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Cover of book "Keeping Stick Insects"

My female Macleays Spectre stick insects always seems to be mating, often for hours on end! Sometimes there are two males on her. Is she OK? She eats loads of eucalyptus, is very fat and is laying lots of eggs.
Yes, it is normal for Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) to mate frequently and for long stretches of time. The adult female is much larger than the male and the female can easily shake off the male if she wants to. Your description of your female shows she is nice and healthy.

We saw some New Guinea stick insects at the show and the stall holder told us their ovipositor can detect humidity and temperature and so help the stick insect assess suitability of the substrate for egg laying. I know insects are amazing but this seems a bit far fetched?.
Adult female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have a hard ovipositor, it is shaped a bit like a shovel. When the female is ready to bury an egg, she digs a little hole in dry sand, releases an egg, and then uses her ovipositor to flick sand back over the egg to bury it. However, if a dish of dry sand is not available, she will bury her egg in whatever is nearby. So I have seen female New Guinea stick insects bury their eggs in thick carpets and rugs, in dry oasis blocks, underneath the ELC Liner, and even inbetween human fingers! So it is unlikely that the ovipositor of the New Guinea is adapted in the way this person was claiming. However, there is another stick insect, the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) which does have sensory hairs on its ovipositor. This stick insect takes great care selecting a site to glue her eggs, you can see her testing suitability of a potential surface by repeatedly touching the surface gently with her ovipositor. However it is the texture that she is assessing because the stick insect needs to be sure that her eggs will adhere to the surface she selects.

I got some massive snails from Kempton on Saturday, do you sell cuttlefish?
Giant African Land Snails need calcium to help their shells grow properly. Up until about twenty years ago, many people were buying cuttlefish bone and putting that in the snail tank for the snails to gnaw on and consume the calcium. Then it was discovered that rinsed out hen eggshells were a much better alternative. This is because they are also a source of calcium but have a lower salt content. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we made the switch to eggshells about twenty years ago and immediately noticed the improvement in our snails' health. We have been using rinsed out hen eggshells ever since. Just put the two halves of the eggshell in the tank and the snail puts its head inside the eggshell and eats it from the inside. We have tried offering different types of hen eggshells to the snails to see if they have a preference. As expected, the snails prefer to eat the most expensive free range eggs!

The Indian Eri caterpillars I bought from you are doing fantastically well and growing really fast! I am now preparing a larger enclosure for them, as per the instruction sheet. My question is about the Privet Platform. My understanding is that it keeps the privet upright but without the use of water. But won't it wilt quickly?
Great to hear your caterpillars are doing well. And yes, you are correct, the purpose of the Privet Platform is to keep the stems of privet upright, without standing them in water. The caterpillars can easily climb up the stems and eat the privet, and their droppings/frass accummulates at the bottom of the platform so does not contaminate the leaves. The Indian Eri caterpillars (Samia ricini) have large appetites and so you will need to insert fresh privet every day. The privet will wilt after a couple of days but the caterpillars will have eaten it before it has a chance to wilt! It is really important to keep the caterpillars in clean surroundings and so insert a fresh piece of paper to line the floor of your enclosure daily. You can tip the droppings/frass in the garden because insect frass is an excellent fertiliser.

My work colleague shocked me by saying there was no such thing as an "ethical vet" and that all vets were only in it for the money. Worse still, other colleagues wholeheartedly agreed, so I kept silent.
Your colleagues are wrong to condemn an entire profession in this way. Like other occupations, there are good vets and bad vets, but obviously ethical vets do exist. Unfortunately there are some people who think all self employed people are only "in it for the money". Ironically, these people such as your colleagues, are in work themselves and being paid, but seem to think the self-employed vets should give their services free of charge! In reality of course, some vets do give some services free, but obviously only in exceptional circumstances when there are compelling compassionate grounds.

I have the cage and all the bits and pieces but what do I need to feed them with? They are Pink Winged stick insect nymphs.
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) eat bramble/blackberry leaves, so you need to find a source of bramble growing wild outdoors. The best places to look are overgrown areas, disused railway lines and woods. Gather a couple of sprigs of bramble (each approx 40cm long). Push these into a Sprig Pot (filled with cold tap water) because this will keep the leaves fresh for a week. Lightly mist the leaves with water (from the Mister Curvy). After one week, replace the ELC Liner and replace the food.

We are hoping to attend the insect fair you are publicising, but I have a concern that there may be snakes there? We went to a bug fair in a sports hall but had to leave because my husband has a phobia of snakes and there were tubs of snakes there!
Many of the smaller insect/bug fairs in the UK allow the sale of reptiles. However, the big annual insect fair on Saturday 12th October 2019 is different because it is exclusively insects, spiders and equipment. Reptiles are not allowed. So your husband will be able to enjoy this event. Doors open at 11am, adult entrance is £4, the venue is indoors at Kempton Park and the postcode is TW16 5AQ. There are two floors of stands, the Small-Life Supplies display is on the ground floor.

In a recent email you mentioned silk moths. Can you tell me, please, if, when the silk moths have hatched, they can survive outside in our climate? If not, what would I do with them?
It is too cold for the Indian Eri silk moths (Samia ricini) to survive outside in the UK. These insects should not be released outside. Instead, keep them indoors in the TTQ cage. They are easy to handle and so you can take them out of the cage and let them walk across your hand. Some individuals will fly across a room, others are not keen to fly but will walk across your hands. The silk moths do not eat or drink. They live about a week, during which time they mate and then the female neatly glues her eggs onto the side of the cage. When she has died, just pull the eggs off (they are hard and so not break easily) and store them in a takeaway tub or QBOX. They should hatch after 10+ days. Or, if you do not want the eggs to hatch, just pour hot water over them to stop them developing any further.

Do males and female stick insects grow at the same rate? I have New Guinea stick insects and the males seem to be maturing first. Is this normal?
Male stick insects usually mature ahead of females. So it is completely normal for your male New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) to be reaching adulthood first. The females will catch up and be adults in a few weeks time.

Any tips on avoiding bramble thorns in my fingers?!
Gardening gloves and seccateurs. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we always use gardening gloves when feeding stick insects with bramble/blackberry. We then use the seccateurs to push the bramble stems into the Sprig Pot, rather than grasping the stems with a gloved hand. The same technique is used to pull out the eaten sprigs. The best gardening gloves are the premium "Town and Country" brand which are lined and have a suede outer. The best seccateurs are the premium "Wolf" brand. Buying cheap seccateurs is a false economy because the blades blunt very quickly and you need sharp blades to cut bramble stems!

It's good that more people are planting trees, but what about saving the trees we already have? They take such a long time to grow. Any ideas on how can I help protect the trees from the stupid HS2 train development?
Fortunately Chris Packham, the Woodland Trust and Leigh Daw Law (a law firm based in London) have mounted legal action to stop the madness of destroying what few ancient woodlands we have left in the UK just to make way for this new railway line. Who can support the destruction of ancient woodlands just so passengers can shave approx twenty minutes off their journey time? Especially when you can easily be queuing for ten minutes in the station car park to pay for your car parking by machine before you can leave! Please lend your support to the above organisations and encourage others to do the same. Many people want HS2 to be cancelled when they realise just how large the scale of destruction of ancient British woodland would be.

At our reptile centre they advised me to use the coir bedding in the base of the Pink Winged Stick Insect enclosure, yet you use liners, are both suitable? How long to the nymphs stay green? When should I transfer the stick insects into a larger cage? Do they like to climb on bark or branches or prefer a clear enclosure with just bramble leaves?
Liners are best because they don't trap dirt and eggs. Pink Winged stick insect nymphs are green for the first couple of months of their lives. Then most become fawn or beige, but a few still stay green. If you feed them eucalyptus leaves the percentage of stick insects remaining green increases dramatically. Pink Winged stick insects should be housed in the ELC cage from birth to adult. These stick insects like to rest on the white mesh sides of the cage because they can hook their claws around the mesh. If you are feeding them with bramble leaves, don't put too much in there because the stick insects can snag and tear their wings if the cage is too cluttered. It is a good idea to take adult Pink Winged out of the cage once a week so they can fly across the room.

Quick question about your AUC cage. It's housing my adult Thailand stick insect population, and is fantastic. Just wondered if I could mix in a few large Pink Winged nymphs as well? They are in the ELC at the moment but need thinning out a bit so I need to know if I have to buy another ELC or not?
The AUC cage is great housing for adult Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). And yes, you can certainly mix in a few large nymphs and adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Thailand stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects both like well ventilated surroundings and the adults do particularly well in the AUC cage (with it's large hole ventilated sides). So you can hold off getting another ELC cage for the time being!

One of our female (just matured) Sungaya inexpectata spent a fair amount of time at the bottom of the tank walking on the liner. She passed away shortly after. She didn't have any antennae and her front leg was missing its 'hook bit', but she could get up to the leaves. Any idea what this meant and if you think that had anything to do with her dying? The other three sticks (one female, two male) seem to move around nicely and have never been down to the liner.
The antennae of a stick insect are very important because they provide the stick insect with a lot of sensory information. It is most unusual for a stick insect not to have any antennae, and this is the main reason why she has died. Stick insects can lose their antennae in fights or a skin-change that has gone badly wrong. It doesn't sound like this was a healthy stick insect at all, especially as her front leg was also damaged. Such individuals try to stay close to the food and water dish because life is difficult for them. It is a good idea to put a shallow Water Dish on the Liner (filled with cold tap water) for the Sungaya inexpectata stick insects.

How do I reserve an item to collect from Small-Life Supplies at the Kempton insect fair? I'll try and be there at 11am but you know what traffic's like!
Small-Life Supplies are already taking orders to be collected from the Kempton insect fair on Sat 12th October 2019. To place your order, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 or email your order to ange@small-life.co.uk with a note saying that you want to pay now and collect from the show. The event is open all day, doors open at 11am.

I am in Northern Ireland and am confused as to whether I have to pay a delivery surcharge to receive a cage? It is the ELC cage bundle that I would like. This would be for my four Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects.
Small-Life Supplies are currently subsidising some deliveries to Northern Ireland. So, the good news for you is that the price to purchase one ELC bundle is £59.99 + £9.95 delivery, which is the same as for our customers elsewhere in the UK. However, instead of being sent to you by courier, the parcel would be dispatched by Royal Mail post. Your Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insects will do really well in the ELC cage because this cage provides the optimum space, size and ventilation for this species.

Help! I have too many stick insects, I foolishly kept too many eggs, not realising that so many would hatch. Any ideas on who might like some (I am thinking the nursery school but I don't think they have a suitable cage)? I was shocked to read somewhere else about putting stick insects in the freezer but that would be animal cruelty wouldn't it?
Never put living creatures in a freezer, this is very cruel. Freezing to death is a slow and agonising way to die, and no one should pretend this is humane. Many nursery schools enjoy keeping stick insects and so by all means you could approach your local nursery school. Small-Life Supplies sell ELC cages to nursery schools and so you are welcome to pass on our details to them.

My stick insects can't stand up properly. I put in a supermarket plant yesterday which they ate. I scrubbed the leaves first to wash off any pesticides, so don't understand what's gone wrong?
Many potted plants sold in supermarkets and garden centres have pesticides in the soil. These chemicals are taken up by the plant roots and are distributed within the stems and leaf veins of the plant. So no amount of scrubbing the leaves on the outside will remove the pesticides because these poisons are already inside the plant! Unfortunately your stick insects have been poisoned by the pesticides and will die within days.

I am intrigued by the prospect of the Kempton insect fair! Is this sort of thing popular or quiet? Our family has just started getting into bugs and it sounds like an interesting day out, but I'm curious as to who goes to this event? Would it be suitable for novices like us?
This insect event at Kempton (near London) happens once a year and is always really busy! There are stalls selling living insects and equipment, these are mainly located on the ground floor (so be sure to visit the Small-Life Supplies stand!), and upstairs there are also displays by insect societies and conservation groups. The event opens at 11am and is exceptionally busy at the start, so you may want to arrive a bit later (unless you are hoping to pick up a bargain because these are snapped up very quickly!). The visitors come from all walks of life and are a good spread of ages, so this reflects the fact that entomology (the study of insects) appeals to all. It's certainly worth visiting and no pre-booking is required, just turn up on Saturday 12th October 2019 and pay the entrance fee (£4 adult, £1 child). Novices are most welcome, as are people who have been keeping insects for years and academics too.

Our British Vapourer caterpillars (that we got from you) are now snug in their cocoons. Can you tell us if they are more likely to emerge during the day or at night?
British Vapourer (Orgyia antigua) moths can emerge from their cocoons both night and day. However we have noticed this month that more are emerging during the day than at night. It is important to wait until the male's wings have stiffened and are strong enough to sustain him in flight before releasing him outdoors. So, if he emerges during the day, you need to wait a few hours to allow his floppy wings to stiffen and become strong.

My daughter was wondering if our Sungaya inexpectata stick insects would enjoy thornless varieties of blackberry/bramble as much as the standard shrub?
Stick insects do best on bramble leaves which are thick rather than the thin, more translucent, leaves. The problem with the thornless varieties of bramble is that the leaves tend to be thin. So it's best to find a source of bramble growing wild that has thick leaves and spiky stems (the type with the two-tone purple and green stems is the best becuase the leaves are nice and thick and are the most nutritious for stick insects).

I don't understand how parthenogenesis works. Do Indian stick insects mate and then the females somehow store the sperm and pass it down to future generations? Or is it truly virgin birth as in the Biblical sense?
Males are not involved in reproduction of the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). That is why they are so rare, 1 male Indian occuring for every 10000 females. So yes, it is virgin birth, and this is the translation of the word parthenogenesis, "partheno" is Greek for virgin and "genesis" is Greek for birth. So when you keep Indian stick insects, they will all be females and they will lay eggs (without mating), and these eggs will hatch out into more females.

I am taking the train down so I can visit the Kempton insect fair. So I won't be able to carry much back, but I would like to meet you and pick up some more HUA Pots. Will this be OK? How will I find you?
Small-Life Supplies will be on the ground floor, just look out for our large yellow and blue banner saying "Small-Life Supplies". You can also ask the organisers (at the entrance) to direct you to our stand. We look forward to meeting you, if you'd like to reserve the HUA Pots now, please phone us soon so we can process your payment and have them ready for you to collect from the show.

I have a couple of pairs of Achrioptera fallax that are currently laying eggs and have been asked by someone in Taiwan if they could buy some. Unsure about the situation of sending these to that part of the world from the UK. I have had a look around the web for guidance but am still at a loss.
You can't post out stick insect eggs from the UK to Taiwan without completing a customs declaration at the Post Office. This is attached to the parcel and needs to be completed honestly. These are viable eggs and so they are likely to be stopped at customs and destroyed. So you need to explain to your Taiwanese contact that it is illegal to send eggs to him/her and so you can't do it.

I have a question about Indian stick insect eggs. Will I suddenly end up with hundreds of stick insects? We only have space for the one cage so I wouldn't want them to be cramped if they keep having babies! The internet seems to have conflicting information with one site saying they can lay between 1-1000 eggs at any one time!
It is very easy to manage your stick insect population just by controlling the number of eggs you save. Every week when you replace the Liner in the ELC cage you decide how many eggs you wish to keep. Indian stick insect eggs are easy to spot, so just pick up a few with your fingers and place them in a QBOX. Whatever site says stick insects lay 1000 eggs at a time is talking rubbish, Indian stick insects are only capable of laying one egg at a time, and typically lay about three eggs per day (a few hours apart). In nature, stick insects lay hundreds of eggs during their lifetime because most eggs are destroyed by water or predators. So, when keeping stick insects in captivity, it is important to mimic nature and ensure that most eggs are destroyed. Pouring hot water over eggs is fast and effective. Or, if you have a garden bird table, then blackbirds will eat Indian stick insect eggs. Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) take four months to develop, so there is no danger of suddenly having a population explosion if you have forgotten to clean out the cage one week.

Please can you tell me more about the Kempton insect event? My grand daughter and I share an interest in bugs and I was wondering if this is the sort of event both of us would enjoy? Are there lots of insects for sale?
This is an annual event, this year it is on Saturday 12th October 2019, at Kempton Park (near London), postcode TW16 5AQ . There are lots of stands, spread over two floors, selling living insects, cages, plants, books etc. On site parking is available, and you pay £4 entrance on the door (no pre-booking required). The Small-Life Supplies stand is on the ground floor, and we shall have stick insects for sale and our popular ELC stick insect cages. This event is large and definitely worth visiting. And if your grand daughter is under 16 , her entrance is only £1.

Can different stick insects be mixed together? I have Indian stick insects in an ELC cage (eating bramble), and am looking for another type to mix in. I can't decide between Thailand, Sabah and Guadeloupe? Which would be best?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like an airy cage and so the ELC cage is a great cage for them because it has two mesh sides providing a through draught of air. The Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) also like airy surroundings and so also do well in the ELC cage. You can mix Indian and Thailand stick insects in the same cage successfully. In contrast, the Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus), the Giant Sabah (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) and the Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini) , all require less ventilated surroundings. This means they need a cage with reduced air-flow and so it is important not to keep these in a ventilated ELC cage. In general, stick insects can be divided into two groups, those that like airy surroundings and those that do not. It is important not to mix types from these two groups together. So, because you already have the ELC cage and Indian stick insects, you need to look at types that require well ventilated surroundings. Such species include: Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata), Corsican (Bacillus rossius), Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum). There are other species as well, but these are examples of types that are commonly listed for sale in the UK.

There's a boy at school who brought his stick insects into school and I saw they were miserable and much smaller than mine. I keep mine in the ELC cage and have Thailand stick insects and Indian stick insects . His tank is only about 30cm tall and he has earth at the bottom. I was shocked when he said he gives stick insect help online!
Oh dear, it is a shame when people do not look after their stick insects properly. The reason why this boy's stick insects look so miserable and are stunted is because his cage is far too small and not ventilated enough. Also, soil on the floor of the tank leads to unsanitary conditions. Unfortunately there are inexperienced people like this boy who are very active on insect/pet/reptile forums and keep spouting rubbish advice. They don't say that they are new to the hobby! As a result, they do a lot of harm by causing suffering to many creatures by giving incorrect advice. By the time someone realises they have taken incorrect advice from someone who knows nothing about keeping stick insects, it is often too late and they may have even killed their stick insects! So, as with all advice, it is essential for people to determine if the person giving the advice is qualified to do so. This will help them to decide if the advice is worth following or not.

Do New Guinea stick insects eat eucalyptus?
No. You need to feed New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) with bramble/blackberry leaves. These stick insects will also eat hazel leaves and rose leaves.

I was hosing down my ELC cage in the garden and it blew over and one of the black feet broke. How do I go about buying a replacement foot?
When you next purchase some ELC Liners, just let us know that you need a replacement ELC foot and we'll include one free of charge in the same parcel for you.

Please can you tell me how long does it take Indian stick insect eggs to hatch?
The incubation time for Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) is four months. But if the room is hot, this can be reduced to three months. The actual time it takes for the baby (called a first instar nymph) to emerge from the egg once it has pushed off the egg lid (operculum) is a few minutes. Freshly emerged nymphs initially look out of proportion because their bodies are too short; the stick insects quickly rectifies this situation by pumping out its body. The legs are already the correct length because they have been wrapped up tightly in the egg.

Do you sell those blue stick insects?
There are lots of different species of stick insects that can be kept as pets, and Small-Life Supplies concentrate on breeding easy-to-keep varieties. This is because we want people to be able to enjoy keeping stick insects and not be disappointed (or even put off the hobby) by attempting to keep types that are challenging to keep alive. The blue type you mention are trickier to keep and so that is not a type we wish to promote. We also do not breed the dangerous species. All the stick insects that Small-Life Supplies breed are safe to keep and easy to handle.

What's the best container for Indian eggs- QBOX or HUA Pot?
Either container works well for storing Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) and the hatchling nymphs. The QBOX will last longer, because of how it is made and the fact that you can put it in the dishwasher. Also, QBOXES are cheaper than HUA Pots.

I got an ELC cage from you last year, it had a mesh lid. My Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects love it and so I'd like to buy another cage, but I can't see the mesh lid option on your website? Why isn't it listed?
Yes, the mesh lid option is still available for a small supplement of £2. So when you order the ELC cage or the ELC cage bundle, just mention that you'd like the mesh lid instead of the standard lid and that you accept that it costs £2 more. The reason why it isn't listed is because it was causing too much confusion, with too many people thinking that most species of stick insect benefit from the mesh lid. In reality, most species do best with the standard clear lid, it is only a few species, including the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) and the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), that benefit from the mesh lid.

Could I grow privet in a pot and keep indoors on my windowsill? I have just been given some Black Beauty Peruvian stick insects and have been told they must eat privet.
Growing privet as an indoor plant doesn't really work, so don't waste time trying. This is because privet has very long roots and so needs a lot of depth in the soil to grow properly. Also, it doesn't want to be in full sun, so is best suited to planting outdoors in partial shade. Privet takes a year or so to get established and then grows quickly. The white blossom that it produces is great nectar for bees and other pollinating insects. You can plant just one privet plant and let it grow into a large flowering bush, or you can plant a row of privet plants to grow a semi-wild hedge. It is nice to see the white privet flowers and so it's important not to keep trimming the hedge. Also, the less you trim the privet, the larger the leaves become, which means there is more food for the Peruvian Black beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei). Fresh cut privet can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies, and the rooted privet plants are sometimes available too (at the moment there is a waiting list for these and so please get in touch if you'd like your name to be added to the list).

I got a pair of New Guinea stick insects from a seller who told me they needed water to drink, so I put a bowl in there. But then on a forum, some people are saying that you don't give New Guinea stick insects water to drink and all you need to do is spray the leaves? Who is right?
The seller. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are unusual because they do drink a lot more water than other species of stick insect. So it is very important that you provide a Water Dish (filled with clean cold tap water and replenished daily). Not doing this is cruel and will cause the stick insects to become stressed and start fighting.

Fascinating to read about the pink grasshopper that a British woman photographed in her garden! I love grasshoppers but have never seen a pink one before, have you?
Yes, many years ago I saw a pink grasshopper in France, I was having a picnic at the time but managed to photograph this unusual insect.

Our children are very keen on insects and I admit I am sharing this new found interest too! Are there any insect themed events we can visit?
There is an annual insect event, held indoors at Kempton Park racecourse, near Staines, Middlesex. The date for the next event is Saturday 12th Oct 2019. There are lots of stands, with stall holders selling livestock, equipment, books, and artwork. The event is open to the public, no pre-booking required, just turn up on the day after 11am and pay £4 entrance at the door. Small-Life Supplies will have a display of stick insects, caterpillars and cages on the ground floor, look out for our large yellow and blue banner!

I'm new to keeping stick insects. I've seen tanks 30cm high, would this be OK for Indian stick insects ? Or could I use the TTQ cage?
No, 30cm is not tall enough. You should be looking at a cage height of at least 46cm. The ELC cage is 51cm high and is ideal for housing Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). As well as the height (this is needed so the stick insects have room to grow properly and do not become stunted), the ELC cage has two mesh sides which provide the through-draught ventilation the stick insects require. The TTQ is not suitable, it is only 38cm high and only has one mesh side. Instead the TTQ cage is an ideal cage for housing large caterpillars (or a praying mantis).

I was aghast to hear that the fires in the Amazon forest have been raging for over three weeks! And only now is it being highlighted on the TV news. With the world in Climate Crisis, why are the people in charge at the BBC so slow to react? I haven't heard any statement on this matter from the British Prime Minister, thank goodness President Macron of France is highlighting this catastrophe. Countries should impose trade sanctions against Brazil - this would make them realise that burning the world's lungs is not acceptable.
The deliberate lighting of fires to clear the Amazon rain forest for development and growing crops is unacceptable. This action kills all the animals, insects and plants, and the smoke is making the skies black during the daytime. I imagine the citizens of Brazil are horrified, along with the majority of people living elsewhere in the world. Most people want this to stop immediately. Meanwhile the murders of prominent environmentalists continue (this is largely unreported) so it is essential that the world's media and governments use their powers and harness public support to protect all of our remaining forests around the world. To complain to the BBC about their coverage of this man made environmental disaster please email newswatch@bbc.co.uk or post a letter to : Newswatch, W1 NBH 03D, BBC Broadcasting House, London, W1A 1AA, United Kingdom. As with most things, when a lot of people complain, action is taken.

We had too many Indian stick insect eggs and so after the children had counted them (223!) we put them on a saucer on the bird table. The first few days nothing happened, and then it rained, so I had to tip the surplus water out of the saucer. Then, after about a week, some if the eggs disappeared. Then some more went the next day and so on. They've all gone now. Unfortunately we didn't see who ate them, any thoughts? And why did it take so long for them to go?
Well done for feeding the birds with these nutritious Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus). Birds have to form a "search image" which is a mental image of a food that is safe for them to eat. Your garden birds won't have seen Indian stick insect eggs before and so will not have a search image for them. After a few days, one bird, probably a blackbird, has been adventurous and tried eating a few of your stick insect eggs. If the eggs had been distasteful, the bird wouldn't have eaten any more. But blackbirds like eating Indian stick insect eggs and so this bird has come back for more. In time, other blackbirds will see that it is eating your surplus Indian stick insect eggs and will want to eat them too. So it's a good idea to carry on putting out your spare eggs on the bird table because they will be eaten quickly from now on.

I'd like to buy some caterpillars for my class. I missed out last term, so I'm really hoping I can reserve some for delivery after 3rd September? How do I go about arranging this?
Yes, our British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) are still hatching and so we'll have some ready to send out the first week in September. You get the caterpillar kit which includes the housing (QBOX), Liners and instructions. These caterpillars are colourful and really easy to look after, eating bramble leaves. They have a fast lifecycle and being British, you can release the adults free outside. A full information sheet is included. To reserve your kit(s), please phone Small-Life Supplies, weekdays between 9am and 5.30pm on 01733 203358.

Our eggs from Molly, our New Guinea stick insect that she produced last October have started hatching! Two babies today! Molly is still going strong, she is lovely and we take her out of the cage most days. I want the best for her babies, so which is better the QBOX or the HUA Pot?
Congratulations! New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) can hatch after ten months, this is slightly longer than usual, but this delay seems to be happening a lot at the moment. The baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) are large and do best in the HUA Pot. Like the QBOX, the HUA Pot has no air holes, and these unventilated conditions suit the baby stick insects best. Enough fresh air enters the container every time you take the lid off to insert a fresh leaf. As the HUA Pot is much larger than the QBOX, the HUA Pot is a better choice to house baby New Guinea stick insects (because these stick insects are relatively large). Be sure to insert a wet bramble leaf in the HUA Pot, because the young stick insects like to drink water droplets from the surface of a bramble leaf.

Mating all day, is this normal? My two Australian Macleays are still coupled, I'm concerned she'll be able to eat?
Some species of stick insect, including the Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) mate for hours at a time, so yes, this is normal behaviour for them. If the female wants to eat, she will walk over to a leaf and start eating it, whilst still mating. So there is no cause for concern. It's best not to disturb mating stick insects because the bag of sperm (called a spermatophore) is only tentatively attached to the outside of the female, and can easily be knocked off if the stick insects are alarmed and jerk suddenly.

Has your Thailand stick insect stock (Baculum thaii) remained pure all these years? Or has it been mixed with later imports?
Completely pure. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very easy to breed (each female lays approx 700 eggs during her lifetime) and all the Thailand stick insects reared at Small-Life Supplies are descended from the original stick insects sent to me back in the 1970s. Thailand stick insect eggs hatch much more quickly than other species of stick insect, with incubation times of 4 - 8 weeks depending on the weather (in the summer months, incubation time is shorter so the eggs can hatch after one month).

Is newspaper or kitchen towel better to cover the floor of my stick insect enclosure?
Newspaper is better than kitchen roll because it is less absorbent. The problem with kitchen roll is that it absorbs moisture from the air and so can dry out the surroundings slightly in the enclosure which is not good for the stick insects. And kitchen roll is often dimpled, so round stick insect eggs do not easily roll off , making them more difficult to collect. However, newspaper does not look very nice in the cage, and so plain paper is a better option. If you have the ELC cage or the AUC cage, then you can purchase pre-cut cage Liners, these are coloured on one side and white on the reverse and because they are the correct size, you do not need to cut them to size with scissors. Round eggs such as those from the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) easily roll off the coloured side when you tilt the Liner and tap it underneath. Place a bowl underneath to catch the eggs and then store them in the QBOX and wait for them to hatch.

I enjoy reading your answers to people's stick insect questions every week. I don't have any stick insects myself just now, but used to have lots and hope to restart soon when my circumstances improve. A while back you mentioned that you had the original Thailand stick insects in the UK, can you remind me again the story about this? Are your Thailand stick insects likely to be in stock in September?
Yes, our Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are now on their 42nd generation! Our entire stock of Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are descended from just a few individuals sent to me in the late 1970s by the person who discovered them, Mr Anthony Julian-Ottie, when exploring Thailand. Small-Life Supplies breed large numbers of Thailand stick insects and so yes, they are in stock now and will be in stock in September as well.

I'd like to buy stick insect eggs for school. Do you sell these? Or do you just send out the actual living stick insects?
Small-Life Supplies sell two Stick Insect Egg Kits, each includes ten eggs (due to hatch soon), and the HUA Pot (which is ideal for keeping the baby stick insects until they are large enough to be transferred to the ELC cage). HUA Liners are also included. The species for sale are the Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) and the Thailand stick insect eggs (Baculum thaii). Both these species are very easy to hatch and the baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) eat bramble/blackberry leaves. Wet the leaf first because the young stick insects need to drink water from the surface of the leaf.

Do Indian stick insects have a preference in what species of leaves they eat?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best on bramble/blackberry leaves. You can also feed them hazel leaves and rose leaves in the summer, this is useful if you wish to give your bramble stocks a chance to grow in the summer. Eucalyptus leaves are available all year and are a good standby. Privet leaves used to be popular with Indian stick insects, but about ten years ago many Indian stick insects stopped eating privet! Across the UK many Indian stick insects are still very reluctant to do so. Ivy can be used , but there are different types of ivy, some sorts are better than others, and so really ivy should only be used as a last resort.

Like many people I like ladybirds. But I am confused about photos people keep posting online showing baby ladybirds they have seen. The images are of small round insects clustered together on a leaf. These are nothing like the ladybird larvae I have seen - oval spiky insects with no feet.
Ladybirds have "complete metamorphosis" which means that the young (babies) look completely different to the adults. The eggs hatch into ladybird larvae, which as you already know, are oval-shaped insects with six legs that look as though they have been chopped off above where the feet should be. The bodies are usually black (they can have red markings or other markings depending on the species) and have small spines. When mature, each larva pupates (transforms into a pupa) and a few weeks later the round adult ladybird emerges. So people who think baby ladybirds are just a smaller version of the adult ladybird are mistaken and the photos they are posting are of a completely different insect!

