they do need room to molt. The suggested height is usually 3x the length of the mantis and 2x for the width. This species is not as vicious as other species, but nevertheless, nymphs should be separated into separate containers after the first molt.
This species has no preference, but make sure it has a varied diet. Start out with fruit flies for nymphs and move to pinhead crickets for larger nymphs and crickets, mealworms, wax worms, and other larger insects for sub-adult and adults. They especially love flying insects like moths. It’s recommended that the size of the feeder insect does not exceed 1/3 the length of the mantis. Even though they are voracious and will attack any insect, do not offer them poisonous insects or wasps or bees as these could seriously harm the mantis. To feed them, you can either drop the food inside the tank and if the mantis is hungry, it’ll go after the prey or you can feed them by hand: use a pair of tweezers to hold the insect and wave it in front of the mantis, if it’s hungry, it will turn its head to stare directly at the insect and will snatch it from the tweezers. Do not overfeed them, overfeeding can and will shorten their life span. Feed them as much as it will eat in one day and do not feed it for another 2 days. As for watering, this type will get its fluid from its food, but it can sometimes be seen drinking off droplets from the side of the cage so misting the cage every once in a while is best.
A mantis will stop eating a day or 2 (sometimes more) prior to its molt. Mantids molt every 2 weeks as nymphs and the time in between each molt increases as they get older so their last molt into adulthood can sometimes take as long as 3-4 weeks. It takes about 8 molts for females and about 7 for males. That’s why males tend to mature earlier than females and so would die faster. During molting, it is vital that you do not disturb them and also make sure that the humidity is at a safe level too much humidity can hinder the insect from drying out correctly and it might end up with bent legs and crippled arms. The mantis will hang upside down from a branch or the screen lid and will sometimes shake or spasm violently. Then after a while, it worms out of its old skin and will hang out to dry. After a couple days and once it’s dried, it will resume eating and being its normal self. Although they have a big shielded prothorax, molting shouldn’t be hindered so don’t be alarmed if you see something weird…and especially do not try to aid them while they’re molting.
This species is easy to breed. Select a suitable pair after 2 weeks since their last molt into adulthood. It would be best to mate the mantids after 3-4 weeks instead. 2 weeks may be too soon and the female may not be mature enough to be bred. Introduce the female into the males enclosure and leave them alone. This could take hours or days for the male to make his move…although a mature male should mount the female within a couple hours after introduction. Or you could feed the female and during her feeding, put a male behind her and if he is ready, he will jump on her back…but this method could be a bit difficult due to the timid nature of the males. After a while of holding on, the male will bend his abdomen down to connect with hers and mating will commence. The male may remain on the female for up to 2 days (even after copulation). Afterwards, he will run away and he must be removed or else he might be eaten.
The females will start laying her first ootheca after 6 weeks since maturing. This species can lay around 3-5 oothecae with a period of 4-6 weeks in between each ootheca. After 6-7 weeks of incubation at 30 C (86 F) and 70-80% humidity, 20-40 large nymphs will hatch out from each ootheca. These can be fed fruit flies a day or two after hatching. Then continue to care for them as this care sheet suggests.
Additional Notes: (Log by Evan)
I’ve experienced this species to be somewhat fragile. They do not have strong legs to hold up their large bodies and always hang upside down inside their tank. They also seem weakened for a couple of days after molting, refusing food and sway on their branch or screen lid frequently. They are also vulnerable to eye damage. A female of mine had a dented eyeball from an unknown source, but molted out of it. A newly purchased male also showed signs of a damaged eye; it had a scratch mark on it and showed a little bit of dried material along the scratch. He ate and lived normally so it was not fatal.
After the male died, I acquired a 2 month old adult male for the female. I introduced the male into the females enclosure 11 days after the females last molt. The male wasted no time in jumping on the female and assuming the mating position. Since the female was sexually mature, she put up no fight and allowed the male to mate. After a few minutes, the male instinctively curled his abdomen to mate with hers. The copulation took over 11 hours long and ended when the male leapt off and scurried away.
My first attempt with this species failed, but I’ve bought some L2 nymphs again to try this one more time. So far, the nymphs are doing great. They’re eating loads of D.hydei and are misted once a day. Some have already molted to L3.