With many insects dangerous as far as being poisonous is concerned, it is natural then for people to wonder whether the same can be said of stick insects, or walking sticks as they are also known. If you have ever pondered the question of is a walking stick poisonous, you would not be the first. The good news is that this is not something that you need to worry about – for the vast majority of stick insects, anyway.
In fact, the more common stick insect species are not considered dangerous and because of this make excellent first pets for children. They do not bite and only eat plants. However, while not poisonous, there are some species of stick insect, particularly larger types, that do have spikes on their legs. These spikes are designed for pinching predators to allow the stick insect to escape a hazardous situation. In theory then, a stick insect could slightly hurt you with a pinch, but it could not cause any more harm than that.
That being said, we must point out at this juncture that there are some stick insect species that can regurgitate an unpleasant almost poison-like substance to spray at a hungry predator. These particular species of stick insect are typically identifiable by their bright colours (the vast majority of poisonous creatures in nature have bright colours).
How do Stick Insects Protect Themselves from Harm?
Each type of stick insect has a different way of protecting itself if it feels threatened. Below we have listed a few examples:
Giant Prickly Stick Insect
Although this type of stick insect is considered passive, it does have a novel way of defending itself. When disturbed or threatened, it will curl up its tale to resemble a scorpion. If the threat does not dissipate, it may then raise its front legs to further give the impression of being a scorpion. Most predators will not run the risk of attacking a scorpion that could be poisonous, so will back off at this stage. This way, the giant prickly stick insect can usually get itself out of trouble.
The jungle nymph is a species of stick insect that is different from what most people expect. The female is bright green and very big with a wide body. Males are brown and lengthy with long wings that extend the length of their bodies. As a nocturnal insect, the jungle nymph will usually be very quiet during the day.
This type of stick insect can hurt you if it feels threatened. The female will raise up on her front legs and will keep her back legs in the air. If you then try to touch her, she will snap her back legs together. As her back legs are covered with large spines, there is the chance that she could draw blood from your hand or any fingers she traps.
Female jungle nymphs may also make a loud rustling noise with their wings to deter any predators. It is not recommended that the jungle nymph be kept as a pet for children because of the way in which they defend themselves.
Vietnamese Stick Insect
The Vietnamese stick insect is long and thin and look like what most people expect from a stick insect. The adult females have a small thorn on their abdomen. This type of stick insect is harmless but very fragile, particularly the nymphs. In order to protect itself, it will walk in a wobbly fashion so that predators assume it is a twig blowing in the wind rather than something that can be eaten.
Annam Stick Insect
The Annam stick insect is thin but quite large and is a common choice for those who want a stick insect as a pet. The female is long and thin with a brown body that resembles a piece of wood. The thorns on her head are similar to thorns on a branch, helping to camouflage her.
Annam stick insects are not aggressive and tend to protect themselves by way of camouflage rather than aggression. They may also play dead so as not to attract the attention of predators.
The leaf insect is a strange type of stick insect in that it looks like a leaf rather than a stick. It is a common choice as a pet because of its unusual appearance. To protect itself from unwanted attention, it will walk and stop in a continuous fashion so that predators will be tricked into thinking it is just a leaf blowing in the wind. The male leaf insect has wings and can fly away when under threat, but females cannot.
Giant Leaf Insect
The giant leaf insect also looks like a leaf and not a stick. The female of this species lays unfertilised eggs that hatch into female nymphs. There are no males of the species in captivity and no live males have been found in the wild.
The giant leaf insect looks just like a large leaf and is very docile. It will move very little when it is picked up as it is trying to project the image of being a leaf and nothing else.
Thorny Stick Insect
The thorny stick insect looks like a spiky stick. The male of the species tends to have very large spikes, but these spikes are not used for stinging or fighting; they are instead intended to make the stick insect harder to eat.
New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect
The New Guinea spiny stick insect is large and bulky, resembling a branch rather than a stick. It is dark brown in colour and sometimes looks black. The male of the species is often aggressive towards other males, so if it is kept as a pet, ensure that there is enough space for the males to avoid each other.
When threatened, male New Guinea spiny stick insects stand on their front legs, lifting their back legs that they will then use to defend themselves. These stick insects can trap your fingers or hands if they feel under threat, so it is wise to keep them away from children.
Southern Two-Striped Stick Insect
The Southern two-striped stick insect or ‘devil rider’ as it is also known will deploy a chemical spray when under attack. They use this spray to stop predators; because of this they should only be kept by experienced insect keepers. The spray is a strong-smelling substance that can be squirted up to fifteen inches. It can cause severe pain, particularly if it gets into the eyes (potentially causing vision problems that last for up to five days).
Do Stick Insects Make Good Pets?
If you love all things insect, then you will take great pleasure in keeping one of these fascinating creatures as a pet. Children also love stick insects even though they are not very active or cuddly. What they are, however, is fun to watch.
Children and adults alike are fascinated by these insects that resemble sticks and leaves. But if you are getting a stick insect as a pet for a child, adult supervision will be necessary. Stick insects can be fragile and young children can be rough without meaning to be. Also, younger children may not appreciate that stick insects do require feeding and misting if they are to survive. Adults will need to ensure that these necessary tasks are taken care of.