Popa Spurca: The African Twig Mantis

The Popa spurca mantis, commonly known as the African Twig Mantis, is a fascinating and unique member of the mantis family (Mantidae). This captivating insect belongs to the subfamily Vatinae and the tribe Danuriini. Its scientific classification places it in the super-order Dictyoptera, order Mantodea, making it an intriguing specimen within the world of insects.

popa spurca
© Wynand Uys, (CC-BY)

Physical Appearance and Behavior

The African Twig Mantis, as the name suggests, has evolved an exceptional camouflage mechanism that imitates a twig, which is a remarkable adaptation for survival. This species typically reaches a length of approximately 6cm. Its body structure and coloration are perfectly adapted to resemble a small twig, enabling it to blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings, particularly shrubs and bushes. When perched among vegetation, the mantis often spreads its arms wide apart, mimicking the appearance of branches.

A striking behavior of the African Twig Mantis is its response to danger. When threatened, these mantises extend their arms away from their bodies, maintaining a posture that continues to mimic a twig, even during feeding. This unique behavior extends to physical contact as well, as they remain motionless in their camouflage position when touched.

Habitat and Distribution

The African Twig Mantis primarily inhabits dry areas, particularly bushes and shrubbery. Its distribution spans various regions, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. These diverse geographical locations highlight the adaptability of this species to different environments, allowing it to thrive in various ecosystems.

Aggressiveness and Social Behavior

Popa spurca is known for its high level of aggressiveness, especially when it comes to prey and interactions with other mantises. Due to this aggressiveness, it is generally recommended to avoid keeping them in groups, except for nymphs up to L5 stage. This behavior is a testament to the survival instincts of this species, which relies on its predatory prowess to secure sustenance and protect itself from potential threats.

Subspecies and Color Variants

Within the Popa genus, two sub-species have been described: Popa spurca spurca and Popa spurca crassa. These sub-species exhibit certain variations that contribute to the diversity within the Popa genus.

In terms of coloration, the African Twig Mantis displays a range of hues, including black, dark grey, and grey-brown. These color variants align with the mantis’s camouflage strategy, allowing it to closely resemble the appearance of twigs and branches, further enhancing its survival chances in its natural habitat.

Differences Between Male and Female African Twig Mantises

The African Twig Mantis (Popa spurca) exhibits intriguing differences between its male and female members. These distinctions encompass various aspects of their physical attributes, lifespan, and developmental stages.

Size Disparities

One of the most noticeable differences between male and female African Twig Mantises lies in their size. Males of this species typically measure between 6.5cm to 7cm in length, whereas females are generally larger, ranging from 7.5cm to 8cm. This size discrepancy is a common phenomenon among many mantis species and is often associated with specific roles and adaptations within their ecosystem.

Lifespan and Development

The lifespan of African Twig Mantises varies significantly between males and females, with the females living longer in both nymph and adult stages. The male mantis has a shorter lifespan, with an average duration of around 6.5 months. This lifespan includes approximately 4.5 months as a nymph and 2 months as an adult. Throughout this period, the male undergoes approximately 8 moltings as it progresses through its developmental stages.

In contrast, female African Twig Mantises have a longer lifespan, averaging around 11 months. This extended lifespan includes approximately 5 months as a nymph and an impressive 6 months as an adult. The female undergoes around 9 moltings during its growth and development, contributing to its larger overall size compared to the male.

Implications and Significance

These differences in size, lifespan, and development between male and female African Twig Mantises hold ecological and reproductive significance. The larger size of the female could potentially provide advantages in reproduction and survival, allowing for increased egg production and potentially better defense mechanisms against predators. The shorter lifespan of the male is likely associated with its primary role in mating and passing on its genetic material to the next generation.

