Elmantis sp.: Enigmatic Bark Bugs
It's been far too long since the last post I managed to make, so time yet for another! Today, focus on the one mantis that I've had more success with than any other.
Elmantis sp. are frustrating inasmuch as attempting to find information on them. The genus lists 3 known species (but without any information it's impossible to tell which these guys actually are), however with no locality information, description of habitat, nothing. I've run across at least two different sources for origin, one from Africa and the other from India or Southeast Asia, and as a handful of other keepers supposedly have lines from Asian localities I have begun to tend toward believing the latter. Very little info on care can be found either (something I hope to remedy once I get a fact sheet for them up in the Database), but luckily, this is a forgiving species.
Bark mantids have a rather rapid life cycle, reaching maturity from hatching in only a few months and capable of reproducing within 2 weeks of their final molt. Males have one less molt than females, so they often have to be either slowed down a bit in growth or multiple generations need to be kept to pair them up. Females also live a lot longer than males, adding to this difficulty (males might live a couple months once mature at best, females may live 4-6 months). They're drab at first glance, a menagerie of browns and grays, but upon taking a close look one finds they possess incredible patterns and textures to them, perfect for blending into wood and leaf litter
A small species, the bark mantid grows only to about 2 inches in length maximum, and can thereby be comfortably kept in small containers, so long as those containers have mesh and sticks for them to clamber about on. After the first couple of molts they have a strong propensity like many mantids to hang from the tops of their housing, but in a large enough container they may be found hanging out on large sticks or planks of wood if provided. Younger instars can also generally be kept communally so long as plenty of food is given (and I do mean PLENTY; this is an incredibly voracious species and most individuals have no problem going after prey nearly as big as they are). However, in personal experience I have found that adults should never be kept together. Males might not have issue, but females will attack anything that moves, and even if one stuffs them before trying to mate them they often decide to make short work of the males anyway.
Bark mantids like it rather moist, readily drinking whenever misted (recommended every couple of days), and they like it hot (though they tolerate fairly cool conditions too). Warm temperatures are best for encouraging breeding, and when females start to lay their oothecae the egg cases should be incubated at around 85 ° F. Most hatch at about 4 weeks, and can produce up to 60 nymphs (average is usually 20-40 though). Babies are tiny, but have no problem taking on fruit flies as big as they are.
Though easy to keep, the bark mantis is admittedly not really a species to handle. Females are more amiable than males, but this is a very jumpy, flighty species in general. Once males get their wings, it's even worse as they have no problem taking flight across the room (more than once I've had to chase an excited boy across my floor and up the bed to get him back in the container). This habit can be amusing too though, as it causes them to be quite ready to display at a moment's notice. Nymphs and males often stretch their raptorial limbs out and vibrate them in response to the movement of other mantids or someone walking past the shelf, and these guys immediately lock onto any prey item thrown in their cage and will run it down all the way across the container. Sometimes they miss the first go round too, overshooting and losing sight of the insect before getting turned around and finding it again.
In the year and a quarter that I've kept mantids, this was one of the first species I acquired, and I have managed 3 consecutive generations reaching maturity as of this past week. Hopefully very soon, I'll have nymphs and ooths up for sale again, and a bunch of little babies for generation 4!