How to take care of stick bugs

Caring for a praying mantis, butterflies, stick insects and beetles

Keeping stick insects as pets can be great fun for everyone. Some species are very easy to keep, while others pose more of a challenge to the real insect enthusiast. For everyone there is a nice species to keep, but all species require care. This page will take you through all the basics of caring for any stick insect species.

Housing stick insects

A glass terrarium for stick insects

You stick insects need a terrarium, enclosure or netcage that is big enough for all of them. Which type of enclosure you could us is stated here. The cage of your stick insect should be at least 3 times the body length of the insect in height and 2 times the body length in width. If you keep more than one stick insect, you have to add some space for each one of them, preferably in width of the tank. Stick insects really need 3 times their body lenght in hight to survive, because they need this space while molting. When stick insects shed their skin, they hang upside down on their old skin. This means they require a large vertical space to molt. When molting goes wrong or the space they have is limited, the stick insect will die or be severely deformed.
The enclosure of you stick insects does not need much decoration, because the leaves you will feed to the insects are also their habitat. You do need to cover the floor of the enclosure with a moisture-absorbing substrate like potting earth, small pebbles or tissue paper. The roof of the enclosure should be made of netting or mesh to ensure that the stick insects can hang from this roof when molting. Molting from the roof is much more likely to succeed than molting from branches, leaves or other things in the terrarium, especially for heavier and bigger stick insects.

Temperature and humidity

Every stick insect species needs a specific temperature and air humidity to survive. Which specific requirements your species of choice has, can be read in the species description. How to maintain a proper humidity and temperature, read the respective pages: Humidity and Temperature.
To ensure proper humidity, you need to spray the enclosure of your stick insects every day or every week, depending on the type of housing and on the species that you keep.

Feeding your stick insect

Stick insects eat leaves, but they do not eat all types of plants. Every species has one or more plants which they eat, while they will refuse to eat other leaves. Therefore you have to be sure to feed the correct species of plant to your stick insects, because they will starve when fed the wrong kind. To read which species of plant your insect eats, visit the species section. To see pictures of all the most commonly eaten plants, visit Food Plants.
Stick insects only eat fresh leaves. To ensure the leaves you offer them stay fresh, you have to put the branches with leaves on them in a vase with water in it. Exactly like cut flowers! Just cut the branches with the leaves on them with a sharp scissor or knife, and place them in a cup filled with water. Make sure the cup is stable, it should not easily fall over. To make it more stable, you can fill the bottom of the cup with sand or stones.
When keeping small nymphs, the nymphs should not be able to fall into the water. They will quickly drown if they fall in the water, even if there are ways to crawl out of the cup. To prevent them from drowning, but tissue paper in between the branches to block acces to the water. Also putting musquito netting over the cup and putting the branches through this netting will prevent young nymphs from drowning. To my experience, bigger nymphs and adults do not need such protection.
You need to replace the food when the leaves become too dry or when the branches are completely stripped of their leaves. Stick insect should have food at all times! Do not leave them without fresh leaves.

How to take care of stick bugs

You can put the leaves that you will feed to your stick insect in a cup like this. These are privet leaves.

Cleaning the stick insect terrarium

Stick insects need regular cleaning of their terrarium, because they produce a lot of droppings. Especially when the terrarium is kept under high humidity, this will quickly become full of mold and fungi when not cleaned. Therefore I recommend to remove all substrate every week and replace this with fresh substrate. Paper tissues work fine for me as a substrate and is easy to replace. If you use pebbles or sand you can use a sieve to clean the substrate and place it back in the terrarium when you are finished.
Make sure to remove all droppings and all old leaves. Also clean the cup in which the leaves are being held, to make sure that the water stays fresh.

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

How to take care of stick bugs

  • Pin
  • Share
  • Email

up close with nature / Getty Images

Stick insects are among the most popular insects kept as pets, mainly due to their unique stick-like appearance and the relative ease of care. There are over 2,500 species of stick and leaf insects; however, Indian stick insects are the most commonly kept as pets. Stick insects require the utmost care when handling, but they can be very tame and sit on your hand. They don’t require daily maintenance and can be left alone for a week without any care. The key to keeping stick insects in captivity is mimicking their natural conditions.

