Stick insects have become a very popular pet among hobbyists. More and more individuals tend to choose insects instead of other pets and are more than happy with their choices. Alongside spiders, praying mantises, centipedes, cockroaches, and ants, stick insects are among the most popular insect pets in the world. Their impressive appearance and calm, and non-aggressive behavior make them great pets for anyone.
As a whole, the best pet stick insects for beginners are the sturdy ones that don’t need extra heating, a special diet, or extra-high humidity. The most popular species for pet-keepers are the Indian Stick Insect, the Annam Stick Insect, the Vietnamese Stick Insect, and the Jungle Nymph.
Stick insects belong to the family of Phasmatodea. They are also referred to as Walking Stick, Stick bugs, and Phasmids.
While some Phasmid species are easy to care for, others are rather challenging, especially for beginners. In this article, you will find the best walking stick species for beginners, and the reasons why they are great to start with.
What Makes Stick Insects Easy to Keep?
If you are looking for the perfect pet stick insect species to start with, you want to start with a species that is easy to handle, easy to care for, and sturdy enough to survive temperature changes.
The majority of stick insect species are native to tropical and subtropical regions. There are more than 3,000 different species out there, and more are being discovered.
Approximately 300 species are currently kept as pets, for educational purposes, or for scientific research.
Choose wisely, when you get your first pet walking stick.
Some Phasmatodea species have an impressive appearance, such as the walking leaves (Phyllium), and you might be tempted to get one of these instead.
Or you accidentally choose a walking stick based on their appearance, that requires a special diet such as species from the family of Metriophasma, Eurycnema, Megacrania, or the Oreophoetes.
These species can only survive with very specific climate conditions, only eat specific leaves that might not even grow in your region, and die easily if the conditions are not perfectly met. You might be disappointed because of the challenging task and give up on keeping stick insects.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Keeping stick insects can be a fascinating, educational, and easy hobby if you choose the right species for you. Here are some criteria you can check before choosing the perfect pet for you.
Diet – What do Stick Bugs Eat?
All stick insects are herbivores. That means that they are vegetarians and only eat fresh leaves.
There are differences between the diet of the species. Some species are polyphagous, which means that they eat a very wide spectrum of leaves. Some are oligophagous, which means that they are limited to only some leaves. And some species are monophagous.
These are the hardest to keep in captivity because they are dependent on one type of leave.
The polyphagous and oligophagous species usually feed on oak, bramble, and some other leaves that you can find outside. Avoid getting a monophagous species, as they will easily die in captivity.
You can offer your pet walking stick any leaf you find outside, as long as it is pesticide-free. Don’t worry about poisoning your stick bug with ivy or other plants. They know exactly what they can eat and what is bad for them.
Temperature – Which Temperature do Stick Insects Need?
Phasmatodea like steady temperatures. Most of them are native to regions that don’t experience huge temperature changes. Therefore sudden temperature drops, caused by an open window close to the walking stick can be fatal.
As a whole, some stick bug species are more sensitive to temperature changes than others. Depending on the species, a consistent room temperature of 68 – 86° F (= 20 – 30° C) is good for walking sticks.
The easiest way to keep the temperature at a constant level is a room just for your pets. In that room, you can adapt the temperature and also humidity at a constant level. But obviously, not everyone can dedicate an entire room to stick bugs.
Your beginner stick insect should not be too sensitive to temperature changes, otherwise, you will have to be super careful, and regularly check the temperature with a thermometer.
As long as you avoid sudden temperature extremes (which can happen really quickly in a glass or plastic enclosure, so watch out!) caused by direct sunlight, a nearby heater, or an open window, your stick insect should be happy.
Humidity – What Humidity do Stick Insects Need?
Most walking sticks live in regions with very high humidity. Tropical and subtropical regions and rainforests are the natural habitats for most stick insect species. That means that stick insects that were imported as pets also need that humidity in their enclosures.
Especially baby walking sticks need very high humidity to be able to survive, as well as stick insects that are molting. During a molt, every Phasmatodea will need extra high humidity to be able to crawl out of the old exoskeleton without hurting itself.
As a whole, some walking stick species that are native to tropical rainforests require a steady humidity of 80%. Others are not that sensitive and do well with around 60% humidity.
For the species that are more sensitive, you might want to measure the humidity in the enclosure with a hygrometer, to make sure that your pets are doing alright.
In general, the humidity in a house is something between 40 % and 60 %. 0 % would mean that there is no water in the air, while 100% humidity means that the air is completely saturated with water.
While some stick insect species are more sensitive to low humidity than others, it is mandatory for all species to mist the enclosure regularly in order to raise the humidity. In temperate regions, we tend to use heaters in winter, which results in dryer air. This can be fatal for stick insects if they are not provided with regular misting.
The humidity can be increased by spraying water into the enclosure, by adding more live plants, leaves, and a substrate that can contain and slowly release humidity to the air. And of course by choosing an enclosure with glass or plastic walls instead of mesh.
Handleability – Are Stick Insects Easy to Handle?
Just like most terrarium animals, stick insects should not be handled at all. Walking sticks are not cuddly, they are the sort of pet that should be watched and not carried around. But on some occasions, it is necessary to hold a stick insect and put it somewhere else.
Some walking sticks are extremely fragile, while others are more robust such as the Jungle Nymph. But you cannot simply grab a walking stick somewhere, because it might lose a limb.
This is how you can hold your walking stick: Put your hand under the body of the stick insect and gently lift it so that the walking stick cannot grab on the twig anymore. It will hold on to your hand. If you want the stick bug to walk off your hand again, you can gently blow or nudge your pet.
It is also possible to take your thumb and index finger around the thorax or the insect, but this grip is not recommended for beginners, because a walking stick can easily be crushed if the grip is too strong. Never grab a limb. Chances are very high that the walking stick will lose it if you do so.
The good news is: Walking sticks are not aggressive and you can not hurt yourself if you are planning to dislocate your pet.
Some species (and especially their nymphs) are extremely fragile and should not be touched at all. For these species, you can just leave the old twigs and leaves in the enclosure, if the walking sticks are sitting on them, and put fresh twigs and leaves in. The stick insects will move to the new leaves slowly and once the old leaves are insect-free you can remove them.
Some species spray a chemical substance as a defense mechanism towards predators or whoever threatens them. Depending on the species this substance can be completely harmless, smelly, a little unpleasant, or cause an itchy rash.
With a species that has the ability to spray chemicals, it is recommended to use safety glasses when handling them. It might seem overly careful, but some of these chemicals can lead to temporary blindness.
As a beginner, the walking stick you choose should not be able to spray any harmful chemicals.
Sturdiness – How Sturdy are Stick Insects?
Walking sticks are the kind of pets that can be watched, not cuddled. Stick insects need specific temperatures, humidity, and food, but some species are a lot more tolerant than other species with all these conditions.
As a whole, the popular pet walking stick species are rather sturdy compared to many other species that are rarely or never kept in captivity. They can usually go several days without any maintenance (even though it is not recommended) and will tolerate slight temperature and humidity changes.
A good beginner pet stick bug should be one that does not die instantly due to a slight temperature or humidity change. It should be able to eat a lot of different leaves, which will make it a lot easier for you to care for the stick insect. And you should also be able to hold it in your palm without worrying too much about killing your pet.
Appearance – What are the Coolest-Looking Stick Insects?
Stick insects come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. It is hard to choose the coolest or most interesting stick bug, but I can assure you: There are crazy ones out there! As you know, it’s hard to argue about taste. The coolest-looking stick bugs in my opinion are maybe not the most impressive ones for you but will give you an idea of how diverse the stick insect species are.
The coolest stick insects are the Oreophoetes Peruana, Achrioptera species, Orestes Draegeri, Brockphasma Spinifemoralis, Trachyaretaon species, Megacrania Batesii, and Megacrania Phelaus, Anarchodes Annulipes, and Extatosoma Tiaratum.
Every single species has something special about it and has adapted perfectly to the habitat they are native in.
Unfortunately, most of these extremely intriguing species are not the easiest ones to care for. But there are still many species that have a fascinating appearance and also make good pets. Here are the best pet stick insect species for you.
Best Pet Stick Insect Species for Beginners
All the stick insects that are listed as beginner species are rather sturdy, easy to handle, and easy to care for.
Carausius Morosus (Indian Stick Insect)
The Indian Stick Insect is one of the most popular pet walking sticks. It also goes under the name Laboratory Stick Insect.
It is native to Tamil Nadu in India but can be found in many households of insect lovers worldwide. This species is wingless and the females grow up to a size of 3 inches, while the males usually reach approximately 2 inches.
