Walking Stick Insects
Learn how to keep and breed the insect known as the walking stick.
Walking Sticks are an interesting breed of insect that look very much like sticks, leaves, and branches. Often when found in their natural habitats, they are difficult to see because their camouflage blends so successfully into their surroundings. The Australian Walking Stick, for example, looks much like a dried blackberry vine- complete with thorns.
These insects are plant eaters, and in most cases eat plants of the bramble variety. The most popular and commonly found favorites are blackberry vines and rose bushes. It must also be noted that their appetites are rather large, and a single female eat about a six foot length of vine or more in just a few days. If you decide to keep this insect as a pet, make sure you have these plants available in large supply; they will need to be replaced every 3 or 4 days. You can order brambles on the Internet, however they can be rather pricey.
An enclosure for the insect is very simple to construct. A simple aquarium can be used with a screen top. Scatter the bottom of the tank with an inch or two of some kind of potting soil. This is more for the decomposing and egg laying process than anything else. Then, using an empty 1lb butter tub, or empty sour cream container, do the following:
- With a sharp knife, make three hole in the lid using a cross pattern. It should look similar to the hole in a fountain soda’s lid.
- Fill the container with water and replace the lid.
- Take three lengths of bramble about the same length of the aquarium, and insert them into the holes.
- Place container inside aquarium.
- Congratulations. You now have a proper enclosure.
Now, all you need is a simple spray bottle to water the stick insect once or twice a day. Simply spray the plants and the sides of the aquarium. Be careful not to spray the insect itself; however, as insects breathe through their bodies and it could cause them to drown.
Walking sticks shed, so do not be surprised to find an occasional exoskeleton in the cage. They also have a tendency to eat this shed skin, but not always. Leave the skin in for a few hours just in case it decides to. It is believed that the skin contained beneficial nutrients for the stick, and aids in the growth process. There will be about 5-7 sheds in a stick’s growth process. The females shed the most amounts of times because they are much larger than males, and are responsible for egg laying; they cannot lay eggs until after the final shed.
The walking stick is an interesting insect, because it does not depend on the male for its survival. Females can self-reproduce, and only males are needed to create more males. There are even some breeds of walking stick where a male in the species is unheard of.
Eggs from the walking stick are very similar in appearance to plant seeds. They can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to hatch, and a female can lay over 300 in her lifetime. Since they reproduce like crazy, it is best to destroy the eggs if you do not want to be overrun and have to potential homes for any extras you may have. Simply cleaning out the substrate every so often, and sealing the eggs in a plastic bag does this. For extra precaution, the eggs should be destroyed either by fire, or crushing them. This sounds cruel, but if they are allowed to enter the population (most species are foreign, and are not permitted to be released into the wild), they can be largely destructive to the vegetation in the area.
This is really all it takes to house and breed walking sticks. To deal with feces and potential mold growth in the cage, you can keep wood lice in the substrate. It is possible to find these by simply finding an all and rotting piece of wood on the ground somewhere, and possibly even can be purchased at a gardening store.
However, one should really spend some time researching their particular breed. Some types can carry poisons that can cause temporary blindness and burning, others can fly. This is especially important in cases where small children will be involved. The last thing a person needs is a small child to handle a pink wing and end up blind and screaming. Care and responsibility are important when dealing with this.
Some states have restrictions on these insects, so check with state laws. A permit may be needed to own or ship them.
These are very simple and fascinating insects. Many owners become so fascinated with the creatures, they begin collecting many varieties. You may find yourself addicted to this wonderful insect as well.