What to do when a stick insect is stuck on its egg?

You may find a newborn nymph that still has its eggshell on his back or one of its leg. I have seen it sometimes occur with the stick insects I care for. However, what should you do when you find a nymph that has still its eggshell stuck on its body and dragging around the enclosure? Do you just leave it alone, or do you need to intervene? Let me give you some advice that worked for me.

When a young stick insect is still stuck on its egg for several hours, you can try to remove the egg very carefully by using a wet paintbrush. You need to make the paintbrush wet to make the egg softer and to make the egg will slide off better. If that doesn’t work, you can try to remove the egg with your fingers very gently. Make your fingers wet and slide or pop the egg. Don’t worry if one leg drops off in your attempt to remove the egg. A nymph can perfectly live with one less leg.

What can happen when you leave the egg on?

Nymphs are very delicate and fragile, but also don’t have all the energy and strength to carry the weight of an eggshell. If you don’t remove the eggshell, it has to drag their eggshell all the time, and most likely tire themselves.

Nymphs need to drink and soon eat before they start to their first moult. But for them to reach the nutritious food, they have to climb. And that is also what they only want to do. Instinctively they want to go up high in search of food. You can imagine that this is very hard for a newborn nymph with such a weight on its body.

When you don’t remove the egg from its body, it will probably tire itself out, and with no energy to move or climb, they will starve or dehydrate what eventually may lead to its death.

If you don’t feel confident to attempt to remove the egg from the nymph’s body, you could decide two option. You can let the eggshell be. Mostly when the egg is only stuck on one leg or when it is stuck on its abdomen, and when the nymph is strong enough, you can have the luck that it will survive.

You could help him by carefully place some drops of water on the bottom of the enclosure and place several fresh leaves next to it. When you cut off the edges of the leaves, a nymph can start to eat more easily from these leaves.

If you see that the nymph can’t have a good life and when it won’t start eating and drinking, it would be better if you help the animal from this misery.

Be aware! Always let the nymph first try by itself to get rid of the eggshell. Never help a nymph with hatching when it is still folded inside partly inside the egg! When you try to help the nymph with hatching, there is a real chance you damage the nymph what result eventually in the death of the animal.

Several eggs of the Philippine leaf insect (Phyllium philippinicum) prepared for hatching.

What can you do to prevent eggs from getting stuck on the stick insects body?

One of the main features that help for nymphs to get out of its egg is humidity. Humidity is the moisture in the air. When the humidity is high enough it make sure the eggshell is not too hard and stiff, and also prevents that the body of the stick insect does not dry to fast in the timeframe of getting out of the egg.

It seems that humidity is the most important factor in hatching success for stick insects, so make sure you have a proper humidity level that suits your stick insect species.

What also can be a problem is that you have too many eggs stack too close to each other so that there is no space to crawl out the egg easily. But you need to provide some sort of rough edges for them to help and start crawling out when the first legs are free to move. I tend to use aquarium filters and make little cups so that they have a grip to crawl out.

A stick insect hatching from its egg. It is a heavy process for such a tiny nymph, so you have to try to make all the conditions as good as possible (Photo by Laurence Livermore / Flickr).

What can you do more to increase stick insect hatching success rate?

Besides a proper humidity in the enclosure where you hatch your stick insect eggs and preventing the overpopulation of eggs, you can do more to increase the hatching success rate of your animals.

Firstly, every stick insect species has its own favourite and optimal environment that it requires to hatch healthy nymphs. So, the temperature and the ventilation of the enclosure needs to be appropriately regulated.

Secondly, what you definitely need to prevent is the development of mould in the enclosure and on the eggs. Mould may harm and eventually kill your embryos and newly hatched nymphs.

Mould is prevented by providing enough ventilation in the enclosure. Besides ventilation, you need to keep high cleaning and hygiene standards. So always start with a completely clean enclosure and incubation materials before placing new eggs to hatch.

Learn more about breeding stick insects

There is much more to learn about breeding stick insects. So, if you like to know more and want to be more successful to breed with your stick insect animals, I recommend you to read the article about the ‘basics of breeding stick insects‘, or read the species-specific care guide.

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