Small-Life Supplies manufacture insect cages and breed stick insects and butterflies

Professor Phasmid
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Professor Phasmid
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updated 20th September 2017

Hi, my name is Professor Phasmid and I will be answering your questions about pet bugs on this page.

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prof@small-life.co.uk

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Care!
Stick insects are harmed by air-borne chemicals so must not be exposed to plug-in /aerosol air fresheners, scented candles, paint fumes, flea sprays for dogs and cats, and strong smelling cleaning products.
NEVER use shop-bought potted plants to feed your stick insects because these are usually grown in soil treated with pesticides. These chemicals disperse into the plant leaves and will poison any insect that eats the leaves.

I have just ordered an AUC cage with your free Thailand stick insects, can't wait to get them, the Thailand stick insects were always my favourites but I haven't kept them for a few years. When they've settled in, I may want to add another species, what do you recommend?
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very long and twig-like and do best if mixed with similar looking stick insects. So you could try the New Thailand (Baculum sp), this is a parthenogenetic species which is approx 4cm longer than the Thailand. Or, larger still is the North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina). Small-Life Supplies have Thailand stick insects and New Thailand stick insects in stock now, our North East Vietnamese stick insects should be ready later, we are currently waiting for their eggs to hatch.

I have been offered three breeding pairs of New Guinea stick insects. Large mature adults. I have been told that they are easy to look after, just regularly provide fresh bramble and spritz daily. And to let them out for exercise and to drink. Is this advice broadly correct? And I am I correct in thinking that the ELC cage is the best cage to house New Guinea stick insects?
Yes, the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do really well in the ELC cage, there is plenty of room in this cage for your six adult New Guinea stick insects. They like to pile on top of each other, so insert two empty kitchen roll tubes (shortened by 5cm first). As with many other stick insects, you need to ensure that there are always two or three sprigs of bramble leaves in the cage, these stay fresh for about a week if the stems are submerged in water in the Sprig Pot. You can mist the leaves every day or so, but do not spritz the stick insects because they do not like getting wet. New Guinea stick insects drink more water than many other types of stick insect, and so there should always be a shallow dish of cold tap water in the cage. There should also be a pot of sand in the cage for the females to bury their eggs. And yes, New Guinea stick insects do like exercise, so it's recommended to take them out of the cage regularly so they can walk across a table or floor (carpets or textured flooring is best so the stick insects can get a grip as they walk and not slip).

I saw your reply to a person who lives in Northern Ireland wanting cages. I too desperately want an ELC cage (to replace the glass tank I have which is too heavy to move and smells inside). I live in Cork, can you deliver here? My friend wants one as well, is it cheaper to buy two ELC bundles at the same time?
Small-Life Supplies uses a dedicated Irish courier to deliver parcels to Northern Ireland and Ireland. The delivery price to Ireland is £4 more than to Northern Ireland. So delivery to Northern Ireland is £24.45 and delivery to Ireland is £28.45. These prices are for up to two parcels. So, yes, it is cheaper to buy two ELC cage bundles at the same time (to be delivered to the same address in Cork) because you will only pay £28.45 delivery to Cork, instead of twice that amount if they were purchased separately.

Do I need to bury the New Guinea stick insect eggs in moist soil or can they be loose in the HUA pot ?
The New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) eggs can be loose in the HUA Pot and you can have a couple of layers of eggs in there. Every couple of weeks you can give the HUA Pot a little shake, this movement of the eggs seems to help them to develop successfully.

Is it possible to "over bother" your stick insects? I have always fed and cleaned mine out once a week, but one of my friends cleans hers out three times a week (and throws out a tonne of uneaten leaves). She also trims off the bramble thorns? We both have the Indian stick insect.
There should always be a good supply of bramble leaves in the cage, but a weekly feed and clean out is ideal. Doing a full clean out thee times a week does seem excessive and can stress the stick insects. Also, it's important not to overcrowd stick insects, so if there are more than twenty Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in an ELC cage, then another cage is required. Snipping off bramble thorns is not necessary, the Indian stick insects can step around the thorns and can only be injured if they accidentally fall onto a thorn and become impaled (but the chances of this happening are very low). Bramble grows very slowly in the autumn and winter and so it's important not to squander the summer stocks of bramble. So I think your friend needs to be more restrained in harvesting the bramble and that way she will still be able to find enough bramble during the winter months.

I have one of your ELC cages which we initially bought 18mths ago with 4 New Guinea stick insects. We now have 7 insects (5 adults, 2 young) and I think the cage is a bit small for them. I see on your FB page a different tank AUC is it larger? Is it suitable for 7 New Guineas and how much is it?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to group together and seven in an ELC cage is not overcrowded, so please keep them in the ELC cage because this is the best housing for them. The AUC cage is much too airy for New Guineas and so is not suitable for them. The AUC cage is ideal for large Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). AUC cages are £87, and this month you can get six Thailand stick insects free when you buy an AUC cage.

I found an earwig when I changed the Liner in my ELC cage. I think it must have come in on the bramble. What should I do with it? I haven't seen an earwig before, my gran had to tell me what it was.
You need to put it back outside, preferably in the same place as you found it. Earwigs are quite fast moving and can squirm when you try to catch them, so it's best to try and flick the earwig (using a piece of cardboard) so that it falls into a QBOX. You can then put the lid on the QBOX and release the earwig back where you were gathering the bramble from. Female earwigs are very conscientious mothers, they lick their eggs daily and even make boxing gloves so they can hit any predator that is attempting to steal their eggs!

Thanks for the heads-up about the Kempton insect fair, I'll be going and hopefully be able to pick up another ELC cage? I'll need some more Liners and another Sprig Pot too. I assume there is on-site parking?
Yes, there's plenty of on-site parking for visitors to this insect event on Saturday 30th Sept 2017, at Kempton Park racecourse, TW16 5AQ. There will be lots of stands, the Small-Life Supplies stand is on the ground floor, just look for our large insect silhouettes. ELC cages, Liners and Sprig Pots, are for sale from the stand, it's cash only sales, so please come prepared. Living stick insects etc will be for sale on the Small-Life Supplies stand too.

I have just ordered an AUC cage and some Thailand stick insects from you and so am looking forward to receiving these next week. I am also very interested in the new North East Vietnamese stick insect, would there be room in the AUC cage for a pair of these as well as the six Thailand stick insects?
Yes, the AUC cage is a very large airy cage and is ideal for the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), and also the North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina). And yes, there would be room for six Thailand stick insects and a pair of North East Vietnamese stick insects in the AUC cage. You could also have a couple of New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) in there too. The New Thailand stick insects are 4cm longer than the Thailands and are a parthenogenetic species.

I was watching daytime television today (I am recuperating after an operation!) and was dismayed to see a large wild garden and large tree completely destroyed by new tenants moving into a derelict property. The tenants were a young family (from a tower block) and wanted a "child friendly garden". In their eyes this meant covering it with slabs, and putting in a trampoline and toy pedal cars. They have denied their children the pleasure of planting seeds, vegetables and flowers, running in the grass and climbing the tree. It got me wondering if people who like nature as adults had the opportunity to engage with nature as children? I certainly did, how about yourself?
Yes, as a child I was fortunate to have a large garden and did all the things that you list. I have had a keen interest in animals and trees for as long as I can remember. But of course not everyone who has a garden with trees and plants will become interested in nature. But I agree with you that it is sad when people slab over their lawns and remove their trees and bushes, to replace them with man-made things, all in the misguided belief of this being "low maintenance" or "child friendly". Scientific studies have shown that growing plants and being able to watch plants and nature reduces stress and promotes well-being in people. And a recent study revealed that the main reason why people don't do any gardening at all was because it is perceived to be too difficult. Clearly that is nonsense, a great start is to plant a rooted bramble stem by a sunny fence panel. Water after planting and then leave it to grow.

It's my daughter's eighth birthday on 27th September and she's been desperate to have some pet snails for ages. So I'll definitely be getting the HLQ bundle. But which snails- African or British Cepaea? What do you advise?
The British Cepaea snails are very lively and really easy to look after, eating buddleia stems and leaves, also Weetabix. So I would recommend that type for your daughter. They also gnaw inside rinsed out hen eggshells (these provide the calcium the snails need to keep their shells strong). And they need a shallow dish of cold tap water to drink. You can find large buddleia bushes in overgrown sunny places, for example, carparks by railway lines and industrial units. Or, if you have a sunny garden, buddleia (sold as the "butterfly bush") is a fast growing shrub which you could plant. But if were to plant a commercially grown potted buddleia you would need to wait a year before harvesting it fro your snails (this is because it will have been treated with pesticides that will remain active for 12 months). It's a good idea to order now and request delivery on Tuesday 26th Sept, so you'll receive everything in time for your daughter's birthday.

I just love that even when tiny the male New Guinea stick insects do the scorpion style poses. And how on just water and bramble can they become the huge adults. They are amazing. I am a proud great grandma.
Yes, the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are particularly impressive growing from 40mm to 185mm in five months. You are doing really well in hatching out successive generations of New Guinea stick insect eggs.

I live near Belfast, Northern Ireland, and would like to know if it's possible to get a couple of ELC cages sent to me? Sadly I know that the couriers charge a supplement to deliver here, please can you tell me what the total cost would be? I'd be after a couple of ELC bundles, I have rather a lot of Indian stick insects and I'd like to give them more space!
Yes, Small-Life Supplies sends cages to Northern Ireland (and the Republic of Ireland), using couriers. The price for two ELC bundles is £57.99 each, the delivery to anywhere in Northern Ireland is £24.45 pounds, so your order total is £140.43. This is a 24-hour courier service and so you'd receive the ELC bundles the day after we send them. There is still free delivery on ELC cage Liners to Northern Ireland because the ELC Liners can be sent by first class post and the price of sending a small packet by first class post is the same across the Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do really well in the ELC cage, we recommend housing up to twenty Indian stick insects per ELC cage.

I am a teacher in the United States and wanted to know if your company ships orders to the US. I am interested purchasing Indian Walking sticks.
The US Dept of Agriculture prohibits the import of living stick insects/walking sticks from the UK to the USA. So Small-Life Supplies does not send send living eggs from to the USA because it is illegal to do so. You need to try and source the insects from a local supplier/breeder.

Should I provide a Water Dish for my Indian stick insects? Some sites say yes, others say no, they'll drown? And why is your ELC so massive? I've seen stick insects for sale in small jars?
No, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do not need a Water Dish. They get enough moisture from the leaves and the water droplets on the leaves (when these are misted with the Mister Curvy). And yes, there is a real risk of Indian stick insects drowning in an open water dish. Stick insects need room to grow, they do this by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins and so needs lots of height. That is why a tall cage, 51cm or 20" high, is needed. Some newly hatched stick insects can be kept in smaller containers, but when they have completed their first or second skin-change the stick insects should be transferred to a large ventilated ELC cage so they have room to grow properly. The ELC cage is 51cm x 36.5cm x 27.5cm, this is an ideal size for many stick insects. I wouldn't say it's a massive cage, it is still easy to lift this cage on and off a shelf.

Quick question about the show at Kempton Park... will there be live insects to view there or is it just equipment and other kit that people display?
Yes, there's living insects for sale, Small-Life Supplies will have various stick insects for sale. Other stalls have praying mantises, spiders, there's usually an ant stand, crickets and so on. It's on two floors, the ground floor is firms and individuals selling stuff, the upper floor is quieter and is more about informative displays. It's an annual event, you can spot the Small-Life Supplies stand because we have big insect silhouettes!

I really liked keeping the Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars in the summer and am so pleased you have some more for sale. I am getting some for my sister as well. I wanted to ask if it's possible for you to just send me the caterpillars and Liners because I still have the HUA Pot from last time and so can use it again.
Great to hear that your last Indian Eri silk-moths were a success. And yes, we can give you a discount this time because you don't need another HUA Pot sending.

My stick insects (Thailand) are changing colour! I mean the females are, some are now a rusty brown. Is it because it's autumn? We are surrounded by green bramble, and have eaten lots of blackberries this year!
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have males and females in roughly equal numbers. The adult males are purplish brown and go duller with age. The adult females usually start off light green and then become darker green as they age. Some start off pale brown and these ones become a nice rusty shade of brown when they are very old. So your Thailand stick insects are now very old. They will require more water at this stage of their life and so you need to mist the bramble leaves more generously with water. The fact that we are entering autumn in the UK is irrelevant, Thailand stick insects will become darker in colour as they age regardless of the time of year. And yes, in the UK , many stick insect keepers have benefitted from eating bumper crops of juicy blackberries this year!

I'd like to have a back-up supply of food plants for my stick insects for those times when they are harder to find (not helped my local council regularly cutting back the local vegetation which I think is bad for nature and a waste of money). I live in a flat with no garden but I'm going to try growing some bramble, privet and dog rose from cuttings. I'm also thinking of buying some potted roses from a garden centre as my Pink winged stick insects love wild rose when I can find it. What is the minimum time you should keep commercially grown plants before using them as a food plant?
Yes, growing some potted plants is a good idea, although the plants you list are not particularly fast growing. With commercially grown potted plants, you need to wait at least one year for the pesticides in the soil to break down and de-activate. So a better option might be to grow from seed. You could grow soya beans (sold in health food shops), these grow quickly and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do well on soya leaves. Plant the soya beans in soil that you know is not contaminated with pesticides, or use the genuine "John Innes" brand of seed compost (this was safe to use the last time we checked, because it is made to a special formula). If you have Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), they will eat Lemon Balm, our Norwegian customers grow this from seed indoors and report that this works well.

I am intrigued with your Indian Eri silk-moths. My friend's daughter has a silkworm kit, but they are bald grey things that eat artificial food and mustn't be touched as they are in a sterile environment. Are yours a different species, less delicate perhaps?
The commercial silkworm kits offered by some other sellers are the Bombyx mori species, this type has been specifically bred for silk production for so many generations now that it does not behave like a standard caterpillar. Those silkworms (the silk-moth caterpillars) used to eat mulberry leaves, but are now supplied with artificial food. In contrast, the Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply, are a different species, Samia ricini. These caterpillars can be handled and eat fresh privet (also lilac) leaves. As such, we find them to be far more rewarding to keep and observe. Also, the adult Indian Eri silk-moth is impressive and can be handled too.

I am flabbergasted that another supplier of Indian stick insects suggests the following "to make the feeding of your stick insects relatively easy, place a potted ivy plant into their habitat, keeping it routinely watered. If you are unsure whether the plant has been treated with insecticide, wash off the leaves before placing it in your habitat". Duh! Don't they know that the insecticides are INSIDE the plant, not on the outside?
Insecticides can be sprayed onto the leaves of the plant, this method is used in crop-spraying. However potted plants are routinely commercially grown in soil/compost that is infused with insecticides. The plant roots take up these poisonous chemicals and they move up the stem and then are dispersed throughout the vein network in the plant leaves. So yes, you are correct, potted ivy plants are likely to contain insecticides and these will be inside the plant and so cannot be washed off. Stick insects cannot detect if a plant has been treated with pesticides and so when the stick insect eats the ivy leaf, it will be poisoned and will die. The pesticides used in the soil of potted plants are very long-lasting, they can remain active for 12 months. That is why Small-Life Supplies warns people against using potted plants bought from commercial garden centres, florists and shops. Also, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually much prefer to eat bramble/blackberry leaves rather than ivy leaves.

I've seen a lot of dragonflies today, but my friend calls them damselfies. Is there an easy way to tell them apart?
Yes, but you need to wait till they land and rest. The dragonflies rest with their wings at right-angles to their body (like the Angel of the North sculpture in NE England), whereas damselfies rest with their wings resting back alongside their bodies.

I was washing my car and my father commented how clean my windscreen was already. I do remember back in the 1980s when windscreens used to be covered with splattered insects after a long drive. What's happened?
Insect numbers have plummeted in recent decades. This is due to various factors including: massive reduction of fields, meadows, woods and wild areas (caused by house and road building), reduction of plants in gardens (caused by decking and paving, and converting front gardens to hard standing parking areas), use of more powerful pesticides (airborne and applied to the soil), increase in road traffic, and low cost and easy availability of wasp traps, fly swatters etc in pound shops (these encourage the negative action of "if it moves, kill it".) Also the types of insects likely to be hit by cars are the low flying species, and these include beetles and bees, there are extra reasons why bee populations have crashed (theories include mobile phone signals disrupting their navigation systems, viruses, exhaustion stress from being overworked in commercial hives etc). The situation is very serious and it is scandalous that it is not being highlighted more often.

I have Indian and giant spiny stick insects (not in same enclosure). I am wondering if there are any types of plant I can put in with these insects that they won't eat.
Stick insects do best if kept in a cage containing leaves they can eat. So your cages should have a generous amount of bramble/blackberry sprigs. It's not recommended to put in other types of plant, because these can harm the stick insects if they are nibbled by mistake. (Most plants would be ignored). Giant spiny stick insects are also called New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and these stick insects need a shallow dish of water to drink and also some hiding places, empty cardboard rolls designed for kitchen roll are ideal to use. You can band a couple of rolls together using an elastic band and then place this horizontally on the cage Liner.

Is it too late to get some more caterpillars from you? We were thrilled at the ones we had in May and my daughter has been pestering me for more ever since!
Small-Life Supplies start sending out our captive-bred caterpillars again after 4th September 2017. These are the Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars. They are white caterpillars and eat fresh privet leaves. We can supply bags of fresh privet leaves if you do not have ready access to a privet hedge. They grow very large and are most impressive! They will be listed on the website in a few days time.

I am twelve and I have an orchid mantis and she is very old, she will die soon. I love her very much and I was just wondering would she go to heaven or anywhere similar or is this just for dogs and cats? I know that she's just an insect, but a very intelligent insect at that. Will I ever see her again when I die?
If you believe in the concept of an afterlife where souls of living beings exist, then yes, it is logical to assume it will be full of all animals, so that includes cats, dogs, humans, insects, birds, fish etc. However, it's probably best to concentrate on life now and take comfort in the fact you have cared for this mantid and connected with her, appreciating her intelligence etc. It is good that you are in tune with insects at twelve, this interest will stay with you throughout your life. Try not to dwell on abstract concepts like "heaven", it is better to actively focus on caring for living insects now and promoting this compassion to others.

I bought some stick insects from a fete and they were labelled as "Indian stick insect, Carausius Morosus, stage L2". They're still quite small and I was told they were the common ones. I have three questions; should the morosus have a capital M? What does stage L2 mean? And they're turning their noses up at the privet I have, so what else can I give them to eat?
Indian stick insects are the most commonly kept type of stick insect, they are easy to keep. We find they like bramble/blackberry leaves best, but they will also eat hazel leaves, wild rose leaves and eucalyptus leaves. Ours no longer eat privet leaves and other people have experienced that too, which is odd because privet used to be the staple foodplant for this species. Latin names of insects are in two parts; the first word starts with a capital letter and the second word is all lower case, both words are italicised. So the correct species name for Indian stick insects is Carausius morosus. Immature stick insects have regular growth spurts, these are called instars and are measured by the number of skin-changes completed. So a stick insect that has completed just one skin-change is in its second instar. A stick insect that has completed all six skin-changes is in its seventh instar and is an adult. Stage "L2" means the insect is in its second larval stage, this terminology is used for insects which have larval stages. Stick insects do not have larval stages, because they are not larvae, they are nymphs. So what the seller at the fete was trying to say is that your stick insects are second instar.

I am disappointed that you can't ship to the USA, because my students were really excited that we finally found Small-Life Supplies with Indian Stick insects that we could purchase for classroom pets. What can I do on my end (USA) to make it legal for you guys to ship to me?
You can't do anything. It is illegal to send stick insect eggs from the UK to the USA and that is why Small-Life Supplies do not export stick insect eggs to the USA. We do send eggs to other countries in Europe because this is allowed.

I am looking after Indian stick insects for a friend and they have all died. The dead ones weren't exposed to air-fresheners or paint fumes as far as I know. Their owner had bought a new ivy plant in a pot and left it in the cage for them - we wondered whether it could have been that?
Yes, it would have been the potted plant. It is far too risky to use bought potted plants to feed stick insects. This is because many of these plants have been grown in soil infused with insecticides which are taken up by the plant roots. These chemicals disperse throughout the plant and will poison any insect that eats the leaves. So stick insects should be given leaves gathered from outside, the best leaves for Indian stick insects are hazel leaves, bramble/blackberry leaves, eucalyptus leaves and rose leaves. Or you can buy Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies, the price is £7.88 for a pack, this is enough food for approx ten days.

What's the best thing to line floor for my stick insects?
A sheet of paper, replaced weekly. The cage Liners supplied by Small-Life Supplies are pre-cut to size, thereby saving you a lot of time. If you have Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) adults, just tilt the Liner and tap it underneath and the eggs will roll off (collect these in a dish). Don't use vermiculite, soil/earth, sand, or peat on the floor of cages because these substrates trap the eggs, clog up the sticky pads on the stick insects' feet, and can make the surroundings unhygienic.

I've recently moved to a new flat and am looking for a cool pet, that requires little maintenance. Someone suggested stick insects, and I'm cool with this. I had a walk around the area and have found a fence by the sport's field covered in bramble. But my job involves travelling a lot, sometimes I am away for two or three nights at a time. So I need a stick insect that would be OK with this ? Also, I have only found one place with bramble, so I don't want anything that eats too much. I'd appreciate your comments.
The Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) would be the best species for you. Thailand stick insects are definitely cool, they are so long and stick-like. They have the huge advantage in that they have small appetites and so are ideal for people who have limited bramble stocks. Thailand stick insects also have calm temperaments and so don't panic if you disappear for a few days. This is unlike some other species of stick insects that get stressed if their owners go away, resulting in the classic stress behaviour of eating loads and laying lots of eggs.

I am a home educator in Oxford and have some American material about insects, but the language is causing confusion. Please can you clarify, that ladybug=ladybird and walking stick=stick insect, and bug=insect?
Yes, that's correct, although the last one needs more explanation: The British use the word "insect" to describe invertebrates with six legs that belong to the class Insecta. Within the class Insecta, there are different "Orders". One well known Order is "Lepidoptera" , which contains butterflies and moths. Stick insects belong to the Order "Phasmida". Another Order is "Hemiptera", this contains insects known as bugs (these have sucking mouthparts and examples include Shieldbugs). Americans tend to use the word "bug" to describe any insect, but American entomologists would only use the word "bug" to describe the insects with the sucking mouthparts that belong to the order Hemiptera .

I am thinking about getting a butterfly kit for my son, to encourage his interest in insects. I have seen some advertised on-line, I wondered if Small-Life Supplies supply them?
Small-Life Supplies breed and supply easy to keep caterpillars which develop into butterflies and moths. Our caterpillars eat certain types of leaves, you can gather these yourself or we can send you a bag of fresh cut leaves. The next caterpillars will be ready at the start of September and these are the Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars. These caterpillars are white and grow very large, they eat privet leaves and lilac leaves.

I need another ELC cage because the stick insects I bought from you earlier this year are now breeding. I have four types in one cage, Papua New Guinea, Pink Winged, Thai and Indian. The babies are pale green and are under the lid of the ELC cage, do you know which one of those candidates they'd be?
You have baby Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insects. Out of the species you have, Pink Winged are the only ones that are green when born. (The other types you have can become green weeks later but are brown when born). Pink Winged stick insect eggs hatch after three months (the eggs are glued around the cage). Another characteristic of Pink Winged babies (called first instar nymphs) is that they like to congregate under the lid of the ELC cage (which is what you are seeing). You can keep Pink Winged stick insects in the ELC cage from birth, they are large enough not to escape and also benefit from being kept in airy surroundings from birth.

We had some oil seed rape plants escape from a nearby field that were growing in the garden. There have been lots of cabbage white caterpillars on them but the leaves have nearly all been eaten now and they are going to run out of food. I'm wondering if I can collect the caterpillars and some plants and wait for them to pupate into butterflies? If so do they need anything special and how would be best to keep them?
Yes, you can collect the caterpillars, keep them in QBOXES or HUA Pots and watch them grow. They eat brassica leaves, you can purchase "spring greens" from Tesco (these are usually safe for the caterpillars to eat, unlike some other supermarkets which can stock products laden with pesticides). Or, you may be able to source cabbages elsewhere from someone who grows them without using pesticides. Nasturtium leaves can be used as well. The leaves you give to the caterpillars must not be wet. Wild cabbage white caterpillars have a very high rate of being parasitised (the parasitic larvae grow inside the caterpillar), and so don't be surprised if you see parasitic larvae emerging from the caterpillars, once they are fully grown. When the parasitoid emerges it bursts out of the body of the caterpillar, killing it in the process. However, you may be lucky and if your caterpillars are not parasitised, they will develop into pupae and then emerge as butterflies, all in the space of a few weeks.

My daughter is looking after school stick insects for the holidays! Cleaned them out today and one is lying on the bottom. Thought it was dead! Put it on some kitchen towel and it moved it's leg a little weakly, also if put finger gently to its leg it would grip. I've put some moss in a jam jar and put it in with an ivy leaf just checked on it and it not grasping as well as it was. When I gently blow on it sometimes it moves a tiny bit and sometimes it doesn't! It's only about 2 inches long. So it's not an adult yet. Looks to me like an Indian stick insect. Is there anything that I can do for it I haven't already done?
You need to place it on a wet bramble leaf because it probably needs to drink water. Remove the moss. Indian stick insects do best in large airy cages (such as the ELC cage). Indian stick insects usually prefer to eat bramble/blackberry leaves rather than ivy leaves. You keep the bramble leaves fresh by standing the stems of bramble leaves (called sprigs) in a Sprig Pot filled with cold tap water. Replace the bramble once a week. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can die if they get too hot, so check that your cage is not in a hot place, Indian stick insects prefer a daytime temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.

One of my Eurycantha calcarata males has a protrusion from his back end. It is from where he would produce a spermatogenesis sac, at first I though it was now I'm not sure. It's blue/ black in colour and bulbous but soft. He doesn't seen hindered at all and is otherwise healthy.
You are seeing the genitalia of the adult male New Guinea stick insect, Eurycantha calcarata. Usually this is only on show when the male wants to mate (usually during the night). But males who have just recently become adults can sometimes briefly display this equipment in the day, it can be green/blue/black. If you can see this all the time with this particular stick insect, it suggests that something has gone wrong with his last skin-change.

My Pink Winged Stick Insects have started laying eggs. But they aren't laying them on the hatch hat that we stuck to the outside panel of the cage as you advised. Instead they are laying them in the dark edges in the ELC cage. Can this be stopped or will we have to just leave them do it?
It's odd that they are not using the Hatch Mats yet, this suggests they haven't realised their benefits yet. You could try putting one Hatch Mat inside the cage, taped up against the back side with a piece of clear masking tape. This might give them the idea. You can also put a grey cardboard egg carton (the type that hold six hen eggs) in the ELC cage because the texture and colour of these egg boxes usually appeal to Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) as places to glue their eggs.

The Indian Eri silkmoths I got from you mated (for days!) and laid lots of eggs around a buddleia stem, stuck together. Someone said incubation time was three days? I have had mine for nine days and this morning they have turned grey? What does this mean? Also, the female is still alive, she is weak and isn't moving much, is she waiting to see her babies?
Our Indian Eri silk moth eggs usually hatch after ten days. The fact yours have turned grey is a really good sign, it means that hatching is imminent and so you'll proably see the baby caterpillars tomorrow. You need to contain the caterpillars and so it's best to snip the buddleia stem with the eggs attached and place this in a QBOX with the lid on. You can keep this clear QBOX containing the eggs next to the female so she can see them when they hatch. Her death is imminent, but often with insects the eggs hatch just as the parents are dying from old age.

Re the 5-legged New Guinea stick insects...are they still as mobile and easy to handle despite having only 5 legs? Is it a genetic thing?
Stick insects are supposed to have six legs, like all other insects. However, sometimes a stick insect can lose a leg. This may happen because of an accident, for example the leg has become trapped and the insect has thrown it off so it can escape. Or, the stick insect may have messed up its skin-change (ecdysis) and decided to discard the leg because it could not pull it from the old skin. A stick insect with five legs quickly adapts to its new situation and alters the way it walks so it can walk fine with just five legs and can still be handled. Losing legs is not a genetic trait but if the stick insect is of a panicky disposition, it will keep discarding legs throughout its life, so it is not a good sign if you see a young stick insect with regenerated legs and missing legs. (Stick insects can regrow a missing leg at the next skin-change). Some species of stick insects lose legs more readily than others, it is quite unusual to see New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) with five or less legs.

Would your AUC cage be suitable for keeping horsehead grasshoppers? I'm guessing the mesh sides would be softer if the jump into it. Also do you know anything about the stick insect species Orthermeria kangi?
Yes, the AUC cage should be suitable for horsehead grasshoppers (also called Proscopids). These insects like to jump and can hurt themselves if their face hits a hard surface, but the blue mesh of the AUC is flexible and will "give" on impact. Sorry, but I have not come across the Orthermeria kangi, so am unable to advise on this species.

Are there insect meets? We have biker meets but when I googled "insect meets" nothing came up?
The next "Insect meet" is on Saturday 30th Sept 2017 at the indoor hall at Kempton Park Racecourse, Middlesex (north west of London), postcode TW16 5AQ. This is a large annual event, it's very busy, and is an opportunity for people of all ages to meet up and look at the latest insects and equipment for sale. Entrance costs a few pounds and is payable on the door.

Should Pink Winged stick insect eggs be kept in the QBOX? If so, do the babies do well in there too?
No. Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) eggs should be left where they are glued. This is because they have evolved to hatch from an egg which is anchored in place. If a Pink Winged stick insect tries to hatch from an egg that is loose, the hatchling insect can struggle to pull its legs out of the eggshell and so cannot hatch properly. Baby Pink Winged stick insects are called first instar nymphs, and are relatively large and pale green. They can be kept in the ELC cage straight away because they are so large and so they won't escape. The QBOX is not suitable for either Pink Winged eggs or Pink Winged babies.

I am sorry to bother you Professor, however I think I have fed my stick insects the wrong leaves, what should I do?
Remove the wrong leaves and insert the correct ones. Stick insects usually know not to eat the wrong leaves, but if they have no choice sometimes they will eat leaves that do not give them the nutrition they need, but these leaves do not kill them straight away. So, it's important to rectify your mistake as soon as possible. You don't say what species of stick insect you have, so it's difficult for me to advise on what they need to eat. But as a guide, most stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves but the Grenadan stick insects must eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Bramble bushes are very easy to spot just now because they produce juicy blackberries and there are bumper crops of blackberries across the UK at the moment.

My son has some Carausius morosus eggs that we are in the process of hatching. One hatched last night but still has the egg casing attached to its behind. Is this normal please?
A healthy Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) should be able to free itself completely from its eggshell during the hatching process. To achieve this, the conditions need to be correct, so that is why the QBOX (a clear unventilated box) is ideal, we use lots of QBOXES at Small-Life Supplies to hatch out our Indian stick insect eggs successfully. Sometimes a stick insect hatches with its brown eggshell still stuck to its tail (end of abdomen). If you can see the brown eggshell on the back end of your stick insect, then hold the eggshell firmly and you will feel the force of the stick insect as it tries to pull free. Sometimes this works and the stick insect will walk away, leaving the eggshell in your fingers. But other times the stick insect will walk away, leaving the brown eggshell in your fingers but the white soft lining sac of the eggshell stays attached to the insect. If the latter happens, the stick insect will not survive.

So after 30 plus days my silk moth emerged, at pretty much the same time as my hawk moths (who pupated once put in some soil) - so success all round. One thing - the silk moth has laid eggs! There is only one and so I assume these will be sterile - or do moths go in for parthenogenesis?
Good to hear that your moths have emerged successfully. It is unlikely that your silk moth eggs will hatch. Indian Eri silk moths (Samia ricini) have males and females in roughly equal numbers and the adult moths need to mate for the female to produce fertile eggs.

Please can you let me know how much it would cost to send an ELC bundle to Jersey, Channel Islands?
Sending to the Channel Islands is more expensive than sending to France, but it is faster service, arriving by 1pm the next day. The delivery price is £26.60 and someone needs to be there to sign for the parcel.

Is it possible to overfeed a Giant African Land Snail and cause it's shell to crack? A friend was telling me that her snail's shell was cracked and she took it to the vet and that is what the vet told her. I think the vet is wrong, do you?
Yes, the vet is mistaken on this occasion. It is not possible to overfeed a Giant African Land Snail (Achatina fulica), in fact they should always have a generous supply of mixed vegetables to eat and fresh cold tap water to drink. The snail eats and drinks when it needs to and controls its intake so that it consumes the correct amount. A cracked shell can be caused by a fall, snails like to climb and sometimes can fall off the top of the tank. That is why a soft Liner should be used, this will cushion the impact should a snail fall. Snails need extra calcium to keep their shells strong and they get this calcium from gnawing at the inside of hen eggshells. So it's a good idea to put in a couple of rinsed out empty hen eggshells a week (so save these after cooking cakes or omelettes). The snail is able to repair minor damage to the eggshell, but if the crack is severe it may be fatal. Your friend needs to give her snail plenty of fresh food, water and calcium and let the snail rest as much as possible so it can divert its energy into repairing its shell.

I have just purchased Phyllium giganteum (Malaysian leaf insects) on-line. The vendor advises they be kept at a humidity of 40/60% and 18/22 degrees Celsius.. I have put them up in a large glass tank with a jar of bramble but my humidity guage is showing 88% humidity and the temperature is 21.8 degrees Celsius. I have tried rapidly opening and closing the glass doors to the tank but this only makes the humidity briefly drop to 87% before going back up again. I think I need another cage - what would you advise?
You need a cage which is much more ventilated. The tank you have has solid sides and only has a ventilation grille at the top, this design does not allow enough fresh air to circulate in the cage, which is why the humidity level will remain so high. Malaysian leaf insects have large appetites and so you must always have a generous supply of bramble leaves in the cages, and of course the foliage will also increase the humidity. Leaf insects do well in airy cages, with mesh sides, rather than solid sides . The humidity levels in well ventilated cages (with mesh sides) is much lower than in tanks (with solid sides). The new AUC cage is ideal for large leaf insects, this cage is manufactured by Small-Life Supplies in the UK and has four ventilated sides and a drop on clear plastic lid.

My ELC insect home came today and I am absolutely delighted. If you have any more used ones coming up for sale would you let me know please as I could do with another.
We have a regular turnover of used ELC cages as we replace the ones in our breeding facility with new ones. The used ELC cages are only a few months old and are advertised on ebay at a discount price. Your details have been added to the waiting-list and we'll let you know as soon as we list some more used ELC cages on ebay.

How long do Indian stick insect eggs take to hatch? I read on-line that Indian stick insect eggs can take from a few months up to a year to hatch depending on the conditions they are kept in.
At normal room temperature, which is 18-21 degrees Celsius in the day and cooler at night, Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs usually hatch after four months. However, in hotter conditions, this incubation time is shortened. Our Indian stick insect eggs that were laid on 29th April 2017 are hatching now, after just three months. This is because temperatures in our breeding facility have been hotter than 21 degrees Celsius for prolonged periods recently, due to the hot summer weather. The incubation time of stick insect eggs can be increased if the eggs are kept in cooler surroundings, but most people wouldn't do this because most homes in the UK are kept comfortably warm, so will be at the normal room temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius in the daytime. So , during normal conditions, you can expect the Indian stick insect eggs to hatch after four months.

My friend showed me some of her Medauromorpha regina "Tay Yen Tu" stick insects and is willing to give me a couple when they are bigger. She keeps hers in a vintage wooden cage. Do you sell a cage suitable for these stick insects, or would I need to have one custom-made?
The North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina "Tay Yen Tu") is a new species that is fast becoming popular because of its very large size and dramatic serrations on its legs. Small-Life Supplies are breeding these stick insects and we house our large nymphs and adults very successfully in the AUC cage. Small-Life Supplies manufacture the AUC cage and are currently supplying customers on the waiting-list. Once those customers have received their cages, the AUC cage shall be listed on the Small-Life Supplies website on the "insect cages" page.

I'd like a communal cage of stick insects, I have four Indian stick insects in the ELC cage , what can I add?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are a great choice, you could add four Pink Winged stick insects to the ELC cage containing your four Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). Both species eat bramble/blackberry leaves and also Eucalyptus gunnii leaves.

Whilst gathering bramble for my stick insects today I spotted some juicy blackberries! It's only mid-July! Is this a record?
Blackberries usually start appearing in the late summer, but last year we noticed them appearing in July and the same again this year. So they have been early a couple of years in a row so far. British weather has always been variable and so plants and insects have evolved to quickly adapt their development to suit the weather.

My son was given a stick insect by his teacher as a leaving present! We have gathered some leaves from the garden, will he/she eat these? I attach a photo. I am scared of insects but want the best for this one, so I will need the ELC bundle. How soon can that be sent?
The photo you sent is of a young Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). These stick insects are all females (males are extremely rare and not necessary for reproduction). So your stick insect is a female nymph, she will grow much larger over the coming months. Indian stick insects need to eat particular types of leaves, bramble (blackberry) leaves are best. We can send Fresh Cut Bramble to you with the ELC bundle if you wish. ELC cages are in stock and sent on a next-day courier service. You will soon conquer your fear of insects once you have looked after this young stick insect with your son. Stick insects like company of their own kind and so it would be a good idea to get some more Indian stick insects to live together with the one you have already. If you wanted to buy some, we could send them with the other items. We would select ones which are a similar size to the one you already have so they could all grow up together.

My Indian Eri silk moth hatched on Saturday, she is beautiful and is already laying eggs. She has laid 23 so far, does that mean I had a male and a female caterpillar because she hasn't mated with anyone? My 3 year old has named her "Elsa". I took Elsa as a caterpillar to my son's primary school class (he's 5 years old) they loved her and now they can't wait to meet her as a moth!
Great to hear that Elsa is so popular! Indian Eri silk moths need to mate as adults and then the female can lay fertilised eggs, these hatch after several days. If no male moth is present, the female moth will still lay eggs, but fewer of them. The likelihood of these eggs hatching is low, and if they do hatch, the incubation time will be much longer than if the female had mated with a male. The caterpillars don't mate, only the adult moths can mate.

I have been given a number of Indian Stick Insect eggs to hatch out. I was told to keep them in a Tupperware box with plenty of air holes, after reading about your QBOX this seems to be incorrect? I was also told to mist them daily with water, is this correct? I am worrying that I have now done some damage to the eggs.
You have been given incorrect advice. For best results keep the Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) in a QBOX (this has no airholes) and wait for them to hatch. This occurs four months after they were laid. Only mist the eggs with water if the stick insects are getting stuck in their eggshells and not managing to emerge properly. But if you're keeping the eggs in the QBOX it is unlikely that there will be any hatching problems. If the eggs still look OK, and have not gone mouldy, they may still be viable, but it's important that you transfer them to a QBOX and stop misting them with water as soon as possible.

I have four of your Indian stick insects in the excellent ELC cage. I have ample supplies of bramble leaves in the neighbouring country lanes, which they have been eating for the last three months. But when I visited my sister earlier this week, I brought back some clippings from her privet hedge, thinking they would like a change? But they are refusing to eat the privet. Any ideas as to why?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) don't need a varied diet and they will do well if fed solely on bramble (blackberry) leaves. So it's fortunate that you have a good supply of bramble locally. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we used to feed our Indian stick insects a mixture of bramble and privet leaves, but stopped feeding them privet about five years ago. Now, our Indian stick insects will not eat privet, but they will eat hazel, rose and eucalyptus leaves, but their staple diet is bramble (blackberry) leaves.

My wife and I would like to purchase some of your young adult stick insects for our young son, we're thinking the Indian stick insects would be the best choice? I like the look of your ELC cage but my wife has already purchased a larger enclosure at 1 metre high. A mistake?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an excellent choice for your young son. He can handle the young adults and collect some of the eggs and hatch out the next generation in four months time. A 100cm high cage is generous height-wise for Indian stick insects, they do well in a cage roughly half that height (the ELC stick insect cage is 51cm high). But the important factor, apart from height, is ventilation. So a bigger cage is not necessarily better for your stick insects if the ventilation is not right. The ELC has two mesh sides which provide the optimum through-draught of air, this is ideal for Indian stick insects. You do not say what ventilation your cage has, but if it is all-netting, it will be too airy for Indian stick insects. And if it is a large glass enclosure, it will not have enough ventilation. If the large cage you have is all-netting, you could use it to house butterflies or moths. And then you could get the proper ELC cage to house your Indian stick insects. We can send the cage at the same time as the stick insects.

We have two British Eyed hawk-moth caterpillars. Overnight, one has gone underneath the liner, has eaten nothing, no droppings and is much smaller and still this morning. Should I place it on a dish of soil now, even though it seems to be in stasis? Wondering how best to treat it?
Yes, place it on a dish of soil/potting compost, about 5cm or 2 inches deep. You can flick some soil over it so that is is lightly buried. That caterpillar has entered the next stage of its lifecycle, pupation, and so should be left alone for the next week so it can transform into a pupa successfully. It won't eat anymore, but keep on feeding the other one with fresh willow leaves until it starts to pupate too.

My daughter recently gave me two Giant African Land Snails to care for. I read in your care sheet (which you kindly sent with the HLQ cage) to feed them on vegetable peelings. My question is can they eat whole or part vegetables as well? As I now live on my own, since the death of my husband, I find myself throwing away perfectly good vegetables because I can't stomach a whole potato or a whole carrot.
Yes, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) can gnaw at carrots and potatoes, it's best to dice these so that the pieces aren't too large. We feed ours daily with diced vegetables and peelings. A Giant African Land Snail needs a varied diet to produce a nicely patterned shell. Regarding greens, fresh dandelion leaves are always a favourite food of these snails, so if you have a lawn you can always encourage dandelions to grow in it. You then have the benefit of being able to harvest fresh dandelion leaves throughout the year.

One of my Indian Eri silk-moths has pupated, but I am afraid one didn't. It stopped holding onto the stalks of lilac and was at the bottom of the pot. And even if I put lilac on the floor he didn't eat. I don't think anything untoward happened to it but I guess there is going to be some that just don't survive. It was barely alive, looked like it was a gonner and rather than throw it in the bin I fed it to my resident robin. But the other is cocooned and on top of a cupboard.
The Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillar usually spins a silk cocoon around itself and then pupates within the silk cocoon. But very occasionally, the caterpillar is unable to spin a silk cocoon. So it just lies in the floor, looks shrunken and as though it is dying. But then it's body gradually turns brown and it changes shape into a pupa. I think this is what was happening to yours. If a caterpillar becomes ill it dies very quickly and decomposes rapidly. Anyway, at least your other one has developed properly and so hopefully you will see the adult silk-moth within weeks.

I enjoyed the wildlife segment on BBC's "The One Show" yesterday with the dragonfly adult emerging from its exuvia. I noticed that the dragonfly emerged upwards out of its old skin, but my Pink Winged stick insects always emerge downwards?
Yes, you are correct. When an adult dragonfly emerges from its skin, it emerges upwards and then flicks its body around so that it's wings hang downwards. It then pumps its wings out and waits as they hang down and harden. In contrast, stick insects always shed their skins by sliding vertically downwards. Winged stick insects also pump their wings out and wait as they hang down and harden. Like dragonflies, stick insect wings usually take a few hours to harden properly, they are then strong enough to sustain the insect in flight.

I received my parcel containing the ELC cage today but the lid is broken. The white piping has a cut in it.
The lid has a join in the middle at the back, this is how they are made. So there should be a join across the middle and down the back of the lid frame, in the white plastic, opposite the 2017 label on the front. Is this what you mean? If you're able to email a photo that would be helpful.

Is it safe to handle stick insects without wearing gloves? Is there any risk of getting an infectious disease from them? Do they bite?
The stick insects that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply are all used to being handled (without gloves) and we supply species of stick insect that are safe to keep as pets or in school. Stick insects have mouths designed for eating leaves, they do not have biting mouthparts and so no, they do not bite. And no, you won't contract a disease from handling our stick insects. Small-Life Supplies supply stick insects to nursery schools, where the young children can enjoy handling them safely (without gloves).

We would love to give a home to a Hawk Moth caterpillar. I have a question about housing: We keep our 10 Indian Stick Insects in your ELC cage, which suits them very well. Once a caterpillar pupates, would it be suitable to keep it alongside the Stick Insects in the same cage, or should we house it somewhere else? And is there a "best" temperature for the pupa, please?
You can enjoy seeing the British Eyed Hawk caterpillar grow dramatically over the next few weeks. When it is 8cm long, it pupates in soil and then you place the pupa (still in the soil) in your garage or unheated shed. And wait for the beautiful hawk-moth to emerge next Spring. Most people like to set the hawk-moths free outside straight away. But if you wanted to keep it for a day or two before letting it fly off, we recommend an enclosure with soft netting sides (this is better than the ELC stick insect cage which has hard sides because hawk-moth wings can be damaged by hard sides). We keep our hawk-moths in the AUC cage, this is an excellent cage for housing large silk-moths and hawk-moths. The best temperature for the pupa is whatever it is outdoors, that's why you store it in an unheated garage or shed. Don't keep the pupa in your house because the warmer temperatures inside would make it emerge early and it would be cruel to release it in a cold month, for example November, when it has no hope of surviving outdoors. We are sending out the British Eyed Hawk-moth caterpillars next week, so please hurry if you'd like to order, before they sell out. A detailed info sheet is included with the caterpillars.

I am an artist and I am fascinated by the heavy duty armour appearance of the New Guinea stick insects. I know that most insects have the three pairs of legs coming out of the thorax? But it looks to me that only two pairs of their legs come out of their thorax, and the third pair comes out of the abdomen? Or am I mistaken?
You are mistaken. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are the same basic design as other stick insects. So despite being big and chunky, they still follow this stick insect design of having three pairs of legs coming out of their thorax. The abdomen starts immediately behind the third pair of legs, you can see the abdomen is made up of lots of similar-sized segments.

I missed the nature event in Cambridge. I had promised my grandchildren to take them there, but instead I had a little operation on my foot a few days earlier. Is there on other event soon?
The next large insect event that Small-Life Supplies will be exhibiting at is the indoor insect fair in the halls of Kempton Park racecourse on the Middlesex/Surrey border. This event is on Saturday 30th Sept 2017 and is an event exclusively focussed on insects.

I saw your caterpillar kits at the Cambridge show and have now had a think about getting one. If I paid postage, could you send one to me? It's a late father's day present, my dad has been a bit down lately and I think it would cheer him up to focus on seeing a massive caterpillar grow.
Yes, we are now sending out the British Eyed Hawk moth caterpillars. These have smooth green bodies and a harmless tail-spike, and will grow to an amazing 8cm (3 inches) long during the next few weeks. They are now listed online, here is the link caterpillars, or you can phone to place your order on 01733 203358.

I have some adult pink-winged stick insects in one of your ELC cages and they are doing very well. I love the fact that they can fly! They've started laying eggs but annoyingly they've decided to lay their eggs in the mesh on the sides and top of the cage rather than the hatch mats. I can't remove the eggs from the little holes without breaking them. Any tips?
You need to re-position the Hatch Mats. They need to be on the outside of the cage, near the top of each mesh side. We put one on each mesh side, secured with sellotape at the top only. The Hatch Mat shouldn't be flat against the side, it needs to be offset by 1cm or so. This is because the Pink Winged propel their eggs through the holes in the white mesh. Inevitably a few eggs may still be glued around the cage or on the foodplant, but if you position the Hatch Mats correctly, most eggs should be stuck on them instead.

Would the Green Bean stick insect and Macleays Spectre co-habit in your AUC cage? Or would I be better buying two ELC cages and keep these species separate? Also, I already have New Guineas doing well in an ELC cage, but if they breed could I add them to the AUC cage too?
The AUC cage has four mesh sides and is very airy. This makes it ideal for Green Bean stick insects, the proper name for these is the Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). Both these types of stick insects eat eucalyptus leaves and they live happily together. So the AUC would be an excellent choice for housing Grenadan stick insects and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects together. In contrast, the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) prefers a cage with only two mesh sides, so it's best to continue to house New Guinea stick insects in ELC cages.

My adult female giant spiny has stopped using her front legs and become very weak. I don't know how old she is but she has been very healthy in the five weeks we've had her. However she has been more active over the last two days. Crawling all over the mesh terrarium over and over. She seemed restless. There is no water dish in there because of the risk of drowning.
Unfortunately your stick insect is dying. She has been so restless because she is desperate for water, it is very hot and she is dehydrated. The correct name for giant spiny stick insects is New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), these stick insects need to drink a lot more water than other species and so there should always be a shallow dish of water in the cage for the large nymphs and adults. The kindest action now is to place her mouth in a shallow dish of water, she can't recover now because she has lost the use of her front legs, but at least if she can drink water, this will lessen her suffering during her final hours of life.

I saw your Thailand stick insects in the Cambridge lab on Saturday, you may remember I said I needed to check what species mine are? Well, mine were sold to me as Ramulus artemis, but they have the same horns on their heads as yours, so I think maybe the seller made a mistake in their ID? I've asked my boss for funding for the AUC cage as it looks fantastic and they need the space.
Yes, about ten years ago a seller flooded the market with Thailand stick insects, Baculum thaii, but the seller mis-identified them as Ramulus artemis, which is a different, larger species. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have been rearing the Thailand stick insects, Baculum thaii, since the late 1970s when Mr Julian-Ottie discovered them in Thailand. Anyway, they are easy to breed and so people who bought them thinking they were Ramulus artemis have sold their surplus as Ramulus artemis , not realising this is the wrong identification. And so the mis-identification of this Thailand stick insect is now widespread. Thailand stick insects do really well in the AUC cage because it provides the extra room and ventilation they require to thrive.

Someone was telling me that the Eurycantha calcarata is now split into two species- one with small adults and one with large adults? I don't understand, surely the size variation within a species is normal?
Yes, you are correct. New Guinea stick insects belong to the species Eurycantha calcarata. Some adults are very large, whilst others are smaller, sometimes approximately three -quarters or occasionally half the size! We see a lot of variation in size within the same cage, so New Guinea stick insects kept in the same ELC cage at the same time can achieve vastly different sizes as adults. They are not different species, the variations in size are just natural occurrences.

What is the juvenile form of the ladybird called. No one seems to know on the Springwatch FB page and so I thought I'd ask the expert!
A juvenile ladybird is called a ladybird larva. The plural of larva is larvae and so two immature ladybirds would be called two ladybird larvae. The ladybird larvae have no wings and no feet.

I am really worried about my Indian stick insects. They are in my sunny kitchen and it's so swelteringly hot, they have gone limp and aren't moving when I blow on them. Can they overheat, I know it's over 30 degrees here, but surely it's hotter than that in India?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have been reared indoors in the UK for over a century and so are used to normal daytime room temperatures of 18- 21 degrees Celsius. They do not like to be kept in hotter conditions, we take action to keep ours below 25 degrees Celsius when it is hot and sunny. At temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius the structure of their waxy outer exo-skeleton can start to disintegrate and the stick insects will overheat and die. Unfortunately if yours are limp and not responding, they will have overheated and died. Indian stick insects seem more susceptible to suffering from high temperatures than many other species of stick insect. So in very hot weather, Indian stick insects must be moved to a cooler room (and given more water to drink).

I want some Giant Malaysian Jungle Nymph stick insects, but am finding it difficult to find any. There is someone selling eggs, recently laid. But I don't know how long they take to hatch?
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are very impressive large wide stick insects with striped antennae. The adult females are wide and lime green, and the adult males are brown with plum coloured wings (but they are too heavy to fly). Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) don't lay that many eggs and their eggs take a staggering one and a half years to hatch. So it's usually better to buy the actual stick insects to save you waiting a very long time for the eggs to hatch. But if you want to the get the eggs, you need to check that they are from females that have mated with males. This is because unfertilised Malaysian stick insect eggs take even longer to hatch and the hatchlings are not as healthy as those emerging from eggs that have been fertilised by a male.

I saw Small-Life Supplies at the Kempton fair last autumn - I bought an ELC cage and some New Guinea stick insects from you. Well, since then they have prospered and so I'd like to visit you at the Cambridge nature event to buy your book. I'd like to bring along my grandson too, I liked your description of it being a relaxed event, I found Kempton a bit of a scrum!
Yes, the Cambridge nature event (on this Friday 16th June afternoon and Saturday 17th June 2017 all day) is a nice relaxed event, where there is plenty of opportunity to wander around the stands and chat to the exhibitors who are promoting their special interest in nature. It's nothing like the noisy market atmosphere of Kempton. So we will be delighted to see you again and meet your grandson. You can see the creatures on our stand and also look down microscopes etc on other stands. And yes, signed copies of the book "Keeping Stick Insects" will be available to purchase. Please bring cash because it is cash sales only at this event.

I am worried about Rosa, our Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillar. She was eating loads and last measured at 6cm long. But now she seems to be shrinking and is off her food. She also seems to have had an "upset tummy". Is she dying?
On the contrary, Rosa is getting ready to spin a cocoon around herself. The classic signs before the caterpillar enters this change of its lifecycle are hyper-activity, followed by shrinking, not eating anymore and having wet runny faeces (similar to the "upset tummy" you describe). So, do not be concerned, Rosa will start to spin her cocoon today or tomorrow, the process takes several hours to complete. She (or he, because you can't visually determine the gender of caterpillars) will remain in the pupa stage for a few weeks before emerging as a large Indian Eri silk-moth. You could provide half a cardboard loo roll for her to spin her cocoon in, we have found they often prefer cardboard to twigs!

I saw your advice about feeding New Guinea stick insects with hazel leaves and thought I'd try it. There is a hazel hedge by a field next to a main road, but I'm hesitating because the field has crops and may have been sprayed?
I wouldn't risk it. Lots of arable fields are sprayed with pesticides and these chemicals can drift over the plants bordering the fields. So there is a chance that the hazel leaves may be contaminated and if they are, your stick insects will die. So you need to find hazel trees or hazel hedges that are not next to farmed fields.

I'm tempted to come along to the Cambridge event on Saturday. I'm in London so I'd need to come by train - is the event anywhere near the train station?
Cambridge train station is about a 20 minute walk from the venue in Downing Street, or a 15 minute bus ride (it is a busy road). It's an easy route to take and when you walk along Downing Street, just enter through the archway (this is on the same side of the road as the small cafe and will be signposted.)

I am getting a bit nervous at the numbers of New Guinea stick insects eggs that my son and I have collected. So far, it's 68, we saved so many because we were told they're hard to hatch. But if we are "lucky" and loads hatched, could we send them back to you? I live in Southampton. They're terrific pets and look good in the ELC cage. The females we got from you are really fat and large!

New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) eggs can be difficult to hatch and so it's a good idea to keep lots of eggs to maximise your chances of hatching out the next generation. In the unlikely event that you are too successful in hatching out the eggs, you can always post the stick insects (and spare eggs) back to Small-Life Supplies. If you wish to do this, just contact us at the time and we shall advise on how to package them up for safe travel in the post. Our New Guinea stick insects are a really good healthy strain and so it's good to hear that's your adult females are fat and large, this is what healthy New Guinea stick insects should look like.

I think my Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars are almost ready to be upgraded to their new home, the TTQ cage. I have a TTQ cage that I purchased last year for my Emperor caterpillars, will I need to buy lots of Liners too?
It's very important to keep Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars in clean surroundings. A handy way to do this is to use the new Privet Platform in the TTQ cage. Just push small stems of privet through the holes. The caterpillars can climb up the privet (which is now vertical) and their droppings (called frass) accumulate on the platform. Every day, put in a fresh lot of privet inserted in the Privet Platform and tip the old stems of privet and the frass away. Because the frass is gathering on the platform rather than the Liner, this reduces the frequency of having to replace the TTQ Liner. It's a good idea to get two Privet Platforms, then you can have one all prepared with the fresh privet, so you can easily insert that into the cage. Then transfer the caterpillars by laying the cut stems they are resting on across the fresh privet in the cage.

Will you be showing your new AUC cage at the Cambridge nature event?
Yes. The new large AUC cage will be on the Small-Life Supplies stand at the Cambridge insect and nature event, on Friday 16th June 2017 (afternoon) and Saturday 17th June 2017 (all day). This is a relaxed FREE public event, where visitors can leisurely see lots of displays about nature (plants, birds, insects, rocks, microscopic organisms) and ask the people by the display stands questions about the natural world. The venue is the Zoology Department, Downing Street, Cambridge. CB2 3EJ. It's well signposted, just walk through the arch on Downing Street (towards the Zoology Museum).

I volunteer at the local animal sanctuary and we are having an Open Day soon to raise funds. One of the other volunteers has made some wooden and wire netting cages for stick insects, which she has gifted and we are planning to sell these at this event. But we don't have any stick insects! I was wondering if you have any stick insects going cheap that you could send to us, the event is on Saturday 10th June.
Yes, we have a few damaged ones (these may have a snapped antenna or missing a leg), these are sent out free, you just pay the delivery charge. The stick insects can re-grow a new leg at their next skin-change , but can't re-grow a new antenna (but they can manage with a damaged antenna). The damaged species include Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). All these stick insects like airy surroundings, so will do well in the cages you have (thank you for sending the photos). We can also include several of our free colour stick insect information sheets so you can give these to people who purchase your set-ups. We also sell new copies of the book "Keeping Stick Insects" for re-sale, at a discount rate. The minimum order is four copies, you pay 7 pounds a copy, and sell the book for 12 pounds, thereby making a profit of 20 pounds! These books can be autographed too, at no extra charge.

I am 32 and live in a small flat where we're not allowed pets. But I can keep a few caterpillars and release butterflies, yay! The Commas I got from Small-Life Supplies flew off really fast! Will you be listing anymore soon...I'd really like some more?
Small-Life Supplies breed various species of butterflies and moths and sell the caterpillars when they are available. They are really popular and so it's important not to delay too long when they are listed because they sell out really quickly. We have British eggs waiting to hatch, and so the caterpillars will be listed on the website within a few weeks. Not sure which species will be ready first, but you are now on our "caterpillar waiting list" and so we'll let you know as soon as some are ready to send.

Do New Guinea stick insects jump? Mine arrived today, they are larger than expected! Also, two have gone into the cardboard tube, one is on the white side and the other one is laying flat on the Liner, is he/she OK? It's been like that for hours.
No, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do not jump. They walk, either quickly or slowly depending on the situation. Small-Life Supplies are sending out medium-grown New Guinea stick insects nymphs at the moment, we don't send out the small nymphs because these are more delicate than the larger ones. Don't worry about the one laying flat against the Liner, this is normal behaviour for stick insects of this species, they like to press their bodies flat against a surface and rest like that for hours.

Oh gawd! I saw another site selling foreign green snails that eat other snails and telling people to gather up the Cepaea snails to feed them. How awful. I have some of these lovely Cepaea snails as pets, I got them from you and they're fab.
Yes, the British Cepaea snails make great pets, they are easy to keep (they eat Weetabix and buddleia stems) and are very pretty, with lots of colour variations. They are easy to breed too, and if you breed too many you can release them outside because they are a native British species. So I share your revulsion at the idea of keeping carnivorous snails that kill the British Cepaea snails. It's also wrong to gather up and kill British wildlife.

I have just seen your Budget Emergence Cage on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, I have some of your Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars, could I keep these in there? I am finding them to be most interesting but they are now looking like they are getting rather large for the HUA Pot.
The cardboard Budget Emergence Cage is not suitable for housing caterpillars, this is because caterpillars need to be kept in cages that are frequently washed to ensure that their living conditions are kept really clean. An ideal cage for the large Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars is the TTQ cage (£36), this is made from washable plastic and is what we use to rear these impressive caterpillars. The cocoons and adult silk-moths can be kept in the low-cost Budget Emergence Cage(£12.50) or the premium AUC cage.

I have four Guadeloupe stick insects, which I am totally delighted with, but I think they are all female. Will they require a male to reproduce or will they still be able to do this on their own?
Adult Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini) need to mate regularly throughout their adult lives and then the female can lay fertilised eggs which hatch into males and females eight months later. If you only have female Guadeloupe stick insects, they will stay lay eggs. But because the eggs have not been fertilised by a male, the incubation time is longer, the hatching rate lower, and those that do hatch tend to be sickly weak individuals. So, I'd strongly recommend you purchase four male Guadeloupe stick insects. Small-Life Supplies used to breed this species but don't anymore so you'd need to source them elsewhere.

Is it OK in the warm summer weather to move the Indian Stick Insects to an undercover area on the patio?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do not like hot surroundings and so it's best to keep them between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius during the day. They will tolerate slightly higher temperatures, but above 25 degrees Celsius they become stressed and may start to fight. It's important to mist the leaves more generously in hot weather because they are more thirsty when the surroundings are hot. So you could put your Indian stick insects in the shade on the patio, providing the surrounding air temperature is below 25 degrees Celsius. And ensure that no garden ants or wasps can access the cage because those insects can harm stick insects.

I have recently acquired several Indian stick insects. They were eggs from a friend and they are starting to hatch, I am keeping them in a jar at the moment but would like to buy a nicer larger container for them. I like the look of your ELC but am worried the tiny new stick insects will crawl through the holes in the white walls! Also would I need mesh roof or not? Surely they can't breathe if clear plastic roof? Are these tanks OK for such tiny stick insects? I am feeding them ivy at the moment but I see you use bramble, should I change it?
Keep baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in an unventilated container, for example a jar like you are using, or we keep ours in HUA Pots. It's when they are about a month or two old that they need more ventilated surroundings. The ELC cage has two mesh sides so there is a through draught of air, this is ideal for Indian stick insect nymphs and adults. The standard ELC roof, which is solid clear plastic, is best for Indian stick insects. Small-Life Supplies also produce a ventilated roof but this would mean the surroundings would be too airy for Indian stick insects, so you wouldn't want that. Ivy can be eaten by Indian stick insects, but they usually prefer bramble/blackberry leaves. You could give them a mixture of leaves so they have a choice, they can easily switch between eating foodplants.

Do stick insects like music?
Yes. Their ears are by their knees. It's also a good idea to talk to stick insects so they are able to hear your voice. They are also able to recognise the scent of your fingers by using the advanced sensory pads on their feet.

I have just received Indian and New Guinea stick insects from Small-Life Supplies, they are doing well thank you. Do both species eat privet too or just bramble ?
Only the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat privet, the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do not eat privet. You need to give the New Guinea stick insects bramble (blackberry) leaves, they can also eat hazel leaves. It's best to mist the leaves with water from the Mister Curvy before you put the fresh leaves into the cage. And keep them fresh by standing the cut stems in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water.

Is this correct? "A moth caterpillar weaves a silk cocoon. A butterfly caterpillar sheds its skin to reveal a chrysalis."
Not quite. Caterpillars of both butterflies and moths shed their skins and transform (metamorphosise) into pupae. The silk-moth caterpillar spins a silk cocoon and then changes into a pupa within this cocoon, hidden from view. Many other moth caterpillars transform into brown pupae, these are often underground. Butterfly caterpillars change into pupae above ground, often suspended from a leaf. Only a few butterfly caterpillars, for example from the Vanessid family, change into gold coloured pupae, these pupae are called chrysalises (from the Greek word chrysos which means gold).

I am thrilled with my new Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars that I received this morning, they are munching and pooing away! Of course I shall follow the instructions, but I wanted to ask why you can't stand the privet in water? I have privet in water for my stick insects, I use the Sprig Pot.
Standing privet in a Sprig Pot of water works well for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and so you should continue to do this, also mist the leaves with water so the stick insects can drink from the droplets on the leaves. Caterpillar husbandry is different, many caterpillars can get ill if they are given wet leaves to eat, that is why we emphasise giving them leaves which are not wet. And decades of experience from many caterpillar breeders has shown that many caterpillars, including the Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars (Samia ricini) do best if given cut foodplant rather than sprigs of leaves stood in water. Leaves stood in water take up more water than nature intended, thereby increasing their water content. This is OK for stick insects but not OK for caterpillars.

Is the ELC stick insect cage appropriate for Indian stick insects? As preferably I was looking for a cage that had a net roof, so they can hang and moult? Is this necessary? And how would they moult if not on the roof?
Yes, the ELC cage is a proper stick insect cage and so is ideal to house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). The ELC cage has two sides full of specially made holes and the stick insects choose to spend most of their time resting on these ventilated sides. These holes give the stick insects an excellent foothold and so the stick insects are able to anchor themselves securely and then shed their skins successfully, sliding downwards against the side panel. There is a mesh lid option for the ELC cage, but this should only be used for Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and leaf insects (Phyllium sp). Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in the ELC cage with the standard solid clear roof, this is what we use to breed them and what we recommend to others.

Do stick insect eggs change in appearance before they hatch? I have some that should be hatching soon, but they look the same now as they did when I bought them off ebay three weeks ago.
No, you can't detect any changes in the appearance of a stick insect egg with the naked eye. So the best way to estimate when they will hatch is to know the date they were laid. Reputable sellers will supply this detail when they send the eggs to you. The incubation time depends on the species, for example, Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs hatch after four months, New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) after six months.

I was telling my friend about how much me and my son enjoyed keeping the British Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars and seeing them becoming butterflies. But I didn't know what the word is for when the caterpillar becomes a pupa, is it "to pupae"? Anyway the one that "pupaed?" first actually emerged last! It was lovely to set the butterflies free, and I'm expecting your Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars next week, they look very exciting!
Great that you've enjoyed the experience of raising butterflies. When the caterpillar becomes a pupa, this process is called "pupation" and so the caterpillar "pupates" into a pupa. The plural of pupa is pupae, so you have one pupa and two pupae. The Indian Eri silk-moth caterpillars spin a silk cocoon and then pupate inside this cocoon, so the pupa is hidden from view.

I am worried about Martha, my largest Pink Winged stick insect. She tried to shed her skin last night, and now has cream coloured wings, but she has not folded them together because they are ruffled? Will they straighten out? Will she be able to fly? I have three others, they are smaller, can I do anything to stop this happening to them?
Unfortunately Martha has messed up her final skin-change and not pumped out her wings properly. If they are badly crumpled she will be unable to fly, but if they are only crumpled at the ends, short flights are still possible. Usually Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) manage to complete their final skin-changes successfully, but there is a correlation between poor quality bramble and unsuccessful skin-changes. We have been seeing poor quality bramble recently (due to lack of rain and sunshine), and so have switched our Pink Winged stick insects onto eating Eucalyptus gunnii leaves (these leaves are currently of better quality than the bramble leaves), so you could try and source a locally growing Eucalyptus gunnii tree.

I just wanted to confirm; do the New Guinea stick insect nymphs require the sand pit and water dish to be in the tank or is this only needed when they are fully grown? Also does the tank need to misted with water for the nymphs in the same way as Indian stick insects or do they not need this? 
The the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) nymphs need the Water Dish to be filled with cold tap water (so they can drink). In addition, you need to lightly mist the bramble leaves with water (from the Mister Curvy) every day or so. This is best done in the afternoon/early evening. Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) nymphs also benefit form the leaves being lightly misted with water, but Indian stick insects do not require the Water Dish. Avoid getting the stick insects and the sides of the cage wet, the water spray should be directed at the leaves. When the New Guinea stick insects are fully grown that is when you insert the Sand Pit into the cage. The Sand Pit is provided for the females to bury their eggs in.

I read somewhere on your site to avoid newly growing bramble leaves as they can be too toxic. Could you please advise how old the bramble leaves should be before they are safe? Its getting harder to find any decent leaves from last year. The new leaves are large but still fairly light green.
If the new leaves are large, they will be OK, it doesn't matter that they are still light green. It is the size that matters, each part of the leaf needs to be at least 3cm long (the main leaf is usually made up of three smaller leaves).

We bought our first ever Indian stick insect eggs after reading about how easy they are to keep and my 5 year old wanted a wee pet. We have one hatched so far but I have a concern as its eggshell is stuck to it's bum and one leg is trapped in it too. Not sure if to try to remove it or leave it as it will fall off when she sheds the skin first time?
It's very important that you remove the eggshell off her bum or she will die. It's OK to leave the eggshell on her leg. The surroundings are too dry which is why the stick insect has struggled to hatch properly. The eggs should be kept in a small unventilated box, the QBOX is ideal. It's important to give the stick insect a wet bramble leaf to eat and to keep her in the enclosed box. Ventilated mesh enclosures are not suitable for baby Indian stick insects or their eggs, so please look at the set-up you have and make changes if necessary.

My British Comma caterpillars that I got from you are growing well, but I'm worried about the nettle leaves that I have left in the bag because they are now looking rather dry. I have some nettle leaves in my garden - the ones at the front are shrivelled and dry (we haven't had any decent rain for weeks) but the ones next to plants I have been watering are looking good- should I pick those?
Yes, juicy nettle leaves are better for the caterpillars than leaves that are starting to look dry. So your watered garden nettles leaves should be nice and nutritious for your British Comma caterpillars. Lots of British nettle patches are suffering because of lack of rain, it has now officially been declared the driest month in England for 20 years, and also the dullest (which is bad news for caterpillars).

I live in London and I'm not a gardener, so I don't know what plants look like. Where does one find bramble leaves or do shops sell them? Can Indian stick insects eat any type of leaves?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) need to eat particular leaves, these include bramble/blackberry, privet, rose and eucalyptus. You can find bramble/blackberry leaves in overgrown areas, these are sprawling wild plants with thorny stems and produce the edible purple blackberries in the late summer/early autumn. Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) is evergreen and often grown as hedges around gardens. Rose bushes can be found in parks and gardens (but take care that they have not been sprayed with insecticide). Eucalyptus gunnii trees have distinctive silvery green leaves and are evergreen, these trees can be found in gardens, parks and sometimes around train station car parks. You need to be sure you can find these leaves because Indian stick insects need to eat one of the above, you can't just feed them with any type of leaf. Small-Life Supplies sell wallets of Fresh Cut Bramble, these will feed your Indian stick insects for 7- 10 days, and the price is 7.88 pounds including first class postage. Don't be tempted to buy a potted rose/privet/eucalyptus plant from a shop because potted plants are usually grown in compost infused with pesticides. These chemicals remain active for 12 months and are taken up by the leaves and will kill any insect that eats the leaves.

Do you supply silkworms? I used to keep these years ago and remember feeding them with mulberry leaves.
The silkworm that eats mulberry leaves is the Bombyx mori species. We don't breed that species but instead have a larger type, the Samia ricini species. These silkworms (of course they're not really "worms", they are caterpillars) will be ready to send out next week. The Samia ricini caterpillars are white with a blue-ish tinge and eat privet and lilac leaves, they are easy to keep. To reserve yours, please phone 01733 203358.

I would really like some New Guinea stick insects, they look awesome! I have an old glass tank, it's pretty big, about 60cm square, so bigger than your ELC cage. But I get it that the glass tank doesn't have the mesh sides that they need to climb. But I was thinking I could put branches in there for them to climb? Or do you think I should get the ELC cage? I want to do it right.
The ELC cage is the best cage for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). As well as providing great climbing surfaces, the two mesh sides also facilitate a through-draught of air, which is the optimum ventilation for New Guinea stick insects. It's not recommended to keep them in a stuffy tank, because air can only enter from the top and so cannot circulate properly. Also a glass tank is heavy and so is not as easy to move around as the ELC cage (which is made from strong plastic).

What does a baby ladybird look like? Is it like a really small version of the fully grown one?
No, baby ladybirds, also called larvae at stage L1, look entirely different from the adults. These ladybird larvae are black with six legs but no feet. They hatch out of clusters of orange eggs laid in the underside of leaves (usually rose and bramble), these sites are chosen because the ladybird larvae, like the adults, eat live aphids which are often found on plants belonging to the Rubus (rose) family. A photo of British ladybird larvae just hatching is on my Instagram page.

I have some Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect nymphs but they aren't looking very well, and one died today. I'm wondering if the bramble is to blame because the leaves are softer than usual because it's been so dry recently?
Yes, Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insect nymphs need to eat nutritious leaves and, as you have observed, a lot of bramble leaves are not too good at the moment because there hasn't been enough rain. We are feeding our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects on Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and dog rose leaves until the bramble is of better quality.

I just received the British Comma caterpillars, and am intrigued why they have a white splodge on their backs?
It's camouflage. From a distance, the white area could be mistaken for a bird dropping, so this colouration helps to protect the caterpillar from being eaten.

I am a retired teacher and have fond memories of having assorted animals in the classroom- it was certainly very effective with keeping control and reaching even the most troublesome of pupils. I am dismayed at how little compassion is being shown in some schools now, for example I recently read about a school nature project where the school is growing kale. Well, of course, there are now Cabbage White caterpillars on it, but instead of embracing this fact, the teacher is asking how best to kill them! Those poor souls are just trying to survive. And speaking from my own experience, I am sure the pupils would be more interested in the caterpillars than recording the growth of the kale leaves!
Yes, I agree that there is now far too much emphasis on recording and measuring things, instead of observing and appreciating the wonder and beauty of nature. The example you highlight demonstrates this well. Also, there is a disturbing trend to call even small groups of wild animals and insects by inappropriate derogatory terms such as "vermin" and "infestation". Unfortunately some newspapers in the UK contribute to the hysteria urging people to kill anything they are unsure about. This is particularly ridiculous in Britain because we are not surrounded by dangerous insects and spiders (and of course wild pigeons are most certainly not "disease ridden"). Fortunately there are still lots of good teachers keen to embrace the natural world and challenge the concept of being afraid of nature. And businesses such as Small-Life Supplies continue to breed and supply harmless creatures to schools so they can be kept in the classroom and stimulate children to engage with nature.

I went to the insect event Ollerton at the weekend, it was busier than I had expected and I couldn't believe how many pots of spiders and praying mantises there were! I was hoping to see Small-Life Supplies but I'm guessing tables in a sports hall is more aimed at amateurs. Anyway, could you tell me a bit more about the Cambridge event in June because I would like to meet you.
The two-day Cambridge event in June is more of a relaxed event where experts and academics are happy to talk to visitors about their work and projects. It's not a market style event, like Ollerton. Small-Life Supplies will be there, showcasing our latest insect cages and new stick insects and caterpillars. Other stands have exhibition display boards about various creatures, including swifts and mice. There are also conservation groups and the British Antarctic Survey is usually there too. There are also displays about the microscopic world of nature. There is free admission to the Cambridge event, parking is next door in the multi-storey Grand Arcade car park (this is a council car park and you have to pay for parking).

I just stood on one of my Indian stick insects and I think I killed it, there is a bendy tube sticking out. I feel terrible, I didn't mean to do it, she must have dropped off the table when I was cleaning the cage out. I have put her in a box and will bury her later. I have three left, but she was the biggest and had laid some eggs. Her name was Poppy. My sister says I'm silly to be so upset, but I love my stick insects. Other people bury their stick insects too, don't they?
Oh dear, this was an accident and so try not to feel too bad about it. And yes, lots of people bury their pet stick insects. It is perfectly normal to become attached to a pet, whatever type of animal it may be, and be upset when the pet dies. At least you have some of Poppy's eggs and so you can look forward to seeing her babies, when these hatch in about four months time.

I currently have four New Guinea stick insects that I reared and one male(!) who was from the originally batch you sent me maybe nearly two years ago. Three of these originals died within in days of each other last August. I now have the five (as I thought he might have died by now). The fact that there are three males and two females will this affect them pairing off and mating? The old male is healthy and shiny. They are in the ELC cage.
Looking at our records, I can see that your three New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that died in August were approx 18 months old, which is the average lifespan of this species. The male that is still going strong is now over two years old. The fact that he is healthy and still shiny indicates that he could live for up to another year, and so it would be a good idea to get him a new female mate. That way your younger adult stick insects can pair up and reproduce, and your old male will have a partner too. It's always best to have an equal number of males and female New Guinea stick insects in the same cage and there's plenty of room in the ELC cage for three pairs of adult New Guinea stick insects.

I have been researching how to keep Indian stick insects on-line before I purchase them. Another site suggests keeping Indian stick insects in a glass tank with coir on the base, surely this is the complete opposite of what Small-Life Supplies recommend?
The basic requirements of a proper stick insect cage are that it is tall (51cm, 20"), so they have room to grow, and well-ventilated. Therefore mesh sides are essential, two mesh sides are ideal for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) because they facilitate a through-draught of air. Adult Indian stick insects drop their eggs onto the floor, and so a paper ELC Liner is a great floor covering because when you replace this Liner every week , you just tilt the Liner, tap it underneath and the Indian stick insect eggs roll off. So the best set-up for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is an ELC cage with ELC Liners. A glass tank is not tall enough, and the solid sides make the enclosure stuffy because air can only enter from the roof. Coir (a sustainable alternative to peat) clogs up the sticky pads on the stick insects' feet and also traps the stick insects' eggs and droppings, which can lead to unhygienic surroundings.

I'm a teacher and have been looking for stick insects and found them on your website. I want to do an independent project with them with a student, not to harm them. I live in the United States, will they survive the shipment if they get shipped to America?
The US Dept of Agriculture prohibits the import of non-native insects. So it is illegal to send stick insect eggs from the UK to the USA and so that is why Small-Life Supplies does not do this. The stick insect eggs we sell are not American species, they are from species native to India and Thailand. We can send these stick insect eggs within Europe because it is legal to do so. But American import laws are stricter and it is not legal to send these eggs to the US, so we do not do this and would not advise you to ask another European supplier either because the same laws apply to them. Instead, you would need to source a local supplier of stick insects.

I am really interested in having a New Guinea stick insect but I am only interested in having males as I do not want eggs and I have looked on your website and you only do the pack of four (two males and two females). I am only interested in the males, is there any other deal you do ?
It is not a good idea to just have males. This is because adult pairs of New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) form close bonds and stay with each other throughout their adult lives, mating regularly. As adults, they can live a year or more. So that's why we sell them in pairs. If you don't want to hatch out the next generation, you can always post the eggs to us, or, if you don't want to do that, then dispose of the eggs.

About ten years ago I visited your showroom and bought some stick insects with a cage etc. They did really well and I ended up donating them to my neighbour when I moved abroad! Anyway, I am back in England now, living just outside Cambridge, and I see that you have relocated to the Peterborough area. Do you still have a showroom open to the public? I would love to see what stick insects you have and your new cages, I am keen to restart keeping stick insects and need the correct kit!
We no longer have a showroom open to the public, but do exhibit at nature and insect events open to the public, where we meet new and existing customers. The next event is actually in Cambridge city centre, at the Department of Zoology in Downing Street (just along from the Grand Arcade multi-storey carpark). This is a free event, on Friday 16th June 2017 (afternoon) and Saturday 17th June 2017 (all day). Small-Life Supplies will have a large stand at this popular event and I hope to see you there!

I was going to buy some of the Lime Green stick insects for my son, but have been driving around and can't find any eucalyptus trees! Is this why you don't sell that type?
The Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea), is sometimes called the "Lime Green" stick insect and "Green Bean" stick insect and is sold by sellers on ebay. These stick insects grow large and have big appetites, but need to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves to thrive. So it is essential that you have a good supply of eucalyptus before purchasing these Grenadan stick insects. And yes, the reason why Small-Life Supplies does not breed this species is because not everyone can find a Eucalyptus gunnii tree growing nearby, and we have limited stocks of eucalyptus leaves here which we can send to customers. It is very risky to use potted plants from garden centres straight away because it can take 12 months for the plant to be free of pesticides (these are in the potting compost and so are regularly taken up by the plant roots and carried to the leaves).

I would like to breed and raise ladybird larvae and adults for use in my large glasshouse to control the aphids, on your website you have aphid cages, would they be suitable? Which plants are best as food for aphids in a cage? Would ladybirds eat artificial food on a temporary basis (long enough to lay eggs before being released)? Perhaps there is a book which deals with the subject?
Yes, our galvanised steel GSC Aphid Cage is being used to breed aphids and ladybirds. Ladybirds breed best in sunny surroundings, so you would need to keep the cage in a sunny place. Your glasshouse sounds ideal, so you would not need to purchase the Growth Lighting Unit (this is required if the cage is to be used indoors without much natural light). Adult ladybirds and ladybird larvae eat aphids, so one option is to place potted plants (for example roses) in the cage. The aphids will breed on the plants and the ladybirds will eat the aphids and lay eggs on the underside of the plant leaves. Ladybirds like to lay eggs under Maple leaves, so you could have a small Maple plant in the cage also, or vases of water with sprigs of maple leaves. Dr Mike Majerus (now deceased) of Cambridge University, wrote articles on ladybirds, and shared a recipe for artificial food see "Artificial diet" (pp 85-86) in his booklet:" Ladybirds. Naturalists’ handbook 10", author: Majerus, M.E.N., Kearns, P , year 1989, publisher: Richmond Publishing Company, Slough, UK.

I'm just so confused as there is so much conflicting advice about New Guinea stick insects. My ten year old wants some and he is a responsible child and so I am keen to proceed. But some sites say they need a large shallow tank as they are "ground dwelling", but your site makes no mention of this and recommends the ELC cage?
During the day, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to pile on top of each other and rest horizontally in cardboard tubes. This has caused some people to believe, mistakenly, that these stick insects spend all their time on the ground. In fact, at dusk, the New Guinea stick insects start to move around and climb up and down the sides of the cage, and also onto the bramble to eat it. The New Guinea stick insects are large heavy insects that rely on their claws for climbing, so they need to be able to hook their claws around strong plastic mesh holes to get a grip, so they can climb. Small-Life Supplies has been breeding New Guinea stick insects for thirty years and during this time we have designed and tested lots of different cages to see which provide the best environment for these stick insects. The ELC cage is currently the best cage to house New Guinea stick insects.

So happy! I've got some baby Thailand stick insects this morning! They hatched from the eggs you sent me last month. They look so fragile and cute. I have the ELC cage ready and have misted the bramble leaves, are you sure they won't get lost in the cage?
Young Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) do well in the ELC cage from birth. Just transfer the babies (called first instar nymphs) onto wet bramble leaves, the 30cm+ long stems keeping fresh in the Sprig Pot of water. The Thailand stick insects usually rest on the leaves, near the tips of the sprigs. These stick insects will grow dramatically over the next few months. Some nymphs have stripey legs. Thailand stick insects are delicate and so take care when handling them. They won't get lost in the cage.

I'm finding it difficult to locate old bramble leaves and I know that it's risky to give the stick insects the pale green shoots. Please could you tell me at what size the new growth is safe to eat?
If you look at a bramble leaf you will see that it is made up of three smaller leaves. You need to measure the longest part of these smaller leaves. If they are 3cm or longer, the bramble leaf is safe for the stick insect to eat. Some stick insects know not to eat the very small shoots, but unfortunately some other stick insects do not know these small shoots can be harmful. So it's best to discard the very small shoots and only put the larger leaves into the cage.

Last year I bought various caterpillar kits from yourselves and I really enjoyed rearing them. I am 32 and am blown away at how marvellous nature is, I only wish more people would take the time to realise this too. Anyway, I have various pots with assorted pupae in my garage, I have just checked on them and they twitch slightly when I touch them so I know they're still alive. Anyway, now that Spring is here, I was just wondering if any of yours had emerged yet?
Great to hear that you reared your caterpillars successfully and they have transformed into pupae. You are doing the right thing by keeping them in the garage, they will emerge when the time is right. It needs to be mild enough and sunny enough for them to emerge. Yours are definitely still alive because they twitch when you touch them. Ours are alive too, but none of ours have emerged yet. You now need to push some twigs vertically in the soil near each pupa, so that when each moth emerges, it has something to climb up and has enough room to pump out its wings properly.

My 7 year old would like to look after a stick insect. Is the Indian stick insect the best one to get and apart from the ELC tank is there anything else we might need?
Yes, the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an excellent choice for a seven year old. If your child chooses the adults, he /she will be able to enjoy handling them as well. Most people choose the ELC bundle which includes the ELC cage and also ten cage Liners (use one a week to keep the stick insects in clean surroundings), the Sprig Pot (fill with water and insert the bramble stems to keep the leaves fresh) and the Cleaning Sponge (so you can wash the cage monthly to keep it looking nice). Most people like to hatch out the next generation, so if your child wanted to do this, you'd need a QBOX in which to store the eggs and keep the babies, when hatch after four months. More details are in the Keeping Stick Insects book, which has a whole section on Indian stick insects and also gives details on some other easy to keep types. You can add another type to the same cage later, as the interest develops. A plant sprayer is needed to spray the leaves with water so the stick insects can drink, you may have one already, if not then the Mister Curvy is suitable.

I work in the university and we bought 120 bee cages for you in 2015. We need more, can you supply larger ones, say 10cm wide?
Yes, there are now two sizes of bee study cages that we manufacture. Our standard bee study cage is 6.5cm wide, the larger one is 10cm wide. The minimum order for either size is 50 cages, for prices, please email emma@small-life.co.uk

I just received the ELC cage and six adult New Guinea stick insects, I am very impressed with the products, the excellent standard of packing and helpful lady on the phone who took my order. The stick insects are the finest I have ever seen. There were two cardboard tubes included in the package with a note about putting them in the cage for the New Guineas. Please can you explain more about the purpose of these tubes? Also, I don't remember being asked if I wanted these?
Yes, we are breeding a very good strain New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), these are really healthy fine specimens and are used to being handled. We breed them in ELC cages and place two or three cardboard tubes (depending on the number of stick insects in the cage) horizontally on the cage Liner. This is because the New Guinea stick insects like to pile into these tubes and rest in there, stacked up on top of each other. There is no charge for the tubes, we automatically send a couple out free with all orders for New Guinea stick insects. The end of the tube has been shortened so that when the tube is placed on the Liner, there is room for the stick insects to crawl in and out of the tube.

The small tortoiseshell caterpillars I purchased from you were doing really well, eating lots of nettle leaves. They are now both attached to the QBOX lid, hanging from it like upside down questionmarks. The thing is they have been hanging like this all of yesterday, and are still like that today - is that normal? Will they transform into pupae soon or has something gone wrong?
Yes, that is completely normal, so there is no need to be concerned. They can hang motionless like this for one or even two days, before suddenly metamorphosing into pupae. So yours will probably change into pupae later today. Once they have changed into pupae, remove the nettle leaves and place a fresh absorbent Liner in the QBOX. Our caterpillars are just starting to transform into pupae today, there is a photo on https://www.facebook.com/dorothy.floyd

I was reading about the "Budwing stick insect" and wondered why on earth it was called that. Surely budwings are the same as wingbuds? My understanding is that this is a winged insect, with tiny wings, not wingbuds.
The term "Budwing stick insect" refers to a species of Thailand stick insect which is very long and when adult, has tiny red wings. These wings are too small to sustain the insect in flight. Instead these wings are brightly coloured and designed to be flashed at a predator to startle it and in so doing provide extra time for the stick insect to escape. We have reared these stick insects for many years, their Latin species name is Phaenopharos herwaardeni. They do best in an extra-large airy cage, such as our new AUC cage, and eat bramble/blackberry leaves. They are unusual in that they rest with their legs straight against their body, so are also known as the "Thailand Straight stick insect". The term "budwing" is inappropriate. Wingbuds are the bulges that you see on stick insect nymphs where their wings are developing. No stick insect adult has wingbuds, they have actual wings, either small wings for flashing as a defence strategy, or large wings which they can fly with.

I am writing an account of the history of populations of stick insects found in the wild in the UK and so far I have discovered that most of these populations are in the south-west of England. Please can you tell me if you know of any populations in the Greater Manchester area or further north? I live in Macclesfield myself.
The stick insects naturalised in the South West of England orgininated from New Zealand and were brought in accidentally on cargo ships back in the 1900s. There are several species including Acanthoxyla prasina, Acanthoxyla inermis and Clitarchus hookeri. Every year I get contacted by different people in the South West who have found these stick insects (usually Acanthoxyla prasina) in their gardens! These stick insects are usually found on conifer trees, as well as on roses and bramble bushes. They are also found on the bricks of people's houses in the autumn, presumably the adults are attracted by the warmth of the buildings. There is no evidence these stick insects are migrating northwards.

Is there any chance of buying a second hand ELC cage for stick insects? I've been researching what's best to keep Indian stick insects in and this cage seems the best option with the stick insect mesh design from another firm the only other option, (but as it's all mesh it's hard to see the insects, and it has a mesh base which isn't sturdy for moving it with a pot of water in.) Do you think it's tall enough at 30cm for Indian stick insects? We will be buying some eggs and insects from yourselves once we get set up.
Used ELC cages are available from Small-Life Supplies from time to time, these are ex-demonstration cages and so have only been used for a few months and are still in very good condition. The ELC cage is 51cm high, stick insects need a nice tall cage so they have plenty of room to grow (they do this by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins). So, no, a 30cm high enclosure is nowhere near tall enough. Even our TTQ cages which can be used as "nursery" cages for stick insects are 40cm high.

Gutted I missed out on your Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies, I know now to phone as soon as I get the email, and not to put it off for a few days! Please keep me on the waiting list for the next ones, I think it's really great what you're doing and the ones I released last year were amazing!
Yes, our caterpillar kits are really popular and sell out very quickly. Different species of butterfly and moth caterpillars will be available over the next few months and we let everyone on the waiting-lists know as soon as they are available. Unlike other outlets that provide artificial food, all our caterpillars are reared on fresh leaves and so you can watch the caterpillars eating leaves, like they do in nature. For anyone not already on the caterpillar waiting list, just ask to be put on it by sending an email to emma@small-life.co.uk requesting this. And of course, you can ask to be removed from the list at any time.

Are Giant African Land Snails clever? I have had mine for several months and they never seemed to do much. But for the last two weeks I have been feeding them with fresh food every day and talking to them and all of a sudden they are lively and moving about! It's as though they are benefitting from me interacting with them. My mum says I'm being daft, and that they're only snails so won't know what's going on, but I'm not so sure?
Yes, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) are very aware of their surroundings and do best in a busy environment with lots going on. They are curious and have eyes at the end of their stalks to watch what is happening around them. So it is no surprise that they have cheered up over the last couple of weeks because you have been giving them more attention. Some people plug in lava lamps near their snails so the snails always have something moving to watch.

Years ago, I created a wild area in my garden. I discovered that I had a large clump of White Deadnettle (Lamium album) and so I deliberately left this because I was told that it was great for bees because it is one of the earliest weeds to flower and so provides nectar for them. I also think it looks pretty and I don't seem to get stung by the leaves. I was interested in your Facebook advice of "double gloving" when feeding caterpillars with nettle leaves. Wouldn't it be easier to feed them with deadnettle leaves?
You have done the right thing in encouraging White Deadnettle (Lamium album) to grow in your garden. Many bees starve because they cannot find enough food this early in the year, when they emerge in March. However, although beneficial to the bees, that plant is of no use to the Vanessid caterpillars (these include Small Tortoiseshell , Peacock and Red Admiral). These caterpillars will only eat stinging nettle leaves and refuse to eat White Deadnettle leaves. When watching Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars grow, they need to eat a fresh stinging nettle leaf every day. You can insert a leaf into the QBOX using tweezers. Or another technique is to use a nitrile glove inside a washing up glove.

We are in NZ and found this injured stick insect. Is there anything we can do to help him/her. It has lost 2 legs already. Photo attached.
It's a female, and looks like it's dying. The kindest thing to do is to prop its mouth on a wet leaf so it can drink some water. Dying insects appreciate drinking water. Stick insects can take several days to die and so hopefully there's still time to ease her final days.

A friend recommended your soft grey snail tank liners to me. Hers are the extra large ones, which she cuts to size with scissors, but I can't see them on your website. Are they still available to buy?
Yes, the extra large grey soft snail tank Liners are 40cm x 50cm. Soak a Liner under a tap of cold running water and place in the tank with your snails. The Liner increases the humidity in the tank which is what the snails need, and at the same time keeps their surroundings clean (replace the Liner weekly). Using the Liner means that you avoid the smell and flies that can occur if you cover the floor of the tank with wet soil. These extra large 4050 Liners are priced at £9.45 per pack of ten (plus delivery).

My teenage son has Indian stick insects and now wants some Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, but I don't want stick insects flying around the house. Would buying just females be the solution, I heard that females can breed by themselves, and my son wants to hatch out their eggs?
Some species of stick insect, like the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) are all females and breed by parthenogenesis, which means they lay eggs without mating and these eggs hatch into more females. Other species of stick insect, like the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have males and females in equal numbers. These stick insects need to mate regularly in order for the female to produce healthy fertilised eggs, half of which will hatch into females and the other half will hatch into males. If you only keep female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects their growth rate will be retarded and when they eventually mature, their eggs will take longer to hatch than if they had mated and the resultant hatchlings will be less healthy than if hatched from eggs fertilised by a male. So no, keeping only female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects is not recommended. More information on these species is in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

We bought four Indian stick insects from you last year - and our first eggs are now hatching into nymphs. Much excitement in the house. Is there anything special we need to do to look after them? We have about 15 nymphs.
Place the newly hatched Indian stick insect nymphs (Carausius morosus) into a HUA Pot and give them a wet bramble leaf to eat. Replace this every couple of days with a fresh wet bramble leaf. Replace the HUA pot Liner weekly.

I have been keeping Pink Winged stick insects for a while now, and am on my second generation of them. I am concerned about one of them though, because she seems to have developed a curved body? She also rests near the bottom of the cage, unlike the others which group together higher up. Will her body straighten out in time? She is still a nymph.
A stick insect needs lots of height when it sheds its skin, this is because it slides downwards out of its old skin during ecdysis (moulting of skin). That's why it's so important to house stick insects in tall cages. But even when they are housed in a tall ELC cage, occasionally a stick insect will make a mistake and begin ecdysis near the bottom of the cage. Unfortunately this results in the stick insect not having enough space to complete its skin change successfully and it's new skin hardens quickly as the stick insect pauses to rest in a cramped curved position. If the stick insect completes its next skin change properly, starting at a high point in the cage, it's body will straighten out very slightly, but unfortunately the stick insect will still look curved and deformed. All damaged and deformed stick insects are bottom in the pecking order of the cage and so are relegated to spending their time near the floor of the cage or on the foodplant. The dominant healthy stick insects assume the prime spots at the top of the cage.

Would the delivery folk potentially be able to deliver stick insects to an address in Leicestershire on Saturday 15th April?
No, there aren't deliveries over the long Easter weekend. So there'll be no deliveries Thursday 13th April to Wednesday 19th April 2017 inclusive.

What is a fritillary?
A fritillary is a type of butterfly, classified as belonging to the family Nymphalidae. They have intricate patterns and are usually orangey brown. There are lots of different species of these British butterflies, the caterpillars hibernate during winter and then start to feed again in Spring. They eat specific "weeds", including plantain and Devils-bit scabious

We're looking for stick insect eggs that we can watch hatch as part of a classroom life cycles project. Is this something you would be able to supply us with?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies sell two types of stick insect egg kits, the Indian stick insect egg kit and the Thailand stick insect egg kit. Eight eggs are in the kit. Hatching occurs at night. The actual incubation for these stick insect eggs is months, but we send them out when hatching is due within two to three weeks. You keep the hatchlings (called nymphs) in the HUA Pot provided, and when the stick insects are about a month old, you transfer them to a larger cage, the ELC stick insect cage is ideal.

I have been keeping Diapherodes gigantea and Macleay's Spectre stick insects for the last year and have found them to be fantastic and rewarding pets! I have been thinking about keeping leaf insects or a praying mantis - do you have any recommendations?
Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are both large impressive stick insects. Leaf insects are much smaller, but like the same airy conditions. However, some leaf insects can be aggressive towards stick insects, for example leaf insects can even attack the much larger Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, so it's not a good idea to house them together in the same cage. The Ghana praying mantis (Sphodromantis lineola) is an easy to keep mantid, but requires a smaller cage. Our TTQ cage with the mantid lid is ideal (this has a top flap for dropping in livefood). A praying mantis needs to eat livefood, for example greenbottle flies, and so is best avoided if you're squeamish.

I was wondering if you could offer some advice on keeping stick insects. Do you require a heat lamp for the stick insects?
No, a heat lamp is not required. Just keep stick insects indoors in a room that is comfortably warm in the day (18 degrees Celsius) and not too cold at night (12 degrees Celsius). Many homes and schools in the UK are already set up to achieve these temperatures and so no extra heating is required.

My 8 week old kitten may have eaten a orangey/red ladybird as I found some wings near the bowl. One must have got into the flat, just wondering if they're poisonous?
There is no cause for concern, ladybirds are brightly coloured to warn birds and other predators that they are distasteful to eat. The fact you saw the wings implies that the kitten spat out the ladybird or perhaps was playing with it and didn't eat it anyway. Ladybirds are distasteful, but even if one was consumed it won't poison a kitten. If a lot were eaten there could be a problem, but having tasted one, your kitten will not want to eat any more and so this problem will not arise.

Novice stick insect keeper here! I've got one of your ELC cages with two pairs of New Guinea stick insect adults. I've had them three months but can't see any eggs? The eggs are white and small, right? I've got the plastic pot of sand in there and keep sieving it. The stick insects look well and are eating loads, so why aren't they laying eggs?
They will be laying eggs, but you're not seeing them because you are not looking for the right thing. New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) are dark grey, tubular shaped and quite large at 7mm long. It's important that adult New Guinea stick insects don't become dehydrated and so ensure there is always a dish of clean cold tap water in the cage for them to drink from. The Sand Pit should be pushed next to the mesh side of the cage, this allows the female to get a good foothold on the mesh side as she swivels her abdomen down into the sand to bury an egg.

Will you still be selling Liners for the MIC cage? I have three of these cages in my lounge to house my New Guinea stick insects and find the Liners convenient to use. Also, is it normal for the New Guineas to be nocturnal?
Yes, althought the MIC cages are being discontinued, the MIC Liners will continue to be stocked. This is because the MIC cages will last for years and customers who have them will need the MIC Liners so they can continue to look after their stick insects properly. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are very active at night, and like to climb around the cage and eat during the night. New Guinea stick insects are less active in the day. You can get New Guinea stick insects used to a routine so it's a good idea to handle them at a set time every day and they will become more active at that time.

Can leaf insects (specifically Phyllium philippinicus) eat privet? Mine are currently on bramble, what else can they eat?
Leaf insects do not eat privet. Leaf insects do well on bramble, eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii) and guava leaves.

Why do people think nature is dirty? I have seen snails in the nature reserve and they always look clean. But there's a girl in my class who brought her pet snails in to show us, and they were dirty, covered in soil, and had little white mites crawling on them. She was telling everyone that is how it should be, because she'd googled it.
Poor snails, the girl in your class is not looking after hers properly. She is keeping them incorrectly and so has miserable unhealthy snails, infested and irritated by mites. Unfortunately there is a lot of "fake information" on the internet, this has not been verified by experts and so should be ignored, not followed. Your observations are correct, nature is clean. Animals, insects and snails instinctively try to be healthy by keeping themselves clean, to minimise the risk of succumbing to an infection (which requires a lot of their energy to combat) or infestation (which causes misery). So snails should be kept in clean surroundings and not in filthy ones. If keeping African snails, a dish of sterilised John Innes potting compost should be provided for the eggs when egg laying is imminent. The pre-mating behaviour of African snails involves them entwining their necks.

My Indian stick insects have now developed red tops to their legs and so I have started to collect their eggs. Obviously I can't keep them all, so would it be alright to feed the surplus ones to my chickens? They'll eat anything!
Yes, surplus Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) can be eaten by chickens. Indian stick insect eggs take four months to hatch, so it's best to clean the cage out weekly, collect the eggs (tilt the cage Liner and they'll roll off), place the eggs on a white saucer and give them to the chickens. British blackbirds also eat these eggs (but it may take a week or so before the blackbirds realise that they are edible).

I label all my phasmid ova so I know when they are due to hatch. Something strange is happening now, my Baculum thaii ova from November 2016, Dec 2016 and January 2017 are all hatching now! Why is this happening?
Yes, this can happen, we have seen this with various species of stick insect, including the Thailand stick insect, Baculum thaii. Our room temperatures are fixed and so it is not temperature related. It could be due to light intensity from the sun because usually sunny days increase hatching and gloomy days reduce this. Light intensity certainly plays a very important role in butterfly/ moth egg and caterpillar development, so it is likely that it has an important role in stick insect egg hatching too. Also, it has been exceptionally gloomy outdoors in recent months and at Small-Life Supplies we are also observing erratic hatching patterns of stick insect eggs.

I have a pet stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum). She has just shed her skin and seems very weak and lethargic. Should I be concerned? She is my first ever insect pet and I love her.
Completing a skin change can be exhausting for a stick insect, particularly the final skin-change when the stick insect becomes an adult. Sometimes the experience is too much, and the adult stick insect dies a few days after becoming fully grown. So you need to let your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) rest, so she can regain her strength. I would place her on a wet bramble or euclayptus leaf, so she can have a drink and hopefully be encouraged to eat soon. If she survives, then it would be a good idea to get another stick insect to keep her company.

I currently have New Guineas. Could I potentially keep Pink Winged stick insects in the same cage together with the New Guineas? Do they get on? What is the recommended or maximum number of stick insects per ELC cage?
New Guineas are big chunky stick insects and can accidentally damage a smaller thinner stick insect if they tread on it by mistake. So, we recommend housing groups of up to twelve New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) together in their own ELC cage. Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) can be mixed with other thinner types, such as Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), they all do well in the ELC cage.

Can't believe it's been a year since we saw you at the Montessori conference and bought your HLQ tank for our African snails in nursery. Thought you'd like to know they're doing great, and the cage is fantastic to clean, we don't even use detergent! We'd really like some of your British Cepaea snails, and were wondering if they could go in with our African snails, or do they need their own home?
Good to hear that they're doing well, and yes, hot water and the cleaning sponge are all you need to remove the snail slime and detritus from the HLQ cage. It's important to keep the different types of snail separate because they eat different things: the Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) like potato, carrot, courgette, marrow, British cucumber, and dandelion leaves, but the British Cepaea snails need to eat Weetabix and woody buddleia twigs. Both species of snails need rinsed out empty hen eggshells in which they can graze for the calcium.

I'm thinking of getting Sabah Thorny stick insect nymphs (Trachyaretaon brueckneri). Would these be a good type for a beginner?
These stick insects are usually called the Giant Sabah stick insects and are large fairly chunky brown stick insects. They require more water than many other species and so it is necessary to provide a shallow Water Dish, filled with cold tap water, for them. The problem with this species is that they can all suddenly die for no apparent reason. This is distressing and so no, for this reason, I would not recommend this type as a suitable species for beginners. Instead, I would recommend more robust species, such as the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) , or Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus), or, for the more adventurous, the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata).

How much is the MIC stick insect cage? Are they in stock now?
The MIC cage is £60. MIC Liners are £12.48 for a pack of twenty blue or twenty pink. MIC cages are back in stock and so if you ordered today, delivery would be in a few days time. Delivery to mainland UK (except Scottish Highlands) is £9.95.

Can you send Indian stick insect eggs to Berlin, Germany? My niece lives there and I already bought her an ELC cage, book and HUA Pot for her birthday, so all she needs now is some eggs! What would the price be? And how soon would they hatch?
Yes, we already send Indian stick insect eggs to Germany. The price to send eight eggs would be £10, this includes airmail postage (transit time is approx five days). At this time of year we monitor the weather, if it is forecast to be very cold at night we have to delay sending the eggs because it would be too cold for them to survive. We send eggs that are due to hatch within weeks and so your niece won't have to wait too long to see some hatchlings!

I am interested in purchasing the ELC cage for delivery to Singapore. I am interested in keeping tortoise beetles in these cages! Please let me know the delivery cost to Singapore.
We already dispatch ELC cages to Singapore, the transit time is approx five days. The cage is sent ready assembled and the delivery cost is £105. If you are purchasing other items from the UK, another option is to use "v Post Europe". You then pay Small-Life Supplies our standard UK delivery charge of £9.95 and we send the cage to the "v Post Europe" facility in the UK. Then you arrange with "v Post Europe" to have them transport the cage to you in Singapore and you pay them directly for that part of the journey.

What's the difference with the pink and black liners?
Nothing, apart from colour. Our cage Liners are supplied in packs of ten and you use a fresh Liner every week. Some people like to alternate the colours, this can be useful if you have a lot of cages of stick insects and need to keep track of which ones need cleaning out next. If you only have one cage of stick insects, then the colour choice of Liner is really just up to which colour you prefer.

I'm about to buy the ELC cage bundle for my Indian stick insects which deserve a better home. Should I choose the standard lid or the mesh lid?
The standard lid. We breed our Indian stick insects in ELC cages with standard lids. The mesh lid is only for the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and leaf insects (Phyllium sp).

I have just ordered some Pink Winged stick insects from you, I have been wanting these for ages! Your website says they eat bramble and eucalyptus, do they have a preference?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) will eat both bramble and eucalyptus leaves. But we have discovered that Pink Winged stick insect nymphs that eat the Eucalyptus gunnii leaves tend to become more green than those that eat bramble (these insects are usually fawn coloured, although occasionally some are green). All the Pink Winged stick insect adults are fawn coloured, regardless of their diet.

Since retiring I have decided to embark on rearing the Saturniidae moths again. I dabbled with this as a youngster but of course haven't kept any of the equipment. My pupae should be arriving soon, so I am looking for a large emergence cage for them. The ones I have seen on-line are made of black netting which I think would be difficult for me to see into. I like the look of your Phasmid cages and thought I would enquire as to if you produce a Moth enclosure? Being made in the UK would be an added bonus!
Yes, we shall be launching our new high visibility moth cage in the next few weeks. This cage has soft sides that are ventilated and also very easy to see into. So this is much better than the dense black netting enclosures you describe. Our cage also has a strong solid base, on which you can place a jar of twigs/stems/leaves for your moths to glue their eggs. The cage is sturdy and dispatched ready assembled. And yes, Small-Life Supplies is a British manufacturer of insect cages and so this cage shall be made in the UK.

I have been asked to talk to the science club at school about my stick insects. I'm not that good at spelling and don't want to look bad. Could you check this for me because this is what is going to be on the screen behind me. "My favourite Stick Insects are New Guinea Stick Insects, these have the specie name Eurycantha calcarata."
Yes, you have the correct spelling of the New Guinea stick insect and the Latin species name Eurycantha calcarata. You need to put the Eurycantha calcarata in italics because the Latin species names of insects are always in italics. There is one spelling mistake, "specie" isn't a word, the singular and plural of species is species. So the last part should say "...have the species name Eurycantha calcarata".

How do you feed the Indian stick insect eggs to the birds without them tipping them all over the garden? I’m not enjoying disposing of the excess eggs with hot water at all.
At this time of year the blackbirds are very keen on Indian stick insect eggs. But you need to sort them first, this is easily done by tilting the cage Liner, the eggs just roll off the Liner into a bowl. Then tip the bowl of eggs onto a plain white saucer and put on the bird table. It may take a few days for the blackbirds to realise they can eat them but once they realise this, they eat them all with enthusiasm. If it rains, just drain off the water because the blackbirds won't eat the eggs if they are covered with water.

I love stick insects! I've been keeping them for a couple of years and currently have Indians and Black Beauties and love them very much, however I'm now at the stage where I want to move up to something more interesting! By interesting I mean larger, more colourful and maybe the capability of flight. I have a huge 5ft by 3ft by 3ft mesh cage and would love to but some big guys in there! Do you breed Necroscia annulipes, Phobaeticus sp. and Sipyloidea sipylus?
Small-Life Supplies breed the Pink Winged stick insect, Sipyloidea sipylus. These stick insects eat bramble and eucalyptus and do well in airy surroundings. They glue their eggs onto rough surfaces and so would glue eggs directly onto the mesh of your cage. The Phobaeticus species are very large and spectacular stick insects, but we are not breeding these at the moment. I would advise against keeping Necroscia annulipes stick insects because these can emit a defensive chemical spray which can irritate other stick insects and also people, cats and dogs. The Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) can also do this, although to a lesser extent.

I have noticed that you always use a lower case letter to start the second word of the Latin species name, but some other sellers use an upper case letter for both words. Are both formats acceptable?
No. In entomology (study of insects), the correct scientific practice is to have the first word starting with a capital letter and the second word to be all lower case. So, for example, with the Indian stick insect, the correct format of the Latin species name is Carausius morosus and not Carausius Morosus.

I have just recently started keeping stick insects. I have two New Guinea nymphs and 40 or so eggs that I will be hatching soon. I have also ordered some Macleays Spectre, Indian and Diapherodes gigantea eggs. I have the space to keep all species separate but I was wondering if any of these would mix well together?
The New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are large and bulky stick insects which need a water dish and cardboard rolls to rest inside. So it's best to keep this species in their own ELC cage. The Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) can be kept together in another ELC cage. The Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) is much larger and needs to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves, and so although the nymphs can be housed in an ELC cage, the adults would need to be in an our larger AUC cage (that is well ventilated). The hatchling Indian stick insects do well in a QBOX or HUA Pot, all the others you mention need to be in the HUA Pot from birth.

Have stick insects got eyelids?
No. All species of stick insect have two compound eyes and these do not have eyelids. If an eye gets a speck of dirt on it, the stick insect will quickly clean it by using its foot. Advanced species of stick insect also have simple eyes, these are arranged in a triangular pattern on the front of their heads. Simple eyes do not have eyelids and are kept clean by the feet of the stick insect.

I phoned my local garden centre for eucalyptus and was told they have some "Little Boy Blue" Eucalyptus pulverulenta for sale. Would this be suitable food for my baby Diapherodes gigantea stick insects?
Grenadan stick insects, Diapherodes gigantea, need to eat eucalyptus leaves throughout their lives. These get to be large stick insects and have large appetites. We use Eucalyptus gunnii leaves to feed these stick insects. The problem with Eucalyptus pulverulenta is that the leaves from this plant are much thicker and tougher than those from Eucalyptus gunnii and so could be too tough for hatchling stick insects to eat. You can buy loose leaves of Eucalyptus gunnii from Small-Life Supplies to feed your baby stick insects now. And our potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants should be ready to send out soon.

I have baby stick insects and I have a problem as I need eucalyptus leaves for them. I live in a town area where I cannot get any, my friend also has the same issue. I have already tried three florists and they spray them, can I ask if you supply them for sale?
Small-Life Supplies sell potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants. We can sell you some loose leaves from our outdoor eucalyptus trees. Supply is very limited but the loose leaves should be able to tide you over until more plentiful supplies are available. Baby Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea) and baby Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) don't have large appetites and the loose eucalyptus leaves last for ages if stored in a polythene bag in the bottom of the fridge.

Thank you so much for sending a copy of your excellent book to me. I forgot to ask to have it autographed when I purchased it, so I was wondering if you'll be attending any events this year? I'd love to meet you and have you sign my book!
Small-Life Supplies does exhibit at various insect, nature, and science events throughout the year and we enjoy meeting our customers. Some events are open to the general public, others are for teachers only. If you join our emailing list you will be notified a few weeks in advance of any forthcoming event that we will be at. To ask to go on the list, just email emma@small-life.co.uk (you can unsubscribe at any time). Small-Life Supplies exhibit at events all around the country, including : Liverpool, London, Reading and Cambridge.

With so much fear in the world, I would like to make a small financial contribution to somewhere that helps wildlife in our country. I live in North London and would welcome your suggestions.
"London Wildlife Protection" are a reputable organisation with compassion and dedicated volunteers who get results. All financial contributions are gratefully received, you can donate to them via PayPal, at londonwildlifeprotection@outlook.com

I was just wondering if I could use potting soil, but pure so no fertiliser, for the substrate of my Black Beauty Stick Insects? And could you use chinchilla sand as a substrate too?
The best thing to line the floor of the stick insect cage with is paper. Substrates such as potting soil and sand are not recommended because they trap the dirt and eggs. The granules of these substrates also clog up the sticky pads on the feet of stick insects, making it difficult for them to walk and grip properly.

I just wanted to ask you whether air freshener or scented candles etc affect the stick insects?
Scented candles and air fresheners will poison stick insects and so it's important not to have these things in the same room as stick insects.

Have you heard of the horse head grasshopper? I've searched everywhere online but can't find them for sale. Something I would like to keep in future.
The correct name for "Horse-head grasshoppers" is Proscopids. They do big jumps forwards and so need a really large cage, otherwise they bang their faces . We used to breed them but because they need such a large cage (much bigger than the ELC cage) we decided not to continue, although they are very nice. Technically, they aren't grasshoppers, because grasshoppers are classified as being Orthopterans, belonging to the order Orthoptera. The "Horsehead grasshoppers" are classified as belonging to a different order Proscopidae, which is why they're called Proscopids. If you did decide to keep them, you would need a cage with a floor area at least 100cm x 100cm because they can jump 40cm or more forwards. We shall be manufacturing some large flat-packed cages later this year, please let us know if you'd like to notified when these are available. The Proscopids like airy surroundings, so need at least two mesh sides , similar to many stick insects. They are easy to keep, eating bramble leaves.

Are there any stick insect species available in the hobby that eat exclusively or mostly ivy? I know Indian stick insects will eat ivy alongside their other foodplants. Every weekend when I'm out gathering privet and brambles for my various stick insects it always strikes me how easy it is to find good looking healthy ivy in abundance, even at this time of year.
There are different types of ivy, the large plain ivy leaves can be eaten by Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and sometimes the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), although in our experience, these stick insects prefer to eat bramble leaves and do better on a diet of bramble leaves.

Can I store eggs of the Indian stick (Carausius morosus) and if I can for how long? At the moment I have over 400 eggs.
Indian stick insects can be stored in a QBOX or a HUA Pot. Just place the eggs in the container and do nothing else. They will start to hatch after four months. Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs have a very high hatching rate and so if you think you may struggle to cope with keeping nearly 400 Indian stick insects, I'd recommend disposing of most of the eggs now, before they hatch. In nature, so many eggs are laid because the majority are destroyed, either by being submerged in rainwater, or by being eaten by predators.

I am in Grantham and have just found this little beauty in my spare room (see photo attached). What's the best way to care for it? Obviously outside is a no no. It's freezing! Don't like the thought of just leaving it. Shall I put some sugar water down for it?
It's a hibernating Vanessid butterfly. They choose quiet areas to hibernate, so spare rooms and sheds are favourite sites. On sunny days they may wake up briefly and have a fly around before settling down again. So when we next have a bright sunny winter's day , you could put some water on the window glass so it can have a drink if it needs to. It's British so wouldn't be feeding from plants at this time of year, so adding sugar to the water isn't recommended - you certainly don't want to bring it out of hibernation mode until it's ready to do so naturally in the Spring. So best just to leave it be and look forward to it flying out of the window next Spring.

I do research with bees and wonder if I can buy modified bee study cages with ventilation holes on the sides?
Yes, we can manufacture the Bee Study Cages with ventilation holes on the sides. The minimum order is 50 cages.

Are locusts easy to keep? Do you sell a suitable cage for locusts?
Yes, locusts are easy to keep and breed. Just keep them in the Small-Life heated locust cage and feed them fresh grass. Locusts need to be kept in clean surroundings and so need a cage that is easy to sweep out the debris (locusts eat a lot of grass and produce a lot of dry waste). Photos of our heated locust cage shall be on the website soon.

I have stick insects. I was asking on a group if they can have anything as treats. Someone mentioned about hers eating fruit like watermelon, apple and pear. I thought I'd ask you in case it would harm them? Is there anything you can offer as a treat other than their main food?
As a treat we include the actual blackberries and petals on the flowering bramble when these occur naturally. Some of the stick insects nibble the petals and the fruit. It could be risky putting in the fruits you list, because these are grown commercially with pesticides etc that could harm the stick insects, so I would advise against doing this. If you have bulky species such as New Guinea stick insects, Sabah stick insects, or Philippine stick insects, then you do need to provide a water dish for them because they are more thirsty than other species. Just fill the Water Dish with cold tap water, and replace this every few days so it is clean and fresh.

I am about to buy an HLQ bundle for my Giant African Land Snail. She currently buries herself in soil on the bottom of her tank, so could I put soil on the wet Liner?
The wet Liner is designed to increase the humidity in the HLQ cage and so it's not recommended to cover it with soil. Instead, you could put a small bowl of soil on top of the Liner, so she can go in there if she wishes (which she may do initially as this is the behaviour she is used to). But most Giant African Land Snails are keen to explore the HLQ and spend the majority of their time hanging underneath the roof. So after a week or so, I'd recommend removing the bowl of soil.

Do you have to keep the stick insect eggs? What if you don't wish to have any more ?
You don't have to keep any stick insect eggs, but most people choose to keep a few eggs, so they can hatch out the next generation. The rest of the eggs can be fed to birds or fish, or if this is not possible, just tip the contents of the cage Liner into a bowl and pour hot water on top. Leave for a few minutes and then throw it all away, safe in the knowledge that the eggs will not develop further. This is best done weekly when you replace the cage Liner. Eggs incubate for several months and so it's important not to just throw them in the bin because there is a risk that they may hatch further down the line.

Are the Cepaea snails that you breed what I would call the common garden snail?
No. The common garden snail is a larger brown snail, classified centuries ago as belonging to the Helix genus. The British snails that we breed are a different type, they are smaller, more active and are the colourful yellow Cepaea genus. In the UK, Cepaea can be found in gardens as well as in wild areas, but the term "garden snail" is reserved for the larger brown Helix aspersa snails. Some taxonomists believe the correct species name for Helix aspersa is Cornu aspersum. So currently both species names are in use to describe the same organism.

I am having a senior moment! I know that some stick insects are asexual, but can't remember what this is called - I think it's patho something?
The word is parthenogenetic, which means "virgin birth". Essentially, females lay eggs without mating, and these eggs hatch into more females. Some people mistakenly use the word pathogenic which is completely wrong, this word has a different meaning, the dictionary definition is "producing disease".

I am thinking of purchasing some stick insects for my daughters 8th birthday. Can you tell me how many you recommend keeping in the ELC cage? And can the different types of insects be mixed? Do any bite? Also I have no idea where there is any bramble growing near to where we live so would possibly have to order it but I am conscious of the cost of constantly re-ordering. How long would one batch last for say five or ten stick insects ?
The ELC cage can hold up to twenty Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), or six New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata), or twelve Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) or a mixture. It's important not to overcrowd them, we supply the stick insects in packs of four. So I'd recommend starting with four or eight insects. Bramble is found all year in sheltered overgrown areas, like woods, railway embankments, canal embankments etc. There is a lot available at the moment because conditions have been mild and wet. But if you need to buy bramble, one wallet of bramble would last one cage of insects about 7-10 days. They need to eat bramble during the winter months. In the summer months, depending on which species of stick insect you have, you can use other foodplants such as hazel leaves , eucalyptus leaves and rose leaves. All the types of stick insect we breed and supply are harmless, so they don't bite and don't cause any other health problems. If you let us know in advance when your daughter's birthday is, we can arrange delivery a day or so before.

Just to confirm, this event at Reading is not something for the general public to come along to?
Yes, this event is just for science teachers, they need to register on arrival and provide the organisers with their school address details. Small-Life Supplies do exhibit at other events which are open to the general public to visit, we usually start promoting these events on our website a few weeks before they happen.

Which would be a better pet for my fourteen year-old daughter - a giant millipede or a big stick insect? Just to confirm, this event is not something for the general public to come along to?
Both are good. The giant millipedes are very impressive, and easy to feed, eating dead oak and sycamore leaves, also orange slices. However, many offered for sale are not captive-bred, but instead have been gathered from the wild and so are not used to being handled. Giant millipedes are also more sensitive to cooler temperatures and so it is unwise to purchase them in winter. In contrast, Small-Life Supplies breeds lots of stick insects, a big type that we have for sale now is the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata). These stick insects eat bramble leaves and are very large and active. We can supply both the stick insects (they do best in small groups) and also the proper stick insect cage to keep them in (called the ELC cage).

I am visiting my sister for a couple of days over Christmas and can't decide whether to take my stick insects with me or not? The problem is that she uses lots of scented plug-ins, scented candles and perfume. It gives me a headache and I'm concerned what effect it may have on my stick insects, because I don't have any of those artificial fragrances in my flat. But then again I don't want my stick insects to get too cold in my flat.
Definitely leave your stick insects at home. They will be fine for a couple of days, they will just slow down if it gets chilly. The alternative is far worse, the fragrances your sister is using are very dangerous for stick insects. This is because stick insects do not have a filtering system and so air-borne chemicals drift into their bodies and poison them. Unfortunately some people, like your sister, who surround themselves with strong fragrances soon become "nose-blind" and do not realise their houses stink and give visitors splitting headaches, visiting cats headaches and of course kill visiting stick insects! Bizarrely, such people seem to be in complete denial and think they are making their homes nicer, when in fact the reverse is true.

I am on my second generation of New Guinea stick insects (I bought the originals from you and managed to hatch some eggs!). I love them very much and they are living happily in an ELC cage. I have just accepted a work placement abroad for 12 months and it's not possible to take the stick insects with me. I intend to keep stick insects again when I return, so I will be keeping the cage, it's just that now I need to find good homes for the stick insects. I have asked around, but the people I've spoken to so far just want to shove them in a tank and to be honest I am not happy about that. I want the best for my stick insects and know they need the ELC cage. Could I send them to you? I don't want any money for them, I just need to know they will be cared for well. Also, would you be able to explain to me how to pack them up?
Yes, our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are a really nice strong healthy strain and so we'd be happy to accept some back and ensure they continue to be well looked after in ELC cages. The best way to send them is double packed with within a strong shoebox, during mild nights. We shall email you more packing information directly, obviously we are looking at January now, so need to monitor the weather forecast at night to ensure that it's mild enough for them to travel. Royal Mail Special Delivery, which is a next day delivery service, is a good one to use.

I have had an HLQ snail tank for a few weeks now. I clean it out every Sunday. At the start of the week the liner is sopping wet, but at the end of the week it is starting to dry out. Should I be misting water onto the Liner to keep it sodden all week? Or do the snails like a bit of variety in the humidity of their surroundings?
Snails like a bit of variety in the humidity of their surroundings. So it's good to have the surroundings very humid when you first put the Liner in, and becoming less humid as the week progresses.

I have been gifted four Giant African Land Snails, they are about twice the size of garden snails. They are in a tank with soil at the bottom, but don't move much and the lettuce I put down soon turns to a swamp. So I've ordered the HLQ cage and extra Liners. I've been told to feed the snails cucumber, also cuttlefish bone for the calcium carbonate, and to spray the snails daily. Is this correct?
Your Giant African Land Snails will be much happier in the HLQ cage because their surroundings will be much cleaner. Just place a wet Snail Tank Liner on the floor of the HLQ and then add a saucer filled with vegetable peelings for the snails to eat. Suitable foods include: potato, carrot and sweet potato peelings. Also fresh dandelion leaves gathered from outside. And slices of marrow, courgette, red pepper and avocado. It's best to avoid cucumber and lettuce during the winter months. Snails need to eat calcium to help their shells stay strong, and the best source of calcium is empty hen eggshells. So, crack an egg open and put both rinsed out halves of the eggshell on the Liner (the snails will climb inside and gnaw it from the inside). Cuttlefish bone is not as healthy because it has a higher salt content. Snails need to drink water and so put a shallow water dish in the cage. Do not mist the snails with water.

I have received four Indian stick insect nymphs from Small-Life Supplies, also the ELC cage bundle. We got more bramble to put in the cage as it seemed rather bare. Is it alright to do this? They are more difficult to find though. I hope they survive until Christmas as they are a present to my 5 year old grandson.
Yes, the bramble included in the bag with the stick insects is for the journey only. When you receive the stick insects you need to gather two stems of bramble with green leaves attached, each stem needs to be approx 40cm or 16" long, and push these into the Sprig Pot, filled with cold tap water. Plug the top with the cotton wool provided. Lightly mist the leaves every evening or so. The bramble will need replacing after one week, not because the stick insects will have eaten it all, but because it will be starting to dry up a bit, and the stick insects need to eat juicy green leaves to be healthy.

I live in Singapore and would like to buy an ELC Bundle. Can you send it to me via vPost Europe?
Yes. Many of our customers who live in Singapore use vPost Europe and so we are happy to send the cage to vPost Europe at our normal delivery charge price of £9.95. You can then arrange with them to have your cage shipped to you in Singapore (and pay them directly for this).

My daughter is having some stick insects for her birthday. I do not know much about these things but would a plastic tall goldfish bowl be OK for them to live in? Any advice would be great.
No, a tall goldfish bowl is not suitable housing for stick insects. This is because it has solid sides, but stick insects need a cage with two mesh sides so there is ventilation within the cage. Also, solid sides do not offer a good foothold for the stick insects (they need to hook their claws around a rough surface). The ELC cage has been designed to meet the housing requirements of stick insects and so the ELC cage is the best cage for stick insects.

Is there still time to order stick insects for Christmas? I'd love some of the New Guinea ones with the ELC cage bundle.
Yes, you can still buy stick insects for Christmas. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are sold in packs of four young adults (two males and two females). They like a lot of attention and are easy to keep, eating bramble leaves. They have spells of activity during both the day and night and so need to be housed in a cage with mesh sides that they can hook their claws around and climb. The ELC cage bundle is ideal, you'll need a Water Dish, Sand Pit and Metal Sieve (to separate the eggs from the sand).

I would like to buy a couple of ELC cages, could I collect these from you? I live just outside Cambridge and so am quite close by.
Unfortunately we don't have a retail facility, so collection is not possible. However, we do cap the delivery at 9.95 pounds, so if you ordered two ELC cages, the total delivery would be 9.95 pounds. This is our busiest time of year, but if you ordered soon, you would still receive these cages before Christmas.

Do you sell Sprig Pots with black lids?
Our Sprig Pots are manufactured in the UK and have red lids. During the next production run we could supply you some with black lids, but there would be a minimum order quantity of twelve to make this possible.

I have just received my New Guinea stick insects from you and they are settling in nicely. We have access to rain water as we have a water butt in our garden. Would this be preferable to give the stick insects or should we stick to tap water if that's what they are used to?
Best to stick with cold tap water. This is because tap water has been treated to remove potential harmful organisms.

I have some Black Beauty stick insects, and shall soon be getting some leaf insects. I hope you can answer both my questions: can I mix them together in a big tank, and where do I find oak leaves to feed the leaf insects in winter? I live in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. UK.
It is best not to house leaf insects with stick insects, this is because they have different housing requirements, and also because, rather bizarrely, leaf insects can start attacking stick insects. The Philippine Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) can be housed in the ELC cage. (We do not breed this species because it can emit a chemical spray that can irritate sensitive people and their pets). Leaf insects like to hang upsidedown and require airy surroundings, so we recommend housing them in the ELC cage with the special ELC mesh roof. Evergreen oak trees do occur in the UK, so you could try and find one nearby. Alternatively, your leaf insects may eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and/or guava leaves.

I just ordered an ELC cage with a mesh lid over the phone as the lady told me that would be best for my leaf insects. But I can't see that lid on your website? Could I still use that cage for stick insects if I decide not to continue keeping leaf insects?
The special mesh lids for the ELC cages are in production now and should be ready to send out next week. So that's why they aren't on the website yet. Most stick insects do well in the original ELC cage (with the solid transparent lid), but there are some species of stick insect that like to hang upside-down (just like leaf insects do) and so you could keep those types in the ELC with the mesh lid. Those species include: Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii), New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp).

I'd like to buy a Indian HUA Pot Hatching Set for my teenage daughter, how long after getting them do the stick insects take to hatch? It would be great if they could hatch on Christmas Day or after? Also, how many of the eight eggs are likely to hatch?
We keep records of when the Indian (Carausius morosus) stick insect eggs were laid, so we can estimate when they will hatch. So the eggs we are sending out now are due to hatch just after Christmas. Usually seven or eight of the eggs hatch.

We have three Indian stick insects in one of our ELC cages. I was interested in getting my son some of your New Guinea stick insects. Could I put the Indian sticks and New Guinea sticks together? What is the maximum number I should have in the cage?
You could mix four New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) stick insect adults in the same ELC cage as three Indian (Carausius morosus) stick insects. Indian stick insects have softer bodies and are much smaller than New Guinea stick insects, so there is a possibility that a New Guinea stick insect may hurt an Indian stick insect if it accidentally treads on it. However, the chances of this happening are small if there are only seven stick insects in the cage. Alternatively, you could house them in separate cages, the ELC cage can accommodate six adult New Guinea stick insects comfortably, or up to twenty Indian stick insects comfortably.

I have just purchased four Indian stick insect nymphs, bramble, and an ELC cage bundle from you via Paypal. It's really important that I receive them in time for Christmas so please send them next week. Where's the best place to hide them until the big day?
Lots of our customers set up the stick insects in the cage and then hide it in the bottom of a wardrobe. It's really important that there aren't any air fresheners (of any type) in the bedroom because the chemicals released will kill the stick insects. Leave the door of the wardrobe slightly open during the day so that the stick insects have light surroundings during the day and dark at night. If you don't have a suitable wardrobe, other options are a spare room or a friendly neighbour (who doesn't use air-fresheners in their home).

I thought we had a good supply of bramble but I have just looked at it and it looks rather rough. So I shall buy some bramble from you, how long does it last? I'll be getting four Indian stick insects (nymphs) and the book and the ELC bundle.
You get three sprigs of nice green juicy bramble leaves. These will stay fresh in water for 7-10 days. After this time you'll need more, not because the four Indian stick insects will have eaten it all, but because it will be starting to dry up a bit. You may be able to make it last a fortnight if you put half of it in the Sprig Pot of water and give it to the stick insects. But leave the rest in the wallet in the bottom of the fridge, taking this out after a week to replace what is already in the Sprig Pot.

I am getting my 22 year-old daughter four Indian stick insects and the ELC bundle for her Christmas present. She has been wanting stick insects for years! Hopefully, she will be successful with rearing these, and if so, are there other types she can add at a later date?
Yes, can mix Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) with Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) , New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp.) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) , all these types live happily together. So one ELC cage could house four Indian stick insects and four Pink Winged stick insects and a pair of Thailand or New Thailand stick insects. They all eat bramble leaves and thrive in the airy ELC cage.

I really was after a Macleay's Spectre or a New Guinea stick insect, either a female on it's own or a male and female pair. Is it possible to get just two of the New Guinea rather than four as is advertised on your website?
Stick insects like company of their own kind and so need to be kept in packs of two as a minimum, rather than on their own. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have longer lifespans than Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), don't have wings, and like lots of attention. And yes, we can supply just one pair of New Guinea stick insects, we always select couples that have chosen to rest together in the cage, so hopefully are well matched.

I would like to buy my partner some Indian stick insects and the ELC cage Bundle for Christmas. Can delivery be on Monday 19th Dec?
Stick insects are sent out on a next day weekday delivery, and so stick insect deliveries are made on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays only. So a livestock delivery on Monday 19th Dec isn't possible but we should be able to arrange delivery for Friday 16th Dec, weather permitting.

A Giant African land snail has come into our rescue. It's tank doesn't have much soil, hardly any food, there's no cuttlefish or heat mat. But it seems active, any advice?
Giant African Land Snails do best in clean surroundings, so you'll need to wash out the tank with warm soapy water and dry it. Then insert a wet soft HLQ Snail Liner (cut to size), this retains the moisture and so increases the humidity in the tank. A dish of soil only needs providing if you want the snail to lay eggs. Extra heating is not necessary, your snail is active and so is happy to be kept at room temperature. Snails do need a source of extra calcium but instead of using cuttlefish bone, a much better alternative is to use rinsed out hen eggshells because they have a lower salt content. African snails like a varied diet, so put in a dish of carrot and potato peelings and fresh dandelion leaves. Finally, snails like attention and so handle it a lot and house it with another snail if you have another one come in.

I've being tasked with organising the pre-school's stall at our primary school's Christmas bazaar. We have been keeping Indian stick insects for the last few months and collected lots of eggs, so I am sure a bug theme would be popular. We have already constructed a game to guess the number of Indian stick insect eggs in an eggcup! I thought it would be nice to have some unusual items to sell as well. Something low cost, but good value, do you sell your "Slassa" stick insect bags in bulk? I think we could sell maybe six?
Great to hear that you're having an insect stall at the school bazaar. And yes, we'd be delighted to sell you six bags at a discount rate so you can raise some money. Other schools and groups have done this successfully too. These shoulder shopper bags are great quality, made in the UK from black cotton and show the species names of stick insects in red on the front. They sell for £6.95 each, but you can buy 6 for £29.95 including delivery, just quote the "bulk buy bags offer".

Is it possible to buy a custom-made top for the ELC cage? I already have an ELC for my Pink Winged stick insects and want another for my Phyllium leaf insects which I'm getting soon. But I read that leaf insects like to hang and so wondered if you could make the lid like the mesh side?
Yes, custom-made lids are available for the ELC cages. In fact we have already produced lots of these mesh lids (using the same material as the ELC side), so are in the process of adding this option to our range. And yes, you are correct, leaf insects do like to hang from the roof and so a mesh lid is ideal for them.

Fantastic that your Egg Kits are back in stock. Can I buy an Egg Kit for my niece for Christmas? I would need it sending to her directly, is this possible?
Yes, lots of people want stick insects for Christmas and so we can send both living stick insects and eggs that are due to hatch soon. So it's best to order now, and request delivery nearer to Christmas. And yes, there is no problem delivering directly to your niece, just request delivery to her address when you order.

I live in Australia and the kids have a female leaf insect. She is about 6 months old and we originally had 3 but the other 2 didn't make it, not long after we got them. Is she lonely or fine to be alone? Should we set her free? Now that she is so much bigger, we feel bad about having her and are considering setting her free. My big concern is that she would not survive as she has always been in captivity.
Leaf insects like the company of their own kind and so it would be better for her to be with other leaf insects. Also, at six months of age, she is likely to be fully grown and so will want to find a mate. So, on balance, if she is a native Australian leaf insect and you are able to release her on eucalyptus, that would probably be best. Her main defence is camouflage and so she has a reasonable chance of survival. It would be nice is she could find a mate and lay fertile eggs, thereby passing her genes onto the next generation.

I purchased an ELC cage and some adult New Guinea stick insects from you last August, and they are doing really well. I wipe the cage down every fortnight so that it looks nice. However there are some brown marks on the white sides that won't come off with Fairy Liquid. Is there a more effective cleaning product that you would recommend?
Some species of stick insect make more mess than others. ELC cages housing the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) need strong cleaning products to remove the brown liquid that stains the white mesh sides. An easy way to remove these stains is with "Parazone stain remover", this is sold in 1 litre grey bottles with a pink top. But only use this liquid on the white cage panels, not on the clear panels. It is very effective, just scrub it on the stains and then rinse well with lukewarm water. This is what we use at Small-Life Supplies.

I have what looks like a brown moth hanging from the ceiling of my garage. I have rather a lot of stuff piled in there and so it would be quite a palaver to get to this moth. It hasn't moved and so it might be dead anyway?
It is best to leave this insect alone. It has not died, it is most likely to be a hibernating Vanessid butterfly. This family of butterflies include the Small Tortoisehell and Peacock butterflies which have brightly coloured topsides to their wings but are brown underneath. They hibernate during the autumn and winter months, choosing to hang from garage and shed ceilings. During sunny days in the winter, the butterfly may break from hibernation and fly to the garage window for a drink of water before resuming its place under the ceiling and going back to sleep. Next Spring when hibernation is over, you will need to let it out of your garage, this will be really obvious because the butterfly will be flying around the window in your garage trying to get out. Meanwhile, it's best to leave it alone because its chances of survival are greater in your garage than outside.

I am concerned about the trend for eating insects for entertainment. The ant thing is a new low. It's just not right, is it.
No. Killing any creature for entertainment is wrong. I too was dismayed to read about the latest stunt of sprinkling wild caught Kentish wood ants on porridge. Wild wood ants play a very important role in the ecosystem of woods, eating small insects and being eaten themselves by woodpeckers. So it's imperative that chefs don't start a craze for harvesting wild wood ants for human consumption because this would disrupt the already fragile ecosystems that exist in the British woods still left in the UK.

We bought some young New Guinea stick insects from you last August and are staggered at how much they have grown! They are huge now! We haven't seen any eggs yet though, although one of the females now looks very fat.
New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) adults mate regularly and the female's body swells as it fills with eggs. So, if you look at the stick insect side-on and see a cream soft expanded abdomen, this means that she is producing eggs and needs somewhere to bury them. So position the blue Sand Pit by a mesh side of the ELC cage. Usually the female knows what to do and will cling onto the side, push her abdomen into the sand and then bury some eggs. However sometimes, she needs to be shown what to do, particularly if she has not seen other females lay eggs. So you need to calmly place your fat female on the side and gently push the tip of her abdomen into the sand. Usually they lay an egg straight away. If not, repeat this action on subsequent days and she will soon realise what to do.

My giant Macleays Spectre stick insect has a resin type blob on its back. Can you tell me if I should be worried?
Such blobs are most commonly seen in young adult female Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), usually in individuals that are a bit underweight following a skin-change. So don't try and remove it, just leave the blob alone. Your main focus should be on getting her to eat more, so it's best not to handle her too much at the moment and encourage her to eat by lightly misting the bramble with water in the evening. You could also tempt her with some eucalyptus leaves if you have a Eucalyptus gunnii tree nearby.

I was taken aback the other day when one of my daughter's friends' parents said that keeping stick insects was "weird". My daughter loves them, and I find them fascinating too. We have managed to hatch out eggs and shared them with Poppy's friends who enjoy them too.
Yes, there is nothing "weird" about keeping stick insects. They are interesting creatures that provide a lot of enjoyment to people of all ages. Unfortunately there will always be some people who dislike animals or nature. However it is rude for someone to insult you just because they don't share your interest. It sounds as though you and Poppy are doing really well with keeping your stick insects properly and great that you are breeding them and sharing this enjoyment with others.

I am rearing Calleta Silkmoths and as I am in the UK, won't be able to release them as they are not endemic. Would your tall stick insect cage be better suited when they emerge, rather than the cage recommended for large larvae species or would you suggest another type of cage to house the moths.
The silkmoth lifecycle generally favours a long caterpillar life and a short adult life. So it makes sense to prioritise the housing for the caterpillars. The Calleta caterpillars are large and colourful and eat privet, loose privet stems should be placed in the TTQ cage and replenished daily. Adult Calleta moths will want to fly and unfortunately will damage their wings if they try to fly within any cage. However silkmoths tend to be weaker flyers than hawkmoths. Indeed silkmoths are really keen to mate and will mate soon after emergence and start laying eggs. So you could let them do this and then take them out of the cage and let them fly around a room. Many silkmoths do not feed as adults and so do not live very long. Male silkmoths have antennae which are much more feathery in appearance than those of the females.

I was looking on ebay to see if I could buy a copy of the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. Weirdly though, used copies in "acceptable" condition are selling at £39.94 (by World of Books) but new copies are cheaper, priced at £14.00. Do I take it that the older editions are now a collectors item?
This popular book is still in print. Here at Small-Life Supplies, new copies are selling at 14 pounds (including delivery) and our ex-demonstration copies are just 6 pounds (these are snapped up very quickly). Other booksellers can charge what they like, it does seem that World Of Books have older copies that they have valued at nearly three times the price of new ones.

I want to buy stick insects for Christmas. And the ELC bundle. Can I order now and have delivery later? I want it off my mind.
Yes, we are processing Christmas orders now, for dispatch the week beginning 12th Dec 2016. It helps if you are as flexible as possible regarding delivery because we can only send the stick insects out when the overnight temperature is above freezing. We will have accurate weather forecasts nearer the time and so can then let you know what date your parcel will be delivered. Our courier can leave the parcel in a safe place, for example a porch, so you don't need to wait in for the delivery. Or, you can ask for the parcel to be delivered to work. It's really important to say "for Christmas" when you order, so we know when to send it.

Please could you give me some advice on caring for Eurycantha calcarata eggs. What's the best thing to keep them in? Do they need to be kept warm/moist? What is the best substrate to use and how long will they take to hatch?
We sieve our New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) stick insect eggs from the sand and then place the sieved eggs in a HUA Pot (on a circle of damp kitchen roll). The lid is placed back on the HUA Pot and this is stored in a warm place. Steam (from a kettle) is allowed into the HUA Pot from time to time and we gently shake the eggs around as well. Then after about six months, we lightly mist the eggs with water because this action seems to help to trigger hatching. The newly hatched New Guinea stick insects are then transferred to another HUA pot and given a fresh wet bramble leaf to eat.

I like the look of your cages and would like to buy myself some New Guinea stick insects. I am recently widowed and need a new interest. I did keep the standard stick insects when I was a girl, do you think I am being too ambitious opting for trying to keep New Guinea stick insects? I do like their faces.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are straight forward to keep, providing you get the proper equipment (ELC cage bundle, Sand Pit, Water Dish, metal sieve and HUA Pot), and your home is nice and warm during the day and not too cold at night. So, they are an ideal choice for you, particularly as they appeal to you and respond well to lots of attention. Further details are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book which has a whole section on New Guinea stick insects.

I have been surfing the web looking at various insect sites asking for insect identification. It amazes me that the default answer for any green insect in a bush is "looks like a mantid". Don't these people realise that the mantid is a very distinctive shape, with specialised spiky front legs, triangular heads and huge eyes? Their response should be "it's definitely NOT a mantid".
I know what you mean, it is depressing that people asking for help are being "advised" by others who clearly don't even have a basic knowledge of insect classification. It's just as bad for stick insect identification, I've seen people who can't even identify an Indian stick insect correctly (Indians are the most commonly kept species of pet stick insect) putting themselves out there as being knowledgeable about stick insects. And of course there are the ones saying that Proscopid insects (also known as Horsehead grasshoppers) are stick insects, when in fact they are a completely different order of insect. There's now a new book circulating in infant schools which shows a photo of a Proscopid next to a cartoon person with the caption "My pet stick insect". Such mis-information is not helpful to anyone.

I would like to buy an ELC bundle and some Indian stick insects for my daughter's birthday on Monday 7th November. How soon do I need to order?
It's best to order as soon as possible and mention that the stick insects are for a birthday present. We can then schedule the delivery for you. We use a next-day delivery service, and so you have the choice of receiving the items on Friday 4th Nov, or Tuesday 8th Nov. It is not possible to receive livestock on Mondays.

I desperately need another ELC cage for my growing collection of stick insects! If I ordered today (Friday) how soon could I receive the cage? I live in Bristol.
ELC cages are in stock and so are dispatched quickly. Orders placed on Friday and Saturday can be dispatched on Monday for next-day delivery on Tuesday. The express delivery charge of £9.95 applies to Bristol and the rest of mainland UK (apart from Scottish Highlands).

I have been gifted some "giant spiny" stick insects. Can you tell me a bit more about them? I've just ordered an ELC cage so they will have more space. I have also ordered the book.
Descriptive terms such as "giant spiny" are best avoided when it comes to stick insects because these descriptions can apply to more than one species. So it is better to refer to stick insects by their native country or better still by their Latin species name. Having said this, the "giant spiny" is usually the New Guinea stick insect, Eurycantha calcarata. These stick insects do well in the ELC cage, they also need a Water Dish and when fully grown, the adult females need a Sand Pit in which to bury their eggs. There is a whole section on New Guinea stick insects in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

I counted 58 adult Indian stick insects in my ELC cage and so I am buying another cage so I can divide them between two cages. I know I have got too many in there but they actually seem to be doing pretty well. One thing I have noticed though is that there's a couple with missing feet and those stick insects always seem to be on the bramble instead of on the sides of the cage. Is there a reason for that?
Yes. Damaged stick insects are weaker than healthy ones and so will remain on the foodplant instead of climbing around the cage. The damaged stick insects are conserving their energy for the important activity of eating. Also, in crowded cages there will be a rush to the food once the lights go out. So by remaining on the food, the damaged stick insects ensure that because they are already there they will be able to eat.

I have just received my ELC bundle and four adult Indian stick insects, and am delighted with them. I notice that the Indian stick insects came with bramble leaves. I was going to feed them with privet leaves from my neighbour's hedge, but thought I'd just check if this would be alright or must they eat bramble? I have easy access to bramble too.
We feed our Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) on bramble (blackberry) leaves and so that is what they are used to. However, they will eat some other types of leaves, for example eucalyptus, privet, and rose leaves. Some stick insects are fussier than others so rather than suddenly switching them to privet, it would be better to make the change gradually. So I suggest you give them a mixture of bramble and privet over the next few weeks so they have time to get used to eating privet.

Today I had lunch in a place called the "Gatekeeper Inn" and it had a photo of a Gatekeeper butterfly on the side table. I live in Kent and must confess I had never heard of this species before. Can you tell me a bit more about it?
This is a British species, sometimes called the Gatekeeper butterfly but more commonly referred to as the Hedge Brown butterfly. The Latin species name is Pyronia tithonus. It is classified as belonging to the family Satyridae, also known as the "Browns". A relatively common species, the caterpillars feed on grasses and the butterflies are seen in summer, and feed off bramble flowers.

My son has seven Indian stick insects in a net enclosure with zipper access. We put in bramble and ivy (they are only eating the bramble) in a tub or bottle with lid. We find it very difficult to remove the container for cleaning through the opening without knocking stick insects down. I would like my son (age 9) to be able to care for them himself but even I find it fiddly and difficult. Any suggestions?
His Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) would do much better in the ELC cage . This is because the ELC cage is specially designed for keeping stick insects and has easy access via a side panel that slides upwards and a roof that lifts off. So he can access the cage from both the side and the top. Unlike netting enclosures which are flimsy and can be snagged by bramble thorns, the sides of the ELC cage are rigid and ventilated and so are much more practical for housing stick insects. The ELC cage can house up to twenty Indian stick insects and so there is plenty of room to keep seven stick insects in there. Indian stick insects do well on bramble leaves, so don't bother with the ivy. Keep the stems of bramble leaves fresh in a Sprig Pot, filled with tap water.

We are a nursery school and would like to order the ELC stick insect house. Are you able to put caterpillars in here also, and are they able to be in at the same time as the stick insects?
The ELC cage is designed for stick insects and so is the best choice for stick insects. It has two ventilated sides and is 51cm tall. Caterpillars prefer less ventilation and so do best in the TTQ cage. That cage has one ventilated side and is 40cm tall. So no, you wouldn't keep stick insects and caterpillars in the same cage because they need different ventilation requirements. The ELC cage is £49, the TTQ cage is £38.

My Diapherodes gigantea have recently started to lay eggs. Does that mean the adults are full size now if they are laying?
Yes, female stick insects only start to lay eggs a couple of week after reaching maturity (becoming fully grown). For best results, store the Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) eggs in a HUA Pot.

My New Guinea stick insect nymphs have had their first shed and I was going to rehome some but I'm having trouble sexing them. Is it likely they're all girls or is there a subtle difference I'm missing? Some seem to have slightly shorter tails but they've still got a bit of a point at the end, a few are less green than others.
You need to wait until they are larger before you can distinguish the genders in New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). Then it will be more obvious that the females have much more pointed ends than the males. Usually the ratio is approx 50:50 if you have hatched the eggs from adults that have mated regularly. There is a lot of natural colour variation, but there is no correlation between colour and gender of young New Guinea stick insect nymphs.

I have some Phobaeticus magnus stick insect eggs & I was wondering if you have any information about this species? Two of the eggs have hatched so anything you can tell me about caring for these little guys would be much appreciated.
This species is one of the larger types of stick insects, and so needs to be housed in a bespoke very large airy enclosure when they are mature. Your hatchlings do bets in the HUA Pot and given a wet bramble leaf to leaf. After their first skin-change they can be transferred to the ELC cage, but after a couple of months they need transferring to a much larger cage so they have room to grow. This species is easy to rear initially but can be frustrating to keep because sometimes they die soon after becoming adults.

Now that winter is setting in, I'm a little concerned about temperature during the night when we turn the heating off. Is there a safe solution for providing a local heat source to your ELC cages? Some sort of infra red lamp that won't disturb them and won't damage the vivarium?
Infra red heat lamps are not recommended. This is because they dry out the surroundings too much, causing the leaves to dry up and the stick insects to have problems skin-changing. We recommend using a 500 Watt oil-filled radiator, plugged into a wall socket near your cage. Such radiators retail around £30+ and can be bought on-line. More powerful ones are available, but the 500W one is best. Having said all that, most British homes do not fall below 12 degrees Celsius at night, with the heat switched off, and so most people do not need to provide additional heat for their stick insects at night.

Fantastic seeing you at the Kempton insect fair last Saturday, but was gutted that you sold out of the Mantid cages. I can't see them on your website? I need one asap for my new mantid, will they be back in stock soon?
Yes, the Mantid cages are in production now and should be on our website within a week. The response to our new Mantid cage was excellent at the Kempton insect fair which is why we sold out. The cage lid has a small flap so you can drop in the live food. The cage also has the lift off lid and side access, as standard.

We went to the Kempton insect show - our first which we thoroughly enjoyed, so thanks for the reminder! We got home to find that one of our Indian stick eggs has hatched. It is currently still in the QBOX and I have given it moist bramble. How soon can/should I transfer it to the ELC cage? I assume it needs ventilation?
Baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) prefer less ventilated conditions than the older nymphs and adults. So it is important to house them in the QBOX for the first month or so of their lives. You can house up to twelve newly hatched Indian stick insects in a QBOX. When they have completed their first skin-change (after three weeks), they will be much larger and so can be transferred to the ELC cage the following week. Or, you can keep them in the QBOX until they have completed their second skin-change (this happens a few weeks after the first) and transfer them a week after their second skin-change. If you decide on the latter, only keep six in the QBOX , because obviously the second instar stick insects are much large than the first instar ones (newly hatched) and need more space. Fresh air enters the QBOX when you lift off the lid to insert a fresh wet bramble leaf. Keep the young stick insects in clean surroundings by lining the QBOX with a disposable QBOX Liner, replaced every few days.

Can female Grenadan stick insects lay eggs without a male or does one of them have to be male?
Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea) have males and females in equal numbers and so for best results, it is important to have males if you want to breed them. If you don't have any males, the females will still lay eggs but these eggs will not have been fertilised by a male and so will take much longer to hatch. Also, the resultant hatchlings will be much weaker than if they had hatched from fertilised eggs.

Do you know anything about Anisomorpha buprestoides? I have just bought two adult females, they are supposedly fertilized as the seller said the males fell off already.
Anisomorpha buprestoides is also known as the Florida stick insect. Small-Life Supplies does not breed or supply this species because it is one of the few species of stick insect that is not safe. When alarmed, Florida stick insects can emit a chemical spray that can cause temporary problems to people and pet mammals, such as dogs and cats, if this spray happens to land on an eye. However, they only spray when frightened so they won't be spraying whilst inside the cage. It's only when you handle them that there is a risk and this risk will lessen in time as they get used to you. Initially though, it would be sensible to wear glasses /protective eye wear when you handle them and keep them away from inquisitive dogs and cats. Males and females occur in equal numbers and so you need some males to ensure the eggs keep getting fertilised. They mate regularly throughout their adult lives. So the seller should have said that the initial eggs you'll see will be fertilised but the ones in the future won't be.

I heard about the big insect event next Saturday and would like to go, is there like hundreds of visitors? And how many stands? What's the entrance? Do I book my ticket on-line?
This annual one-day insect event is on Saturday 1st October 2016 at Kempton Park Racecourse (indoors), Staines Road East, Sunbury on Thames TW16 5AQ. The programme lists 124 stands and there are usually over one thousand visitors. Small-Life Supplies will have a display, look out for the massive insect silhouettes on our stand or ask directions to stand number 57. The entrance fee is £4 per adult, no booking necessary, just turn up on the day (doors open at 11am).

I purchased a TTQ cage from you, with the Mantid Lid. I am keeping a small species of mantids inside (Phyllocrania paradoxa). The mantids come from a hot region and I would like to install an infra red bulb above the cage. I wonder if it would be possible to order a custom made top cover for the TTQ top. Possibly made of a mesh, that would let the heat waves through?
All mantids come from hot regions, and so need to be kept indoors in a room that is comfortably warm. They don't need any extra heating, we have reared lots of different species of mantid, including Phyllocrania paradoxa, and they do well at normal room temperature. Extra heating should be avoided because it can make the surroundings too dry which results in skin-change problems for the mantids. If your room is chilly, then the most effective way to increase the background temperature to a comfortable level is to use an oil filled radiator. This is portable and plugs into a wall socket. It emits a gentle heat, and is economical to run. Choose a 500Watt oil-filled radiator, not one of the more powerful ones (eg 1000W or 2000W). We do not recommend infra-red bulbs for insects.

At what stage can I move the New Guinea stick insect nymphs into the ELC cage? They've just hatched this week and are still in the HUA pot at the moment.
You can keep up to 15 baby New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) in each HUA Pot, halving the number at every skin-change. When they have a body length of 4cm and a total length of 6cm (this includes the front legs outstretched), they can be transferred to the ELC cage. Only fill the Water Dish half full though so they don't drown, and make sure the hole in the Sprig Pot is plugged with cotton wool so none of the stick insects can drop in the water and drown.

We will be painting several rooms, including the one in which we keep our Indian stick insects. I plan to board our sticks out with my neighbour whilst work is being done, but wonder if you can advise when it might be safe to move them back into a freshly painted room.
As a general rule, if you can smell chemicals in a room then your stick insects are at risk. Freshly painted rooms smell of paint fumes and so you must keep the stick insects out of there. You need to open the windows so the paint fumes can escape. After about two weeks, the room should have stopped smelling and so it should be safe to put the stick insects back. Different paint types are available, the water based paints and low-odour paints are preferable to solvent paints because their odours do not linger as long and they do not trigger headaches amongst sensitive people.

I am in Australia and I would like to ask you how much should I sell my baby spiny leaf insects for (each)?

Instead of selling the babies it would be better to wait until they have completed at least one skin-change. At that stage these stick insects have a much stronger chance of living their full lifespan. (You wouldn't want to sell newly hatched stick insects, and have disappointed customers because some of these insects have died of natural causes). Also, instead of selling leaf insects individually, you should be selling them in small groups of four, because these are social insects and like company of their own kind. You have a responsibility when selling living creatures to supply correct care information, and so you need to print off some care sheets with accurate care tips. Once you have done the above you need to work out a fair price, which reflects the care you have taken in putting the package together and also is high enough to make people think about what they are taking on, and hopefully will appeal to those who want to look after their leaf insects properly.

Our caterpillars that we bought from Small-Life Supplies earlier this summer all did brilliantly and so we are very excited about buying some of the hairy Garden Tiger ones. I thought caterpillars were very fussy about what they ate, the ones we had before ate willow leaves, but your advice on the Garden Tigers is they can eat various weeds?
Some types of caterpillar only eat one type of plant. Other species can eat several types of plant but cannot switch from one type to another, so they need to be kept on the same diet from birth. British Garden Tiger caterpillars are able to eat various types of plant, and also have the ability to switch between eating different types of plant. So our British Garden Tiger caterpillars are currently eating a mixture of leaves from buddleia, dock, thick dandelion and various other weeds.

We enjoyed meeting you at the Kempton Park insect fair last year and were looking forward to going again this year but unfortunately my husband is recuperating and so we can't go. I bought one of your used ELC cages at the fair, which I have found to be the best enclosure by far for my phasmids. I would love another, is it possible for you to send me another used ELC cage?
We shall have some used ELC cages for sale at the annual insect fair to be held on Saturday 1st October 2016 at Kempton Park Racecourse (indoors), Staines Road East, Sunbury on Thames TW16 5AQ. For those people like yourself who are unable to attend this event, we can deliver a used ELC cage to you, the price is £35 + delivery.

Living in a colder climate (Oregon, USA), I was wondering if you had advice for overwintering stick insects, would a heat lamp/bulb be the best route to go? Area during the winter here can get as low as 20F. With heat on we barely pull 45 at times. From what I've read the buggies need at least ~77F or so to be okay.
Stick insects need a day time temperature of 18-22 degrees Celsius, which is 64 -72 degrees Fahrenheit. And at night they need to be above 12 degrees Celsius, which is 54 degrees Fahrenheit. So yes, you definitely need some additional heating during the winter months. A portable oil-filled radiator which you plug into the wall is effective at raising the background temperature. But 45 degrees Fahrenheit is rather cold and so you may need several radiators. You don't need to get up to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, because 72 degrees Fahrenheit during the day is sufficient.

Did you read about the Australian stickies bred at Bristol Zoo, they are black not as beautiful as New Guineas.
Yes, there is a breeding programme to breed the Lord Howe Island stick insects, these are large shiny black stick insects, similar in shape to New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), but as you say, not as attractive. The Lord Howe Island stick insects live on this unpopulated small island, which looks rather inhospitable with its large rock called Balls Pyramid. A few years ago these stick insects were collected from this island and a captive-breeding programme followed, with some success.

We have had several generations of Sabah stick insects since my son bought some at an insect show when he was about 9 (he is now 15). I often take a few into school for class pets, so that the children can watch their life-cycles and learn how to care for them. I took some into my new classroom on Friday, but on Monday one of the males was lying on its back, its legs and antennae moving erratically, with a lump of what looks like green plastic oozing from its abdomen. I noticed another male in the same state. I can take some more in, but I don't want to jeopardise any more of them.

Your Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) have been poisoned. Their nervous system has been damaged which is why they have lost control of their legs, antennae, and genitalia (that is what the green plastic-like blob is). Has the classroom recently been painted? If so, paint fumes are the cause. If not, you need to contact the school cleaners and explain that they must not use aerosol cleaning products or any fly sprays or air-fresheners in the room where the stick insects are kept. Stick insects do not have a filtering system and so these air-borne chemicals will just drift into their bodies and poison them, causing the suffering you describe. Try to establish if there is a new cleaner or if they are using a new cleaning product, sadly you are not the first teacher to have reported this to me.

Can you deliver stick insects to Ireland? My husband would really like to have the New Guinea stick insects, and a cage of course, it's his birthday in two weeks time.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies delivers to Ireland, there are three different delivery prices, depending on where you are located. Delivery to Northern Ireland is £24, delivery to Dublin is £26, and delivery to the rest of Ireland is £28.

My boy loves bugs, he searches for insects when we're out and about, he's kept your caterpillars and I am getting him New Guinea stick insects for his birthday. No one else in the family is like this, I don't know how to describe him, he is a budding what?
Your boy is a budding entomologist. Often the interest in insects continues with people throughout their lives and so it is great that you are encouraging his interest.

Please explain about how to use the Hatch Mats? Our Pink Winged stick insects are reaching maturity now and so we are hopeful of having eggs soon. Are they able to figure out what to do?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) start to lay eggs a couple of weeks after completing their final skin change (ecdysis) and acquiring their wings. Pink Winged stick insects glue their eggs onto rough surfaces. The adult squeezes the tip of her abdomen through a hole in the mesh side of the ELC and pushes an egg out. The egg has a sticky substance on one side and so will adhere to the surface it lands on. Pink Winged stick insects soon notice the Hatch Mat secured to the outside of the mesh side and so concentrate their egg laying efforts there. It is easier for them to gently lay an egg onto an adjacent rough surface, rather than expending energy trying to aim an egg at an object outside the cage which is further away. So all you need to do is to tape a Hatch Mat to the outside of the mesh side of the ELC cage (near the top) and replace this with a new Hatch Mat about one month later.

Will Small-Life Supplies be attending any science conferences soon? I am a teacher and would like to meet you and see your innovative products.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies shall be exhibiting at the annual 3-day science conference, to be held at Reading University, UK, on Thursday 5th Jan , Friday 6th Jan, and Saturday 7th Jan 2017. Our latest insect cages shall be on display, together with a selection of insects that we breed. This is a teacher-only event and entry to the education science exhibition is free, but you do need to print off your free ticket in advance, so please contact us for details on how to do this.

We are really enjoying our Indian Stick Insects, and just have our first baby sticks. We are interested in getting a second type of stick insect. Can you keep Indian Stick Insects and New Guinea Stick Insects together? We have an ELC cage.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) both do well in the ELC cage, but you need to be careful if housing them together that you don't have too many in the cage. This is because New Guinea stick insects are big and bulky and can accidentally harm an Indian stick insect if they stand on it by mistake. The probability of this happening increases the more stick insects that are in the cage. However, if you only have four New Guinea stick insects and just few Indian stick insects, then hopefully they will be able to co-exist happily in the ELC cage.

I have just seen a small pea sized bright green bulge from the tip (genitalia/anus?) of my male Diapherodes gigantea. He seems OK - would this be a prolapse/sperm sac? It seems to have 'gone back in' when I picked him up. I'm a bit concerned as I don't know what it is.
Your adult male Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) is fine, you have just seen his mating equipment. The sperm sac looks completely different - it is a tiny white sac that leaves the body of the male and is attached onto the exterior of the female's genitalia where it slowly releases sperm. It then drops off and you can see it on the cage Liner.

I have one of your ELC bundles and would love to get another one for my grandson who is mad on bugs. Sadly he lives in Massachusetts, USA, I guess the postage is going to be very high to airmail it over there?
Yes, the airmail cost to send an ELC bundle to Massachusetts in the USA is £80. But it is 3253 miles away! The price of the ELC bundle is £55.75. Delivery is quick though, within a few days. You would also need to tell your son/daughter that they would be liable to pay any import duties or taxes that may be levied.

Two of our Indian Stick Insects eggs have hatched today. They are kept in a QBOX, what do I need to do re food, misting and ventilation?
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) hatchlings are thirsty and so need to be given a wet bramble leaf. So mist a bramble leaf with water (using the Mister Curvy) and place it inside the QBOX (on top of a QBOX Liner). Do not mist inside the QBOX. Replace the lid on the QBOX, but do not be tempted to make any airholes. Newly hatched Indian stick insects do best in unventilated surroundings. Every few days, replace the QBOX Liner, remove the old bramble leaf, and insert a fresh wet bramble leaf. The QBOX can hold up to twelve newly hatched Indian stick insects.

I have just seen a National Geographic advert on TV, advertising a magazine with dead specimens called "bugs and insects". I thought bugs were insects? The first issue includes a dead scorpion; surely this is an arachnid, not a bug nor an insect?
Insects have six legs, and arachnids (which include spiders and scorpions) have eight legs. The scientific definition of a "bug" is an insect classified as belonging to the order Homoptera (these insects have piercing or sucking mouthparts, like a beak). So your observations are correct. I think the reason for the slack terminology is that the word "bug" is more commonly being used by the general public (and particularly Americans) to describe any insect, and that magazine is being aimed at the general public. However, the range of insects is so vast it seems strange they have decided to include arachnids as well.

I am absolutely loving my Achrioptera fallax fully developed male! I have him in a rather large 50x 50x 50cm vivarium, fed on bramble. I have a heat mat set up to around 25-28°C, and humidity kept at a controlled level. I have some more A.fallax ova on the way, and also some Extatosoma tiaratum eggs on the way. Would it be okay to have the Extatosoma tiaratum, and the Achrioptera fallax in the same environment (vivarium)?
Keeping Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) so hot is not recommended. A day time temperature of 18-22 degrees Celsius is fine for them, and a night time temperature down to approx 12 degrees Celsius . They can tolerate the high temperatures you suggest, but will be eating loads of food, so you would need to have a very plentiful supply of bramble and eucalyptus leaves for them. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have large appetites. Extensive ventilation is a key requirement for Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. We keep ours in cages with two mesh sides and one mesh roof, so there is lots of air-flow. You don't describe the ventilation in your vivarium; if it has four solid sides, it would not be suitable for Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects because it's too stuffy.

I was shocked to read this "advice" on Oxford University Museum of Natural History website next to a photo of a Thailand stick insect : "What do you need to keep insects? A glass tank such as a fish tank (even an old one that is cracked will do). The lid should be sealable, and preferably without holes. Put a good depth of peat in the tank (at least 4 inches if not more). You may want to mix some water in so that it is moist but not wet. A water mister/spray gun. Your mum might already have one of these for looking after her plants".
These are very bad conditions, totally inappropriate for keeping stick insects. They will become ill and lethargic if kept in such filthy stuffy surroundings. Stick insects do best in a tall ventilated cage with a disposable Liner (replaced weekly) to ensure they are kept in clean surroundings. The ELC cage is ideal. If money is tight, look on ebay for the used ELC cages that Small-Life Supplies sell. Or, even making your own cage out of a tall cardboard box with netting panels is a far better environment for housing stick insects than what that website suggests.

I have Indian stick insects hatching. Do I need to keep them with their mother?
No, female adult stick insects lay eggs and then show no parental care towards the nymphs when they hatch. Indeed, the eggs are usually just starting to hatch when the adults are reaching the end of their lives and dying. Adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in a large airy cage, such as the ELC cage. But newly hatched Indian stick insects need unventilated small enclosed surroundings such as the QBOX or HUA Pot. Remember to place a wet bramble leaf into the QBOX or HUA Pot because baby stick insects are thirsty and need to be able to drink from water droplets on a leaf.

Thank you for telling us about the Wisbech temporary insect exhibition on at Museum Square. My son and I enjoyed it, and it was a real bonus being free! He really wants to meet you, are you appearing at any public insect events soon?
The next insect event open to the public where you can meet Small-Life Supplies is the annual one-day indoor insect event at Kempton Park, Middlesex (near London). It's on Saturday 1st Oct 2016, opens at 11am, and the adult entrance fee is £4.

I have been looking at #stickinsect on Twitter and there's a photo on there of a green stick insect that is described as "looking gravid". What on earth does that mean?
Gravid means full of eggs. When adult female stick insects are ready to lay eggs, their abdomens swell up because they are full of eggs. Some people describe these stick insects as looking pregnant, but the term gravid is more technically correct.

I read your advice about using the "spare tank method" for snails, and I think that would be a great idea for my stick insects. I have rather a lot of stick insects in my ELC cage and I am thinking that it would be so much easier if, when I clean them out, I could just transfer them to a second ELC cage already set up with fresh bramble and a clean Liner. So I need to buy another ELC bundle. Is it easier for you if I order on- line, or by phone?
Yes, this "spare tank method" works really well for stick insects as well as for snails, and is a very efficient and easy way of cleaning your creatures out. Ordering by phone is usually quickest, please call between 9am and 6pm, the Small-Life Supplies phone number is 01733 203358.

So about August the 3rd, I ordered my Jungle Nymph stick insect and I've been looking after it ever since. Today, however "Fiddles" has completely stopped moving and I don't know why. There is fresh bramble, eucalyptus leaves and I spray the enclosure daily. Fiddles is still a baby, being bought as a hatchling. I even turned Fiddles on his/her back and he/she didn't move at all. Is "Fiddles" sleeping/ moulting /dying? What do I do?
Hatchling Jungle Nymph stick insects are usually called Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) and can be sexed at birth, the female has a pointed end to her abdomen but the male has not. It's important to house the hatchling in a small container without air-holes and feed it with a wet bramble leaf (not eucalyptus). The HUA Pot is ideal housing. Malaysian stick insects do not like getting wet, and so it's important to just mist the leaf, and not spray inside the enclosure or the actual stick insect. Hatchling Malaysian stick insects are not very active and can remain motionless if turned upside down. However, they usually move if you gently blow on them. I suggest you place Fiddles on a wet bramble leaf and check on him/her tomorrow. If, tomorrow, Fiddles is in the same place and is slumped, he/she has died. Moulting is a quick process, taking approx ten minutes and so Fiddles isn't moulting.

My son is nearly 8 and very interested in insects, so I would like to get some stick insects to encourage his interest. I've read through all the information so I am planning to get one of your ELC cages and care kits, he likes the look of the New Guinea stick insects. We have access to lots of clean fresh bramble at our allotment. My question is what to do when we go away. If we are away for a weekend is it OK to leave them if they have plenty of fresh leaves and water? Is it best to take them with us, or would travelling (in a car) be stressful for them?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are an excellent choice for your son, they are large active stick insects that like a lot of attention. Many nursery and primary schools keep New Guinea stick insects and leave them unattended over the weekend with no problems. So, if you're planning a weekend trip, then I'd recommend leaving the New Guinea stick insects at home. They don't eat that much, typically a Sprig Pot full of bramble will last up to a week, so there'll be plenty of food if you put in fresh food on a Friday. And the Water Dish will still contain water throughout the weekend. If you are planning a road trip for longer than a weekend, you could take them with you, simply place the ELC cage in the car seat and secure with a seat belt. New Guinea stick insects travel well, in fact the motion of travelling in a car encourages the adults to mate.

I know that Indian stick insects are tri-sexual, having females, males and gynandromorphs. What about Pink Winged stick insects?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are parthenogenetic, which means they reproduce by females laying eggs without mating. Males do occur, but are rare. The probability of a male Indian stick insect occuring is 1 in every 10000 females. The male Indian is slim, tan coloured, hyperactive and has green genitalia. He does not lay eggs. Male Pink Winged stick insects are even rarer, I have only ever seen three. They are much slimmer, smaller, hyperactive and do not lay eggs. Indian stick insect gynandromorphs are slightly more common than male Indians, but are still rare. Gynandromorphs have a mixture of male and female characteristics, often resulting in individuals looking deformed with corrugated bodies. Sometimes part of the green male genitalia is visible, but these insects can also lay eggs, although only a few, usually less than ten eggs. I have never seen a Pink Winged stick insect gynandromorph.

Are there any insect fairs or get togethers to go to as being a novice I need knowledge, I have a few books.
The next big insect fair is in October and is in Middlesex, North London. Meanwhile, you can follow the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page which passes on tips on how we are looking after our stick insects and snails. And you can also follow my Instagram account because this is regularly updated with photos and advice.

I am now a stick insect grandmother, we are thrilled that so many of our Indian stick insect eggs are hatching and I have just purchased your QBOX six-pack. How many babies can we keep in each QBOX? At what stage should I transfer them to the ELC cage?
You can keep up to twelve newly hatched (first instar nymphs) Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) per QBOX. When they have completed their first skin-change, after about three weeks, they are called second instar nymphs. At this stage they can be transferred to the ELC cage. Or, they can be kept in the QBOX for another three weeks until they have completed their second skin-change and become third instar nymphs. Only keep a maximum of six second instar nymphs per QBOX. Don't keep third instar nymphs in a QBOX, they need to be in the ELC cage because this provides the space and airy surroundings they now require.

Fantastic photo of the "British Lesser Stag Beetle" on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, but how is this different to the standard British Stag Beetle?
The female standard British Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus) is glossy and has a triangular head. The female British Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus) is the same size but is matt and has a wide rectangular head. The male British Lesser Stag Beetle is a similar size to the female, whereas the male British Stag Beetle is much larger with huge antler-like jaws.

When observing my Baculum sp. stick insect nymphs recently I saw a brown band on their heads which I've never noticed before. Is this abnormal or am I just blind?
The New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp) have smooth heads. They have a pale brown band across the top of the head between the eyes, and also a pale brown band near the end of the abdomen. The intensity of the brown bands varies, they can be really obvious or quite pale, so this is probably why you haven't noticed them until now.

I bought some Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects from a reptile place along with a glass tank and a heat mat because they said they must be kept at 25 degrees Celsius or they become torpid. But they seem quite sluggish, I attach a photo and would appreciate your opinion, sadly I only found your website after I had purchased them.
Unfortunately your stick insects look unwell, they are beige which, for this species, indicates they are more delicate than normal. When Small-Life Supplies breed this species, we do not supply beige coloured ones because we know they have a high probability of dying prematurely. The golden coloured Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are the strongest stock. Keeping Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) in a glass tank is not recommended, because this species does best in airy surroundings. Our MIC cage is ideal because this cage has two ventilated sides and a ventilated roof, which allows a lot of air circulation. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do not need to be kept hotter than other stick insects, so a standard day time room temperature of 18-22 degrees Celsius is fine, dropping to approx 12 degrees Celsius at night. A heat mat is not recommended, this has the detrimental effect of drying out the foliage.

My British Cepaea snails are doing well, they have just laid some eggs! I don't really want to hatch these, so I assume I can put them in the garden? Also, aside from twigs, what else can I put in the HLQ tank to make it look a bit more naturalistic?
Yes, you can put these British snail eggs in the garden, best to cover them with a very shallow layer of damp soil so that they stay moist. We put sprigs of buddleia into the HLQ tanks, choosing pieces where the flowers have finished flowering. The snails seem to like climbing these and investigating the dead flowers. Don't stand these in water, just prop them up at an angle in the HLQ cage.

I phoned Small-Life Supplies about getting a nice cage for my Praying Mantis, Clive, and the very helpful lady said you're about to launch one. I've looked on your website but can't see it yet? Will it be ready soon because I don't think Clive is very happy in the sweet jar habitat I bought off ebay for him.
Yes, our Mantid Cages are in production now and will be ready within the next two weeks. They are smart cages, with a small flip top lid for dropping in food, and a spacious environment for the mantid to run around. Clive will be much happier in a proper Mantid Cage, rather than a sweet jar which, as you have found, is not ventilated enough, has poor visibility, and is too small.

I am just about to purchase some of your yellow Pieris caterpillars. I live in central London so I'll need some cabbage leaves as well. Is one bag enough (I'm planning on getting just two caterpillars)? Also, is this a child thing or do you have many adult customers? I am 28 and love nature, but am just curious?
One bag of cabbage leaves should be sufficient for two caterpillars. Just store the unused leaves in the bottom of the fridge to keep them fresh. Our customers for caterpillars are spread fairly equally across the age range. Our youngest caterpillar customers are about three and our oldest are in their eighties! So the interest in nature and desire to observe nature appeals equally to all age ranges. Some adults discover a connection with the natural world following a personal illness or bereavement, whereas others have always been interested in nature and continue to appreciate it throughout their lives.

I have been looking after my neighbour's snails whilst she has been on her summer holiday and am hooked! I had no idea they could be so fascinating. The only problem is that when I take the snails out of your HLQ tank, so I can clean it, they make a run for it. So I was thinking is the solution to have two HLQ tanks? I could then have one all ready to transfer the snails into, so I wouldn't have to rush to clean the dirty one. Or is there another solution? I tried putting a towel over the bowl to contain the snails but they just slimed on the towel, so I won't be doing that again! Also, my neighbour has kindly offered me two snails, she said they like company, is that right?
Yes, we practice the "spare tank method". So we set up a fresh HLQ snail tank with new wet Liner, fresh food, fresh water, cleaned out eggshells and then transfer the snails (having quickly rinsed them under a running tap of cold water). With the snails secure in their clean surroundings, the original tank can be washed at leisure. And yes, snails like the company of their own kind and so should always be kept with at least one more snail, never just on their own.

We were given a couple of African snails and they will soon out grow their current tank. A Montessori colleague suggested that we contact you about your HLQ tank. They bought one for their nursery and have found that it is perfect for their snails, she also mentioned that the snails became far more active and that it was far easier to keep clean, which is a definite bonus. Could we please order a tank plus six months supply of liners as per your website. We have a heat pad, would we still need to use one with your tank?
Great to hear that more schools are keeping Giant African Land snails in the proper HLQ tanks, which benefit the snails, as you describe, and the special plastic used in these tanks also makes cleaning the tank much easier. Heat pads are not usually necessary, the exception being in Winter in very cold draughty buildings. I suggest you don't use the heat pad yet, and monitor the snails progress. They should be nice and active.

We have some Diapherodes gigantea eggs, four have hatched but two have since died. We tried bramble but they didn't like it so we tried a sprig of eucalyptus. They do seem to have been eating the eucalyptus so we want to now get a plant to grow at home. Do you have any suggestions as to which variety as there are so many?
The Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) is a large green stick insect with a big appetite. This species does well in a large airy cage such as the MIC cage. Grenadan stick insects do not eat bramble/blackberry leaves, they must eat eucalyptus leaves, the best species is the common Eucalyptus gunnii. If you are buying one from a garden centre you need to plant it in your garden and then wait a year before harvesting the leaves. This delay is necessary to allow the pesticides in the plant and roots to break down. Eucalyptus gunnii is a fast growing tree that needs watering well.

I have a question regarding the aluminium side panels of the MIC cage. I am planning on keeping a mantid inside and I wonder if the feeder fruit flies will be able to escape ?
The MIC cage is not suitable for housing fruit flies. Drosophila fruit flies are tiny and would escape through the mesh. Actually a mantid (praying mantis) prefers to eat prey larger than itself, up to three times its size. So instead of feeding your mantid fruit flies, it would do much better if fed on larger insects, for example houseflies, sub-standard stick insects, and worms.

Do you have any new species of stick insects for sale?
Yes, the Philippines stick insect (Trachyaretaon echinatus). This is very attractive and is one of the smaller species, requiring reduced air-flow into the cage. House Philippine stick insects in the TTQ cage, and feed them bramble (blackberry) leaves. The Philippines stick insect (Trachyaretaon echinatus) is a nicely patterned colourful species, not to be confused with the plain dark brown Giant Sabah stick insect (Trachyareaton brueckneri).

I meet fellow Home Educators every week and Small-Life Supplies was recommended to me as being the source of the best stick insect cage and stick insects. So I have had a look at your website and am very keen to buy some New Guinea stick insects and the ELC cage bundle. I am not sure if we could cope with breeding them though, so I was wondering if I could go ahead but not purchase the Sand Pit?
We sell New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) in packs of four, two males and two females. When the females are fully grown, they mate with the males. The females' bodies then swell as they fill up with eggs. These eggs need to come out of their bodies, and so you must provide somewhere suitable for the eggs to be laid. So the Sand Pit (or similar) is essential. The adult females continue to produce eggs for the next year or so. If you don't want to hatch out the eggs, you can feed the eggs to birds or fish. Or, if this is not possible, you can quickly stop the eggs from developing by placing them in a dish and pouring hot water over them. In nature, hundreds of eggs are laid because the majority do not survive, they are either eaten or become water-logged. New Guinea stick insect eggs take approx six months to develop inside and hatch.

I bought a stick insect vivarium off ebay, it looks like a tall old sweet jar but has a little vent in the centre of the lid. But the stick insects are dying, two so far. The Indian stick insect got progressively floppier, softer and damper, then two of its legs fell off. Very sad. It was probably almost fully grown (red underarms) and had just gone through a moult about a week ago but had not laid any eggs. I've seen ventilation mentioned elsewhere and I feel like the vent on our home is very small? Also, is the home tall enough, 30cm?
Oh dear, you have wasted your money, the container you describe is far too cramped and much too stuffy to house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). These stick insects need a much taller cage (such as the ELC cage which is 51cm tall), and a cage that is much wider and deeper than a sweet jar. The ventilation is so important- the ELC cage has two ventilated sides, allowing a through-draught of air. A small vent in a sweet jar simply does not let in enough fresh air, leading to stuffy air which is what has caused the suffering and death of your stick insects. If money is tight, keep a look out for our used ELC cages which are regularly listed on ebay, or contact les@small-life.co.uk to be notified when the next used cage is being listed.

I am the Finance Officer at a primary school and I also keep stick insects at home. I received a email from an outfit that wants to charge £200 to show Year 6 children assorted stick insects and cockroaches, promising a "zany day". I must say I think your stick insects and cage bundle are much better value, being much cheaper and lasting forever!
Yes, it is far better to have a stick insects long-term in the classroom because this allows the children to interact with them, observe them, breed them and look after them. It's also a great experience for any children who are not allowed pets at home. The likes of the "zany day" school visit can be entertaining but in general, they are often not particularly educational and can even do some harm if they promote hysteria and screaming amongst the girls. But the better ones can spark an interest amongst some of the children who then ask their parents if they can keep their own stick insects at home. However, for schools wanting value for money, and prioritising education, budgets are better spent on items that be seen and used in the classroom for years, rather than just a few hours.

I have a cage of Indian stick insects and they have just started to lay eggs. I tilted the Liner as advised by the helpful lady on the phone at Small-Life Supplies and the eggs rolled off, as she described. I soon collected quite a few and, out of curiosity, I put this heap of eggs on a saucer on the bird-table, next to the bird seed. To my delight, the blackbird that is feeding its young wasted no time in taking away beakfulls of eggs! She has now cleared them all, she seems to prefer them to the birdseed of which there is still some remaining. I thought other people who have bird- tables may be interested, it seems a waste to destroy the eggs when they can be used to feed hungry mouths!
Well done for helping your blackbird feed her young. Some blackbirds are brighter than others, yours is clever as she has quickly worked out that the Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) are a good food source (high in protein). Some blackbirds take a few days before realising this and eating these eggs.

I have been doing research in the field of beekeeping. How quickly can you supply us with 500 Bee Study Cages?
Bee Study Cages are manufactured once we have received your order. You specify if you require the ventilation holes in the base or back, and if you would like the top hole to be 16mm diameter or 18mm diameter. Manufacturing time is approx 3 weeks, and delivery to Europe by FedEx airmail is usually 3 days. The progress of your parcels can be tracked on-line.

I have saved lots of New Guinea stick insect eggs in a HUA Pot and I was seeing one or two babies every morning. But last week I went on holiday and left the eggs with my mother. I thought it would be too risky asking her to judge how much to mist the eggs with water, so she didn't mist them at all. Anyway, none hatched whilst I was away. But when I got back, last night, I misted the eggs and another one hatched this morning. So I guess the ritual of evening misting is essential?
Yes, once New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) start to hatch, they do need a light daily misting of water to keep the hatching process going. Most people mist the eggs in the afternoon or evening. The eggs hatch during the night so you will see the babies, called first instar nymphs, the following morning. It is important not to drench the eggs with water because this leads to mould developing which will kill the eggs. You have obviously perfected the technique of applying a light mist of water, just enough to facilitate hatching.

I am going to buy a New Guinea stick insect kit from Small-Life Supplies but don't quite understand what to do when the eggs are laid in the sand?
Every week you take out the Sand Pit and, holding it over a dish, pour the sand into the Metal Sieve. When all the sand has run through the sieve, you tip the sand back into the Sand Pit and put this back in the cage so the female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can bury more eggs. The eggs are too large to pass through the holes in sieve and so will be collected in the sieve. Tip these eggs into a HUA Pot and wait for them to hatch (in approx six months).

Is it wrong to kill insects? My boyfriend thinks it's funny to tread on them and splat them, I think he does it to wind me up.
Yes, of course it is wrong to kill any living creature, including insects, for fun. And if your boyfriend only does this to wind you up, perhaps you could try and explain to him that it really isn't funny or nice and must stop. Part of the problem is that some people think that all insects are incapable of thought or experiencing pain, which is not the case. Presumably he wouldn't kick a dog across a room?

My grandad left me some money and I know this may sound daft, but I would like to give some of it away to a worthy cause. He was always rescuing animals and he did buy me my first stick insect and so I'll use some of the money to get another ELC cage. That leaves about £30 left. Do you know of a good animal place that would appreciate this? I am in Hammersmith.
London Wildlife Protection seems to do good work in rescuing animals. I have read postings by some of their people for a long time now, and this seems to be a well run group that genuinely helps animals in distress. You can donate on-line by PayPal.

How many baby New Guinea stick insects can I keep in a HUA Pot? Also, do you have any sub-standard HUA Pots going cheap?
The HUA Pot will hold up to fifteen newly hatched New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). Once they have completed their first skin-change (when they are a few weeks old), you should reduce the number in the HUA Pot by half. And yes, there are a few new HUA Pots that have been delivered dented so these are currently for sale at half-price.

I have moved to the Scottish Highlands and would like to buy three more of your excellent ELC cages. I know that couriers always charge extra to deliver here, please can you tell me what the delivery cost would be?
There is a £12 delivery surcharge to Scottish Highlands. So the delivery price to deliver three ELC cages would be £9.95 + £12 , total £21.95. The delivery charge to Scottish Highlands is £21.95 regardless of whether you want one, two or three ELC cages.

How many legs do stick insects have?
Like other insects, stick insects have six legs. They have the ability to lose a leg if attacked, so some stick insects may only have four or five legs. In captivity, you should expect most of your stick insects to have six legs. Occasionally leg(s) may be lost following an unsuccessful skin-change. Stick insects have the ability to regenerate a new leg (to replace the missing one) at the next skin-change (ecdysis).

I purchased some Indian stick insect eggs online for my 7 year old son with an estimated hatch date between 20th May-20th June. Three weeks ago we had the first two eggs hatch a couple of days apart but since then none of the others have hatched. Is this normal please?
No. Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs take four months to hatch. If the eggs were laid within days of each other, they should hatch days apart. They have a very high hatching rate under normal conditions. However, Indian stick insect eggs must not be kept too hot, so perhaps with the recent unseasonally hot weather they could have overheated and perished? If you know when they were laid, you should keep them for four moths after this date and then discard them if they have not hatched when the four months have elapsed. The good news is that Indian stick insects are parthenogenetic (all-female) and so you only need to get one stick insect to adulthood and she will lay eggs which will, in four months time, hatch out into the next generation.

Do you need to give stick insects water?
Yes. It's a good idea to lightly mist the foodplant leaves with water in the evening so the stick insects can drink. This is particularly important in hot weather because the hotter it is the thirstier the stick insects become. A Water Dish is useful for certain varieties such as the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) and Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata). It is important to mist the leaves and not the actual stick insects because they don't like getting wet. And don't overdo the spraying, there should not be water running down the insides of the cage.

My Silver Striped Hawk caterpillars need a larger home and I was wondering if the ELC cage would be suitable to keep them in? Or would the TTQ cage be better?
Large caterpillars do best in the TTQ cage. This cage has one ventilated side, this feature is very important because it means that the freshly cut leaves do not dry up too quickly. In contrast, the ELC cage has two ventilated sides and so is a lot more airy, the ELC cage is designed for housing stick insects that eat their food from bramble leaves stood in a Sprig Pot of water. Caterpillars do best on cut leaves that are not stood in water.

I need to take my Giant African Land Snail, called Alfie, on holiday with me to Glasgow. Will he/she be OK travelling in my Fiesta? It's going to be a long drive.
Yes, Giant African Land Snails travel well. Just put a seatbelt around the HLQ cage so that is is secure. It would be a good idea to take a cardboard box so that you can transfer the cage into this when you stop at a roadside cafe or motorway services, and take the box into the cafe with you. This is because the interior of cars heat up very quickly when they are parked in sunny weather and there is a real risk of Alfie overheating and dying if he/she was left in a hot stationary car.

I'm having an argument with my friend over New Guinea stick insects which I kept years ago. There was a really glossy one, which I thought was the male? She thinks otherwise. They were both brown but one was glossy and one was matt.
You are correct, it is the adult male New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that are glossy. But when they become very old, their bodies becomes duller.

I have a couple of your excellent ELC cages, one houses Thailand stick insects and the other Indian stick insects. Unfortunately the place where I gathered bramble leaves for them has now been fenced off because it has been sold as a building plot. I have found another bramble supply but there's not much there. Will these stick insects eat anything else?
In the Summer you can feed Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) hazel leaves. You find hazel leaves on hazel trees and these grow in wet areas, so look by rivers or in marshy areas. Hazel is deciduous so in the winter you will need to find a plentiful source of bramble leaves or buy Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies.

My British Puss Prominent caterpillar is not messing around. It was great to watch him spin his cocoon; from a reticular see-through start to a brown mass. I have to say it is more "splat" than cocoon and he'll win no prizes for architecture, but it looks pretty solid!
Yes, these caterpillars show a range of ability when it comes to constructing a cocoon. We have observed that the most successful ones select a willow stem that is 12mm in diameter and then spend several hours carefully spinning their cocoon onto this stem. Some incorporate leaves in their cocoon to increase the camouflage, others just produce a plain cocoon. The cocoon is hard but next year the emerging moth will be able to break out of one end by secreting caustic potash (to soften the cocoon) and then cutting its way out using a modified part of the pupal case which stays on its head until it has got out.

Our British Puss Prominent cocoons successfully spun! So we can clear out the surrounding leaves, throw away the willow leaves in the fridge and leave them in the TTQ cage for a couple of weeks then in the garden shed until April? It seems so long! And should I just put them in a shoe box or something with the twigs when I transfer them? We'd love a couple of the new caterpillars when they are big enough to send.
Great news! And yes, you have summarised correctly what you need to do. Placing the cocoons on the twigs inside a shoebox in the shed is a good idea. If you live in a rural area and might have visiting field mice, then you could put the shoebox in a stronger (mouse-proof) container, for example a metal or polystyrene box (with air holes). Our British Eyed Hawk caterpillars are ready to send now, these are large easy-to-keep caterpillars that eat willow leaves. You keep them in the HUA Pot supplied and then transfer them to your TTQ cage when they are larger.

I have now lost my two female New Guinea stick insects, they both died within a month or so from each other. All I have is three male insects. Does this often happen after the females become adult and lay all their eggs in the first year? Do I wait until my young come or do I get another few females to make my group again and keep the males happy?
Normally with New Guinea stick insects, the males and females have the same lifespan, so it is a bit odd that your females have died before the males. You don't say how old your New Guinea stick insects were when they died, usually they live about 18 months but this is an average figure, so some may live longer and some shorter. I would recommend getting some more females for the males, we have some old adults for sale at a heavily discounted rate, these would be ideal.

Do you have any second hand ELC stick insect cages for sale. I would like two if you do.
Yes, we have some used ELC cages for sale, the price is £35 each plus a total delivery of £9.95. These get snapped up very quickly, so please call 01733 203358 to order.

I have two Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect adults, one male and one female. Last week I noticed a small white round thing on the MIC cage Liner and, consulting your book, I see that is the spermatophore from the male. This morning they are mating and I can see another spermatophore, this time it's still attached to the female. They have been mating for two hours, is this normal? And how frequently do they mate?
When Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) mate, the male transfers the white spermatophore (full of sperm) to the outside of the female's genitalia. The sperm then pass into the female. Mating lasts for several hours and when the male dismounts the spermatophore often remains attached to the female for a few hours before falling off. It is common for these stick insects to mate approx once every ten days throughout their adult lives.

I have four New Guinea stick insects. I give them a chance to drink water each week from a shallow container. The males always have a long drink but sometimes the females don't drink at all. Is this normal?
Some New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are naturally more thirsty than others, it is not related to gender, so it's just a coincidence that your thirsty stick insects happen to be males. There should always be a shallow Water Dish in the cage for them, as well as the opportunity to have a weekly drink of cold tap water from a saucer on a table.

I have recently acquired some male-fertilised Extatosoma tiaratum eggs from a friend to add to my growing collection of stick insects. From the research I've done it seems as though they can be tricky to hatch. I was wondering if you could give me some advice on storing the eggs and caring for the nymphs. Also, do you know what the hatch rate is like with this species - I don't want to keep too many eggs.
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs take about six months to hatch. For best results, divide batches of eggs between different QBOXES or HUA Pots and let in a bit of steam (from a shower or kettle) once a week. Take care not to let too much moisture in though, because this leads to mould which will kill the eggs. Store the eggs in a warm place. It's a good idea to save lots of eggs because it can be tricky to perfect the steam technique. When hatching is imminent, you can lightly mist the eggs with water daily. Newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do best on Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. The nymphs like to race around and so can be kept in the MIC cage straight away.

I have just rescued a stag beetle from a spider's web and he doesn't seem to keen on venturing out. Can I keep him? If so what shall I feed him?
Stag beetles spend three years growing. During this time they are larvae and live inside the roots of rotting tree stumps eating the wood. After the impressive adults emerge from their pupae they do not not have long to live and so need to find a mate and reproduce before they die. So it would be best to release your stag beetle as soon as it has recovered its strength. You could give it slices of orange and some water to drink before setting it free.

I just acquired 3 Puss Prominent moth caterpillars from you. They are brilliant little creatures, and are called Larry, Moe and Curly and they are growing like crazy. Can I put them all in the same TTQ cage or will there not be enough space as they become active?
Yes, they can all live together in the same TTQ cage. It's best to prop up the cut sprigs of willow in the TTQ cage (but don't stand the stems in water). They have large appetites!

I have been noticing recently that the liner in my HLQ tank is drying out quite rapidly (after about 3-4 days). I can feel a slight warmth when I take off the lid. Also, how many Cepaea Snails the HLQ tank can comfortably accommodate? And is there anything else I can feed them with the Weetabix such as lettuce and other vegetables? I have provided them with dandelion leaves from the garden but they don't seem interested those.
You don't need to be concerned, what you describe is normal. The wet Liner in the HLQ tank is supposed to gradually dry out during the week. The snails prefer to lay their eggs underneath the partially dried out Liner instead of when it is sopping wet. You should be putting a sopping wet Liner in at the start of the week, in other words don't wring it out before placing it on the floor of the HLQ. You can keep up to twenty Cepaea snails in the HLQ tank. A diet of Weetabix and eggshells is fine, they also like to gnaw at the stems of fawn coloured twigs (for example dead buddleia twigs). These snails need a shallow Water Dish. Cepaea snails are not interested in eating green leaves.

My British Puss Prominent caterpillar is brilliant, I had no idea you could get caterpillars in this country that big. My son adores him. Now my child-minder would like to get one for her little girl but it says they're sold out on your website. Will you be getting more in soon?
Small-Life Supplies breed various species of caterpillars. Some have several generations per year, others just one. The British Puss Prominent has just one generation, so no more will be for sale of that type this year. However, we do have some young caterpillars of another large type, the British Eyed Hawk, these should be ready in a couple of weeks or so. We already have a waiting list for these, so your child-minder should ask to go on this list so she won't miss out. The British Eyed Hawk caterpillars eat willow leaves.

I have an ELC cage with eighteen Pink Winged stick insects. I must be doing something right because I am now onto my second generation. I am going away in August for two weeks and I don't have anyone to look after them. Can you help? I am 68 and live in Ely. They have brought me much joy and I wouldn't want any harm to come to them.
Small-Life Supplies offer a "stick sitting service" whereby we look after your stick insects whilst you are on holiday. The price is £3 per day per ELC cage. This includes cleaning the cage out, providing fresh bramble leaves and misting the leaves. If you have adult Pink Winged they would taken out of the cage and allowed to fly. You'd need to drop the cage of insects off and collect it again, but Ely is quite close to where we are located, postcode PE7 1RR. To make a booking, please phone 01733 203358. We still have spaces in August.

My son (7) is developing a keen interest in insects and we would like to support this by buying an ELC cage bundle for his birthday. Before we order, I would appreciate any advice on how to get started. From your page I assume that Indian stick would be a good species to start with? Is it better to go with nymphs or young adults, and would we need any extra kit for nymphs? Eventually we would like to add individuals from other species - would they cohabit happily with the Indians?
Adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an excellent choice for a seven year old, because he can handle them and save their eggs to hatch out the next generation. The ELC bundle includes most of what you need, but you may also like the QBOX (to store the Indian stick insect eggs), a Mister Curvy (to mist the bramble leaves with water so the stick insects can drink), and the "Keeping Stick Insects" book (which tells you all about the Indian stick insects and six other species). And yes, you can mix different types of stick insect in the same ELC cage (choose from species that require well-ventilated surroundings).

I am so concerned about the environment and disregard shown for living creatures and their habitats. It is sad that this is so far down the agenda with regard to the EU referendum. I value your views on the EU referendum.
I, and all the fellow scientists I have talked to (including chemists, physicists and biologists) will all be voting for Britain to remain in the EU. We all recognise and appreciate the environmental protection that the EU has made possible, and by remaining in the EU, Britain can use its voice at the EU negotiating table position to make things even better. Respected scientific organisations including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK, Environmentalists for Europe, and BugLife, all advise their members to vote remain. And yes, it is scandalous that this crucial environmental issue is hardly being mentioned during debates about the EU referendum.

Looking at your photos I like the idea of the Weetabix in the same pot as the sticks, but one photo shows the Weetabix flat on the floor. With six British Cepaea snails is the latter more practical ? i.e. do they tend to all be eating at around the same time?
Initially, we put the Weetabix on a flat piece of plastic on the wet HLQ Liner, but now we prop the Weetabix vertically in a glass dish, along with the beige twigs. We re-arrange the twigs every week so the British Cepaea snails don't get bored. Don't let the Weetabix touch the wet Liner or it will become mouldy very quickly. The snails don't all eat together, they are active creatures and nibble the Weetabix and drink water at various times during both the day and night.

The first of my Yellow-tail Tussock moths emerged at 10pm last night. I'm going to release him late this afternoon if the rain holds off. Should I give him a drink before release, if so what's the best thing to give please? It's been such a great experience being a caterpillar mummy.
Yes, our Yellow-tail Tussock moths are emerging now too. They need to rest before release, so don't disturb yours too much during today. Don't try and give it a drink. The best release time is between 5pm and 6pm. The moth can be set free under an open bush (sweep any cobwebs out of the way first). Try to release it somewhere near a willow tree because the Yellow-tail Tussock moths lay their eggs on willow trees.

I have been keeping lots of New Guinea stick insect eggs in different HUA Pots. I have had the oldest ones for five months now, but they look the same as ones that were laid more recently. I thought they would be getting bigger or something?
No, stick insect eggs do not change in outside appearance during their incubation. All the changes are happening inside, so you could open up one egg to see what is happening. If the interior is dry and powdery, the egg has been kept too dry. If the interior is a jelly-like clear orangey blob, that egg has not been fertilised. If the interior is wet and is a pale grey dense soft form, that egg was viable, which shows you are keeping the eggs in that HUA Pot successfully. New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) need some moisture to develop properly, so it's a good idea to save lots of eggs and try to keep them slightly moist (with steam or damp soil). Mouldy eggs can be discarded.

I'm hoping to see you at the Cambridge University event this Friday. My colleague is looking for some bat cages, I know you do bespoke cages and wondered if this is something you could consider, or do you just do insect cages? If you can do bat cages, I'll try and persuade her to come along! Also, how long do your bespoke cages take to produce?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies has manufactured bespoke cages for bats in the past. We are happy to discuss designs for any animal or plant enclosures. If your colleague can visit our stand this Friday that will be ideal, if not, perhaps you could bring along some details of what she has in mind, including approximate dimensions. Lead time on bespoke cages is approx 3-4 weeks.

How many baby New Guinea stick insect can I keep in a HUA Pot?
The HUA Pot will house up to fifteen newly hatched New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). Insert a HUA Pot Liner, replace this as necessary, and insert a fresh wet bramble (blackberry) leaf into the HUA Pot every couple of days.

I got two of your British yellow-tail hawk caterpillars and am concerned about one of them. It seems to be spinning already, but is not 3cm long yet, it is about half that size? Should I be worried?
No need to be concerned. It is normal for the caterpillars to spin a few strands, particularly before a skin-change, so that it probably what your caterpillar is doing. The full spinning session where the caterpillar makes a cocoon happens when the caterpillars is much larger, approx 3cm long.

I've just got back into stick insect keeping after a few years absence! I got some Macleays eggs and they are now hatching. I've just bought a MIC cage from you, and wanted to know where I can get the eucalyptus? Do you sell it?
Don't buy a potted eucalyptus from a garden centre because it is likely to have been grown in soil infused with pesticides. These are taken up by stem and passed to the leaves where they will poison any insect that eats the leaf. So it's best to gather a few eucalyptus leaves from established trees that are growing in parks, gardens and train station car parks. The common eucalyptus is the Eucalyptus gunnii species which has silvery pale green leaves, fortunately this is the favourite foodplant of baby Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). Small-Life Supplies sell fresh cut bramble and privet, but not eucalyptus. If you have a garden, you could plant a potted eucalyptus bought from a garden centre to harvest next year. They are easy fast growing trees, and the leaves could be harvested after 12 months (it takes this long for the pesticides to break down).

What time do you open on Saturdays? I would like to buy an enclosure for my girls' stick insects, they are tom-boys and like insects. Which would be best for Pink Winged stick insects?
The ELC cage is ideal for housing Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). When the Pink Winged stick insects are fully grown they glue their eggs onto rough surfaces. So a good tip is to stick a Hatch Mat onto the outside of the mesh panel. The adult Pink Winged stick insects poke their tails through the holes in the mesh and glue the eggs onto the Hatch Mat. Small-Life Supplies uses couriers to deliver direct to you, the ELC cages are supplied fully assembled and we can include the accessories (Sprig Pots, ELC Liners, Mister Curvy, Hatch Mats) in the same parcel. We do not have a retail outlet, everything is delivered to you.

I'm absolutely gutted that I've missed out on the caterpillars, I really wanted some but by the time I got around to ordering they were removed form your website. Will you have more for sale soon?
We have two more species of caterpillars hatching now, and so details will appear on the website soon. Or, to be notified first, please ask to be added to our "caterpillar waiting list".

My daughter has been given some Pink Winged stick insect eggs and they are hatching now, but they are not eating. We are putting in wet bramble leaves. Is there anything we can do to help? I have just ordered an ELC cage.
Baby Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are unusual because they are reluctant to feed unless older stick insects are present in the cage. So you need to put some older stick insects in with them. We have some young Pink Winged stick insects that are missing a leg, so we can include a few of these free of charge with your ELC cage if you wish? Or, you welcome to order a set of stick insect nymphs. They don't have to be Pink Winged, you could choose Indian or Thailand. You can mix these types in the same cage.

Yesterday, I popped my large Eyed Hawk caterpillar on the soil, as instructed, and it disappeared straight away, so I thought great, it's pupating! But today, it has surfaced, it's covered with soil and very active. What should I do, does it need some willow leaves?
It is not uncommon for caterpillars who have burrowed down to pupate to re-appear from the soil. It's as if they are just being a bit nervous about taking the next step of transforming into a pupa. Usually they surface and then burrow down again after a few minutes and pupate. Very occasionally one might need another nibble of willow, so it wouldn't do any harm putting a few willow leaves on top of the soil. But it's most likely that your caterpillar will soon go down into the soil and start pupating.

I have a large wild section of my garden that is filled with bramble and other wild flowers. I had a few British Emperor Silk caterpillars from you last year and it was such a joy releasing them. I would now like to establish a breeding colony and wondered if I could bulk-buy these caterpillars? I'm thinking about fifty would be ideal, would this be feasible?
Yes, we have large numbers of British Emperor silk caterpillars at the moment, small ones are ready now, larger ones will be ready to send in the next few weeks. Bulk discounts of fifty small ones are no problem. It's good to separate them between lots of containers, the HUA Pots are ideal, or, for bulk buys you can purchase the CTubes which are cheaper (they are all-plastic and so are not as sturdy).

Can I give my New Guinea stick insects anything else to eat apart from bramble leaves?
Yes, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can also eat wild dog rose leaves, and hazel leaves. These leaves are available now, but die off in the winter, unlike bramble leaves which continue to be available throughout winter.

I had a British Snail Kit from you and we really love them! Today, when putting down a fresh wet Liner we saw a pile of white eggs underneath the old Liner! What should we do with the eggs, it would be so exciting if we could get some to hatch!
Gently scoop the snail eggs up with the tip of an artist's paintbrush. You can store them in a QBOX on some wet soil and wait for them to hatch. Put the lid back on the QBOX because it's important that the eggs stay wet so that they can develop.

I would like to visit the event at Cambridge University on Friday 10th June , is it easy to find? It's been a few years since I was at Cambridge, is the Lion Yard carpark still there?
The Lion Yard car-park has been re-developed and renamed, it is now the Grand Arcade multi-storey car-park. Access is off Downing Street in Cambridge. Having parked in the car-park, just walk a short distance along Downing Street to the archway (on the same side of the road). Go through the archway and on your right you will see the entrance to the Zoolgy Department which is where the event is being held. Small-Life Supplies will be showcasing our insect cages from 2pm to 6pm on Friday 10th June. There is no need to book and entrance is free.

I am thrilled with my British Eyed hawk caterpillar that I bought from Small-Life Supplies. The instructions say not to let the HUA Pot steam up inside, but since I stuffed it with willow leaves, it is starting to steam up. Have I put too much food in? It's about half full with leaves.
Yes, you've put too many leaves in. You need to fill the HUA Pot about one quarter full of leaves. It's also important to replace the HUA Pot Liner daily, before it becomes wet.

MYTH EXPLODED

MYTH: "If you get bitten by an infected mosquito in Africa, you can die within days "
BANG!
WRONG! It takes about two weeks for the symptoms to develop in people. This is because the parasites live and multiply in the red blood corpuscles. And after two weeks, these corpuscles burst and this is what causes the symptoms of fever and anaemia.

HOLIDAY STICK SITTING SERVICE
Once again Small-Life Supplies can look after your stick insects whilst you are on holiday. We will clean them out, give them fresh food and water, save their shed skins for you and collect their eggs. The price is £3 a day per standard cage (ELC size) of stick insects. You need to drop the stick insects off with us and collect them again at the end of your holiday. For details, please call 01733 203358.


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