Breed Overview

Common Name: Stick insect, Indian stick insect, Indian walking stick, laboratory stick insect

Scientific Name: Carausius morosus

Adult Size: 4 to 5 inches

Life Expectancy: 1 year, although they can live longer in captivity

Stick Insect Behavior and Temperament

Stick insects are tame but extremely delicate. Exercise caution when handling them. Very carefully grasp them by the body (not the legs) between your thumb and forefinger and place them on your open palm or offer your open palm and gently nudge them onto your hand. They do not attack or bite people.

Stick insects are naturally nocturnal and will be most active at night. During the day, they remain still unless they are disturbed.

Housing the Stick Insect

As a rule, stick insects need an enclosure that is three times as tall as the length of the insect. For Indian stick insects, this means a cage a minimum of 15 inches tall, although a little higher would be better. Glass tanks (10 to 15 gallons), tall glass jars, plastic pet containers, and other similar containers work well for housing. Make sure the lid is well-ventilated and secure to prevent escapes. You can use fine netting, firmly fixed, to the top.

Indian stick insects should be kept fairly warm, around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature can be allowed to decrease to the mid-60s Fahrenheit. The best way to achieve the proper temperature is to keep them in a warm room. However, provide supplementary heat through heating pads meant for reptile enclosures or by placing a lamp near the cage. Heating lamps tend to be very drying, and white bulbs should not be used at night. If you are using heating lamps, they require red or blue colored bulbs suitable for nocturnal animals at night.

If using potted plants in the pet’s home, consider using a fluorescent fixture for optimal plant growth. Stick insects need a moderate level of humidity (75%), and the habitat should be well ventilated to prevent mold and fungus growth. The fungus can kill stick insects.

Cover the floor of the tank with paper for easy cleanup. A substrate of peat moss or vermiculite may also help maintain humidity, but it requires more effort to keep clean. Make sure it is not kept too moist. Stick insects produce a dry waste, which is easy to clean up.

Food and Water

Indian stick insects prefer oak, rose, and hawthorn leaves. Bramble (blackberry) is a favorite among other types of stick insects. Other options include privet and ivy.

Fresh cut branches of these plants can be placed in water in the cage and changed once they dry out (or are consumed). The water container for the branches must be closed off or sealed so that the insects do not fall into the water and drown. You can choose a narrow-necked jar and place some material around the plant stems to seal off the opening. An alternative to feeding cut branches is to grow small potted plants of the desired species and place them in the cage. They can also eat organic lettuce, which should be washed and cleaned well.

Misting the leaves of the plant will provide water for the insects to drink and help maintain humidity levels.

All food offerings must be free of insecticides and herbicides, or it may be lethal to your pets. Avoid collecting leaves and branches near busy roadways. If using potted plants, make sure that the soil used is free of pesticides. Some soils have pesticides, which may make their way into plants grown in that soil.

Common Health Problems

There are no significant diseases that impact stick insects. They do hang upside down to shed their skin and require a large vertical space to shed. If the space they have is limited, the stick insect can die or become severely deformed. Pesticide exposure or fungal infection can also kill them.

Molting and Reproduction

The babies or nymphs molt several times before reaching adulthood (about 5 months). Molting is an extremely vulnerable time in development, and the insects should be left alone and not handled until the new exoskeleton hardens after a molt.

Indian stick insects can reproduce in the absence of a male (parthenogenetic reproduction). A female will lay hundreds of tiny eggs over her lifespan. The smooth, round​ eggs can be collected and hatched in a warm tub of sand or vermiculite. Gestation may take up to 1 year. Upon hatching and until they reach adulthood, they should be kept in small, separate rearing containers and fed the same types of leaves as adults.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Stick Insect?

All stick insects that are not native to the U.S. are illegal. In the United States or Canada, tropical species such as the Indian walking stick are considered plant pests. However, they have naturalized in many parts of the U.S. Stick insects should never be released into the wild. They proliferate easily and can cause damage to the ecosystem. Dispose of eggs by crushing, boiling, or burning them.

A permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is required to import them. Check your local and state laws before getting any kind of stick or leaf insect as a pet.

