The Ghost Mantis, one of the weirdest mantids kept in captivity. This particular species is favoured by many, for its cryptic looks, its swaying movement, and its evil looking figure.
As described by its name, the Ghost Mantis looks like…well, thats for you to guess. This is a miniature species, with adults only growing up to 5cm. Females, as with most species, are slightly longer, and have a wider abdomen and wing case. Sexual dimorphism is the usual, 8 segments for the male, and 6 or 7 for the female. Colours can vary, from a dark brown, almost black, to a grey/green colour. These colours are dependant on light and humidity levels, and colours change between shedding of the skin.
Humidity and Temperature
The Phylocrania Paradoxa is one the more exotic species of mantis kept by hobbyists, and needs a little more care than species such as the Sphodromantis or Hierodula. This species originates from Asia and Madagascar, where temperature and humidity is high. As with any species, it is best to stimulate these conditions in captivity. One might use a humidity gauge, however, these can be hard to purchase. To keep a high level of humidity, the enclosure must be sprayed every day. Water is a very important factor to the survival of the Phylocrania, and this is what some hobbyist’s lack, leading to further health problems. Temperatures from around 22-28C will benefit the most. The temperature needs to be of that to keep a steady metabolism, and also to evaporate any standing water, which may lead to bacterial or fungal infections.
Humidity is also needed for shedding purposes. The rather unusual shape of the Ghost Mantis means that there can be a lot of problems occurring whilst shedding the skin. If the humidity is to low, then the skin will be too hard to shed easily, and the mantis will become tangled up, and then that will lead to death.
Housing and Enclosure
Being a miniature species, the Ghost Mantis doesn’t need a huge enclosure. This species is not very active either, and will happily sit in the same spot for a few days. The only time they will really venture is when they are out to catch food.
Nymphs are best housed in large, nylon nets. This way, there is a constant supply of ventilation, and also there is a lot of room for the nymphs to roam. Using nylon nets means that feeding is a made a lot easier. One large fruit fly culture can be placed in the net, and then the zip done up. This way the flies can fly in and out of the culture freely, and the nymphs can have a large area to hunt. The nymphs can be kept communally until L4/5. This is when cannibalism kicks in the most. Some hobbyists keep the Ghost Mantis communally throughout their life, however, this is only if there is a constant supply of food, and a lot of foliage.
An adult will need to be housed in an enclosure no larger than 15x15x15, unless the enclosure is being used for decoration purposes. The main drawback of having an overly large enclosure is that catching prey will become a hard task, as the live food will disperse around the enclosure. A good size to house an adult in would be a standard 7x7x12 enclosure, give or take a few inches on each dimension.
The enclosure must be decorated with a range of foliage, to stimulate the natural habitat. Dead twigs and leaves, silk plants, repti-vines and any other natural looking decor will suffice. As the Phylocrania is a cryptic species, having a range of dead branches, scattered with dead leaves makes an effective enclosure, as you can then see just how accurate the camouflage is.
It is advised to use a substrate, as for any exotic mantis species. Not only does it add to the look of the enclosure, but also it helps to keep humidity levels high. The most effective substrate is soil or peat. Also, a layer of compressed coconut fibre is a great substrate, as this is very clean, and you can be assured no form of pesticide or any other harmful chemicals will be present.
Overall, the Ghost Mantis really does live up to its name. The eerie, ghost like figure, and the slow, creepy movements. Its unique look and colours are liked by all, and the contrast between its small size, and its ferocious nature. However, this is not a species for the beginner, and would require some experience with keeping mantids, before this one was introduced to the collection