What Do Stick Insects Eat and Drink?
Stick insects are herbivores, so they’ll eat plants. But not just any types of plants. These guys are picky eaters that need a stable and healthy diet when kept in captivity. The better-looking a plant is, the hungrier stick insects become, actually.
They also know which plants are toxic and which are safe to eat, so even if you mistakenly feed them toxic plants, they won’t eat them.
But that’s not all. There are plenty of other food-related things about stick insects you should know. Here we go!
Plants That Stick Insects Like to Eat
Being herbivores, stick insects require a plant-based diet. They’re vegans, basically. Leaves and branches are the staple food choice for them, but I recommend you only pick healthy-looking trees when harvesting food.
Avoid trees that have been sprayed with pesticides or other toxic chemicals. Green, fresh leaves, are more nutritious than dry ones, as well. Stick insects will eat the following plants:
- Privet – An excellent food source for caterpillars and a few specific species of stick insects like Peruphasma schultei
- Rose – Stick insects that like eating bramble will also eat rose leaves
- Eucalyptus – Primary source of food for most stick insect species kept in captivity
- Oak – Ideal plant for most species of stick insects, but it doesn’t grow in winter
- Bramble – Evergreen plant that remains green all year round, and is a great source of nutrition
- Hawthorn – An evergreen plant that most stick insects enjoy all year round
- Hazel – Another type of plant enjoyed by most stick insect species due to its fresh flavor
- Ivy – This one is an evergreen plant that specific stick insect species will eat
Before feeding your insects with branches, make sure you shake off any spiders or other animals living on the branches. Young stick insects are the perfect prey for spiders and other predators, so be wary of this. It’s better to waste some time checking for hidden predators rather than finding all your stick insects butchered the following morning.
I also recommend diversifying their diet with a variety of plants every 2-3 days. This will help their immune system fight diseases better and keep them healthy. Eucalyptus leaves are a real delicacy for them, so keep that in mind! In fact, I recommend keeping eucalyptus leaves in a jar, in your fridge, at all times.
Will Stick Insects Eat Each Other?
No, stick insects don’t eat each other because they’re herbivores. Their bodies don’t have the right tools to process meat, and they also don’t get any nutrition from eating meat.
Veganism is their only way of life. It’s not that they prefer eating plants, it’s that they can’t eat meat. Well, they can, but they may get intoxicated by doing so. So, raising them in captivity is entirely doable without being afraid of this.
However, this doesn’t mean stick insects don’t fight each other. Every living animal becomes aggressive when the food supply is low. The instinct for survival overrides any sense of kinship with other members of the species. If not enough food is available, the strongest individual gets to eat, while the others starve. It’s as simple as that.
In most situations, a stick insect will prefer to flee the scene and hide. They’re not a warrior species, in other words. But if you corner a mouse, it can bite and scratch you to escape the danger. Similarly, stick insects will attack when cornered and no escape option is available. Indeed, they can’t harm you in the slightest bit smaller predators are another story.
Another situation where stick insects attack each other is when a female decides to produce eggs parthenogenically (without male intervention). In this case, the female makes the eggs herself without a male fertilizing them.
So, if a male gets close in an attempt to do so, the female will intimidate and even attack him. In fact, there are many situations in which females don’t want to mate, and males do. You can guess what happens next.
Will Stick Insects Eat Lettuce?
This question comes as naturally as a shaded oasis in the Sahara Desert. Why wouldn’t stick insects eat lettuce, you may ask yourself. Well, they do. Many stick insect species eat lettuce as a main source of food.
To find out if your species partake in green lettuce, throw a few leaves in their enclosure and see what happens. The worst that can happen is the lettuce rotting because the insects don’t eat it.
But, stick insects love eating lettuce so much that many farms in Southern California complain about stick insect infestations. They eat anything they set their eyes on, including lettuce. They’re also picky about the state of their lettuce.
