"Walking Sticks," as they are known in North America, are
also called "Ghost Insects", "Leaf Insects," and in Europe,
simply "Stick Insects." They are among the most popular of
the insects commonly kept as pets by people across the
world. This is primarily because of their unusual appearance
and habits, and the ease of caring for them.
There are 2,800 species of "Phasmids" or Walking Sticks that
have been classified, and no doubt many more to be found.
Stick Insects are found all over the world, but most are
from tropical climates. Most resemble the sticks or leaves
of the plants that they feed on. They rely on their
camouflage to survive, although some types are also able to
secrete a substance that burns the mouth and eyes of
predators. Some species of stick insects are winged, some
appear to have thorns just as the foliage where they are
found, and some even come in interesting colors like the
Pink-winged Flying Stick Insect. In one species from
Malaysia and Singapore the females has been measured at
twenty-two inches (555 mm) long (with legs extended,) making
it the longest insect in the world.
If you decide to bring home a Walking Stick as a pet keep in
mind that most of the Walking Stick Insects sold in pet
stores are not native species and you will have to make sure
never to release the insect in the wild nor allow any eggs
to hatch. You have to have a permit to even bring them into
the United States, check with the institution you are buying
from to be sure that they have such a permit.
If your Stick Insect is not native to your country and it
does lay eggs you can easily destroy the eggs through
crushing or burning. Some species are all female and
reproduce without a male, so don't think that just because
you have only one Walking Stick Insect it can't reproduce.
The eggs don't need any special attention to hatch, that is
why you must destroy them.
If your Stick Insect is native to your country and you would
like to breed more, wait until your pet lays eggs. (She will
probably lay them on the plant she likes the best.) Simply
spray the eggs with water lightly and then wait for the
babies. When the babies are born, handle them gently with
the bristles of a paintbrush. Keep the tank well misted, but
be careful not to leave puddles in which the babies can
To keep a Walking Stick Insect as a pet, buy a ten to
fifteen gallon terrarium and set it up with some torn
newspaper, peat moss or vermiculite along the bottom to make
the tank easier to clean, and a tight screen top to keep
your pet inside. The tank should be placed in a spot that is
routinely 70 - 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature at
night can be allowed to drop to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The
room temperature in most homes will be find for your pet,
but be sure that the tank is not in the sun from a window,
or near a heater.
Put leaves, grasses and branches in the terrarium for for
climbing on. You can even place live plants in the terrarium
but keep in mind that you will have to provide lighting and
food for the plants as well as the insect. Match the
surroundings in the terrarium as much as possible with the
Walking Stick Insect's natural environment. Make sure that
you have a ventilated but tight lid on the terrarium. You do
not want to risk your walking stick getting out, it might be
hard to find in your home.
Your Stick Insect doesn't need a water bowl, and might drown
in one. Mist the tank every day with distilled water to
provide humidity and your pet will drink from the water
droplets that settle on the plants.
To feed the Walking Stick, blackberry brambles are generally
considered an appropriate diet. But if you feed brambles,
make sure that the stems you cut for your walking stick have
not been poisoned with insecticide or you may kill your
walking stick. Don't collect your stems by busy roadways or
anywhere poison might have been sprayed. Other food plant
options include raspberry, privet, hawthorn, oak, rose, and
ivy. Monitor your new Walking Stick for a while to make sure
that it is eating the vines that you put in the terrarium.
Unlike many other insects, Walking Sticks can be handled.
But they are fragile although they may not look like it, so
utmost care must be taken when you hold them. Do not let a
young child handle a Walking Stick for they often do not
know how to be gentle and cautious with insects. If you put
your hand out to your Stick Insect it will possibly walk up
onto your hand voluntarily. Pick your Walking Stick up by
its body if absolutely required, but never by its legs, you
might break them.
All Walking sticks are calm and gentle and make excellent
insect pets. Be sure to care for them and feed them well,
and leave them in their tank as much as possible, too much
handling can injure the insect. They are fun to observe and
make great classroom pets as well.
More on Insects