They are not your typical ZooBorns fare, but we are proud to run our first baby insect, a Dead Leaf Mantid hatchling. Hatched on October 28th at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo in Indiana, they are only now big enough to handle. Dead leaf mantids are one of 2,000 mantid species, such as the praying mantis found in the Midwest.
The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo experienced a population explosion when dozens of tiny dead leaf mantids hatched this fall. Dead leaf mantids are one of 2,000 mantid species, such as the praying mantis found in the Midwest.
In August, zoo keeper Dave Messmann watched our female excrete a brown substance the consistency of toothpaste onto the lid of her enclosure. Inside this material, she has laid dozens of tiny eggs. “It took hours for her to create this egg case,” Messmann said. This egg case, know as an ootheca, gradually dries out, and the eggs hatch, each revealing a miniature replica of an adult mantid. The young mantids are fast – a few climbed onto Messmann during our photo shoot – and hungry. We watched as one devoured a small cricket almost as large as itself! If not provided with enough food, the mantids become cannibalistic and eat each other.
Dead leaf mantids only live about a year, but a constant supply of ootheca should keep our exhibit filled with the amazing insects. “The goal is to sustain our population,” said Messmann. He expects the young mantids to be adult-sized and in their exhibit when the zoo opens in April.