Purchasing Your Stick Insect

Generally, you can find stick insects for sale online through reptile supply vendors. It costs about $20 to $50 for a supply of 50. They are challenging to find for sale in most pet stores since they are considered pests by many states.

How to take care of stick bugs

There are nearly 3,000 species of Stick Insect (Phasmida) in the world, all of which feed exclusively on vegetation, they are one of the most popular forms of insect life to be kept as pets.

In general, the more common species of Stick Insect can be kept together. Though if you are breeding more difficult species, then it pays to use separate cages to create individual requirements.

Temperature

Most Sticks come from tropical or semi-tropical environments and are happiest between 75F and 80F. Though the common Indian Stick Insect Carausius morosus (and some of its relatives) are happy at normal home temperatures of between 60F and 75 F or 24C.

Heating is best achieved by maintaining a whole room at the desired temperature; if this is not possible an electric light bulb can be used over small cages.

It is important to make sure your pet Stick Insects can not reach the light bulb, as they will burn them selves on it!

A red bulb should be used during the hours of darkness as this disturbs the Sticks far less.

Cage Construction

Because most Stick-Insects are long, thin animals which hang down from their food plants to shed their skins – it is most important that the cage have sufficient height. As a general rule, it should be three times as high as the adult length of the Stick Insect pet to be kept in it.

It is also useful to have it so designed that you can easily replace the food plant material whenever it is required, taking into consideration that this will mostly be brambles (i.e. spiny rubus sp).

Humidity

Not all sticks share a common need for humidity, some species such as Carausius morosus will be happy to live in a fairly open cage. Whereas others such as Epidares nolimetangere will require an almost (if not totally) enclosed cage with around 80% relative humidity.

Regardless of this, all pet stick insects need water and it is a good policy to thoroughly mist the inside of the cage – including all the food plant material – each evening before you go to bed or before lights out.

Some Stick-Insects such as Haaniella sp. need open water in a low bowl to drink. Don’t be too concerned if they leave their heads under water, remember that insects breath through their thoracic and abdominal spiracles – not through their mouths like us.

Note also that in some places tap water can harm some species, so it doesn’t hurt to use either rain water or to let the tap water stand for a day or two.

Feeding Your Pet Stick Insect

Almost all Stick-Insects eat the leaves of bramble/blackberry and its relatives of the genus rubus.

Many, such as the Indian or Laboratory Stick Insect Carausius morosus; the Australian or Giant Spiny Stick Insect Extatosoma tiaratum; the Thorn Legged Stick Insect Eurycantha calcarata; the Small Spiny Stick Insect Aretaon assperrimus; and the Jungle Nymph Heteropteyx dilatata will also enjoy plants like Oak (Quercus sp) and Hawthorn (Crateagus monogyna).

It is important to make sure that your pet stick insects always have plenty of fresh food. It is often wise to take from sites not to close to major road ways, to avoid the poisoning effects of various pollutants. If this is unavoidable, then the plant material should be washed before being offered to the Sticks.

Handling A Stick Bug Pet

Great care should be taken in handling pet stick insects at all times. Remember, they are living creatures just like you!

Some species, such as the Indian or Laboratory Stick-Insect Carausius morosus and the Australian or Giant Spiny Stick Insect Extatosoma tiaratum are relatively sturdy. These should be used when allowing younger children or people who could be frightened to handle the Sticks.

Note that some species such as Pink Wings Sipyloidea sipylus tend to lose their legs very easily. Also it should be noted that some species such as the Australian or Giant Spiny Stick Insect Extatosoma tiaratum; the Jungle Nymph Heteropteyx dilatata; and particularly the Thorn Legged Stick Insect Eurycantha calcarata can and will pinch (with their thorny limbs) and bite if not used to being handled.

While other species, such as the American Walking Stick Anisomorpha bupestroides and to a lesser extent Pink Wings Sipyloidea sipylus have a defensive chemical spray. In the case of the American Walking Stick this can cause temporary blindness and considerable pain to an adult.

For more information on the American Walking Stick insect, see Walking Sticks: The Perfect Insect Pet.

