Walking Stick Insect

Pets

The walking stick insect makes a captivating and instructive pet for the classroom or other educational venue, provided, of course, that it is not a species that sprays an acidic compound into your face and eyes. The Indian walking stick (Carausius morosus) may make a good candidate for a teacher's pet.

Advantages of a Walking Stick as a Pet

  • With the proper setup, a walking stick pet requires relatively little care.
  • It poses no threat of a venomous bite or sting.
  • It lives happily for as much as a week without attendance.
  • It eats commonly available plant foods.
  • It produces no offensive odor.
  • It molts, or sheds it exoskeletal shell, periodically, demonstrating a fundamental characteristic of insects.
  • It submits to (delicate) handling for educational demonstrations.
  • With a mate, it reproduces readily. Even without a mate, the female walking stick still reproduces, parthenogenetically, or asexually, although her eggs yield only female nymphs.

 

Walking stick on a window screen, in far western Texas.  Note the extended forward legs, which enhances the insect's twig-like appearance.

Walking stick on a window screen, in far western Texas. Note the extended forward legs, which enhances the insect's twig-like appearance.

A Home for the Walking Stick

While requirements will vary with the species, a walking stick will need a home that serves as a reasonable microcosm of its natural habitat. A walking stick, along with a few companions, may function well, for one example, in a 15-gallon glass or acrylic plastic aquarium that is at least 15 inches in height and is topped with a secure screen cover that will provide confinement but also ventilation. The Indian walking stick will feel comfortable at about room temperature (68 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and at moderate humidity. A walking stick's tank can be lined on the bottom with paper or with soil. The paper allows easy cleanup of the relatively dry waste. The soil facilitates burial of eggs (for those species that bury their eggs.)

Foods and Water

The walking stick will require a plant diet suitable for its species. The Indian walking stick, for instance, will feed on the leaves of various roses, ivies, pyracantha or even lettuce. The walking stick can be fed with fresh leafy stems from its preferred plants. The leaves and stems should be washed to assure that pollutants have been removed. They should also be misted with water periodically to assure that moisture is available to meet the insect's needs.

Breeding Walking Sticks

When a female lays her eggs, which will look much like small plant seeds, she may deposit them on the leafy stems, bury them in soil, or simply drop them to its cage's floor surface. You can leave the deposited or buried seeds in place, awaiting their hatching. You can collect the dropped seeds and leave them in a container of sand in a comfortably warm place to await hatching. Depending on the species and conditions, the eggs will typically hatch within two months to a year.

Precautions

Before acquiring a walking stick insect for a pet, you should check with the appropriate federal, state or local agency for permitting requirements. You should have no problem acquiring a permit if you plan to use the walking stick for educational purposes.

You should do some research on the specific species you plan to acquire so you can provide the proper environment. This can make a good class project.

You should be careful when handling the walking stick, preferably nudging it onto the open palm of your hand rather than grasping it with your fingers. Otherwise, you can easily injure it by separating one or more of its delicate legs from its body.

You should be especially careful to keep the walking stick or its nymphs confined. If even one escapes, it could lead to an infestation and substantial plant damage in gardens and parks.

Common Questions About Walking Sticks

 

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