Stick insects have, in the past, suffered from a reputation of being “boring”. The “classic” stick insect is a small, thin, green insect which sits motionless for hours at a time, largely resembling the very plant they’re resting on. As a result, their reputation is hardly surprising – even if it is undeserved.
In this article we’re going to talk about some of the types of stick insects which you might encounter, and demonstrate that some of them are rather more exciting than many people believe!
Common Stick Insects
There are a number of reasons why stick insects have become so popular over the years. Firstly, they’re often very easy to keep, requiring minimal day-to-day maintenance. Secondly, they require very little space. And lastly – and most importantly – some species can reproduce without having mated.
Parthenogenesis is the technical name given to the process of reproducing without mating. As a result, even a single stick insect can become an impressive colony over time, which has led to them being given away to others.
Indian Stick Insects
The Indian stick insect – sometimes known as the “laboratory stick insect” is possibly the best-known of stick insect of all. This is a parthenogenetic species that lives well at normal room temperatures. Feeding on a wide range of plants – from bramble to privet – this is probably the easiest species of all to keep as a pet.
That said, Indian stick insects are far from exciting to look at, which means that many people start off with this species and then advance on to more exotic species.
Chunky Stick Insects
Moving on from the “classic” stick insect we now have an impressive number of rather more “exotic” stick insects that can be kept as pets. While these species can be more difficult and expensive to source, as well as to breed, they do offer a rather more exciting proposition.
That said, all the following species are much larger than the Indian stick, and hail from rather more tropical areas of the world. As a result, they will all require considerably larger cages, and artificial heating during cooler months to achieve a consistent 25’C or so.
The larger size (often combined with sharp spines) also means they must be handled with care to avoid harming yourself. These are insects that should be thought carefully about before purchase, therefore, to ensure you have all the resources necessary to keep them healthy for life.
Giant Spiny Stick Insect (Eurycantha calcarata)
The spiny stick insect is much larger and more robust than the Indian stick insect. Typically a very dark brown in colour, with legs that are covered in sharp spines, this species is altogether more impressive to observe. It is a bulky species, more resembling a large brown piece of wood than a tiny little twig.
Interestingly the spiny stick insect tends to be far more terrestrial than other stick insects, and will often be found resting on the floor of their cage rather than up in the food plant. This is perfectly normal behaviour for this species, however care should be taken in captivity to ensure that they can get back into the foliage to eat at will.
Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)
One of the most impressive stick insects of all comes this species from Queensland in Australia. The adult females are huge, with massive curled abdomens, and weigh a surprising amount. The adult males tend to be much more slight, so this is an easy species to sex.
Even the youngsters of this species offer interest, however, as the abdomen is often held over the head. In this manner they often resemble scorpions with their sting held high.
Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata)
The heaviest stick insect in the world, and surely the most impressive of all. Both sexes are large as adults, but while the males are a dull brown, the females glow bright green. This is also one of the longer-lived stick insect species known in the hobby.
Growing up to 15cm in length these insects require lots of space so be prepared to invest in an expensive vivarium if you are to keep them successfully.
Unusual Stick Insects
Lastly it is worth noting one or two of the slight – yet rather rare – species which stand out from the crowd. These, too, will require artificial heating but are neither as large – or as potentially aggressive – as the other species already discussed. As a result they may represent a “happy medium” between the two previous groups, offering something unusual but without excessive ` space requirements.
Peruvian Fern Stick Insect (Oreophotes peruana)
This brightly coloured stick insect species feeds on ferns and bracken, so will require a little more specialist care. That said, no heating is required and the adults are either bright red or bright yellow depending on sex.
Black Beauty Stick Insect (Peruphasma schultei)
A rather recent introduction to the pet world is the Black Beauty. As the name suggests, these unusual insects are a deep, glossy black in colour. Even more impressively, they have contrasting bright red wing buds to boot.