How Long Can Stick Insects Go Without Food?

Stick insects don’t eat too often since they don’t burn through a lot of energy. These are stationary creatures that rely on camouflage and lack of motion to evade predators. As a result, they conserve their energy pretty well and will only eat occasionally. Stick insects can also go without food for several days, should the circumstances require it.

As a general rule, larger stick insects can go without food longer than smaller ones. At most, they can survive around 5 days without any food, or even slightly longer, depending on the species and the insect’s size.

That being said, you shouldn’t subject your stick insects to fasting too often. It’s okay once or twice if you’re going on trips or missing home due to personal problems, but don’t make it a norm. Fasting too often can cause stick insects health issues.

How to Keep Leaves Fresh for Longer?

You should provide your stick insects with fresh leaves every 2-3 days. That’s how much they will take to eat them in general, depending, obviously, on how many insects you have and the number of leaves. This means that one batch of leaves should remain fresh for up to 3 days; otherwise, your insects won’t eat them.

Stick insects are picky eaters and will only consume fresh food. But how do you keep the leaves fresh for several days?

The best and most used method refers to cutting branches containing the leaves and placing them in a bowl of water in your insect’s enclosure. The branch will provide the leaves with nutrition, keeping them fresh for longer. Don’t collect leaves individually since this will speed up their decay.

You should also spray them with water vapors occasionally to increase the habitat’s humidity and keep the leaves moist. Doing so also provides your stick insects with water since they like to drink it from the very leaves they’re eating.

What Leaves Can Stick Insects Eat?

Bramble, privet, rose, eucalyptus, and hawthorn. These are stick insects’ favorite meals, enough to keep them happy and healthy long-term. It also depends on the species. Different stick insects prefer different leaves and plants, depending on the insect’s natural habitat and feeding behavior.

Some stick insects like ivy, others don’t. It’s vital to learn about your preferred stick insect’s food items to avoid starvation. If the insect doesn’t like its food, it will starve to death.

How Often Should Stick Insects Eat?

The general recommendation states that you should change your insects’ leaves every 2-3 days. But that’s not their feeding frequency; it’s how long leaves will remain fresh. Stick insects eat several times per day, despite not consuming too much energy. Leaves aren’t exactly too rich in calories either, so stick insects need to consume them regularly to remain full and satisfied.

You should also remember that your stick insect’s diet will change as it grows. The adult will eat more compared to the juvenile. Also, females and nymphs eat more than adult stick insects. The latter will only eat enough to fuel their search for females.

Do Stick Insects Need Water?

Yes, they do. Hydration is important for all living creatures, stick insects included. That being said, they don’t drink too much, and they won’t get their water from water bowls. You can’t really train them.

The best way to hydrate your stick insects is by spraying their leaves with water regularly. ‘Regularly’ means 2-3 times per day, depending on your insect’s requirements, ambiental temperature, and growth stage. Stick insects will require a surplus of environmental humidity during molting to ensure the procedure’s success and minimize the risk of complications.

Why is My Stick Insect Not Eating?

Stick insects have a rather irregular eating pattern. This means that their refusal to eat isn’t always a sign of trouble. Even so, you should know how to differentiate between changes in appetite due to health problems and normal feeding behaviors typical to your insect’s species.

Here’s why your stick insect may refuse food:

  • Stick insects are night feeders – Stick insects are nocturnal creatures since they have evolved that way. They are harder to detect at night, which makes it more unlikely for predator birds to spot them. You should see your insect move and feed primarily at night and leave the food untouched during the day. There is nothing to worry about since this feeding behavior is common to many stick insect species.
  • During molting – Stick insects molt several times during their lifetime. The stick insect will shed its skin between 6 to 9 times throughout its life, and its feeding behavior will change each time. The molting process may last from several hours to days, during which the insect will stop eating. The stick insect will generally refuse food several hours before molting begins and several hours after it completes. Things should return to normal soon after.
  • Fungal infection – The good news is that stick insects don’t have any species-specific diseases to worry about. Except for fungal infections. These generally occur due to poor environmental conditions and unclean living spaces. Stick insects generally develop fungal infections on their legs, eventually falling off and regenerating during future molting phases. In other cases, however, stick insects may develop generalized fungal infections, at which point they might refuse food and die as a result. There’s little you can do in such a scenario other than quarantining the insect to protect the rest of the stick insects.
  • Contaminated leaves – Sometimes, leaves can be contaminated with various pesticides, insecticides, harmful chemicals, and even environmental pollutants. Leaves that grow on the side of the road contain harmful chemicals coming from car fumes, for instance. Despite being its favorite, your insect will detect them and avoid the food. It’s better to have your insect avoid polluted food than eat it and die. Stick insects are very sensitive to insecticides, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals.
  • Unfit food – This can mean everything, from providing the insect with leaves that are not on the species’ food list to feeding large, thick leaves to small insects. Smaller species of stick insects have problems biting and chewing meaty leaves too large for their mouths. This may cause the insect to starve, despite having plenty of food available.
  • The ‘what the hell is going on’ factor – This may be a bit confusing, but your stick insect may refuse food simply because it doesn’t realize it’s food. It’s rather rare, but there have been cases of stick insects starving to death with a lot of fresh leaves around them. It’s one of the nature’s peculiarities that you can do nothing about.

Conclusion

Stick insects are adept survivors with varied diets and a somewhat irregular feeding pattern. So long as you provide them with fresh leaves constantly and ensure proper temperature and humidity, they won’t ask for much else.

Despite the insect’s ability to survive for days without food, try not to test it too often. Leave them with enough food if you’re going out for a couple of days, or ask a friend or a family member to check them regularly if necessary.

Stick Insects   Updated: January 20, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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