Sunday, 4 October 2015
Exotic Pets: Stick Insects
Stick insects have quite a few names. First of all the order to which they belong is known as either Phasmatodea or Phasmida. Then they are called stick insects in Europe and Australasia, but walking sticks or stick-bugs in America and Canada. Some also get called phasmids, leaf insects and ghost insects.
Needless to say, most of them look like twigs, sticks or leaves. The majority of stick insects come from South East Asian countries like india and Thailand, but they are abundant in many tropical climates including Australia and the southern states of America. Most of the insects that are kept as pets are Indian (or Laboratory) stick insects and they grow to around four inches long and live for around a year.
There are very bizarre species of stick insect like the Vietnamese thorny stick insect and the pink-winged flying stick insect, but they are more difficult to look after. It is better to start with the Indian common form. They will live quite contentedly in a vivarium, which is an tank for reptiles and insects.
Except for offering fresh food and water from time to time and taking out old food, there is no maintenance necessary for these animals. They will need a fairly warm climate but that is not a problem to arrange with a heater, a thermostat and a timer.
Food is not a problem for common species, The most common foods given are privet and lettuce, but they also like ivy, oak, bramble, blueberry and raspberry. You have to place enough of these plants in the vivarium to give cover for the inhabitants so that they do not feel exposed and at risk but not so much that you never get sight of them.
Make sure that there are plenty of air holes in the vivarium, but for the sake of security, they should be covered with fly screen or netting, because these creatures are able to wriggle through small apertures. The tanks should be kept at 70F during the day and 60F at night with moderate humidity. They can be allowed to forage for food at will, but be careful that the water supply is very shallow, because they been known to fall in and drown.
You will be flabbergasted to discover that the overwhelming majority of Indian stick insects are female, but that they do not need a male to have fertile eggs. Young become capable of laying eggs after their sixth moult, all of which moults they eat. Stick insects can lay hundreds of eggs which just drop down among the leaves on the floor of the vivarium.
If you would like to hatch them out, spray a little water on them to simulate light rain and they ought to hatch. If you do not want to be troubled with them, burn the contents of the tank after the last adult has passed away. You might need a permit to keep stick insects, particularly in the United States.