Introduction: Taking Care of Australian Spiny Leaf Insects
Spiny Leaf Insects are low care pets great for the whole family. Here is how to look after their needs
Step 1: Getting a Good Home
Stick insect aren't fussy with space but a big enviroment is ideal for a good home. I reccomend buying a plastic or glass terrarium from your local pet store (Pen Pals is a great brand) If you cannot do so, Creating a home is sutaible, it should be at least 40x15 and have a large amount of ventilation, fly screen is a good idea for the lid.
Step 2: Decorating
Stick Insects will require a properly decorated home. It will need to have the correct host plant as a food source, this can be gum leaves, acacia or wattles, if cannot find a supply of any of those, rose bush, bramble or rasberry leaves is still sutiable. There will need to be plenty of areas to climb, adding some sticks of the host plant will also work as a climbing object, there should be plenty of leaves to help the insect feel protected and safe from predators. There should also be a material on the bottom to collect poop or keep out to much moisture. Paper towel or cocoa peat is sutiable.
Step 3: Placing Your Stick Insects
Stick Insects are quite easy to get, you can get them from a breeder or even from a pet store, if you are unsure where to get them you can ring up your local pet store and ask if they stock them. Exotic pet stores are more likely to sell them. When buying your stick insects, it is good idea to bring your terrarium with you so that you don't end up carrying them in a plastic bag which could harm them. Make sure you have some leaves in the terrarium. If you are buying your cage and stick insects at the same time, it will be okay for the time being since they won't starve to death.
Step 4: Maintaining Your Insects.
Stick insects have pretty low needs, making them good pets. However there are some steps to follow. To help matain the terraium's tempature you will need to lightly mist it with a household spray bottle, but do not use a spray bottle that has been recently had a cleaning chemical inside, even if you have washed it out it is still very dangerous. When it comes to changing the leaves I reccomend changing the leaves every four days or at least when it looks dry and pale, because stick insects will not eat dry leaves. If you want to keep them fresh for longer you can put them in a jar filled with water, but you need to cover it with cling wrap and then poke the sticks through. You can get your leaves from a local park, but make sure there are no other insects homes inside or a pest killing chemical on the leaves. Many people say that stick insects don't need water, but I tend to take them out a put some water on a leaf and direct them to it, they seem to enjoy it.
Step 5: Handling Your Stick Insects
Stick insects can be handled, but in a specific way. When trying to place the stick insect on your hand, it is best to place your finger infront of them and slowly slide under their stomach, they should cling onto your finger and then they may crawl around. You should never pick up your stick insect by grabbing them, this can damage their inside which can lead to death. When placing your stick insect back in it's cage, allow it to crawl to the end of your finger and place it in front of a leaf, you can gently tap them from behind to let them know to crawl on. Remember always to let the stick insect do the handling.
Step 6: Breeding
When breeding your stick insects, you won't always require a male. Females are naturally parthenogenic, meaning they can produce their own fertilised eggs, and they basically make clones of them selves so they will all be female and nearly identical. To tell the differences of a male or female look at the top of their tail, females have small straight spikes coming off the top, whilst males don't.Males also have wings when they are mature and are more slender and smaller. When caring for their eggs, you can place them in a seperate container with soil, paper towel or cocoa peat on the bottom, but do not burry the eggs, for this means they will struggle to hatch. Lightly mist them at least three times daily and slightly more on warmer days, make sure their is no mould though. I have heard you can add woodlice to keep it off, but I hear they eat seeds, so they may mistake the eggs for one. The eggs will take about 4-10 months to hatch.
Step 7: Caring for the Young.
Young stick insects are known as nymphs , when they hatch they are small and black with red heads and very long legs. They look like red headed ants, because in the wild they are taken down into ants nests, they then hatch and run out and climb up their host plant. Don't worry you won't need any ants though, as long as least they are kept at 25 degress Celsius the most, they should be fine. They pretty much require the same care as adults, although the eggs should be in a different cage and the nymphs shouldn't be placed in with the adults until they are more than an inch long. When feeding them, they will require younger eucalyptus leaves because their jaws aren't very strong. They shouldn't be handled until they look closer to mini adults (this is about after their second moult) As they get older they shouldn't run around as much and will climb more often. They will moult so having plently of sticks in the exhibit is ideal. I reccomend placing a thicker layer of tissue paper to cushion their fall when moulting. If they loose a leg this is okay because they can regrow it when nymphs. If you do not want any eggs, so that you aren't cruel you should place them near and area with plently of eucalyptus leaves. Although it is best to have eggs so that you can replace the olds insects if you want to continue keeping them.