Do Stick Insects Eat Each Other?
Stick insects are easy-going creatures that like to live in peace, preferably alone. Stick insects aren’t social creatures, and they tend to attack each other when coming into contact. Especially if there’s food around worth competing for.
The fighting may result in lost limbs, which isn’t a tragedy since stick insects can regenerate their lost limbs during molting. But can their animosity turn into something uglier; can stick insects eat each other?
The short answer is no, stick insects never eat their own. They actually won’t eat any animals since stick insects are herbivorous. If they lack food, they will simply starve to death, even if there are other insects around them.
At most, stick insects may fight and kill each other if they lack the necessary space to feel comfortable around one another. Or if food competition gets in the way of a peaceful and flourishing relationship.
What do Stick Insects Usually Eat?
As herbivorous creatures, stick insects will consume a variety of leaves, including oak, bramble, ivy, hawthorn, rose, privet, etc. They also only eat fresh leaves and will ignore rotten or decaying ones, even if only in a mildly degraded state. This is why you should always check your insects’ leaves reserves to make sure they are fresh and good to eat.
Otherwise, your insect will just ignore them.
An even more important aspect is the dietary differences between various stick insect species. Not all species consume the same leaves. Some will avoid ivy completely for instance. You should always inform yourself on the species of stick insect you wish to acquire since it may have different dietary and environmental needs than others of its genre.
Why do Stick Insects Fight Each Other?
Most people believe that stick insects will never display aggression since they are herbivorous and rather timid. The last part is true. Stick insects will rather flee or hide when confronted with a threat, but that may not always be the case.
There are several reasons why stick insects will choose fight over flight:
- Lack of space – If the stick insect has nowhere to go to, it will stand its ground. The stick insect will simply change its location in the wild if another stick insect enters its safe space. This may not be possible in an enclosed terrarium, with not enough space, leading your stick insects to resort to violence.
- Food competition – Stick insects eat a lot and are very protective of their food sources. They might grow aggressive towards other stick insects since this species is not used to sharing its food.
- Female-to-male aggression – Many stick insects lay eggs parthenogenetically. These are unfertilized eggs that don’t require male insemination to hatch and will all produce females. The female laying them will become aggressive towards any males coming near the eggs.
- Combining multiple insect species – Although part of the same genus, stick insects separate into more than 3,000 species, and few will actually get along with one another. Pairing stick insects belonging to different species can spell disaster, especially if you’re placing them in a tight space, with not enough room or hiding spots.
Aside from these issues, stick insects are generally peaceful and will leave or hide rather than fight.
Do Female Stick Insects Eat Males After Breeding?
No, they don’t. However, other species do like the most mantids and a variety of spider species. Among the latter, the male’s behavior has evolved around the female’s cruel behavior. The male of the Black Widow species will offer its body to the female as a snack during copulation. This will prolong the insemination process, keeping the female occupied and allowing the male to inject more sperm.
Stick insects don’t do that. Most species of stick insects reproduce parthenogenetically, which means that they don’t need males. The female will lay unfertilized eggs, which will all turn into females.
In some species, females do mate with males, and the process is pretty boring and typical. The male will inseminate the female and leave. The resulting eggs will have a 50% chance of hatching either gender.
No cannibalism is required at any stage of the mating process.
How to Prevent Stick Insects from Fighting Each Other?
As I’ve already explained, stick insects will fight for a variety of reasons. To minimize the risk of them growing aggressive towards one another:
- Provide them with adequate space – the enclosure should be 3 times higher and 2 times wider than the insect’s body length, preferably more; the more insects you have, the bigger the enclosure should get
- Provide plenty of food to minimize the risk of food competition
- Only keep females in the enclosure; adding males will create unnecessary tension and increase the likelihood of aggressive display
- Don’t mix species; different species of stick insects require varying environmental conditions anyways, so mixed-species terrariums aren’t always a good idea
Take these precautions, and your stick insects might be able to live together in peace.
Do Stick Insects Eat Their Babies?
No, but they aren’t the most caring mothers either. Stick insects will lay their eggs in a safe spot and then move on with their lives. They don’t care for the offspring, which is typical behavior in a variety of insect and fish species.
Don’t feel sorry for them, since the nymphs of stick insects are naturally adept at surviving and need no nurturing or guidance. They will begin feeding immediately and rely on their camouflage and defensive behavior to avoid predators in the wild.
Can You Keep Stick Insects Together?
Yes, but it depends on factors like:
- Available space – If they lack adequate space, stick insects will become aggressive towards one another. This is not so much the result of territorial behavior, but rather the insects reacting aggressively when other insects invade their safe space.
- Gender – Females don’t get along with males in most situations. Especially those belonging to species that exhibit parthenogenetic behavior. The good news is that males are almost non-existent in those species anyway.
- One species at a time – Keeping multiple insects belonging to different species in the same environment isn’t a particularly good idea. They can become aggressive towards one another and may experience low quality of life due to having different environmental requirements.
So long as you work on these issues, yes, you can keep several stick insects together.
Stick insects won’t eat each other under any circumstance but will exhibit aggressive behavior in some instances. They are, however, peaceful creatures that will avoid conflict if necessary.
Provide them with adequate living conditions and monitor their interaction daily to make sure they remain friendly towards one another. If aggression does occur, assess the situation and take appropriate measures to prevent the insects from hurting or even killing each other.