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Shields of Green

Adult R. basalis female

Of the several species of Giant Asian Shield mantids (genus Rhombodera), R. basalis may be among the most attractive, and certainly among those with the largest "shields" in the group. Growing up to 4 inches in length and rather bulky for a mantis, the Giant Shield is an impressive and beautiful insect.

R. basalis is native to the tropics of Southeast Asia, including but not limited to records from Thailand to Borneo (much the same regions as the famed Orchid Mantis). Colors of bright leafy green often tinged with blue and pairs of tannish "eyespots" on the forewings make for excellent camouflage, while the hind wings and the upper surface of the abdomen typically develop startling shades of pink or red. Females display this color while calling for mates, and it otherwise may act as a scare tactic against predators, a sudden flash of vibrant scarlet serving as a distraction or a warning.

R. basalis adult female

In captivity, the Giant Shield mantis is a relatively easy species to care for, tolerant of temperatures within the range found in most houses (70-85°F) though preferring somewhat higher humidity, and habitats set up with lots of sticks or fake plants to climb on and hide in. They aren't picky about food; so long as it moves and is smaller than them, it's a target. In my experience however, Shields, particularly the males, are dramatics, fleeing with gusto from any serious disturbance by anything larger than them and taking some time and patience to calm down so they can be held or moved. Males also seem to be to say this..."ignorant" when it comes to facts of life, often taking several tries or even having to be placed directly on the female before they understand that they're supposed to breed. Females are voracious when in breeding condition too, eating incredible amounts of food and sometimes, even after being stuffed to bursting, might still decide to chomp on their partners before the deed is done.

2nd instar nymph

When a female Shield mantis finally decides to lay an ootheca (they seem to be somewhat enigmatic in this, some females having no problem laying on any decent stick they find while others simply refuse to lay no matter how many good perches are provided) after 4 weeks of incubation at around 80°F more than 200 nymphs may hatch out. The nymphs are rather sensitive, large unexplainable die-offs not uncommon and mismolts in the first couple of instars, but once established they rarely have issues and grow rapidly to their adult stages. Males have one fewer molts than females, ending up slightly smaller and thinner, but both reach large proportions and make for a great display insect.

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