Phasmida (stick and leaf insects)

Fast facts about Phasmida (stick and leaf insects)

  • About 3000 species world wide; around 15 species in Europe, 4 species have been introduced to southern Britain, probably on imported plants.
  • Camouflaged as twigs or leaves.
  • Many species are parthenogenic (females can lay fertilized eggs without mating), and males are rare or unknown.
  • However some species who do mate can maintain intercourse for months!
  • Females are usually wingless, some males have wings.
  • Front wings papery or leathery, hind wings broad and fan-shaped.
  • Hemimetabolous.
  • Strong, biting mouthparts.
  • Feed mainly on plants.
  • Eggs can lie dormant for as long as three years before hatching.
  • Frequently nocturnal.
  • Popular as pets.
  • The fossil record stretches back 200 million years.

Leaf insects

There are only about 50 species world wide. They are found mainly in south east Asia and New Guinea.

The body is flattened and leaf-like, sometimes complete with blotches. Some species resemble living leaves, and some resemble dead leaves.

They vary in size from about 3 - 11 cm.

Stick insects

There are over 2900 species in the world, found mainly in warm regions on foliage and twigs. To increase their camouflage some even sway in the breeze.

They range in size from 2.5 - 29 cm when fully grown, and are usually brown or green in colour.

If they are seized by a predator they have the ability to shed a leg. This leg will gradually grow back a little at each successive moult.

The eggs are hard-shelled, seed- or flask- like with a little lid at one end.

Clonopsis gallica (right) is found in Europe, and is very easy to keep as a pet.

Clonopsis gallicus, stick insect, Phasmid

Stick insects as pets

Stick insects are incredibly easy to keep as pets. Any container will do, but the plastic aquaria made by Hagen pals, Interpet, Bug Studio, Natural world experience, and Exo Terra are reliable and inexpensive.

You can put sand or gravel at the bottom of the cage if you wish, or just leave it bare.

Feed the stickies on what they were feeding on when you got them. If you want to change their food, then you can do so gradually. As a standby ivy or bramble is usually OK and ivy is available for free all year round.

I tend to put a few branches or stems as large as the cage will hold. But do be careful when removing them as they wither that you don't throw out your pets too.

Now for cleaning. I tend to do very little. They don't smell as long as the bottom of the cage is kept dry. And if you do throw out what is at the bottom you won't get any babies. On the other hand I do sometimes have too many babies, and that is when I throw out the sand at the bottom of the cage. The eggs look a little like plant seeds, and are just dropped on the soil or sand.