Ghost mantis

The Ghost mantis, also know as Phyllocrania paradoxa, is a species that has a beautiful leaf-like body. It’s color is usually dark brown, but can also be sand, light brown or even green. The natural habitat of the Ghost mantis is Madagascar and continental Africa.
To learn more about keeping this mantis as a pet, continue reading this caresheet!

This is the head of a male Ghost mantis – Phyllocrania paradoxa

Appearance of the Ghost Mantis

The Ghost mantis Phyllocrania paradoxa mimics withered leaves by its dark body covered in leaf-like decorations. On its head it has a striking asymmetrical cone that helps to distort its body outline to look more like a leaf. In this way it is camouflaged among the fallen leaves in its natural habitat; the forest of Madagascar and Africa. They can remain unseen by predator such as insect-eating birds while waiting for its own prey. The most common color for this praying mantis species is dark brown, but sometimes you can find light brown or even green specimens. The color of the skin is determined by the environment, a more humid environment provides a greener individual. Phyllocrania paradoxa is about 5 cm long when adult, with little difference in size between the sexes. The males are thinner with wings that reach past the abdomen. The females are bigger and heavier than the males. They also have a wider prothorax and their wings extend to just the end of the abdomen. The difference between the sexes can also be seen when still in the nymph stadium, because males have a more indented extension on the head.

Adult female ghost mantis

Adult female ghost mantis

This is a side view of a Ghost mantis nymph – Phyllocrania paradoxa

Behavior of the Ghost mantis

The Ghost mantis is a quiet kind of praying mantis. It is a typical sit-and-wait predator. Relying on her camouflage it waits patiently until an unsuspecting prey comes along. Once she sees her prey, she will attack very fast. Before the prey realizes it, he is already firmly stuck between the claws of this predator. P. paradoxa will rarely actively chase its prey, it will rather wait for an opportune moment to strike. Sometimes this kind of praying mantis is a little scared and easily intimidated by its prey. Especially the adult males can run away from large prey instead of attacking. Also large tweezers or the hand of the owner can make this mantis refuse its prey. When this happens during feeding, just wait fifteen minutes and try again.

Ghost mantis – Phyllocrania paradoxa

Food for a Ghost Mantis

In nature, Phyllocrania paradoxa mainly eats flying prey such as flies. Therefore it should be preffered to feed flies instead of crickets to Ghost mantids. But this species of mantis also feeds well on crickets, small grasshoppers and other insects. The size of its prey should be approximately the size of the head of the mantis. This species is not as strong as some other species, making it less fit to catch very large prey items. An adult female can eat adult crickets without a problem, but I prefer to feed them smaller crickets or flies.

Environmental conditions for this mantis species

The ideal temperature for the Ghost mantis is around 26 ° C, but a temperature between 20 ° C and 30 ° C is also okay. The temperatures can be allowed to drop, but should at least be 18 ° C. This species prefers a relatively high humidity. The RV (relative humidity) should be approximately 60 to 90%. This can be achieved by spraying with water about 5 times a week for the average enclosure. The enclosure of this species of mantis should be at least 3 times the length of the animal in high, and at least 2x the length of the animal in width. For an adult this means is at least 15 cm in height and 10 cm in width. A nice size for a terrarium would be 20 x 20 x 30 cm, so there is space for lots of fake plants and perches. Dead leaves in beautiful autumn colors as decorations in the terrarium fit the looks of this mantis perfectly. Sometimes they can hardly be spotted because of its perfect camouflage!

Gorgeous picture (by Devid Camerlinck) of a male Ghost mantis head and body.

Group housing of Ghost Mantises

phyllocraniaparadoxa-female

Click to enlarge – Adult female

The special “feature” of this species of mantis is that multiple animals can be kept in one enclosure without cannibalism. Other species will attack and eat each other, even it there is plenty of food. The Ghost mantis is often quiet and non-aggressive, also to other Ghost mantids. Of course the mantis does need plenty of space and enough prey items such as flies, because when food is running low these mantids will also turn on each other. The individuals also need to be of the same instar, you cannot combine animals that differ too much in size. Keeping a large group of Ghost mantids in a big enclosure can be a beautiful sight. Keep in mind: the risk of cannibalism is very small, but the risk still exists.

Breeding Phyllocrania paradoxa

phyllocraniaparadoxa-male

Click to enlarge – adult male

This species can be allowed to breed by most insect enthousiasts. You need to focus on good environmental conditions.

First you need to find a male and a female of around the same age. The females of this species are slightly larger and broader than the males. Already in the nymph instars you can see this difference. The sex difference can also be spotted when looking at the antennae; the base of the antennae of the male is wider and antennae are also longer in lenght. From around L4 (fourth instar) a keen eye can distinqish the sexes easily.
Approximately 2 to 4 weeks after the last molt, a mating attempt should be made. Make sure that the female is well fed before introducing the male. When you group house these mantids, you don’t need to do anything to ensure mating. The mantids will mate when the time is right, and usually you will not even see this happening because it is a night. Mating can take several hours and it only very rarely happens that the male will be cannabalized by the female.

Ghost mantis development and growth

Ghost mantis development and growth