Taking care of stick insects, looking after stick insects | Small-Life Supplies

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Professor Phasmid

» next update Monday 4th March 2024
Your insect questions answered every MONDAY by Professor Phasmid.
Got an insect question?
Email prof@small-life.co.uk
What is the correct name for a stick insect house - cage, enclosure, vivarium or tank? I know an enclosure with glass walls isn't ideal because stick insects need plenty of space to cling onto and prefer a fine mesh underfoot, so why do I see these on selling sites?
Stick insect cage is a good description because cage implies a ventilated home. The ELC cage is a tall ventilated cage especially designed for housing stick insects successfully. Vivaria and tanks usually have four solid glass or plastic sides, and as you have observed, these prevent air-flow and also do not provide any suitable climbing surface for the stick insects to hook their claws around to get a foothold. Vivaria and tanks are often mass produced cheaply abroad, but the manufacturers advertise them as housing for reptiles (and so are not claiming to be suitable for stick insects). The term "enclosure" is vague but often used.

I used to keep Indian stick insects about ten years ago and fed them on ivy as we had a greater and healthier supply of it at the time and they did OK. Now I'm thinking of trying Pink Winged stick insects. Obviously I'm going to give them bramble but can they eat ivy like Indian stick insects at a pinch? Also, what sort of material are the Hatch Mats made from/do the Pink Wings need for laying? Is there something I could DIY for them to lay on as funds are limited, and where do I tape it?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are more fussy eaters than Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). So avoid ivy and feed your Pink Winged stick insects with bramble (blackberry) leaves, and, if you have access to a large eucalyptus tree, fresh cut eucalyptus leaves as well. Eucalyptus in their diet encourages the bodies of Pink Winged stick insect nymphs to become green rather than remaining fawn. Adult Pink Winged stick insects glue their eggs onto rough surfaces, so the textured non-woven fibrous grey Hatch Mats are ideal. Tape these on the outside of the mesh panels on the ELC cage because the Pink Winged stick insects have learnt to poke their tails through the holes in the mesh and glue their eggs outside the cage! A DIY version would be to tape strips of paper around the edge of the outside mesh panel, the colour is important, and pale blue is the most popular for the stick insects. It's really important to leave the Pink Winged stick insect eggs where they have been glued because they need to remain firmly anchored so that they can hatch properly.

My 5 month old Indian stick insect is about to pass away - it has no visible signs of disease and my other stick insect is completely fine. She has somehow just laid an egg that had been waiting to come out for several days - is this likely to be viable? The stick insect isn’t old and I don’t know why she is like this at her age.
Unfortunately this stick insect is dying and her egg is not likely to hatch. As with all living things, some individual stick insects are naturally healthier than others, with the unhealthy ones dying young. The new Small-Life Supplies YouTube video # 011 is a short video showing what healthy adult Indian stick insects should look like, you can watch it now: "YES! Healthy stick insects look like this".

I like the look of the Pink Winged stick insects and might get some of them as well as the Indian ones. However I remember the younger me really liking the New Guinean stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and was wondering how these three species would do being kept together in an ELC cage? Or is it a no go because of the drowning risk from the New Guineas' water dish?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) have similar body shapes (long and thin), ventilation and food requirements, and can be housed together successfully in the ELC cage. In contrast, the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), are big and chunky and their sheer bulk means they can accidentally harm a thinner type of stick insect if they tread on it. So New Guinea stick insects should always be housed in a separate ELC cage to other species of stick insect. And yes, there is also the drowning risk, because New Guinea stick insects drink a lot and so need an open dish of water, unlike most other species of stick insect which obtain enough moisture from eating the leaves and drinking the water droplets from the leaves following their daily misting from a water sprayer.

SIX STEPS TO SUCCESSFUL STICK INSECT KEEPING:
#1 Select an easy HARMLESS type, the best ones are Indian stick insects, Pink Winged stick insects and Thailand stick insects. #2 Get a proper enclosure, the 51cm tall ELC cage is ideal, this has two ventilated sides, and crystal clear plastic front and back (much better than heavy glass).
#3 Feed stick insects with fresh leaves, most stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. Keep fresh in a Sprig Pot of water. #4 Keep the enclosure clean by replacing the paper ELC Liner on the floor of the cage weekly.
#5 Stick insect eggs take months to develop. Enjoy saving some to hatch out the next generation and dispose of any unwanted eggs by pouring hot water over the eggs, this is fast and 100% effective. #6 Read the best-selling book "Keeping Stick Insects" by qualified entomologist / insect authority on the subject, Dorothy Floyd. Signed new copies are available at no extra cost! Buy the book here


Where can I buy stick insect enclosures that are pre-built? I live in Cardiff and don't want the faff of trying to assemble something myself!
Pre-built stick insect cages are available from Small-Life Supplies. Delivery is nationwide in the UK and these ELC cages are packaged well in bespoke strong cardboard boxes so that they arrive undamaged.

Would a male stick insect live as long as a female stick insect? I've recently purchased a pair of adult New Guinea stick insects and they seem close so I really hope they have a long and happy life together!
The good news is that the lifespan of male and female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) is the same. These are long-lived stick insects, a typical lifespan is 18 months, but if you have good healthy stock, and look after them well, they can live to be three years old! As the adults age, their bodies lose their glossy shine and appear duller. It is really important to provide New Guinea stick insects with a Water Dish in their ELC cage because they drink a lot of water. And a couple of cardboard Resting Tubes provide a comfortable space for them to hide in together. Adult New Guinea stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult life and if they have a strong emotional bond it is common to see them die within days of each other. In such cases the surviving partner remains with the dead body and refuses to eat, so dies within days.

I was on the Octopus energy website and saw this statement: "An octopus can ooze through an opening no bigger than its own eyeball." Can the same be said about stick insects?
No. In general, stick insects don't try to squeeze through holes to escape. This means stick insects can be housed in cages with relatively large sized holes in the mesh. There is a species of stick insect, the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) that does try to squeeze itself into tight places, but this behaviour is driven by a desire to hide, not escape. So when keeping New Guinea stick insects it is essential to use cotton wool to plug any gaps around the bramble stems and the hole in the Sprig Pot, because failure to do so will result in New Guinea stick insects sliding into the water in the Sprig Pot and drowning.

Can Indian stick insect eggs survive being wet? I had a spillage and they were underwater for a minute before I managed to dry them off.
The hard outside of a stick insect egg is called the chorion. This is full of tiny holes called micropyles which enable transfer of air and moisture from the outside into the developing egg embryo. The Indian stick insect egg (Carausius morosus) is designed to withstand being wet for short spells and so as your eggs were only wet for a minute they will be OK. However, if the eggs had been submerged for a week or more in water, the cumulative risk of the eggs becoming waterlogged and perishing would be increasing by the day. Of course I am assuming that the spillage was of cold water? Because if the water was boiling, the heat would have instantly denatured the structure of the embryo and so no further development would occur. This is why pouring boiling water over unwanted stick insect eggs is so effective and the recommended method to stop people from becoming overrun with stick insects.

I have two pairs of New Guinea stick insect adults. Both females have fat bellies and bury eggs in the sand pot, but I have never seen them either of them in the act with a male. Do they do this at night?
Yes, adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) usually mate at night. Mating in this species is quick, typically taking minutes. Some other species of stick insect, for example the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) mate for hours at a time, and often do this during the day. An extreme example of mating in stick insects is the Vietnamese stick insect (Nuichua rabaeyae) which can mate continuously for two months!

I heard that Small-Life Supplies sometimes sell cut-price ELC stick insect cages, is this true and if so, how much? I live in Bristol and need a decent cage for my expanding collection of Indian stick insects!
Yes, Small-Life Supplies breed stick insects in lots of ELC cages and keep replacing these ELC cages with new ones. So the used ELC cages are offered for sale at a discount rate, at 25% price reduction off the list price. The used cages are thoroughly cleaned and dispatched assembled in the same bespoke packaging as is used to send the new ELC cages, so you can rest assured that your ELC cage will be delivered to you safely. The used ELC cages usually sell out really quickly, so it's best to phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 913480 to check availability. The ELC cage is an excellent cage to house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and can accommodate up to twenty adult Indian stick insects.

The slow-growing Indian stick insect that I asked about previously has had its final moult. It has been behaving differently from the others for a long time in that I rarely see it walking around, seems less strong (falls off my hand) and will sometimes let its abdomen flop on the leaves/floor etc instead of holding itself up. It can grip and hang, and must be eating. Could this be a personality thing, as it isn’t unwell but seems to behave differently to the others? Or is it likely weaker/less healthy? I attach a photo.
Glad to hear she has completed her final skin-change (ecdysis). I think she is just weaker/less healthy than the others and her behaviour is reflecting this. Personality differences exist within stick insect populations, the most active individuals are usually most noticeable as are the caring ones that reach out to catch individuals that fall. But I think your Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) is behaving as she is because she feels a bit weak and has no alternative but to live life at a slower pace.

Quick question about caring for Australian stick insects... I've just ordered some eucalyptus branches from you but forgot to ask if I should mist these leaves or not?
You stand the cut branches of eucalyptus in a bucket of water outside so the leaves stay fresh for weeks. Snip shorter stems of eucalyptus off as required and stand these cut stems in a Sprig Pot of water. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best if the eucalyptus leaves are only misted occasionally, so only one light misting once a week is sufficient. This is completely different husbandry to most other stick insects which eat bramble leaves that benefit from a light misting of these leaves every afternoon/late evening.

