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Stick insects are very particular when it comes to their meal choices. These insects are herbivorous, meaning that they feed exclusively on plant life (more specifically, the leaves of plants). A unique characteristic of all stick insect species is their innate ability to distinguish between safe and edible leaves and those leaves that are toxic or unknown to their natural diet. This is considered one of their self-preservation mechanisms.
Different stick insect species enjoy different leafy plants. A favorite among a great many species is bramble and privet leaves. There are of course many other plants that stick insects will readily go for including oak, rose, ivy, and hazel leaves.
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What About Eucalyptus?
Lots of stick insect species enjoy eating the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. And contrary to common perception, it is not just Australian varieties of stick insect that feed on eucalyptus. The eucalyptus tree also comes in a variety of species hence it offers a number of leaf types for feeding stick insects.
Although stick insects are quite happy to feed on pretty much all types of eucalyptus leaves, there are clear favorites. The broad leaf eucalyptus tree is one example. Generally, stick insects of different species will have their own preferred type of eucalyptus leaf.
Eucalyptus Leaves and Feeding Technique
When feeding eucalyptus leaves to stick insects, the keyword is freshness. Stick insects need to feed on fresh, clean, and toxin-free leaf matter, whatever the plant. If you happen to live in an area where eucalyptus grows naturally, you know that it does so in both built up and rural areas. It is advisable to avoid leaves from trees growing near roads, factories, or farms as these leaves are likely to contain higher amounts of pollutants.
Fresh eucalyptus leaves need to be provided to the stick insect every two to three days. Extending the period between fresh leaf ‘drops’ is not much of a problem though in effect that means the insect will feed on ‘lower quality’ food – something they wouldn’t have to do out in the wild.
The best way to keep eucalyptus leaves as fresh as possible is to store them in a jar of water and then introduce the jar into the insect’s enclosure so it can feed on the leaves whenever and however it sees fit.
It is absolutely crucial to ensure that the stick insect doesn’t fall into the jar while feeding on the leaves. Stick insects are not swimmers and will easily drown, even in a little bit of water. Stick insect keepers usually devise their own safety system in order to allow the insect to feed comfortably on fresh leaves without actually falling into the jar. In some cases, a shallower vessel such as a petri dish or something similar might be a better option than a jar full of water.