Stick insects are becoming more and more popular as pets due to obvious reasons. They are small, do not need a lot of space, they are not smelly, come with only little cost and low maintenance, don’t produce a lot of waste, and are fascinating and educational creatures with striking appearances. They are the masters of camouflage and disguise themselves as twigs, grass, and leaves. If you keep a pet, you will have to handle it every once in a while. But how do you handle a stick insect?
As a whole, just like every terrarium animal, stick insects should not be touched if not necessary. If a walking stick has to be relocated, it is possible to carefully put a hand under the stick bug and gently lift it. Smaller stick insects should be relocated with whatever they are sitting on.
In the following you will find information on how to properly pick up stick insects and if they are even safe to touch.
Can You Touch a Stick Bug?
Walking sticks are not the kind of pets that want to be carried around and cuddled. It is best for them to leave them in the enclosure and just watch them. But from time to time, it is necessary to touch them in order to relocate to a different foodplant or a new enclosure.
As a whole, it is of course possible for you to touch a stick bug, but make sure to be careful. Some nymphs or especially small and very thin species might be too fragile to touch and can be relocated by simply relocating the leaf or decoration the walking stick is sitting on.
The sturdier ones can be touched without too much to worry about. But always be gentle. Walking sticks are fragile insects.
Some species tend to throw off legs or spray a chemical defense spray when they feel threatened. Therefore you should be extra careful and gentle when handling a stick bug. If your stick insect is able to spray an acidic substance, you should wear gloves and glasses in order to relocate them.
How Do You Pick up Stick Insects?
If you need to pick up a stick insect, there are two ways to do so.
The first option goes for most stick insect species. You can place your hand under the walking stick and gently lift up the hand. The walking stick will try to hold on to the group first, but eventually, let go and hold on to your hand. Be patient and careful. If you want the walking stick to walk off your hand again, you can blow on the stick insect or carefully poke it.
The second possibility should only be used for sturdy, adult walking sticks. Nymphs and very thin species can easily be crashed.
You can use your thumb and index finger on the left and right of the thorax to gently lift up the walking stick.
Never pull a limb. Many species tend to throw off their limbs when they feel threatened, in order to startle the predator. Even though stick insects are able to regrow limbs during a molt, you should not stress your pet too much.
If you need to handle nymphs, you can either lightly shake the foodplant they are sitting on, to relocate them, or simply put a new foodplant in the enclosure and wait until all nymphs have relocated to the new foodplant, to be able to remove the old one.
Are Stick Insects Dangerous?
Most Phasmids are completely harmless. Their main feature is the ability to camouflage themselves on bark and between leaves. But some walking stick species have defense mechanisms, that can harm you.
As a whole, stick insects are not dangerous. There are some species that have sharp thorns, and some are able to spray an acidic substance towards predators, but the worst thing that can happen would be a rash or an allergic reaction.
The majority of the popular stick insect species that are kept as pets are not able to harm you in any way.
For example, the Carausius Morosus, the Medauroidea Extradentata, or the Ramulus Artemis, as well as many other species have no defense mechanisms other than hiding or dropping from the branch they are sitting on.
Some species have sharp spines that can sting you if you touch them, and some are able to use a chemical substance that is sprayed towards predators if they feel threatened.
Stick insects are docile and calm by nature and will not spray a chemical acid against you without a reason. In fact, most walking sticks will not feel threatened by you, especially if you keep them for a while already.
Some of these substances can look funny or smell funny but not do any harm.
Some sprays contain substances that can cause a rash, allergic reactions, or even temporary blindness, such as the spray of the Anisomorpha Buprestoides.
If you own a walking stick insect that has the possibility to spray an acidic substance at you, you should wear gloves and glasses to protect yourself. Even though the chances are very low that the walking stick sees you as a predator and attacks you, you should rather be careful than have a rash after handling them.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