Breeding Stick Insects

A number of species of Stick-Insect are parthenogenetic (i.e. the females lay unfertilised eggs which hatch into females, which will also lay unfertilised eggs etc.) such as Indian or Laboratory Stick Insect Carausius morosus, while the majority of species go in for a more normal male-female system.

All Stick-Insects lay eggs; some just drop them onto the ground, some sick them under tree bark or into crevices and some bury them in the ground. If you keep the burying species such as the Small Spiny Stick-Insect Aretaon assperrimus; the Thorn Legged Stick-Insect Eurycantha calcarata; or the Untouchable Stick-Insect Epidares nolimetangere, you will need to ensure a container of damp peat, about 2 inches deep in the bottom of the cage once the females are adult.

Stick-Insect eggs can take from between 2 months and a year to hatch, depending on species. In general, the larger species are the ones which take longest – though not always.

You can not bother cleaning out the cage floor and let the sticks hatch as they want; in this case it is useful to keep some common Woodlice such as Pocellio scaber in the cage to help keep down the fungus.

Or, you can collect the eggs each time you clean the cage and keep them in separate containers until they hatch. In this case, the eggs of the burying species will need to be gently reburied about 1cm deep; and the rest will need to be kept on some absorbent material, such as sand. All will need to be kept in a warm place and spraying with moisture occasionally will help. A careful/daily watch should be kept for moulds and attacked ova/eggs removed, cleaned and then kept in a separate container.

For more information why not have a look at the Stick Bugs‘ page or contact the Phasmid Study Group.

Since stink bugs are fairly small insects, it can be very difficult to see all 5 segments. With the naked eye you will probably only be able to see 3 or 4 segments. So in order to see all five you will need to use a magnifying glass or a powerful camera.

2) The Shield

On all stink bugs, the shield will start at their shoulders and end at a point near the back of the bug. The pictures below help illustrate this. (Note: the red shield in the pictures should help show you what to look for.

3) The Triangle Shape on the Back

4) Their Body Shape and Size

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Worst Way – Getting Rid of Stink Bugs By Smashing Them

The first reason you shouldn’t smash a stink bug is because stink bugs smell horrible! Whenever they feel threatened they release a pungent odor (smells like rotten eggs and trash). The last thing you want is this odor on your hand/shoe or in your home.

The second reason why you shouldn’t get rid of stink bugs by smashing them is because their body releases a distress hormone in the air that attracts other stink bugs. So when you smash one stink bug, you’re actually going to end up with more coming to it’s aid.

Not Recommended – Hiring An Exterminator

Not Recommended – Waiting for the Stink Bugs to Leave

How to take care of stick bugs

This is another bad idea, because the stink bugs will take months to leave. By that time they will have destroyed most of your outdoor plants and will have made both your house and your property smell awful.

If you’re thinking that you’ve only seen a handful of stink bugs around your property and that it can’t get that bad, think again. Once it gets cold outside all the stink bugs around will be looking for a place to go that is warm and they will see your house as a shelter. Look at the sheer number of stink bugs invading the person’s home above on a cold night and think of if you could and what you would do to handle that situation.

The Best Way to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

Better than Smashing Stink Bugs – How else would you kill a stink bug besides smashing it if you caught one inside your home? You can’t vacuum them up using traditional vacuum cleaners because the rotation within the bag will smash them. Would you flush it down the toilet and use one gallon of water per stink bug? There are much better (and more ecological) ways to kill stink bugs.

One such natural method is the water bucket trick. It kills stink bugs within 20 minutes and can kill hundreds at a time. What you do is you get a bucket of water and fill it 1/3 the way up with water and then add a tablespoon of dish soap to it. Then whenever you come across as stink bug you brush, flick, or force it into the bucket of water. When the stink bugs hit the soap suds they will not be able to swim or fly and will quickly sink to the bottom and drown.

Better than Exterminators – When using natural techniques you will learn how to make your house invisible to stink bugs so they won’t even find your home in the first place. It’s pretty easy and doesn’t involve using any poison or foul smelling repellents whatsoever.

One trick is turning off all outside lights and shutting the blinds in your home to block any indoor lights from being seen outside. Like most insects, stink bugs are attracted to light and keeping your property and home dark from outside will prevent stink bugs from finding your property at night.

