The Devil’s Flower Mantis: Your Complete Guide


Native to eastern Africa specifically Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Somalia, and Ethiopia, the devil flower mantis is the largest species of praying mantis, so it is also known as the giant Devil’s flower mantis. They generally grow to five inches. The scientific name of this praying mantis is Idolomantis diabolica.

The poetic name merely describes their uncanny resemblance to a flower. Sometimes they look like dead leaves to camouflage themselves, which allows them to find their prey very easily because insects are oblivious to them.

This species of praying mantis is the only one in its genus. The good news is that the species is not endangered and there is no indication of becoming extinct in the future. Even when they are held in captivity as pets they thrive as long as you ensure the conditions are conducive for their survival.

The Physical Appearance Of A Devil’s Flower Mantis

This species displays sexual dysmorphism when it comes to genders, meaning that the males and the females have slightly different coloration, size, antennae, and other physical attributes.

Devils Flower Mantis Capturing a Cricket
The Devils Flower Mantis has caught itself a cricket for lunch.

The body of the female will get to 13 cm which is equivalent to 5.11 inches. The males may get to 11 cm or 4.33 inches and their build is much more slender.

Their newly hatched nymphs are all shiny and black in color to help them camouflage. As the nymphs become older, they become light brown to beige in coloration. At this stage, both the male and female nymphs do not have the elaborate patterns in the back as seen in the adult. 

Instead, their backs gain a shield-like pattern that looks like dried leaves. They have white and green striped coloring when they reach full maturity.

When the adults open their wings, they display red, black, white, and blue markings. The female’s colors may appear brighter than the male’s. However, it is easier to distinguish the male from the female Devil’s Flower mantis by their antennae.

The male has a long feathery antenna while the female has short thin ones. You can also tell the different sexes of the nymphs by counting their abdominal segments. The females have five and the males have eight segments.

The head features compound eyes that have excellent vision, mandibles for chewing their food, and antennae.

What Does The Devil’s Flower Mantis Eat?

Like other praying mantis species, this praying mantis is carnivorous. But it only eats flies. When held in captivity you have to make sure that you supply it with a diet of only flies. Release at least five flies every day for an adult mantis. For a nymph, two flies are usually enough. They have huge appetites so do not keep them hungry for long.

When the Devil’s Flower mantis hunts in captivity, it conceals its colorful wings instead opting to act as a dead dry leaf or flower. It also uses the white and green stripes on its outer body to camouflage in the greenery. This species is an ambush predator so it waits for the fly to pass right by it before grabbing it in midair and consuming it.

The mantis will remain motionless during hunting until its prey flies by. They do not chase food.

This praying mantis also requires water daily. In the wild, they will drink off the droplets on plants. In the wild, they drink off the droplets on plants. In captivity, you can daily so mist their enclosure once per day to ensure they have enough to drink. They ingest droplets of water which are sufficient for their hydration needs. Use distilled or spring water and never tap water.

The younger nymphs will feed on fruit flies while older flies feed on blue bottle flies and green bottle flies. It is important never to crowd their enclosure with flies as the species is skittish. 

Also, the presence of too much food interferes with their molting.

The Life Cycle Of The Devil’s Flower Mantis

By the second week of adulthood, the Devil’s flower mantis is ready to mate and produce eggs. They require plenty of food during this time. The males find their mates using their feathered antennae that detect the pheromones released by females ready to mate. As earlier mentioned, it is a skittish species so females may lose their mood to mate when a male first nears them. But after a while, they will mate, usually during the night.

The female lays around seven ootheca-containing eggs. The ootheca is the foamy sac that encloses the eggs. She begins to lay eggs just a few days after mating and the subsequent eggs are produced within the next 3 weeks. Unfortunately, the adults feed on the younger nymphs but each ootheca produces 10 to 50 nymphs.

It takes the eggs 50 days to hatch into nymphs and these eggs hatch in the springtime. The nymphs do not stick around because soon after hatching they take off to fend for themselves. Many are lost to predators during this time.

The female mantis undergoes eight molts while the males undergo seven molts. The life cycle of this species is only a year. But in captivity within a controlled environment where they are free from predators, they may live slightly longer.

It is better to get the mantis nymphs when you want to keep them as pets. You can grow them for a while as you also grow in your knowledge and experience in caring for them.

Are Devil’s Flower Mantis Dangerous To Humans Or Pets?

The devil’s flower mantis is not a danger to human beings or to animals. They only feed on flies which has nothing to do with humans or pets. Also, considering the fact that they do not chase food they are completely harmless.

Having said that, the devil’s flower mantis does target insects like butterflies and bees which are important pollinators in the ecosystem. But because they do not eat huge numbers of flies they are not really considered a factor that can decimate the numbers of these pollinators.

Sexual Cannibalism

Sexual cannibalism is actually considered a form of sexual conflict that rears its ugly head with mantises. That is because both the male and the female have competing strategies to achieve reproductive success.

In this case, the male is usually under severe threat of being eaten by the female. One of the reasons for cannibalization may be because the female is not well fed during the period of mating. So, to get more nutrition they eat their mate. Well-fed females are less likely to eat their male counterparts, therefore, the males tend to choose well-fed females over malnourished ones.

