• Stick Insects

    Stick Insects

    Everything you need to know to raise Stick Insects

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Stick Insects

Stick Insects

Raising Stick Insects
Picture this - you're sitting by yourself, minding your business, when all of a sudden, the twig you've been staring at begins to move. "A gust of wind", you find yourself thinking. And then it moves again, and this time there's no wind at all, not even a breeze!

How's that! A walking stick, quite literally! What you're looking at, my friend, is a cousin of the leaf insect, and you'll probably find it in your biology text book quirkily named a 'phasmid'.

If you're good at bio, you've probably already figured that this insect looks the way it does in order to camouflage itself. Real masters of disguise, it's a wonder they ever find each other, get married and live happily ever after. And the husbands never ever complain of their wives putting on weight! (By the way, female stick insects are a lot larger than the males, so the husbands never dare pass comments anyway).

A name for your stick insect

It's not like a stick will respond when you call out to it, but giving it a name is still fun. Here are some that you might want to try:

Names for a boy walking stick:

  • Woody
  • Twiggy
  • Sticklee
  • Invisible Irwin
  • Lanky Leo
  • Matchstick Merwyn

Some interesting names for girl sticks:

  • Klumsy
  • Longleg Larissa
  • Lolita Leaflover
  • Wanda Walker
  • Blanch the Branch
© 2004 - 2019 Leonard Rego

Before you buy

I'll admit, these twiggy creatures are a bit hard to find in regular pet shops, and the ones I've seen have been in woody areas in Goa, which is in India. Still, some pet stores keep phasmids, and if you do find one, it will definitely make an interesting pet. The easiest ones to care for are Indian or Laboratory walking sticks.

Housing a stick is easy, and does not require special equipment. An aquarium about as high as three times the stick's length is sufficient, and we'll talk more about this later. There are many different species, so buy a book that educates you on the care, feeding and housing of a phasmid. Different species may have different humidity and housing needs, so read up carefully on the one you decide to buy.

Choosing your pet

You can't really inspect a stick up-close for signs of infection, but you can make a pretty good guess about whether or not it is healthy by the way it moves about.

You're likely to find walking sticks with one or two legs missing, as these creatures get injured easily when handled carelessly, so look for the ones that have all six legs intact. If you're lucky enough to find a leaf insect, which is also a phasmid, look carefully to see that its 'leaves' are not torn or cracked.

Care and feeding

Housing

A 10-gallon terrarium or aquarium is good enough, but like I said earlier, it should be tall enough to allow the sticks to hang from twigs and leaves, especially when they are moulting.

If you have an Indian walking stick, you can be assured that it will survive almost anywhere on many different kinds of leaves. To make sure it doesn't get away and become a pest that eats every leaf in sight on the plants in your home, secure the tank with mesh screen.

For humidity, you can mist the leaves in the tank. If you have to use bottled or tap water, allow it to sit for two to three days to dechlorinate it. Temperature wise, between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for most species. In the winter, you can either install a heating pad or use a light bulb to provide heat.

Handling

You may pick up a stick, but do so gently, as they are prone to injuring their delicate legs. Do not pick up the ones that have spiny legs, and stay clear of the species that bite. The American walking stick, which has two stripes on its back, should be avoided as it can spray an acidic compound into your eyes and cause temporary blindness.

Feeding

Not surprisingly, stick insects are strict vegetarians (that's probably how they stay slim and trim!) They love leaves, and you can keep these fresh longer by placing their stems in water that is stored in a closed container. Almost all species of sticks will eat the leaves of blackberry plants. You can also try leaves of the easily available Ficus benjamina or even Italian parsley. Use dark green leaves instead of the newly grown, lighter coloured ones which could contain certain natural poisons. Also make sure that the leaves are free of pesticides.