Praying pets: Wilton woman raises exotic mantises

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • An Asian Flower mantis, named Emoji, is one of the exotic mantids being raised by Nicole Fish of Wilton.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Nicole Fish of Wilton is raising various species of praying mantis, something she's dreamed of for years. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • An African Ghost Mantis, owned by Nicole Fish, mimics a dead leaf. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 3/4/2020 8:14:23 PM

Nicole Fish’s collection of exotic insects is small but precious. 

On one end, is her Asian Giant, several inches long and bright green. On the other, is a Boxer Mantis, smaller than her pinky nail, brown and hard to see without a magnifying glass.

“Either you love them or you hate them,” Fish, a Wilton resident said. “I happen to love them.”

Fish is currently raising several different species of praying mantis. It’s a hobby she had as a child, capturing Chinese mantises – which, as its name suggests, is not originally native to the U.S., but has been found in the wild here for more than 100 years – and watching them grow.

Unlike many insects, mantises hatch into a nymph form that is a smaller version of its adult self. As it grows, it molts, scaling up in size and in some cases, growing wings. From the day they hatch, they take on the mantis’s distinctive silhouette, with its recognizable “praying” forelimbs.

And despite their diminutive size, Fish said they have as much personality as other pets.

“Even as a child I was fascinated by their cat-like personality,” Fish said. “The more you handle them, the tamer they become.”

They will hook on to her fingers, or jump from hand to hand, Fish said. Ali, her Boxer Mantis, has a little “dance” where he will extend each foreleg in turn, as though jabbing at the air.

They have long since been a point of fascination for Fish, who has revived her own childhood hobby of searching out egg pods in the spring to hatch, let grow, and release into the garden with her own three children.

While a Chinese mantis still has a home in her collection – a young mantis she calls Gucci – this year, Fish was able to realize a long-held dream of raising a few non-native species.

Among them is her Asian Giant, Claudette, who may grow as long as five inches, a Boxer Mantis aptly called Ali, for his distinctive boxing-glove type forelimbs, and an Asian Flower Mantis called Emoji for the pattern on its back.

Fish secured the mantises from a supplier in Texas, and said it’s the start of a more serious hobby for her.

“My dream was always to have non-native species. I want to get one of each. I hope to own many other species,” Fish said. “Being on a farm, loving animals and insects and nature, it’s always fascinated me.”

She recently acquired the latest mantid on her wish list: A Ghost Mantis, an African mantis that looks remarkably like a leaf.

They are easy pets to care for, Fish said, with few needs. Mantises are solitary, and few species can be kept together without preying on each other, but they need relatively little space, and though they only eat live prey (insects such as crickets and wingless fruit flies) they only need to be fed once every one to two days. Their habitats need to be humid enough to allow the insects to molt, which can be done by spritzing water on them.

Fish does not plan to breed her pets, keeping only one of each species, so they will only last a short time – the insect only lives for about 8 months to a year depending upon the species. However, in that time, she and her sons will watch them molt and grow, and though they will not be fertile or produce nymphs, the females will still make an egg sac.

“I do enjoy them every day, though some people might find it hard to believe. They’re relaxing, the same way watching a fish tank is relaxing,” Fish said. “And it’s great for the kids to see them in the process of growing and molting. Most people only really see them in the fall, when they’re grown. I feel very fortunate to watch them grow. It’s an honor to be part  of that.”




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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