Stick Insects

Stick Insects look out of place standing on a rock

Stick Insects are usually found in tropical climates, and are native to every continent except Antarctica. Their natural camouflage makes them hard for their predators to detect, but even when they are found many still have other defenses they can use to escape.

Beyond how they look, they can be a lot of fun to watch if you can find them. Sometimes it can be difficult to spot them while they’re in their enclosure.

Stick Insects are very docile, and are unlikely to bite or sting. They are also very easy to care for. Their eggs can be bought online or from breeders, and raise them yourself. This is a fun way to teach kids about biology.

Stick insects can be fed a variety of foods, but they mostly enjoy eating leaves. It won’t be a bad idea to grow some of their favorites. This way they can be fed all year long without needing to track down fresh leaves in the winter.

Despite what most people think they are actually fairly easy to care for. Fresh leaves and a good home with some sticks to climb is all they need to be happy and healthy Insects. Stick Insects can be bought for between $10 and $50 for as many as 50 Stick Insects. Some sites may charge more, but be careful not to overpay for them.

Stick Insects Information

  • Average Length: 4 to 5 inches
  • Average Weight: .9 to 1.1 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Rigid outer skeleton
  • Skin Colors: Green or Brown
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Several times before adulthood
  • Sensitive to Touch: Yes
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No 
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Deformations or Missing Limbs
  • Average Life Span: 1 year

Physical Appearance of Stick Insects

a Stick Insect walking on a moss covered branch

Stick Insects get their name because they look like living sticks. Some Stick Insects may look like leaves, but most will look like living sticks. Their appearance lets them camouflage themselves out in the open and hide in their surroundings. 

There are over 3,000 species of Stick Insects and they come in different colors and sizes. Most species are brown but they can be green, gray or black. The shape of their body varies but generally they will have a flat-shaped body like a leaf, or a cylindrically shaped body like a stick.

Stick Insects have two thread-like antennas on their head. Different species have different length antennas, but they are never longer than their body. Their eyes are small and their mouthparts are slightly lower than their body. Insects don’t have the same mouths as mammals or fish. They have parts that work like a mouth.

All species have six legs. Some Stick Insects have wings and if they do, they will have two pairs of wings. The front wings are hard and translucent. The rear wings are larger than their forewings. 

Stick Insects can be up to 12 inches long and females are usually longer than males.

Temperament of Stick Insects

Stick Insects are most active during the night. They remain still during most of the day unless disturbed.

They don’t bite and can be handled, but they should be handled with care. They are fragile and should be held by their body, not their legs. Stick Insects will let you keep them in your hands, but because of how fragile they are it can be risky to hold them.

Their Compatibility with Children

Stick Insects can be a great pet for families with children. Caring for these insects is easy and children can look after their insects. Stick Insects are harmless and don’t bite. The only concern is if they try to escape their tank. Having an adult supervise the children while they handle Stick Insects can help keep them from escaping.

Living Space for Stick Insects

Stick Insects blend in really well while walking on a branch

Stick Insects can be housed in a tall glass container or a plastic pet container. The container should have a lid that closes or a cover that allows good ventilation. Netting can be added around the container to keep your insect from escaping.

Cage Size

The height of the tank should be at least three times the length of the Insects. The height is important because most Stick Insect species hang from branches when they shed their skin. A cage that is at least 15 inches tall should be good for most types. 

Substrate

The floor can be lined with paper. Paper is easy to clean and replace. Peat moss or vermiculite are other good options but will need more care than paper. Because many Stick Insects need very high humidity options like vermiculite and peat moss are better than paper. Your Stick Insect will need a substrate that holds and releases moisture well.

Best Climate for Stick Insects

The climate needs of Stick Insects can vary based on the species. Before setting up their cage, find out about the specific needs of the species you plan to get.

Temperature

Indian Stick Insects, the most commonly kept pet species need a slightly warm temperature between 70 and 75°F. The best way to maintain this temperature is by placing their enclosure inside a warm room in your home. If additional heat is needed it can be generated using a reptile heat mat. Heat lamps are not a good idea for Stick Insects because they can dry your insect’s enclosure.      

A thermometer should be placed inside their enclosure to monitor the temperature.

Stick Insects are almost impossible to see when they're standing on sticks or branches

Lighting

Stick Insects are nocturnal, and don’t need any day or night time lighting. If you want to light their enclosure at night we suggest dimly lit red LEDs because it will be better for your insect.

Humidity

The humidity should be kept around 75%. The humidity can be kept up by using a good moist substrate and misting their enclosure once or twice a day. Keep a hydrometer in their enclosure to check the humidity every day. Keeping their enclosure ventilated is important or it can lead to fungus or mold growth that can kill your Stick Insect.

The Attention a Stick Insects Needs

Stick Insects don’t need a lot of your attention because they tend to stay clean and don’t need human interaction. They can sometimes be left on their own for up to a week without anything bad happening to them.

