Before we get into the specifics of how to dispose of stick insect eggs, some new stick insect owners may not be aware of the capability of some species to lay eggs without a male counterpart (parthenogenesis). This can come as a surprise to many stick insect owners who believe that when purchasing a single female, they will not have to worry about nymphs appearing.
Certain species of stick insect, such as the Indian stick insect, are parthenogenic. This means that the females can lay unfertilised-by-males eggs. From these eggs, only female nymphs will hatch, and they can then lay their own eggs when they mature – and so the cycle can continue. Nevertheless, for the most part though, stick insects do require both males and females for reproduction.
What if Your Female Stick Insect Lays Eggs
If you have a parthenogenic stick insect that has started to lay eggs, it is important to act quickly if you want to ensure that you do not end up being overrun by female nymphs. While all stick insects lay eggs, the way in which they lay them will differ from one species to the next. For example, some female stick insects will simply drop the eggs onto the ground, whereas others will go to the bother of burying them. You will need to keep an eye on your stick insect and her environment to ensure that there are no buried eggs. If you do not want nymphs to hatch, it is important that you learn how to dispose of stick insect eggs humanely. So how can you do this?
If you have never considered breeding your stick insect, you may be shocked to discover eggs in your insect enclosure. You could consider selling the eggs online or going to your nearest pet store to see if they would be interested in taking them off your hands.
If you have no luck with getting someone else to take on the eggs, the humane way to dispose of them is to first place the eggs in a freezer before getting rid of them. As stick insects are invertebrates, a reduction in temperature slows down their metabolism until it eventually stops altogether, and death occurs. As stick insect eggs and the enclosed embryos are so tiny, they freeze very quickly, and the supposition is that they are unlikely to feel anything during the process.
Although there are other methods, freezing is considered the most humane and easiest way to get rid of eggs that are not wanted.
Have You Considered Breeding Your Stick Insect?
Although you may not have considered breeding your stick insect before, you may change your mind upon finding eggs in the enclosure. Your first thought may have been how to dispose of stick insect eggs, but why not find out more about breeding the insect instead?
Breeding stick insects is actually fairly easy, and provided you have the right conditions, you will not have to do very much at all. If you want to increase your stick insect population, just obtain a male and female (as mentioned above, with some types of stick insect, you will not even need a male).
Under the right conditions, your adult stick insects will simply get on with the job with no intervention on your part. You will be pleased to know that the conditions required for breeding stick insects are the same as those required for keeping them. All your stick insects need is the right temperature and humidity and adequate ventilation.
To ensure the eggs hatch, make sure the ambient temperature is just right for your species. It is also important to have slightly more humidity/moisture in the enclosure than usual. Eggs can take between two and twelve months to hatch, with the average time being around three months.
As newly-hatched nymphs are tiny and prone to escaping, so it is crucial that the eggs are kept in small containers that have enough ventilation. You can use soil or tissue paper on the bottom of the container. What you use will usually depend on how the adult has laid the eggs. If she simply dropped the eggs onto the floor of the enclosure, then moist tissue paper will be sufficient. It is important to allow the tissue paper to dry naturally before spraying it again. This prevents mould and fungi growth, which can be harmful to the eggs.
If, on the other hand, the adult female buried the eggs, you will need to remove them and then place them in potting soil in a smaller container. It is important to ensure that the eggs do not dry out and that mould is not allowed to grow.
How to Take Care of Nymphs
After a few months, you are likely to see the newly-hatched nymphs walking around the container. Knowing what to do then is important.
It will be necessary to move the nymphs to a bigger container that has a food source. However, this container must not have gaps from which the nymphs could escape. And they will try to escape if they can. The last thing you want is a hoard of tiny stick insects roaming around your house!
Stick insects tend to eat, for the most part bramble, privet, oak, ivy, rose, or hawthorn leaves. To make it easier for the nymphs to feed on the leaves, it is best to cut or tear the leaves. The nymphs usually find it difficult to eat undamaged leaves. If you have older nymphs, place them in the same tank as the newly-hatched ones as they will tackle the leaves first, leaving them ready for the hatchlings to eat.
Where to House Your Stick Insects
If you began with one stick insect as a pet for your children and had never even thought about breeding until you saw eggs, you may be wondering what the best type of housing is for a growing population.
What you should be aware of is that stick insects do require a certain environment in order to thrive. As most species come from tropical or semi-tropical climates, it is important that you keep the temperature warm enough. In general, a temperature of around 25C is adequate. When breeding stick insects, it is best to ensure that the temperature does not exceed 30C.
To achieve the desired temperature, you can keep your insects in a room where the whole room is kept at a specific temperature or you can use a heat bulb over a tank instead (Amazon sells a good range of heat bulbs; check them out here). The bulb should not be placed in the tank as the insects could get too close and burn themselves.
Most stick insects hang from branches as they feed and/or moult, meaning that a certain depth is required. Tanks should ideally be, at the very least, three times as high as the length of the adult stick insect.
Glass tanks are preferable when breeding stick insects because of the small size of the nymphs and their tendency to try to escape. An enclosed tank will also allow for a more humid environment, which some species prefer.
Considering Your Options
Breeding stick insects is not for everyone. Maybe you wanted a stick insect as a pet for your kids and never even thought about the possibility of increasing your brood. However, if you have purchased a parthenogenic stick insect, you might suddenly find that your cage is home to eggs that could hatch into female nymphs.
You have the choice of allowing these eggs to hatch or learning how to dispose of stick insect eggs properly and carefully.