- Caring for your stick insects
- Stick insects as Pets
- Types of stick insects available
- Do I like Company?
- Where do I like to live?
- What do I like to eat?
- How to handle me
- Keeping me fit and healthy
- Shopping list
- Download the stick insect care information leaflet
Caring for your Stick Insect
All pet owners have a responsibility to look after and care for their pets. When considering a stick insect as a pet, learn as much as you can about how to care for them before you buy, taking your lifestyle and household into account to make sure you can offer a stick insect a good home. This leaflet runs through the basic needs to help you decide is a stick insect is the right pet for you…….
Stick insects as pets.
Stick Insects are ideal pets for children. Although they can be delicate when small, they have no smell, are fur, feather and dust free so will not cause any of the allergic reactions that may be associated with other pets, some have spines but never bite. In short they are easy to look after and an ideal introduction to the responsibilities of pet ownership. Stick insects will live up to about a year after hatching depending upon the species.
Types of Stick Insect that are occasionally available
There are more than 2500 different types of stick and leaf insect but only a handful are regularly available.
The common Indian or Laboratory stick insect (Carausias morosus) feeds on privet and will tolerate lower temperatures than most others. It is normally green or brown in colour and grows to about 80mm long. Indian stick insects are normally all female and do not need males to lay fertile eggs. Although these may take more than six months to hatch, when they do the result can be a population explosion.Like many others, the Giant Spiny Stick (Exatatosoma tiaratum) is normally fed on bramble that is available throughout the year although there are several other alternative plants that may be taken. Females reach about 120mm and are really impressive insects. Males are smaller and slimmer and are required for viable eggs.
Do I like Company?
Stick insects have no need for companionship other than to mate. Nymphs can be kept in groups but must not be overcrowded as they may eat each others legs. In the early stages Stick insects may be able to re-grow limbs but they are unlikely to be as big as the original ones. Most stick insects will live quite happily with only three legs provided the ones left are on both sides.
It is not generally recommended that different species be mixed although with care this is possible.
Although babies can be kept in plastic boxes adult stick insects need a well ventilated cage or vivarium that is taller than it is long. A cage about 30cm or more high is normally adequate and all species need vertical space to be able to shed their skin properly. Although many people keep them in a warm room, the tropical species like tiaratum need a temperature above 20’C (ideally closer to 30’C) for them to really thrive. Temperatures of less than 15’C can be dangerous.
The base of the cage can be left bare. If covered use kitchen roll, bark chips or a thin covering of aquarium sand.
Stick insects are clean animals and provided there are no major water spillages they are easily cleaned about once a week. Most species benefit from a light misting with clean tepid water every day or so and will drink droplets from the food plant.
As mentioned above, with the exception of the Indian stick insect, most species will feed on bramble leaves that are available throughout the year. They will happily eat older leaves which are in some ways better than fresh young ones. Collect food plants from areas that have not been sprayed with insecticides and avoid plants from next to busy roads. In an emergency other food plants may be offered so you should research this if finding bramble will be a problem. Indian sticks will take Ivy for example and Giant Spiny sticks can be persuaded to eat Oak, Eucalyptus, and Hawthorn.
Their food should be stood in a narrow necked glass jar of water. Like this privet or bramble will last quite well but it is as well to replace it every few days with fresh.
How to handle me
Stick insects can easily be squashed so they need to be handled with care.
Keeping me fit and healthy
Provided they are not overcrowded or kept in damp stagnant conditions Stick Insects are unlikely to become ill. Often they loose their legs for a variety of reasons but will happily survive with only three so long as they have one or more on each side. As mentioned above they grow by shedding their skin and to be able to do this they hang from the food plant. Insufficient space can cause them to develop deformities as their new skin hardens but often these will not affect their ability to survive.
If their cage is kept too damp mould may grow and conditions can get unhealthy. Extremes of temperature and allowing the food plant to die or dry out are the most likely reasons for stick insects to die.
If you are lucky enough to get viable eggs patience is needed as they may take six to nine months to hatch.
There are several insect related clubs that you can join who publish a range of very useful information. The Amateur Entomologist Society (www.amentsoc.org) is one such group who have published several reasonably priced books on stick insect care.
Click here to download the stick insect care information leaflet: