There is a pet that is simple to care for and cheap to own. They work well as classroom pets and are great for kids, or people with allergies. That pet is the Northern Walking Stick Insect.
There are many types of Walking Stick Insect, some are legal in some areas, and some are not. Always check with your local laws before getting a pet from a source outside of your area.
The Northern Walking Stick insect, in specific, is native to North America. It should be noted though, that with very few exceptions it is illegal to capture wild animals (even insects) and keep them as pets. As such a person should look into getting their Northern Walking Stick insects from a reliable source. Some pet stores sell them – particularly those dealing with reptiles and amphibians. Additionally good sources of pet insects can be found in Reptile and Amphibians magazines in the advertisements.
photo by authors husband
Before you bring home your pet insect you will need to set up a Vivarium, this is usually a 5-10 gallon aquarium with a secure screen lid. The lid should be a tight mesh so none of the insects can escape.
The interior can be simple, a few sticks, or can have a dirt bottom and other features. It is important to note that if you have soil in the bottom of your vivarium you will likely get babies.
It is extra important to have sticks in the tank as they need to climb on these to shed their skin as they grow. They do not need any additional lighting besides sunlight. If the vivarium is in a hot sunny location it will need extra misting.
Feeding and Water
The vivarium will need to have a place for the insects to get water – as smaller ones will drown in a bowl one of the best ways of giving them water is by putting a wet sponge in the tank. Frequent misting will also add water droplets for them to drink.
Their food is fresh leaves, in the summer you may have plants in your garden you can pick fresh leaves from every couple of days. The preferred leaves are apple, sassafras, raspberry. In the winter fresh romaine lettuce can be purchased for them, but must be washed to remove any chemicals. If the tank has only a few insects they can share 1-3 leaves. The leaves should be changed every couple of days when they dry out.
The Insects Themselves
Northern Walking Stick insects appear in a color range from green to brown. When first observed as youngsters they will be less than an inch long, but will grow to 4 inches or so in length.
It is recommended to keep only 1 insect per gallon of tank, being aware that they can reproduce, and you may find yourself with 30 hatchlings.
The lifespan of Northern Walking Stick insects is about 1 year. Do not empty your tank after the death of your last pet, if you have soil you might notice hatchlings in a week or so.
Northern Walking Stick insects shed their skin regularly as they grow, and you will find this as a shriveled skin.
Northern Walking Stick insects can be picked up and held, some are slower moving than others. Care should be taken when handling them, that they not be held too far above a surface or they may fall and be hurt or killed.
Many lizard keepers find that their lizards enjoy eating Northern Walking Stick insects and keep them to breed them as a food source for their pets.
As you can see these pets require very little care, other than misting and giving them fresh leaves. If a person has a garden they can feed the pets from plants in their yard, essentially costing them nothing to feed their pet.
Their short lifespan means they can be a short term commitment, or they can be allowed to reproduce if a person finds they enjoy them.
They work well as school pets because they do not produce allergens. If they die it is not as traumatic to a child as when a mammal dies.