My son would like his first pet (he's thirteen) and we are trying to decide between a praying mantis or a stick insect. I am working out my notice and so money is very tight and will be until I find another job. Thank you for any advice you can give us.
Money-wise, it is more expensive to feed a praying mantis than it is a stick insect because you will need to purchase livefood to feed the praying mantis (mantid). You may be able to catch flies yourself in the summer to feed the mantid but in the winter months this is harder to do and so many people purchase flies and crickets to feed their mantid. And a mantid does have a large appetite! In contrast, most stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves and you can gather these leaves for free yourself all year round. Stick insects also live longer than mantids and are easier to breed, so your son can look forward to hatching out his stick insect eggs and rearing the next generation. The TTQ cage is suitable housing for a mantid, the ELC cage is suitable housing for a stick insect. Stick insects like company of their own kind though, so it's best to have a minimum of two stick insects rather than just keeping one by itself.

Should I be misting my Indian stick insect eggs?
Not unless they are having problems hatching. So, for best results, store Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) dry in a QBOX with the lid on. About four months later (this can be reduced to three months in the summer) the eggs start hatching. They should hatch successfully, which means the babies (first instar nymphs) leave their empty eggshells behind. However sometimes, the stick insect gets stuck in its eggshell , or hatches but still has the eggshell attached to a leg or its abdomen. It is only in these circumstances that you need to very lightly mist the remaining eggs because this action increases the humidity slightly and solves the problem.

I am new to keeping stick insects and so glad I came across your site! I really want some of the "Large Spiny" stick insects, do you ever have these, and if so, when will they be next in stock? Also, would the ELC cage be suitable for these stick insects?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies breeds New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), also known as the "giant spiny" stick insects. We sell them when they are a few months old, so they are nymphs (immature insects) and are approximately the length of a person's finger. They are a nice green mottled colour at this size and it's easy to tell the difference between males and females. And yes, the ELC cage is perfect housing for New Guinea stick insects. They can climb the sides by hooking their claws around the white mesh sides. When New Guinea stick insects are fully grown, they bury their eggs in dry sand and so you'll need to put the Sand Pit on the cage Liner. New Guinea stick insects also need a shallow Water Dish and also two Community Tubes in which to rest inside. All these items shall be listed with the New Guinea stick insects when they are ready to send out. Our insects are now up to size and ready to go, so New Guinea stick insects shall be listed on the website within the next few days.

My partner found someone selling a mesh enclosure they said was OK for stick insects, what do you think ?
There can be two issues with the all mesh enclosures. Firstly, the visibility is not as good as it is with the ELC cage. Peering through a mesh screen does not give you as clear a view of the stick insects as looking through the crystal clear plastic panels of the ELC cage. Secondly, depending on which species of stick insect you have, an all mesh enclosure can provide too much ventilation. This is a problem because it can cause skin changing problems for the stick insects because the surroundings are too dry. In contrast, the ELC cage has two mesh sides which is the optimum ventilation for many species of stick insect. So the ELC cage is a better cage for housing stick insects. It was launched in 2012 and so has been in production for seven years, with many customers returning to buy another cage.

I have just seen a male Thailand trying to mate with an adult New Thailand! I grabbed my phone to take a picture but they separated! What's going on?
Your male Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) is probably a young adult and a bit confused. Such inexperienced insects sometimes try and mate with inappropriate things such as knee joints or in the wrong place on the female's abdomen. The New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) are a parthenogenetic species and so are unable to mate, that is why your two insects separated so quickly. Hopefully you have adult female Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) in the cage too, so this male can mate with one of them? If not, please contact Small-Life Supplies because we have adult Thailand stick insects for sale.

I need stick insect advice. Do stick insects eggs change in appearance during incubation?
The inside of the egg changes a lot as the cells multiply and the baby stick insect nymph is created. But the outside of the egg looks the same throughout the incubation time. So that is why it's a good idea to put a label on the QBOX containing the eggs with the month and year the eggs were laid because this will help you estimate when they are due to hatch. Different species take different lengths of time to hatch. Some stick insect eggs hatch really quickly, for example the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) eggs can hatch after 1-2 months. But other species take a very long time to hatch, for example the Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) hatch after one and a half years!

I have three Indian stick insects in a cage. On the far side of the room, we have recently randomly found a baby stick insect (well it looks like one and I have attached a photo). A few days later we found another one on the same cupboard door. And today found a third one. I dispose of the insect eggs properly every time and not anywhere near this cupboard so I have no idea how we are having baby stick insects! Inside the cupboard houses a boiler and other random storage items. Please check photo and advise.
Your photo shows a newly hatched Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) on an ivy leaf. For best results, house this one (and the others) in the QBOX and wet the leaf so they can drink. Bramble leaves are usually better for Indian stick insects than ivy leaves. Did any of your Indian adult stick insects temporarily escape a few months ago? When an adult stick insect is on the loose, she lays lots of eggs and then of course the eggs hatch about three to four months later. Or maybe you forgot that you knocked over a pot of eggs a while back, and some eggs have rolled along the floor into crevices and are hatching now. It's also worth checking if you have any potted houseplants near the cupboard, just in case you have an adult Indian stick insect living on that plant.

My two boys (male Macleays) now have their wings! I think the girls have one more skin change to go. Is it usual for boys to grow faster than the girls?
Yes, male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) grow faster than the females so it is normal for the males to become adults first. In a few weeks time, your females will be adults too, and then the stick insects can mate and the females will start laying eggs. These stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult lives. Most stick insects live about one year, but Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have shorter lifespans, so both genders live just under one year.

We were gifted some stick insect eggs at school (as part of an insect promotion) and have been patiently waiting for them to hatch. I thought we may have duds, but took them home anyways (as we're now on summer break) and this morning I saw that two have hatched! I have got them in a tupperware box with a wet bramble leaf and the little fellas seem fine so far! They are the Indian type. Can I purchase enclosures from you now and can you invoice the school? How would that work? I am happy to pay now but would like to claim the money back from school if I can!
Congratulations on hatching out your stick insects! And yes, you have done the right thing in housing the nymphs in a non-ventilated container and giving them a wet bramble leaf. To see the nymphs more clearly, we supply the crystal clear QBOX to house baby Indian stick insects. Simply put a disposable QBOX Liner on the floor of the QBOX and insert a wet bramble leaf. When the stick insects have outgrown the QBOX (in approx 6 weeks time), they can be transferred to the more ventilated ELC cage. Most people choose the ELC bundle because this includes the ELC cage and the other items you need as well, namely the Sprig Pot (fill this with cold tap water and it will keep the bramble leaves fresh for a week), and the disposable ELC floor Liners (replace weekly), and the Cleaning Sponge (wash the cage monthly). You can have all this delivered to your home address next week and we'll email a VAT invoice with the school address as well, so you can present this to the school finance office to claim back the money.

I am a primary school teacher and have decided to keep stick insects in class next term. I'll be getting the ELC bundle and your book, my question is which stick insects to choose? I'm leaning towards the Indian and the Pink Winged?
Yes, four Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and four Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) would do well in the ELC cage. Both species eat bramble/blackberry leaves, just mist the leaves with water in the afternoon so the stick insects can have a drink. You'll receive medium-sized nymphs and so the children can watch them grow (stick insects shed their skins every few weeks and dramatically increase in size after each ecdysis). When they are fully grown, the Pink Winged stick insects have large pink wings and will glue their eggs in the mesh sides of the ELC cage (or onto Small-Life Supplies "Hatch Mats" if you provide these). Stick insects are very educational, very low maintenance and hugely popular with both children and teachers, so make excellent classroom pets. The children can handle them safely and there are some school topic ideas in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book.

How did my Pink Winged stick insect nymph get into my shower room?
Escapee stick insects usually seek out water, so that's why your escaped Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) nymph has walked to your shower room. Assuming your cage is not broken, the stick insect must have escaped when you last had the cage open. Escapee stick insects are often found on taps or kettles, because like shower rooms, these sites are sources of moisture.

Which is the best cage for Indian stick insects?
The ELC cage is ideal for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). The ELC cage has the height stick insects need (51cm), and the ventilation, and suitable climbing walls, and is sturdy and practical too (use the ELC Liners to keep the stick insects in clean surroundings).

How can I encourage more bees to my garden?
Planting bramble/blackberry is an excellent way to encourage British bees. At the moment our bramble/blackberry plants have white and pink flowers and have masses of honeybees and other British insects visiting the flowers, gathering nectar. You can plant bramble/blackberry plants by a sunny fence or wall throughout the year. Small-Life Supplies dispatch bramble plants, these are grown without the use of pesticides and so the leaves are safe for insects to eat. Small-Life Supplies currently have a waiting list for these safe bramble plants and so please contact us if you'd like to go on the list and be notified when the next batch are available. We can also send a Puttin too, this is a large outdoor container that is ideal for growing bramble.

Are there more butterflies this year? I have noticed more in my garden last week when it's been so hot.
Hot weather does encourage more butterflies. This is for two reasons: more migrant butterflies arrive from the continent, and pupae which have been delaying emergence finally decide to emerge as butterflies. So last week during the very hot weather, a lot more sightings of the migrant Painted Lady butterfly have been logged. The hot weather has triggered emergence of the British Vanessids (including the Peacock butterfly). Most of these have emerged from pupae formed earlier this year, but some have emerged from pupae created in 2018 and even 2017! It is a similar situation with the British Small white butterfly (Pieris brassicae).

Have you got any of the silkmoths left?
Small-Life Supplies breed Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini). The very hot weather last week prevented us from sending out the caterpillars (it was too hot for them to travel safely). These caterpillars are now oversized and too large to travel. They will transform into pupa within silk cocoons soon, and we will be listing these for sale. The pupae do not eat, so their care is very easy, just wait for them to emerge in approx four weeks time into giant Indian Eri silkmoths! Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to go on the waiting list for the cocoons.

Please can you let me know how long New Guinea stick insects usually live?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can have very long lifespans. Many of ours live over two years, and some live just over three years! So this is a lot longer than most stick insect species which live about one year. For best results, house New Guinea stick insects in the ELC cage, this is the correct size for them and they like to climb the sides. They need a Water Dish, a Sand Pit (to bury their eggs) and several Community Tubes in which to rest inside. Bramble /blackberry leaves are their favourite food, but they will also eat hazel leaves and rose leaves during the summer months when these leaves are abundant. Our New Guinea stick insect nymphs are almost up to size and so will be listed on the website soon.

We had a lady come into school with silkworms, they were greyish bald looking things that couldn't walk much and she said they had been bred commercially like this and when they're adults they have wings that don't work and so none can fly anymore. Sounds a miserable life! Are yours happier?
The silkworms you saw would have been the Bombyx mori species, and that species has been specifically bred commercially for silk for so many generations that the creatures have lost their normal attributes. The silkmoths Small-Life Supplies rear are another species, Samia ricini. We rear them like any other caterpillar, so give them fresh leaves and let the adults fly. So our caterpillars can walk normally (they are large so you can handle them). They are blueish white and have little spikes on their bodies. We recommend taking the adult silkmoths out of the cage so they can fly across the room. So yes, our caterpillars are healthy and have no reason not to be happy.

Do different species of stick insects need different ambient temperatures? I am researching their requirements before I purchase. My room is hot and sunny.
Most stick insects do best at an an average room temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. Some species, such as the Malaysian (Heteropteryx dilatata) and the Guadeloupe (Lamponius guerini) also do well at higher temperatures, and the Guadeloupe stick insects particularly thrive in sunny surroundings. Some species, notably the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) do not thrive in hot conditions, so because your room is hot and sunny, it is not suitable for Indian stick insects.

I met up with an old friend and we drove to a country pub for lunch. On the way, he obliterated three butterflies. If I had been driving, I would have slowed down and avoided them all. I mentioned this at lunch and he said it doesn't matter because they only live one day! I put him right of course, but perhaps this is a common view among non insecty people?
Yes, this myth that butterflies only live for one day is widespread. It's like the myth that you can't kill a cockroach. Butterflies live for many months, and it is senseless to kill a creature when it is not necessary. Obviously when driving, there are occasions when it is not safe to brake and so hitting a butterfly or another insect is inevitable. However, if it safe to do so, then yes, slow down and let the creatures live! This obviously applies to birds, deer and horses too.

A eucalyptus plant that I got from you a few years back is now a wonderful large tree in my garden. It is a magnet for the birds and I like the swishing noise it makes in the wind. And of course it is very handy for my population of Pink Winged stick insects! Anyhow, my elderly neighbour is wanting to cut the branches overhanging into his garden. To play for time, I said I'd have to discuss this with my husband. Any suggestions on how to deal with this situation? His garden consists of slabs and garden furniture.
Try to have a calm conversation with your neighbour explaining that you and your husband enjoy nature and helping the birds. The blossom that eucalyptus trees provide is very tasty for the birds. Indeed this is why in Malta they have planted so many eucalyptus trees, to attract the birds that they then shoot! Hopefully your neighbour will have heard about Chris Packham's attempts to stop the mass shooting of birds in Malta. The swishing noise from eucalyptus is also calming and scientifically recognised as such. And of course, you need the eucalyptus leaves to feed your stick insects, you can tell the neighbour that yours are a fancy breed originating in Madagascar. The British insects, including bees, are also attracted to the eucalyptus flowers for food. And who doesn't want to help the bees? After all this, hopefully your neighbour will understand a bit more. You could offer to trim the overhanging branches yourself, ideally over time, so you can make use of the leaves to feed to your stick insects. What you want to avoid is the neighbour butchering your tree and flinging the cut branches over the fence! I hope you can resolve this amicably.

We are worried about our Indian stick insects. Their bodies have started to look a bit flat and they seem lethargic. They are adults, but not old ones. They are not laying as many eggs as they used to. Could they be too hot, the room thermometer is reading 26 degrees Celsius?
Yes, they are too hot. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best at a daytime room temperature of approx 18 degrees Celsius, dropping to 12 degrees Celsius at night. The problem with hot summer weather is that these recommended temperatures are exceeded both day and night. So it's best that you move your cage of Indian stick insects to a cooler room. It's also important to give them some extra water during hot spells, so you need to mist the leaves generously with cold tap water in the evening.

I run an entomological club for my students. We have your book and one of the boys asked if you belonged to any entomological clubs when you were a teenager?
Yes, I joined the "Manchester Entomological Society" when I was about thirteen and remained a member throughout my teenage years before moving away to university. That society was open to anyone interested in insects, so had lots of adult members, some of whom had written books about insects and were keen to share their knowledge. My school didn't have an entomological club but it did have a "pets club" which I was also a member of, this enabled me to help care for the school stick insects and also the school guinea pigs.

I have had my first hatchling! S/he is a New Guinea stick insect. What do I do now?
The best housing for newly hatched New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) is the HUA Pot. Place a HUA Pot Liner on the floor, add a wet bramble leaf and then add the newly hatched stick insect. You can add other hatchlings too. Keep them in the HUA Pot and replace the bramble leaf with a fresh wet leaf every couple of days. Keep replacing the Liner every few days because it is really important that stick insects are kept in clean conditions. After a couple of skin-changes, the New Guinea stick insects can be transferred to the TTQ cage, and then a few weeks later, transfer them again into the ELC cage.

Can the Indian Eri caterpillar waste be used for anything? We have the Farmer Pack and can't believe how much they eat and poo!
Yes, the caterpillar poo (called frass) makes excellent fertiliser. So every day, just tip the waste that is resting on the TTQ Liner into a bucket. Cover with cold tap water and stir well. At the end of the week, pour the mixture over your potted plants or garden plants. We do this and have spectacular hanging baskets and strong garden plants!

Can I feed the Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars with mulberry powder?
No. Mulberry powder and mulberry leaves are eaten by another type of silkmoth caterpillar, the Chinese species Bombyx mori. The Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini) eat privet leaves. You can gather privet leaves yourself from privet hedges, or buy bags of fresh cut privet from Small-Life Supplies. Green privet is best so avoid the variegated privet.

All our North East Vietnamese stick insects are mating this morning, all three pairs are spread around the AUC. Is it usual for them to lay their eggs outside the cage? I don't mind because I can just sweep them up with a dustpan and brush, I hope they hatch soon.
North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina) do mate frequently and for several hours at a time. These very long stick insects (the females can grow to 28cm) do well in the AUC cage and it sounds as though yours are doing really well. And yes, they often drop their very long eggs outside the AUC cage. Being so long and thin these eggs are very distinctive and yes, we also find it convenient to sweep the eggs up and put them in the HUA Pot. The baby North East Vietnamese stick insects look cute with their very long legs.

I have a bit of a carpet moth infestation in my flat at the moment. I have in all honesty been trying to ignore it as I don't like killing any animal, however it's getting a bit much. With all of my stick insect and other invert friends who share my home with me, I would never dream of spraying. Do you think that commercially available moth pheromone traps would interfere with my pets at all. I also have my first generation of new Eri silk moth caterpillars growing up fast - will these traps bother the adults.
I would feel uneasy about using pheromone traps. Instead it would be better to use non-chemical methods. So you could try to pick up the moths, either by flicking them up with a fine paintbrush, or using a "bug katcha" which is a harmless hand held device with a trap door designed for catching insects, and then release the moths outdoors, well away from your flat. You can then move the furniture, wash the skirting boards and hoover everywhere thoroughly. And then use a steam cleaner on the carpet. The steam will kill off any eggs that are there and also clean and freshen the place up. It is the eggs that you need to destroy, so that you break the cycle. Obviously, you'd need to transfer all your creatures to another room whilst you undertake this spring clean!

I'm looking to buy the stick insect enclosure but I am on holiday this week so I'm just wondering how you will pack it? Will you flatten it or post it as it is in a big box?
It is not flattened, the ELC cage is sent fully assembled in a big strong cardboard box. So when the parcel arrives, just take the cage out of the box and it is ready to use straight away. All the cages that Small-Life Supplies currently send out, including the popular ELC, TTQ and AUC, are ready built, so our customers don't have the bother of trying to assemble flat packed kits! We email you the delivery tracking details and this gives you a two hour time window of when delivery will be. You can also request the parcel be left in a safe place or with a neighbour, if you wish to do this, just let us know when you order the items so we can let the driver know.

I've just heard about "bee lawns" and I want one! I figure you may already have one? If so, can you give me any pointers? I have no gardening experience other than mowing my drab lawn so want something that's easy to do!
Yes, "bee lawns" are gaining in popularity in the UK as well as the USA. The idea is to let wild flowers grow amongst the grass, this helps the insects a lot because the wild flowers provide food for the insects, including bees. Dandelions are a great plant to have on your lawn, they are very hardy and spread by themselves. I have a dedicated dandelion patch on my lawn and can mow the leaves in the winter with a lawn mower, just like you would mow grass. Then in the spring and summer you can enjoy seeing a splash of colour, and the yellow flowers are teeming with insects. To get started, just dig over one square metre of your lawn and wait for the wild flowers to appear. Be patient, it usually takes about one year to get going. The only maintenance you need to do is a bit of hand weeding from time to time, concentrating on pulling out some of the thicker grass stems if there are too many of them. I would recommend starting with the square metre idea first , because this is easy to manage and provides great results. Later on, you can add additional square metres. I have done this many times and know it works. Clover, daisies, buttercups and flowering nettle are all doing well on my lawn! Of course, you can let the whole lawn revert to nature, but this requires a lot of time to manage, and so is too ambitious for many people. The square metre idea is more practical and also allows you to use the mowed grassed parts of your lawn for sitting outside etc.

Are there any health issues associated with keeping stick insects? I am worried about my lungs. I am reluctant to use soil and leaf litter and woodlice on the tank floor and would like to hear your opinion.
It is very important to keep stick insects in clean conditions. So it's best to house stick insects in the ELC cage and replace the disposable paper ELC Liner weekly. Every month, wash the ELC cage with lukewarm soapy water and rinse well. Collect fresh sprigs of bramble and put the cut stems into a Sprig Pot of water, replace the water and bramble weekly. This is how Small-Life Supplies breeds stick insects and we know this method works really well. I advise against using soil/woodlice/leaf litter for because this can lead to unsanitary conditions and proliferation of small flies in the enclosure. Damp dead leaves can lead to mould spores and an accummulation of dry frass (stick insect droppings) can create a lot of dust which, over time, will irritate your lungs and cause you to cough a lot. Obviously it makes no sense to put your health at risk like this, but sadly I have seen people who do and are now suffering the consequences.

Can I mix Thailand stick insects with Indian stick insects? Or would the male Thailand stick insects try it on with the female Indian stick insects?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are parthenogenetic and so are all females. They do not mate. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have males and females in equal numbers and mate regularly. Male Thailand stick insects mate with females of the same species, they are not interested in trying to mate with a female of another species. So you can mix Indian and Thailand stick insects together in the same ELC cage and they will live together happily.

Are bugs the same as insects, I mean I know bugs are insects but are the words inter-changeable?
Strictly speaking, "bugs" are a particular type of insect, characterised by having sucking mouthparts. So, for example, "Shieldbugs" are insects which suck plant sap and so are classified as being "bugs" and belong to the order Hemiptera. In contrast, stick insects have mouthparts designed for cutting leaves and so they belong to the order Phasmida and are not classified as being "bugs". So no, the word "bug" and "insect" do not mean the same thing. However, non-scientists, especially journalists, often refer to all insects as "bugs", and this is what causes confusion.

My Macleays Spectre are approaching maturity, what is the absolute maximum number I can house in an AUC cage?
Adult Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do really well in the tall airy AUC cage, especially because the holes are oversized, so there is no risk of the claws getting caught in small hole mesh. It's always best not to overcrowd stick insects, but the AUC will accommodate up to eighteen adult Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (nine pairs).

Any chance that you have some discounted ELC cages for sale?
From time to time, we sell used ELC stick insect cages on ebay. These are cages that we have used in our insect farming facility for a short time, and so are still in very good condition, and of course the cages are cleaned before dispatch. We are listing some at the moment on ebay (just search for "ELC stick insect cage" on ebay). These discounted cages are only available to customers living in the UK mainland. ELC cages are sent ready assembled and a free colour care sheet is included.

What is the recommended method of hatching Macleays Spectre eggs?
We store ours in the HUA Pot, with a label attached showing the month they were laid. Every few weeks we shake the HUA Pot because this moves the eggs which seems to promote successful development. Then, after six months, we start to lightly mist the eggs in the evening because this triggers hatching during the night and the following morning.

I have a question about stick insects. Can a stick insect live alone?
It is not recommended to keep a solitary stick insect. This is because stick insects like to group together in the cage. That is why Small-Life Supplies supply stick insects in small groups, usually in packs of four. If you keep different species of stick insect in the same ELC cage, you will notice that they like to group together with their own kind.

We are sooo looking forward to getting the Indian Eri silkmoths! Is it possible to swap the black TTQ Liners for pink ones? We love pink!
Yes, no problem. With the TTQ Bundle, ten Liners are included, and you can choose the colour of these - pink, blue or black.

I am seeing orange and black blobby things stuck to the blackberry leaves. I can't pull them off easily. Will they harm my stick insects? And what are they?
They are the ladybird pupae, so within a week or so will emerge into ladybirds that can fly. It's probably best to return any leaves with this type of pupa back outside. Or, you can put them in a HUA Pot and wait to see the ladybirds emerge before releasing them outdoors. One ladybird will emerge from one pupa. The pupae don't eat and will not harm stick insects. However, you don't want ladybirds amongst your stick insects because they annoy stick insects by walking up their antennae! Also, ladybirds need to eat lots of aphids and blackfly, so you need to put ladybirds outside on a bramble/rose/dock plant which is infested with these small insects.

Our Malaysian stick insects are now full size, they are beautiful! We have one pair in the ELC cage. The male has been riding on the back of the female for the last few hours but there's no action if you know what I mean! Is this behaviour normal?
Yes, there is no cause for concern. Sometimes the adult male starts mating almost immediately he mounts the female, whereas other times he can ride on her back for several hours. It's important to let the adult Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) out of the ELC every few days because they like to have a good walk across the floor or a table. But don't take them out when they are mating or if one is on top of the other. Instead, wait till they are separated and then you can take them out for some exercise. When you put them back in the ELC cage, remember to spray the leaves with water because stick insects like a drink after exercise.

My British caterpillars have gone squishy and died. I had four in a QBOX. I provided them with a fresh bramble leaf on Friday but when I came back from my Nan's on Sunday there was lots of mould in the QBOX and they were dead. I didn't use a wet leaf, even though it had been chucking it down, and so don't understand where this mould came from?
There has been lots of rain in the UK recently and this has made the surroundings very damp. There are lots of mould spores about. This means that outbreaks of mould in confined spaces (such as the QBOX) are far more likely to happen. So even though you put in a bramble leaf that was not wet, it contained spores that quickly developed into mould because the QBOX was not opened for several days. This wouldn't have happened if you had taken the QBOX with you to your Nan's and replaced the leaf daily. It is most unfortunate that your trip has coincided with this spell of rainy weather, because if the weather had been hot, dry and sunny, mould would not have developed in a QBOX that remained unopened for several days.

I have ten large prickly stick insects and they've only had a diet of brambles which I collect from down the road. Not many cars travel there so it's free from pollutants, however recently a neighbour came out to tell me that the leaves had been sprayed with weed killer. So I travelled further to collect some other sort of brambles but I'm worried these ones will make them unwell or even cause death as they have a lot of bright new green leaves. It's been 2/3 weeks since the neighbour told me the leaves have been sprayed, however they are still not dead so maybe she was lying? I want to continue using these brambles as they look a lot more fully grown but I don't want to risk that they have been sprayed, but I feel like I'm also risking their lives by getting bramble leaves elsewhere that are not as good. One of my stick insects currently is releasing a faeces but there seems to be a brown sticky substance along with it and it's not dropping. I'm concerned about my insects health at this point.
Spray on weedkiller is fast acting so most of the affected leaves turn brown and shrivel within days. You need to examine the original patch of bramble and also the weeds around it, if everything looks green and well, then it will be OK to harvest. But if the bramble is green and the surrounding weeds are brown, then do not collect the bramble because it will have low level contamination. As well as eating bramble leaves, your stick insects will also eat rose leaves, so you could look for a source of wild rose/dog rose (like bramble, wild rose can be found in overgrown wild areas). It's best to avoid giving your stick insects the bright green new bramble leaves. The brown sticky substance indicates there is a nutritional issue, so it's important that you source darker green bramble leaves and/or wild rose leaves as soon as possible.

Can I feed my unwanted Indian stick insect eggs to my garden woodpigeons? Or are they too small to be of interest? Three woodpigeons have turned up in my garden and I'd like to encourage them to stay.
I feed my garden woodpigeons with sunflower hearts. Also oat groats (soaked in water overnight first). And a ramekin dish of cold tap water, filled to the rim and changed daily. Woodpigeons also need a source of grit, so you can give them a dish of that too, if you don't have loose gravel nearby. It is blackbirds and magpies that eat Indian stick insect eggs.

I read a question in the back of the Newscientist magazine asking "Do insects have emotions in the same way humans and mammals do? For example, would a fly feel sad if it saw its brother die?" One response mentioned that Charles Darwin suggested animals have emotions and that "Recent research has found that insects have the cognitive and physiological building blocks that might give rise to complex phenomena such as emotion. For example, bees that were given rewards when they reached a certain site became more optimistic than other bees."
Insects do show some emotions. Grief is a really obvious one, sometimes seen in a pair of New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that have a particularly close bond and have been paired up for years. When one dies of old age, it's partner can stay with the body for a few days, sometimes touching the corpse with its foot. Sometimes the surviving stick insect refuses to eat and will choose to starve itself to death.

Would the ELC cage be suitable for Malaysian stick insects?
Yes, the ELC cage is fine for Malaysian stick insects that are either large nymphs or adults. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we house up to four adults (two pairs) of Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) per ELC cage. Like New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Malaysian stick insects also need a Water Dish and a Sand Pit in the cage (for the females to bury her eggs). And, like New Guinea stick insects, Malaysian stick insects benefit from extra exercise, so it's recommended to take them out of the cage regularly and let them have a good walk across the floor. Baby Malaysian stick insects should be housed in the HUA Pot, and young nymphs in the TTQ cage.

I'm buying an ELC stick insect cage bundle for my girlfriend, Jessica. It's her birthday next month. I thought it'd be cool if the cage had a label on the front saying "Jessica's stick insects". I see you guys make the cages, so could you find out if you could put two matching labels on the lid (your standard label and my special label)? I don't mind paying a few pounds more.
The ELC cage labels are engraved specially (in the UK) for Small-Life Supplies, and so yes, we can supply a similar label saying "Jessica's stick insects". The label would be the same design and size as our ELC label, so the two labels together would complement each other and look good. Because this is a bespoke label, please allow a few weeks for it to be produced, so please order as soon as possible, so everything will be ready in time for Jessica's birthday. It's easiest to order by phoning Small-Life Supplies weekdays 9am to 6pm, 01733 203358.

My jungle nymph female had her final molt but two of her old legs looked like they'd been ripped off and were oozing green liquid her sides look torn and are also oozing green liquid. I don't know what to do, can you please give advice.
The photo you sent shows her shrivelled up wings, it is unfortunate that she has made a mess of her final skin change. This sometimes happens. The green liquid is her blood. The kindest thing to do is to give her water to drink and see what she decides to do. If she does not want to continue, she will refuse to eat and will die soon. But if she can manage with her remaining four legs and her body tears close up, then she will eat and regain her strength in the coming weeks. "Jungle nymph" stick insects are from Malaysia and so are called the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata).

What's this nonsense about not releasing butterflies outside? As a lifelong Lepidopterist, I despair at the confused views of some people spouting forth! I have been releasing butterflies that I have captive bred for years and encourage others to partake in this fascinating and highly satisfying pastime.
I agree with you. The whole point about many insects (including butterflies) is that they are moving around in huge numbers. In fact there is a "Vertical Radar System" that measures the vast numbers of insects moving in the wind currents in the skies above us. We can't see them with our naked eyes because they are small and too high up (higher than Canary Wharf), but they are there! So it is normal for the gene pool in wild insect populations to be mixed up. Therefore, releasing some British butterflies (in Britain) that you have reared is to be encouraged. You probably already know that it's best to release small numbers of butterflies (for example up to six) in one location to optimise their chance of survival. Releasing a hundred or so at once is a bad idea because the birds notice and have a banquet!

