Hierodula Care

Giant Asian Mantis care sheet

Hierodula patellifera

Hierodula patellifera, image by Bettaman

 

The following care sheet was written by Lucy Henson, thanks Lucy!

 

The Hierodula species is a genus of praying mantids found throughout Asia, some parts of India, South China, Sri-Lanka and Thailand. They are widely known as ‘Giant Asian Mantids’, due to their larger size. The most commonly known species in the mantis hobby include; Hierodula membrancea, Hierodula grandis and Hierodula viridis.

As previously mentioned, this particular species grow to larger size than most mantids, measuring on average at 80-95mm for fully grown adult females and 75-90mm for males. They are characterised by their green/yellow appearance, camouflaging with their natural habitat of the rainforest. Their colour is supposedly dependant on a mixture of variables such as; diet, temperature, humidity, however personally I would count genetics to play a big part of it. Like many species of mantids, they can fly however from personal experience the females are usually unable to from their weight, on many occasions I have had experiences with males flying around my room.

As with all praying mantids, the most reliable way of sexing giant Asian mantids (which can be done from any age providing you have a keen eye and perhaps a magnifying glass and steady hand if you are working with hatchlings) is to count the segments which make up the abdomen. If you look underneath the giant Asian mantis abdomen you will see it is split in to several segments, females have 6-7 of these whereas males have 8. This is hands down the most reliable way to sex praying mantids.

The Hierodula genus is general, show similarities between males and females. Like a number of praying mantids, the females are larger and bulkier and the males slimmer and smaller; however they portray no obvious difference in appearance. In Heirodula membrancea the female’s wings tip at the end of the abdomen, whereas the males extend to roughly 10mm past the tip of the abdomen.

Giant Asians are generally quick growers and thus do not live as long as some other species of praying mantids. (This is dependent on feeding and temperature. If the mantis is kept at a lower temperature and feeds less often, it can live longer than average. The opposite can be said for a higher temperature and more often feeding.)

I have kept an array of different species of praying mantids and have to say the Hierodula genus is a firm favourite of mine. They are fantastic for beginners as they are very robust and require no ‘special’ requirements like other species.

Hierodula housing

Housing for Hierodula spp. praying mantids is generally pretty simple, and Hierodula species are no different. As a general rule the minimal housing size must be at least 3 times the mantids size in height and 2 times the width/length. However like I said that is at the very minimal and thus more is better. As the heirodula species in general are nicknamed giant aisian mantids, they require a larger amount of space than many other species of mantids. I personally like to give them a pint glass as nymphs, slowly increasing the size as they get bigger, eventually giving them a small plastic faunarium as adults.

If using a pint glass you should use a piece of mesh (or kitchen paper) as a lid, held in place with an elastic band. This will provide not only efficient ventilation but also a great place for the mantis to sit and hang for moulting. (I like to include a twig or stick, horizontally from top to bottom for the mantis to climb on; however they are quite capable of climbing and will most likely spend most of their time hanging upside down on the mesh.

Hierodula species are mainly ambush predators however I find this will depend on the individual mantis, I’ve had some that remain still for days and others move around and explore. It is up to you to whether you add decor, many mantids have lived long and healthy lives with none other than a twig and kitchen paper. Personally I often give a little in terms of decor depending on the natural habitat of the mantis; too much decor can often be fatal for the mantis from mismoulting. This is one of the main reasons many successful keepers opt for the simple enclosure.

Substrate wise, there are plenty of options. Many keepers opt to use nothing although you may wish to use a substrate such as peat, coconut fibre or even organic compost. Use of such substrates will help maintain humidity for a little longer in the enclosure. Personally I use kitchen paper, as I find it’s easier for cleaning purposes.

Feeding Hierodula spp.

The Hierodula species is very voracious in terms of feeding. They will gladly take crickets, roaches, and moths as babies and will tackle locusts as adults. The most common food to be offered to hatchlings are fruitflies, however as this species grow larger this needs to be upgraded by the time they reach 1st Instar. It is recommended that the size of the food offered does not exceed 1/3 the mantis' length, but this mantis will tackle prey as big as itself. Personally I like to feed my mantids 2/3 times a week depending on what I am offering. Do not over feed them, overfeeding can not only shorten their lifespan, but it could also kill them. Keep a close eye on the size of their abdomen, if it appears too big delay its next feed.

Hierodula patellifera

Hierodula patellifera, image by Bettaman

 

Handling

Whilst most people will say Giant Asian mantids generally don’t get much out of handling, many have loved having free reign to roam my room –Often refusing to go back into their enclosure. They are a very docile species and can be handled providing you are gentle. Simply place your hand in front of the mantid and gently prod it from behind encouraging it to walk on your hand. From there it will probably sit quite happily or go for a wonder. Always be gentle with your praying mantis and be cautious of them falling.

Breeding Hierodula spp.

Breeding can be a rather dangerous time for praying mantids – particularly for males. Cannibalism is not inevitable when breeding ghost mantids, however it is certainly not uncommon and you should be wary. A minimum of four weeks after a females final moult, three weeks generally for males, introduce the female into the male's enclosure (if done the other way the female may get defensive). Females are generally very aggressive towards the male so make sure that she is very well fed prior to this. If he is ready, her presence would attract his attention and he'll try to make his move. (Do note it could take a while for the male to react, or it could be immediate.) The best way to initiate breeding for this species is to offer the female a prey item and while she is busy, introduce the male behind her and if he is ready, he will jump on her back. As she is busy with eating, she can't grab him or throw him off of her. A mature female will remain calm and allow him to attempt to mate with her. After a while of holding on, the male will bend his abdomen down to connect with hers and mating will commence. I would recommend removing the male as soon as you know he has finished mating to avoid any accidents and then possibility reintroducing them a few days later for increased chance in a fertile ootheca. The male can be introduced to other females so long as he is given a rest and food in-between.

After roughly 5 weeks after becoming an adult the female will start laying oothecae, whether mated or not and the Hierodule species lay around 4-6 oothecae in their entire lifetime.  If you have not mated your female, the ootheca will not be fertile and as such there should be removed and discarded. If you have mated your female, you should remove the ootheca and incubate elsewhere; preferably in an enclosure similar size to the adults (Alternatively you can remove the female and leave the ootheca to hatch there as it will be stuck.) In the enclosure you must have many areas for the nymphs to perch (I use strips of kitchen paper, alternatively you could use twigs, Aspen excelsior etc.) The hatch time is directly related to temperature, (higher temperature, faster hatch – lower temperature, slower hatch) However personally I incubate at 30c (86F) and 75% humidity which takes around 4-6 weeks, after which upto 150 nymphs may hatch out (it must be noted that the first ooth will produce a smaller number of nymphs generally speaking.)

The nymphs can be raised communally until their first moult; however do expect some cannibalistic behaviour. Food should be introduced after about 3 days of them hatching and make sure plenty is available to reduce cannibalism.

Good luck and enjoy!

Hierodula membranacea

Hierodula membranacea, image by Destinys Agent

 

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