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When it comes to stick insects, a common question asked among those interested is ‘do walking sticks have wings?’
Some species of stick insect do have wings – and can fly (only the males). Having said that though, it should be pointed out that not all walking sticks have wings. And not all of those that do can fly.
To that end, here is a short list of stick insects and what they look like.
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The Indian Stick Insect
The Indian stick insect is a common choice for those interested in getting started as a stick insect owner. They are easy to take care of and fascinating to watch. They vary in colour and range from a dull green to a brown with red marks on their front legs. The red markings are designed to ward off predators.
Indian stick insects do not have wings and cannot fly. Their main form of defence against predators is to feign death or to go rigid in an attempt to fool would-be predators into thinking they are nothing more than a stick or twig lying on the ground or blowing in the breeze.
Annam Stick Insect
The Annam stick insect is large and thin and originates from Vietnam. The female is long and thin with a brown body that looks like a twig. She has various thorns and nodes that are designed to provide camouflage against predators.
The male is also long and thin. In fact, his body is thinner than the females. Like the Indian stick insect, the Annam stick insect does not have wings and relies on camouflage to avoid predators.
Vietnamese Stick Insect
As the name suggests, the Vietnamese stick insect comes from Vietnam. It is a light to medium green in colour and has yellow eyes. It also has a brown spot on its head and abdomen. The body length of this stick insect is typically around fifteen centimetres, but when the front legs are extended it can stretch to about twenty-one centimetres. The female of the species does not have wings, but the males do and are able to fly as well.
Giant Prickly Stick Insect
The giant prickly stick insect is native to Australia and New Guinea. Because of its thorny looking body, it is often mistaken for a cactus plant rather than a stick or a twig. It can vary in colour, and although typically light to mid-brown, it can be dark brown, beige, or even green. The colour will usually depend on its surroundings.
Female and male giant prickly stick insects are quite different from each other. The female of the species is big and bulky and usually grows to around fifteen centimetres. The male on the other hand is thinner and reaches a maximum of around thirteen centimetres in length.
Both the male and female giant prickly stick insect have wings. The male’s wings are long, and they care capable of flying, while the female has small wings that are underdeveloped, meaning they are unable to fly.
New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect
The New Guinea stick insect, as you might imagine, hails from New Guinea and is a large species. It is quite bulky and is often compared to a branch of a tree, rather than a twig or stick. The adult New Guinea stick insect is dark brown in colour, but nymphs can vary from brown to green before changing to dark brown upon reaching adulthood.
The female of the species is usually around eleven to fifteen centimetres long, while the male reaches a maximum of around eleven centimetres. Adults have long, thorny legs that they use to defend themselves. The female has an ovipositor that resembles a stinger at the end of her abdomen, although she does not use this to defend herself from predators. This species does not have wings.
The native to Malaysia jungle nymph is large and bright green in colour and is the heaviest of all stick insect species. In fact, it is the second heaviest insect in the world. The female jungle nymph is very big and has a wide body with short wings on its back. The female is unable to fly due to her heaviness, but the male has exceptionally long wings that stretch the length of its abdomen.
While the female is large and bright green in colour, the male is long, thick, and brown and beige. The male is light, which makes it easier for him to fly. The hind wings of both the male and female are pink to red in colour and the males have black stripes that resemble webbing on their hind wings.
Thorny Stick Insect
The thorny stick insect comes from Borneo and has a spiky appearance, hence the name. The spikes are designed to make it harder for predators to eat the thorny stick insect, which can mean that they are often avoided.
The thorny stick insect varies in colour from green to light or dark brown. The colour of this stick insect will depend on the environment in which it is kept. Female thorny stick insects usually grow to about eight centimetres in length, while the male is smaller at five centimetres. The male is usually thinner than the female but has larger spikes on its body.
Keeping Stick Insects as Pets
As mentioned already, most people who want to keep stick insects will start off with the Indian stick insect – or laboratory stick insect as it is also known. The reason for this is that this type of stick is extremely easy to take care of and requires very little maintenance. The only downside is that it tends to be a mostly nocturnal creature and will spend most of the daylight hours resting in one place. For children, this can be frustrating.
That is not to say that the Indian stick insect never moves about during the day. You are likely to find that your sticks will move about when you are not watching! But they do most of their eating and moving at night.
The larger species of stick insect are usually preferred by those with experience of keeping insects as they do require more hands-on care and attention. The larger species also require additional equipment in the form of heat lamps or mats to create an environment that the insects are used to.
What Do You Need to Get Started?
If you are going to have a stick insect as a pet and have decided upon an Indian stick insect, you will need to have a suitable container or tank into which you can place your sticks. It is best to ensure that the height of the container is at least three times the height of the adult male as this makes it easier for the stick insect to shed its skin numerous times on the way to adulthood.
The tank or container that you choose needs to be ventilated, so a mesh screen top is a good idea. You are likely to find your sticks hanging from this mesh roof top from time to time. Stick insects like to climb, so decorative resting places in the tank will keep them happy. As they spend their time in their natural habitat in trees where they can blend in with their surroundings, putting a few branches or twigs in their container will give them the perfect opportunity to climb.
A spray bottle is also important as you need to ensure that the environment is humid. This allows them to shed their skins easily. If the atmosphere is too dry, your stick insects might struggle to moult; should this happen, there is a risk that they could lose a limb or even die. Spray your tank every couple of days and allow it to dry naturally before spraying again to prevent the growth of mould.
Feeding Your Stick Insects
Stick insects live on a diet of fresh green leaves and prefer leaves from plants such as privet, bramble, ivy, rose, hawthorn, and oak. You can collect leaves from nearby woodlands or parks but make sure you wash them before putting them in the tank. Chemicals from passing cars and elsewhere can settle on the leaves of plants and be potentially harmful for your stick insects.
Stick insects do not like young leaves, so look for leaves that are dark green in colour but that still look fresh. They will not eat leaves that are dry. To keep the leaves fresh in the container for longer, it is a good idea to place the stem of the leaves in a container of water. This container should be covered to prevent nymphs from falling in and drowning. You can cover the container with a piece of net or mesh and secure with an elastic band.
Taking care of Indian stick insects is easy and requires a minimum investment. If you are keen to show your children how to care for another creature, a stick insect is the perfect choice.