Thursday, October 01, 2009

Stick Bugs for Adoption

It was one year ago that my sister gave me the lovely gift of a male and female stick bug. No I am not being sarcastic, I had really wanted some ever since I saw the ones she had some years before. But no pet stores carried them, and my occasional Craigslist inquiries for them had gone unanswered.

Here is my original pair from last October (the male is darker, at the top) - click any photo for a slightly larger image:

Pair of stick bugs
The male is still alive, one year later.

The female started dropping eggs (to the bottom of the cage) 5 months after I got her, an egg or so every couple of days. She dropped 25 eggs total, and then died (of exhaustion?). I kept the eggs moist (by lining the bottom of the cage with paper towels, which I poured water on). The eggs started hatching about 2 months after they were dropped. Some 18 or 19 of those eggs hatched. Here is a newly hatched stick:
Newborn stick bug
Some of the babies are now the size of the stick bugs I received last October. In fact, I have a hard time now telling which male is the father, and which ones are the babies.

I will keep a few stick bugs to continue the cycle, but I intend to adopt out the remaining ones. My sister happily took 2 females and 1 male. As of my count today, while cleaning the cage, I have 12 females and 5 males, which is too many to keep, once the females start laying eggs.

As I understand it, the females can reproduce without any males. In this case, all offspring will be daughters, and identical to their moms. But with a male, the offspring will be mixed males and females (as in my case), and with some genetic variation. For example, some of my females have a bit of green colouration on their legs, and others are brown throughout.

They are very easy to care for, their diet (and they don't eat very much) consisting of either oak leaves or blackberry leaves. Their maintenance consists of bringing in fresh blackberry leaves. I keep mine in small jars of water, so they only need to be changed every week or two, and I have no shortage of blackberry vines invading my yard from two sides. I always manage to poke myself as I try to change over the blackberries and move the stick bugs over from the old branch to new. But not seriously, yet.

I keep my sticks in a reptile cage, which has a mesh top, and doors which swing open and close with a small latch. It is a 18" cube. A smaller cage would do, since the sticks really don't move much, and don't eat much either. But this one provides great viewing of them.
Stick bug cage
When there are no eggs, the cage just needs to be cleaned occasionally, since the sticks drop little dry poops all over. I line it with paper towels, so I can remove them easily, and replace them. When there are eggs, they need to be kept moist. I use a few layers of paper towels, and pour a bit of water on them every day or two.

Apparently if one doesn't want the eggs to hatch, they should be frozen first (to sterilize them), before being discarded. I didn't need to do that, at least on this first cycle.

The stick bugs don't bite. They are gentle. They tickle. I think they make a great "pet" for children. Except that kids eventually get bored of them. Mine did. Now they're just my pets again.

If anyone from the Vancouver, BC area is interested in adopting some stick bugs, let me know.

30Oct09 Update : Happily, I have found some good homes for my sticks, and am down to a more reasonable number now:

1 male and 2 females to my sister
1 female to Susanna, mother of two boys in our school
1 male and 1 female to Beth, mother of a girl (good friend of my daughter) and boy in our school
1 male and 1 female to a school teacher in my sister's school, who is apparently "into" lots of different types of creatures, which she keeps in the classroom - cool!


Tim said...

There's a Vancouver Aquatic Hobbyist club in Vancouver that holds an annual auction (in November), at which I've seen stick bugs for sale. You might have some luck finding new homes for them there. Of course, fish is the focus there, so you might find something worth buying as well (prices are typically much less than stores). Send me a message if you want more details.

Laura Gardens in Desert said...

Way cool!

Ruralrose said...

omg - i am in love - what i miss the very most about summer is the bugs - the sounds, the dragon flies, the crickets, the ladybugs - never seen this before, how fun, what a great post, peace for all

Garden Lily said...

Laura & Ruralrose - Good to know I'm not the only "bug" girl. Used to love chasing grasshoppers, watching ants, dragonflies, spiders, picking stranded worms off the sidewalk... Still do. :-)

Joyful said...

Those are kewl looking bugs. They really do look like sticks! Thanks for sharing :-)

Lavender Cottage said...

Isn't it interesting to learn something new! Would these bugs be the ones we see occasionaly wild in Ontario and call walking sticks? They look the same but I never imagined people kept them as pets.
Thanks for sharing, especially the photos.

Garden Lily said...

Lavender Cottage - Yes, I follow a few blogs where these walking sticks appear in the "wild". I don't know that they occur naturally out here in BC, although I could be wrong, since they would be awfully hard to spot. But they do make cool pets, and very low maintenance ones.

tina said...

This is so awesome! I had found a huge stick bug on my porch last year and posted a picture of it. In researching them I did learn some folks keep them as pets but never thought that really happened. Ha me! They must be so fun and a true topic of conversation when friends come over. Not to mention much easier to care for than a reptile, bird, cat or dog. Great shot of them on your hand and I love this post!

Garden Lily said...

Funny, when reading this again, I couldn't have had 12 females and 5 males. Some of those "females" must have been males, since after giving away 2 more males, I think I still have 6 more. So maybe when they are young, it is hard to identify the gender, and they all appear female. The older males and females are a distinctly different shape and even different colour (the males are much darker, and thinner, and have a different shape of tail).

Heather Christine said...

I am an elementary teacher in Lakewood WA and I was given 3 sticks at the end of last year. And today I changed the dirt substrate to paper towel and not 5 minutes later I see three "poops" and one egg!!
I am so excited!
Also, where did you get your cage?

Garden Lily said...

Heather Christine - That's exciting. I bought my cage (about $100) at a pet shop, originally for a turtle. It is designed for amphibians, but the front-opening doors, mesh top and glass sides make it a great cage for sticks and many other creatures.

Roos said...

Hi there,

We just moved to Vancouver from the Netherlands. Our two daughters enjoy it here very much, although my eldest is sad that we now live in a place where she can't have a pet (we will live here for appr. 2 years which i find too short for a cat and i don't like caged rodents ;-) )

So, i was very happy when we went to the aquarium where they had an animal encounter with a stickbug. My eldest loved them!!! She was not afraid and loved their ticklish legs on her hands and arm. Ever since she has been full of stickbug stories and she would love to have one for her 4th birthday in March. She suggested it herself in a very clever preschool was not really a pet, just a little friend for her, haha!

Looking for possible stickbugs for sale, i found an old blogpost from question is, do you still have stickbugs up for adoption? or do you perhaps know where i could find a stickbug-selling-store?

thanks in advance! Roos

Garden Lily said...

Roos - Thanks for asking. As far as I know, they are not available in any stores, but I would be happy to sell you some. If you click to view my profile, you will find my email link there.

Anonymous said...

so where can i actually get 1???

Garden Lily said...

If you are in Canada, they are not available in any pet stores, you can only get them privately. If you are in Vancouver, you can contact me by email (see my profile).

Anonymous said...

ok, thanks, I'm in Idaho.

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