Burbank Student Breeds and Sells Praying Mantises Across the US

    Photo by www.mattcramerphotography.com

    Meet Cole Cramer, a 7th grader in Burbank with an incredible passion for the natural world.  While balancing school, friends, and being a teenager, this 13 year old is also a praying mantis breeder and entrepreneur. His business, Mantis Universe, was born during the pandemic with the support and help of his parents, Matt and Jessica, and now gets orders across the U.S. daily. 

    Cole’s love for entomology (the study of insects), started at a young age when his mother, Jessica, would find him outside chasing after bugs with a net in hand. That love grew into a passion as Cole would spend his time at home hatching moth caterpillars and silkworms, raising ants, creating vivariums of carnivorous plants, and pinning specimens. 

    He found his real calling in exotic arthropods, and grew a deep interest in praying mantises after hatching a nest he found in their home garden. “I find the diversity and all the different species of mantises fascinating- and that they are one of the few insects that eat meat,” said Cole. “I think it is fascinating how exotic they are and how crazy they look! From their camouflage, colors, defense poses, and how they can live in different terrains.” Cole then began researching and learning more about mantises and soon had over 12 different species that he was hatching and breeding.

    In 2019 Cole began making flyers for his new business and built his own website to sell his mantises.  Many local families purchased from him during the pandemic because it was an easy, low-maintenance pet for kids to enjoy.  Cole’s father, Matt, is a talented newborn and baby photographer in Los Angeles and helped Cole take stunning photos for their Mantis Universe website and social media. His instagram @mantisuniverse_ took off and got over 18,000 followers in just six months. Jessica’s strong background in SEO also helped get his business off the ground. 

    Mantis Universe ships orders all over the U.S. and Cole packages every sale differently depending on the destination’s weather. “Very few kids have the opportunity to follow their passion and do what they want in life. But I have been very blessed to be able to start my own business which has helped my passion grow even more. It has allowed me to make money and meet a whole world of mantis keepers and breeders and make connections and friendships with them,” said Cole.  In his online shop, www.mantisuniverse.com, you can find the Southeast Asian dead leaf mantis, giant African mantis, desert mantis, ghost mantis, jeweled flower mantis, demon boxer mantis, Texas unicorn mantis, orchid mantis, panther mantis, and many more.

    Burbank Chamber

    Along with breeding mantises, Cole also provides insect presentations to schools through Zoom. He has worked with many local Burbank elementary schools as well as schools in San Gabriel, La Puente, Crestline and even a middle school in Kiowa, Colorado. “A few summers ago Cole and my husband built a walk-in monarch sanctuary, in which he would make teaching recordings,” said Jessica. “It’s really so cool to see him do this over the years and now that has graduated into a big part of his Mantis Universe business.”

    2022 has already proved to be a big year for Cole and his business.  The manager of Living Collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles recently reached out to Cole to purchase mantises for an exhibition, which was a huge milestone for him.  Cole also attended his first trade show as a vendor this past February. Repticon in Costa Mesa, was a reptile and insect expo where Cole sold many of his mantises to guests attending the two day event. 

    Photo courtesy of Jessica Cramer

    Cole’s long term goals are to attend college, become a field entomologist, and study mantises, including breeding two of the rarest species in the hobby, the cobra mantis and dragon mantis. “My other main long term goal is to travel! Mainly to Costa Rica, the Philippines, Africa, Brazil, and Australia,” adds Cole. At just 13 years old, Cole Cramer is on his way to big things in the science field, and Burbank is lucky to have such a bright minded kid leading the way.

    Editor’s Note: A PPQ 526 permit is required for the importation, interstate movement, and environmental release of most insects and mites that feed upon or infest plants or plant products, including agricultural crops, trees, shrubs, native plants, etc.