Before we try to answer the question of how long do stick insects live, we should point out that the lifespan of stick insects is not linear. For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to understand which stage of the life cycle a stick insect has reached because of how different each species can be.
For example, Timema cristinae of North America may only be a half-inch long as an adult. Contrast this to the Phobaeticus kirbyi of Borneo, which can grow to a whopping 13 inches. Based on this, it is easy to see how many first-time stick insect owners get confused about their insects and their lifespans.
The average lifespan of a stick insect is around two years, but it can be a little more or a little less based on several factors. This guide will hopefully offer what you need to know about a stick insect’s life cycle.
How Long Do Stick Insects Live and Does the Species Count?
There are many factors that influence how long a stick insect is likely to live for. The first factor to take into account is that females typically have twice the lifespan of males. So if your male survives for two years, expect your female to possibly live close to four years.
Another factor to consider is the species. No specific stick insect species is predisposed to a longer lifespan, but a general rule of thumb is that the larger the species, the longer the lifespan.
So of the two species mentioned at the beginning of this article, the enormous stick insect from Borneo has one of the longest lifespans for a stick insect. It is quite plausible that a female stick bug of this species could live for five years.
The Importance of Temperature in Lifespan
Believe it or not, temperature has a major impact on stick insect growth. As with with other types of insect, an increase in the temperature of the enclosure will decrease the development time of a stick insect at every stage, according to an essay on the influence of temperature on insect development.
Basically, increasing the temperature of the enclosure will see your stick insects grow into adults in a shorter space of time. The downside, though, is that this also reduces the lifespan of the insect.
Nevertheless, depending on circumstances, you may find this beneficial. For example, if you are looking to quickly repopulate a colony that suffered a disease outbreak, it could be worth temporarily accelerating the growth of your nymphs.
Conversely, you cannot simply make the temperature as cool as possible to prolong your pet’s life. There has to be a balance so your stick insects can flourish.
How Long Do Stick Insects Live in Each Cycle?
Each stick insect has the same cycles, regardless of the species. Take note that stick insects undergo partial metamorphosis, as opposed to the metamorphosis you will find with a butterfly or a beetle, for example.
What is interesting about a stick insect is that at the start of its life it looks almost exactly the same as an adult stick insect. The only real changes that occur as it gets older is its size and camouflage capabilities (or lack thereof, as the case may be).
A nymph will shed its skin up to nine times before becoming a fully-fledged adult. How many times this happens though depends on both the species in question as well as the gender of the stick insect.
Know that stick insects shed their skin to grow. However, due to its hard exoskeleton, it cannot grow in between shedding stages.
Each stage of the shedding process is not much different from the rest. From a scientific standpoint, there is obviously changes afoot, but you will only notice your pet getting slightly bigger each time. The final moult occurs when the stick insect changes from being a sub-adult to a fully-grown adult.
Adult stick insects, relatively speaking, do not live long. Depending on the species, they can live for as little as a month (male) after their final moult or up to a year (female).
This is one of the reasons you need to be extremely careful about increasing temperature to accelerate development stages.
What Do You Need to Know about Caring for Nymphs?
As discussed in the above paragraphs, there is actually very little difference between an adult stick insect and a nymph in terms of appearance (sans size, obviously). As touched upon above, probably the three main differences are the size, camouflage, and wings. Nevertheless, nymphs have a few problems that adult stick insects do not.
The primary risk to nymphs is drowning. Many novice owners make the mistake of creating a simple petri dish with water to keep the food inside the cage nourished and fresh. For an adult stick insect, this is no problem, for a nymph (especially extremely young ones), there is a substantial risk of drowning in this sort of situation.
The way around this is two-fold. First, use a vase-like receptacle for keeping leaves/stems watered so it is not as easy to fall into the water. Moreover, consider using a mosquito net or some other cover across the opening so that the nymphs cannot fall in from the leaves above.
A nymph that falls into the water will, unfortunately, drown in a matter of seconds.
A Moulting Nymph – What Will You Notice?
When your nymph is moulting, you need to start altering how you care for them. It’s possible to watch them during this stage, but you have to act responsibly. Make sure you are quiet, and do not knock or tap on the sides of the enclosure. During the process, the nymphs are fully focused on the moulting process, and any sudden movements could cause a fall, which could be fatal.
After moulting, the stick insect will be extremely vulnerable for a few days. Their new skin is still delicate at this stage, so avoid handling them if at all possible.
Limit any handling to coaxing them onto your hand. In general, though, it is best to just leave them alone as the risk of causing damage to the stick insect is high.
How Can You Keep Your Colony Going?
Most stick insect owners start off with just one or two stick insects so that they can test the waters, so to speak. If you enjoy your time as a stick insect owner after testing the waters, you may want to continue to grow your colony.
So now that you know the answer to the question of how long do stick insects live, the next thing to know if you want to increase your colony size is reproduction.
It is interesting because, as odd as it may sound, stick insects do not always need a male to reproduce. Female stick insects are capable of asexual reproduction, so it’s quite possible, for example, to have a single pet and find that you have a bunch of nymphs running around a matter of weeks later. Nevertheless, you will increase the chances of growing the colony by having both a male and a female insect.
Thankfully, you do not have to make any special effort to keep the colony going. A male and female will eventually mate.
If you want to keep your colony growing and thriving, you need to account for more fresh food, a bigger enclosure, and more time spent on caring for them.
In Summary – How Long Do Stick Insects Live For
So, in summary, how long stick insects survive for will depend on the species, but it can be anywhere from just over a year up to five years. Females typically live almost twice as long as their male counterparts.
You can adjust the temperature to slow or accelerate the development process. Another point to take into account is that throughout the moulting process, the stick insects are fragile and so you should refrain from handling them.