Aphids are insects you generally don’t want wandering around your garden or yard. They are sap-sucking insects more than capable of damaging all sorts of plant life. They can destroy agricultural crops, decorative flowers, and the grass in your back garden. They can even cause allergic reactions in human beings. So, do stick insects eat aphids?
I pose the question because a lot of people just don’t know. Thanks to a concerted effort among pest controllers to use fewer insecticides and more natural predators, people are starting to understand that they can control aphids using other, more friendly insects. Some of them incorrectly assume that stick insects released into the garden will do the trick.
Let me put that to rest once and for all…
No, stick insects do not eat aphids. Stick insects are herbivores. That means their diets consist only of plant food. Even if a stick insect was dying of starvation, it would not eat an aphid. It has neither the physiological nor biological means to do so.
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Lacking the Necessary Structures
In a previous article discussing whether or not stick insects eat each other (see here), I explained that these creatures lack the necessary structures to be carnivores. Their bodies do not have the claws or teeth necessary to kill and devour flesh. Internally, their bodies do not possess the necessary structures to digest flesh either.
I also pointed out that stick insects derive nutritional value from the plants they eat. That same nutritional value is not available in a carnivorous diet. So even if stick insects possessed the necessary tools to eat meat, they would still starve to death without plant food.
Observing stick insect diet and nutritional demand offers another example of how all of nature works together to maintain the food chain. Stick insects are considered primary feeders in that they consume all sorts of plants. As primary feeders, they are at the bottom of the food chain. They are eaten by carnivores in continuance of the food chain – all the way to the top.
More About Aphids
It is obvious you are visiting my site to learn more about stick insects. That’s great. But while we’re here, let’s talk briefly about aphids. These little creatures are members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Thus far, roughly 5000 species of aphids have been identified. There are only about 450 that cause problems for human beings, though.
Those 450 species have ravenous appetites. As such, any infestation in a garden or on a farm can be devastating. Aphids can seriously reduce yields with very little effort. Making matters worse is their ability to reproduce quite rapidly.
Aphids do their damage in two ways. First, they suck the sap out of plant life as they feed. Second, they carry various forms of bacteria as they go. So even if a plant isn’t completely destroyed through an aphid’s feeding, bacterial infection might finish the job.
That’s enough on aphids. Let’s get back to the original question of do stick insects eat aphids. We already know stick insects do not eat aphids, but what do they eat?
Stick Insects Love Green Leaves
Take a look around my site and you’ll find lots of articles detailing what stick insects do eat. In short, they love green leaves. Some species can eat a wide variety of leaves while others are limited to just a few. There is such variation that there’s no way to detail every single species and what it eats. There are thousands of species out there.
The general rule for stick insects kept as pets is to start with something simple like privet, bramble, or oak. These three are the most common food sources for stick insects in captivity. If your particular insect will not eat any of them, there are other choices. Some stick insects eat rose leaves, others eat ivy, still others are rather fond of apple, raspberry, and even eucalyptus.
It is important that new owners of stick insects learn right away what the best food sources for their pets are. Stick insects are keenly aware of what is toxic to them, so they will not eat leaves that could harm them. That means a stick insect could starve to death if its owner is not offering the right kind of food.
All You Need Do is Ask
Do stick insects eat aphids? Absolutely not. As herbivores, they do not eat flesh of any kind. If you are planning to get a stick insect and you’re unsure of its diet, all you need do is ask. There are plenty of people out there willing to help.
Just remember that your stick insect needs clean food. If you source the food from the wild, make sure it doesn’t come from areas in close proximity to farms, roads, retail areas, or industrial parks. Leaves sourced from these areas could be contaminated.
Any food sources purchased from the shop or a garden centre should be washed with water prior to feeding. And when you do feed, a good way to keep food fresh is to place it in a shallow container of water. It is a good idea to replace leaves every couple of days, provided they last that long.