Psuedocreobotra wahlbergii (Spiny Flower Mantis, #9 Mantis)

Appearance:

This beautiful mantis has lobed legs and abdomen enabling it to blend in with a lush environment easily. Its base colorations are green stripes and blotches that cover the insect. It also has a distinct #9 spiral in yellow on top of its wing.

Sexing:

Females grow up to 4 cm long while males stop at 3.5 cm. After the 3rd molt, 8 segments can be counted on the males abdomen while 6 on the females. This could be quite difficult since the segments are camouflaged and lobed, but if you look underneath, the male will have 6 center lobes (or spikes), 1 more than a females 5. And in adults, the female's side lobes protrude beyond the wings while the male's is hidden by the wings.

Accommodation:

This species of mantid does best with a bit of extra heat. It's best to keep it around 75-85F. A heat lampmay be used to maintain the desired temperature. I keep mine at around 80 during the day and 75 at night. 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 at 60-70% with very good ventilation. This species is very prone to fungal infections.

Caging:

Their cage should be well ventilated with lots of twigs and leaves for the mantis to perch on. They fare well with plenty of foliage. These mantids 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 3x for the width. This species is not as vicious as other species, but nevertheless, they will fight in small containers so it's not advised to keep more than one in each container.

Feeding:

This species actively prefers flying insects. Start out with fruit flies for nymphs and move to small roaches, crickets, moths, mealworms, houseflies, and other flying insects for larger nymphs to adults. Even though they are voracious and will attack anything, do not offer them poisonous insects or wasps or bees as these could seriously harm the mantis. To feed them, you must stimulate them to eat. You can also feed them by hand: use a pair of tweezers to hold the insect and shake it quickly in front of the mantis, if it's hungry, it will snatch it from the tweezers. You can also pierce the prey and put the juice into the mantis' mouthparts and let it taste it. If it likes it, it'll grab onto the prey. This trick could take several tries. Do not overfeed. Watch the food intake and stop feeding them if their abdomen is getting too large. 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. Misting the cage daily or a few times a week will help the mantid keep hydrated.

Molting:

A mantis will stop eating a day or 2 (sometimes longer) prior to its molt. Mantids molt about every 2 weeks as babies 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 they also die faster. To pair up a pair of male and female, speed up the growth rate of the females while slowing down the males with cooler temperature and less feedings once the female has molted, speed up the males growth to molt him out. During molting, it is vital that you do not disturb them and also make sure that the humidity is at a safe level mist the insect frequently before its molt to prevent any blockade. 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 few days. I've never had a bad molt with this species, but maintain the humidity level higher than normal during molting time to ensure a healthy molt.

Reproduction:

This species can be a pain to breed. A minimum of two weeks (3 would be safer) after their last molt, introduce the female into the males enclosure near him. This would attract his attention and he'll try to make his move. It could take hours before he does anything though. Or you could feed the female and during her feeding, put a male behind her and if he is ready, he will jump on her back and hold on for dear life. As she is busy with eating, she can't grab him or throw him off of her. 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. Keep in mind, the older the female, the more receptive she will likely be to mating. Older males also generally initiate mating much quicker than younger males.

Ootheca:

About 3-4 weeks as adults, the female may begin making her first ootheca (mated or not). After 5-6 weeks of incubation at 85F and 50-60% about 40-70 nymphs will hatch out. These can be fed on fruit flies a day or two after hatching. Then continue to care for them as this care sheet suggests.

Additional Notes: (Log from Evan Ngo)

I've experienced this species to be vulnerable to fungal infections. It causes a forelimb of the mantis to rot or fall away. A clean enclosure could solve this problem. The males of this species are very timid. A mounted male can take over 2 days before copulating with the female.

The hatchlings come out black with white spots with antennas that has a lump at their bases. They are about 7 mm and are very fragile. A good half of them died naturally and the remaining nymphs should thrive with care. I've found that fruits flies may be large for them and could scare the nymphs away a few times before they become hungry enough to attack it. However, they readily tackle large fruit flies (drosophila hydei) as soon as their first molt.

Their first molt takes place about 10 days later and the larger nymphs come out tannish, but turn back to black soon after. They start eating LOTS of flies and are constantly hungry. They are about 1 cm long when well fed.

Their 2nd molt comes in as little as 7 days. The nymphs now display spikes on their abdomen and show signs of green stripes on their arms and legs although they are still black. Sex determination is now possible. The males have one more spike at the end of its abdomen due to their extra segments. They continue to eat flies like no tomorrow and are already showing signs of aggression. The first act of cannibalism occurred with a late bloomer nymph was partially eaten by its larger sibling. I will be separating them into individual containers after their next molt to prevent any more cannibalism. Newly molted nymphs are very fragile and 3 died of mysterious causes.

It's taken about 14 days between the 5th and 6th molt for the females. I've suspended the males' growth by giving them a lot less food than the females.

The females' last molt took a little bit over 3 weeks. They're now sporting long wings and will be fully mature in a couple of weeks. I've successfully mated the first female after 2 weeks and the male after 11 days and completed the whole life cycle.

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