Caring for a praying mantis, butterflies, stick insects and beetles

Breeding stick insects is easy, because when you keep them in the right way they will mate and produce eggs automatically when adult. For most species mating is not even necessary, so you do not even need to keep a male! Females of these species are parthenogenic, meaning they can produce fertilized eggs without being fertilized by a male. Some species can do either with or without males. However, other species do need males to reproduce, without males they will produce eggs but those eggs will not develop into nymphs.

How to take care of stick bugs

An adult pair of Heteropteryx dilatata, the female is green and the male is brown.

The right environment for breeding

The right environment for breeding stick insects, is exactly the same environment as for keeping stick insects. When you can keep a nymph from the first stage to adulthood, the stick insect will start to breed when it is adult. When males are necessary for fertilization, the male will mate with a female as soon as she is mature enough to produce eggs. After mating she will start to produce eggs. She will lay one to seven eggs per day depending on her species. Most species will just drop the eggs to the ground, but other species will stick it in the ground or glue it to leaves or to the enclosure (see Species for the habit of your species). Once fertilized, a female does not need to mate again. She will stay fertilized all of her life, although re-matings can occur and are not harmful.

Taking care of stick insect eggs

How to take care of stick bugs

Eggs of Extatosoma tiaratum. Every species of stick insect has differently shaped eggs.

Taking care of the eggs is the hardest part of breeding stick insects. Eggs are vulnerable to adverse circumstances, like drought, extreme temperatures and fungi. Generally speaking, you need to keep the eggs a little bit more moist than the parents need to be kept. You can keep the temperature the same as the temperature of the parents with a maximum of 30 degrees Celsius.
Keep the eggs in a small box with proper ventilation, but make sure any newborn nymphs cannot escape this box. The substrate you put in the box depends on the way the female places the eggs; when the female puts the eggs into the ground you have to put the eggs into potting soil. When the female just drops the eggs to the floor, you can better use tissue paper as a substrate. Place the tissue paper in the box and put the eggs on top. Spray the eggs and the paper often, depending on the needs of your species. Make sure to let the paper dry completely for half a day before spraying again, as this is the best way to prevent mold. Mold is an absolute killer to your stick insect eggs. Adjust the ventilation of the box when you see that the eggs stay wet for more than 5 days after spraying or when you see mold.
You have to be patient to keep eggs of stick insects; it can take between 2 and 14 months before the eggs hatch depending on the species you have. In all this time you have to make sure the eggs do not dry out and do not mold. When you are successful, you will see tiny nymphs walking around in the box. If you see this, transfer them as soon as possible to a fit enclosure with fresh leaves. Tiny nymphs can have difficulty eating from undamaged leaves. To make sure they have no difficulties, you can cut off the edges of the leaves with a scissor or tear them by hand. Placing an older nymph with the younger ones will also tackle this problem.

How to take care of stick bugs

Newly hatched nymphs of Extatosoma tiaratum

Video of the birth of a stick insect

This video shows a stick insect nymph coming out of its egg. It’s hard work! You can see the legs are still flexible because the exoskeleton did not harden yet. After hatching the skin will dry to the air and will become hard and strong.

Caring for a praying mantis, butterflies, stick insects and beetles

The Vietnamese Stick Insect, or Ramulus artemis, is a long and slender stick insect from Vietnam. It is usually green but can sometimes be brown too. In captivity there are only females of this species!
Ramulus artemis has the Phasmid Study Group number PSG 144.

How to take care of stick bugs

Ramulus artemis adult female

Appearance

Ramulus artemis has the typical form of stick insects that many people expect of them: long and thin. This species is light to medium green with yellow eyes. On the head and on the abdomen is a brown spot. Sometimes completely brown varieties occur.
Adult females have a small thorn at the underside of their abdomen.
When you include the front legs, this stick insect is about 21 cm long! The body length is about 15 cm. This means it is a pretty big stick insect.

Behavior of Vietnamese Stick Insects

During the day this species moves very little. In the evening and night you can see them move and eat. When this stick insect walks, it often walkings in a wobbly or shaking fashion. It does this in order to look more like a twig, moving in the wind.
A child can easily handle this stick insect, but it should not be picked up but rather be allowed to walk onto your hand. Newborn nymphs are pretty fragile.

