What Do Walking Stick Insects Eat in the Wild & as Pets?


There are more than 3,000 different species of stick insects in the world. They are popular pets among insect enthusiasts due to their low-maintenance care level and interesting appearance. If you are planning on keeping stick insects as pets, you’ll need to know what to feed them. Keep reading to learn more about what they eat in the wild and what you should feed them as pets.

leaves divider leaf

Walking Stick Insects in the Wild

The adult walking stick in the wild can range from 1 to 12 inches in length, depending on the species. Their colors vary and can include green, brown, yellow, white, and grey. Their primary means of protection from predators is their ability to resemble a twig or stick and blend in.

The many different species of walking stick insects have one thing in common: They are all herbivores. Depending on the species, certain plants might be preferred, but leaves are almost always the favorite part of the plant for walking stick snacks.

Since they can be found on every continent except Antarctica, the diet of a walking stick insect includes thousands of different leaves. Their environment varies from temperate to tropical climates. They live in woodlands and tropical forests. They rarely come down to ground level, instead spending most of their lives in trees.

walking stick insect
Image Credit: Rebekah Johnson, Pixabay

Walking Stick Insect Diet in the Wild

While the types of leaves an adult walking stick eats vary, some are commonly consumed by different species.

These include:

  • Bramble
  • Hazel
  • Oak
  • Rose
  • Ivy
  • Privet
  • Hawthorn

Most of these plants are widely available and hardy in the wild. This makes them excellent food choices for these hungry insects.

Destruction of Walking Stick Habitat and Impact on Diet

Unfortunately, many walking stick insects are losing their habitat and thus, their food source due to deforestation. This has resulted in the loss of many of these insects in the last few decades. Another reason for the loss of many walking sticks is the use of pesticides. They are sensitive to these chemicals, and many of their food sources have been contaminated with pesticides.

Pet Walking Stick Insects

Walking stick insects are popular pets. They require little in the way of care, outside of a tank and food. You’ll want to feed your pet insects a diet similar to what they would eat in the wild.

Most insect keepers pick leaves from around their homes for their pets. You’ll likely be limited to the leaves that are available near your home, so you’ll have to experiment and see which leaves your walking sticks gravitate to.

Popular choices include:

  • Oak: Oak trees are common in many areas of the United States. Most walking stick insects will eat oak leaves. One downside is that oak leaves don’t stay green in winter. You’ll have to find an alternative food source during this time.
  • Bramble: Most walking sticks love bramble leaves. The bonus is that these leaves stay green throughout the winter. You want to be careful to only feed your insects the darker green leaves, however. The bright green, young leaves can be toxic.
  • Privet: This is another popular choice for most walking sticks. It stays green year-round and is easy to find.
  • Ivy: This is another plant that is green year-round, and many walking stick insects will eat ivy. It is also readily available in most wooded areas.
  • Other leaves: Rose, hawthorn, hazel, and eucalyptus are also acceptable food choices for many species of walking sticks.

How Much Should You Feed Your Walking Stick Insects?

You should always have a few leaves in your walking stick’s tank. It’s best to put whole branches with fresh green leaves in the tank. As the leaves begin to die, you should replace the branch with a new one. You’ll also want to mist the leaves with a spray bottle, as the walking stick gets water from the leaves.

What Shouldn’t You Feed Them?

Walking stick insects will only eat fresh, green leaves. Don’t feed them dead vegetation because they won’t eat it. You should also remove any dead leaves from the tank.

When you are picking leaves to feed your walking stick, there are several things that you want to avoid.

These include:

  • Leaves near busy roads are often tainted with pollution and chemicals.
  • The leaves from plants that you buy from the store are often treated with pesticides, which can kill your pet insects.
  • The young, bright-green leaves of some plants can be harmful to walking sticks. Try to find older, darker-colored leaves.
  • Branches gathered outside can have spiders and other insects on them. Make sure you check them carefully before putting them in your walking stick’s tank.

leaves divider leaf

Final Thoughts

Walking stick insects are popular pets among insect fans. They are relatively easy to care for, and their diet consists of one thing: leaves. You’ll want to test several types of leaves available in your area to see which types your walking stick likes. You also want to make sure they are pesticide- and spider-free before putting the leaves in your pet’s tank.


Featured Image Credit: Brett Hondow, Pixabay



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