Nowadays, pets come in all shapes and sizes. For some, the more traditional dogs and cats just aren’t their cup of tea. That’s where stick insects come in.
These interesting little insects can be found everywhere in the world — except Antarctica — and make fascinating pets, provided you do your research.
Before bringing home (or capturing) a stick insect, you need to have a basic understanding of their needs, such as what foods they eat, what their behavioral habits are (most are nocturnal) and, most important, how to set up a habitat they’ll love.
Size and Material
The habitat should be large enough for your stick insect to explore a little and for you to set up places where they can perch aboveground. “It will need a tall cage, one at least 18 inches high and nearly as wide,” says Sandra Markle in Stick Insects: Masters of Defense.
The height of the cage is important in another way: When stick insects are molting, they hang from the ceiling of the habitat or from a branch. They need at least twice their body length of space to molt properly — otherwise they could become deformed or die.
Stick insects need lots of air, so steer clear of aquariums. Your habitat should have plenty of breathability, but keep your stick insect safely inside. You have a few options when it comes to the cage itself:
- Purchase one from a retailer. It can be difficult to find cages meant for specific insects, so be prepared to do some searching.
- If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, build one out of crafting and home improvement materials.
- Combine the first 2 options — purchase a standard cage and then modify it.
The sides and top of the habitat should be made of fine mesh — window screening is an excellent choice here because it’s restrictive yet allows for plenty of airflow. So you could purchase your standard cage and then wrap it in window screening or netting.
The goal is to end up with a nice, tall cage that allows for plenty of air flow but with small enough mesh that your insect can’t escape.
Find some substrate to put on the bottom of the habitat. This can be:
- Moisture-absorbing substrate purchased from a pet retailer
Each species of stick insect — there are several — has their own needs when it comes to temperature and humidity. Some are indigenous to the southern United States and need hot, humid areas.
However, no stick insect should be left in direct sunlight. “Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hidden under plants,” warns National Geographic.
Before bringing home your stick insect, research the species and find out what their needs are. Once you do, you can place the habitat in an appropriate location in your home.
Some will need you to mist the habitat with water every day, while others will be fine with a once-a-week dousing. You will not need to leave any water bowls in the habitat; when you mist the habitat, they’ll drink the water from the leaves.
Again, what type of leaves a stick insect will eat is entirely dependent upon the species. This is where you must do your homework — otherwise, your stick insect will starve to death.
Once you’ve determined what kinds of leaves your stick insect will eat, place some branches with leaves still attached into the habitat. Treat the branches as you would a vase of flowers. “Just cut the branches with the leaves on them with a sharp scissors 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,” advises KeepingInsects.
Remember, your stick insect isn’t just going to be eating the leaves — they’re going to be climbing on them as well. “Walking sticks are arboreal and need sticks at least the diameter of their bodies to perch upon,” write Richard D. Bartlett and Patricia Pope Bartlett in Terrarium and Cage Construction and Care.
Leaves should be replaced as soon as you see them drying out or starting to die. Stick insects will only eat fresh leaves.
Check out what these stick insects eat:
The stick insect habitat needs to be cleaned about once a week due to the amount of droppings they produce and to prevent mold from growing.
Simply put your stick insect in a safe place, then remove and replace the substrate, branches and a cup, if using. With ceramic mugs, you can simply wash it with regular soap and water. Check carefully to ensure that any mold or fungi is gone, and then place your stick insect back in their habitat.
Stick insects are not difficult to care for as long as you do some basic research before acquiring one. You should know what they eat, how humid they need their environment to be and any other particular requirements that will help them thrive.
If you are purchasing a stick insect — particularly an imported one — check your state and federal regulations before bringing them home. Some states may prohibit certain species.
Stick insects are fascinating and fun creatures to watch. They make a great pet for those who are willing to do their research and learn what their chosen stick insect needs. If you’ve decided to bring one home, then congratulations on your new pet!