What Is a Ghost Mantis? Unveiling the Tiny Invisible Insect Predator

You've likely never seen a ghost mantis in the wild, and if you have, there's a good chance you thought you were looking at a leaf.

Eva Hagan - Author
By

Apr. 25 2024, Published 12:01 p.m. ET

A green Ghost mantis sits on a log in front of a black background.
Source: iStock

A ghost mantis, also known as Phyllocrania paradoxa, is a species of praying mantis that can go undetected in many forest environments because of their unusual features. Their bodies mimic the looks of a leaf, meaning they can appear virtually invisible to passing predators and prey.

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Ghost mantises are on the smaller side and are actually considered miniature mantis. However, don’t let this fool you; the ghost mantis is a voracious hunter and can even kill young lizards. So, if you are curious about the basics of a ghost mantis, here’s a rundown.

A brown Ghost mantis sits on the top of a branch in front of a black background.
Source: iStock
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What is a ghost mantis, aka Phyllocrania paradoxa?

A ghost mantis, also called Phyllocrania paradoxa, is a species of praying mantis known for its brown or green body that looks like a leaf. Native to the forests of Africa, including the island of Madagascar, the ghost mantis can remain unseen (or ghost-like) in forested areas because of its unique leaf-like appearance, per Keeping Insects.

According to iNaturalist, the body of ghost mantis is best compared to a decaying leaf, with flattened limbs and dark creases in their skin that help them blend into leaves on the forest floor.

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According to Keeping Insects, the ghost mantis’ body is usually found in various shades of brown; however, in more humid climates, it often has a greener tint. When it comes to size, the ghost mantis can reach two inches in length as an adult, and the females tend to be much bulkier than the males. However, the ghost mantis is generally much smaller than other mantis species.

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A ghost mantis grows, like many other insects, by molting. Female mantises shed their skin—aka molt— around seven times, and males molt around six. The mantis grows and hangs upside down on a branch during each molt before eventually inching out of its old skin. The older the mantis is, the longer the molt may be, with some lasting up to two months. When it's time to lay eggs, female mantises will lay an average of six ootheca (egg clusters) per Mantid Kingdom.

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Ghost mantises are carnivores and eat insects, such as fruit flies, moths, and crickets, and are known to have a big appetite, except when they are molting.

According to Bush Guide 101, ghost mantises kill their food by ambushing them and can even catch small lizards this way. Despite their small size, ghost mantises can make themselves intimidating, and often do not run from predators but instead spread their wings and make a hissing sound to scare them away.

How long do ghost mantises live?

A ghost mantis usually lives anywhere from seven to 12 months, with females living longer than males. According to Dubia Roaches, several things can impact a ghost mantis’ life span, including stress, diet, and climate.

If you are keeping a ghost mantis as a pet, feed them healthy insects so they get the proper nutrients. Ghost mantises also tend to live longer in colder temperatures and environments that mimic a forest environment, where they can climb, hide, etc.

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