How Many Stick Insects Can Live Together

When you want to keep stick insects as pets a common question is how many you can keep. What enclosure size do you need and what should you consider. For a single stick insect, a simple enclosure is more than enough, but if you keep a large colony of a certain species there are more challenges than only a larger enclosure. And when you start, how many stick insects should you buy in the first place.

How many stick insects you can keep in one enclosure depends on the size of the enclosure, the temperament of the species, the availability of food and the design of you habitat. Generally, you can keep 4 to 6 adults in an enclosure that is three times the body length in height and two times the body length in width.

In this article we will discuss all question related to how many stick insects can live together and how much you may keep. We talk about how to start a stick insect colony and how to do breeding control so you don’t end up with too many stick insects.

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How Many Stick Insects Can Live Together

Generally, you will keep more than one stick insect. One of the reasons is that you probably like to breed with them. Stick insects have a short lifespan, generally not more than one to two years. Without breeding, you don’t have any stick insects left and you’ll need to buy new animals.

But pretty soon you will ask, how many stick insects can actually live together? There is not a straight answer and it depends on multiple factors.

One of the most important factors that decide how many stick insects you can keep in the enclosure is size. The larger the enclosure the more stick insects you can keep. The general rule to keep a small group of max 6 adult stick insects is three times the adult body length in height and two times the adult body length in width.

So, if you have a stick insect that reach a adult size of 10cm (4″), you’ll need an enclosure of 20cm x 20cm x 30cm (8″ x 8″ x 12″). However, this rule suggests the minimum size, and it is always better to go for something a little bigger.

Secondly, it also depends on the stick insect species. Some can tolerate tank mates better than others. Some stick insects are very fragile and will be damaged rather quick. Others may be more aggressive towards each other or have defensive appendages that can harm each other when it is too crowded.

How many stick insects can live together also depends on the availability of food. When you have a large number of stick insects in the enclosure, make sure you provide a lot of food and enough surface for them to quietly feed on it. Also, there needs to be enough room for them to moult. So provide enough branches at the top of the enclosure.

Perfect enclosure when you want to keep many stick insects or large stick insects species

This tall REPTI ZOO enclosure with a size of 16″ x 16″ x 30″ is perfect to keep a large number of stick insects, large stick insect species or when you want to keep different species of stick insects together.

It has all the features you need to keep your stick insects healthy and happy and this enclosure is of good quality.

How Many Stick Insects To Start With

A question many beginners ask is how many stick insects is best to start with. A better question to ask first is if you should start with eggs or nymphs (baby stick insects). It is better not to start with adults because they have more trouble acclimatizing to the new enclosure.

When you start with a new stick insect species you could best start with eggs, although starting with stick insect nymphs also works fine. Begin with no more than 50% of the maximum enclosure capacity if you start with nymphs. So, if your enclosure is large enough to keep 20 stick insects, you should start with 10 nymphs.

Why? Because when your stick insects start breeding you probably have soon more stick insects. Although it may happen that not all nymphs will reach adulthood, if you immediately start with the maximum number of animals, as soon as your next generation stick insect eggs hatch your enclosure is already too small.

However, it can be even better to start with eggs. Eggs can be better and more easily transported from the shop to your home, and nymphs from eggs you hatch yourself have less trouble adult to the environment of your enclosure. But, remember that with some species the hatching rate is not 100%.

As a beginner, you could start with 1.5 times the amount of eggs you want as starting colony. So, if your goal is to keep 10 animals to start with, you should buy/order 15 eggs. However, with some species like Giant Prickly Stick Insects and Indian Stick Insects, the hatching result is rather high (even if you are a beginner), so it is better to start with the number of eggs you eventually want as adults.

What Do You Do With Too Many Stick Insects

Now it can happen that you end up with too many stick insects. But what to do when you have too many of them? First, it is better to prevent that you have too many stick insects in the first place. You can regulate breeding by collecting the eggs and not incubating them.

