Are Indian Stick Insects Good Pets?
Indian Stick Insects are certainly the most commonly kept of the thousands of stick inset species, and there are just under a hundred species available as pets. This article will discuss some of the most common. For some of the rarer species you will need to contact specialist entomological dealers, or your local insect study group.
The Indian Stick Insect (Carausius morosus) has been subject to the most study by zoologists, and is the easiest to obtain. One of the reasons that they don’t make the best pets is that they are nocturnal, but on the other hand they are easy to care for and get by on a 100% bramble diet. When it comes to breeding this is a parthenogenetic species, so you may find yourself with a breeding colony even if you only buy one stick insect!
Even though the females do not mate in order to produce young there are occasional male Indian Stick Insects. The male is distinguished by being smaller than the female, as is common with all stick insects, and it also has a red underside to its thorax. You pet will grow to four inches in length so you should purchase housing at least double that in height to enable it to hang upside down as it molts. If your pets do lay eggs then they will hatch around four months to five months later. Please check our other articles on stick insects for more information about breeding.
Alternatives to the Indian Stick Insect
The Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata) is sometimes mistaken for being a Leaf Insect because of the way its wings and back resemble a leaf. From the jungles of Malaysia these stunning bright green creatures can grow up to seven inches. They have a longer life cycle than the Indian Stick Insect, with the eggs taking 17 months to hatch, and breeding couple taking a year together before they start mating. The size of this stick insect can make it harder to keep than smaller species, but it doesn’t require too much extra effort and they are happy with a basic diet.
Confusingly, the Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) is known as the Giant Spiny, and the Giant Spiny Stick Insect (Eurycantha calarata) is also known as the Giant Spiny. And if that wasn’t enough The Giant Spiny is also known as Mackay’s Spectre! If you get your hands on Extatosoma tiaratum then expect it to grow to eight inches if it is female, and seven inches if it is male. You will note that this species has wings, but these are only functional in the male. Eurycantha calarata, on the other hand has some distinctive characteristics, such as it preference to remain on the ground rather than in branches. They also require drinking water, but you must be careful that dishes are not at a depth that risks drowning.
The Javanese Stick Insect (Orxines Macklotti) is comparable to the Indian Insect in terms of ease of care. Some special requirements are that they should be kept in humid conditions that mimic their native Java jungle, sand or peat substrate/nesting containers should be provided for females to deposit their eggs, and rather than bramble you should feed them rhododendron.
The Easy Indian
There are plenty of other species to explore, but the fact that the Indian is so easy to care for makes it a compelling choice. With the female growing to just four inches you only need housing of two or three times this size. Adapting a fish aquarium with a mesh top provides adequate ventilation. If you do decide to adapt an aquarium never use the existing cover as it is unlikely to provide the ventilation that your pet needs.
If you have a warm room then you don’t have to worry about artificial temperature control. The room should be between 70 and 75 degrees, and if it drops below that then you should use eat mats or lamps to maintain the temperature (although ensure there is a cover so that your insect can’t burn itself on the lamp).
You don’t need to provide a separate water dish for your stick insects, and in fact it would be a drowning risk, but you should mist the vivarium regularly. Newspaper is all you need for flooring, and a straight bramble diet will keep your pets healthy. To ensure that the food is free of pollutants and pesticides the best thing to do is grow your own, if this isn’t possible collect it from areas away from the roadside and wash them thoroughly.
If you have children then they will surely want to handle the Indian stick insect, and this is OK as long as it is done very delicately. You should hold the insect gently by its body and ensure that you are not wearing clothing that they may get tangled in. The best thing is to just let them sit on your palm, rather than having their delicate legs walking into danger.
One very interesting resource on stick insects is John Locke’s page: Walking Stick Insects – The perfect insect pet. Along with some solid advice on how to care for stick insects he points out that if they escape they can become serious pests. It is not such a big risk in colder climates, but in places like Southern California there is already plenty of evidence of the damage the stick insect can cause as a feral population. In addition to making sure that your pets don’t escape you must burn or boil any eggs that you are not planning to hatch and rear – just disposing of them in the trash is not sufficient.