During mating, the male Devil’s flower mantis pins down his female counterpart by placing his forelegs on her thorax and abdomen. But during the process, the larger female can turn the tables on the male and eat him if she feels he is not a suitable candidate. If the male survives the first stage the female may decapitate him during the sexual act because the male will still deposit their sperm even when decapitated. Alternatively, the female may eat her mate immediately after he has deposited the sperm.

This behavior of sexual cannibalization may be innate and an individual mantis’s behavior, because not all females cannibalize their mates.

Female devil’s flower mantises that cannibalize their mates, do so to ensure that they produce healthier offspring.

Can Devil’s Flower Mantis Live Together In Captivity?

If you are going to place Devil’s flower mantises together in one enclosure, it is crucial to ensure that the habitat is big enough to accommodate the insects together. Apart from sexual cannibalism, there are varying accounts on whether they cannibalize each other just for being in the same proximity. 

Some pet owners tell of eye-watering losses of such expensive insects due to cannibalization while others report being able to rear several of them in the same enclosure with no reported cannibalistic behavior.

Handling A Devil’s Flower Mantis

When this praying mantis is threatened, it defends itself by trying to scare the intruder in what is called deimatic display. While the display is impressive, it gives insight into how easily stressed the Devil’s Flower mantis can be.

Devils Flower Mantis Deimatic Behavior
Devils Flower Mantis demonstrating deimatic behavior.

The mantis goes into a dancing pose rearing its body upwards and pushing its forelegs up to expose the hidden flaps that feature a vibrant array of colors. With its flaps exposed, the insect begins to shift its wings from the left to the right. This technique works for smaller prey and it scares them off.

Avoid triggering the mantis’s deimatic display for your own entertainment as this will further stress the insect. As much as possible avoid handling the Devil’s flower mantis for its own peace of mind and your own. Remember, it has large spiky forelegs and the adults can fly.

If you have to handle it, place your hand where it can walk onto it and let it walk on. You can nudge it gently from behind, coaxing it into moving along.

And just like all other mantids, this species can also rotate its head 180 degrees so it may see you coming way before you approach it.

Keeping A Giant Devil’s Flower Mantis As A Pet

This species of praying mantis is a popular pet in the western hemisphere because it is considered exotic owing to its coloring and features. And it is completely legal to keep a Devil’s Flower mantis as a pet wherever you are in the world. The best habitat in captivity is one that features a live potted plant in a cage or fake plants with plenty of climbing branches.

As the largest species of praying mantis, they require an elaborately spaced enclosure that measures at least three times the length of the mantis in height and twice its length in width. These dimensions ensure that when the mantis stands on its hind legs it has enough room to maneuver. Praying mantises tend to stand tall when they are hunting for prey to free their front legs that catch their victim.

The height also allows the mantis to molt comfortably as they hang upside down while attached to the roof of the enclosure in order to remove their old skin. The temperature should be between 85- and 104-degrees Fahrenheit for the mantis to thrive. You should also mist their habitat twice a day to also keep humidity levels up. They can withstand very high temperatures.

The Devil’s Flower mantises have bulky and complex bodies that prevent them from comfortably climbing smooth surfaces. So, it is best to have some burlap lining the sides of their enclosure or make their cage using mesh.

Lighting is also a very important factor when it comes to creating a conducive environment for these insects. You can consider a reptile lamp that features lighting which provides sufficient light for heat-prone creatures like lizards. With the reptile lamp, you have bulbs that provide both light and heat as required by your mantis.

Alternatively, a ceramic heat emitter can satisfy their need for heat and light. If you are using a ceramic heater make sure you also get a thermostat to control the heat because ceramic can get very hot. Some people have found that a 60 watts incandescent bulb in their table lamp works just as well.

But, remember to only heat parts of the cage and not the entire cage. The mantis should be able to escape the warmth to cooler areas as needed. After all, that is what it would do in the wild and you want to mimic their wild environment as much as possible.

It is quite a challenge to keep Devil’s Flower mantises in captivity because they need an elaborate habitat to survive let alone thrive. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be done with the right equipment.

Taxonomy

This insect belongs to the animal kingdom and phylum Arthropoda. It is from the class Insecta and superorder Dictyoptera. Below is the rest of the taxonomy

Order: Mantodean

Family: Empusidae

Subfamily: Blepharodinae

Genus: Idolomantis

Species: diabolica

The Wrap Up

It is essential to understand that the Devil’s Flower Mantis is happy in the wild but it can also thrive in captivity. That is the reason why many people keeping this insect as a display pet find them charming and a great addition to their home environment.

They are also easy to care for because they have very singular needs. As long as those are met you will enjoy them for at least a year. Keeping a praying mantis of this species can be very fulfilling. Its egg-laying process is very streamlined with the female protecting the eggs from the minute she lays them. But be careful about cannibalism during mating. Despite its name, this is a very gentle insect as a human pet. But it may not be as friendly to a mate.

Sources

https://www.panterrapets.com/pages/giant-devils-flower-mantis-caresheet

https://www.ourbreathingplanet.com/devils-flower-mantis/

https://www.keepinginsects.com/praying-mantis/species/devils-flower-mantis/

https://news.cgtn.com/news/2019-06-20/Disguise-in-Nature-The-colorful-kung-fu-masters–HEavSfVDXO/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deimatic_behaviour#:~:text=Deimatic%20behaviour%20or%20startle%20display,animal%20an%20opportunity%20to%20escape.

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