Stick Insects can breed fast because they don’t need a male mate to breed. All females will lay eggs without a male, but all unfertilized offspring will be female. They are capable of laying 2 to 3 eggs every day after becoming an adult. 

If you don’t want them to produce any offspring, their eggs can be removed from the eggs from their tank. Their eggs will usually be on the substrate. They are small, and look like brown seeds. To dispose of the eggs first freeze them and then throw them away. Without freezing them first the eggs may hatch, leading to a new population of wild Stick Insects in a place they don’t belong.

Health Issues

There are not many health issues that Stick Insects are known to have.

Deformations

For insects that molt, molting is the most dangerous time for them. If the conditions are not right during the molting process they could die from being trapped in their old body or emerge with deformations.

Humidity is very important to molting. If you know that your Stick Insect is about to molt it’s always a good idea to raise the humidity level within their enclosure. You’ll want the humidity between 75% and 80% for molting.

Stick Insects will hang from something in their enclosure when it’s time to molt. If they attach to something too low it’s possible that they’ll be touching the floor of their enclosure while molting. By touching the floor it can deform several different parts of their body while it’s still soft. The best thing to do is make sure that the places they’re likely to hang from are high enough that they won’t touch the bottom of their enclosure.

Unfortunately many of the deformations your Stick Insect will likely receive will be life long. Depending on the severity of the deformation it could lead to an early death. 

Missing Limbs

Stick Insects tend to have missing limbs for the same reasons they get deformations. They molted from a point too low, or the humidity wasn’t high enough. There are times where they can lose them because of a fall, or because of another aggressive Stick Insect biting it off.

Stick Insects will molt several times over their life, and it’s possible that after molting they may regrow the missing limb. If they’re already adults and have stopped molting, they will never regrow their missing limb.

The best way to prevent missing limbs is to make sure their enclosures’ humidity is kept between 75% and 80% while they molt.

General Stick Insects Care

Stick Insects molt their skin several times before becoming an adult. They’ll usually become an adult after 5 months. They are vulnerable during the molting process and should be left alone. They shouldn’t be handled until after their  new exoskeleton hardens, about a week after molting.

Your insects molted skin and solid waste should be removed from their cage once a week. The sides of the cage should be wiped daily to keep everything clean inside their enclosure.

Feeding A Stick Insect

Stick Insects feed on leaves with most preferring to eat blackberry, rose, and hawthorn leaves. Indian Stick Insects like rose, hawthorn and oak leaves but other species may like blackberry leaves. 

Knowing the species you have is important before feeding them because they will refuse if not given the proper leaf varieties. Stick Insects only like to eat fresh leaves, which can be an issue in the winter. 

Young hatchlings should be fed soft leaves because they don’t have strong mouthparts to chew hard leaves.

Fresh branches of plants should be placed inside their cage. The branches should be kept in a water jar or vase to keep them fresh. The vase or jar should be stable so it will not tip over inside. To make them stable, stones or sand can be added to the bottom of the water jar.

The water jar should be secured from the top to keep your insects from having the bowl tip onto them. Using a container with a narrow mouth can help. Add some material like a net or cloth on the top of the jar to stop the Stick Insects from falling inside. Replace the branches once the leaves get eaten or dry out. 

Another way to feed them is by giving them fresh leaves every 2 to 3 days. The leaves can be sourced from potted plants or kept in a water bowl outside their cage. This will keep the leaves fresh. The leaves and branches should be misted in the evening because it gives your Stick Insects water to drink and helps keep their tank humid.

Make sure all the leaves given to them are free of insecticides or pesticides. Pesticides can be harmful for your insects.

Related Questions:

Are Stick Insects Legal to own in the US?

Only native species of Stick Insects are allowed to be kept as pets in America. Non-native species are illegal to be imported or kept as pets. They are considered plant pests and should never be released into the open. Stick Insects reproduce very quickly because they don’t need a male to lay eggs. A bunch of eggs that were thrown out and hatch can quickly disturb the ecosystem. Find out about your local laws before getting Stick Insects as a pet.

Do Young Stick Insects Eat Their Exoskeleton?

Yes, young Stick Insects often eat their exoskeleton after shedding. After they hatch the younger ones take time to harden their shells. The molted skin can send a signal to predators that they have just shed and are vulnerable. Eating their molted exoskeleton protects them from predators and lets them recycle the protein.

Can Stick Insects Change Their Colors?

While most species don’t have the ability to change their colors, some species like the Indian Stick Insects can change their color. They will change their color to match their surroundings. The color change is gradual over time, and not instant like Chameleons.

How to Breed Stick Insects at Home?

To breed Stick Insects take their eggs and keep them in a different tank. The eggs can be placed inside a warm tub of sand or vermiculite. Depending on the species it can take anywhere between 6 weeks to a year for the eggs to hatch. Indian Sticks and Pink Winged Sticks take up to 2 months to hatch while Walking Stick Insects can take up to a year.