Life cycle of Mantis Species from Resaca de la Palma State Parks (Part 12)
The S. carolina only shows interest in live insects, completely ignoring dead prey. Prey movement of suitable size triggers the mantids’
hunting instinct. Mantids are ambush type predators instead of foragers for food. When a mantis spots a potential prey, it will
cautiously move towards it until the prey is within striking distance. Once within range, the mantis quickly lunges and captures the prey
with both front legs. Feeding initiates after the prey is adequately restrained. Usually the mantis begins feeding on the head or
prothorax of the prey, but actually there is no particular section of the prey that the mantis prefers. Occasionally, the mantis will drop
prey once in its grasp, especially defensive insects that are able to fight back. Mantids appear extremely cautious in protecting their
front legs to avoid injury. Without the raptorial front leg(s), mantids are incapable of hunting and most probably starve to death.
After every meal, mantids spend considerable time grooming and cleaning their front legs by feeding on any ‘leftover’ food. Mantids
also groom the antennae and middle and hind legs.

Wild caught specimens
All the collected adult females were given prey, such as bluebottle flies and house flies, with the occasional soldier flies and medium
sized crickets. Fruit flies were offered to the adult specimen, but in general, these were ignored. SF1 tried to capture fruit flies, but the
front legs of the adult female mantis were too large to retrieve the small prey. After a few strikes, SF1 ceased the attacks, but remained
attentive to the movement of thed fruit flies.

Except for SF1, the rest of the adult females exhibited a lack of appetite, which might have contributed to the low production of
oothecae. Hand feeding was possible with additional effort, although the mantids initially appeared wary; all mantids eventually
accepted food from tweezers without incident. Using tweezers to hold the food (a pre-killed cricket with exposed flesh), the food was
slowly administered to the mouthparts of the mantis. The mantis began feeding on the fleshy sections, eventually grabbing the prey
with both front legs. Hand feeding occasionally aided the mantids in accepting a variety of prey since they seldom displayed interest in
catching their own food. Figure 2.8-8 shows an adult female feeding on a soldier fly while Figure 2.8-9 shows the adult female feeding
on a bluebottle fly.
Figure 2.8-8: SF1 feeding on soldier fly
Figure 2.8-9: SF1 feeding on bluebottle
This strain of mantis presented timid and skittish characteristics, especially if larger or more active prey, such as crickets, were left
with the mantids inside their containers. During feeding, some mantids would withdraw or evade by closely aligning their bodies to the
walls of the container upon inspection. Others began rapidly traversing the container in an attempt to hide to avoid detection or even
escaped the container. SF1 was the most defiant specimen among the group and would occasionally adopt a threatening pose (see
Figure 2.8-10) to deter my provocation, although my only intention was to deliver a few flies into the container.
Figure 2.8-10: SF1 threat pose
It was unclear whether infrequent feeding lead to a shorter life span for SF1, SF2, and SF3 in captivity. SF5 was the second adult
female to live the longest after SF1, but did not deposit any ootheca, although offered plenty of food. SF1 was the only mantis willing to
pursue food and feed regularly. SF1 also exhibited the longest longevity among the five adult female mantids, depositing the greatest
number of fertile oothecae during captivity.

Captive bred specimens
Newly hatched nymphs did not feed immediately, but instead expended energy in dispersing away from the ootheca and each other in
pursuit of a place to hide and adjust. The mantids that hatched in the first few hours displayed no interest in prey, such as fruit flies.
Instead, they exhibited signs of fear, moving swiftly away from contact with its own species or fruit flies. On the second day, the mantids
demonstrated more interest in any possible prey moving in their vicinity, but only if the prey was of suitable size and were smaller than
the mantids.

The mantids remained fearful of larger insects. In general, the mantids avoided conflict with each other, preferring to prey on smaller
insects. Also, they only displayed interest in mobile prey, triggering the urge for the mantis to pursue the prey.  This was analogous to a
dog chasing after someone that attempted to flee.
Figure 2.8-11: First instar S. carolina feeding on
fruit fly
The selected five hatchlings were each kept in 16 oz plastic containers with some raffia strands and a fabric lid (see Figure 2.8-12 and
Figure 2.8-12: 16 oz plastic container with raffia
strands for selected S. carolina mantis nymph
Figure 2.8-13: 16 oz plastic container with fabric
lid for selected S. carolina mantis nymph
From the first instar to the third instar, wingless and flightless fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) were added to the containers as a
food source for the nymphs. At the fourth instar, nymphs were of adequate size to handle house flies and small crickets. The same
type of food was provided to the nymphs until the 6th or 7th instar, when larger nymphs were also offered bluebottle and soldier flies,
besides house flies and medium sized crickets. The rest of the mantids were housed in a 12 inch cubed net cage (Figure 2.8-14) that
included an arrangement of some artificial leaves and sticks. Those were initially offered wild type fruit flies, and eventually, house flies
and bluebottle as the nymphs matured.
Figure 2.8-14: Net cage housing for the rest of
the S. carolina hatchlings
Cannibalism did occur in the first batch of hatchlings on the second day. One nymph was found listless without its head – clearly, a
victim of cannibalism (see Figure 2.6-2).  This demonstrated that mantids ate each other when space and food source were limited,
even at the new born stage. For the batch of mantids that were housed in net cages, cannibalism rarely appeared during the nymphs’
early stages. However, at later stages, cannibalism ensued due to the larger nymphs’ (mostly females) physical advantage to
overpower the smaller ones (mostly males). This was an unacceptable species to house together due to its aggressive nature.
Further details on cannibalism were presented in Section 2.6.
In general, the captive bred generation was more progressive and active in capturing prey than the wild collected specimen.
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To be continue - Part 13