The Praying Mantis is one of the most common pet insects. People consider it a good pet for its unique look, its raptorial legs, and its otherwise friendly nature.
As it grows, the Praying Mantis goes through molting. The species undergoes at least 6 molts in its lifetime. These are defining moments Praying Mantis owners have to know how to deal with.
A molting Praying Mantis is a vulnerable insect. It can’t be touched and it might need your help as the owner, especially with humidity control.
What is Molting?
Molting is the process by which the Praying Mantis grows. It involves shedding its skin to grow. There are multiple such molts in the life of the insect. It cannot grow in-between molts. A molting process can take up to a few weeks.
Molting is the process of routinely shedding the outer layer which has a protective role in Praying Mantises. Without this outer layer, a Praying Mantis is more vulnerable in front of predators.
Why Do Praying Mantises Molt?
Praying Mantises molt to grow. There are various species of Praying Mantises and the number of molts they undergo largely depends on the characteristic of the species.
However, all species of Praying Mantises molt to grow. They molt faster as nymphs and slower as adults.
Praying Mantis Molting Stages
Molting stages can be identified in Praying Mantises. From their numbers to their frequency, these may depend on individuals and specific species.
How many stages of molt does the Praying Mantis have?
The Praying Mantis is known though go through multiple stages of growth known as molts. These molts are identified as growth stages. The first stage when a Praying Mantis is born is called an L1.
Once the Praying Mantis molts it goes to the L2 stage. It molts again and it goes into an L3 stage. A Praying Manties can reach L6 or L9 in their lifetime.
How often do Praying Mantises molt?
A Praying Mantis molts at least 6 times as it grows and as an adult. Some species can molt 7, 8, or even 9 times as they grow from nymphs to adults.
How long does a molt last for Praying Mantises?
Molts tend to last less for young Praying Mantises. This process can be as short as 1-2 weeks for the young insects.
The molt becomes slower as the insect ages or as they mature. It can even take as long as 1 month for an adult Praying Mantis to molt.
Praying Mantis Molting Signs
Praying Mantises know they are about to molt. The signs for this process can only be seen 2 or 3 days before it happens. For most insects, these are the most common signs.
- Hanging upside down
The Praying Mantis is known to hang upside down either in captivity or out in nature just before molting starts. Such a posture allows it to shed its outer layer easier as it drops off its body.
- Not eating
A Praying Mantis will not eat 2-3 days before it starts to molt. There’s no reason to worry as this is a natural process and the insect will begin eating again after a few days.
- Holding still
It has been noted Praying Mantises stay still a lot more before the molting process. The more they more the less likely for the molt to go wrong or caused what’s known as a miss molt.
- Swollen wing buds
Praying Mantises show swollen wing buds before the final molt. This can be before the L6, L7, L8, or L9 molt. These swollen wing buds are not a sign of trouble as the insect remains healthy.
What do you need to do when a Praying Mantis molts?
If you’re growing Praying Mantises at home you need to know not to interfere most times and when to interfere, especially with water and container design.
Before Molting Process
Praying Mantises need to be cared for before and during the molting process. They should not be handled soon after they molt.
- Feed less
You should try to feed your Praying Mantis less whenever it prepares to molt. The insect should stop eating by itself before and during this process but there’s no point in adding food to its container as it won’t eat at this stage of its life.
- Increase humidity a bit higher
Humidity is crucial for a healthy Praying Mantis as it drinks water off the walls of its container. You can mist its container so that it has sufficient water to drink.
- No handling
You should not handle the Praying Mantis as it’s too soft right after a molt. You should also refrain from handling the insect even during the molting process. You could hurt the insect if you try to help it shed its outer layer by hand.
- Remove feeder insects
Praying Mantises are only fed live insects such as houseflies. You should remove all live insects from its enclosure if they’re still in there. Insects can bother the Praying Mantis during the molting process and cause it to move.
During Molting Process
There’s not much to do during the molting process. You need to ensure there’s a vertical surface the insect can grab on with its legs from it to hang upside down for the molt.
Plastic tops on containers and metal caps on jars aren’t good as the insects can’t grab onto them. Mesh or textile covers are better for the molting process.
After Molting Process
The Praying Mantis will be hungry after the molting process. You can help it recover faster.
- Feed more
You can start feeding the praying mantis only after 24 hours from the moment the molt has completed. It’s still vulnerable within the first day after the molt so you should refrain from feeding it for at least one day.
- No handling
The same 24-hours interval should be respected when it comes to handling as with feeding. You should not handle a Praying Mantis for at least 24 hours after each molt.
Why Does My Praying Mantis Have Molting Problems?
Praying Mantises have been known to have many types of molting problems. From stuck legs to a molt that is only partially complete, these insects can eventually die if a molt goes wrong.
A mismolt is a type of incomplete molt or a molt that has gone wrong. A twisted leg is a sign of a mismolt. This might resolve itself with the following molt.
Mismolts can also happen whenever the outer layer hasn’t completely been shed by the body. There are high chances of death in these cases.
Good hydration tends to prevent mismolts. You need to mist the enclosure of the Praying Mantis to ensure very good hydration.
Furthermore, you should also know that you feed hydrated insects to the Praying Mantis so that it’s hydrated from the digestive system as well.
Preventive measures are the best solution to handle mismolts. These are the most significant health risks the insect can go through by itself and it’s best to keep them away as much as possible.
Ensure proper hydration
Hydration is key for the Praying Mantis. This insect needs plenty of water to live a healthy life. Frequent misting of its enclosure is recommended for a healthy life.
Add a mesh top to the insect container
A fabric top enclosure is crucial for the Praying Mantis to hang upside down for the molt. It might take a few days for the insect to notice it but in the end, they will use this soft top they can grab onto for each molt.
Don’t use too much decoration
Décor makes the enclosure look good but it doesn’t do anything for the Praying Mantis. Limiting décor and even refraining from adding any sticks and rocks is recommended.
You should sterilize all types of décor you plan to add to the enclosure if you’d still like to go ahead and make it look a bit more complete.
Amputate legs in case of an infection
Infections are common in Praying Mantises, especially on their legs. They can get infected from the food they consume or from décor.
An infection on the legs is identified as a black or brown spot. This can expand and eventually kill the insect. It’s best to amputate the infected leg just above the infection point to save the Praying Mantis.
Praying Mantises go through different molts which are all equally important. A single mismolt may lead to its death.
It’s best to keep the enclosure safe, without too much décor or with sufficient misting that hydrates the insect.
However, you should refrain from over-misting the enclosure. Adding too much humidity is just as detrimental as adding no humidity inside the enclosure.
It has been shown that too much humidity causes a digestive system infection in Praying Mantises. Unlike the outer body or leg infections, these digestive system infections can’t be seen which means the insect might die.
Praying Mantises are vulnerable during each molt. You should refrain from feeding them at this time. Overfeeding a Praying Mantis leads to vomiting.
A feeding Praying Mantis also needs to move a lot, which isn’t recommended during the molt. The insect should stop eating by itself in most cases just before they molt starts.
Feeding softer and hydrated insects to the Praying Mantis is recommended soon after the molt as well. This allows it to easily digest the insect and stay away from issues such as constipation.