Are Stick Insects Nocturnal?

Brown Stick Insect on Tree Trunk

It obviously makes sense to find out as much as you can about any specific creature you are considering as a pet. When it comes to stick insects, you would need to learn about, for example, their habits, what they eat, and what you need in terms of equipment before you buy one. One question that many seem to ask after buying one of these creatures is, ‘are stick insects nocturnal?’.

Stick insects are primarily nocturnal creatures. They tend to do most of their moving about and eating at night while spending daylight hours resting motionless among the vegetation.

This can obviously be disappointing for those who thought they would get to see their sticks walking about during the day.

The reality is that stick insects use their uncanny ability to blend into their surroundings as a form of defence against would-be predators. If they feel threatened, they will go rigid to create the impression that they are nothing more than sticks or twigs. They are usually overlooked by predators for this reason. This is the reason you will rarely see them moving during the daylight and why they spend most of their time moving about under the cover of darkness; it is at this time they are safest.

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Other Interesting Stick Insect Facts

The fact that stick insects are nocturnal is something many are oblivious to until actually getting one and realising that they don’t do very much during the day. However, this is not the only interesting fact about stick insects. There are many others; we have listed a few of these:

  • There are around 3,000 different stick insect species, and while some are very small and resemble twigs, others are quite large and appear more like branches than sticks.
  • Many female stick insects do not need a male to reproduce. They are what is known as parthenogenic, which means that they have the ability to lay eggs that hatch into female nymphs without the need of a male present to fertilise these eggs. The nymphs are clones of their mothers.
  • Stick insect nymphs shed their skinsOpens in a new tab. a number of times before reaching adulthood. It is only shedding that enables them to grow. Nymphs can regrow limbs that have been lost during the moulting process or when trying to escape from a predator. Upon reaching adulthoodOpens in a new tab. though, this ability is lost.
  • Stick insects are native to every continent except Antarctica. They tend to be found in higher numbers in tropical climates though. Borneo is the country where the most species of stick insects originate. In fact, there are more than 300 species of stick insect native to the island of Borneo.
  • While the stick insect’s most common form of defence is to lie rigid like a stick and blend in with its surroundings, some species have other ways of defending themselves. Some have sharp spikes on their hind legs which they use to attack predators; others produce and have the ability to spray a chemical liquid at a predator, rendering these temporarily blind.
  • Female stick insects can lay around two to three eggsOpens in a new tab. every day during the adult phase of their lifespan. Some just drop these eggs to the forest floor (or the floor of their tank if they are in captivity) while others bury them. Stick insect eggs resemble seedsOpens in a new tab., and some are covered in a substance known as capitula. When the eggs are dropped to the floor, ants will carry them to their nest and eat the capitula. The egg is then kept safe in the ants’ nest until the nymph hatches. Once the nymph hatches, it eventually finds its way to the nearest tree.
  • When stick insect nymphs shed their skins, they usually eat it. The reason for this is that the shed skin could attract predators. Basically, the nymph eats it very quickly to ‘destroy the evidence’, as it were. Furthermore, the skin offers additional protein that the nymph requires to get to the next stage of moulting.
  • The eventual size of an adult stick insect will depend on its species and gender. Some stick insects never grow longer than 1.5 cm; others can be as long as 60cm. In general, the male is smaller and thinner than the female.
  • Most people assume that all stick insects are brown and stick-like, but some have bright colours that are designed to warn predators away. Their bright colours are usually hidden from sight unless a predator is approaching, at which time the stick insect will flash the colours (if threatened), which is usually enough to prevent an attack.
  • The life span of a stick insect varies depending on the species. The larger stick insects tend to live longerOpens in a new tab., and females typically live longer than males.
  • Stick insects are known as the Phasmatodea order of insects, which also includes leaf insects. Leaf insects, as the name suggests, resemble leaves rather than sticks. Many of this type of insect have what look like leaf scars, which helps provide the perfect camouflage.

Keeping Stick Insects as Pets

Knowing a bit more about stick insects will help you to decide if you would like to keep one, or some, as pets. They are fascinating creatures, and because they have such a short life-span, are often seen as great starter pets for children, who get to see how these creatures develop from egg to adult.

It should be noted that while stick insects are nocturnalOpens in a new tab. by nature does not mean you will never see them move during daylight. Nonetheless, know that stick insects are particularly good at moving from one place to another without being noticed. You are likely to see them in one place and the next time you look, they will have moved without you even noticing!

What Equipment Do You Need?

If you are getting a stick insect as a petOpens in a new tab., the Indian stick insect is the most common starter species. The reason for this is that it is without doubt one of the easiest stick insect species to care forOpens in a new tab.. It requires very little interaction and you do not need to invest in any specialist equipment.

All you need is a suitable tank or container and a spray bottle. The tank will need to be at the very least three times as high as the length of the adult sticks (roughly 24cm). Height is more important than width as stick insects hangOpens in a new tab. from high when shedding their skins and so will require enough room to do this.

The spray bottle is required for keeping the container humid. It is necessary to spray the container with water regularly (at least every 2-3 days) as a humid environment helps to make it easier for the stick insects to moult. If the tank is too dry, the sticks will find it difficult to shed their skin and may even get stuck. This could result in lost limbs or even death.

As already mentioned, caring for Indian stick insects is relatively easy. If, on the other hand, you want one of the more exotic species as a pet, you will need to thoroughly research its needs. The more exotic species usually require more specialist care and will need a tropical environment. This means needing to invest in a heat lamp or heat mat to mimic its natural environment.


I am a content creator by profession but exotic animals are one of my great passions in life. Over the course of my adulthood, I have had the pleasure of looking after stick insects, terrapins, an Egyptian tortoise, giant African land snails, a crested gecko, a Chilean rose tarantula, a couple of curly-haired tarantulas, and a selection of millipedes, centipedes and worms!

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