Acanthops falcata (Tropical dead leaf mantis)


This South American species of dead leaf mantids is very cryptic in every way. While young nymphs, they have incredibly long abdomens with multiple curves. Their eyes are pointed through all stages and the elbow joints are pointed forward instead of folded into the body. Adults are grayish in color and females take on brilliant abdomen colors underneath the wings. Males have long usable wings while females have long unusable wings. They are smaller in comparison to other species. Females grow up to 2 inches long while males are a bit smaller.


After as soon as the 2nd molt, 8 segments can be counted on the male’s abdomen while 6 on the females. And after their last molt, the males sport long broad wings while the females have smaller ones that cover the abdomen.


It’s best to keep these mantids around 22-25 C (71.6-77 F). Depending where you live, room temperature may just be fine. Overheating can kill the mantids. 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 between 70-80%


Their cage should be well ventilated with lots of twigs for the mantis to perch on. Put some tree bark in there for decoration and to simulate their natural environment. 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. This species is very aggressive at all stages so nymphs should be separated into different containers as soon as possible to prevent cannibalism.
Feeding: this species is not too picky, 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. It’s recommended that the size of the feeder insect does not exceed 1/3 the mantis’ length. Although they are voracious, they do not tackle large insects, and 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 snatch it from the tweezers as soon as it sees it. 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 few days prior to its molt. Mantises molt every 2-3 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 7 molts for females and about 6 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. Once it’s dried, it will resume eating and being its normal self after a couple of days. I’ve never had a bad molt with this species with frequent misting.


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 may shorten the female’s lifespan. Introduce the female into the male’s enclosure and leave them alone. The introducing the male to the female by hand method does not work very well. They are very skittish and will play dead once handled or continually try to fly away. So just put a pair into a large container and let them go at it. 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’ll be eaten.


After a week or so, the females will start laying her oothecae (plural for ootheca) and will continue to lay more every 1-2 weeks. This species can lay around 3-5 oothecae. After 8-10 weeks of incubation at 30 C (86 F) and 70% humidity, about 40-60 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:I received 6 L3 nymphs about a month after they hatched. They were still very small for L3, but took large fruit flies easily and seem to be very active. Their dead display is very convincing and I was able to roll them around on my hand as they lay folded up. Their 3rd molt comes not too long after I received them, but I had no way of telling how long it took them since I did not know their last molt’s date. They continue eating flies and some pinhead crickets. At this stage, I’m keeping them separated due to their aggressive nature.

Their 4th molt comes 10 days after their last shed. All 6 nymphs molted almost simultaneously. The larger nymphs still continue on their fly diet with no problem. Their abdomen is slightly more cryptic and sex determination is possible.
Their 5th shed comes 15 days later and the much larger nymphs show tiny bud-wings of their future adult wings. Once again, they all shed within 1 day of each other. They are not too large for flies and are put on a cricket diet. They greedily snatch crickets from my tweezers.
Their final shed came rather quickly. I’ve tried to slow down the male’s growth to synchronize with the females but they molted out earlier. Nevertheless, a well matured male is better than an immature one. After about 2 weeks, I noticed the mature females were giving off pheremones and introduced them to males in separate containers. At first, it took a while for the males to react. But after 2 days in the same container, I spotted the males mounting the females. She did not react with violence but merely let him continue to mate. The actually mating only took a couple of hours and the males were removed afterwards. I also noticed that the females continued to give off pheremones even after mating…perhaps this is to lure more males to her, but I did not allow any more couplings.
No further mating was necessary, the first ootheca was laid 9 days after mating, but the other female took 13 days. Their oothecae looked like it laid in mid-air. I found them both hanging from the screen lid by a thin string. I counted the eggs inside and it looks like there are about 60 babies in each ootheca. The second ootheca was laid 7 days after the first one. It looks shorter and I could only count about 40 eggs on it.