You don’t have to worry about the diet, because the Indian Stick Insect can feed on many different plants such as Bramble, Raspberry, Ivy, Oak, Hazel, and many others.
They thrive at normal room temperature and don’t need extra high humidity. If you spray a fine mist of water into the enclosure every other day, this species will do just fine. When you see that your Carausius Morosus is about to molt, you can spray a little more water than usual into the tank.
Just like any other stick insect species, the females live a bit longer than the males. They usually have a lifespan of 10-12 months.
This species reproduces both parthenogenetically and sexually. This species can multiply quickly. If you don’t want eggs to hatch, you can either freeze them or burn them. Do not simply throw them in the trash, as the eggs might hatch and the species can escape to the wild.
This species is widely available online, due to its popularity.
Medauroidea Extradentata (Annam Stick Insect)
The Medauroidea Extradentata goes under the common name “Annam Stick Insect”. Another name for this species is “Thorny Stick”. It should not be mistaken for the Aretaon Asperrimus, the “Thorny Stick Insect”.
The Annam Stick Insect is originally native to Vietnam and is a wingless species. The females can reach a size of 4.3 inches, and the males can grow up to 3 inches.
The Annam Stick Insect is a large and thin stick insect with a brown body mimicking wood. It is a non-aggressive and harmless creature, which is known for being parthenogenetic (= eats a wide variety of different leaves).
This species reproduces sexually. If you are planning to breed Medauroidea Extradentata, you will need both male and female.
The Medauroidea Extradentata is very easy to handle and very easy to care for, which makes it a very popular pet stick insect. It is widely available online for insect lovers.
Ramulus Artemis (Vietnam Stick Insect)
The Ramulus Artemis goes under the common name Vietnam Stick Insect. There are so many species that are mainly native in Vietnam, that can also be called Vietnam Stick Insect. Therefore it makes more sense to use the Latin name to avoid misunderstandings.
This species cannot fly. Their body is long and thin and come in green and brown color shadings. Females can reproduce both parthenogenetically and sexually. The eggs that hatch without being fertilized only contain female nymphs.
If you don’t want the population to increase, you can freeze or burn the eggs before they hatch. If you throw them in the garbage, they might hatch there and escape to the wild.
Ramulus Artemis are rather long insects. This means that the cage should be tall enough to give them the possibility to shed properly. A minimum of 14 inches in height is recommended for their enclosure.
They thrive at room temperature and feed on many different leaves such as bramble, raspberry, and ivy. They are rather sturdy and make great beginner pets.
Ramulus Thaii (Thailand Stick Insect)
The Ramulus Thaii is a stick insect native to Thailand. It is also referred to as Thailand Stick Insect. This rather large wingless species has females reaching more than 4.3 inches and males slightly over 3 inches. The Ramulus Thaii feeds on many different leaves, so you don’t have to worry about their food.
They are really easy to care for. You don’t have to worry about the temperature, as they are happy with normal room temperature and also low humidity. This species reproduces sexually, therefore you will need both male and female if you are planning to breed.
Aretaon Asperrimus (Thorny Stick Insect)
The Thorny Stick Insect is a very popular pet insect. It is native to Sabah in Borneo and is also known as Spiny Sabah Stick Insect.
The Aretaon Asperrimus is a wingless insect with an interesting appearance that is easy to care for. It is very spiky but absolutely harmless and non-aggressive towards humans. The spikes are useful for the stick bug because it makes them harder to be eaten by predators. But the thorns will not sting you as an owner.
Females can grow up to slightly over 3 inches, while males can reach slightly more than 2 inches. The lifespan of the females is approximately 12 months, while the males live up to 8 months.
This species reproduces sexually and you will need both male and female to breed.
They are parthenogenetic and feed on many different leaves. They can be fed all year long with bramble, but also like oak leaves, raspberry, and many others. They don’t need extra heating but need high humidity, therefore regular misting is mandatory.
Extatosoma Tiaratum (Giant Prickly Stick Insect)
The Extatosoma Tiaratum goes under several names: Giant Prickly, Giant Spiny Stick Insect, Spiny Leaf Insect, and Macleay’s Spectre. It is native in Australia and reproduces sexually and in captivity parthenogenetically.
It feeds on many different leaves such as bramble, eucalyptus, hawthorn, oak, rose and many others.
Females can grow up to an impressive size of 4.7 inches and males can reach more than 3.5 inches. The adult males can fly, but it looks rather clumsy.