Comparison Table

To summarize the differences between male and female African Twig Mantises:

Size6.5cm – 7cm7.5cm – 8cm
Lifespan (months)6.5 months (4.5 nymph + 2 adult)11 months (5 nymph + 6 adult)

Sexual Dimorphism and Identification

Sexual dimorphism in African Twig Mantises becomes particularly evident in their physical characteristics. These features facilitate the identification of the male and female mantises:

Male Sexing

  • L5 and above: Males at the L5 stage and beyond are essentially thinner than females. They exhibit 3-4 small appendages on the upper side of the abdomen.
  • Adult: Adult males have fully developed wings and are capable of flight. They remain essentially thinner than females, with the base of their antennas thickened. Their wings are longer than their abdomen, providing them with the ability to engage in aerial movements.

Female Sexing

  • L5: Female mantises at the L5 stage appear more compact than their male counterparts. They possess 3-4 prominent, visible appendages on the upper side of the abdomen.
  • Adult: Adult females have reduced wings and are nonvolant, meaning they are unable to fly. They maintain a more compact body structure than males, and their antennas are relatively thin.
African Twig Mantis
© suncana, (CC-BY)

Enclosure Guidelines for African Twig Mantises

Creating an appropriate and comfortable enclosure for African Twig Mantises (Popa spurca) is essential to ensuring their well-being and optimal development. These remarkable insects require specific environmental conditions and habitat components to thrive. Here’s a comprehensive guide to setting up an ideal enclosure for these mantises:

Lighting and Photoperiod

African Twig Mantises require a suitable light source to mimic their natural day-night cycle. Daylight is generally sufficient, but the use of halogen lamps or similar artificial lighting is recommended to provide consistent illumination. Aim for a light cycle of approximately 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to replicate their natural environment.

Temperature and Humidity

Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels is crucial for the health of African Twig Mantises:

  • Daytime Temperature: Keep the daytime temperature within the range of 25°C to 30°C. This warmth promotes activity and growth.
  • Night Temperature: Ensure the nighttime temperature doesn’t drop below 20°C to prevent stress and discomfort.
  • Daytime Humidity: Maintain a humidity level between 50% and 60% during the day.
  • Night Humidity: Increase the humidity to a range of 60% to 70% at night to simulate the higher moisture levels often experienced during the night.
  • Humidity Maintenance: Regularly spray the enclosure every 2 to 3 days to maintain appropriate humidity levels and provide a suitable environment for molting and hydration.

Terrarium Dimensions and Setup

When setting up the enclosure, consider the following aspects:

  • Minimal Terrarium Dimensions for Single Keeping: For individual mantises, the enclosure should be at least 15cm x 15cm x 25cm to provide sufficient space for movement and exploration.
  • Minimal Terrarium Dimensions for Community Keeping: If keeping multiple mantis nymphs up to the L5 stage, a terrarium of around 20cm x 20cm x 30cm is recommended. However, community keeping is not recommended beyond the L5 stage due to the increasing aggressiveness of African Twig Mantises as they grow.
  • Terrarium Decorations: Furnish the enclosure with branches, twigs, and dry leaves to mimic the mantises’ natural habitat. These elements offer climbing surfaces, hiding spots, and a sense of security.
  • Terrarium Substrate: Use a substrate composed of pulp or an earth-sand mixture to create a suitable environment for burrowing and egg laying.

Ensure that the enclosure provides ample hanging space for the mantises to safely molt. Having a structure at the top of the enclosure from which the mantises can hang is essential. Using window screen mesh can be an effective solution for creating a suitable molting area.

Feeding and Food

African Twig Mantises are carnivorous and primarily feed on live insects. Offer a varied diet consisting of:

  • Drosophila (fruit flies)
  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers

Similar Keeping Conditions for Other Species

If you’re interested in diversifying your mantis collection, you can consider keeping similar species that share comparable habitat requirements. Phyllocrania paradoxa is one such species that can be kept under similar conditions to African Twig Mantises.