Disposing eggs can best be done by freezing them first for 48 hours and them throw them away. You could also crush them to kill the embryos, but not everyone is up for that, so freezing them is easier (and also most humane to do). Never dispose eggs without destroying the embryos. Even without proper conditions, eggs can still hatch. And when escaping into nature can have devastating consequences for wild fauna.

You can also separate the males from females to prevent breeding and the production of fertile eggs. However, keep in mind that many species can produce fertile eggs without the need of a male. Parthenogenesis, as it is called, is been seen in many different stick insect species (but also many can only reproduce sexually).

Best is to control breeding in a early stage so you don’t end up with too many stick insects that you can’t house properly. But, it can happen that you have too many stick insects. What can you do about it. Well, you have several options to choose from:

  • One options is to buy a second enclosure or a bigger enclosure so you can house more stick insects. It is great to have a large colony of a species. But this is not possible for everyone. And without proper breeding control, you end up with too many stick insects again. You can’t scale up every time.
  • You can sell them to a online breeder or to people interesting in keeping stick insects. There are many online platforms or forums where you can sell you excessive stick insects. Although you can sell adult species, it is better to sell the eggs. They are easier to pack and mail to someone else.
  • You can use your stick insects to feed to other animals like reptiles, amphibians, praying mantis or other insectivores like birds. However, keep in mind that not all animals accept stick insect as food. Also, some stick insects have impressive defence mechanisms that keep the other animals from eating them. Some can spray a foul-smelling substance or have large spines.
  • Some keepers advice you to freeze live stick insects. I highly advise against freezing stick insect nymphs and adults. Although not fully investigated how stick insects experience pain, we can assume it is rather stressful and painful to be killed by very low temperatures. It will be much more humane to choose one of the other options above. And as always, try to prevent ending up with too many stick insects.
Warning: Never release stick insect nymphs or adults into the wild. When they do survive they may become a pest, destroying wild plants and competing other indigenous animal species. Releasing exotic animals is never a good idea. Whole species have become extinct because the release of exotic species. For example, the release of black rats have caused almost the extinction of the Lord Howe stick insect (Dryococelus australis).

When they not survive, they will die of starvation because they can’t find a plant to feed from. This, also, is not a humane option to choose from.

When they live naturally in the environment you want to release it, can still be a bad idea. Natural population exist in balance with their environment. When you release additional number of species in the wild can tip this balance so that it will reproduce too quickly or feed too extensively from certain plants (although for a couple of individuals it will not be that kind of problem, so a one-time release of an existing species in that area is a possibility though).
Some other animals can be fed stick insects if you have too many of them. However, it is not a regular accepted food source for insectivores.

Can You Keep Different Stick Insects Species Together

The short answer is: Yes, you can keep different species of stick insects together in one enclosure. Because stick insects are herbivores (more specific foliovores which mean eating mainly leaves) they will not eat each other. They also not attack each other and species from different species can’t cross-breed.

It is an interesting set up to combine different species in the same enclosure, and a really nice experiment to do. However, there are several things you need to consider.

  1. You need to have an enclosure that is large enough to keep that many stick insects, but that should be obvious.
  2. The species may compete for food. So if both species eat the same type of leaves you need to provide a lot of it, so both species have enough to eat from.
  3. Some species may breed faster or have a shorter life cycle than the other. Over the course of time the species with a faster life cycle will contain more individuals (if you not do some breeding control) and can compete for food and space.
  4. Stick insects and leaf insects are not a good combination. Stick insects may see the leaf insects as food and start to nibble on them, damaging the leaf insects.

I’ve written a complete article about how to keep different stick insect species together. So, if you consider keeping multiple species in one enclosure, I encourage you to read it to find more practical do’s and don’ts.

Much more to learn!

There is much more to learn about stick insects. For example, do stick insects need a substrate? You can find more articles about stick insects with plenty of practical tips to better understand and enjoy the keeping of stick insects as a pet.

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