Current Mantis Set Up

Unsurprisingly I get a lot of questions about my mantis set up, particularly how many I have at any given point. It changes depending on what I am raising and what has hatched but the basics stay the same. There’s a hatching container, communal nymph tank, individual adolescents and adults, and a breeding/laying tank that can double as a communal adult tank.

Total mantises currently: probably around 100

From left to right:

Glass tank with greenery, Breeding/Communal: Currently this is housing some 30-40 adolescent Chinese mantises. The tank just in frame to the left is an aquatic tank kept for personal enjoyment. It’s in transition again so I won’t picture it.

Mid-sized glass tank: No mantises in this one actually. It currently houses a young female bull frog I saved from my window well at the end of fall. By the time I could take it somewhere to let it go it was too cold. Not a fan of her. She is 100% not friendly to any kind of tank mate. She also flips out constantly which wrecks any sort of plants or decorative set ups.

Small glass tank with white sand/Communal: This one was housing 10 Arizona Unicorn Mantises. They just started getting old enough that cannibalism could be an issue so I took out 8 of them to put in in isolation tanks. While this species is supposed to be communal I do not want to risk it as I would like to breed them continuously.

Mid-sized colored top plastics/Adolescent single tanks: 8 of these are the previously mentioned unicorns. The top green lidded tank is the hatchery. The hatchery actually has a few nymph Carolina mantises in it. They hatched this morning and haven’t been moved over to their nymph communal yet. Over the past week or so a few ooths have been sending waves of babies out.

Large-sized green lidded tanks/Adult isolation: The three green lidded tanks contain 2 adult female Chinese mantises and one adult male. The two females have been bred so they are back into isolation. Chinese mantises are highly cannibalistic so they have to be kept separate.

Small-sized blue lidded tanks/Near adult isolation: These are housing some older adolescent Chinese mantises. They have to be separated relatively early because they are highly cannibalistic.

Wood topped tank/Adolescent communal: This is currently housing maybe 30 or so Carolina nymphs.

Small glass tank/Nymph communal: This one is housing about 30 or so nymph Chinese mantises. Once they get a wee bit older they’ll get tossed in the first tank to battle it out till they can graduate to individual tanks.

Also of note are the two white buckets. Left bucket is a fly breeder and the right bucket breeds fruit flies.

The black space heater under the Arizona tanks is help keep their temperature up. They are a desert species and do better in the mid 80s. Ideally I’d have the mantises in a small room which would be kept in the 80s but I don’t have the space.

3D process photos and thoughts

I'm trying something new with the mantis busts in terms of prepping the specimens.  To try to address the issues of reflectivityand transparency I painted the actual mantises and fly gray.  To deal with this issue in the past I had been using a mix of talc and finely ground charcoal.  Various forums had suggested just the talc but by mixing with the charcoal a more neutral grey was made making it easy to set the exposure.  It also helped to reduce mottling from the powder.  However it just didn't work to well.  So paint here we go.

Here's the basic light set up.  The goal is get an evenly lit view of the subject from one side.  Then the motor and arduino slowly rotate the mantis while causing the camera to actuate.  This is done by taking advantage of the camera's IR remote sensor, you can see the IR LED taped to the lens.  The lights in the back completely blow out the background.  A piece of white acrylic was used to diffuse it.  I did find that this particular set up created unwanted reflections.  Movingtwo of the lights directly to the side reduced reflection and evened out the light better.  Compare the two images bellow.

I didn't notice this girl's eye was dented until I saw the images. Even with the paint the shield and eyes glow some.

Here you can notice I color coded the arms of the mantis to try to get the program to better identify which side it was looking at. It didn't work but I found a different solution.

This tutorial has been a huge help for getting better this process.  I also had no idea that you could take detail shots.  When I have some serious time to kill I'm going try making detail shots to see how much of a difference it makes.