How to take care of stick bugs

Ramulus artemis adult female

Food for Ramulus artemis

This species eats leaves of blackberry, raspberry, oak, rose and hazel. They do not eat ivy!
Beware of roses (and other plants) from the shop, which can be sprayed with insecticide! You can check out our Food Plants page to learn to recognize wild foodplants.

Environmental conditions

Room temperature is fine for these animals, around 20 °C. If you want to keep them at a higher temperature you can put them at 28 °C.
This species does not have high demands regarding the humidity. They must have some water to drink, so spraying with a little bit of water every other day is advised. Ventilation is important.
As with all species of stick insects, this species needs an enclosure of at least 3 times the length of the body of the insect in height, and at least 2x the length of the insect in width. For an adult female so this means at least 45 cm high and 30 cm wide.

Breeding Vietnamese Stick Insects

In captivity there are only female Ramulus artemis stick insects. It is not sure if males even exist in nature. Females reproduce parthenogenically, meaning they lay eggs that will hatch without being fertilized. All nymphs will also be females. You can recognize an adult female by the thorn she as at the underside of her abdomen. Immature nymphs do not have this thorn.
The eggs are small flat seed-like things. They are brown and can easily be distinguished from droppings.
Collect the eggs in the enclosure and store them on moist paper. This paper should always remain moist but not really wet. The eggs hatch very well, often more than 90%. Please choose wisely how many eggs you want to keep. If you keep all the eggs, then you will be overwhelmed with stick insect nymphs. You can better euthanise some eggs (by placing them in the freezer) than to kill or neglect the nymphs. I think it is impossible to find good homes for every nymph a female produces! The eggs hatch after about two months.

How to take care of stick bugs

Leaf insects are very closely related to stick insects (they belong to the Order Phasmatodea) and, just as stick-insects camouflage themselves as twigs, the leaf insects are superbly camouflaged as a leaf (a process called crypsis).

Housing

Cages should be at least 30cm in height and can be made from fish tanks or garden propogators stood on end, plastic sweet jars or custom made netted cages. However, if anything other than a netted cage is used make sure that condensation does not build up on the inside of the cage or your insects will drown. This is especially important when housing insects in old sweet jars.

Feeding

Almost all species will eat sprigs of bramble (blackberry) leaves which can be found during the winter in sheltered places. Other alternatives are oak and evergreen oak. Whatever fooplant is used, care must be taken that the plant has not been sprayed with pesticides. Wash the leaves and place them in a small jar of water to keep them fresh. Take care to cover the jar with fine netting to stop any insects falling into the jar and drowning.

Young insects are often reluctant to feed. This is a particular problem with leaf insects. This can be overcome by introducing older feeding insects into the cage or by cutting the edges of the foodplant leaves with a pair of scissors to reveal fresh and mouth-watering leaf edges. It is also recommended that leaves are lightly misted with water every couple of days to allow the insects to drink – but be sparing!

Handling

When handling your leaf insects, gently coax them to walk on to the hand, as they will shed a leg very easily if handled roughly. Unless it is absolutely necessary, it is best not to handle the insects.

How to take care of stick bugs

A female Leaf Insect.

Breeding

With luck, the females will begin laying eggs a few weeks after becoming adult. Each female will lay about 40 eggs at the rate of one or two per day.

How to take care of stick bugs

The image above shows a Leaf Insect egg with ruler for scale (each division is 1 millimetre).

Place the eggs on moist silver sand in a plastic or perspex box with a tightly fitting lid. Keep the box at about 20-25°C. When the eggs hatch place the young onto fresh bramble which has had the edges cut to stimulate eating. This is the most crucial time in rearing these insects. With care, most species of leaf insects can be bred successfully.

How to take care of stick bugs

A Leaf Insect nymph shortly after hatching.

Lost limbs

Leaf insects undergo incomplete metamorphosis. Sometimes, often if their cage is too dry, a leaf insect may have trouble shedding its old skin and will lose a limb in the process of moulting. If this happens it is possible for them to regrow the lost limb but only when they moult again. This means that, if your leaf insect is an adult, then it won’t be able to regrow the lost limb.

