As this website can testify, dogs and cats make awesome pets, but they’re not for everyone.
It may be hard to believe, but there are some who prefer a more nontraditional pet — like an insect.
Yes, insects might seem creepy to some people, but they’re also fascinating and serve a vital purpose in our ecosystem.
Why Insects Matter
In Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, 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. Insects are critical to the decay cycle that returns nutrients to the soil. They’re also an important part of the food chain for birds, fish, frogs and other animals.”
Some insects are restricted by law, depending on where you live. These strictly enforced laws are designed to prevent ecosystem unbalance should a non-native species escape.
Check with local authorities before bringing home insects that aren’t indigenous to your area. You should also do some reading about the insect you’d like to bring home so you know what their needs are.
1. Stick Bugs
Named for their “stick-like” appearance, these little bugs specialize in camouflage. They can live up to 16 months and grow to approximately 1 foot in length.
These insects are also vegetarians and prefer their leaves to be fresh. Make sure you create an appropriate habitat for them — otherwise, you might find some of your houseplants looking a little ragged.
These bugs were named for their many feet, and there are approximately 7,000 species of millipede worldwide.
These bugs like to burrow, so provide them with some leaf litter. They eat fresh fruits and veggies, and this healthy lifestyle means they can live up to 10 years.
Be careful when you handle your millipede, though. One of the millipede’s defense mechanisms is the excretion of a chemical that irritates the skin. Be aware that some species of millipede are regulated, so check state and federal laws before bringing one home.
These may seem like nothing but pests, but according to Linda Lombardi at USA Today, the most common cockroach kept as a pet is the Hissing Cockroach, named for the unique hissing noise it makes.
Sometimes this hissing subsides if the roach is amenable or used to being handled. Fun fact: While cockroaches share our same 5 senses, the placement of the sense organs is slightly different. For example, cockroaches hear through their feet.
4. Praying Mantis
Perhaps a more appropriate name for these insects would be “preying mantis” because they are merciless when it comes to 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.
Their lifespan is only about 6 months, but most don’t live this long. This is nature’s form of population control, as the female mantis will lay 100–400 eggs at a time.
These arthropods make great pets for people who are prepared to handle them responsibly.
Start off by purchasing your pet as captive-bred versus caught in the wild because many methods used to capture wild tarantulas can be environmentally destructive. Carefully read up on any state and federal 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 very 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 critters might be the pet for you.
They’re inexpensive to own and can be found almost anywhere. The downside is that their lifespan is usually only a few weeks. They’re low maintenance 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. These insects 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.
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.
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.
Check out these pet insects:
These industrious insects are some of the most fun to watch. They’re 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, they need little maintenance once you’ve built their enclosure to their specific species’ needs. What they eat varies by species; some eat seeds, other insects and water mixed with honey.
To start your 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. These critters’ needs are simple: a shallow, sandy box and some insects to prey on, and they’re 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.
While some people may not enjoy insects, there is no arguing that these creatures are an important part of nature’s balance. They are evolved to fit their niche perfectly; without them, the planet would be in dire straits. 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.