Can stick insects live outside? At first glance, this may appear a stupid question because of course they can live outside; it is where they are found in their natural habitat.
The real question though is whether you should allow your stick insects to be outside. I will go into some of the issues surrounding this debate in this guide.
Should You Let Your Stick Insects Venture Outside?
Apart from the obvious danger of having your insect going rogue, you shouldn’t allow your stick insects outside even in a protected area.
First of all, male stick insects tend to have wings, which means they could easily fly away if they choose. The second reason is that there are unforeseen dangers all over, including predators, contamination, and poor environmental conditions.
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Predators are the Biggest Danger to Stick Insects
Stick insects make a tasty meal for a variety of predators, including birds. This, then, is the reason that many stick insect species have developed various defensive mechanisms.
For example, the spiny leaf insect will curl its tail over its body. To predators, this makes them look like a scorpion ready to strike. This usually only happens when their camouflage has failed and they consequently need to move to another strategy. It normally happens during the day when they are most likely to be spotted.
Another type of stick insect that does this is the Macleay’s spectre, which is also well-known for ‘turning itself’ into various tree parts. These are native to Australia and are acknowledged as being extremely difficult to locate because of their camouflage capabilities.
Another type of stick insect defensive mechanism is the spikes on the back legs of certain stick insects, such as the New Guinea giant spiny stick insect for example.
These spikes can be used for fighting off predators, but sometimes they are even used for fighting other stick insects.
The point of all this is to say that non-native stick insects may not have the necessary means to fight off predators anyway. This is why you should never allow them to venture alone outside.
The Risk of Contamination
If you have a protected enclosure you might think that you can remove the bottom and allow them to explore some of your garden. Taking your stick insect to a potential food in the garden might seem like a great idea, but it could also cost the sticks their lives.
Unless you live in a rural area, the chances are any food sources you give them in the vicinity has been contaminated.
The two most common contaminants are car fumes and insecticides. Do not think that because you personally don’t use insecticides that there hasn’t been some third-party contamination. Dangerous particles can take off with the wind.
Whenever stick insects consume contaminated leaves, there is a very real risk that they will die because of it.
Stick insects are intelligent in that they can distinguish between different leaf types and decide not to eat the ones that will not benefit them the most. But they have no way to tell whether a leaf is contaminated or not.
This is yet another reason you should not allow your stick insects to roam outside.
The Impact of Temperature on Your Pets
Stick insects are sensitive to temperature. They flourish in their native temperatures for a reason. If you allow them outside, there is a risk that they could die because their body is not able to cope with the differences in temperature.
If the temperature is too hot, they will grow at a rate that is faster than what it should be. Stick insects that are present in higher than normal temperatures will go through their developmental stages at a faster rate. This will, ultimately, decrease their lifespan.
We can also see how differences in humidity could impact your stick insects.
Stick insects are known to lose limbs and become deformed if they do not have the correct humidity levels during the moulting process.
Typically, stick insects will moult between six and nine times during their lifetime. Whenever they go through this process, they are basically pulling a new body out of their old skin.
If the humidity level is not high enough, the skin will not be supple enough to allow this process to occur seamlessly. They could lose limbs; sometimes they will not be able to get out and will die as a result.
This is the reason you should always have the correct temperatures and humidity levels in your enclosures, based on your stick insect’s native environment. Exotic stick insects have to live in tanks filled with heat mats and bulbs for a reason.
So make sure that you’ve taken the time to research your species.
For the other reasons mentioned, though, even if your stick insect is from your country, you should not allow it to roam outside.
Can You Domesticate a Stick Insect?
Stick insects cannot be domesticated. What they do within their tanks is exactly what they do outside in the real world. They will still act in a nocturnal manner and they will behave towards you as they would towards any unfamiliar creature.
This is the number one reason you could never allow your stick insects in the front garden. The chances are you would lose them, and you would struggle to ever get them back again.
In addition, the risk of harm is too great for you to do this with confidence. So avoid trying to take your stick insects outside when possible.
Last Word – Does it Happen?
No responsible stick insect owner would ever let a stick insect wander around outside. It is worth mentioning though that you can replicate an outdoor environment within your tank. All you have to do is provide plenty of space to roam and lots of vertical space.
Give them a supply of the food they are used to and then go out of your way to provide them with the sustenance they need on a regular basis.