Essential reading from the Amateur Entomologists’ Society

Remember: it is important that you know the needs and requirements of your pet before you obtain the animal. You should never, ever obtain an animal before researching its needs and preparing the housing and conditions.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about insects and other creepy-crawlies then join the AES today.

How to take care of stick bugs

This comprehensive care guide will show you how to look after a Stick Insect in 3 easy steps

Fast Facts:

How long will my Stick Insect live? They can live for 12-18 months

How big will my Stick Insect grow? They will grow 15-20cm in length

What size of tank is recommended for my Stick Insect? They require a plastic or mesh enclosure with good ventilation

What does a Stick Insect eat? – Eucalyptus leaves

How easy is it to look after Stick Insects? They are a low maintenance pet

Stick Insect Housing

There are a number of options suitable for housing stick insects and these vary depending on the species and number of insects being kept.

Plastic tanks with ventilated lids make ideal insect enclosures. These tanks are usually more suited to younger stick insects or smaller species. The minimum size recommended would be 25x15x15cm. Larger mesh style enclosures are great for bigger species or housing multiple insects together.

Enclosures should have enough height to allow the insect to hang upside down when shedding its skin.

It is important that the insect enclosure is positioned in a well-lit room, however extended periods of direct sun can overheat the insects quickly.

Stick Insect Care

Stick Insects are clean animals, and require minimal maintenance. Collection of shed skins, poo and wiping down of the sides of the enclosure weekly will ensure good hygiene for your Stick Insect. Never use detergents or insecticides when cleaning.

Female Stick Insects are unable to fly as they only have tiny wings that can’t lift their body weight. Females live longer than males, however age varies between species. Males are long, straight and slender and have fully developed wings with which they are able fly.

Females can lay anywhere from 100-1,300 eggs. Females don’t need a male to produce fertile eggs, but eggs produced without a male result in all babies being females. The female flicks her eggs from the end of her tail. These eggs resemble small, round, cream seeds and will generally hatch within a few months.

If you happen to have a female lay eggs, mist the eggs every 2–3 days with a fine water sprayer, and keep your eyes out for tiny spiny leaf insects which will uncurl their bodies as they emerge from the egg.

The newly emerged stick insect babies, or nymphs, can uncurl themselves up to four times the size of their egg.

Stick Insect Feeding

Stick insects will feed mainly on eucalyptus (gum) leaves. Generally they prefer broad leaf varieties but you may have to try out a few different varieties to find one that they like to eat, as preference will differ between species as will the age of the leaf preferred.

Fresh leaves should be provided every 2–3 days. Store the leaves in a jar of water; this will keep them fresh for longer.

Care should be taken that the stick insects can’t fall into the water container and drown.

Stick insects get all their food and water requirements from the leaves that they eat. It is important to maintain humidity in their enclosure, so a fine mist of water should be sprayed in their enclosure once a day.

Care should be taken with feeding the hatchlings as they haven’t yet developed the strong, cutting mandibles of an adult stick insect, so the babies are quite dependent on a supply of soft, newly sprouted leaves. Over the next few months the young leaf insect will go through several moults, known as instars, shedding and leaving their old skin behind as they grow too big for it.

Did You Know!

Phasmid comes from the Greek word meaning “phantom”, which describes how these stick insects blend into their surroundings. If they are disturbed, they will sway from side to side like a leaf being blown by the wind and sometimes they will even fall to the ground and remain motionless, blending in with leaf litter.

We have created a Shopping list to show what you need to look after a Stick Insect:

  • Enclosure; 25 x 15 x 15cm minimum
  • Substrate (coco peat)
  • Water sprayer
  • Jar to hold leaves
  • Supply of fresh eucalyptus leaves

Common health issues in Stick insects

Difficulty Moulting: If humidity levels are too low, or the enclosure is not tall enough, stick insects may have trouble shedding their skin.

Loss of Limbs: If over handled or not handled with adequate care, stick insects can have their delicate legs broken off.

Red flags

Is your Stick Insect showing any of the signs of disease or illness? If yes, please consult your reptile vet.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

How to take care of stick bugs

At Kellyville Pets, we encourage responsible pet ownership.