Old and yellowed lettuce won’t do. Only the freshest greens will do. The leafy and green part of this plant is especially nutritious and delicious for your stick insects.
Even young stick insects will eat lettuce as long as it’s fresh. To keep it fresh, cut a few leaves and place them on a flatter container filled with water. But young stick insects can fall into the water and drown, right?
Indeed, and that’s why you should use mosquito netting to cover the water. Alternatively, put pieces of paper on the water and branches, to create an artificial cover.
What do Stick Insects Eat in the Winter?
Generally, wild stick insects die during winter because they can’t hibernate or resist the cold. They also don’t find enough food in the environment. However, raising stick insects in captivity is another story.
You can prolong their life by a lot due to artificial conditions. Provide them with enough heat, water, and food, and your stick insects will safely pass through winter.
Their diet remains the same during winter. Oak, ivy, hawthorn, eucalyptus, and rose leaves are great. But where will you get fresh leaves during winter? Yeah, that’s a big problem. Or it would have been a problem if some plants weren’t evergreen.
Bramble, hawthorn, and ivy grow during winter and they’ll stay just as green and fresh. What’s more, you can raise ivy indoors just in case.
However, not all stick insects will eat ivy. Bramble is a staple food option for most stick insects, though. You’ll find fresh bramble even during winter in shaded areas (under bridges or close to buildings).
If the winter is especially severe and cold, even bramble may wither and die, though. That’s when you need to buy fresh leaves from a garden center. Or just feed your stick insects lettuce!
If you live in a cold place and winter is inhospitable for vegetation, I recommend planning and preparing ahead. Store bramble leaves in your freezer for use during winter. Even though they’re not as fresh when thawed, the stick insects will eat them reluctantly. At least they’re not starving, right?
Considering that wild stick insects die during winter, surviving with half-fresh food is preferable.
How Long Can Stick Insects Go Without Eating?
Stick insects need to eat every 2-3 days or else they’ll die. It’s as simple as that and nothing is confusing about it.
I recommend feeding them oak, ivy, bramble, or eucalyptus to keep it varied. As you know, variety is the spice of life, and this applies to stick insects as well. Just make sure the food is always fresh, especially if you want to feed younger stick insects.
Adults will reluctantly eat not-so-fresh plant leaves if you don’t have fresh ones on hand. But younger stick insects are really picky about their food. They may get sick or even die if fresh food isn’t available.
Ideally, your stick insects should have food available at all times in their enclosure. Every 2-3 days, you need to renew their supply with fresh leaves because the old one isn’t as nutritious anymore.
How to Feed Your Stick Insects?
Stick insects aren’t only picky about the state of their food but also about the presentation. To avoid unnecessary trouble, cut the branches and leaves to adequate sizes, placing them in a container filled with water.
The tips of the branches should be wet at all times, to preserve them for longer. In these conditions, the food should last for about a week or maybe even longer if you change the water regularly.
The real hassle is when you need to throw the old branches because stick insects could still be on them. Individually checking each branch is very time-consuming, but there’s nothing you can do. Fortunately, through repetition, you’ll get used to spotting the phasmids on the branches. Keep in mind that they’ll remain still if you get close, so there’s no hope of seeing them move.
To facilitate this process, I recommend placing a second container with fresh leaves and branches in the enclosure. Keep the old container there, and after a few days, all the stick insects and phasmids will have moved to the new container.
It makes branch removal much more comfortable! You should also remember to mist the enclosure daily to provide your phasmids and stick insects with hydration.
So, there you have it, folks. Stick insects are herbivorous, so they’ll only eat plants of a specific variety (oak, rose, eucalyptus, bramble, hawthorn, ivy, hazel, and privet). Some species only eat one type of plant and ignore all the others.
But they all have in common a preference for fresh food over old one. Younger stick insects are especially choosy about the freshness of their food because they’re growing up and need more nutrition.
If you have any questions, leave them below, and I’ll reply shortly!