Many people are now discovering the fascinating world of keeping insects as pets. The most common insects kept as pets are Leaf Insects (Phylliinae), Stick Insects (Phasmatidae) and Tooth-bearing Stick Insects (Necrosciinae). These insects eat only leaves and should not be confused with preying mantis species which eat other insects. Leaf and stick insects normally closely resemble the twigs and leaves of the plants they commonly feed on. They are well camouflaged and it's interesting that they normally move when hiding by swaying slightly, like a twig in the breeze. About 150 Australian species are known, compared to approximately 2500 species world-wide.
Almost all stick insects feed on bramble (blackberry) and can be fed this all year round. Although this may not be their native food, they will eat it. Many Australian species eat gum leaves and other native plants.
If given a variety, you can quickly learn what types of plants stick insects will eat and what they avoid. No plants are known to be poisonous to them, but it is assumed that they will not eat a plant that they do not like anyway.
Insects can be housed in anything from old containers to completely dedicated cages. Extremely tall mesh cages are available and ideal for stick insects, but not really necessary. As long as they have plenty of room to move and climb they will be happy. Some stick insects can even fly, and can even be let out into a room to fly around a little before returning to their home.
An amazing fact about these creatures is their ability to reproduce by thenogenesis. This means they can reproduce without mating. The female can lay an unlimited number of fertilized eggs, however all the offspring will be female. Only when the female has mated with she lay male and female eggs. In the wild their eggs usually just drop to the ground, but some species bury them in the ground, while others stick them in crevices on the host plant or tree.
Most insects are extremely easy to look after, they normally only require food and water, and not all the heating, lighting and other special items required by other pets. Many stick insects are also good to handle, for those that love to handle bugs of course. Lift adults by the middle of their bodies and medium-sized insects by their tails. It's best not to touch baby stick insects as they are delicate.
Other types of insects commonly kept as pets are cockroaches, preying mantis and beetles. Other similar pets are worms, caterpillars, butterflies, moths, scorpions and spiders.
If you are about to get an insect, you need to make sure you have the basic requirements, before you even bring them home! Here is a list of the basic requirements for any insects.
- Vivarium or enclosure
- Food (Eucalyptus, Bramble)
- Spray Bottle (For misting the leaves)
- Large aquarium / vivarium
- Aquarium backgrounds
Suitable For People Aged: 10 & over
Experience Required: None. Care sheet & info
Feeding Care Time Required: 10 minutes a day
Maintenance Time Required: 1/2 Hour a Week
Minimum Space Required: Vivarium
Cost of Upkeep: (approx) $3 Per Week
Life Span: (approx) 11 weeks to 4 years
Availability: Seasonal depending on species