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Mantid Kingdom

Praying mantids and feeder insects!

Phyllocrania paradoxa

(Ghost Mantis)


This cryptic mantis has lobed legs, lobed prothorax, lobed abdomen segments, and a very distinct protuberance on its head. Their color ranges from dark brown to light greenish brown. It is thought that the cooler the temperature and the higher the humidity, the greener they are and the hotter the temperature and the lower the humidity, the browner they become. Based on my own experience, I personally believe that genetics have a large role to play in this, perhaps even more so than living conditions.


Both sexes are similar in size at 5 cm long. Males have much longer feathery antennas and both sexes have long wings. And after the 3rd molt, you may be able to count the bottom abdomen segments to determine their sex males will have 8 and females will have 6. But counting segments on this species might prove to be quite a challenge!


P. paradoxa will survive in fair conditions. It’s best to keep it around 25-30 C (77-86 F). A heat mat or heat lamp may be required to maintain the desired temperature. 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. Humidity for this species is a wide range between 60-90%. 60% would make the mantis a darker shade of brown and 90% would make it greener. The main purpose of humidity is to help the mantis molt as too little will hinder it from emerging from the old skin. Just make sure it doesn’t get too dry or too damp. Ventilation becomes more important the higher the humidity is.


Their cage should be well ventilated with lots of twigs and leaves for the mantis to perch on. They mostly hang upside down from the top of the cage and await their prey there. 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 mantis length and 2x for the width. Since this species is not particularly cannibalistic, they can be kept together if well fed. If kept in a colony, a big container is needed to give each mantis room to lessen the chances of a fatal confrontation.


This species prefers flying insects. Start out with fruit flies for nymphs and move on to house flies for sub-adults and moths and other flying insects for adults. Crickets can be used, but they rarely climb to the top of the cage and this mantis is not one to go after its prey. It’s recommended that the size of the feeder insect does not exceed 1/2 the mantis length. Even though they are voracious and will attack anything, do not offer them poisonous insects or wasps or bees as these could seriously harm the mantis. To feed them, just drop the food inside the tank and if the mantis is hungry, it’ll go after the prey. This species eats copiously as nymphs, but after the 4th molt, they begin to eat infrequently, making them long lived. But as adults, females will eat like no tomorrow everyday if food is offered. As for watering, they get their water from their prey so no additional watering is needed except from spraying the tank.


A mantis will stop eating a day or two (sometimes longer) prior to its molt. Do not be alarmed if one day your mantis is chowing down on a moth and the next it refuses its food, it’s simply getting ready to shed its skin. Mantises molt every 2-3 weeks as babies and the time in between each molt increases as they get older plus this species has a slower growth rate so their last molt into adulthood can sometimes take as long as 2 months! It takes 7 molts for females and 6 for males. During molting, it is vital that you do not disturb them. 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. Once it’s dried, it will resume eating and being its normal self. A mantis will sometimes lose an appendage in the molting process, but if the mantis is young, it will be able to regenerate the lost limb over its next couple sheds.


Breeding this species can be a challenge. If they have been raised in a colony, then they will pair up when the time is right. If not, wait until after 2 weeks of their last molt to pair up a male and a female. The enclosure should have a big enough space for the male to escape and hide after mating. Introduce the female into the males enclosure and leave them alone to choose when the time is right. 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 and initiate mating. As she is busy with eating, she can’t grab him or throw him off of her. After a while of holding on, the male will bend his abdomen down to connect with hers and mating will commence. Afterwards, he will run away and he must be removed or else he might be eaten.


After 3-4 weeks or so as adults, the female will start laying her first ootheca (mated or not). This species can lay around 6 or so 2 inch long oothecae (plural for ootheca), although my friend Leah has had a ghost who laid over 12! After 4-6 weeks of incubation at 30 C and 50-70% humidity, 15-30 nymphs will hatch out. They are brown after emerging from the ootheca, but turn black after drying out. The nymphs mimic ants to repel predators. These can be fed on a diet of fruit flies a day or two after hatching. This species is not especially cannibalistic so it is safe to house nymphs together without a risk of death. Continue to care for them as this care sheet suggests.

Additional Notes: (Log by Evan)

The nymphs hatch out brownish in color and turn black after drying out. At first, their head protuberance is pointed and they have no visible lobes on any segments of their body. They take fruit flies readily on the second day and feed copiously after that to fill up their abdomen. I’ve noticed that their antennas always vibrate quickly and their threat stance is arms slightly opened and lots of swaying movements.

As soon as 12 days, they molt their first molt (some would consider it their second molt since their first one was from hatching). The L2 nymphs nearly double in size and now have lobed legs, abdomen, and a longer, crooked cast on their head. They’ve also shed their black coloring and take on a brownish shade. They began eating one day after molting. They are now feeding on the larger species of fruit flies (drosophila hydei) which they take readily.

The next shed comes as soon as 10 days if fed well. The L3 nymphs are now a lighter shade of brown and are nearly 1 inch long when well fed. Their leg lobes are more defined and their abdomen lobes have increased dramatically. The protuberance on their head broadened slightly and has more ridges to it. They continue on their large fruit fly diet and are also introduced to large pinhead crickets which they readily take if it comes in range Sex determination is now possible with very close observations. The females have bigger, rounder abdomen lobes and the males abdomens are slightly longer with smaller rugged lobes.

Their 3rd molt comes as soon as 12 days and as late as 15 days. The mantids are now over 1 inch long with very well defined crests and abdomen lobes. I’ve separated the males from females just because of future size difference. They exhibit no signs of aggression towards each other and are content to hang upside down next to each other. The large fruit flies are now almost too small for them. Although they continue to catch one every now and then, larger prey is needed.

The first female to molt her 5th molt took 4 weeks and the others took 5 weeks. The first male to molt his 5th molt took a little over 5 weeks. The newly molted L6 female is now about 1.5″ long. I’ve started force feeding them since they are reluctant to catch their own prey. Perhaps this will speed up their growth.

The females took about 4-6 weeks to molt their last molt (with force feedings). I’ve been keeping track of their molts and it seemed that the males and females both took 7 molts to reach maturity, females normally take 1 more than the males, so either this is an exception or I missed one of the females’ molts, which is very unlikely.