The appearance of the Extatosoma Tiaratum is very impressive. This species has an amazing camouflage and looks like a leafy twig with some thorns. It is a rather large insect with an impressive look but is actually very docile and harmless.
The colors can be anything from light green to dark brown. There are some very rare lichen-colored ones as well.
This species is sturdy and tolerant to light temperature and humidity changes, which makes it a perfect pet.
This species has an interesting defense strategy. When it feels threatened, it mimics a scorpion by curling up the abdomen and raising the front legs. They are also able to spray a defense chemical, but will very rarely do so in captivity. This substance is harmless and has an interesting smell like toffee.
The Extatosoma Tiaratum can reproduce both sexually and parthenogenetically, therefore you have to burn or freeze all unwanted eggs if you don’t want your population to grow any further.
This stick bug species is sturdy and makes a great beginner pet.
Sipyloidea Sipylus – Pink Winged Stick Insect
The Sipyloidea Sipylus is also known as Pink Winged Stick Insect or Madagascan Stick Insect. It is native to several countries in south-east Asia, such as China Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It is also native to Madagascar but was probably introduced there.
This species can reproduce both sexually and asexually. As the common name suggests, this species comes with pinkish wings and can fly and glide. Like for all winged walking stick species, the wings will be revealed after the last molt.
The females can grow up to 4 inches while the males only grow up to 2.4 inches.
This species feeds on many different leaves such as bramble, hawthorn, oak, raspberry, and many more.
You don’t have to worry about the temperature, as this species is happy with room temperature. The humidity has to be higher than normal humidity in a room, therefore regular misting is necessary. To ensure high humidity a cage with plastic or glass walls and a mesh lid is perfect.
Parapachymorpha Zomproi (Zompro’s Stick Insect)
The Parapachymorpha Zomproi has a very thin and long body with tiny thorns. It is easy to handle and easy to keep.
This wingless species is native to Thailand and reproduces sexually. Therefore you don’t have to worry about breeding. But if you want to breed, you do need a male and a female.
This species will eat many different leaves, is happy with room temperature but needs rather high humidity.
A good enclosure for the Parapachymorpha Zomproi has glass or plastic walls and just a small mesh lid for ventilation. Thereby you can guarantee higher humidity in the tank.
Their lifespan is approximately one year and the females can grow up to 3.5 inches, while the males will be a bit smaller with up to 2.8 inches.
In order to molt properly, they need a cage with at least 11inches of height, otherwise, they might hit the ground while molting and die.
Heteropteryx Dilatata (Jungle Nymph)
This beautiful species is one of the biggest and heaviest stick bug species. While the male actually looks like a brown walking stick and can reach up to 3.5 inches, the female looks more like a huge bright green walking leaf with little, sometimes red thorns.
The Heteropteryx Dilatata female can grow up to 6.7 inches! She has a big abdomen and has a dangerous appearance, but she is non-aggressive and harmless. Just like most stick bugs, this species is rather very docile.
The male and females of this species look completely different from each other. While the males are long, rather thin, brown with a beige pattern, and rather light in weight, the females are heavy, big, bright green, short-winged, and do not look like a walking stick at all.
The female Jungle Nymph has wings but those are tiny, therefore it cannot, but the males have longer wings and can accomplish glides.
When the Jungle Nymph feels threatened, it will curl up its abdomen into the air and point the back legs at the predator. This gesture looks impressive and when you see it, don’t get closer.
When you touch it during this gesture, it will clap the spiny back legs together and if your finger is in between, it might actually punch through your skin and draw blood.
A very common name for this species is Jungle Nymph, but it is also called Thorny Tree-Nymph Stick Insect. It is native to Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Sarawak, and Thailand. This species reproduces sexually. It feeds on many different leaves, therefore you don’t have to worry about their diet.
Compared to other species, it needs rather high humidity. It has sharp spines on the back and is used to tropical rainforest, therefore the humidity has to be extra high all the time.
But even though the humidity has to be high, it is important that enough air circulation is provided, otherwise, this species will have problems with mold and bacteria.
It can be considered a beginner pet stick bug, but this species is not the easiest one for beginners. It will be classified as Medium difficult for beginners. It is not suitable for children, because the defense gesture can actually hurt you.
This species is considered to be one of the prettiest walking stick species and is widely available to insect lovers.
The Dares Validispinus can be found in Sabah in Borneo, Sarawak in Malaysia and in Brunei. It is a rather small, wingless species that perfectly camouflages itself on the tree bark.
