Owning stick insects may eventually entail trying to breed them and then asking yourself the question: what do stick insect eggs look like? The good news is that when it comes to breeding sticks, nature is very kind and it is relatively simple. In fact, as you may or may not know, you might not even need a male present in certain stick insect species. Indeed, some female stick insect species are capable of laying unfertilised eggs without a male present at all; this is called asexual reproduction.
Either way though, what do stick insect eggs look like when they are eventually laid? How will you know if your stick insect has laid eggs and if so whether these are going to develop into nymphs?
Stick insect eggs will vary from one species to the next, but for the most part they tend to look like small brown seeds or pips. Moreover, they may or may not have markings on them, depending on the species of stick insect.
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Taking Care of Stick Insect Eggs
Nevertheless, all that aside, when it comes to breeding stick insects you need to know that taking care of the eggs is considered the most difficult part. It is important that you make sure the eggs are not kept in direct sunlight and that the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold. In other words, the eggs need to be kept in optimum conditions for them to thrive.
The maximum temperature should be no more than 30C and you need to know that eggs will need more moisture than the adults do, so a good humid environment.
It may be a good idea to place the eggs in a small box with pinholes for ventilation. Do make sure though that any holes you do make in the box are tiny (hence the pinholes) otherwise hatched nymphs could escape. The box should be lined but the choice of lining will depend on how the adult female has placed the eggs herself.
For example, some females place the eggs into the ground. If this is the case, you will need to transfer them to a box that has been lined with putting soil. If your female stick insect just allows the eggs to drop on the floor of the enclosure, you can transfer them to a box that has been lined with tissue paper or kitchen towel.
Whether you have soil or tissue at the bottom of your box, it is necessary for this to be lightly misted with water daily. However, if you are using tissue, let it dry before spraying again as failure to do so could lead to mould developing.
The length of time that it takes the stick insect eggs to hatch will depend on the type of stick insect that laid them. Some can hatch after just two months while others can take as long as fourteen months. However long it takes though, your job will be to ensure that the eggs stay moist whilst avoiding mould.
How to Look After Hatched Stick Insects
When the eggs do hatch, you will see the newly-hatched nymphs walking around in the box. At this point, it is time to transfer them to an enclosure. Avoid a cage-type enclosure at this stage as the nymphs will likely be small enough to escape through the holes – and trust me when I say that they will escape if they have the means!
You will need to place fresh leaves in the enclosure on which the nymphs can feed, but know that they usually require the leaves to be torn or cut first. If you have older nymphs, you can place one in the tank with the hatchlings as this will help to ‘damage’ leaves (through the older nymph eating them) so that the hatchlings can then feed more easily.
How to Handle Overcrowding
It is important to be aware that some stick insects can lay a lot of eggs. Unless you are vigilant, you could end up with more nymphs than you had bargained for. It is crucial to keep your stick insect population under control.
If you are breeding them for your own enjoyment, it might be wise to keep the numbers down. Too many stick insects in one tank or cage can result in damaged limbs or disease.
Some people choose to breed stick insects for financial reasons. If this is of interest to you, you can sell the eggs to a local pet store or by doing so online. You might also give some to family and friends if you have too many. If you find yourself with too many fertilised eggs and no one to take them, it is considered more humane to freeze the eggs before disposing of them.
Preparing for Breeding
Before you even consider breeding stick insects, it is best to do some research. One of the questions that many people ask is ‘what do stick insect eggs look like?’ and they usually follow up with ‘how do I know if my stick insect has laid eggs?’.
Other questions include what type of housing is best and what should stick insects be fed during this period? Finding out the answers to these types of questions will make the job of breeding much easier.
You can buy a male and female stick insect to get started, but as already mentioned, some stick insects can lay unfertilised eggs that will hatch into females. An unfertilised egg will never hatch into a male stick insect. There is the option of buying fertilised eggs and taking care of them until they hatch.
Where to keep the stick insects is also important. Whatever type of stick insect you have (or plan to have), it is likely to be long and thin and will probably hang from its food source whenever it is shedding its skin. It is therefore important that housing is deep enough to allow for this to occur without impediment. It is generally accepted that the tank you place your stick insect in needs to be at least three times as high as the length of the adult.
Whether you start with adult stick insects or eggs, you need to know what type of food is suitable. Almost all stick insects will eat bramble leaves. Others like hawthorn and oak, while some prefer ferns and bracken. If you are collecting plants from areas where there is heavy traffic, it is advisable to wash the leaves thoroughly before you give them to your insects as traffic fumes can be harmful for stick insects.
Is it Okay to Handle Stick Insects?
If you have bought stick insects as pets, you and your children may be keen to hold them. While certain types of stick insect are considered quite robust, it is important that you take care when handling them as some are less sturdy than others.
Those that are easier to handle include the giant spiny stick insect and the laboratory stick insect. However, the Pink Winged stick insect is more fragile and can easily lose legs when handled. It is also important to note that there are some species, such as the thorn legged stick insect, that have a tendency to nip if unused to being handled.
Much more rarely, there are some species that are equipped with a defensive spray, which can cause pain and temporary blindness to humans. It is therefore essential that you are aware of the type of stick insect you have bought and the implications of handling them.