We have just come back with bramble we have collected for our stick insects. Some of the stems have pea-sized white frothy blobs on them? Any idea what these are and could they be harmful to our stick insects ? We have Thailand stick insects.
The white frothy blobs are commonly called "cuckoo spit" and are seen at this time of year. The white froth is wet and protects the pale green froghopper larva inside. The larva develops and then becomes a froghopper, which is a small green insect that jumps. The cuckoo spit is not harmful to the stick insects. However, if the froth is disturbed a lot by the stick insects, this lessens the survival chances of the froghopper. So you should snip off the bits of stem containing the cuckoo spit and put these back outside on a bramble patch.

Can the Indian stick insects cope alright with the spikes on the bramble?
Yes, stick insects just walk over the thorns on the bramble stems and leaves. So there is no need to cut them off.

We had two adult Australian Macleays stick insects which unfortunately both died early this year, leaving several eggs. So we decided to keep the eggs and they have now started to hatch. So far we have had nine hatch successfully. The eldest is only about a week old and the others have been hatching at the rate of one or two per day so they are all very small still. I ordered two HUA pots from you and I managed to source a Eucalyptus gunnii tree. The insects are currently housed in the HUA pots – and I have been putting fresh dry leaves in as you suggested. I didn’t want to overcrowd them so I split the insects between two pots. Is this right or can they all be housed in one HUA pot?
Each HUA Pot can comfortably house about six young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). And yes, they do best on eucalyptus leaves. Unlike other young stick insects that need slightly wet bramble leaves, the young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do best on eucalyptus leaves that are not wet, so it is important not to mist the eucalyptus leaves with water, and if you are harvesting them from a tree outside be sure to dry the leaves with a cloth if it is has been raining.

My lecturer said that stick insects can only breed for about twenty generations before there is too much "inbreeding" and then they die out. I can't see the logic in this, do you know anything about this? Also, if it's true, do commercial insect farms such as Small-Life Supplies have to keep buying in new stock to mix up the gene pool?
Unfortunately your lecturer is repeating a myth. Small-Life Supplies breeds stick insects in large numbers, and no, we don't introduce new stock into our breeding cages. Our policy has always been to keep breeding from our strongest individuals and as a result, our stick insects are very strong and healthy. Our Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are now on their 42nd generation! Our entire stock of Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are descended from just a few individuals sent to me in the late 1970s by the person who discovered them, Mr Anthony Julian-Ottie, when exploring Thailand. Whilst "mixing up the genes" can be beneficial for mammals, it can be detrimental for insects.

My question is about Macleays Spectre stick insects. Ours have just started to hatch, they run so fast! Any tips for stopping them from running out of the HUA Pot?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) run very fast when they have just been born. This is because in the wild, their eggs hatch in ants nests underground and so it is imperative that the newly hatched stick insect gets out of the ants' nest as fast as possible, before it is eaten by the ants. (The ants are fooled by the appearance of the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs and take the eggs down to their nest, thinking they are edible seeds). After a few days, the stick insects stop running around so fast, so it's not a problem keeping them contained in the HUA Pot.

Are stick insect eggs easily distinguishable from poo?
Yes. The poo is irregular in size and shape, whereas stick insect eggs (from the same species) are usually the same size and are all the same shape. Depending on the species of stick insect, the eggs may be round, oval, or an irregular shape.

Sam, my Macleays Spectre stick insect, has started to lay eggs. So I need to plant a eucalyptus, right? Any particular kind you recommend?
Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs usually start to hatch after about six months. These newly hatched stick insects do best if fed solely on eucalyptus leaves, so it's a great idea to plant a eucalyptus now because this means it will have grown a lot by the time your eggs start to hatch. We have tried different sorts of eucalyptus plants, and find Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects like Eucalyptus gunnii and Eucalyptus niphophila the best. Small-Life Supplies grow eucalyptus plants specially without the use of pesticides, and we currently have large potted Eucalyptus niphophila plants for sale.

Two of my Eri silk moth pupae have hatched, they are so cute and beautiful. A male hatched first and was alone for 6 days bless him, although he did enjoy a fly around my living room in the evening. He pounced on the female almost as soon as she had emerged, she didn't even have time to unfurl her wings and they are a sad crinkled affair. The female has now laid a number of eggs and my question is about them. I had the caterpillars in a TTQ cage but moved the pupae into a large mesh cage to hatch to give the adults more room. This is not going to be ideal for the caterpillars however. Can I move the eggs without damaging or destroying them? Or is it better to wait until the caterpillars hatch and then move them? On a related note, I don't think I can cope with all of the eggs hatching into caterpillars, is the hatching success rate usually high? Is it okay to destroy some of the eggs as I do with my stick insects?
Yes, you need to remove the eggs now. The eggs are hard and are laid in clusters. Use your fingers to carefully pull the clusters of eggs off the netting. Place the eggs in a QBOX and wait for them to hatch in approximately ten days time. The hatching rate is usually high. You can pour boiling water over any eggs that you don't want to save, and they won't develop any further.

My friend has five Australian Macleays stick insect eggs and one hatched today! He is so cute and is running all over the place! We don't know where to get eucalyptus leaves (we live in Southampton). Is eucalyptus strictly necessary or just preferable? I ask because Claude (the baby stick insect) has already started to nibble the bramble leaf.
Newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are very active and run around like crazy! They have black bodies and orange heads and look like "demented ants". It is very risky to give them bramble leaves straight away, because only certain types of bramble species are digested properly by newly hatched Australian stick insects. So you may be lucky and have the correct type of bramble, in which case Claude will be fine. Or, you may have one of the many unsuitable bramble types, in which case Claude will eat the bramble for the next couple of weeks and then die. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we do not take any chances with feeding Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects and feed all newly hatched ones on eucalyptus leaves. These stick insects can then be switched over to bramble (any type of bramble) when they are a couple of months old. Potted eucalyptus plants (grown specially without pesticides) can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies. Or, you may be able to find a eucalyptus tree growing in someone's garden or a park in Southampton. Eucalyptus leaves and trees are quite distinctive and easy to spot once you know what you are looking for.

When do stick insects start to lay eggs? We have had ours for two weeks now and they haven’t laid any. One of them has developed a red marking at the bottom of one of its legs though. Is this normal?
Stick insects usually start to lay eggs a few weeks after they are fully grown. Some species take a bit longer, unfortunately you haven't said which type of stick insect you have? If you have adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) both of the front legs turn red at the end where the legs join the body. If this has happened with only one leg, it could be that the other front leg has been regenerated (to replace a lost leg). Regenerated limbs are always shorter than original legs.

Can you explain, in simple terms, why extreme heat is more effective than extreme cold at destroying unwanted stick insect eggs?
Extreme heat, which you can achieve by from pouring boiling water over the eggs, will immediately denature the structure inside the egg. So the shapes inside change at once, which means it is impossible for the egg to develop any further. Extreme cold is a much slower method to achieve a similar result, and will only work if it is cold enough and also if the eggs are kept cold for long enough. Amazingly, many insect eggs can cope with very cold conditions and simply arrest development until the surrroundings warm up again. So there is real risk that if you place eggs in a domestic freezer for a few days and then take them out, the eggs can start developing again when they are out of the freezer.

I’ve had a few of my black beauty stick insects all show the same symptoms over the last few weeks. Weakness, unable to bend their legs or hold on anymore, eyes going a grey colour rather than yellow and then they just get weaker and weaker and weaker before dying. Is this just a case of a few reaching old age at the same time? I got them from a friend so don’t know ages. I’ve been told they only get wings after their last shed, is this true? Most of them have wings but are still varying sizes. I have one large chunky obvious male but all the others range in size.
Only adult stick insects have wings, so yes, the wings appear after the final skin change (ecdysis) has been completed. Adult female stick insects are larger and chunkier than the adult males. The fresh new shoots of privet can cause health problems and so it's important to feed your stick insects the largest privet leaves you can find. Stick insects dying from old age require more water to drink and so it's best to mist the privet leaves with water, preferably in the evening so they can drink from the droplets on the leaves. Also check that the floor of the cage is lined with paper and not kitchen roll (avoid the latter because it absorbs moisture and can make the surroundings too dry). Black beauty stick insects (also called Peruvian Black stick insects) have the Latin species name Peruphasma schultei. Because they can emit a chemical spray which can irritate sensitive people, this is not a species that Small-Life Supplies breeds (We only breed the species of stick insect that are safe to keep). So I don't know why the eyes are changing colour. The weakness and inability to grip are symptoms of old age.

Have you seen the colourful stick insect in the "new scientist" magazine? It's beautiful !
Yes, it's on page 10 of the 4th May 2019 "new scientist" weekly magazine. This stick insect has orange spiky legs and black wings with blue spots! It was found in Madagascar by German entomologists and has been assigned the species name Achrioptera maroloko. This is a very colourful genus of stick insect, the Achrioptera fallax is another colourful stick insect that is already being reared by enthusiasts in the UK.

Can I get another ELC cage from you with a mesh lid? My Pink Winged stick insects have laid eggs which are hatching and so I need another cage, but couldn't see this version on your website, I do hope it is still available?
Yes, the ELC cage with the mesh lid is still available, there is a £2 supplement for this version because this lid is more expensive to produce. This design is ideal for Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), because they appreciate the roof top ventilation as well as the side ventilation in the cage.

Please can you tell me the methods being used for larval mosquito abatement in the US?
There is ongoing surveillance and monitoring of mosquito populations, which includes counting the mosquitoes and also identifying the species. The vast majority of species of mosquito are not vectors and so are no health threat to humans. For example in Louisiana, USA, there are 64 species of mosquito, but only a handful are vectors for the West Nile Virus etc. Mosquito larvae are aquatic and so there is a "source reduction" policy, which finds and deals with their breeding areas. So receptacles such as discarded car tyres (which fill up with rainwater) are removed. And fish that eat mosquito larvae are added to abandoned swimming pools. If the population of vector carrying mosquitoes is very high, specific "bio-rational" products are applied to areas of standing water. Such products (derived from nature) target mosquito larvae and cause minimum harm to other organisms.

Yesterday my two Indian Eri silkmoths emerged and today they are mating! They have been doing this for hours. I have them in the TTQ cage, will the female lay eggs in there?
Yes, the female will stick her eggs on the side of the TTQ and you can look forward to them hatching in approximately ten days. The caterpillars need to be fed with privet leaves (but avoid the young shoots), or lilac leaves. It's best to transfer the baby caterpillars to a HUA Pot and rear them in there until they are large enough to live in the TTQ cage. It's a good idea to let the adult silkmoths out of the cage at dusk and let them have a fly around the room if they want to. Silkmoths are weaker flyers than hawkmoths, but they usually like to fly a bit in the early evening and need space to do this.

I am keeping some amazing Extatosoma tiaratum in a large mesh cage with their own potted rose bush for a food source and they seem extremely happy and healthy, however the rose is attracting some green fly, is it possible to introduce a ladybug couple to the environment or will they cause any harm to the Macleays?
Ladybugs (these are called ladybirds in the UK) eat aphids and greenfly and so yes, you could put a couple in the cage. Ladybirds have huge appetites though, and so you'd need to release them outdoors when they have eaten the greenfly. Ladybirds won't harm your Macleays Spectre stick insects, but may tickle them a bit if they walk on their bodies. But this isn't a problem because a stick insect can easily shake or knock a ladybird off.

One of my British Vapourer cocoons has emerged into a male moth! He is flapping around inside the QBOX. Will he be OK in there? The other cocoon hasn't emerged yet, fingers crossed it's a female!
Don't keep the male moth captive in the QBOX because this will be very stressful for him and he will die prematurely. So you need to release the male moth outside this afternoon, preferably around 5pm. He may fly off if he detects a female's pheromones in the vicinity. Or, if he can't detect any, he will loiter in your garden, hiding from birds. Hopefully your other cocoon will emerge in the next day or so. If it is a female, place her on your windowsill outside and your original male will detect her pheromones and fly to her. Or another passing male may fly to her. Mating usually lasts for 5 -10 minutes and the female starts to lay her eggs soon after the male has flown off. Do not disturb the moths during mating.

Just after your advice on our Indian stick insect. As in the photo, one morning a couple of weeks we noticed her back end had some kind of injury and an egg seems to have stuck to the green blood/gunk. Since then she has lost a lot of weight but still seems strong enough to grip the cage when I try to remove her. Do you think I should try to remove the egg?
Yes, it's a good idea to remove the egg. I recommend spraying the area with water (from a Mister Curvy) and after a few minutes, you should be able to carefully flick the egg off with a small artist's paintbrush, or lift it off with your fingers. You will probably have to repeat this process every time she lays an egg. Unfortunately the area looks deformed so she'll never be able to lay eggs properly. Such stick insects usually don't lay many eggs, but it is important to keep removing any eggs that are produced otherwise the eggs start to accumulate and this causes problems for the stick insect. Meanwhile ensure she has extra water and nice bramble leaves to eat. If she decides not to carry on, she will make the decision to stop eating and drinking.

I am a new, pleased owner of an Australian walking stick! I named him Fetch! I want to make a custom tank with wood, plexiglass, and screen mesh. It is for when he gets bigger. Is wood glue toxic to Fetch after it dries?
Australian stick insects like airy surroundings, so you need to make a tall cage with two screen mesh sides. You can use a wood framework and wood glue is OK to use, but make sure there is no smell coming from the glue at all when it has dried (there shouldn't be any odour). The mistake many people make is then to use varnish, this can cause problems for the stick insects and so don't use varnish. Avoid paint as well. So just use untreated wood. Line the floor of the cage with paper and replace this weekly so Fetch is in clean surroundings. Stick insects like company of their own kind and so it would be nice if you could get another Australian stick insect so that Fetch is not alone.

I have four Vapourer caterpillars in the QBOX. Three have spun their cocoons in three separate top corners of the QBOX. Now the last caterpillar is well underway spinning a cocoon on top of one of the other cocoons! Should I intervene and try to move it to an unoccupied space? Or is it too late?
It's too late to intervene. This is because your caterpillar has already expended a lot of energy in spinning its cocoon and there is a risk of the caterpillar not having enough strength to finish the process if you forcibly remove it. So let it finish. The Vapourer moths usually emerge around the same time, so hopefully this moth will emerge before the one underneath it, enabling you to peel away the empty cocoon. If the moth underneath tries to emerge first, it may need some assistance, so you may need to snip a small hole with nail scissors in its cocoon if its natural exit is blocked. You can easily see a moth trying to emerge out of its cocoon and so it will be obvious if it needs assistance or not.

"Bird or bash" my lecturer used to say about injured stick insects that were too far gone to recover. Sadly I accidentally trod on one of my Pink Winged stick insects and so I was relieved when a blackbird munched her up within minutes of me putting her out on the bird table. The poor thing did flash her wings but the blackbird took no notice and ate her anyway, thankfully quite quickly. I cringe when people suggest the freezer method, don't they know that results in slow death and agony of cells splitting?
Yes, you did the right thing by feeding your badly injured stick insect to the garden birds. At least the blackbird benefitted from this unfortunate accident and the stick insect was put out of its misery quickly. And yes, death by freezing is slow and cruel and not humane.

Is it possible to keep my six Extatosoma tiaratum nymphs with my Budwing stick insect? (Thailand straight stick insect)?
Yes, both species like airy surroundings and do well in either the ELC cage or the AUC cage.

I enjoyed the Cambridge event very much and meeting you. I believe everyone should keep stick insects at some point during their lives.
Thank you, it was an enjoyable event with a varied range of exhibits. And yes, I agree with your sentiment! Keeping stick insects is a very easy way to become interested in nature.

I have some QBOXES left over from the last time I bought some caterpillar kits from you. I would very much like to try keeping some of your British Vapourer caterpillars and wonder if it's possible to just buy the caterpillars (and QBOX Liners) because I have the QBOXES already?
Yes, of course. Just give us a call on 01733 203358 and you can save some money by just getting the caterpillars and Liners. We find the QBOXES work really well for rearing British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) and our QBOXES are sturdy and washable and so can be re-used many times.

I've just got some New Guinea stick insects (three males and four females) from the pet shop. They said to feed them bramble, privet and oak leaves and to keep them humid. Is that right?
Not completely. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best on bramble/blackberry leaves, also hazel leaves and rose leaves. Privet and oak are not suitable. New Guinea stick insects do best in a cage with two ventilated sides, so do not require it to be humid. However they do not like very airy surroundings, so avoid housing them in an all-netting enclosure. The ELC cage is ideal for housing New Guinea stick insects, and it's really important to provide a Water Dish, Community Tubes, and a Sand Pit for these stick insects. It's good to have a mixture of males and females and you'll find yours like to pile on top of each other in the Community Tubes.

My giant bud wing stick insect Phaenopharos khaoyaiensis was out walking on me when I noticed orange liquid from her mouth. Is this a defence thing? If so she clearly didn't like me stopping her from climbing onto my head.
Yes, your stick insect was annoyed so she released this orange liquid from her mouth. Your stick insect is also called the "Thailand Straight stick insect" and has other defences too. When alarmed, the adult female has small red wings that she can flash open and she can also emit a defensive odour.

I have received my British Vapourer caterpillars, they are wonderful. I am 24 and am now discovering insects! I am just checking it is legal to release these outside? I live in Brighton, UK.
Our customers are all age groups, so the interest in insects is not age related! And yes, these British Vapourer caterpillars have been captive bred by Small-Life Supplies and are healthy individuals that eat fresh bramble leaves. When they are fully grown and ready for release, you can set them free outdoors (between 5pm and 6pm is the best time to do this). British Vapourer caterpillars occur across the UK and so it is perfectly legal to release ones that have been captive-bred. Such individuals have a good chance of thriving outdoors and hopefully will find a mate and reproduce. The legal (and ethical) situation is different for foreign species and these must not be released in the UK. It would be cruel to do this anyway, because such foreign insects would suffer because it would be too cold for them to survive in the UK climate.

Is the colour of stick insects affected by what leaves they eat?
Yes. We have noticed that most Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insect nymphs become a strong shade of green if they eat eucalyptus leaves, but remain a fawn colour if they just eat bramble leaves. And the medium-sized Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) nymphs that eat bramble leaves are mostly golden coloured, but the stick insects that are exclusively fed on eucalyptus leaves have a noticeable green tint to their bodies and legs.


Can you remind me again, what is the minimum safe size of a soft pale green bramble leaf? It's getting rather difficult to find the old leaves now.
It can be difficult to feed stick insects at this time of year because the old dark green bramble leaves are dying off to make way for the fresh new shoots. It's really important not to feed stick insects with the very small pale green soft leaves because these can contain toxins which can harm your stick insects. However when each leaf segment is a minimum of 5cm long, the leaf should be safe to eat. If you look at a bramble leaf, it is made up of three leaf segments, each of these segments needs to be a minimum of 5cm long to be safe for the stick insects to eat.

We are new to raising Indian stickies but we all love them - especially my little boy! Can I ask, do you know how long they take to reach their full size?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are fully gown within five months, they shed their skins six times during this time, dramatically increasing in size every time. More details are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd.

Would my chickens eat my surplus stick insect eggs?
Yes, this is very likely. Indeed, our customers who keep chickens have told us that their chickens gobble up stick insect eggs, with no adverse effects.

Is the ELC cage suitable for Indian stick insects that aren't fully grown yet? They're about 3cm in length at the moment. And how many would this hold comfortably?
Yes, the ELC cage is ideal for housing juvenile Indian stick insects that are 3cm long. We rear all our Indian stick insects in ELC cages. It's only the newly hatched baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that need to be kept in a smaller, unventilated container. But once they have completed a skin change they double in size and can be transferred to the ELC cage, where they will thrive because this cage is large and has two ventilated panels. The ELC cage gives the stick insects plenty of room to grow properly. We recommend housing up to twenty adult Indian stick insects in an ELC cage, or approx thirty juvenile ones (these are called nymphs).

I have just taken delivery of one pair of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, thank you so much, they are divine! I have set up their cage with eucalyptus and bramble and the male is eating already! Someone told me that the males die soon after mating, is that true?
No, the males and females should have the same lifespan, and they mate regularly during their adult lives. Occasionally a male will die prematurely but this is usually because of ill health, or if he is exceptionally active. Some of the males really like to fly and it is the very active ones that fly a lot which have a shorter lifespan. But the majority pair up and grow old together!


One of our female Sungaya inexpectata died the other day and within a few days we were really concerned to see a green larva (looked like caterpillar) growing out the back of its head. It was hard to see then when we came home it was gone. Any ideas?
Dead stick insects should be removed from the cage the day they die, and disposed off. Some species decompose quickly, others more slowly, but it is not good for the health of the other stick insects to have a corpse in the cage. Some insects can be parasitised, but parasitic larvae are cream and not green. The inside of a stick insect contains a greenish translucent tube, this can burst out of the exoskeleton if that splits (this sometimes happens if a skin change goes wrong and the skin of the inner thorax splits as well as the outer thorax) but this hasn't happened to your insect. The most likely explanation is that it was a green caterpillar that had fallen off a leaf and had landed on the back of the head of your dead stick insect. It then wandered off during the day.

Our Indian stick insects eat bramble leaves but at the moment the leaves have spots? New growth is coming through but I think that using this is dangerous?
Definitely do not use the new bramble shoots. These may look tasty but actually can contain toxins (to protect the plant) and so will harm your stick insects if they eat these leaves. Spotty bramble leaves are not ideal but can be eaten safely. Better still is if you can find another source of bramble where there are still dark green leaves available. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) will also eat eucalyptus leaves and rose leaves. If you are really struggling, you can purchase Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies, fortunately we can harvest green bramble leaves throughout the year.

My Extatosoma tiaratum mated for the first time last week. Your book says the spermatophore drops off after a number of hours... Poppy's is still hanging on... They have mated again today and the male now has a matching spermatophore. Is this OK, or should I try removing them? Also how long after maturity and mating will I need to wait for our own eggs of this species? I'm beginning to think I'm too impatient for keeping phasmids!
It's best to leave the spermatophores alone, the used ones will drop off eventually. Not all matings are successful, sometimes the male produces a spermatophore but then can't transfer it across successfully and it ends up being dropped on the floor. Your male is obviously keen on the female and will continue to mate regularly with her. It's really obvious when the female is ready to lay eggs because her abdomen will swell up dramatically as it fills with eggs. This usually happens a few weeks after successful mating. Her appetite will increase. It's important to mist the bramble leaves in the evening so both genders can have a drink of water. Also, always mist the leaves with water when the male is flying across the room so he can have a drink afterwards.

On the news, I saw disturbing footage of large trees covered with huge netting bags. Apparently this is a rouse by developers to stop birds from nesting in the trees (it is illegal to cut down trees that contain nesting birds). I am outraged by this shady practice, and alarmed that it appears to be starting to happen all over the UK. The report I saw indicated that many people are horrified by this cruel action, but didn't mention what we, the public, can do to stop it? And no mention about the insects that will be adversely affected.
Unscrupulous developers entomb trees they want to remove with netting bags, sometimes before they have even got planning permission, and sometimes, allegedly, before they even own the land ! You are correct in the reason they do this, to stop birds nesting. One of the few protections trees have is that you cannot cut them down during the nesting season if birds are nesting in the branches. However, large netting bags also stop birds from resting and roosting in the trees. And stop the insects from living there. Vast numbers of insects depend on trees and so it's important to highlight that insects need free access to trees! So it is essential that this netting practice be stopped. Also, it's not just trees they are netting, it is hedgerows too. You (and others) can contact the owner of the land listing the reasons why the netting action is barbaric and demand it be removed immediately. You can contact your MP asking for this practice to made illegal. You can sign the anti-netting petition, here is the link
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/244233?
fbclid=IwAR1nuR3qKrfnb_hwpXWb5_EBmScipP3ku6wSKCfDKhm88JLraZeIG87n0Uc

It already has over 160 000 signatures so this campaign is gaining momentum. Some local councils are already taking action to remove netting, so it's worth contacting your local borough council and county council too. It's really important to list the reasons why you are objecting to the netting, this will help officials to understand why it is so abhorrent.



I thought silkworms ate mulberry leaves? But the ones you sell eat privet leaves?
There are different species of silkmoth. Their caterpillars are called larvae or silkworms. The silkworms that are used to create silk are Chinese and are the Bombyx mori species. They only eat mulberry leaves. The Indian Eri silkworms that Small-Life Supplies supply are a different species (Samia ricini), these are not reared commercially for silk, but we breed and supply them as pets. They only eat privet and lilac leaves.

I acquired some juvenile giant Madagascan hissing cockroaches about a week ago, but I’m worried as they don’t seem to be eating anything. I have them in a glass viv with a heat mat underneath, they are sprayed daily and have a food dish with water sponge and fruit/veg and roach chow in. The base is coconut fibre (I’m worried it might be getting too dry due to the heat mat despite spraying?) and there is an egg box and some wood for them to hide under. They are out of any direct sunlight and all the house lights are off at night.
Here at Small-Life Supplies we used to breed lots of Madagascan hissing cockroaches (Gromphadhorina portentosa) and found that they did best in ventilated surroundings. So we kept ours in cages with two mesh sides, and observed that the Madagascan hissing cockroaches liked to climb the sides and rest on the sides during the day. They also liked lots of attention and regular handling. A heat mat is not necessary, they should be fine in a room that is comfortably warm. And like the stick insects, a paper Liner on the floor of the enclosure is best. Substrates such as coconut fibre should not be used because the bits can clog up the sticky pads on the insects' feet and also the frass gets trapped in the substrate and this leads to to unhygienic conditions. Spraying the cage daily is not recommended, this will lead to damp surroundings which is not good for the health of your insects. So you need to make some major changes quickly before they die. We fed ours on slices of orange and also provided a dish of dead leaves (they liked dead oak and dead sycamore leaves the best). And a shallow water dish (filled with cold tap water) provides the water they need to drink.

I bought my daughter an ELC bundle and Australian stick insects (she loves them both!) and now I think we'd better get the "Keeping Stick Insects" book because she has her heart set on acquiring more varieties! Your website lists this book at £12.50 new, but ebay has the same book listed at over £50 for used copies? Is it the same book?
Yes, it's the same book. All copies have been printed by the same British printing company and so are of the same high quality paper etc. Obviously it makes no sense to buy a used copy for four times the price of a new copy! You can purchase a new copy of "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd direct from Small-Life Supplies, or we also sell new copies on ebay. The book sellers who sell this book at inflated prices are doing so because they have limited stocks of this title. Your daughter will enjoy the book because it has a whole section about Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) and also covers other popular types in detail, giving lots of useful tips on how to look after them properly.

We are thrilled with our two Indian Eri caterpillars! They are bigger than I was expecting! My son, Toby, has been drawing them today, he is very interested in detail and we'd like to know if any features change as they grow?
Glad you like them, they are very impressive caterpillars. They will grow quickly and so it's great that your son is so observant. The main change is in the colour, they develop a yellow tinge before a skin change and as they get larger they get more of a blue-ish hue to their white bodies. It's really obvious when a skin-change is imminent because the caterpillar stays still and shrinks slightly. It's best not to disturb a caterpillar for a day or two either side of a skin-change (because the caterpillar needs to conserve its energy during this time). Toby will also enjoy drawing the adult Indian silkmoths, these are large and slow moving, so he could let one sit on his hand whilst he draws it.


We have just ventured into the world of stick insects. Could you please tell me what variety of stick insect this is. We have three of them. I’ve looked on line and some photos suggest it might be a Giant Spiny Stick Insect which can spike you with its rear legs - I am slightly concerned as my son likes to handle his new friends!
Your photo is of a juvenile New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), the pointed end means that it is a female. New Guinea stick insects respond well to regular handling, and so your son can continue to enjoy handling them. New Guinea stick insects do well in a tall cage with two mesh sides they can climb, so the ELC cage is ideal housing for them. They do require more water than other species, so it's important to put a shallow Water Dish in the cage. Bramble/blackberry leaves are the best food for New Guinea stick insects, keep the stems fresh by pushing the cut ends into a Sprig Pot of cold tap water. If the stick insects are maltreated, for example, deliberately hit/kept in poor conditions/ starved or denied water, they become stressed and can be aggressive, however if you are kind to your stick insects there shouldn't be any problems. Here at Small-Life Supplies we supply nursery schools with New Guinea stick insects because they like a lot of attention and have good temperaments when they are looked after properly.

My stick insect lost a back leg whilst moulting and couldn’t get it’s front two legs fully out of its skin so the tips are still covered. Now it can only hang upside down. Will it be able to moult again and successfully be able to release its front legs or will they always be damaged?
Oh dear. Stick insects sometimes mess up a skin change and lose a leg. That is not too serious because they can grow a new leg and this will appear at the next skin-change. Getting stuck in the old skin is much more serious and, if you see this happening, it's important to intervene quickly, by misting the affected area with water and gently peeling the old skin away. Damage to front legs is also more serious than back legs, so unfortunately the prognosis for your stick insect is not looking good.

I have just acquired some juvenile Madagascar hissing cockroaches about 1” long - most of them have damaged antennae - will these regrow at their next shed or are they permanently damaged?
Legs can be regenerated, but not antennae. So unfortunately your Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches (Gromphadhorina portentosa) will be permanently damaged.

I have just seen your Indian Eri caterpillars on your website. I would like ten caterpillars, does this mean I need five HUA Pots, or could I get a larger container and house them altogether?
I recommend the TTQ cage, this is ideal for housing all ten Indian Eri caterpillars together. You'll also need the Privet Platform (price £1.50). This is full of holes so you can push the cut stems of privet through the holes and they stick upright, so the caterpillars can climb up them to eat. This is much better than resting the privet sprigs horizontally on the floor of the cage. And, for caterpillars, it's important not to stand the stems of foodplant water, so the Privet Platform is a great solution.

In September time I'm hopefully going to be doing a degree in animal behaviour and training at university. I am particularly interested in insects though and I would love to pursue a career with them in future. My question is what do you suggest I do after my animal behaviour and training degree that would help me to expand my knowledge of entomology and enable me to pursue a career with insects? I know a few universities nearby do entomology masters degrees but these are more biology/science based and I'm more interested in doing something practical. I would love a formal qualification to do with insects and their care, but have no idea where to start.
The firms and organisations that breed insects tend to train people on the job and so are not looking for someone with a formal qualification in insect care. A natural affinity for insects is essential, as is good manual dexterity, a calm demeanour, and a compassionate nature. (When I interviewed candidates it was immediately obvious if they had a rapport with insects or not). However, science 'A levels' and a degree qualification in insect physiology are important because that demonstrates that you have an understanding of how insects function and this will help you understand their needs. Also, if you are able to show that you have been successful in breeding your own pet stick insects and caterpillars, and appreciate the importance of correct housing, hygiene and best practice, that will help tremendously in securing a work placement at an insect breeding centre, which may lead to full time work if they are impressed with your efforts.

Do all insects have six legs?
Generally yes, but this is for adult insects. The immature stages can be different, for example fly grubs (maggots) don't have distinguishable legs. And the larvae of butterflies and moths (caterpillars) have six small legs at the front (these are called their thoracic legs), but eight stubby legs further back and claspers at the end. Sawfly larvae are similar to caterpillars but have an extra pair of the abdominal stubby legs (these are called pro-legs). Insects which undergo "incomplete metamorphosis" have nymphs looking like miniature versions of the adults, and so both have six legs.

We are looking forward to receiving the Indian caterpillars for nursery. We already have a zip up netting enclosure, would this be a better caterpillar habitat because it's bigger?
No, it's really important to keep the Indian Eri caterpillars in the HUA Pot supplied for the time being. When they outgrow this, a container with only one ventilated side is needed, so you can use a tank or enclosure with netting on the top, or invest in the TTQ cage. A netting enclosure is too airy for these caterpillars. However, when the spectacular Indian Eri silkmoths emerge from their cocoons, you can house them in your netting enclosure at nursery school.

Do you have any tips for hatching Guadeloupe stick insects please? I have lots of eggs…
Guadeloupe stick insect (Lamponius guerini) eggs are usually easy to hatch, but they do incubate for a long time. Just store the eggs in a QBOX or HUA Pot and after about eight months, lightly mist the eggs with water (in the late afternoon/early evening). This action seems to trigger the hatching, and so you should start to see the hatchlings (called first instar nymphs) on following mornings. Keep these nymphs in another HUA Pot and feed them with wet bramble leaves. Older nymphs can be transferred to the ELC cage. Guadeloupe stick insects need more humidity, so ensure there are two Sprig Pots of bramble in the cage, or alternatively cover the fixed mesh side of the cage with cling film (fix to outside). Also, it's worth keeping Guadeloupe eggs for longer than eight months because this species is unusual in that the eggs can still hatch many months after they were supposed to.

Does your Vietnamese Collector Card describe the huge Vietnamese stick insects in the AUC cage?
No, the Vietnamese Collector Card describes the Baculum extradentatum species. The large stick insects you describe are a new type, called the North East Vietnamese stick insect, Medauromorpha regina. A new Collector Card for them will be produced soon.

My female Australian Macleays Spectre, called Poppy, is laying lots of eggs, firing them across the cage! Sadly, her mate died before he matured. So will her eggs be fertile? I feel I should get her a mate, but can you send winged stick insects safely?
The female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) catapults her large eggs and so you can hear them landing in the ELC cage! Unfertilised eggs can hatch, but the incubation time is longer and the offspring are not as healthy as those produced from fertilised eggs. So getting Poppy a mate is a very good idea. Small-Life Supplies has some spare large male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect nymphs at the moment, both six legged ones (at full price) and a few five legged ones (at a discount price), so please get in touch if you'd like to purchase one. The largest ones will be fully grown within weeks and so will be ideal for Poppy. Small-Life Supplies doesn't send out adult winged males because it would be too stressful for them in transit.

I gasped on seeing the destruction at Norbury Park, Surrey. All those healthy ash trees felled. And by Surrey Wildlife Trust. Have you any insight into this?
It does appear to be absolutely scandalous. Large scale destruction of trees (and associated insects etc) by an organisation that is supposed to promote nature beggars belief.

I have some large New Guinea stick insects and I like the way they hide in the Community Tubes! A friend has offered me some of her Aretaon asperrimus stick insects, I notice they look a bit like a tiny version of the New Guinea stick insects and I wondered if they needed the Community Tubes too? Also, please can you tell me where is their native country?
The Aretaon asperrimus species originates from Sabah (a state in Borneo) and so is often called the Sabah stick insect. Like the New Guinea stick insects, Sabah stick insects need a dish of water in the cage, and also a Sand Pit (so the adult female can bury her eggs). Community Tubes are not required for Sabah stick insects. Unlike New Guinea stick insects which do best in a cage with two mesh sides, the Sabah stick insects need increased humidity and so do best in a cage with one mesh side. So if you are using the ELC cage for Sabah stick insects, then cover the fixed mesh side with cling film (attached to the outside). Do not mix these two species together.

We have hatched out some spare Pink Winged stick insects that my daughter's primary school have agreed to take after Easter (when they will be a lot bigger). The school is also keen to buy one of your stick insect cages, but I am not sure what the best way is to proceed with this? Can the school buy direct from you or should I buy it and try and get the money from the school? It would be the ELC bundle with the book.
Small-Life Supplies sell stick insect cages direct to schools. So if you let us know the contact person at the school, we can contact them and arrange it all, including delivery after Easter. We will also provide a receipted VAT invoice, which enables the school to reclaim 20% VAT on the purchase price. It is great that you have done this, enabling more children to benefit from seeing living stick insects in the classroom.

I was looking around the garden centre at the weekend and I saw some blackberry bushes for sale in the "British grown" section. However, the leaves seemed wafer thin and didn't look like the nutritious thick leaves that I gather from the disused railway line. So I didn't buy any. Presumably there are different types of blackberry bush?
Yes, there are lots of different types of bramble. The most nutritious type has the thick leaves and the two-tone colour of stem (purple and green), this wild bramble is often found in disused railway lines and green leaves are available all year. There are types of bramble that produce thin leaves, these are usually found in wooded areas and are not as nutritious for the stick insects. You were wise not to purchase the very thin leaved bramble plants.

Please can you tell me the humidity requirements of Eurycantha calcarata nymphs, age approx four months? And is the best substrate peat or paper?
Medium-sized nymphs and adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best in a tall cage with two ventilated sides, so their humidity requirements are the same as many other commonly kept species of stick insect. The best cage for housing New Guinea stick insects is the ELC cage, which can house up to six adult New Guinea stick insects. The best floor covering is paper, or the ELC pre-cut Liners. Substrates such as peat/soil/earth/sand are best avoided because the granules clog up the sticky pads on the feet of the stick insects and the surroundings soon become unhygienic because the stick insects are pooing onto damp substrate, leading to mould growth.

Could you tell me, please, what is the lifespan of Ramulus artemis?
Most stick insects live for about one year, but the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii), and the New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp), both of which are often mistakenly sold as Ramulus artemis, have longer lifespans, typically 14 months.

I was absolutely horrified to read in the Guardian that we are in the midst of the sixth extinction. Yet not a mention of this on the television news, who seem intent on filling our heads with tittle tattle and terrorism. We have to act now to stop the planet's destruction...can I join a group or do something?
Yes, the "burying the head in the sand" approach is really not what should be happening when faced with a crisis. You could contact the "Extinction Rebellion" group, who are organising campaigns to raise awareness of this incredibly serious situation and demanding action. Locally, you can plant trees and British grown plants to help the wildlife, and of course encourage others to do the same. As well as planting things, you can also oppose destruction of wild areas and pollarding of trees, both of which are very detrimental to the existing nature of the area.

I've just got my little boy some baby stick insects and I'm trying to find out the best food for them. I've bought some ivy as no privet available at the moment but I'm wondering if all types of ivy plants are safe?
Unfortunately, many potted ivy plants that are sold in shops have been grown in soil treated with pesticides. These chemicals are taken up by the plant's roots and disperse to the plant's leaves. An insect can't detect these chemicals and so when an insect eats the leaf, it consumes the poison and dies. So it is a really bad idea to buy potted ivy plants for your stick insects unless you can be certain they have been grown in organic compost with no harmful pesticides added. You don't say what species of stick insect you have, but if you have the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) (these are a very popular type) then sourcing bramble/blackberry leaves is the best option. You can find green leaves growing wild throughout the year in overgrown areas (woods, disused railway lines, canal embankments). Wallets of fresh cut bramble leaves are also available to buy from Small-Life Supplies.

Two of my son's Indian stick insects have strange growths on their abdomens. They seem like lumps of green jelly. Could you tell us what these are? I have attached two photos. We raised these insects from eggs and both stick insects have shed for the last time and are now in the adult stage, however, they have not started to lay eggs. Also, on the second insect, there is a small appendage above the green blob, could this be a new leg!?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are usually all females. But very rarely, 1 in every 10000 is a male. And even rarer still, estimated at 1 in every 20000, is a female stick insect with male characteristics. That is what you have. So the green jelly is the male genitalia. The brown bumpy looking abdomen is a typical characteristic. Such stick insects can sometimes still lay eggs, but the number is very low, often less than ten eggs (unlike a normal female who lays over 500 eggs). The stick insect in the second photo looks more capable of laying some eggs than the stick insect in the first photo. The small appendage is most unusual, it does look a bit like a foot- does it move or it is fixed?

My Indian stick insects have started to get pink bits where the front legs are hinged to the body. I have been told this means they are ready to lay eggs? Will this colour fade once they start to lay eggs?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) develop the red areas where you describe when they are fully grown and ready to lay eggs. So your Indian stick insects should be approximately 11cm long (this is the total length including the body and the two front legs outstretched). Indian stick insects lay eggs every day during the rest of their adult life, and retain this red colouration throughout their adult life.

I am keeping some Nui Chua Yellow Stripe Stick Insects having previously kept Indian Stick insects for a number of years. My current batch of Stripes are adult and seem to be happily feeding on privet. However over the past few days I have noticed some of the females eating droppings on the floor of the cage which I have never seen any do before. Is this a normal thing for any species of Stick Insects to do?
This usually indicates the stick insect is thirsty, so you need to lightly mist the privet leaves with water. This is best done in the evening. Only spray the leaves with water, try to avoid getting the actual stick insects wet. Also, look at the floor covering of the cage. Kitchen roll is not ideal because it can contribute to drying out the surroundings, so a paper Liner is much better. If you are using the ELC cage, the pre-cut ELC Liners are available in blue and pink colour options.

Just heard an old track on the radio, "Englishman in New York" by Sting. I always thought the line "see me walking down 5th Avenue, walking cane here at my side" sounded odd, but I now realise if he'd said "walking stick" the Americans would think he was taking his stick insect on an outing!
Yes, that's right. Of course, here in the UK we call phasmids "stick insects", but in the USA they are called "walking sticks". But here in the UK most people think a walking stick is a mobility aid, but are unlikely to call it a "walking cane".

You know when stick insects moult their skins, are these cast off skins always white? And is there a scientific word for the cast off skin?
Cast off or shed skins of stick insects are usually a creamy white colour, but there are some exceptions. Large female Malaysian stick insects nymphs (Heteropteryx dilatata) leave green skins, Vietnamese stick insects (Baculum extradentatum) leave pinkish skins, and Peruvian Black stick insects (Peruphasma schultei)can leave black skins. The scientific word for a shed skin from a stick insect is "exuvia".

I feel awful. I accidentally snipped off part of my stick insect's back leg while cutting up the bramble. So Flamingo (she's a Pink Winged) now has 5 full legs and one back leg that ends half way between the knee and ankle. She has one more moult to go, will she be able to grow it back?
No, Flamingo will not be able to regenerate the missing part. Stick insects can only re-grow legs from three places: 1) where the leg joins the body, 2) the knee, 3) the head (bizarrely if an antenna is completely lost , a miniature leg regrows in its place!)

I had loads of Macleays Spectre eggs and some have hatched, but none now for the last three weeks. Should I throw them away? I collected them last summer from Garth and Minth, my adults. The largest nymphs have moulted twice, the younger ones once.
Yes, your eggs have finished hatching now, so can be discarded. Well done for getting some to hatch and I am pleased they are growing well.

My stick insects are thriving in their new home (the excellent ELC cage). My previous tank wasn't ideal because the stick insects need plenty of space to cling onto and prefer a fine mesh underfoot. I just wanted to express my thanks and support as I run a small business myself in Yorkshire and know how tough it is running a business!
Thank you for your support. It has always been the policy of Small-Life Supplies to carefully design and manufacture cages that meet the needs of the insects and their owners, so our cages are time consuming to produce and use premium quality raw materials. The ELC stick insect cage has been in production since 2012 and we use these cages to breed most of the stick insects here at Small-Life Supplies. Stick insects need tall well-ventilated cages with sides they can hook their claws around and so that is why stuffy smooth sided glass or plastic tanks are not suitable.

I have just bought a set of 8 Ramulus artemis(?) stick insect nymphs, they are still quite small now but how big will a cage need to be to accommodate them? Is there any possibility of keeping them in the same enclosure as millipedes or will the difference in humidity be too much? Also is bramble still OK for this species?
These will be the same as the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). (A lot of people are mistaking Baculum thaii stick insects for Ramulus artemis). They only eat bramble leaves. They need a tall airy cage and do well in the ELC cage (eight Thailand adults in this cage is the maximum capacity). Millipedes needs to be housed in a separate cage which has less ventilation, but still has textured sides that the millipedes can climb.

How tolerant are Indian stick insects to a switch in their food? I mean if they have only eaten bramble leaves as nymphs, must they only eat bramble leaves as adults?
Indian stick insects can be switched to other suitable diets without any problems. So Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that have eaten bramble leaves as nymphs can eat rose leaves and hazel leaves as adults. As with all animals, some individual stick insects may be more fussy than others, so ideally you should include some bramble in the cage, just in case you have an extremely fussy stick insect who refuses to try anything new! Such individuals are quite rare though. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we routinely feed our adult Indian stick insects and adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) with hazel leaves during the summer because this helps conserve our bramble stocks for the winter (hazel leaves are deciduous and so not available during the winter).

I'd like some Pink Winged stick insects but wondered how I go about ordering them with this cold weather? Should I wait till it's warmer?
It's best to order now and Small-Life Supplies shall hold the order and send the stick insects as soon as it is mild enough at night to do so. The overnight temperature needs to be above freezing at night to be warm enough for the stick insects to travel safely. We shall let you know by email what day your parcel will be delivered, and also send you the delivery tracking details which gives you a two hour delivery slot on the day of delivery.

Do any stick insects jump?
Yes, but not many species have this ability. The Thailand Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sp) can jump forwards and backwards. Because of this behaviour, this species has been the subject of biological studies and the results published. Small-Life Supplies used to breed the Thailand Winged stick insects but we no longer do so. The adult female is similar to the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) in appearance, but the adult male is smaller and thinner. Whilst recording the behaviour of these Thailand Winged stick insects, the biologists also noted that the adult females were five times as heavy as the males.

I think stick insects are so cool and am planning on getting my nephew some for his birthday. But my girlfriend thinks they are for geeks? She's wrong, surely?
Yes, she's wrong. Stick insects have been mainstream pets for years, the idea of them appealing only to nerds/oddballs/geeks is outdated. Our customers include girls and boys of all ages and adults too. Stick insects have a universal appeal to people who are interested in nature and easy to keep pets. Obviously different people prefer different species of stick insect, so some people really like the thin twig-like stick insects such as the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), whereas other individuals are drawn to the chunky prehistoric looking New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). So it would be wise to consider which sort your nephew would like. If you are unsure, then the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) is a good choice, these stick insects are easy to handle, easy to feed and breed, and do well in the standard ELC stick insect cage.

I am a proud mamma of two baby Thailand stick insects! They hatched this morning from eggs laid on 9th December 2018, so that's just under two months. They are so cute! Is it safe to put them in the ELC cage with their parents?
Congratulations! And yes, it is best to put newly hatched Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) into the ELC cage, rather than a smaller container (which is the preferred housing for many other species). This is because Thailand stick insects do best in airy surroundings from birth and like to rest on the tips of the bramble stems in the ELC stick insect cage. Newly hatched stick insects are are thirsty and so you should lightly mist the bramble with water before you add the stick insects to the cage. The young live happily with the adults and you can enjoy watching them grow dramatically over the next few months.

My Pink Winged ladies are darkening slightly and don't seem to be gripping as well as they used to. They still like to fly. Are they nearing the end? I have lots of green babies but will be sad when the originals pass.
Yes, when Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are very old, their bodies and wings darken. Also, their feet become less sticky and so they can no longer grip very well. The best way forward is to allow them out for regular flights and continue to look after them as usual, ideally spraying the bramble and eucalyptus leaves a bit more generously with water because older stick insects tend to drink more. When they are ready to die, Pink Winged stick insects usually rest on the cage Liner and die relatively quickly.

I am trying to find out as much as I can about stick insects, but am seeing conflicting advice on line, and some so-called facts which are obviously wrong, like stick insects laying 1000 eggs in a clutch! How technical is the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd?
The book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd contains lots of correct factual information, based on years of personal observations and a degree in applied biology. This information is presented in an easy to read style and is not like a stuffy textbook, so is easily accessible to teenagers and adults. I am sure you will find it very helpful, new copies of this book can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies directly or from us via ebay. We don't sell via Amazon. And yes, adult female stick insects lay a few eggs every day, they certainly don't lay a thousand eggs in a clutch!

I was sorting through my Thailand stick insects, struggling as usual because the males kept making a break for it, so they were all over the table. Then the doorbell went and when I returned PurrFace (my cat) was in the room with a guilty look on her face. I am now missing an adult female. I have looked everywhere and I can only conclude that she has been eaten by PurrFace. Is this likely? And if so do I need to take her to the vet?
Cats react differently to the different species of stick insects. Very large types such as New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Malaysian (Heteropteryx dilatata) are treated with caution, with the cat gently tapping the escaped stick insect with its paw. Species of stick insect that flash their wings, such as the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) initially make the cat jump backwards in surprise, showing that this behaviour is an effective deterrent. However, there is something about Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) that appeals to the tastebuds of certain cats, who have no hesitation in gobbling them up! Your cat will be fine, so no need to worry or bother the vet. However, next time you have your Thailand stick insects out of the cage, make sure PurrFace is in a different room!

I got some Indian stick insect eggs. Some have now been born but they're not eating anything. I am worried. The instructions said to give them ivy leaves, but I am now wondering if that is correct or would bramble be better?
It is very important that you remove the ivy and put in a wet green bramble leaf. Newly hatched Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like a drink and so that is why you need to mist the bramble leaf lightly with water before putting it into the HUA Pot. Indian stick insects like to eat bramble leaves, and that is why here at Small-Life Supplies we feed all our Indian stick insects on bramble leaves. Only certain types of ivy leaves can be eaten, so it is safer to use bramble leaves. In the summer, you can also gather hazel leaves for your Indian stick insects, and wild dog rose leaves too.

One of my students has been nagging me to keep some stick insects in class. I can see the advantages but thought I'd check with you first before discussing it with the headteacher! I know he'll ask about the risks, so is there anything to be worried about? If we are given the go ahead, we'd be starting off with some of Lee's surplus Indian stick insects, we have a ready supply of bramble leaves in the school grounds, so no worries there.
There are lots of advantages in keeping stick insects in class. They are low maintenance pets, and don't smell, they generate lots of interest and are an excellent educational resource. The young students like to hear about the green blood that stick insects have and the fact that their ears are by their knees! The fact that insects grow by climbing out of their skins is easily remembered, especially if you see this happening with your class stick insects. And of course stick insects can remain still, making them excellent subjects for detailed observations via drawing and photography. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are great for handling, this promotes respect for living creatures and helps the young students interact with nature. So please reassure your head teacher that there are no concerns with keeping Indian stick insects in school. This species is harmless, low maintenance, and because they do not have fur, stick insects are suitable pets for anyone with asthma. Some teachers have also noted that having living stick insects in class can spark an interest in even the most disaffected pupils, which is very positive. And of course, it's great that you are encouraging your current student Lee who clearly is already benefitting from having stick insects of his own.

Why is the British media so anti wildlife? Ridiculously anti-pigeon, anti-tree, anti-spider , what is going on? I have stopped reading newspapers now because they are so hysterical when they report "invasions" of "aliens" and urging people to kill things! They can't even get their facts straight, every year confusing the daddy long legs flies with daddy long legs spiders, being a classic example. Although I laughed at Jeremy Vine's joke about cockroaches and Prince Philip being indestructible!
I agree, it is most unhelpful for the British press to be printing hysterical stories that are factually incorrect about people being potentially killed by these creatures and trees! Worse still, it is stoking destructive actions by organisations that have been infiltrated by people who want to destroy them. This unpleasant movement has been going on for years and seems to be getting worse. Presumably the people behind it are working to an agenda, no doubt for financial gain. And yes, as you already know, there is nothing special about cockroaches, they certainly don't have any special powers to make them indestructible.

I was told Small-Life Supplies is the best place to buy stick insects and so far I am pleased with all the info on your site. I would like to install stick insects in our nursery school, I think Indian stick insects would be a good choice? My question is about how best to manage the eggs, we would like to hatch out some but we wouldn't want too many! How do other people manage? We'd be getting the ELC cage bundle as well.
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an easy to keep type of stick insect and the adults can be handled carefully by very young children under supervision. Adult Indian stick insects lay eggs every day and so it's important to only save about twenty or thirty eggs, because most of these will hatch four months later. Eggs that you do not wish to keep can be given to garden birds to eat. Alternatively, every week when you replace the Liner in the ELC cage, you can tip the eggs (and droppings/frass) into a bowl and pour some hot water over the mixture. This will stop the eggs from developing and, when cool, the mixture can be emptied onto flowerbeds outside (it is an excellent fertiliser).

I have one pair of adult Malaysian stick insects and one sub adult female in an ELC cage and they all look healthy. The problem seems to be the male who is always near the sub adult female and not with the female his own age! They have been adults for a couple of months but haven't mated and it doesn't look as if they are likely to? Any advice? I'm happy to get another cage if you think separating them would help.
It looks like your adult male is waiting for the sub adult female to complete her final skin change so he can mate with her. Ideally mating should occur at least a couple of weeks after the final skin-change, this allows time for the new exoskeleton to harden and for the stick insect to recover her strength. It is important that mating happens when the female is ready and not before. So you need to transfer your sub adult female to her own ELC cage. After her skin change you can leave her to recover for a couple of weeks and then transfer the male to her cage. Mating takes hours and, when successful, the body of the female swells up dramatically as it fills with eggs. So when this has happened, you can then transfer the male back to the original cage housing the other female. Leave them together for a week or so and then add the younger female, so all three can live together. Your male then has the choice as to whether to stay with the younger female that he clearly prefers, or to mate with the older female as well. Mating occurs regularly throughout the adult lives of Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata).

I would like to visit the Saturday nature event in Cambridge in April and meet Small-Life Supplies! I am worried about the parking charges though because my friend said the parking charges are sky high in central Cambridge? I can't stand being rushed just because of extortionate parking charges!
Cambridge car parking charges are £12.10 for 4 hours, £21.20 for 5 hours, £26.80 all day. Fortunately there is an alternative, which we have tried and tested and so know works well. The easiest way to visit this free nature event is by using the Trumpington Park and Ride, located a few minutes away from junction 11 of the M11. Park your car in the huge open air carpark, postcode CB2 9FT. Parking is FREE for the day and there are free toilets. Look out for a large BLUE double decker bus, this leaves every ten minutes from the bus stop. Pay just £3 cash/contactless per person for a return ticket. This bus route is on a loop and, after about ten minutes, stops on the same street as the event venue! It's only a few minutes walk. You use the same stop to get on the bus again when you want to return. So you can enjoy a leisurely look around the exhibition, chat to the stall holders, have some refreshments etc, all for just £3 parking. Entry to the nature event is free.

I picked up a pre-owned ELC cage on Gumtree for my Indian stick insects and am delighted with it. The previous owner used kitchen roll on the floor but it's not wide enough, so I was looking at getting some Liners. These would obvs look better but do they have any other advantages? Also, how long would they last?
Here at Small-Life Supplies we only use the ELC Liners to line the floors of the ELC cages housing the stick insects that we breed. As well as looking smart, these pre-cut Liners have other advantages too. They are great for helping to collect Indian stick insect eggs, this is because Indian stick insect eggs are round and will roll off the Liner (into a dish) when you tilt the Liner and tap it underneath. The Liners are pre-cut to size and so fit the floor of the ELC exactly, this helps prevent stick insects from climbing underneath the Liner (where they may get accidentally squashed). Kitchen roll is not recommended as a cage floor covering, this is because kitchen roll absorbs the moisture from the air and leaves. Indeed people have commented that their bramble stays fresher for longer when they use the proper ELC Liners instead of absorbent kitchen roll. ELC Liners are sold in packs of thirty, so that is over six months supply (assuming you replace the Liner once a week). And there is free delivery on ELC Liners.

Can you supply cages for rearing the Black Soldier Fly? It's for a research project.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies design and manufacture insect cages. We have already worked on rearing cages for adult Black Soldier Flies (BSF) and also their larval maggot stage. Please email les@small-life.co.uk to discuss your requirements further or phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358.

Is there a scientific term for stick insect poo?
Yes, it is called frass. It is dry, irregularly shaped and odourless.

I post my stick insect photos on insta and get some nice comments but I don't know what to do about someone who has left a comment about my Indian stick insect being "parthenogenic". The issue is I don't want to offend him but I know he has used the wrong word, I am a fifteen year old girl.
As you know, the correct spelling of the word is parthenogenetic. This is made up of two parts "partheno" meaning virgin and "genetic" meaning birth. Parthenogenesis is how Indian stick insects reproduce, they are all females and lay eggs without mating that hatch into more females. As a fifteen year old girl, you should be confident to post that Indian stick insects are parthenogenetic and correct this man's comment. He may be unaware of his mistake, so you could include the origin of the word to give your comment more gravitas. It's worth correcting spelling mistakes because it is the right thing to do and it makes your page look more professional.

So I am looking after my neighbour's "Pink Winged" stick insects whilst they are on holiday. I don't want them to die! She left instructions which I am following religiously! So this morning I have collected two stems of bramble, spritzed the leaves with water and put them in the water pot with the red lid. The thing is the thorns look pretty sharp, should I cut them off? Also, I haven't seen them fly yet, they are the size of my little finger and fawn. They are in your ELC cage. Are there wings really small and folded up like ladybirds? I must admit I find them rather captivating.
If these stick insects are only the length of your little finger, it sounds as though they are not fully grown yet and so are still immature. Such immature Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are called "nymphs" and have wingbuds instead of wings. The wingbuds are where the wings are developing. It is when the stick insect becomes an adult and is 15cm long that the large pink wings are seen for the first time. These wings are folded along the back of the stick insect, but are not folded up tightly under elytra which is the arrangement for ladybirds. Stick insect nymphs are able to easily step over thorns and so there is no need to bother to snip off the thorns.

I need some professional insect cages for my lab and wondered if you'll be at the "The Association for Science Education" conference this weekend? If so, I'm coming over on the ferry from Ireland and could take them back with me? If you're not going to be in Birmingham, how much would delivery be for 4 ELC cages?
Small-Life Supplies do exhibit at various science and nature events throughout the year. We have exhibited at the annual ASE conference several times, but are not exhibiting at this event in Birmingham at the weekend. Our dedicated Irish courier has informed us that there has just been a price increase and so the current delivery price of four ELC insect cages is £28.83 to Northern Ireland, £31.06 to County Dublin and £33.28 to Ireland. ELC cages are dispatched ready assembled and so you would receive four large boxes. Transit time can be one day, or two days if ferry crossings are delayed due to rough weather.

Is there any difference in the care of leaf insects and stick insects? This is all new to me so I'd like something easy to keep.
Stick insects and leaf insects both do well in a large ventilated cage, such as the ELC cage. There are lots of different species of leaf insect and stick insect, some species are easier to keep than others. As a general rule, leaf insects are more difficult to keep than stick insects and definitely harder to breed. This is because male leaf insects mature much faster than female leaf insects and so can die before they have had a chance to mate. The stick insects that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply are the easy to keep varieties. Their care is simple, stick insects just need the correct housing (ELC cage), fresh food (green bramble leaves), and to be kept in clean surroundings (so line the floor of the cage with a diposable ELC Liner and replace this once a week.)

Someone said on-line that you need to re-bury your stick insect eggs, making sure they are the correct way up? This sounds dubious to me, I have always just kept my stick insect eggs higggedly piggedly in a QBOX and they've hatched out fine. Would there be any advantage in re-burying them? Mine are the Sabah Aretaon stick insects and they bury their eggs in the Sand Pit I got from you.
It would be daft and very time consuming to start re-burying stick insect eggs! Like you, we just pass the sand and eggs through a metal sieve and then tip the eggs into a HUA Pot or QBOX. Small-Life Supplies does this with all the stick insect species that bury their eggs in sand and the eggs hatch out fine a few months later. In fact a handy tip for helping the New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Malaysian stick insect eggs (Heteropteryx dilatata) to develop properly is to lightly shake the contents of the HUA Pot and QBOX from time to time. This suggests that motion of the eggs promotes successful development, something that would not be achieved if the eggs were reburied and therefore stationary. Obviously it is important to allow the eggs at the bottom of the pile room for the nymphs to emerge successfully, and so for this reason, ensure that the layer of eggs in the HUA Pot or QBOX is less than 2cm deep.

We got the HUA Hatching Set from you this Christmas and I am so excited because one hatched this morning! It is in the small pot of eggs inside the HUA Pot. What should I do next, I have lost the information sheet!
Congratulations! You need to gather one juicy green bramble/blackberry leaf and mist it with water. Then place the loose leaf at an angle in the HUA Pot. Don't get the eggs wet. Later today your baby Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) will walk over to the wet bramble leaf and have a drink. She will nibble the edge of the leaf later (but won't eat a lot). Indian stick insect eggs usually hatch at night so you can look forward to checking the set up in the mornings for more new arrivals.

I have always wanted a very long stick insect. Which are the longest ones that you breed?
The New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp) can grow to 22cm long. This is a parthenogenetic species that eats bramble /blackberry leaves, we have some adults for sale at the moment. Larger still is the North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina), there are males and females, the latter can grow to an amazing 28cm! They also eat bramble/blackberry leaves. Small-Life Supplies have nymphs of North East Vietnamese stick insect at the moment, they are ready to send next week with the large AUC cage. (This type is too long to be housed in the ELC cage). You can mix both species together in the AUC cage.

With Christmas out of the way, I want to start off the new year with some new stick insects. I have been on your waiting list for Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, can you send these out yet, or is it too cold (it was frosty this morning).
It's too cold to send out stick insects this week, because frosty nights are forecast. However, next week is forecast to be milder and so Small-Life Supplies plans to resume dispatches of living stick insects in the UK the week beginning 7th January 2019. We prioritise the welfare of the creatures and so do not send them when it is too cold for them to travel safely.

My pal got some "Zompros" stick insects, they eat bramble, but the what's with the name? It makes no sense.
Stick insects have two names, the "common name" which includes the country where they live naturally in the wild, and the two word Latin "species name". Unfortunately some sellers make spelling mistakes and try to abbreviate the names, and this leads to confusion as you have found. Your pal has the Thailand Marbled stick insects, the Latin species name is Parapachymorpha zomproi.

I am looking into getting some Giant African Land Snails. I was thinking of getting two because I assume they like company? But my friend says one would be fine because snails don't show emotions. What do you think? You are correct, Giant African Land Snails like the company of their own kind and so it's best to keep two snails together rather than one on its own. One of our Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) recently died of old age and its partner, who had been living with this snail for the last five years, is now visibly upset. The day after the death , the remaining snail started tipping over the dishes in the HLQ tank and is now hiding in its shell. So your friend is mistaken.

Why do some people keep going on about the spurs on male New Guinea stick insects being an issue? My New Guinea stick insects are adorable and my three year old loves them. I got them from you in September and they have settled in well (mind you, we do have a menagerie of chickens, hamsters, goldfish and a duck!).
As with all creatures, if stick insects are looked after properly, they do not behave in an aggressive manner. The spurs on the back legs of New Guinea stick insects can be used if the stick insect is frightened , or being abused in some way (for example, being deliberately dropped on the floor or hit with a pen). Unfortunately there are misguided people who think such unhappy aggressive stick insects are funny and desirable, I have seen people boasting about how nasty and bad tempered they can make their stick insects! Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed lots of New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and handle them with care and compassion so they are calm and suitable to be kept as pets. Obviously you too are looking after yours correctly which is why they continue to do well, along with your other animals. Another reason why New Guinea stick insects can become stressed is if they are short of water, so this is why Small-Life Supplies emphasises the need for a Water Dish for this species.

I am a newbie to keeping stick insects, for Christmas I have been given six Indian stick insects in a glass tank with an inbuilt strip light. I was told to give them cut ivy, it doesn't seem to last long and now the biggest stick insect has already died, it was only 4cm long and so I don't think it was very old (it didn't have the red on the legs). Any advice would be greatly welcomed!
OK, there are several things not right here which you need to correct. Firstly, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best on bramble/blackberry leaves, so ditch the ivy and gather bramble instead. Snip a couple of stems and place the thickest end of the stem in a Sprig Pot of water (or a narrow necked vase of water). You need to lightly mist the leaves with water in the evening so that the stick insects can drink. You can switch the tank light off. The glass tank is not ideal because it does not have ventilated sides, so it would be better to stand it on one end, or better still, purchase a proper ELC stick insect cage, this cage is ideal for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). You are correct in thinking that your stick insect has died young, adult Indian stick insects grow to 11cm and have red tops to their front legs.

I was in the bramble thicket today, snipping bramble for my stick insects, when I spotted another woman doing the same ! It was nice to chat to a fellow stick insect keeper! She has the "Sunny" stick insect, I haven't heard of these before. I've been on your waiting-list for Macleays, are these ready yet?
The "Sunny" stick insect has the Latin name Sungaya inexpectata and is a nicely patterned stick insect from the Philippines. We have reared these at Small-Life Supplies but it is not a species that we rear at the moment. Our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are still hatching and growing well. They are still feeding exclusively on Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. They will be back on the website and listed for sale in January 2019.

I recently placed an order of ELC bundle from yourselves and I've been charged for that delivery, but a one off delivery of £10 is quite steep for a place to and from in the UK.
Yes, there is a £9.95 delivery charge for the ELC bundle within mainland UK. You may think that is a lot, but it is a fast, guaranteed and tracked delivery. If you look at Royal Mail website, the price to send this parcel by standard first class post costs even more! The ELC cage is dispatched ready assembled and so requires a large box and weighs several kilograms. Small-Life Supplies do not use the slower cheaper couriers such as Hermes. Instead, we pay more for a better service. So the courier we use delivers within 24 hours and provides live delivery tracking information so you can follow the progress of your parcel online and see the estimated time of arrival (within a two hour window).

I am keeping three Macleays Spectre stick insects in a HUA Pot and they have now all managed to moult successfully for the first time. Should I leave them in there for a bit longer or are they ready to be transferred to the ELC cage?
You can keep them in the HUA Pot for another couple of weeks and then transfer them to a larger cage. We transfer ours to the TTQ cage (with the green netting side) and rear them in there for another month or so before transferring them to the more ventilated ELC cage. If you do not have a TTQ cage , you could transfer them directly to the ELC cage. However, if you do this, it is important to block off one of the ventilated sides with cling film. By doing this you are ensuring that the ventilation is increased gradually rather than suddenly. And in another month or so, you can remove that cling film to increase the ventilation for these Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum).

I was wondering if you just sold the lids for the cages please? Mine got twisted in the dishwasher.
The ELC cages are manufactured in batches and so there is slight variation between each batch. If you look at the lid there will be a manufacturing year label attached, please let us know what year this is so we can check our stocks. As you now know, the ELC is not dishwasher safe. The best way to clean the lid and panels is by using the Cleaning Sponge (supplied with the ELC bundle) and lukewarm water. Stubborn stains can be easily removed with Parozone Bleach Plus Stain Remover (supplied from hardware stores in a silver bottle with pink lid). Rinse well afterwards and dry with a soft old cotton tea towel.

Do you sell the luminous stick insects, the privet eaters?
As a general rule, the really brightly coloured privet-eating stick insects are best avoided. This is because they can spray an irritant chemical mist which can cause an immediate reaction from sensitive people and cats, dogs etc. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we sell living stick insect kits to nursery schools, primary schools and secondary schools, and so we only breed and supply the varieties that are safe to keep. If you are keeping stick insects as pets in the home, it's best to choose a variety that is safe to handle and so Small-Life Supplies does not breed or supply stick insects which could cause harm. We breed and supply a range of stick insects (these are different sizes, shapes and colours) that are safe to keep and handle. Unfortunately some other sellers try to sell brightly coloured stick insects which can be dangerous and cause reactions: a mild reaction can be sneezing and eyes streaming, a more severe reaction can be swelling and difficulty breathing. Having witnessed various reactions, I know this to be fact and not an exaggeration, something which the cavalier "I've kept these without problems" brigade don't seem to grasp! Before Small-Life Supplies add another stick insect species to our range, extensive background checks and our own observational notes on breeding and behaviour of the stick insect species are undertaken. This is all carefully considered so we can make the decision as to whether or not to start distributing the new species.

I have a large sprawling bramble bush by my fence, which I planted, following your advice, as a back-up food supply for my stick insects. How hard should I prune it? It has quite a lot of brown dead stems, also dead blackberry fruits, but it also has some green leaves and even small buds on some of the other stems.
We are pruning our bramble bushes back at the moment. You need to cut out all the dead stems, these are easy to spot because they are brown and dry. And remove the dead shrivelled blackberries. Leave the living stems and the green leaves. It won't look particularly neat but the green leaves provide shelter for hibernating ladybirds and are still helping the plant to thrive via photosynthesis. Bramble bushes can withstand being cut right back in the winter, but we do not advise this because it removes all the green leaves which are needed for local nature. Also, if you cut it right back you will remove the little buds which are ready to make leaves in the Spring, so the plant will have to work much harder to produce green leaves in the Spring.

We recently purchased a TTQ cage from you for our Dares philippinensis. They look very happy in there, but I have two questions... First, with such a small insect, we are struggling to distinguish eggs and poos! When we change the liner we are currently saving all the debris in a HUA put, but do you have any tips on raising nymphs from these guys? Second, if we are successful in this, how many insects can we house in the TTQ? We currently have about 35, and they look as though they have plenty of space, but we wouldn't want to overcrowd then.
The Dares philippinensis is a very small species of stick insect from Palawan, a province in the Philippines. They eat bramble leaves and produce small round eggs. The eggs are all the same shape and so with a magnifying glass you should be able to tell them apart from the droppings/frass/poo which are lots of different shapes. Storing a mixture of frass with the eggs in the HUA Pot is a good way to incubate these eggs. But keep the level of this mixture under 2cm high, so that the eggs at the bottom can still hatch successfully. A gentle shake of the contents every month or so will help the eggs to develop. The TTQ can comfortably house up to fifty of these Palawan stick insects.

Do I need to provide additional heating for stick insects? My flat is nice and warm and because I am disabled, I am at home most days. I have been thinking about a new pet for 2019 and think stick insects would be interesting.
The stick insects that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply are used to "normal" home environments, so as long as the room is comfortably warm in the day (approx 18 -21 degrees Celsius) and cooler at night (minimum 12 degrees Celsius), they will be fine. Your flat sounds ideal and so no extra heating is required. It is important that the stick insects have the correct caging, so we recommend the ELC cage, this cage was designed by Small-Life Supplies in 2012 and has been manufactured in the UK ever since. We breed most of our stick insects in ELC cages, (and we use our other larger AUC cages for the very long stick insects). Stick insects are very interesting to keep and we have a choice of different species for sale, so you can choose the type which appeals to you most.

I thought insects had feelers?
Yes, many insects, including stick insects have two "feelers", also called antennae. The length of these antennae varies according to the species and so is an aid to identifying a species. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have short antennae, whereas Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have long antennae.

I am looking forward to receiving my Thailand stick insects in January. Please can you tell me what to do with their eggs?
The adult female Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) lay eggs every day, the eggs are dropped onto the floor. So once a week, remove the ELC Liner and tip the contents into a bowl. Scoop out a spoonful of eggs and droppings(frass) and tip this into a HUA Pot. Pour very hot water over the remaining mixture in the bowl, leave to cool and then discard. This method ensures that you will have some eggs to hatch out the next generation, and you can look forward to seeing the babies in two months time. Not all the babies (called first instar nymphs) will survive, so it's best to have some extras. The hot water method is very effective and quick at stopping unwanted eggs from developing.

I'd like to buy some easy stick insects for Christmas. Looking at your site, I think the Indian stick insects would be best? How easy is it to find bramble leaves?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are easy to look to after and do well in the ELC cage. A free information sheet is included in the parcel, and more information is in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd which has a whole section on Indian stick insects. Bramble/blackberry leaves can be found throughout the year in overgrown sheltered places, so areas such as disused railway lines, canal banks, wooded areas and building plots awaiting development. Small-Life Supplies also sell fresh cut bramble by post. Thinking ahead, you can also plant bramble in your garden (by a sunny fence or wall) but it will take at least a year to get growing vigorously.

I keep one leaf insect (Phyllium giganteum) she's in a net cage but I'm finding the bramble is drying out after just two days. It's in a Sprig Pot and sprayed every evening. I buy my bramble from yourself so it's not poor quality. Am I doing something wrong? I use kitchen roll on the cage floor, I attach a photo.
You need to remove the kitchen roll immediately and replace with paper cut to size. This is because the kitchen roll is actively absorbing moisture from the bramble, and this is contributing to it drying out too quickly. The bramble in your photo looks green and juicy and so should last a week in water. So make sure you keep checking the water level in the Sprig Pot and top up if necessary, this is because the cut end of the bramble stems must always be in cold water. A much better cage for your leaf insect is the ELC cage, this has much better visibility and is less airy than the all netting cage you are using.

How is your very rare male Pink Winged stick insect doing? Have you managed to film him?
Sadly he died earlier this week, but he has lived much longer than expected. He was incredibly active and impossible to film because he was so quick and liked to throw himself forwards and backwards! He is only the third male Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) that I have ever reared and was quite a character!

My lecturer said the best way to dispose of surplus stick insect eggs is to "crush, boil or burn". This seems to be the opposite of sites who advise putting them in the freezer? I have a large colony of Indian stick insects, thirty at present, and so I will need to control the number of eggs humanely. What do you advise?
Your lecturer is correct. Extreme heat denatures the internal structure of the egg and instantly stops it from developing further. So an effective method is to boil a kettle and then empty it over the surplus eggs. If you have access to an open fire or stove, then throwing the surplus eggs in there is fast and effective too. Stick insect eggs take months to develop and so it's best to dispose of the surplus eggs soon after they have been laid before the cells have developed. In nature each female stick insect lays hundreds of eggs because most are destroyed (crushed or eaten). So crushing eggs is another option. As is feeding the eggs to the birds. However, the suggestion of freezing eggs in a domestic freezer is not recommended. This is because cold temperatures slow down and arrest development of the stick insect eggs but there is a risk of development starting again when the temperature increases (ie when the eggs are removed from the home freezer).

Can the Necrosia annulipes stick insect cause any allergic reactions or irritation?
Yes, so this is why Small-Life Supplies does not recommend this species be kept as pets or in the school classroom or lab. Necrosia annulipes is also called the Malaysian Yellow stick insect and is a very brightly coloured and patterned stick insect. This is a clue that it is dangerous, this is because brightly coloured stick insects often emit a chemical spray when alarmed and this is an irritant. In nature this is called "warning colouration" and acts as a deterrent to predators. There are many harmless stick insects that can be kept as pets and so it is madness to keep the handful that can present a risk to people (and cats, dogs etc). As a general rule, it is the brightly coloured stick insects that eat privet leaves that present a risk. Sensitive people react immediately and start to sneeze. In very sensitive people the reaction is more severe with swelling and difficulty breathing. The possibility of such reactions needs to be taken seriously and not dismissed.

My grand daughter is somewhat of an "eco-warrior" and has insisted that we make a donation to an environmental charity instead of buying her Christmas gifts. She is a determined young lady. Which group? I value your advice, I know she is against palm oil plantations if that helps?
The destruction of rainforests (which of course includes death of the trees, the animals including the orang-utans, the insects...) needs to be stopped urgently and thankfully this catastrophic action is finally getting more publicity, and most decent people want to help stop it. It is galling that huge areas of tropical rainforest are being obliterated just so commercial palm oil plantations can be established. Certain shops such as Iceland Foods Ltd are making a stand against stocking products containing palm oil, and more consumers are checking the labels on items they buy and rejecting those that contain palm oil. You could donate to "Rainforest Foundation UK" because this charity is actively protecting some areas of the rainforest currently at risk of being exploited for palm oil. Chris Packham is raising awareness of this charity and encouraging people to donate.

How do I keep my stick insects at a comfortable temperature for them, especially overnight during winter as we can experience temps as low as -10C here in Wales.
Overnight temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius are rare in Wales, usually winter night time temperatures are hovering around freezing. But in any case, that is the outside temperature, not the temperature inside your home. It is really important that stick insects are kept indoors in your home and not kept in an unheated outdoor shed or garage. Most people's homes have insulation and so the night time indoor temperature should be in double figures. Small-Life Supplies set the heating to come on at night to 12 degrees Celsius, this is a good night time temperature for many stick insects. If your room is likely to dip below 12 degrees Celsius at night, the most economical method of heating it is by using a 500Watt oil-filled radiator, positioned near the stick insect cage. The 500W oil-filled radiator is portable and has a plug which you put into a standard 3 pin wall socket. The price of these has plummeted in recent years and you can now buy them for 20 pounds from Screwfix. It's really important that you choose the 500Watt radiator and not a more powerful one.

We'd love some stick insects for Christmas! What's your latest posting date?
Great, stick insects make great pets and we have customers (of all ages) saying that stick insects were their best Christmas present ever! The latest dates we are sending out stick insects orders is Monday 17th Dec, Tues 18th Dec and Wed 19th Dec 2018. We can only send out creatures when the overnight temperature is forecast to be above freezing, so it's helpful if you can be as flexible as possible regarding the delivery day. We'll let you know in advance when the delivery day will be. Please order asap because this helps us to manage the orders.

I want to buy stick insects for Christmas. Can I order the Australian stick insects now for delivery nearer to Christmas?
Yes, we are accepting Christmas orders now. It looks like the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are a very popular choice this year! This species does well in the ELC cage. Our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are very young and eating eucalyptus leaves at the moment, so please ensure that you can source these leaves. (It will be another month or so before these stick insects can be switched to bramble/blackberry leaves). Also, it's really important not to spray the eucalyptus leaves, this is because these stick insects soon become ill in damp surroundings.

I'm planning to order an ELC Cage Bundle and some Indian stick insects for my son's 8th birthday. I'd like to keep it a surprise until the day itself, which creates certain logistical challenges - in terms of keeping a large cage containing living insects hidden about the house for any length of time. Any suggestions?
It should be easy to hide the cage because the ELC cage is sent ready assembled in a large plain cardboard box. So one option is to set up the cage with the stick insects, Liner and food in the Sprig Pot and then carefully put the cage back in the box. Leave the lid of the cardboard box open so that light and air can get to the cage. You can then hide the box somewhere in the house and you don't have to disturb the stick insects for a few days. Another option is to take the cage out of the box, set it up with the stick insects, food and Liner, and then hide it at the bottom of a wardrobe. However, if you do this, make sure that there are no lavender sachets, or strong fragrances in the wardrobe on the clothes, or any anti-moth sachets, as all these things can harm the stick insects. And remove any plug-in air-fresheners.

My son wanted big green stick insects and so I got two through the post but they didn't come with any food. So I give them fresh bramble shoots but they haven't eaten and now aren't hardly moving. They are Green Bean, what should I do?
You need to ditch the bramble and give them some eucalyptus leaves at once. This species, the "Green Bean" comes from Grenada and has the scientific name Diapherodes gigantea. Whilst most species of stick insect do well on bramble leaves, a few species must eat other sorts of leaves, and this Grenadan stick insect needs to eat eucalyptus leaves. The Eucalyptus gunnii trees are evergreen and have silvery green leaves. They are decorative trees, sometimes planted in parks and near train stations, as well as in gardens, so hopefully you will be able to find a tree near you? Or you can contact Small-Life Supplies to purchase fresh cut eucalyptus leaves and/or pesticide free potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants. You could also complain to the seller because it is very bad that they did not include food for the stick insects to eat during their journey and bad that they did not include a care sheet explaining that this type of stick insect needs to eat eucalyptus leaves to thrive.

We have some Indian stick insects, and my son is keen to get some Macleays Spectres. We only really have room for one cage, so could they live together?
Yes, you can mix Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insects together in the same ELC cage. It's important not to overcrowd them, so only put three or four Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in there. If you would like to purchase Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects from Small-Life Supplies, they are being sent out in groups of three small nymphs. These stick insects have completed their first skin-change and are solely eating Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. So please only consider getting these now if you have a supply of eucalyptus leaves or are getting our potted Eucalyptus gunnii plant too. We'll introduce bramble/blackberry leaves gradually to these stick insects early next year. So another option is to wait until next year to purchase them when they will be used to eating bramble/blackberry leaves. Of course they will be a lot larger then but will still be nymphs.

I feed my stickies with bramble. Is it OK for them to eat bramble that has marks or discolouration on the leaves? Also what is your availability for leaves over the festive period?
There are a few species of stick insect that do not eat bramble/blackberry leaves, but most types of stick insects that are being kept as pets do well on a diet of bramble/blackberry leaves. At this time of year it is inevitable that wild grown bramble/blackberry leaves will have some marks and discolouration, what is important is how much. A small amount of marks and discoloration can be tolerated. The colour of the leaf is very important, always choose leaves which are mostly green in colour. You need to avoid collecting leaves which are yellow or brown, this is because these leaves are dying and are not nutritious food for stick insects. Small-Life Supplies will continue to send wallets of Fresh Cut Bramble by first class post throughout the festive period. The bramble we send has green leaves and is the same quality as what we use to feed our stick insects.

Do larger stick insect species eat the smaller ones?
No. Stick insects have mouthparts that are designed to eat leaves and if they are being kept in good conditions, they behave calmly and are not aggressive to each other. So you can mix some different species together, although I do not recommend keeping a huge heavy chunky type with a very thin slender variety, in case the large stick insect treads on the thin stick insect and accidentally hurts it. Stick insects should always be kept in the correct conditions because they are living creatures and deserve to be looked after properly. If stick insects are being abused (for example, overcrowded/ starved/ deprived of water) they will become stressed and can start fighting each other which can include eating each other in extreme cases. But this behaviour is between the stick insects regardless of species. Obviously it is not acceptable to be keeping stick insects in such terrible conditions and so if you see this happening, it is essential to improve their living conditions immediately.

Please can you tell me what the procedure is to order a stick insect cage for Christmas? We live in Dundee and have some Indian stick insects in a pop up enclosure but want something nicer.
It's very easy to order from Small-Life Supplies. If you'd like to pay by credit/debit/AMEX card, please phone Small-Life Supplies 01733 203358 weekdays during office hours. You can then talk to a real person who will note down your order and ask for your card details. Your order will be processed then your sensitive card information destroyed. Or, if you'd prefer to pay by PayPal, just email ange@small-life.co.uk listing what you'd like to buy and you will be emailed the PayPal invoice from PayPal. When that is paid, your order will be processed. As you'd like delivery nearer Christmas, please mention this when you order, so we can delay delivery until nearer Christmas. Delivery to Dundee is no problem, it will be the standard courier delivery of £9.95. Your Indian stick insects will do much better in the proper ELC stick insect cage and you will be able to see them more clearly. If you choose to purchase the ELC bundle you will receive the ELC cage and everything else you need, including the cage Liners, Sprig Pot (to keep the food sprigs fresh) and soft Cleaning Sponge (ideal for washing the ELC cage every month).

Should my Indian stick insect eggs go in an airing cupboard or stay at room temperature?
Definitely room temperature. This is because keeping the eggs in a warmer place will encourage them to develop and hatch more quickly but the individuals will probably be weaker. The best way to store Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) is in a QBOX or HUA Pot (a key feature is both these are containers are unventilated, this means that the eggs will not dry out internally). Do not mist the eggs with water, just leave them in the container with nothing added and place on a shelf or table in a room, away from direct sunshine. Incubation takes about four months at a standard daytime temperature of 18-20 degrees Celsius and a night-time temperature of approx 12 degrees Celsius.

We have started to save the eggs from our New Guinea stick insects. Should we re-bury the eggs in the HUA Pot?
The HUA Pot is a good container to store New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) eggs and to house the hatchlings. It is not necessary to re-bury the eggs, so just have them loose at the bottom of the HUA Pot. You can have a lot of eggs in there, but try not to have more than a 1cm layer of eggs so that the ones at the bottom are still able to hatch successfully. The New Guinea stick insect eggs incubate for about six months, we recommend giving the HUA Pot containing the eggs a quick shake about once a month because this action promotes successful development.

I want a stick insect for Christmas, Mummy's agreed but wants to know if it will be quiet at night because we read about them being nocturnal?
Stick insects are nocturnal (active during the night) and can also be active at certain times during the day. So if you have a routine of handling them at a particular time, they will learn to become active around that time. At night they rustle around as they chomp through the leaves and they also walk up and down the mesh sides of the ELC cage, occasionally a stick insect will fall off and you can hear it land. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) make the most noise at night, they large heavy stick insects and so you can hear them moving around if you have several in the cage. So if you want stick insects that are quieter at night then you'd be better choosing thinner types such as the Indian (Carausius morosus) or Thailand (Baculum thaii) varieties. It's always best to keep stick insects in small groups, so getting a group of four is recommended.

When is the best time to plant bramble? There is some building work starting down the street and so I am going to ask if I could dig up some of the bramble bushes to replant in my garden. Any tips?
You can plant bramble bushes most of the year, it's good at the moment because the nights are still mild. It's best to avoid extreme cold and hot snaps of weather. When you dig up the bramble bushes make sure you get a good load of soil attached to the roots, so I'd recommend you take some building rubble sacks to wrap around the soil and roots. Choose a sunny spot in your garden, against a fence or trellis is ideal, because this will encourage the bramble to grow upwards. Water after planting and then weekly afterwards for a few weeks. Fortunately, the success rate is very high with transplanting bramble, providing you have got a good amount of roots and soil from the original location. And try to replant the bramble the same day as you dig it up, so it's advisable to have dug over the new site beforehand. Oh, and ask nicely!

How many species of stick insect are there? Some places say 2000 - 2500, others 6000.
Until last year the figure of 2000 was the official estimate. Some new species have been discovered recently, but there are many species going extinct now due to ongoing forest destruction, particularly in Borneo. The rate of animals, plants and insects going extinct is now happening at an alarmingly fast rate. This is mainly due to humans destroying the wild areas and the human population being too large. This is terrible news and needs far more publicity and urgent action to stop it. So the actual number of stick insects and the number of species of stick insect still left in the wild is in decline. So the number of stick insect species is now less than 2000.

My son is asking for a praying mantis for Christmas and someone recommended I contact you for advice, and hopefully supplies. Any help is most welcome, I am a novice.
A praying mantis (mantid) needs to be housed in its own cage, this is to prevent it from eating other mantids. The African species are easy to keep, so try and obtain a Heirodula or a Sphodromantis species of mantid. The mantid eats live food, greenbottle flies (Lucilia caesar) are a good food source and very easy to breed. We found our mantids preferred to eat insects larger than themselves. Small-Life Supplies don't have any praying mantises for sale at the moment, but we do manufacture and supply suitable housing, the TTQ cage. This has a top access flap for you to drop in the live food. Within the TTQ cage you can criss-cross large dead buddleia twigs so the mantid has lots of twigs to run around on. Place a TTQ Liner on the floor of the cage and replace this weekly. This is because it is important to keep the surroundings clean and so the remains of the consumed insects and the droppings (frass) from the mantid should be removed every week to prevent smells.

Is the danger from certain stick insect species exagerrated? The ones you warn about are being sold on ebay by other sellers, should they stop?
Some species of stick insect are dangerous to people and cats, dogs etc. A dangerous one is the Florida stick insect (Anisomorpha buprestoides) which can cause temporary blindness if their spray hits a mammalian eyeball. And there are several colourful species that eat privet leaves which are also a risk because their chemical spray can cause swelling and breathing difficulties in sensitive people. So, no the danger is not exagerrated. Places that sell such stick insects knowing their potential for causing distress and harm are irresponsible, especially if they don't even bother to warn people about the possible danger. Of course, ebay tries to cover itself by saying they only allow stick insects to be listed if they are sold as "livefood" and not as pets. Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed and supply species of stick insect that everyone can enjoy safely. We don't list our stick insects on ebay. The vast majority of stick insect species are safe, it is only a few that can be dangerous.

Where is the best place to buy stick insects?
Small-Life Supplies is the best place to buy stick insects. We breed the stick insects at our facility here in the UK, so they are used to being handled and are all safe varieties to keep. We have decades of expertise in breeding stick insects and so know how to rear them successfully and only sell healthy stock. We have developed best practice methods for packaging stick insects for transit and so you can relax knowing that they will arrive in excellent condition. And of course you know the stick insects you are receiving have been identified accurately and the species names are spelt correctly. Small-Life Supplies also offer free ongoing advice and can supply the correct cages (ELC, TTQ and AUC), so you are able to look after your stick insects properly.

Just a quick question about Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. I've heard you can get different morphs of them by adding certain plants to the cage?
Yes, and this was discovered by one of our Irish customers decades ago! It's the lichen you get on twigs in the woods.

I have been a customer of Small-Life Supplies for years and I would really like to meet you in person. Do you do any tours?
Great to hear that you are a loyal customer. I have no plans to do tours at the moment, although people do keep asking about this. However, I will be exhibiting with Small-Life Supplies at the next insect and nature event to be held in central Cambridge in April 2019. This annual event is open to the public and is a great opportunity for customers to talk to me about stick insects. The event is about promoting the natural world to all and so is subsidised to enable all visitors to attend free of charge. It is open over two days, Friday afternoon and all day Saturday, the date will be announced soon.

What's the best food for my New Guineas during the winter? Someone said oak and ivy?
Green bramble/blackberry leaves can be found all year round in the UK and are the best food for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). In the Summer you can also give them rose leaves and hazel leaves. We do this at Small-Life Supplies because it helps to conserve the bramble stocks for the winter. Avoid using oak and ivy leaves, this is because there are different types and some are harmful. It is much safer to stick with bramble/blackberry leaves.

I had my first Macleays Spectre stick insect hatchling today! He/she is running about but with a large eggshell on the back leg. Should I do anything? I'm scared to try, I don't want to harm it, but I feel sorry for the poor thing.
Occasionally an Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) can hatch but not manage to completely free itself from the egg, as you have seen. You are right not to intervene, as this may cause the stick insect to panic and throw off its leg! Don't worry about this stick insect, it is racing around which is a good sign and often the stick insect can get rid of the eggshell by itself by wedging it and pulling. So make sure there is a good amount of eucalyptus leaves and stems in the HUA Pot to assist with this. If the stick insect doesn't manage to lose its eggshell, it will come off when the stick insect undergoes its first skin change in a few weeks time.

We don't want to save too many stick insect eggs, so what's the best way to humanely dispose of them?
You can feed surplus stick insect eggs to birds and fish. Or you can pour hot water over the eggs to prevent them from developing any further, this use of extreme heat is the most effective and quickest method.

We have noticed our patch of bramble leaves are looking dry with shrivelled up blackberries on the ends of the stems. Should we start to look elsewhere?
Yes. The leaves on the stems which bear the fruit (blackberries) are the first to deteriorate in the autumn. So the leaves appear dry and may start to lose their green colour. It's important to feed your stick insects with good quality leaves and so you need to look elsewhere for some juicy green bramble leaves to harvest.

I feel terrible, despite being healthy, all my stick insects just died. Was it because I treated my dog with spot on flea treatment? Everything else has been the same.
Yes. It is really important to keep a dog (or cat) which has been been treated with liquid flea treatment on their neck completely separate from the stick insects for 24 hours. Many of our customers extend this to 48 hours just to be on the safe side. To achieve this, you need to shut the door of the room containing the stick insects and keep the dog or cat out of that room.

I am getting organised for Christmas (yes, I know!) and wanted to ask if it is too early to book my order in now for guaranteed Christmas delivery? My teenage daughter is a budding wildlife photographer and so I'll be getting the ELC cage bundle (obvs) and a pack of Thailand stick insects. I'll also have a pack of Pink Winged stick insects too, if its OK to mix them and there's room in the cage? Will I have to stay in for the delivery?
Yes, you can place your order now with Small-Life Supplies and request delivery nearer to Christmas. It is best to be as flexible as possible regarding the delivery date because we can only send the stick insects out during mild nights and obviously we don't know yet what the overnight weather forecast will be in December. If you give us delivery instructions when you order, you won't have to stay in. So, for example, you can request that the parcel be left with a neighbour or in a safe place (for example a porch). We shall email you the delivery tracking details in advance, so you will know what day the parcel is due to be delivered. And yes, you can mix Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) in the same ELC cage, there is plenty of room and both types do really well in the ventilated ELC cage.

I was wondering if it's best to keep stick insect species in a separate cages or together? Do you mix any at Small-Life Supplies? So far I've got four Indian and four Thailand in one ELC, I've got four New Guinea in another ELC, six Macleays in another ELC, and I am wondering where I can fit the four Pink Winged nymphs I'm getting for my birthday next month?
You have good set-ups so far, and mixing Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) together in the same ELC cage works well. It's important not to overcrowd stick insects and so you'll need to see how large your Indian and Thailand stick insects are before making a decision on where to house your Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) nymphs. If they are still nymphs, you could add the Pink Winged nymphs to the same cage. However, if they are adults, it would be better to house the Pink Winged in another ELC cage. If you did that, you could also move a pair of your Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) into that ELC cage too, they all eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and small numbers of those species can be mixed together. It's best not to mix anything in with the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), this is because they are so large and bulky they can accidentally damage a thinner type of stick insect by walking over it. Here at Small-Life Supplies, most of the species are kept in separate cages, but we do have some cages which house a mixture of species.

Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to be a vet. But now I am looking at uni courses, I am bothered because I have never met a nice vet! Have you experienced this? I do so much want to help animals but am worried about if I am the right fit.
The job doesn't define the person. Of course there are unpleasant people, but they are in various jobs. I have encountered vets that are unsympathetic and show no affinity for animals. I have also encountered students who have been forced into career choices based on what their parents have done, it is sad that these students were unable to stand up to their parents and actually choose something they wanted to do. I have also met some personable vets, who clearly do prioritise the welfare of the creatures and have the ability to quickly put animals at ease. So I recommend you pursue your career choice as a vet and remember it's important not to be influenced by nasty people!

I'm looking at images of stick insects on Insta. I see #phasmida and #phasmatodea, is there a difference? Both terms are being used to describe the "order" to which stick insects belong. The word "order" is part of the classification system, which is a tiered system. So, as an example, a Thailand stick insect belongs to the "phylum" Arthropoda, the "class" Insecta, the "order" Phasmida (or Phasmatodea) and then the "genus" Baculum and the "species" Baculum thaii. There are ongoing changes, for example, discussions regarding "Hexapoda" to replace "Insecta". And to move termites, which have been classified in the order "Isoptera" into the order "Blattodea" (this is the order to which cockroaches belong).

We are upgrading our six Indian stick insects into your classic ELC cage. They are getting large now, is there any way of telling when they are ready to lay eggs? And are the eggs easy to spot?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do really well in the ELC cage and this cage can house up to twenty adult Indian stick insects. After completing their final skin-change, Indian stick insects are approx 11cm long. A couple of weeks later, the tops of their front legs (where they join the body) turn bright red and the abdomen swells as it fills with eggs. Indian stick insects lay eggs every day for the rest of their adult life and so it's important to only save a few eggs , to avoid getting too many stick insects. The eggs are small round and brown with a yellow lid (operculum) and will roll off the ELC Liner if you tilt the Liner and gently tap it underneath.

So glad I found your site! I'm getting myself the stick insect kit, with those New Guinea stick insects, they look amazing! If I go for the pack of fifty Liners, that's a year's supply ? And how many Sand Pits will I need?
The ELC cage is ideal housing for New Guinea stick insects, and you get ten Liners with the ELC bundle. So, if you ordered another fifty Liners, that's sixty Liners in total. Use one Liner every week, so yes, you'll have just over one year's supply. One Sand Pit is enough, this is because you keep re-using the sand. Every week just tip the sand and egg mixture into the Metal Sieve. Save the eggs and tip the sieved sand back into the Sand Pit for the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) to bury more eggs in. And yes, New Guinea stick insects are amazing and very impressive stick insects, I'm sure you'll like them and they benefit from being taken out of the cage regularly for extra exercise.

We received our ELC cage last month and our stick insects seem much happier. They are more lively than they used to be. (Their old home was a glass tank with netting top). My husband says stick insects can't be happy or sad, but they're living creatures so must have feelings?
Yes, for people like us who are "in tune with nature" it is blindingly obvious what a healthy stick insect looks like, both in its physical appearance and its behaviour. A healthy happy stick insect will hold its body up and be responsive and active. Stick insects housed in stuffy tanks with only roof top ventilation soon become "depressed" and lethargic, sometimes even acquiring mites if there is a build up of dirty soil at the bottom of the tank. Giant African Land Snails are the same, many of our customers report much happier and more active snails once they are transferred from a basic tank to our properly designed HLQ snail centre with the soft wet Liners. So, in answer to your question, you are correct.

My little brother is really into bugs and wants some for Christmas. He's ten. I'm leaving for Thailand in a couple of weeks, so can I sort out the order now, before I go? The ELC bundle and four Indian stick insects would be cool. And can it be delivered to our uncle in Cheltenham as that's where Ollie will be over Christmas?
I'm sure Ollie will really enjoy your gift. And yes, delivery to Cheltenham is no problem. We are now accepting Christmas orders and so to order by phone (and pay by card) please call Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 during office hours. Or, to pay by PayPal, just email your order to ange@small-life.co.uk and you'll receive the PayPal invoice within hours. Remember to ask for "Christmas delivery" when you order.

I want a fancy looking stick insect cage for Christmas and so I am asking my sister to get me an ELC stick insect cage. My four Indian stick insects are Lucy, Ash, Jasmine and Kim. Will there be space for Thailand stick insects too because I want those next
Great, your four Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) will do well in their new ELC cage. This cage is specially designed for stick insects and so has the features they need, including height (51cm) and two mesh sides that provide the airflow and climbing walls that they need. And yes, there is easily enough room in the ELC cage for four Indian stick insects and four Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). Indian and Thailand stick insects live well together and they both eat bramble/blackberry leaves.

Do stick insects breed all year, or is a seasonal thing? Do you have any hatchlings at the moment?
The stick insects we rear at Small-Life Supplies breed continuously, the adults lay eggs every day and these eggs hatch several months later (the incubation time depends on the species). So at Small-Life Supplies we currently have lots of hatchlings (also called "first instar nymphs") from the different species. We don't sell the hatchlings though because they can be a delicate and so it's best to wait until they have grown into larger nymphs and then they are more robust and fit to travel. Live arrival is guaranteed, and all stick insects are sent on an express next day delivery service.

We started getting eggs from our Indian stick insects. About your liners. Do the poos not roll off with the eggs?
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs are round and easily roll off the ELC Liner. Every week, take the Liner out of the cage, tilt it, and gently tap it underneath. The eggs roll off the Liner and can be collected into a large receptacle, such as a dish, below. Then tip the eggs into a QBOX or HUA Pot and wait for them to hatch out, incubation time for Indian stick insect eggs is approximately four months. It's so quick and easy to collect Indian stick insect eggs if you use the ELC Liners, we use these Liners in all our cages at our stick insect breeding facility.

May I congratulate you on having a male Pink Winged stick insect. I have reared these for many years but have never ever seen one, I didn't even know that they could occur. Your Facebook description states "the females have already attacked him", do you have any ideas as to why they would do this?
Yes, the adult male Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) that we have reared at Small-Life Supplies is incredibly rare, even rarer than the male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) that occur at a rate of 1 in every 10000 females. I have only ever reared three male Pink Winged stick insects, this one is the third. The adult male is very thin, smaller, hyper-active and so very difficult to film and photograph. I am not sure why the females attack these rare males, but they always do, even the Indian stick insect females attack the rare Indian stick insect males. These rare males never live long, I assume this is because they are so lively and this activity shortens their lifespan (as a general rule, very active stick insects usually die sooner than more sedentary individuals).

I would like to keep stick insects and get the right kit. I like the Small Life Supplies stick insect cage with climbable walls, removable lid and removable wall. If possible, I would also like to purchase the stick insects from yourselves, but the ones I would like are not listed on your site. Will you be selling the Macleays Spectre soon?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies has lots of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) hatching at the moment. They are currently eating Eucalyptus gunnii leaves, and will be switched over to bramble when they are larger. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do really well in the ELC cage which is the stick insect cage you are describing. You may also wish to purchase potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants (we grow these specially without the use of pesticides) so they are safe for the stick insects to eat. The Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects grow large and when large rely on their claws for climbing, so it's really important to keep them in a cage with climbable walls (the holes in the walls of the ELC cage are the correct size for their claws.)

I am so tempted by your New Guinea stick insects, they look so cool! And the babies look so cute, what's the best way to try and hatch the eggs?
Most days the adult female New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) buries her eggs in the Sand Pit. So every week, when you change the Liner of the ELC cage, just tip the contents of the Sand Pit into the Metal Sieve. Pour the sieved sand back into the plastic pot and place in the same place, next to a mesh side of the ELC cage. This is important because the female needs to get a good grip on this mesh wall of the cage whilst she carefully buries each egg in the sand. Place the eggs that are left behind in the Metal Sieve in a HUA Pot and stick a date label on, this will help remind you when the eggs are due to hatch (approx six months later). New Guinea stick insect eggs can be tricky to hatch, so it's a good idea to keep lots of eggs to maximise your chances of getting some babies (called "first instar nymphs"). More details on New Guinea stick insects are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd.

What is the best way to safely dispose of unwanted Indian stick insect eggs? Does freezing for a few weeks stop the eggs being viable?
The most effective method is to pour boiling water over unwanted eggs. This is a quick method which works. Excessive heat denatures the internal structure and so the damage is permanent. In contrast, freezing for weeks is slow and not guaranteed to work. This is because sub-zero temperatures can just suspend the egg development rather than stop it altogether. So there is a risk that development can resume once the eggs are exposed to warmer temperatures again.

My Macleays Spectre eggs are hatching now and so I believe I need eucalyptus leaves? I see you are listing fresh cut privet and bramble leaves, my question is can you supply fresh cut eucalyptus leaves?
Yes, newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best if fed Eucalyptus gunnii for the couple of months of their lives. After this time you can switch these stick insects to bramble/blackberry leaves, or keep them on a diet of eucalyptus leaves. The same practice also applies to another Australian species, the Australian Titan stick insect (Acrophylla wuelfingi). Small-Life Supplies sell potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants, grown specially without the use of pesticides. I shall email you some details, our plants are sent on a next day courier delivery and are sold in pairs. It's best to pull off one or two small tender leaves and place these in the QBOX together with up to eight newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. Always select the tender small eucalyptus leaves for the newly hatched stick insects and the larger, thicker leaves for the older stick insects.

My Indian stick insects are just becoming fully grown but they are smaller than 11cm? Is this heard of before?
Yes, it is normal for there to be some natural variation amongst adult individual Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). The average length is 11cm but occasionally we have reared a few significantly smaller ones at 10cm and even 9cm. We have noticed that the very small ones tend to live longer than the average lifespan of 12 months. We rear all of our Indian stick insects in ELC cages and so it appears that the natural variation is caused by food quality and other environmental factors (light intensity, ambient temperature etc).

With such a wealth of knowledge, why aren't you on TV? I have been a customer of yours for over twenty years and know that you know your stuff.
I have done some TV work but that was a long time ago! I concentrated on live appearances because then I knew it wouldn't be edited unfavourably. At that time, some producers wanted to portray insect people as "oddballs" and were making silly requests, such as asking me to put a stick insect on my face, obviously I refused to do stunts like that. I think there is definitely a need for more insect nature programmes on TV, but I would like to see such programmes concentrating on the insects rather than the presenter.

We met at the insect event at Kempton Park and I was interested in the mosquito larval trays you had on your stand. I can't find them on the website, please can you send me the link so I can show them to my supervisor, they look the business!
Yes, new photos of this product are being taken this week and so it will go on the website very soon, just click on the "What's New?" box in the menu bar and you will be directed to this exciting new product.

My Peruvian Black stick insects eat green privet leaves but I am concerned about the privet hedge where I collect these leaves from. The leaves look droopy, as though they are short of water, but we've had tonnes of rain here lately. Have you heard of this before? And do you sell privet leaves?
It is important to pick green juicy healthy looking leaves for your stick insects and avoid collecting leaves from plants that are unwell. Your privet hedge is not healthy and so don't use it for your stick insects. The symptoms you describe are indicative of a root fungus. Recently, I too have seen some privet hedges with leaves that are wilted even though there is no shortage of water! Fortunately here at Small-Life Supplies we are still able to supply privet leaves from healthy privet hedges. Just look at the "fresh leaves" section on this website.

We saw your advert for the Kempton show and went, not quite knowing what to expect, but we all enjoyed it, so thank you! We did purchase a cage and New Guinea stick insects from you, they are all doing well and my son is taking good care of them. It is such a relief to know that we are doing things right for them, thank you for taking the time to answer all my son's questions at the event! Anyway, he is now compiling another list of questions, thankfully he is finding your book most informative and he has already said he would like to meet you again! So I was wondering if you will be at any more insect events happening early next year? We live in Saffron Walden but are happy to drive a couple of hours.
Good to hear that you enjoyed the Kempton insect event, it was a successful and enjoyable show, and a lot of existing and new customers visited the Small-Life Supplies stand. There is a general nature event in April 2019 in Cambridge that I am sure you and your son would enjoy. It has a more relaxed feel than the Kempton show and the venue is air-conditioned so it is more pleasant for everyone! That event is free for members of the public to visit, but you will need to pay to park your car at the pay and display carpark nearby (or catch the "park and ride" bus from Waitrose). Small-Life Supplies has a large stand at this popular event (open on a Friday and Saturday) and we will release more details nearer the time. It's convenient for you because Cambridge is only a 35 minute drive from Saffron Walden.

I have bought some cocoa fibre sold as "stick insect bedding", would this be OK to use in your ELC cage?
Small-Life Supplies does not recommend using cocoa fibre, peat, soil, vermiculite, gravel or sand on the floor of ELC cages or indeed any other enclosures or tanks which are being used to house stick insects. There are three reasons for this. Firstly, such floor coverings (called substrates) trap the droppings/poo and eggs of stick insects. This makes it very difficult to separate and collect the eggs. It is not advisable to throw away eggs in substrate in the bin because they may still hatch out several months later. Secondly, when you mist the bramble leaves with water, some water will drip onto the mixture of eggs, poo and substrate. This wet mixture will attract small flies and encourage mould to grow. Thirdly, the granules of some substrates, for example sand and soil, clog up the sticky pads and claws which are present on the undersides of the feet of stick insects, this makes it difficult for them to get a grip and walk around properly. So the best floor covering for ELC cages is paper. You can cut this to size yourself, or purchase pre-cut ELC Liners, these are available in blue and pink colour choices.

We got a complete cage set up and the stick insects (New Guinea ones) from you on Saturday at the show and they are settling in well. They have already laid some eggs in the tub of sand and my question is should I be taking the eggs out straight away or are they OK if left there for a few days? We have a HUA Pot on standby!
Yes, the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that we were selling at the Kempton insect show are fully grown and the females have fat bodies because they are full of eggs. A female will bury several eggs in the Pot of Sand every few days. The eggs don't have to be taken out immediately. We recommend emptying the Pot of Sand into a sieve once a week. The sieved sand can then be tipped back into the tub and put back on the cage Liner (against a white mesh side). The eggs should be tipped into the HUA Pot. It's a good idea to keep lots of eggs because New Guinea stick insect eggs can be tricky to hatch. If incubation is successful, the eggs can start hatching after six months.

Is there an optimum temperature for hatching out Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs? I read somewhere that they needed to be warmer than eggs of Indian stick insects? I keep mine in HUA Pots, I've hatched loads of Indian eggs but no Macleays as yet, the thermometer says 18 degrees Celsius.
Most Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs hatch during the night, some hatch during the day. Our thermostat is set at 12 degrees during the night and 18 degrees during the day, and this works really well for hatching out Indian stick insect eggs. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs hatch during the day and yes, they do need warmer temperatures for hatching to occur. So we keep our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs at 22 degrees Celsius during the day (and 12 degrees Celsius at night). So you need to move your HUA Pot of Macleays eggs to a warmer place during the day. If the eggs are due to hatch and you lightly mist these eggs just after breakfast, then you should be seeing hatchlings by lunch.

My Eurycantha calcarata male stick insect is acting very strange, not moving barely, can’t grip or climb, won’t eat or drink, hasn’t shed in very long, his antennae are curled, his legs are curled but he’s still alive. I don’t know what’s going on, or if he’s dying, I’ve only had him under a year, he’s shed about three times.
He is dying of old age, albeit prematurely, his system is shutting down which is why is behaving this way. The kindest thing to do is to encourage him to drink water, so prop his mouth in a shallow saucer of cold tap water. Or, the shallow Water Dish that we supply if you have that already. Don't be surprised if he exudes a dark brown liquid from his mouth. Do you have any other New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata)? Stick insects like company and so it's best to keep them in small groups. A minimum of four New Guinea stick insects (two males and two females) is a good population size. New Guinea stick insects have a longer lifespan (18 months) than many other species, but there is a natural spread and so some individuals die prematurely, whist others can live longer, sometimes achieving lifespans of three years.

Please can you tell me whereabouts the Small-Life Supplies stall will be located at the Kempton insect show on Saturday? I'm not very good with crowds but I really want to meet you guys and get another ELC cage (this will be my third!).
Yes, we now have the floorplan for this event and Small-Life Supplies is stand number 58 on the ground floor. So, go through the main entrance and walk straight ahead to the toilets on the back wall. Then turn left and we are the fourth stand along on that back wall. The event is less busy between 3pm and 4pm. So if you wanted to pre-order an ELC cage to collect in the afternoon (with the 10% discount) then please phone us urgently on 01733 203358.

I have two of your British Vapourer caterpillars in a QBOX. The larger one is spinning a cocoon under the lid of the QBOX, it has been doing these for the last two hours. Should I be worried? Also, I need to put in another bramble leaf for the other one but I don't want to disturb the one that is spinning?
The British Vapourer caterpillars can take several hours to spin their cocoons, so there is no need to be concerned. Ideally you would wait until it has finished spinning before you lift the lid up and insert another bramble leaf. However, if the other caterpillar has eaten all the bramble then it is imperative to lift the lid and quickly shove another bramble leaf in there. This is because a caterpillar with no food can panic and start to spin its cocoon prematurely. As you describe that caterpillar as being smaller, it may not be ready to enter the next stage of its lifecycle yet. Fortunately your caterpillar that has been spinning for two hours is well into the process and so should be able to ignore a quick interruption.

I am worried about one of my Macleays Spectre babies. His little orange head is sticking out of the egg and so are the tops of his legs but he seems stuck? I have misted the eggs lightly with water but it hasn't helped. Is there anything else I can do? Three others hatched today and they are all fine, racing around the HUA Pot!
It's good that three others have hatched fine and it is likely others will too. A light misting of water on the Australian Macleays Spectre eggs (Extatosoma tiaratum) can help with successful hatching, and is best done just before the eggs are due to hatch out. Water can also help if a stick insect has managed to free several legs but has just got stuck at the end of hatching process. Unfortunately your stick insect has got stuck at the start of the hatching process and so sadly it won't make it and there is nothing you can do to help. Remember to put a tender Eucalyptus gunnii leaf in the HUA Pot for the others to eat, because Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do best if they eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves during the first month or so of their lives (they can eat bramble and rose leaves when they are older).

Do stick insect eggs hatch during the day or during the night?
Most species of stick insect eggs hatch during the night. Of those species, a few eggs still hatch during the day. But there is one species, Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) which does the opposite, most of these eggs hatch during the day.

Please can you tell me who is changing the species of stick insects? I have found reference in the literature to Baculum artemis, a sexually dimorphic species, found in India, identified by Westwood in 1859. But now on ebay and the like this species is being sold as a parthenogenetic species from Vietnam?
Yes, the type routinely offered for sale was found in Thailand and so was called the "New Thailand species", when it was discovered in the 1980s. It was given the temporary name Baculum species, as it was awaiting further identification. It is a parthenogenetic species which is particularly easy and fast to breed. This is why now, decades later, it is so readily available. Recently someone further identified it as Baculum artemis. This was odd because in 1859 Westwood assigned Baculum artemis as being a sexual species from India! Since then various people have raised concerns but now, because of of market forces, just about everyone is calling this parthenogenetic species either Baculum artemis or Ramulus artemis! To add to the confusion, there is another species, known as the Vietnamese stick insect which has the species name Baculum extradentatum. However not many people are rearing that species in the UK anymore. More information on that species is on the Vietnamese Collector Card available from Small-Life Supplies. (Collector Cards are a set of laminated cards, each giving information about one species of stick insect).

My male Malaysian stick insect completed his final moult during the daytime, I was so lucky because it was my day off and so I could see him do this. It took hours for him to slowly unfurl his wings and extend them, it was amazing! The next day he ate his old skin and didn't move. Today he is on the back of the adult female, surely he's not ready to mate yet? There's no action, he is just resting there.
It is fascinating to see them slowly pump out their new wings, and yes, it takes several hours for the wings to fully extend. Then the wings need to harden, and it will be another couple of weeks or so until they are strong enough to sustain the stick insect in flight. After ecdysis some stick insects eat their skins quickly, but often the adult stick insects really drag this process out, taking hours to devour their shed skin. It is as if they are savouring the experience because it is the last time they will do this. The last skin-change is very exhausting for a stick insect, especially when the wings appear, and so it is usual for the stick insect to take it easy for the next few days. So it is surprising that yours is already on a female, although he is resting there and not mating. Malaysian stick insects (Heteropterx dilatata) have longer lifespans than many other species and so your pair will mate regularly during the rest of their adult lives, which should be at least another year.

I have two sunny sticks (Sungaya inexpectata) one male and one female. I had two others, who have passed now, and the female laid her eggs (3) in February I kept them on kitchen towel inside a vented tub in which the nymphs came in. They haven’t hatched yet. My current female has just laid her first egg, please will you give me details on egg care and care for these particular stick insects.
Small-Life Supplies used to breed this species of stick insect, but we don't breed this type anymore. However, the care of the eggs is similar to many other species. So it's best to save the eggs in the QBOX or HUA Pot and wait for them to hatch. Both these containers are unventilated which is key to successful incubation. So the vented tub you have used is not recommended, this is because too much ventilation can dry out the eggs inside. Caring for the nymphs is straight forward, young nymphs do well in the HUA Pot and then older nymphs and adults thrive in the ELC cage. They eat bramble leaves and these leaves should be misted with water every evening or so (try not to get the actual stick insects wet).

Counting the sleeps before the Kempton event! How do I pre-order? Another ELC cage would be FAB.
ELC cages will be for sale at the event (cash only sales) but to make sure you get one before they sell out, it's best to pre-order. We're offering a 10% discount on ELC cages collected at the show. Just call Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 with your credit/debit/AMEX card, lines are open between 9am and 5.30pm. The event venue is Kempton Park (near London) and the postcode is TW16 5AQ. The date is Saturday 6th October 2018. There will be lots of stands selling living insects, equipment, books etc. The Small-Life Supplies stand is on the ground floor, look out for our tables of ELC cages!

The bramble leaves are looking a bit ropey now, will my four Indian stick insects eat anything else? Or should I buy bramble from you, I take it that your bramble leaves are still green?
There are lots of different types of bramble/blackberry plants. Some types are starting to turn yellow now that Autumn is almost here and it's best to avoid collecting leaves that are turning yellow. Fortunately there are other types of bramble that keep their green leaves throughout the winter months and so are still nutritious for your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). So you could start looking locally for other sources of wild growing bramble. This gets easier to do as winter approaches because other deciduous plants lose their leaves and so the bramble bushes with green leaves are more obvious. Indian stick insects also eat rose leaves and Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Another option is to purchase potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants from Small-Life Supplies (this is a great back up option when there is snow around and it's difficult to go out collecting fresh bramble leaves). Or, you can buy Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies, this is sent out in a re-sealable wallet and there is enough to feed four Indian stick insects for 7-10 days. And yes, the bramble we send out has green leaves, we only send out bramble that we deem to be of a suitable quality to feed stick insects.

My question is regarding the standard Bee Study Cages. Do you have syringe rings for the 10mm hole at the top?
The smaller 10mm hole is designed for an eppendorf and so a Syringe Ring is not needed because the eppendorf is tapered and so will stay in position in the hole. The Syringe Rings are only available in one size, to fit around the standard 5ml syringe. We recommend pushing the Syringe Ring over the middle of the syringe so that it is nice and stable when the syringe is dropped through the larger 16mm hole.

Last Autumn we bought some silk worm moth caterpillars from you. Will you be offering these again this year?
We don't have any silk moth caterpillars for sale at the moment. However we are breeding the British Vapourer caterpillars now. These caterpillars are colourful with four yellow tufts. They eat bramble/blackberry leaves. They are easy to keep, please let us know if you'd like to go on the waiting-list for these.

How easy is to transport the ELC cage around? Will it fit into a car easily?
It is very easy to transport the ELC cage in a car. Just put it on a seat and fasten the seatbelt around it. Be careful not to knock off the central foot underneath the base as you lift the cage in and out of the car. If you do knock this foot off, just pick it up and pop it back on again (it has adhesive tape attached that will re-stick). If you lose the foot, just ask Small-Life Supplies to send you another one next time you order ELC Liners or anything else.

I will be visiting the Kempton Park insect show in October. Is it possible to reserve an item in advance and pick it from your stand at the show?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies is already accepting pre-orders for this event on Saturday 6th Oct 2018 at Kempton Park, TW16 5AQ. Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to let us know what you want to reserve. We will also have a range of items for sale on the day, but usually the discounted ELC cages sell out really quickly, so it's best to be at our stand early! Please note that if you purchase on the day, it is cash sales only.

I am researching how to look after stick insects and another site said "When stick insects are molting, they hang from the ceiling of the habitat or from a branch". Please can you tell me if this statement is true?
Well, it depends. For example, if the ceiling of the habitat is solid glass or plastic, then it would be impossible for the stick insect to hook its claws into this material, and so the stick insect would need to rely on its foot suction pads for grip. A small stick insect might manage this, but a larger stick insect would not because the stick insect would be too heavy. When a stick insect changes its skin (moults) the stick insect slides downwards and so its feet need to be firmly anchored to support this process. So most stick insects would choose a surface that they can grip with their claws. This is one reason why the ELC cage has mesh sides, so the stick insects can grip the side of the cage and complete their skin changes successfully. Moulting or shedding a skin from a branch is not ideal because the stick insect may bump into the leaves lower down as it slides downwards out of its skin. So that is another reason why stick insects choose to shed their skins on the sides of the ELC cage, because there are no leaves underneath to get tangled up in.

I have been given some Indian stick insects and have been told they eat ivy. But I see on the your description of the ones you sell that you suggest bramble and hazel leaves as food? Should I give mine these leaves instead? I want the best for my stick insects and have just ordered the ELC cage bundle.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best on bramble (blackberry) leaves, but they will also eat rose leaves, Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and hazel leaves. Years ago, privet was a good foodplant for this species, but in recent years many Indian stick insects are refusing to eat privet leaves, for reasons which are unexplained. Ivy leaves can be eaten by Indian stick insects as a last resort, but we have found Indian stick insects are much more healthy and active if they are fed bramble leaves. I suggest you put both bramble and ivy in the Sprig Pot of water and see what the stick insects choose to eat. It is likely they will switch over to eating bramble leaves, but this process may take several weeks, so it's important to keep putting ivy leaves in there until they have all decided to switch over to eating bramble leaves.

I found this stick insect in my garden (in Singapore), please can you tell me if it is a male or a female?
The photo is of a thin adult stick insect with a bulbous end to its abdomen. So this is an adult male stick insect.

I am confused that stick insects can reproduce without males? But I have seen males for sale so how does that work? This is part of my biology studies, I do hope you can help me.
There are lots of different species of stick insects. Some species have males and females in equal numbers and these stick insects mate regularly when they are adults and then the females lay fertilised eggs. The males are usually smaller and thinner than the females, the genders look totally different and so are "sexually dimorphic". Then there are other species of stick insect which do not have males. These species reproduce by "parthenogenesis" which translates as "virgin birth". The females lay eggs which hatch into more females. So the males you have seen for sale are from a sexual species, not a parthenogenetic species.

Why are the stick insect cages on ebay mostly netting enclosures or tanks? When what stick insects need are ELC cages!!
Economics! It is considerably cheaper to mass produce a netting enclosure or a glass tank, than it is to produce an ELC cage. Consequently those products can be sold at a much cheaper price and that appeals to many people. Of course, if stick insects did well in such enclosures, Small-Life Supplies would not have invested years in developing proper stick insect cages such as the ELC cage. Fortunately a significant number of people do appreciate the design benefits of keeping stick insects in the ELC cages and continue to buy these cages because they want the best for their stick insects and know that they work well.

I have never been to an insect show before, and so intend to go to the Kempton event. Please can you tell me how much it is to get in? And are you easy to find? I am hoping to buy a second ELC cage, I assume there's parking nearby?
Great, we look forward to seeing you at the Kempton insect fair on Saturday 6th Oct 2018. The postcode is TW16 5AQ, and yes this is at Kempton Park racecourse and so there is plenty of parking on site. Entrance is £4 for adults and £1 for under sixteens, pay at the door. The Small-Life Supplies stand is on the ground floor, easy to spot with the white tables, lights, and ELC cages for sale (or consult the floor plan in the event programme). We shall have ELC cages for sale on the day, please bring cash because we can only accept accept cash sales on the day. Small-Life Supplies will also be selling stick insects that we breed.

My Head Teacher would like to know if there’s any risk involved in keeping Indian stick insects? i.e - if they are to get out, can they cause any skin reactions etc.
There are lots of different species of stick insect and some can be harmful. However all the species that Small-Life Supplies breed are harmless, used to being handled, and suitable to be kept in schools. We breed the the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and recommend this species be kept in schools. Many teachers take the stick insects out of the ELC cage and encourage the children to handle them and observe them closely. This helps dispel any fear that some children may have of insects and can also spark an interest in other children who are interested in the natural world. School topic ideas are included in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd, this book has a whole section on Indian stick insects.

I've just received my Thailand stick insects, thank you! What's the best way to incubate the Thailand stick insect eggs? Should I mist them?
Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) eggs are best mixed with the frass (droppings) and the mixture stored in the HUA Pot. Do not mist with water because this will lead to mould. Thailand stick insect eggs hatch relatively quickly for stick insects, so look out for the hatchlings which should appear within 4-8 weeks. When you see the babies, called first instar nymphs, transfer them carefully into the ELC cage.

I have Macleays Spectre in one of your ELC cages with pink Liners. They're doing great and growing fast! I'm almost out of Liners and so need some more, I wondered if they came in black? The reason I ask is that I like to take photographs of my stickies and I think they'd show up well against a black background.
Yes, ELC cage Liners are available in three colours; blue, pink, and black. The price is the same regardless of the colour. There are ten Liners in a pack, so when you order 30 Liners you can ask for them to be all the same colour or ask for a combination, for example ten of each colour.

The snow season is almost here, what can I feed my Indian stick insects?
You could start growing soya plants, because Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat soya leaves. Soya seeds can be purchased from health food shops.

Do stick insects ever get nervous? I have a fifth instar Malaysian male who is coming up to his final skin change. His wing buds are raised and so I thought he was going to shed his skin on Sunday, but here we are, three days later and he still hasn't! He is now pacing around the ELC cage, hence the question!
The final skin-change is the most difficult one for a male Malaysian stick insect to complete because this is the time that his wings appear. Unlike the female Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) who has vestigial wings, the male Malaysian stick insect will acquire large functional wings. You are correct in realising that raised wing buds are a sign that ecdysis is imminent. I think it is likely that your stick insect is apprehensive about what he has to do. However, pacing round the ELC cage could be a sign that he is thirsty, so I'd recommend misting the bramble leaves now in case he wants to have a drink. Hopefully he will shed his skin tonight, Malaysian stick insect nymphs usually select a spot near the top of the white mesh side of the ELC cage and then side downwards, so be sure there isn't too much bramble in the ELC cage because it's important he is not hindered by any obstacles when he is climbing out of his skin and pumping out his wings.

I'd like some stick insects but only have a small space to keep them. So how much would it cost to make a short version of the ELC cage? I would need it to be 20cm high. It would be for Indian stick insects.
Sorry, but a cage only 20cm high would not be large enough to keep Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) properly. The ELC cage is 51cm high because that is the height that a stick insect cage needs to be to house healthy stick insects. Stick insects need plenty of height so they have lots of space to grow properly. Keeping stick insects in cages that are too short is a really bad idea because it leads to stunted stick insects, sometimes with bent bodies. Small-Life Supplies prioritises the welfare of stick insects and so we would not produce a cage that was not fit for purpose.

I started with Indian stick insects, then Pink Winged stick insects. Now I can't decide on whether to get Malaysian or New Guinea? I'm thirteen, if that helps!
Both Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are large and chunky and both benefit from extra exercise, so it's a good idea to take them out of the ELC cage a lot and let them have a good walk across the table or the floor. I'd recommend the New Guinea stick insects for you because they are much easier to handle and easier to breed (their eggs hatch in six months as opposed to one and a half years for the Malaysian!). Here at Small-Life Supplies we handle our stick insects frequently and so the New Guinea stick insects we supply are used to being handled. They are in stock now, and like your other stick insects, do well in the ELC cage. New Guinea stick insects do need a few extra things: a Community Tube (to rest inside), a Water Dish, and a Sand Pit (for the female to bury her eggs).

I have been doing research online and honestly there's so much conflicting advice and different spellings I thought I'd ask you for the definitive answer! To be fair I have three questions, hope that's OK! How long do Indian stick insects take to hatch? Are they all females, I mean no one has ever seen a male? The best environment, wood chippings or paper?
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs usually take four months to hatch. Indian stick insects reproduce by parthenogenesis (this is the correct spelling!) which means that these stick insects are parthenogenetic females. They lay eggs without mating and these hatch into more females. Very occasionally a male does occur, the probability is one male in 10000 females, so you are unlikely to see one, but here at Small-Life Supplies we have seen a few over the years (because we breed so many stick insects). The reason for why males occur is a mystery. A paper Liner on the floor of the cage is best, this makes it easy to keep the stick insects in clean surroundings. Wood chippings are not good because they trap the eggs and droppings, leading to unhygienic conditions.

Please can you mention the people power victory of stopping the proposal to drill for oil in Leith Hill, Surrey, UK, a site of outstanding natural beauty and special scientific interest. It beggars belief that this proposal was ever made in the first place and ten hard years of campaigning have ensued to stop it, some campaigners have suffered considerable emotional and financial cost in the process.
I applaud everyone who has put the effort into stopping this. And yes, I have no problem in publicising this success, I hope it will encourage others to stand up against abhorrent proposals to destroy beauty spots and ancient woodlands. It shows that success is possible and it's always worth fighting to protect nature.

I like your ELC cages very much and wondered if you might consider appointing me to sell some for you? I have already had several people ask me where I bought mine from.
Small-Life Supplies have developed the ELC cage after decades of research and development, and yes, it is an excellent cage for keeping stick insects. Key features include the 51cm height, the ventilated sides, the ease of access and of course the clear viewing panels. And yes, we encourage others to sell these cages, you can choose to buy twelve ELC cages for a discount rate and then distribute them to your customers. Or, you can supply us with the customer addresses and we will send the cages direct to your customers. If you would like to discuss the options, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 or email emma@small-life.co.uk

Apart from female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, do any other stick insects curl their tails up to pretend they are scorpions to deter predators?
Both male and female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) can curl up their tails (abdomens) to mimic the behaviour of scorpions, this is an effective deterrent against predators. The adult male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect has long wings and so his tail has to curl up between his wings! Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects exhibit this behaviour when they are nymphs and adults. Some other species of stick insect can curl their tails up too, but they only do this when they are nymphs. The Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) can curl her tail well when she is a first instar nymph, but as she grows, she lifts it up less. Both genders of the North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina) can curl their tails almost into a circle when they are nymphs, but lose this ability when they are adults.

I have just started keeping Indian stick insects and I am in LOVE. I have read somewhere that you need to keep the nymphs and adults separate. I bought them as "nymphs" and a few of them were tiny and now three are probably nearly half the size of being fully grown. I have made two separate enclosures for them, one small but big enough for them to grow, and the second being very big. My question is when do I move the larger ones out of the smaller enclosure and into the bigger one?
It is only the baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), these are insects less than one month old, that should be kept separate from the larger nymphs and adults. This is because baby Indian stick insects (called first instar nymphs) do best in surroundings that are unventilated, so this means a clear box without air holes. But as they grow and become larger nymphs, these Indian stick insects require more ventilated surroundings and so should be kept in a cage with two mesh sides. The adults do best in these ventilated surroundings too. So, you can transfer all of your nymphs now into the larger cage with the adult Indian stick insects. It is always best to rear the nymphs (with the exception of the babies) in a cage approx 51cm tall, so they have plenty of room to grow.

I went away on holiday for a week, and when I got back there were no leaves left in the cage! I put the usual amount in before I went, is it possible that my stick insects became worried? I thought they'd be OK if left alone for a week. Fortunately they are OK now but I am glad I came back when I did!
Yes, it is a fact that stick insects eat a lot more when they are stressed. Your stick insects saw their fresh food but then did not see or hear you for a week. So they became stressed and ate all their food. So next time you go away for a week, be sure to put in double the quantity of food in the cage before you go.

Is a "cave hide" thing better or worse than a "Community Tube" for my New Guinea stick insects?
Small-Life Supplies recommend using cardboard tubes in the ELC cage for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) to rest inside. This is because they are the optimum shape, being long and thin, so it's easy for the stick insects to climb in and out, and pile on top of each other in the tubes. You can use empty kitchen roll tubes but these need to be cut down to size. So Small-Life Supplies have the "Community Tubes" specially made. It's best to have two or three Community Tubes in the ELC cages, stacked and held together with an elastic band. We replace ours every few months so the stick insects always have somewhere nice and clean to rest.

Could you please tell me - at what stage can I introduce baby Indian sticks into the adult population?
Second instar onwards. Baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in the QBOX, this provides the unventilated surroundings they require to thrive. When Indian stick insects are about three weeks old, the stick insects shed their skins for the first time and dramatically increase in size. At this size you can keep them in the QBOX for a few more weeks, but obviously reduce the number in the QBOX so they are not cramped. Or, you can transfer the stick insects into the ventilated ELC cage to be with the adults and older nymphs. After the Indian stick insects have shed their skin for the third time, they should definitely be in the ELC cage because they need the space and airy surroundings to continue to develop successfully. The adult Indian stick insects do not harm the younger ones, in fact the nymphs sometimes rest alongside the adults on the white mesh sides of the ELC cage.

My New Guinea stick insects were doing well until I switched them exclusively to oak. Now I have lost three out of the four I had from you. I wish I'd listened to you guys and stuck with bramble. I have learnt my lesson. Can I buy three more from you, or do you only sell them in sets of four? The ironic thing is that I have plenty of bramble.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) stick insects do best if fed bramble/blackberry leaves. They can also eat hazel leaves and rose leaves. We do not recommend oak leaves as a suitable diet, we have tried these and found the New Guinea stick insects are not keen to eat them. And yes, you can purchase three New Guinea stick insects from Small-Life Supplies, so you have two pairs again.

I live too far away to attend the Rutland International Bird Fair but saw your notification on Instagram. What did you think of the insect speakers at the Rutland International Bird Fair?
Matt Shardlow, boss at BugLife, gave a very good talk, encouraging people to leave dandelions and piles of dead wood in their gardens to encourage insects. He highlighted the benefits of encouraging insects in your garden, including being the food supply for many birds. Matt also highlighted the problems of transplanting potted plants into gardens, many of these plants contain pests that may cause problems, he even gave examples of some enormous pests emerging from the plant pots whilst waiting to be transplanted! Matt also explained that many people are over-using herbicides in their gardens and this unnecessary application of chemicals is detrimental to many insects. Interestingly, President Macron of France is attempting to prohibit French people from using such toxins in their gardens in France. We need this approach in the UK too! I only caught a few minutes of another talk on insects, this one was aimed at children and given by Mike Dilger, but I wasn't impressed when he said "you have my permission to squish Harlequin ladybirds".

We are babysitting stick insect for a friend and this is our first time handling this type of insect. When we went to change out the dried leaves for new ones, a thorn stuck in the back of the female stick bug and liquid dripped out of her back. It looked red but I have read on your web site that their blood is green. Anyways, she looks like she has survived this as two days have passed. She is eating and moving around and seems alright. Can we expect her to survive? Is there a way to clean the dried liquid that dripped down her back that is currently matted to her?
It's good that the stick insect is now eating, moving around, and seems OK. So do not try to remove the dried up liquid because this may re-open the wound. Usually when a thorn punctures a stick insect's skin, it's best to squirt water onto the affected area immediately, to clean the area and flush away the coloured liquid. (The colour of liquid varies with the species of stick insect). But it's too late for you to do that, because the liquid has dried. So it's really important to just leave it alone. It may look a bit unsightly but it won't cause a problem to the actual stick insect. Stick insects can survive minor injuries and so if she manages to last the week, her prognosis is very good. During the next few days, she will need her strength to repair the wound, so try to let her rest as much as possible. And every day lightly mist the leaves with water so she can drink from the water droplets.

With the ELC cage, I have just realised only one side lifts up, which side is it? Left or right? I am bedbound and my room is quite cluttered so it’s quite important.
The lid lifts off the ELC cage and then the right side slides up. This is marked with a green arrow. However, if you want the left side to be removable instead, this is easy for us to manufacture. Just let us know when you order from Small-Life Supplies that you want the left side to be removable and this will be arranged (at no extra charge).

Did you know "Baculum thai" officially now is Ramulus thai? I really think you are the last person that has the species.
In animal classification, some people try to change species names without justification. "Baculum" translates as "stick" in Latin, "Ramulus" translates as "branch" in Latin. Thailand stick insects resemble sticks not branches and so there is no justification to change the genus from Baculum to Ramulus. Therefore the original species name of Baculum thaii is correct for the Thailand stick insect. The males have yellow eyes and thin purplish/brown bodies. They are very lively! This species is covered in detail in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. Small-Life Supplies have been breeding and supplying Baculum thaii stick insects for decades and so we know that lots of people have them!

Any update on when the AUC cage will be back in stock? My Thailand stick insects need more space!
The current production run of AUC cages should be finished next week, so the cages shall be dispatched then. AUC cages are very airy with large holes in the sides, and are ideal for adult Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), the adult New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) and the North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina). Liners for the AUC cage are available in two colour choices: green and pink.

My son is fascinated by bugs and so we have had a long talk and decided to take the plunge and buy him some stick insects for his tenth birthday on 5th September, the Indian ones to start with. Your ELC cage looks the business, so we'll be getting that too. My question is how soon should I order so everything can arrive in time for his birthday? And would the "Keeping Stick Insects" book be suitable for his age? He is a bright child, and hates babyish things.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a great choice for your son, he will enjoy handling them and he can save a few eggs and hatch out the next generation. The ELC bundle provides the correct housing and accessories, and the book"Keeping Stick Insects" can be understood by a smart ten year old, it is clearly written but could not be described as being babyish. Don't forget you can request a personal message to be written in the front of the book by the author, this is a free service, and makes the present extra special. It's best to order now and request delivery the day before the birthday, so Tuesday 4th September.

I got four Indian adults from Small-Life Supplies, the label with them says "all females, parthenogenetic". I don't know what this means? They are very nice by the way, my son loves them.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) don't have males, they reproduce by a process called parthenogenesis, which means that the adult females lay eggs which hatch into more females. No mating occurs. So if you save some of the eggs that your Indian stick insects lay, you can look forward to the eggs hatching into baby female Indian stick insects in approximately four months time.

Can you tell me anything about "Bud Wing stick insects"?
"Budwings", aka Phaenopharos herwaardeni,or Thailand Straight stick insects, have males and females in approximately equal numbers. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we have reared them for many years, but no longer breed that species. Females grow to 19cm, males to 17cm. They can sometimes emit an unusual odour, sometimes likened to HP sauce! They eat bramble leaves and have small red wings that they can flash at predators as a defence. The wings are too small to sustain flight.

When's the insect show in October? How many people are going to be there and do I have to pay to get in?
The date of the big insect event is Saturday 6th October 2018 at Kempton Park Racecourse, postcode TW16 5AQ. There will be lots of stands selling insects and equipment, including Small-Life Supplies on the ground floor. There are around 1000+ visitors, so it gets quite busy! The stalls of insects, insect equipment, insect books, insect societies etc are spread over two floors, ground and first floor, there are usually over eighty stalls, so plenty to see! Entrance is about £4, and you pay on the door, not in advance.

Is it possible to identify a stick insect from its frass?
The frass (droppings) of stick insects does vary a lot according to the species of stick insect, so yes, it can help with identification. Likewise the physical appearance of the egg can help with identification. Trying to identify a species of stick insect from the appearance of the nymph is difficult, although factors such as relative length of antennae to the front leg can help. Obviously the easiest way to identify a stick insect is to look at the adult stick insects and measure their sizes.

I purchased four New Guinea stick insects from you last September. I have noticed they are not going in the tube anymore and one female is on the bramble all day instead of on the bottom of the cage. Also one male is looking skinny compared to the other one. Are they getting old? They have a constant supply of bramble and water.
The fact your New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) aren't going in the tube suggests there is a problem with the tube. Perhaps it got wet and the stick insects can detect a slightly musty smell as a result. So it would be a good idea to replace the tube, particularly if you have been using it for nearly one year. We replace the Community Tubes in our ELC cages housing New Guinea stick insects every few months. Are you still taking the stick insects out of the cage for extra exercise? New Guinea stick insects continue to be active throughout their lives, even in old age. If your stick insects are nearing the end of their lives due to old age, their bodies will not be as glossy as they were, and will have a dull matt finish. They will also struggle to grip with their feet because their sticky pads do not work as well as they used to.

What type of stick insect should I get next? I have Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects presently and have hatched out some of their eggs, the babies are so cute!
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) would be a great choice for you. Unlike the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) which are parthenogenetic and so are all females, the Thailand stick insects have males and females (both genders look completely different). Thailand stick insects are easy to breed too, and their tiny babies (called first instar nymphs) like to gather on the ends of the bramble stems in the ELC cage (so don't keep the Thailand babies in a QBOX or HUA Pot). Like your other stick insects, Thailand stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves.

We live at the end of a long and rutted farm track and find that many couriers refuse/fail to deliver. Royal Mail are good. Can we use them to deliver the ELC cage bundle?
Yes, when the courier option is not appropriate, Small-Life Supplies uses Royal Mail to deliver the ELC cage bundle. Unfortunately it does cost a bit more than the 9.95 courier price, the price for Royal Mail to deliver a 5kg parcel is £15.85 by first class post. Please highlight that you require that delivery option when you order and we will arrange it for you.

Is this blue liquid in my stick bugs habitat the blue gel that contains the genitalia of the Male? And does that mean the Male is dying? Or just that he is secreting ? Sorry I wish I didn't have to ask.  I just acquired a large population of stick bugs from a retiring teacher who honestly I think knew even less than I did. (She only changed their tank twice a year and had 35+ living together in an average tank).   
The photo you sent shows some adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in a tank, with some droppings, eggs and some small blue/green stains on the kitchen roll lining the tank. So the stick insects you have are all females (they reproduce by parthenogenesis). You need to collect the round small brown eggs which are on the white kitchen roll and place them in a separate container (outside of the cage) so they can develop and hatch after approx four months. You don't have any males, the stains are drops of blood from the females. They have probably been fighting because they are stressed. To make them happier, you need to give them fresh food weekly (stand the stems in a vase of water), give them more water (so lightly mist the leaves once a day with water), keep the surroundings clean (so wash the tank and then replace the kitchen roll Liner once a week), and reduce the number in there (so invest in another cage). The book "Keeping Stick Insects" will help you a lot, this is available from Small-Life Supplies and we can send this book to Canada. It has a whole section on Indian stick insects and a lot of advice and useful information about stick insects. Buy the book here

One of my beautiful adult female Zompro's stick insects is dying; it's not unexpected as she is nearly two years old. I have put a leaf with some water near her head and she has been drinking greedily and I will keep this replenished until she has passed. The experience has made me wonder, is it better to let nature take her course and support a stick insect during it's last days (as you know it can take a few days for a stick insect to die) or would it be kinder to intervene and end the insect's life, and suffering, more quickly? If the latter, is there a method that would prove truly humane?
These Thailand Marbled stick insects (Parapachymorpha zomproi) usually live about one year, so your female has done really well getting to be nearly two. You are doing the correct thing by giving her extra water to drink during her dying days. Stick insects dying from old age do appreciate extra water and it helps them to die in peace. Your stick insect is not suffering, her body is shutting down and the water is easing this process. So carry on with what you are doing because this is the kindest thing to do. I would not recommend trying to kill her, because this would be terrifying for her, and traumatic for you. Do not be fooled by the method being blindly repeated elsewhere of putting living stick insects into a freezer, because this is extremely cruel and would cause immense suffering and slow death.

Great that you have the potted eucalyptus back in stock. I know eucalyptus grows quickly so will I need to re-pot the plants soon? Do I need to feed the plants? I want two plants.   
Eucalyptus gunnii is a fast growing plant, especially during the summer months. Ideally you would transplant the potted plants into your garden (and water well). However, if this is not possible, you could keep them in the 2 litre plant pots they are supplied in for a few more weeks. Water well and scatter the frass (stick insect droppings) onto the soil as fertiliser. When you see the roots poking out of the bottom of the plant pot, it is time to repot into a larger plant pot. You will need extra soil to do this, so use soil from your garden or purchase "John Innes, J Arthur Bower" compost. Do not be tempted by cheaper compost alternatives because these often have pesticides added which will be taken up by the plant and will harm stick insects that eat the leaves.

I cycle past a large group of Cinnabar caterpillars on my way to work. They have devoured the leaves of the ragwort and now the yellow flowers are disappearing too. Why is that?
When the Cinnabar caterpillars (Callimorpha jacobaeae) are small, they start eating the bottom leaves of the ragwort. As the caterpillars grow, they slowly move up the plant, devouring the leaves. When the Cinnabar caterpillars are fully grown they start to eat the petals off the yellow flowers! The caterpillars then go down to the ground and transform into dark brown pupae encased in silky cocoons. They remain in the leaf litter until the following Spring. The emerging moths are bright red with black markings.

Last month I moved to a new flat, and promised myself I'd start keeping stick insects again when I'd got myself sorted. I need an easy care variety and so I was going to choose the Indian type. But I'm concerned that my flat will be too hot. I know the weather has been crazy hot lately but my flat is so hot and I know Indian stick insects don't like it too hot. Is there another option? I like the stick shaped ones, not the chunky ones as they freak me out!
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are the most common type of pet stick insect, and are easy to look after. However, Indian stick insects do not thrive in hot surroundings, so it's best to keep them at a daytime temperature of between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius (and cooler at night). Unfortunately with this prolonged very hot spell of summer weather, people's homes are routinely exceeding 25 degrees Celsius in the day, which is too hot for Indian stick insects and causes them to become very lethargic and sometimes even to die prematurely. In contrast Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) can tolerate these higher temperatures. Thailand stick insects look long and thin, so will appeal to you. And they have small appetites so are a very easy to care variety, ideally suited to people looking for a low maintenance pet.

I work at a vets and want to ask if insect specialists such as yourself Professor, can tell just by looking at a stick insect, whether it is ill or not?
Yes, I can. As well as its physical appearance, there are tell tale signs that indicate a stick insect is unwell, for example how it holds itself, how it responds to stimuli, how it walks etc. At the moment with the heatwave, a lot of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are suffering, so look thin and are lethargic. They will recover when the temperature drops, and in the meantime, the advice is to feed them with rose leaves and give them extra water to drink. The virus which keeps surfacing and killing the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) is still prevalent, early symptoms include excessive thirst and lethargy. In the later stages the abdomen becomes floppy and finally, as death approaches, the body looks "sucked out".

I am new to keeping stick insects and have just got some youngsters of the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect variety. I was told the males will get wings but only flutter a bit. I want to film flying stick insects and so wondered if the Pink Winged stick insects are better at flying? And can I keep them both in the ELC cage with the mesh lid?
You have been incorrectly advised. Adult male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are very strong flyers, they can easily fly across a room and weave around light fittings etc. Adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are weaker flyers, but they can manage a few metres and land on the wall. Both types can be mixed together in the ELC cage, ideally with the mesh lid, which provides additional climbing surfaces and a site for the Pink Winged stick insect to glue her eggs. Full details on both species are in the Keeping Stick Insects book.

I’ve had a visitor from a butterfly or moth on my basil plant a few weeks ago. I’ve now got loads of green caterpillars, I was just wondering if you could help me with what type they are?
It will be interesting to see what they develop into. Many caterpillars pupate (transform into a pupa) just underneath the soil, others encase their pupa inside a loose sac of leaf litter (bits of leaf, twig, soil granules) which they stick together before pupating. So I suggest you place lots of leaf litter on the soil of your plant pot so your caterpillars have somewhere suitable and won't wander off looking for somewhere to pupate.

My young daughter wants to be an entomologist. I have no idea where this has come from, although she has always been interested in bugs and is now getting into stick insects in a big way. Should I encourage her?
Yes, far better for her to aim to join a profession she enjoys. Hopefully she will be good at science at school? It will make it much easier for her if she can get good science qualifications. Meantime, keeping stick insects is a great hobby which I am glad she is enjoying. A childhood interest in insects tends to stick with people throughout their lives.

I am about to order a couple of your potted Eucalyptus plants. I never have much luck with house plants, do you have any tips on how I can keep these alive? Should I water them before or after work?
It's best to stand potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants outside, rather than keep them in the house. And water them late in the evening with a watering can. We sprinkle the frass from the cage Liner over the soil to give the plant a bit of nourishment. We find that our Eucalyptus gunnii plants do best if positioned by a shady wall or fence, so their exposure to the full glare of the sun is restricted (this is especially important at the moment with the exceptionally hot weather).

I have reared phasmids for years and their cast off skins have always been cream. But this morning I saw a vivid green discarded skin from my new Malaysian stick insect! How unusual is that? Are the discarded skins from the yellow and black Peruvian Fern stick insects yellow?
The cast off skins from most stick insect species are cream. Exceptions include the Vietnamese stick insect (Baculum extradentatum) which are pale pink. And the female Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) which, when she reaches a certain age, are green, like the actual stick insect. The skins from Peruvian Fern stick insects (Oreophoetes peruana) are not yellow, they are cream but do have some black markings.

Should a Black Beauty Stick Insect escape and successfully make it's way to the Wild (In Britain, say the South), what would the implications/threats be to our ecosystem? I'm assuming they wouldn't be able to survive in a colder climate? I am guessing this species could be a threat to our native inverts with their chemical weaponry?
The Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) has "warning colouration" in the form of small red wings which it flashes at potential predators to deter them from eating it. So birds would be put off eating this insect. However, garden wasps are unlikely to be deterred by the visual display, but may be put off by the chemical spray emitted by this stick insect. Parasitic wasps kill huge numbers of insects and are very likely to attack this plump insect. And of course, apart from the summer months, the weather for the rest of the year in Southern England is simply too cold for Peruvian stick insects to survive. And even if it did survive during the summer months the threat on other invertebrates would be negligible. This is because Peruvian Black stick insects are very specific in what they eat, needing to eat privet (and not many other insects eat privet).

I just opened my garden waste wheelie bin and discovered a dead Thailand stick insect in there! I replaced the brambles yesterday and so it must have been accidentally thrown out with the dead bramble. I feel terrible, it's been so dreadfully hot, I think the poor thing must have suffocated?
Oh dear, the heat will have killed this stick insect. When it gets very hot, the waxy top layer of the actual exoskeleton of the stick insect starts to break down and once this starts to happen death is inevitable, usually within minutes. That is why it is so important to never leave stick insects in a parked car on a hot sunny day. At the moment, the temperature in some parts of England is exceptionally hot, around 30 degrees Celsius. It would be much hotter in a closed wheelie bin and so your stick insect didn't stand a chance.

I noticed the price of the QBOX Liners has gone up a lot, please tell me why?
Small-Life Supplies have now sold all our stocks of the very thin tissue QBOX Liners. The new QBOX Liners are made from cellophane and so actually work much better, because they are more robust. These new QBOX Liners are more expensive to produce, but are still great value for money at just £1.20 for a pack of twenty.

I liked the twitching Cinnabar caterpillar on your Instagram page. I have never seen these until this year, has the very hot weather played a part in boosting their numbers?
Yes, the very hot weather we have had in England recently has boosted wild populations of the Arctiidae family of moths. So that means there is a second generation of the Garden Tiger moths (Arctia caja) and record numbers of the orange and black banded Cinnabar caterpillars (Callimorpha jacobaeae).

I have Malaysian stick insect nymphs, I think the best cage for them would be the ELC cage rather than the AUC cage? Do I need to provide anything else for them?
The ELC bundle is the best set-up for Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata). The AUC cage is too airy for Malaysian stick insects and so not recommended for this species. Push a couple of bramble stems into the Sprig Pot of water and mist the leaves once a day, in the late afternoon or early evening. When the Malaysian stick insects are fully grown they need more water, and so place a Water Dish of cold tap water on the ELC Liner. The adult female Malaysian stick insect buries her eggs in sand and so you also need to insert the Sand Pit. Place this on the Liner, beside the fixed mesh side of the cage. The female will then be able to get a firm grip on the side of the cage whilst she buries her eggs in the dry sand.

Can you tell me what is going on with these two thorny stick insects? Blue protrusion from rear end. Photo attached.
Your photo is of two adult male Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus). The blue gel contains the genitalia of the male. This appears before mating and sometimes when the insect is dying. Your male has all his legs crossed which indicates he is dying. The other adult male has his foot on the dying insect to comfort him.

Do any insects eat stick insects?
Wasps eat stick insects.

I saw your Facebook piece about ragwort and how great it is for insects. Is that the one we shouldn't feed to horses?
Ragwort is fantastic for many insects, flying insects visit the yellow flowers, and the leaves are great for caterpillars including the British Cinnabar caterpillar and the British Garden Tiger caterpillar. The leaves are toxic to horses and humans when eaten in large quantities, but the leaves taste unpleasant which acts as a big deterrent to stop them being consumed. Nevertheless, there is a lot of hysteria about ragwort, which has resulted in "Friends of the Earth" compiling their "ragwort myth buster". The biggest threat to horses results from them eating dried ragwort. This happens when ragwort has been harvested with the grass to make hay. Dried ragwort remains toxic but loses its unpalatable taste, so the horse cannot detect anything is wrong. The sensible solution is to avoid harvesting ragwort with grass to make hay. The hysterical option of encouraging everyone to rip out all ragwort they see is absurd and very detrimental to insect life and the ecosystem.

My daughter is becoming interested in keeping insects, and I was having a look at your website. It wasn’t clear to me whether you have a shop open to the public, or if all your trade is over the internet?
Unfortunately Small-Life Supplies does not have a showroom open to the public. However we do exhibit at various insect and nature events around the country, please ask to go on our email list if you wish to be invited to these events. We are always keen to give advice over the phone about the best stick insects and caterpillars to purchase, and so please phone 01733 203358 weekdays between 9am and 5.30pm. Cages and creatures are dispatched using express delivery services and live arrival is guaranteed.

I have black beauty stick insects and I was wondering if they can or like lemon beauty honeysuckle?
Peruvian Black stick insects (Peruphasma schultei), also called "black beauty" stick insects, do best on privet leaves (Ligustrum vulgare). The plant you mention is not related to privet. However, you could insert a sprig of this plant together with the privet sprigs into your cage and see if your stick insects are tempted to eat it. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we don't breed Peruvian Black stick insects because they can emit a chemical spray which can irritate other stick insects, cats and dogs, and sensitive people.

I had eight Lime Hawk moth caterpillars, but they have been looking sluggish recently and today five of them are dead (with squishy bodies) and the other three are barely moving. Could they have got too hot? Or could it have been the leaves, the last ones I gathered didn't look too great?
Caterpillars can be very sensitive to their surroundings and so if the conditions aren't right, it is easy for the whole lot to die suddenly, as you have found. I suspect a combination of factors is responsible here, the very hot weather does not favour hawkmoth larvae or lime trees, and so the insects will have been weakened and then have succumbed to a virus which has killed them all.

I know that blackbirds can eat stick insects but what about magpies? One of my Pink Winged stick insects has botched its final moult and I need to end its suffering. I have two resident magpies in the garden, hence the question.
Yes, a magpie will quickly gobble up an injured stick insect.

It is so hot, my New Guinea stick insects are eating so much food, can I buy some bramble from you?
The very hot weather has resulted in Small-Life Supplies suspending bramble deliveries by post, this is because it is too hot in the postal system for the bramble not to overheat in transit. However, Small-Life Supplies is still sending out bramble by courier, we are able to do this because more packaging is used and so we are able to insulate the bramble much better. We recommend moving your stick insects to a cooler room in the house, open the windows in the evening and close the curtains/blinds during the day, as these actions will reduce the room temperature. The hotter it is the more the New Guinea stick insects will eat and drink. Also, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can be fed on hazel leaves and/or rose leaves during the summer to help conserve your bramble stocks.

Do you sell cuttlefish? It's for my Giant African Land Snails.
Small-Life Supplies stopped using cuttlefish bone as a source of calcium for Giant African Land Snails over twenty years ago! This is because hen eggshells are a much better alternative, they have a much lower salt content and we noticed our snails did much better on eggshells that on cuttlefish. Simply break the egg, use the contents for cooking, and then rinse out the two halves of the empty eggshell under a tap of cold running water. Leave to dry, before placing the two halves of the eggshell on the Liner. The snails will stick their heads inside and gnaw at the interior of the shell. We have tested the snails on different brands of eggs, and, as expected, the snails prefer to eat the most expensive free range eggs bought from Waitrose.

We have a family of four Indian stick insects, their home is one of your excellent ELC cages. This week we have notice they seem a little off-colour, their tummies don't seem to be as plump as usual, could the heat be putting them off their food? It is 27 degrees Celsius, so much hotter than usual. Should I move them to the back room, which is 22 degrees Celsius?
Yes, move the cage of stick insects to the cooler room. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) suffer when the temperature exceeds 25 degrees Celsius, symptoms include increased thirst, reduced appetite, then aggression. You can mist the leaves with water a bit more generously so they have enough water to drink but you should notice a rapid improvement when they are moved to cooler surroundings.

Is freezing a humane way to euthanase adult stick insects?
No, it is incredibly cruel to freeze a stick insect to death. It is a very slow painful death and not a method that any compassionate person would advise. Unfortunately some ill informed people have suggested this method on-line and it is being blindly repeated without any consideration or knowledge on the suffering it would cause.

Can flea treatment for dogs kill stick insects?
Yes. So never use a flea spray in the same room as the cage of stick insects. And if you use the "Frontline" or similar liquid treatment on the back of the dog's neck, be sure to keep the dog well away from the room containing the stick insects for 48 hours. The same precautions apply to flea treatments for cats.

I want to sell my stick insects but I want them to go to a good home, so I was wondering do you take Stick Insects back? (As I bought the originals from you).
When selling stick insects, it is very important that they go to a good home and are properly looked after. To make this easier for conscientious sellers such as yourself, Small-Life Supplies can send the ELC cage bundles, and any extras, for example the book "Keeping Stick Insects" and Mister Curvy, all at a discount rate, to the conscientious seller. This enables the surplus stick insects to go to their new homes with the correct equipment, thereby maximising their chances of a happy life. This scheme works well if you think you can sell four or more sets, so please get in touch if you think you can do this.

My Pink Winged stick insects love to wedge their eggs in the mesh roof of my ELC cage. But one of them, called Philippa, has glued five eggs onto the cage Liner! What do I do with these ones?
It is essential that Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insect eggs remain glued to a surface, so they are anchored enabling the nymph to hatch successfully. So leave the eggs on the roof alone and they will start hatching in approx three months time. Use scissors to cut around Philippa's eggs on the Liner but leave a 2cm border around the eggs. This makes it easy for you to pick up the cut pieces and place them in a shallow pot within the cage, these eggs will also hatch in three months time.

Is it a good idea to mix stick insects and leaf insects?
No. Leaf insects can be aggressive and can attack stick insects. So keep them in separate ELC cages.

Saw on Twitter the image of the adult male stick insect mating with the female whilst she was eating her exuviae. Will she be OK?
Mating with a female that is still eating her cast off skin (exuviae) is definitely too early and very risky for the female. Adult male stick insects usually reach adulthood a few weeks before the females (the interval varies depending on the species). With some species the male is desperate to mate and can be seen beforehand mounting the large female sub-adults (called sixth instar nymphs). In these situations the adult male should be housed in a separate cage until the female has completed her last skin-change and regained her strength (this takes a couple of weeks). They can then be put together in the same cage and can continue to live together for the rest of their lives (usually another seven months). They will mate regularly during the rest of their lives. Allowing mating to occur too early can be fatal for the female.

Is it more important to have the mesh on the sides of the cage or on the top? I want the best enclosure for my new stickies!
Definitely the mesh on the sides. This is because that allows for good climbing surfaces and also provides the through draught ventilation that stick insects need. The myth that stick insects need a mesh lid to hang from results from them being kept in tanks with solid plastic or glass sides, hence the stick insects have no choice but to go to the roof because they are trying to get to the air and this is the only place (apart form the bramble ) that they can get a grip with their claws! The ELC cage is a proper stick insect cage, specially designed by Small-Life Supplies, and it has been in production since 2012. It is a tall cage (51cm high) with two mesh sides, so is ideal housing for many stick insects. ELC cages are precision made in the UK.

My New Guinea haven’t shed in 1 1/2 months and I’m beginning to think that they have reached adulthood? The females abdomens have started swelling and I put the sandpit into the cage, in case they wanted to lay. I haven’t checked it yet although they haven’t seemed to show any interest.
Yes, your New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are adults, and the abdomens of the females are swelling because they are filling with eggs. You need to place the Sandpit so that is is touching the white mesh side of the ELC cage. And always keep it in the same place so the females know where to lay their eggs. To get them started, you can place the adult female on the mesh side with her abdomen pushed into the sand. Depending on how intelligent she is, she may start to bury an egg straight away, or you may have to repeat the process. If she hasn't got the idea after the third attempt, give up and try again tomorrow. The sand must be dry and not clumping together.

One of my baby New Guinea stick insects lost a leg, I don't know why as the others are all fine. It has a bent antenna too. Anyways, it moulted last night and lost two more legs. Is there a reason why it is struggling so?
When stick insect eggs hatch, most of the babies (called first instar nymphs) should be healthy and strong. But there is always a small percentage that are sickly. These stick insects are more prone to losing legs, are undersized and may also have a bent abdomen and/or bent antennae. Unfortunately they continue to struggle, and may lose another leg or more. At Small-Life Supplies, we separate these weaker stick insects from the rest so we do not breed from them, many do not reach adulthood anyway because of their ill health.

What colour is stick insects' blood?
Green.

My daughter has been wanting stick insects for ages. Her birthday is in July and so I'll get her some. Apart from the ELC cage and the Indian stick insects is there anything else I need? There is a large bramble patch near the leisure centre where we have gathered blackberries from in the past, so getting hold of the leaves won't be a problem.
It's best to select the ELC bundle rather than just the ELC cage, because the bundle also includes the cage Liners (needed to keep the stick insects in clean surroundings), the Sprig Pot (fill with cold tap water and insert a couple of bramble stems with leaves attached (sprigs) , each about 30cm long), and also the Cleaning Sponge (it's recommended to wash the cage about once a month with warm soapy water and then rinse well, this keeps the cage looking nice). You'll also need a plant sprayer, if you don't have one already, we can supply the Mister Curvy. You use this to lightly mist the bramble leaves with water every day or so, this enables the stick insects to drink water from the droplets on the leaves. And of course, detailed information on the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and other commonly kept species is in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. A birthday message can be included in the book if you request this when you order.

My two British Garden Tiger moths emerged yesterday, I have been blessed with having both genders, and saw them mating last night! This morning they are resting separately in the TTQ cage, still looking beautiful. I shall release them later this afternoon. I noticed some yellow staining on the white mesh of the TTQ cage but on closer inspection I realise that it is not a stain but a large cluster of tiny eggs, so neatly arranged, side by side! What should I do with them?
Congratulations! It has been a really good year for our British Garden Tiger moths and it is great that you had both a male and a female because when we send out the caterpillars we are unable to determine which is which. And yes, releasing the moths outside between 5pm and 6pm is the best time to do this (but delay release if it is raining). It is best to leave the eggs where they have been glued (so don't try to scrape them off). When they hatch, you can rear some caterpillars in QBOXES or HUA Pots, and release the rest outdoors in a neglected area which has dock and dandelion leaves.

I moved house not long ago, and have had to switch feeding my Indian stick insects their usual privet diet to whatever I can find for them in our new, privet-free area. I have been giving them what I thought was bramble, foraged from a nearby park, but worryingly two have died in the last fortnight and although they were probably almost two years old, I'm concerned the change in diet contributed. I've done some research and found that the plant I gave them is actually Chinese bramble (Rubus tricolor) which has soft green leaves but a very furry stem. Do you know if this plant is harmful to them? I've found some regular bramble elsewhere but I wondered if there are any other suitable alternatives (apart from ivy, which they tend not to eat and I find difficult to keep alive in the sprig pot) - such as nettles?
Your stick insects have most likely died from old age, getting to nearly two is very good considering most Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live about one year. The Chinese bramble is OK for Indian stick insects, we have used this with no adverse results. It is a ground covering plant and so you need to be a bit careful when gathering it to select leaves that no dogs have urinated on. This is because if the dog is taking medicine, this can be urinated out and contaminate the leaves. Regular bramble is fine for Indian stick insects, also hazel leaves, rose leaves and Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Ivy is sometimes eaten but is generally not popular. Nettles are not suitable.

I got some New Guinea nymphs from you a few months ago and they have just become fully grown, I have saved their skins! Anyhow, the males seem a bit skittish, is this normal?
Yes, it is completely normal for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that have recently become adults to be a bit skittish. They are just getting used to their new size, which is very large! So don't be alarmed if they topple over or suddenly walk very quickly, they are just getting used to how their new body size works. In a few weeks they will have settled down. It's best not to handle them too much when they are very young adults, but when they are behaving more calmly it is a good idea to take them out of the cage regularly so they can have a long walk across the table or the floor. When doing this, avoid smooth shiny surfaces because the stick insects will slip, so select a carpet or wooden table rather than a polished floor or glass table.

What is the best humidity level for Extatosoma tiaratum ?
Extatosoma tiaratum is the Latin species name of the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect. These are large stick insects which do best in cages with low humidity, so well ventilated cages are best. From birth these stick insects can be kept in the ELC cage (ideally with the mesh lid). Larger nymphs and adults do well in these surroundings too. If you have more than six adult Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects you can keep them in the AUC cage. It is best to take the adult males out of the cage so they can fly across the room, this should be done at least once a week.

Could I keep your caterpillars in a greenhouse?
It would probably get too hot in a greenhouse for the caterpillars, so it would be better to keep them in your home instead. The caterpillars that Small-Life Supplies supply are sent with suitable housing, this is usually the HUA Pot or QBOX for small caterpillars, with the option of purchasing the TTQ cage for the larger caterpillars.

I received some New Guinea stick insects from Small-Life Supplies and I LOVE them! I researched more information on-line and one site says "Males can fight for mates if there aren’t enough females and this can lead to injury or even death." This got me worried cos I have two pairs at the moment but if one female dies I don't want the males to fight to the death! Should I get a another female just in case?
There is a lot of incorrect "information" written about New Guinea stick insects on-line, that just gets blindly repeated by others with zero knowledge of these fascinating creatures. One myth that keeps getting repeated is how supposedly aggressive they are, when the fact is they are only aggressive if they are being maltreated, abused, underfed, deprived of water etc. So the suggestion that males "fight for females" is wrong. Small-Life Supplies supply New Guinea stick insects in pairs, this is because they like to pair up and so we send out ones that are together as a couple in the cage. In the unlikely event of a female dying prematurely, then her mate might die soon too (effectively "committing suicide" if they were close), or he might carry on for several more months (if they were not that close). In the latter case, the remaining two males wouldn't fight.

My Garden Tiger caterpillar has made a cocoon in the egg carton as expected. I watched it happen. Do I remove the leaves now? I have dock leaves in there but they have wilted and there's a big blob of white "fur" on them, could this be mould?
Yes, the white furry blob is mould. So you need to quickly remove all the leaves (but first check that none are attached to the cocoon). This is because it's really important to stop the mould from spreading. When keeping caterpillars and pupae, you need to keep them in clean surroundings and act immediately if you see any mould because this will make them ill. Now that your caterpillar has transformed into a pupa, it does not eat leaves anymore and so remove the leaves that are there and don't put any more in the container. Make sure that the container which houses the egg carton is ventilated, so if you are using a shoebox you can punch some holes in the sides or spread some netting over the top.

I have successfully reared most of my Achrioptera fallax nymphs from ova to adult. Most of them are post adult moult about 2 weeks to 1.5 months. However, this past week I have lost a few females. They suddenly turn very limp and deflated. Even their neck area get bent and hallowed. I did see one spot of black sticky goo in the cage which came out of the rear of one female that died. I did read something online regarding a virus affecting females. They all have been unusually thirsty since turning to adults. Most females and males are sitting apart doing nothing.
Oh dear, these symptoms are very similar to the virus which can affect the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). The classic signs are the deflated body, excessive thirst and the sticky black goo. Stick insects affected by this virus can die within days, although some stagger on for a week or two, sometimes their bodies are so flat they can double back over themselves. If you have any females that are not showing these symptoms it's important to move them into a separate cage with the males and put them in a different part of your house. Unfortunately all you can do for the afflicted females is to give them extra water to drink as this will ease their final days. If you try keeping this species again, it is really important not to overcrowd them as they grow. This is because overcrowding causes stress and stressed stick insects are more likely to succumb to a virus. They also do best in large airy cages rather than tanks with solid sides because these do not provide enough air-flow.

I received some Indian stick insects and was told by the seller that they are "size L3". What does this mean? I have looked at the stick insects you list and you just say "nymphs" or "adults".
The L1, L2, L3 etc system refers to the larval stage of development and so is used for describing how old larvae are. So, for example when a caterpillar hatches it is in its first larval stage and so is called L1. When the caterpillar (larva) sheds its skin for the first time it enters its second larval stage and so is L2. And so the process continues until the caterpillar is fully grown and becomes a pupa. Stick insects are never larvae and so it is not appropriate to use the L1, L2, L3 etc system. When a stick insect hatches it is called a first instar nymph. After a few weeks, the stick insects sheds its skin and becomes a second instar nymph. After six skin-changes the stick insect is an adult. Small-Life Supplies sells medium sized stick insect nymphs, so these are usually fourth or fifth instar nymphs and so are good size.

This morning I saw my first newborn Pink Winged stick insect under the ELC cage lid! Is she is OK to stay in there with the adults, one must be her mum? And my fella is paranoid about her squeezing through the holes in the lid, is this likely? She's just chilling at the mo.
Congratulations! You will probably see more hatchlings over the coming days and weeks. Tell your husband not to worry, young Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) like to rest a lot, initially under the lid of the ELC cage and, when they are larger, on the mesh sides. Their legs stick out and so they do not even attempt to try to wriggle out through the holes! Baby stick insects are often thirsty and so this evening remember to lightly mist the bramble leaves with water so the stick insects can have a drink from the water droplets. Be prepared that your adult stick insects are nearing the end of their lives, the mother often dies soon after her eggs start to hatch. But in the meantime they can all live happily together.

Which would be the best cage for Macleays Spectre stick insects? Mine are about 2cm long.
The ELC cage is ideal for housing Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) from birth up to adulthood. When they hatch, these stick insects are very active and like to run around, so need plenty of space to do this. And Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects require airy surroundings throughout their lives, so the ELC cage is ideal. If you are mixing Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects with other types of stick insect, choose the standard ELC cage. However, if you have a cage just for this species, then ask for the ELC cage with the mesh lid because this provides even more climbing surfaces and extra ventilation, both of which suit this species.

We got Indian Stick insect eggs and the ELC cage from you in Dec 2017 and successfully kept the stickies and hatched a further generation! However for some reason they are dying, with dark ends to their legs, then going limp. My son has been really sad about it. We change the food regularly, do spray with water most days and have got bramble leaves away from the road in our local wood/park, so hoping no pesticides. I cleaned the cage and the water sprayer, but not with detergent. Is there a chance they may have got a fungal or viral infection? Or it has been warmer of late so am hoping they did not get too hot (Edinburgh tho!)
There is currently a problem with the bramble in some areas because this year the new growth has appeared but all the old leaves have died off. The pale soft leaves are not very nutritious for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and this species is affected more adversely by this than the other species of stick insect. So it's best to temporarily switch to feeding Indian stick insects with rose leaves or hazel leaves (these are new growth but are at a more advanced stage and so are more nutritious). Of course once the bramble leaves have darkened a bit and are thicker and not floppy, you can resume feeding Indian stick insects with bramble leaves again. Also, it's important not to expose Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) to temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius, so if the room is likely to get hot in the sun, then best move the stick insects to a cooler room. At Small-Life Supplies we aim to keep our Indian stick insects at a daytime temperature of 18 -20 degrees Celsius and a night time temperature of 12 degrees Celsius. And be careful not to drench the cage with water, a light misting of the leaves every evening or so is all that is needed. Try not to get the actual stick insects wet.

I went to feed my British Garden Tiger caterpillar this morning and saw that it was already spinning threads around itself and the dock leaf! Will it be OK on the side of the HUA Pot? I am reluctant to try and move it because it has spun so much of its cocoon already.
When the British Garden Tiger caterpillar is fully grown, it spins a cocoon, made from white threads, around itself. When this is complete, the caterpillar sheds its skin for the last time within this cocoon and transforms into a brown smooth pupa. During the next few weeks, massive changes occur inside the pupa as it metamorphosises into a moth. Usually the British Garden Tiger caterpillars choose to pupate (become a pupa) on the ground, but sometimes one decides to spin its cocoon on the side or rim of the HUA Pot. The cocoon is securely attached to the side of the HUA Pot and so can be left there. However, please replace the lid with a piece of netting or kitchen roll secured with an elastic band. This is because the pupa inside the cocoon needs some ventilation, and it would be too stuffy if you left the lid on the HUA Pot.

I am buying the ELC bundle and 6 adult Thailand stick insects for my boyfriend's 30th birthday. I'll be getting the parcel delivered to work, so it'll be a surprise. How long can they stay in the package? I mean do I need to open it up when it arrives (this will be awkward as it's an open plan office), or would they be OK till I got home (around 6.30pm)?
It's best to open the top of the parcel and lift out the top packaging so light can enter. The stick insects are used to darkness at night and light during the day and so are calmer if they are not kept in the dark for too long. But leave them in the packaging, they will be fine to stay packaged until you get home, they have plenty of air and food. When you get home, it's best to transfer a pack of three Thailand stick insects into the cage first and then wait an hour before unpacking the next set of three. This is because Thailand stick insects become rather excitable after a journey and are likely to run out of the cage, so it's easier to transfer three in one go rather than attempt to transfer all six at once. They will calm down during the next week as they get used to their new surroundings. It's a good idea to lightly mist the bramble leaves with water because stick insects are usually thirsty after a journey.

Do bees sleep?
Yes. Like other animals they need to rest and to sleep. Some species of bee even hold onto a stalk firmly with their mouthparts and rest, suspended, letting their feet dangle freely. One of the mistakes made by some firms selling the services of bees to pollinate plants, is that they work the bees too hard and do not allow them enough time to rest. This contributes to premature deaths of the bees.

My Garden Tigers have been a delight and got really big! But they now seem to be shrinking! They are still alive but have stopped eating too. There are some strands of fibres stuck just below the rim of the HUA Pots.
Your British Garden Tiger caterpillars are preparing to pupate (become pupae), this is the next stage of their lifecycle. Have a close look at them and see if they have spun any cocoon around themselves. If not, gently transfer them to a cardboard hen egg carton and place in a shoebox with twigs and dead leaves, so they can spin their cocoons there. The fibres on the HUA Pot are just some "test spins", a caterpillar often spins a few threads in a location to assess whether it will adhere securely. The side of the HUA Pot is actually a good surface for the cocoon to stick to, so your caterpillars may have already started to spin their cocoons in earnest (this process takes several hours). If this is the case, then leave them alone to complete this task.

Thought my caterpillar had died but then realised it was it's shed skin. So hairy! So fascinating! I have never seen a sloughed off caterpillar skin before. Thank you Small-Life Supplies. Will you be selling more caterpillars soon? The one I have is the British Garden Tiger.
All caterpillars grow by shedding their skins at regular intervals. You don't really notice a shed skin from a smooth bodied caterpillar because it is scrunched up and so not that obvious. But for a very hairy caterpillar, it is a different matter! The shed skin is still scrunched up but because there are so many dark long hairs attached, it is really obvious. British Garden Tiger caterpillars have dark black and brown bodies with long hairs and so you easily spot the discarded outer skin on the floor of the HUA Pot. And yes, Small-Life Supplies breed various species of butterflies and moths, and so more of our caterpillars should be ready in the next few weeks. Caterpillar eggs all hatch at once and then the caterpillars grow very quickly , so this means that each type of caterpillar kit is only available for a very short time!

Please could you advise if the bluey/green gel coming out of the back end of one of our 3 stick insects is normal? Really have no experience with keeping stick insects, but this does look right to me. Noticed it whilst clean out the tank, not sure how long it’s been there.
You have an adult male stick insect. What you describe is his genitalia! You don't say what species of stick insect you have, but if you are seeing this in the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) this is very rare. This is because Indian stick insects reproduce by parthenogenesis (virgin birth) because they are all females. However 1 in 10000 is a male and even rare than that is the occurrence of individuals which have both male and female components. If you have the latter, the genitalia are always on show, unlike pure males which only bring out this equipment for mating purposes.

Does Small-Life Supplies sell potted food plants for stick insects? I own Pink Winged stick insects and have just moved to a new property which has a small front garden which I can put plants in.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies sells potted bramble/blackberry plants and also potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants. All our plants are grown specially without the use of pesticides in the soil and so are safe for the stick insects to eat. They sell out really quickly and so we have waiting lists, please contact ange@small-life.co.uk and ask for your name to be added to the waiting list(s). Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) eat both bramble/blackberry leaves and eucalyptus leaves. They also eat rose leaves and so you could investigate planting a wall-climbing next to your house if it has a north facing wall. You can check which way is facing north by opening the "compass" setting on smartphone. It's important to purchase a rose that is over one year old , this is the time needed for the pesticides added to the soil to breakdown and become ineffective. And ensure that the rose is British grown and has not had any "growth inhibitor chemicals" added , because these are designed to limit the growth of the plant which is the opposite of what you need.

I have four Indian stick insects in one of your ELC cages and they're doing great. I am going on a road trip in June, staying with friends and family around Devon. I want to take my stick insects with me, what is the best way to do this? Should I leave them in the cage or put them in a smaller box when driving?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) travel fine in a car, and so there's no problem taking your stick insects with you. It's best to keep them in the ELC cage for travelling, just place the cage on a seat and secure with the seatbelt. And put some loose bramble leaves on the cage Liner so the stick insects can see some food (you can set up the Sprig Pot with the bramble sprigs when you arrive at your destination. Be sure to lightly mist the leaves when you arrive because stick insects are usually thirsty after a journey). One thing you must be aware of though, is the weather . If it is hot and sunny, when you stop for a break you must park in the shade because this will help stop the car from getting too hot inside. Try to keep the break as short as possible and open the windows as soon as you return to the vehicle to cool it down. Also, when you arrive at your hosts, be sure to place the stick insects in a room that does not contain any fragrances such as plug-in air-fresheners, because these products can harm stick insects (as well as potentially giving sensitive people bad headaches).

I have won a school prize for 100 pounds to spend on our Pet Club! We already have an ELC cage with Thailand stick insects and they have had babies, so I figured two more ELC cages (at 49.99) and Liners (4.99) would be perfect. But that costs more than I have to spend. Is there any possibility you could help me out, maybe you have some "seconds" ? Hope you can help!
At Small-Life Supplies, we manufacture ELC cages in large numbers and so, yes, from time to time, we do have some sub-standard ones that are new but have scratches or marks on the plastic. These cages are sold at 10 pounds less than the normal cages. So, if you wanted two of those, and two packs of ELC cage Liners, the price would be 99.93 pounds including delivery, so could be funded by your prize money. Congratulations on your win and choosing to use it to give your Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) more space.

I have a question about Thailand stick insects. Can I leave the eggs on the floor of the cage and wait for them to hatch there? It'll be the ELC cage I'll be getting, along with the Thailand stick insects.
Like other stick insects, Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) need to be kept in clean surroundings and so that is why we recommend lining the floor of the ELC cage with a disposable ELC cage Liner, and replacing this Liner weekly. This is what we practice in our stick insect breeding facility. So, no, don't leave the frass (droppings/poo/faeces) and eggs to accummulate on the floor of the ELC cage because this will lead to unhygienic conditions. Tip some of the contents of the Liner into a HUA Pot and wait for the eggs to hatch in two months time. Don't separate the eggs from the frass, because Thailand stick insect eggs hatch best if they are stored with some frass. But do count how many eggs you are saving because it's really important not to save to many eggs or you may get too many stick insects to cope with.

Your British Garden Tiger caterpillars looking amazing! My question is about what they eat. I have dandelion and dock leaves in my garden, also buttercup and herb Robert. Would these caterpillars eat all of these leaves?
British Garden Tiger caterpillars (Arctia caja) eat leaves of various weeds. Out of the ones you list, dandelion and dock are their favourite, followed by herb Robert. Ours are refusing to eat buttercup leaves. But what they like to eat can vary from year to year. For example, last year when we reared these caterpillars, they ate buddleia leaves, but this generation is refusing to eat buddleia leaves!

What would be a good number of stick insects to start off with in one of your ELC cages? My teenage son thought ten would be good but I said I'd need to ask the experts! We have decided on the Indian type.
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a great choice, they are easy to keep and feed. Small-Life Supplies sells Indian stick insects in packs of four. At the moment medium-sized nymphs are being dispatched, this means they are about half grown and so you can look forward to seeing them dramatically increase in size over the coming months. The ELC cage can accommodate up to twenty Indian stick insects, so if your son really wants ten stick insects, then that is fine and there is plenty of room in the ELC cage to house all ten. Most people choose to start with four stick insects, a small number means they are easier to tell apart and be assigned names. And you also have spare capacity in the cage which means you can add four of another species as your son's interest grows.

How large are the Pink Winged stick insects that you sell? Are they large enough to definitely not get out of the holes in the ELC cage?
Concern about Pink Winged stick insects wriggling out through ventilation holes in ELC cages is mis-placed. Indeed Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) should be housed in the ELC cage from birth because they thrive in airy surroundings. These baby stick insects, called first instar nymphs, are relatively large at 4cm long and usually rest underneath the lid of the ELC cage. They show no inclination to try and squeeze through the holes in the sides of the ELC cage and wouldn't be able to squeeze their long legs through these holes even if they tried. The Pink Winged stick insect nymphs that Small-Life Supplies sell have completed several skin-changes and so are roughly the length of your middle finger, so approx 9cm to 10cm. These larger nymphs usually rest on the mesh sides of the ELC cage.

Don't caterpillars become butterflies? The council are banging on about caterpillars in the park becoming moths and harming people? But don't moths live in old carpets and pullovers?
Caterpillars can develop into butterflies or moths, depending on the species. The vast majority of caterpillars become moths, this is is because there are many more species of moth than there are butterfly. Some species of moth are found in old carpets and clothes, they are attracted to the old wool. But most moths are flying around outside. Most moths fly at night, but the colourful species of moth fly during the day. Many people mistake these beautiful insects for butterflies, but there is an easy way to tell them apart - butterflies have a knobble on the end of their antennae but moths do not.

I had three Australian Macleays stick insects. I didn't want to poison them with the new growth of bramble so I gave them some leaves from a bush in my garden. (I have no idea what type of bush this is). They ate these leaves for a week but are now all dead.
Stick insects need to eat particular types of leaves, most stick insects do best on bramble leaves. At this time of year, the very small bramble shoots should be snipped off because it is these tiny leaves that can harm stick insects. But as soon as the leaf measures 3cm or greater, it is safe to be consumed by stick insects. So you should have looked for the pale green bramble leaves that are over 3cm long and given sprigs of these to your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). Or, this species will also eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and rose leaves. Or, if you can't find anything suitable, you have the option of buying Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies. Unfortunately, by only giving your stick insects the leaves from the unknown bush in the garden, they have eaten these in desperation because no other food was available. And predictably, because those leaves were not nutritionally suitable for the stick insects, they have all died.

Is there a correct term for stick insect poo?
"Frass" is the correct term for the poo/droppings/faeces of stick insects. Like most insects, stick insect frass is dry. Stick insect frass has a very low odour too, so there should be no unpleasant smell emanating from the cage Liner.

I am helping my friend whose daughter sadly lost her life to cancer. Stephanie was so keen on the environment, and so we're trying top arrange something fitting for the memorial service. Obviously releasing balloons is a definite no no, Stephanie already told us that balloons don't go to heaven, they choke sea creatures and get tangled with birds. And she knew releasing doves was a death sentence for them, so obviously that's a no no too. I wondered if a butterfly release would be any better?
So sorry to hear about Stephanie's untimely death. She was right about the balloons and the doves. Unfortunately a mass release of butterflies will not end well for the butterflies. This is because hungry birds can easily spot a large number of butterflies and will fly over and eat them. So I am sure Stephanie would not want that. Another option is to release a much smaller number of butterflies, four is the maximum number to release in one place. For best results, this should be done about 5pm , when it isn't raining, and in an area with flowers and trees. So it is the sort of ad-hoc release that is best done privately when the conditions are right. I'd recommend doing this separately from the memorial service, if that has been arranged at a particular date and time.

My thirteen year old daughter is fascinated by stick insects but she is getting some abuse on-line by "friends" calling her weird. We're trying to ignore such comments, but I wondered if you could let me know if any "cool" people keep stick insects?
One of the great things about stick insects is that they appeal to people of all ages and occupations. And yes, Small-Life Supplies does have some well-known customers that are fashionable and cool. But it would be illegal for me to tell you who they are, due to legal protection afforded to them via data protection! In a way it is a pity they don't speak about their interest in stick insects , but of course why would they? So you can reassure your daughter that keeping stick insects doesn't mean you are weird. And she needs to ignore these "friends" who are insulting her though ignorance.

My daughter had a stick insect kit given to her a couple of years ago (from a different company). The kit only gave us a small, airy, ventilated (mesh), what I can only describe as a laundry basket ! Only one egg hatched and survived, we now have eggs from her. She is the Indian stick insect. Should I put the eggs in something unventilated or wait until they've hatched? Surely they need some air?
An airy net enclosure is not a suitable environment for hatching Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus), and explains why you only had one egg hatch. Kept in the correct conditions, Indian stick insect eggs have a very high hatching rate of more than 95%. So you need to keep your Indian stick insect eggs in an unventilated container, either the QBOX or HUA Pot, these are what we use and recommend. There is enough air in these containers for the eggs to develop successfully. And there is enough air in there to house several babies (called first instar nymphs) when they hatch. House the nymphs in there until they are a month old, at which stage they require airy surroundings and so should be transferred to the ELC cage. Fresh air enters the QBOX and HUA Pot every time you insert a fresh wet bramble leaf.


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