You don’t see stick insects in the wild often, which is probably the whole point anyway as they’re highly adept at camouflage. However, many people across the world own stick insects as pets. They happen to be relatively easy to care for and are an ideal pet for those who prefer insects over, say, a cat or dog.
According to National Geographic, there are over 3,000 species of stick insect. Sometimes known as walking sticks in parts of North America, there is a lot of confusion regarding what these insects can actually eat, particularly when it comes to lettuce.
As far as the title of our article is concerned in this regard, we think it is a perfectly natural question to ask. Most stick insects will not come across lettuce very often in their natural habitat, so can stick insects eat lettuce?
We are going to answer that question as well as help you understand what your stick insect should be eating.
Can Stick Insects Eat Lettuce? The Answer is Yes
Stick insects eat a variety of plants in the wild. In fact, in Southern California there are regular problems with infestations by the Indian stick insect. They destroy many of the plants other animals rely on to survive and lettuce is not immune if they do stumble across it. It does, therefore, make a perfect meal for the stick insect.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that stick insects are meticulous about the freshness of their food. If lettuce is to be used to feed your pet, it should be delivered fresh and removed when it’s no longer moist and crispy.
Professor John Locke of the University of Alberta recommends Romaine lettuce. Regardless of the lettuce you choose though, stick insects prefer the leafy (green) part.
How Do You Prepare Lettuce for a Stick Insect?
As you have probably ascertained from the above paragraphs, the stick insect only feeds on green, fresh vegetation. So when it comes to lettuce, the leafy, green parts should be cut up and placed in the container you are keeping your pet in.
Be sure you remove the white basal stalk. The insects will not eat it and you don’t need any debris that could rot and endanger the insect’s environment.
The stick insect is not a particularly hardy creature, so you should rinse the lettuce thoroughly and if possible remove any brown parts. The chances are they won’t eat those parts anyway, but better to not take the risk.
Can Young Stick Insects Eat Lettuce?
Stick insects can eat lettuce when they are young, but you must bear in mind that young stick insects are extremely fragile and will not eat anything if it isn’t fresh.
We recommend using the advice that follows in this section for your adult stick insects as well to keep them healthy.
Take a small, flattish container filled with water. It should be stable at all times, so place some stones or pebbles inside to make sure it can’t be tipped over.
Cut up the lettuce and place the leaves in the water; this will keep them moist. The lettuce floats to the top, so your pets won’t have to go for a swim to get a decent meal.
But what about really young stick insects? Nymphs are far more susceptible to drowning. If a nymph falls into the container it will drown within seconds. Adult stick insects can easily crawl out of the container.
To get around this problem, place pieces of tissue paper over overhanging branches to make a barrier of sorts so there is no direct path to the water from above. Mosquito netting accomplishes the same thing.
As a side note, larger nymphs, do not (or at least, should not) need any such protection.
How Long Should You Leave Lettuce Before Replacing It?
The rule of thumb is to always preserve freshness. But according to the Amateur Entomologists’ Society, you should always ensure a regular supply of fresh food. Stick insects feed regularly and they should never be left without food as it can put them in a high state of stress.
With lettuce, the chances are you’ll know when to replace it because the leaves will have been stripped bare. Many people are surprised at how quickly the leaves can disappear. Stick insects consume more than the average person might think, which is obviously increased exponentially when there is more than one, along with any nymphs.
Nonetheless, you should also check the dryness of the leaves. Even perfectly edible lettuce will be left to rot by the insects if it doesn’t have enough moisture within the leaves.
This is why care guides, like that of the Australian Museum, recommend daily misting for the housing of stick insects. This includes misting of all plant matter, especially during the warmer months of the year.
Just make sure that you’re not too liberal with your misting as there is the potential for mould growth, which can be harmful to your stick insect.
Do Different Species Eat Different Things?
Yes, they do. Can all stick insects eat lettuce? For the most part. Most stick insect species are able to eat and digest it.
There are some species that will not be able to eat lettuce. Some of the Asian varieties of stick insect prefer other plants, so if you do end up with a stick insect from Asia, it will pay to do some additional research in that particular species’ eating habits.
Although lettuce is a tasty treat for stick insects, try to mix up the diet to ensure variety in your pet’s diet.
Last Word on What You Need to Know about Lettuce and Stick Insects
Lettuce can be consumed by most types of stick insect, but the lettuce should be of good quality and kept moist. When the lettuce dries, or the white stalk has lost all its leaves, it’s time to replace it. Your stick insect should always have a fresh supply of food.
When positioning the lettuce, place it in a shallow container with water. Adult stick insects and large nymphs should be able to crawl out of the container should they fall in. Smaller nymphs will drown, so you use tissue paper or a mosquito net to stop them from getting directly into the water from above.
Finally, make sure you vary your stick insect’s diet so that it has a broad selection. Your stick insect pet will be grateful!