The females can grow up to 1.8 inches while the males can reach 1.5 inches. The males of this species have long, and sharp spines on the head and thorax.
This species needs rather high humidity, therefore a glass or plastic enclosure with a mesh lid is the best option.
The Dares Validispinus feeds on many different leaves such as bramble, raspberry, hazel, oak, strawberry leaves, and many others.
You won’t see a lot of movement during the day. The stick bugs of this species will hide in dark corners and on and behind tree bark during the day. If you tough it, it will drop down on the floor and pretend to be dead.
If you are planning to breed, you will need both male and female because they reproduce sexually. But they breed very easily and the generations can be kept together in one enclosure.
This species is very easy to care for. It was one of the very first species that was kept in a terrarium in Europe.
Neohirasea sp. (Vietnman Prickly Stick Insect)
This species is also referred to as the Vietnam Prickly Stick Insect. It is native to Vietnam and is a wingless species that reproduce sexually.
This species often comes in two colors to make the disguise between branches even better. It has thorns on the back and can easily be mistaken for a thorny twig.
The Neohirasea sp. feeds on bramble, ivy, and some other plants and thrives at room temperature. The females can grow up to 3.2 inches and the males 2.6 inches. The insects of this species have a usual lifespan of approximately one year.
The Neohirasea sp. is easy to care for, is rather sturdy, and makes a good beginner pet.
Compared to other beginner pet species, it is not too popular and so easy to get.
Phaenopharos khaoyaiensis (Bud Winged Stick Insect)
The Phaenopharos Khaoyaiensis has a typical walking stick appearance. The long and thin body is light brown colored and the adults have wings, but they cannot fly.
This species is native to Thailand and reproduces both parthenogenetically and sexually.
Only females are kept, therefore it is unsure if males exist, but it is highly assumed. They feed on many different leaves, are happy with room temperature, and medium-high humidity.
They are fairly easy to keep and breed. If you don’t want your population to grow anymore, you should freeze or burn any eggs you find. If you throw the eggs in the garbage without destroying them, they could hatch and escape to the wild.
That could cause major problems in the ecosystem if this species is not native to the region you live in.
Compared to other species, they need a taller cage due to their rather long body. The females will grow more than 5 inches long.
When they molt, they should never reach the ground as this might kill a stick bug.
The insects from this species feed on several plants such as bramble, raspberry, oak, and some others.
This species is popular as a pet insect and therefore widely available online. It is also a huge advantage to insect keepers, that they reproduce parthenogenetically because you only need one insect to create many more.
This wingless species is native to Thailand. The body of this species is long, thin, and light green. Due to their length and sensibility to humidity, these insects need a rather tall enclosure, with glass or plastic walls to keep the humidity inside. They are happy with the room temperature.
If you are planning to breed, be careful to breed only as much as you can care for. This species has a very high hath rate and the population can easily get out of control. But they reproduce sexually, so you do need a male and a female for reproduction.
Whatever you remove from the enclosure has to be frozen or burned, instead of just thrown away, otherwise, you will risk this species escaping to the wild and disturbing the ecosystem.
The Clonaria Conformans feed on bramble, hawthorn, and most rose leaves.
One special feature of the adult Clonaria Conformans is their quaking when they are disturbed.
They are rather easy to care for, but not so widely available as other species.
The Abrosoma Johorensis is a rather small and wingless species that is native to West Malaysia. The females usually grow up to 2inches, while the males only reach about 1.5 inches. The adults of this species have wings but cannot fly or glide.
They need rather high humidity, therefore daily misting and a glass or plastic tank with a mesh lid is perfect for this species.
The Abrosoma Johorensis feeds on willow herbs, fuchsia, and evening primrose. It is a rather picky eater.
This species reproduces sexually and has an ova incubation period of 12 weeks.
The Abrosoma Johorensis is rather rare in captivity and not widely available to hobbyists.
This species has a special appearance. It is reddish-brown to dark brown and as an adult, it has small but beautiful red and yellow wings that cannot be used for flying or gliding.
The species is originally native to Venezuela, reproduces sexually, and is able to spray a chemical defense spray towards predators.
They are rather picky eaters and thrive on privet, lonicera, plantain, lilac, and a few other plants. They don’t need extra heating and are happy with room temperature and normal humidity.
They are not widely available online, but if you happen to live in Tachira in Venezuela, you might be able to find this species outdoors.