Sibylla pretiosa (Cryptic Mantis)
If there's a better mantis to fit the description of the term "exotic," I don't know what it is. This species is perhaps one of the most bizzar mantis out there. They resemble the infamous Gongylus gongylodes, but are in a different family (the family Sibyllinae). They have very long legs. Both sexes sport a a very elaborate crest on their head. At the shoulder joint where their raptorial arms connect to the prothorax, they have two distinct spikes protruding at the top. Their wing color ranges from a sheen blueish green to a lush green. Their legs has small lobes and their whole body is marked with camouflage patterns that allows them to blend in with their surroundings. The species pretiosa and dolosa do not differ very much, except that dolosa may be a bit bigger and may have a greener shade on the wings. Should I find out more about this, I will post them here. But care for both species should be exactly the same.
They are a very small species. Females grow up to 5.5 cm long while males peak at 4 cm. After the 3rd or 4th molt, 8 segments can be counted on the male's abdomen while 6 on the females. Since the males grow smaller than the females, it is possible to sex the nymphs by differienciating their sizes. Males will also have thicker antennas, but this will only be noticeable in the late stages of the nymphs.
This species of mantis do well with a bit of extra heat. It's best to keep it around 25-30 C (76-86 F). A heat mat or a heat lamp may be used to maintain the desired temperature. They are a sub-tropical species so maintain their humidity at 70% in the day time and 80% at night.
Their cage should be well ventilated with lots of twigs for the mantids to perch on. They prefer branches with leaves not only to perch but for the adult females to deposit their oothecae. The suggested is at least 3x the length of the mantis. This species is communal as long as sufficient food is provided. They will only attack anything smaller than themselves so they may view a younger nymph as food...but only if there are no other prey items around. You may separate the sexes to prevent the aggressive females from preying on the smaller males.
Since they are small from hatchlings to adults, their best food items are flies. Start out with fruit flies as soon as they emerge from their oothecae and continue to upgrade their prey to larger fruit flies and house flies for adults. They need to drink a lot. Mist the nymphs every day and mist the adults once every 2 or 3 days. Remember to keep up the number of prey in the enclosure to avoid cannibalism.
A mantis will stop eating a day or two (sometimes longer) prior to its molt. Mantids molt about every 1-2 weeks as babies and the time in between each molt increases as they get older. It takes about 7 molts for females and about 6 for males. During molting, it is vital that you do not disturb them and also make sure that the humidity is at a safe level. 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. It will resume eating and being its normal self after a day or two.
This species is very easy to breed. After 2 weeks following their last molt, introduce the female into the male's enclosure near him. Or if they have been raised in a colony, they will mate when they are ready. A mature male will initiate breeding by jumping on the female's back and will copulate shortly afterward. The actual copulation takes only 10 minutes or so and then the male will detach himself from her. If left in the cage along with the female, the male may mate with her multiple times again. But one mating is sufficient for 2-3 fertile oothecae.
After a few days following mating, the female will deposit her first ootheca. They will deposit their oothecae on the underside of leaves 90% of the time...so a leafy enclosure is suggested. Normally, the females can lay around 3-5 oothecae each containing 5-25 eggs. After 5 weeks of incubation, the nymphs will start to hatch. Then proceed to feed them fruit flies and care for them as this caresheet suggests.
Additional Notes: (Log by Evan)
The first ootheca hatched with only 4 nymphs, partially because most of it was infested with mites for some odd reason...I was lucky any survived at all. The newly hatched nymphs have incredibly long legs with very small arms and move very quickly. They are very wary of their surroundings unlike other mantids. They even look directly at me when I approach their container. They started eating small fruit flies on their 2nd day after hatching.
The tiny nymphs molted their first molt within 8 days. They have increased in size dramatically and have already begun to show signs of cryptic patterns on their body. I still can't sex them yet, but I'm hoping with the next molt, they'll be big enough to tell.
The nymphs were very easy to care for, they're very passive, but do occasionally display a threat pose to one another...but unfortunately, all 3 of them turned out to be males...just my luck huh? But in any case, I've had great successes with these three so if I should get more in the future, I'm almost certain I can raise a successful breeding colony.