Breeding African Twig Mantises: In-Depth Details

Breeding African Twig Mantises requires meticulous attention to their reproductive behaviors, environmental conditions, and care for both adults and nymphs. Here’s an in-depth exploration of the breeding process and its various aspects:

Mating Readiness and Copulation

  • Male Copulation Readiness: Male mantises are generally ready for copulation approximately 10 days after their last molt. This readiness signifies their physiological preparedness for the mating process.
  • Female Copulation Readiness: Female Popa spurca, on the other hand, become receptive to copulation around 2 weeks after their last molt.
  • Copulation Duration: The mating process itself lasts around 6 hours, during which the male transfers sperm to the female for fertilization.
  • Mating Tip: Enhance the chances of successful mating by providing the female mantis with some food. This will keep her occupied with consuming prey, creating a favorable environment for the male to approach her without immediate concerns about aggression.

Ootheca Formation and Hatching

  • Ootheca Building: Females begin building oothecae (egg cases) within 1 to 5 days after successful copulation.
  • Ootheca Hatching Duration: The eggs within the ootheca take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to hatch, with the exact duration influenced by environmental conditions.
  • Ootheca Characteristics: The oothecae are flat in shape, measuring about 2cm in size. They typically have a grey coloration.

Incubation and Hatching

  • Incubation Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature range of approximately 25°C to 30°C for the incubation of oothecae.
  • Incubation Humidity: Keep the humidity levels relatively high, ranging from 70% to 100%. Daily misting is recommended to ensure suitable moisture levels.
  • Incubation Period: The incubation period lasts for about 4 to 5 weeks, during which the eggs undergo development.
  • Hatching Number and Size: An ootheca can yield a varying number of nymphs, with an average of 90 to 110 hatchlings and potentially reaching up to 135. These newborn nymphs typically measure around 8mm in size.
  • Hatching Appearance: Newly hatched nymphs resemble larger nymphs, featuring a white cervix and white leg-nibs. This appearance is indicative of their early developmental stage.

Breeding Conditions and Care

  • Breeding Temperature: Maintain a breeding temperature within the range of 24°C to 28°C to create optimal conditions for mating.
  • Breeding Humidity: Maintain humidity levels between 50% and 70% during the breeding phase. Regular misting every 2nd day helps maintain the appropriate moisture balance.
  • Breeding Tip: It’s crucial to provide adequate moisture for the nymphs to prevent them from drying out. However, be cautious to avoid creating stagnant moisture, which can lead to mold or other issues. Additionally, young nymphs require small Drosophila (D. melanogaster) as suitable prey.

Breeding African Twig Mantises is a captivating journey that requires careful observation, precise environmental control, and attention to their unique behaviors and needs. By adhering to these detailed guidelines, you can contribute to the successful breeding of these remarkable insects and gain insights into their complex lifecycle.

African twig mantis aka popa spurca
© suncana, (CC-BY)


Delve into the captivating world of African Twig Mantises (Popa spurca) with our comprehensive guide on breeding, care, and their intriguing behaviors. These twig-mimicking insects, renowned for their camouflage and unique characteristics, offer a glimpse into the marvels of the insect kingdom.

Discover the intricate aspects of their lifecycle, starting with detailed descriptions of male and female differences. From size disparities to sexual dimorphism, explore how these features influence their behavior and role in their ecosystem.

Learn the secrets to creating the perfect enclosure for African Twig Mantises. From lighting and temperature to humidity and substrate, our guide provides insights into providing a habitat that mirrors their natural environment. Uncover the preferred diet of these carnivorous insects and discover species that can be kept alongside them.

Breeding these mantises opens a window into their reproductive behaviors. With precise timing and attention, guide them through copulation, ootheca formation, and hatching. Understand the nuances of ootheca care, incubation conditions, and the development of hatchlings.

Our guide brings together a wealth of knowledge to empower you to create an enriching environment for African Twig Mantises. Whether you’re a seasoned enthusiast or a curious beginner, our article provides a comprehensive overview that celebrates the diversity and wonder of these remarkable creatures.

If you found this article interesting, don’t hesitate to share it on social media!

May interest you

How smart are praying mantis?

Are praying mantises smart? Delve into their world of learning, adaptation, and incredible vision. Unravel the enigma of insect cognition and explore their unique intelligence.
Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *