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Walking Stick - Stick Insects - Pet

Guest Author - Diana Geiger

The walking stick is a fascinating exotic pet. There are thousands of varieties of stick insects (Phasmida) primarily in the sub tropics and tropics though I can attest to the fact they are found outside of tropical areas. (I found one in Northern Minnesota). The word Phasmida came from the ancient Greek language roughly translated to phantom.

My daughterís teacher gave summer assignments to all of the students that would be in her class the next year. It was to be half of their science grade for the upcoming year. It involved a rather lengthy insect and leaf collections. We had acquired a good amount of both especially since we had done a lot of traveling over the summer. However, shortly before school started we were walking down a forest service road near out house. By then were very proficient at watching foliage for signs of life when something had caught our eye. It was a stick insect which we knew as a walking stick at the time, (Diapheromera femorata). This was in Northern Minnesota; she was the only student in class with a stick insect. Unfortunately, at some point during the summer the teacher left the school district and she had a different teacher for science when she arrived at school. We had a lot of angry students and parents.

The walking stick insect is named because they look exactly like sticks, branches, fresh leaves, or dead leaves. They have a remarkable protection system because they look just like the foliage they live on. I have enjoyed researching this insect Ė I dug through several old editions of National Geographic because I had remembered seeing pictures of stick insects and other animals that blended into the environment. It was amazing seeing the number of stick insects, the multitude of differences; some are even able to look like another insect.

Since many stick insects look like leaves many insects of this order of insects are also called leaf insects. This natural camouflage makes them almost impossible to find. Nearly all stick insects the male is much smaller than the female. And, you will learn shortly, in some insect species the male is not necessarily necessary.

The stick insect is a good starter insect they are relatively easy to care for. They are vegetarians; each stick insect eating a variety of different foliage. While you can have a colony of stick insects in one enclosure, it is a good idea to limit this colony to one species. There may be but three bushes or trees that just one stick insect can consume while another species may eat something entirely different. Many have different head and humidity requirements. It would be impossible to meet all the different needs in one enclosure.

Most stick insects need to be in a heated environment. The heat requirements of different stick insects can vary between 68 F and 80 F. This is primarily why the Indian Stick insect, from Southern India (carausis morosus) is one of the more popular beginner stick insects. They also have an interesting reproductive system; you donít need males in the colony. The Indian Stick insects breeds through parthenogenesis reproduction. While sexual reproduction is the normal in numerous stick insects; many insects and arthropods can reproduce without need of the male.

Parthenogenic reproduction is where females can lay eggs that are not fertilized - but will hatch into females. If there are truly male Indian Stick insects they would have to be able to breed with regular old sexual reproduction as well. It just makes common sense. Or, not all the eggs produce only females; while it is rare males do exist. It would have to be one or the other if males in fact exist.

Indian stick insects can lay a few eggs a day. They have a relativity short life span of around six months and no longer than a year.

The Indian stick insect is not quite as delicate as other stick insects, though great care is needed in handling insects. They are all fragile.

A tall cage is needed for stick insects. Some need more humidity and heat than others. The Indian stick insect needs less heat and humidity than most stick insects. Their cage should be kept at about 70 F which is most peopleís preferred room temperature. The temperature can fluctuate between 68 F and 80 F. If a room is kept much lower than 70 F a light should be provided to keep the colony warm. Use a red light at night.

The Indian stick insect needs the inside of the cage misted/sprayed once daily. If you live in a climate where you use the heat constantly where and dries out the air mist a couple of times a day. Use filtered water for misting, keeping branches fresh, and also for the drinking water.

Use a few inches of peat moss as a substrate for the Indian walking stick. Carefully remove any eggs if you clean the substrate. After replacing the substrate replace the eggs about an inch under the soil. Donít pack it down.

Each stick insect has its own food requirement of different foliage. The Indian stick insect likes blackberry bramble, rose, ivy, oak, and raspberry leaves. Be very cautious because many of these plants may have been sprayed with insecticides or herbicides. Especially plants near roadways. There are also many pollutants on the foliage near roadways from truck and car exhaust, in addition, the pollutants leftover from road building materials. Always wash the branches and leaves thoroughly.

The new shoots should be avoided when using Blackberry and raspberry. New shoots have a defense system with a small amount of poison to protect them while they grow. The older darker leaves are safe.

Cut the branches and after you wash them put them in a small container of water. Be sure to seal the top of the container since the stick insect may fall or climb in and drown. Change the branches when the leaves show signs of wilting.

Be sure to check the branches and leaves that you are removing carefully you may throw away one of your exotic pet stick insects!

Stick insects grow rapidly. The insects molt (shed their skin) regularly and need plenty of space to do so. They also can crawl up glass walls and hang upside down. You have to be very sure your enclosure is secure.

Many stick insects require a permit from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) because they could cause serious harm to nonnative habitat. They are also not a throw-away pet; as no pet is a throw-away pet.

An interesting fact is that the Southeast Asian stick insect is the longest insect in the world; the longest on record is thirteen inches.

Pet walking sticks, leaf insects, or stick insects are very interesting to watch and enjoy. It is particularly interesting for children. As long as they donít try to handle the delicate creatures it is a lesson in life and science they will not forget. I prefer this method far and above what the science teacher asked of my daughter and her classmates. This is living science. The requirement of the class was the collection live bugs, and making them dead. I had a painful summer that year and then the teacher left the district. If it isnít necessary, lessons of this nature need to be done in such a way that an animal remains alive. Why not let the student observe and note what they see, and or use photographs.



Pictures of walking sticks, stick insect pictures bugsdirectuk.com Walking stick breeders

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Ghosts of the Trees: Walkingsticks and Leaf-Insects





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Content copyright © 2013 by Diana Geiger. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Diana Geiger. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.

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