What do Stick Bugs Eat? Diet And Fun Feeding Facts

Tanya Parkhi
Mar 24, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Nov 19, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
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Northern Walking Stick.

Stick bugs, also known as walking sticks, are a type of long, slender bug that are popular as pets.

Though they fare well in the wild, utmost care and attention are required to make sure that these delicate bugs thrive in captivity. Making sure to feed them the proper diet and keeping their cage conditions clean and moist is pivotal in helping them live their best lives.

Stick insects actually have a very intriguing life cycle. As these bugs live in tropical conditions, adults are unable to survive through freezing conditions.

However, their eggs actually fertilize through cold conditions, and eggs hatch once the weather thaws out. They don't have a larval stage, and nymphs (juvenile stick bugs) retreat into trees and shrubs and begin eating in order to encourage growth, after which they emerge as fully grown adults.

Walking stick insects are very long in nature, and when they stand on their hind legs, they look even taller!

Stick insect species are also excellent at camouflage and have evolved over time to resemble sticks, butterflies, and even leaves - which we refer to as leaf insects! This helps them deter predators.

If you enjoy this article, do check out our other pages on what seals eat and what sea urchins eat.

What type of leaves do stick insects eat?

Stick bugs or leaf insects are mainly arboreal creatures, and they spend most of their time living in bushes or a tree branch high off the ground. They are usually found all around the globe, in places where dense vegetation is easily available.

They are vegetarian in nature, as they have neither the means to hunt prey nor the capacity to digest meat. They are fond of leaves, however, they will not eat the leaves of just any plant.

The type of leaves stick insects eat are oak leaves, raspberry, hazel, hawthorn, and rose plants, with privet leaves, bramble, and ivy leaves being their favorite.

For captive Indian stick insects, it is actually safe to put the leaves or branches of any plant in their enclosures. Stick bugs will not eat any leaves which are toxic to them or are covered with pesticides, so it is safe to experiment with which leaves they will or will not eat by placing them in their cages.

What do stick bugs drink?

Stick insects hydrate themselves by drinking water. They either drink water droplets that accumulate on leaves or directly get moisture from the leaves themselves.

Stick insects need water, as it keeps their skin moist and supple which is very important for the molting process. Tough, dry skin can crack and cause problems while molting, either leaving them severely injured or permanently deforming them.

You may notice that your pets avoid dry, aging leaves and go for bright green, fresh ones instead. The tiny veins of fresh leaves are filled with water, which is what keeps your pet stick insect hydrated.

Submerging plucked leaves in water, as well as misting your cage to keep it hydrated can help to keep your leaves fresh for longer. Misting the cage also forms tiny water droplets on the leaves, which the stick bug can then drink.

Thirdly, it helps to keep the cage conditions nice and moist, which keeps the stick bugs' skin from completely drying out and helps it to molt successfully. As stick insects generally live in tropical areas, replicating the humid conditions do wonderfully for them.

Do not provide tubs or bowls full of water for your stick bugs, as they will not drink from it directly. Having deep pools of standing water also poses the risk of them drowning, as they are not able to handle pulling themselves out of deeper depths if they fall.

Do remember to make sure the water you are giving your Indian stick insects is safe and healthy. Any water infused with chlorine or fluorine should be avoided, as it can be fatal for your stick bug.

Rainwater is cited as the best source of water for your stick bug, and it can be given to your bug without being treated in any way.

Stick insect on tree.

What To Feed A Stick Bug

Pet stick bugs are herbivorous in nature, hence they must be fed leaves, vines, or berries. They are particularly fond of leaves of privet, ivy, and bramble food plants, which they are naturally drawn to in the wild.

They are fonder of broader leaf varieties, and will also feed on eucalyptus leaves happily. Walking stick bugs eat oak leaves, hazel, bramble, ivy, and privet and other leaves.

The blueberry bramble plant is an evergreen plant that stays green and fresh even during the winter. It can even be foraged for when it is snowing outside.

However, when looking for leaves that you can feed your stick bug, not just any leaves will do. Similarly, the ivy plant stays green in harsher weather as well, and leaves can be plucked off the vines.

When it comes to brambles, bright green leaves are actually the opposite of what you are looking for. They can be harmful to stick insects, so more mature leaves which are darker green in color are a safer option to eat.

To make sure that the leaves you pick are healthy and fresh, avoid plucking them from plants that are in the vicinity of roads or highways.

Fumes from car and bike exhausts might be absorbed by these plants, which can then prove harmful to any bug which consumes them. Plants which are known to have been doused in pesticides and insecticides are also dodgy and should not be fed to your pet.

Simply rinsing them is not enough to get rid of the chemicals, as they are absorbed by the food plants.

Walking stick insect babies, or nymphs can be fed leaves, vines, and berries.

How To Care For Stick Bugs

Stick bugs are very popular pets, and certain exotic species such as Indian stick insects are in high demand.

Walking stick bugs are long, slender bugs that enjoy climbing. Providing them with a decently sized, airy cage is necessary for proper space and ventilation. Glass cages with mesh tops are preferred. If you do not have a mesh lid, poke small holes into the top for ventilation.

Line the bottom of your cage with a moisture-absorbing substrate or sand with pebbles This will help to keep your tank moist and humid, which is very important to keep your pet's skin smooth and supple for proper molting.

Make sure to make its surroundings as natural as possible, similar to how its habitat in the wild would be. Climbable decorations which can also be used for resting are ideal, such as plastic ornaments or plant branches.

Make sure not to put too many food plants, as they could be eaten.

To keep the cage clean, regularly remove any dropping as well and skin shed, and swap out the substrate for a fresh layer periodically.

Some species of stick bugs may require additional heating and lighting. If this is the case with your pets, then be sure to keep an eye on any leaves you are putting in their cage as food.

New leaves will tend to dry out faster under heated conditions, hence making sure they stay fresh by submerging them partially in water is ideal.

If you have multiple stick insects and they end up breeding, then gently transfer the eggs to another container. Make sure there is enough ventilation, and spray them with water at least once a week to keep them moist until they hatch.

Stick bugs are usually active at night, so be sure to not disturb your pets if they seem to be resting during the day, and handle them gently as they are delicate creatures.

Keep spraying water or misting the cage periodically with a spray bottle to help keep the environment moist as well as provide potable water to your stick bug. As long as you follow these steps, you and your stick bug will get along very well! These bugs usually live for two years.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what stick bugs eat then why not take a look at what oysters eat or stick bugs facts.

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah Gulbargawala picture

Amatullah GulbargawalaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah is a passionate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from Ashoka College of Education. With a keen interest in literature, she has excelled in elocution competitions and is an accomplished writer. She has completed courses like "History of English Language and Literature", "Introduction to Western Political Thought and Theory", and "Development of Soft Skills and Personality". In her free time, Amatullah enjoys reading books and writing poetry.

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