Sure, dogs and cats make awesome pets — but they’re not for everyone. Some people prefer a more nontraditional pet, like an insect.
Insects might seem creepy to you, but they’re also fascinating and serve a vital purpose in our ecosystem.
In her book Great Garden Companions, author Sally Jean Cunningham explains that “without insect pollination there would be food shortages, because about one-third of the food we eat comes from plants pollinated by insects.”
Some insects are restricted by law, depending on where you live. These laws are designed to prevent ecosystem unbalance should a nonnative species escape.
So, check with local authorities before bringing home pet insects that aren’t indigenous to your area. You should also research the insect you’d like to keep as a pet so you know what its needs are.
OK, without further ado, here’s our list of “creepy” insects that make great pets …
10 Insects That Make Great Pets
1. Stick Insects
Named for their stick-like appearance, stick insects specialize in camouflage.
They can live up to 16 months and grow to 1 foot long.
These insects are vegetarians and prefer their leaves to be fresh. So make sure to create an appropriate habitat for your pet stick insect — otherwise, you may find some of your houseplants looking a little ragged.
Stick insects enjoy being handled, provided you are gentle. More fragile than most pets, some of them will even bite or pinch if you handle them too roughly.
Learn much more about stick insects in our care guide.
Millipedes were named for their many feet, and there are more than 10,000 species of millipede worldwide.
They like to burrow, so provide your pet millipede with some leaf litter. They eat bits of fresh fruits and vegetables, and this healthy lifestyle means they can live up to 10 years.
Be careful when you handle your pet millipede, though. One of the millipede’s defense mechanisms is the excretion of a chemical that irritates the skin.
Again, as with the other animals on this list, be aware that some species of millipede are regulated — check state and federal laws before bringing one home as a pet.
Sometimes this hissing subsides if the roach is used to being handled.
Fun fact: Although cockroaches share our same 5 senses, the placement of their sense organs is slightly different. For example, cockroaches hear through their feet. (Mind blown!)
4. Praying Mantis
Perhaps a more appropriate name for these insects would be “preying mantis.”
That’s because these guys are merciless when it comes to their meals. Hunters at heart, the praying mantis doesn’t let a little thing like cannibalism stand in its way — they’re known to prey on each other as well as other insects. (Although, apparently this is somehow a good thing?)
A praying mantis lifespan is about 6 months, with a great many not living this long. This is nature’s form of population control, as the female mantis will lay 100–400 eggs at a time.
By the way, one of the closest relatives of mantises is the cockroach.
Oh, boy. Sorry — here’s another one on this list that’s not actually an insect. (We just liked the idea of lumping them together for simplicity’s sake.)
Yes, tarantulas make great pets for people who are prepared to handle these arachnids responsibly.
As National Geographic puts it, “Tarantulas give some people the creeps because of their large, hairy bodies and legs. But these spiders are harmless to humans (except for a painful bite), and their mild venom is weaker than a typical bee’s.”
Start off by buying your pet tarantula as captive-bred versus caught in the wild because many methods used to capture wild tarantulas can be environmentally destructive.
Read up on relevant laws regarding these animals and discuss your intent to purchase one with your landlord, if applicable.
That said, tarantulas are smart, are fun to watch and have distinct personalities. Research your species and look for one that tends to be more docile — some tarantula species are introverts and will bite you if you come too close.
For some, the sound of crickets is quite soothing. If so, these insects might be a great pet for you.
Crickets are inexpensive to care for and can be found almost anywhere.
The downside? Their lifespan is usually only a few weeks.
They’re low maintenance, though, and will eat just about anything you give them, including cereal, granola or birdseed.
If you’re looking for the ultimate low-maintenance pet, the mealworm is for you.
Blogger Penny Whitehouse says mealworms “provide a great sensory activity for children.”
“Holding a heap of wriggling and jiggling mealworms in your hand, between your fingers, is nothing you’ve ever felt before,” she explains, adding that “most children love it.”
Your pet mealworms need only a bed of oats and a couple pieces of fresh veggies to be happy.
They’ll get their water from the veggies and eat the oats, and all you have to do is change out their oat bed every week or so.
Another arachnid on this list of pet “insects”? Why, yes.
If you’re interested in scorpions, take some time to learn about them before bringing one home — this is definitely not a learn-as-you-go pet.
Pet scorpions are cheap to feed — they eat crickets and mealworms and can live up to 3 years. They’re nocturnal, so expect to see them more active at night.
Note that all species of scorpions have the ability to sting. The severity of the reaction varies from mild irritation to death, so — seriously — do your research.
These industrious insects are some of the most fun to watch. Ants are always busy either collecting food or defending the colony.
King and queen ants will have wings — when they reach maturity (in the wild), they will fly off to start a new colony.
Other than food and water, pet ants need little maintenance once you’ve built their enclosure to their specific species’ needs.
What ants eat varies by species. Some eat seeds, other insects and water mixed with honey.
To start your pet ant colony, you’ll need a mated queen either alone or with a few drones. Without a reproducing queen, colonies won’t survive.
The doodlebug is the immature stage of the antlion, but antlions can stay in this larval stage for years.
Besides antlions, the term “doodlebug” has also been used as a nickname for pill bugs and beetles, “although this seems to be earned simply thanks to how goofy the nickname sounds,” according to Atlas Obscura in its article “What the Hell Is a Doodlebug?”
A pet doodlebug’s needs are simple: Just provide a shallow, sandy box and some insects to prey on, and your doodle will be happy.
Doodlebugs dig themselves into the sand, forming a cone-like pit, and wait for insects to happen along. When these unwitting insects fall into the pit, the doodlebug feasts.
Check out these pet insects:
Final Thoughts on Insects That Make Great Pets
While some people may not enjoy insects, there’s no arguing that these creatures are an important part of nature’s balance.
They have evolved to fit their niche perfectly. Without them, the planet would be in trouble.
Besides that, watching and learning about each species is a fun way to have a pet that won’t ask to be taken out for a walk in the rain.