Stick creatures have become more and more popular as pets. Stick insects are also referred to as Stick bugs, Walking Sticks, or Phasmids. They are very well known for their impressive camouflage. Keeping stick creatures at home is a rewarding, and educational experience.
As a whole, stick creatures are herbivorous and eat all kinds of leaves. Depending on the species they might like different plants, but most of them eat all kinds of leaves and even ivy, rose leaves, and lettuce.
Stick insects should be offered fresh leaves every day. They also need fresh food in winter. Stick bug nymphs might be a little tricky to feed as they might not get too excited by the leaves you offer them. In the following, you can find all the information on how to feed your stick creatures.
The Diet of a Stick Insect
Walking sticks are herbivorous (other than praying mantises). They only eat leaves, but not the entire leave. Walking sticks are known as skeletonizers. That means that they only eat the leafy part and not the veins in the leaves, leaving a leaf looking like a skeleton.
When you feed your stick bugs fresh lettuce, they will also leave the white part in the middle and only eat the green leafy part.
When they are done eating, the leave will look like a skeleton. Hence the name.
You can feed your walking stick any leaf you want. If they don’t touch it, try another plant. You should offer your pet a wide variety of different leaves to make sure they get all the nutrition they need.
These are plants that walking sticks usually like. The preferences can vary depending on the species. Some species require a special diet, but most species will feast on these leaves.
Oak, beech, hazel, bramble, chestnut, rose leaves, strawberry leaves, St. John’s wort, currant, evergreen viburnum, privet, and some other olive trees, most fruit trees, maple, ivy, rhododendron, firethorn, ferns, fuchsias, geraniums, mallow plants, eucalyptus, acacia, mango, guavas, and many more.
You can differentiate between polyphagous, oligophagous, and monophagous species. Polyphagous means, that these creatures have a very wide spectrum of possible nourishment, while oligophagous species are limited to some food sources.
The polyphagous and oligophagous species can usually be fed with oak, bramble, and other leaves that you can find outside.
And then there are the monophagous species, which are dependent on a specific source of food. These species are hard to keep as pets because the food source is often hard to get and it has to be fresh all the time.
Make sure that all leaves are fresh and not treated with any pesticides. Rinse the leaves before you put them in the enclosure, just in case.
The leaves can be either put on the floor of the enclosure or hung from the top. That’s more like they would encounter it in nature.
You can use a magnet and metal paper clips on the leaf to hang it from the ceiling.
Mist the leaves daily to make sure the walking sticks have enough water. Feeding and misting is best at night because walking sticks are known to be nocturnal (most active from approx. 9 pm to 3 am), that’s when they do most of their eating.
What can You Feed Stick Insects in Winter?
Searching for fresh food in winter can be a challenge sometimes if you live in a temperate region where the trees have no leaves in winter.
There are some plants that keep their leaves, such as bramble. You can also collect fresh leaves in autumn and freeze them at home.
Another possibility is to cut some twigs with leaves in autumn and keep them in water during winter.
If none of these options work for you, you can still feed your walking sticks lettuce from the supermarket, as long as you rinse the leaves properly to get rid of any pesticides.
What do Baby Walking Sticks Eat?
If you chose to breed walking stick eggs and are faced with tiny baby walking sticks, you might be wondering, if they need a special diet. Or you already see them walking around nervously, ignoring the food you offer them. This can have various reasons.
As a whole, baby walking sticks are more sensitive than adult stick bugs. They might need different settings in their enclosure to be able to survive. Depending on the species, some nymphs need a different diet than adults and won’t eat until the humidity is high enough.
When nymphs hatch, they don’t start eating right away. In nature, they would start walking around, looking for good spots to hide, and climb on different trees to spread out. But if several hours have passed and you still don’t see your nymphs eating, it might be time to act.
Nymphs often need higher humidity levels than adults. They are not as sturdy yet and will not start eating until they are happy with the settings. If they don’t eat at all, they will just drop down dead after a few days.
Of course, it is normal that not all nymphs survive in nature. But especially in winter, when the air indoors is rather dry from heating, nymphs might be faced with a climate they cannot survive in.
Another reason can be that nymphs are more sensitive and some species need a specific plant to start with. If you own a species that is picky with food, you should ask the breeder you got your pet from, what food nymphs of that species need. You can also do some reading online about that specific species.
Once you know what the issue is, you can either offer them the right food or increase humidity. This can be done by separating the nymphs from the adults. Prepare a new, small enclosure for the babies.
You can use a kitchen jar, put a paper towel on the floor as a substrate, and insert some leaves of the plant they need. Gently mist the leaves, but not too much, because nymphs can easily drown.
You can either punch a hole in the lid of the jar to allow air circulation. This way you will get the best results for high humidity.
Put your baby walking sticks in the jar and close it with the prepared lid. You can place the jar in a place with natural light, but not directly into sunlight.
The leaves and the water you sprayed in will increase the humidity in the jar and create the habitat the nymphs need to thrive. After a few days, you should be able to see the nymphs nibbling on the leaves and the feces of the nymphs.
Once the nymphs have started eating, they can be placed back into the enclosure with the adults.
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 🙂