When it comes to keeping a stick insect(s) as a pet, there is certainly plenty of species to choose from; in fact, there are over 3,000 different species of stick insect across the world. However, for the novice, the most common type (and best suited for beginners) is the Indian stick insect. This is by far the easiest stick to take care of and, as such, makes the perfect pet – especially for children. To this end, to find out more about how to care for an Indian stick insect, read on.
What Do You Need to Look After an Indian Stick Insect?
Before you buy an Indian stick insect, or Indian stick insect eggs for that matter, you will require a few items, including a clean container and a misting spray bottle. When choosing a container for your sticks, you can buy one that is made from glass or Perspex, provided it has ventilation. Tanks will usually have a mesh screen at the top.
It is important that the tank is large enough to house the number of sticks you plan to have. When it comes to tanks, height is an important consideration. As you may already know, stick insects shed their skin a number of times before reaching adulthood. Each time they shed, they grow. Moreover, because they usually hang from the roof of their tank to shed, they need to have enough height to do so safely and comfortably. It is recommended that the tank or container in which they are kept is at least three times as high as the length of your adult sticks. As Indian stick insect adults usually grow to about 8cm, the required height of the tank should be a minimum of 24cm.
The spray bottle is necessary for misting the tank. Stick insects require a warm, humid environment so you will have to mist the tank every few days. Ensuring that the tank is warm and humid makes it easier for the stick insects to shed their skin. If the environment is too dry, your sticks might struggle to do this, which can sadly result in loss of limbs, or even death in some circumstances.
You can place decorations in the tank as well, if you wish. Your stick insects will certainly appreciate having places to rest and climb. It is sufficient to place branches, twigs, or sticks inside, but you can buy special decorations from a pet shop, or online if you prefer.
Feeding Your Stick Insects
Indian stick insects enjoy a diet of fresh leaves, which makes feeding them relatively easy. Nevertheless, know that they do not eat every type of leaf, so it is your job to ensure that you place their favourites in the tank.
In general, the Indian stick insect prefers the leaves from bramble, privet, oak, hawthorn, rose, and ivy. Fortunately, these leaves are quite easy to source. They usually grow abundantly in parks and woodland, and some can also be sourced from local garden centres and grown in your own garden.
You do need to take care though when collecting leaves for your stick insects. You need to ensure that leaves placed in the container have not been contaminated by chemicals or fumes from passing cars. If you are collecting leaves from the side of a busy roadway, the chances are high that they will have chemical residue from the car exhaust fumes. Be sure to wash any leaves that you collect in this way thoroughly. It is preferable to collect leaves from a woodland or park, away from busy roads.
If you are buying plants from a garden centre to put in your garden, you will also need to be careful as these plants will almost certainly have been sprayed with insecticides. These chemicals could be deadly for your stick insects, so again, any leaves you collect in this way require thorough washing before being placed in the tank.
Stick insects will only eat leaves they like. They will avoid any plants that are toxic to them, so you can experiment with different plants from your garden. What you should know, however, is that stick insects will only eat fresh leaves. They also prefer leaves that are more mature, so avoid putting younger, bright green leaves in the tank as they may not eat them. Stick insects will avoid food that they do not like, even if they are hungry. They will simply not eat and end up starving themselves if they do not have their preferred food in the tank. It is therefore your responsibility to ensure that they are eating the food you place in the tank. You can easily see whether they have been eating from the appearance of the leaves.
To keep leaves fresh for longer and avoid the need to replace them every day, put a container of water in the tank, into which you can place the stem of the leaves. The container of water will need to be covered if you have nymphs in the tank as they can easily fall in. If they do, they will quickly drown, even if there is a means of escape. Older stick insects do not seem to have this problem, but it would be a good idea to cover the water in any case.
Stick insects do not require a water source for drinking purposes; they get their water from the moisture in the leaves. The best option for covering a water container is to place mesh or net over the container and secure it in place with an elastic band. Alternatively, you can place rolled up paper balls on top of the water, although there is the chance that the paper will then simply dissolve in the water, meaning it will require changing more often.
Cleaning the Tank
It is important to keep your stick insects’ tank clean. This is a job that can typically be taken care of once per week, but this will obviously depend on how many sticks you have. The more stick insects, the more often you are likely to need to clean it.
It will be necessary to place a substrate on the floor of the tank. You can use soil, or sand and pebbles if you wish but you should know that for Indian stick insects, kitchen paper or newspaper will suffice. When it comes to cleaning the tank, tissue paper and newspaper is much easier to dispose of. It is also the least expensive option. All you need to do is remove the paper and replace it.
What to do With Stick Insect Eggs
As we mentioned, the Indian stick insect is the easiest stick insect to take care of, which is why it is a popular choice with parents who want to buy a pet for their child without having too much work ahead of them. However, what you should know is that female Indian stick insects can, and do, lay eggs without mating with a male. They are known as parthenogenic insects and the eggs they do lay will hatch into female nymphs (that are clones of the adult).
Indian stick insects begin laying eggs upon reaching adulthood and typically lay around two to three eggs per day. As adult stick insects typically live for around six to twelve months, you can imagine how laying around three eggs every day during this time would equate to a huge number of nymphs were they all to hatch. Imagine if you had more than one stick insect doing this!
It is important then that you are aware of this and that you know how to manage egg production. You will have to consider what you are going to do with the eggs your sticks lay. You can allow them to hatch and then try to sell the nymphs, or you could also try to sell the eggs before they hatch. You may find that local schools are interested in taking eggs so that the kids in the classroom can see them hatch and take turns looking after them.
If you do not want to have a huge number of eggs hatching into nymphs, you will need to dispose of the eggs as soon as they have been laid. The best way to do this is to freeze them before getting rid of them. This is considered the most humane way to dispose of the surplus.
As you can see from above, there is a lot to know about how to care for an Indian stick insect. Provided you have the knowledge beforehand, you should find your sticks extremely easy to look after. They make the ideal pet for children because the kids get to witness the full lifespan of the creatures. In addition, with relatively little care and maintenance, they are ideal for parents who want to teach their young children responsibility before considering a more ‘hands-on’ pet.