Listening to Bill Bryson on radio 4 reading extracts from his book on the human body, I was struck by the number of myths about the subject that were being perpetuated and these can be traced back to someone mis-understanding a scientific paper. It occurred to me that exactly the same thing is still happening, particularly in the facebook group communities. For example, I keep seeing the incorrect advice about putting stick insect eggs in the home freezer to stop their development! As a trained scientist I know all about how insect eggs are adapted to withstand cold.
The advice offered on any Facebook group needs to be taken with a pinch of salt because any member can post whatever they like (the Facebook rules can stop profanity, porn and selling of living creatures, but not lies). And you are correct, it is a very bad idea to put unwanted stick insect eggs into a home freezer because the cold just arrests their development, so when the stick insect eggs are taken out of the freezer they warm up again and development recommences. In contrast, extreme heat is 100% effective at stopping development and instant too, so unwanted eggs can be destroyed by tipping them into a dish and pouring hot water on top, or throwing them into a fire.

I have a side hustle selling animal portraits and I've got a table booked at the next village fair. I thought I'd also take along my spare stick insects too and hopefully sell some on the day! My plan is to display them in the ELC cage and then people can choose which ones they want to purchase. I'm sure people will have lots of questions and so I wondered if you had any spare information leaflets about stick insects that I could give out? Or, perhaps even new copies of the reference book "Keeping Stick Insects" that I could sell, do you offer these books for re-sale at all? Any other advice would be much appreciated!
That sounds like a great opportunity to distribute your surplus stock to new homes and encourage people to look after their new pets properly, whilst making some money at the same time! Customers will need a rigid container to transport their stick insects back home and so I recommend you take along some large cake boxes, these are supplied flat packed and designed for quick assembly without the need for tape. So after someone has picked out the stick insects they want to buy, just take them out of the ELC cage and put them in the cake box with some bramble leaves, so the customer can take them home safely. And yes, the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd is available at a discount price for re-sale, the minimum order for side hustlers like you is four copies. Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 913480 to proceed. If you buy the books we can also send you up to thirty colour A5 double sided stick insect leaflets to give away with every stick insect sale you make. Good luck!

My friend recommends Small-Life Supplies for stick insect supplies, she has an ELC cage and said it's really quick and easy to flip it upside down to shake out any poo that's snuck underneath the Liner. She has Indian stick insects and insists they don't fall off the sides when she's shaking the cage. Can you explain how they do this? And do Pink Winged stick insects act the same way?
Stick insects have claws and suction pads on their feet. As they grow, they rely more on their claws for grip, which is why it is so important to house them in a cage that has mesh sides with suitably sized holes that they can hook their claws around. The ELC cage is purpose designed for housing stick insects which is why the stick insects can grip so well around the holes on the white mesh sides. However, stick insects do have a defensive behaviour of dropping to the ground like a straight stick if they are frightened. So when the ELC cage is inverted, always check to see if any stick insects panic and deliberately let go of the side. In general, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually hang on, but some Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) can be more nervy! Pick up any stick insects that do fall (they will not be hurt) and place them on the fresh Liner in the ELC cage.

Is it normal for an Indian stick insect to not have started laying eggs yet, three weeks after the final moult?
An adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) usually starts to lay eggs a couple of weeks after her final skin-change (ecdysis). It is really obvious she is ready to lay eggs because her entire abdomen swells and remains looking plump for the rest of her life. Occasionally egg laying can be delayed by a week or more, this is usually due to poor quality food or a cool room temperature. Indian stick insects do best in a room that is 18-21 degrees Celsius during the day, and above 12 degrees Celsius at night.

In Cornwall we are blessed with stick insects in the garden! I attach a photo, can you ID this for me please?
In the early 1900s stick insects came over from New Zealand on cargo ships and became naturalised in Cornwall, UK. Three species are still doing well, over a century later, eating bramble (blackberry) leaves, rose leaves and sometimes conifer needles. Your stick insect is the smooth bodied Acanthoxyla inermis. A similar, but more spiky species, Acanthoxyla prasina is on the cover of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd. Those two species are the ones I am most often contacted about, but there is another species, Clitarchus hookeri which also has established populations in Cornwall. Despite the Climate Crisis, there is no evidence that any of these three species of stick insect are migrating further north in the UK.

Do stick insects need a daily fix of vitamin D like we do? My room is pretty dark, the blinds are open in the day but it's still quite dark. I have four Indian stick insects in an ELC cage and they look well as far as I can tell, I have had them for a few weeks now.
The natural habitat of most stick insects is rainforests, and these are naturally quite dark places. So no, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) don't need exposure to natural light and sunshine. Stick insects do however require a light and dark cycle, so they need to be kept in light surroundings during the day and dark surroundings at night. It doesn't matter that that your room is a bit dim during the day. The most important factor is that you have the lights off at night so the stick insects are in the dark during the night, when they are most active.

Out of interest can stick insects eat olive leaves? We have a few olive trees in our garden so just thought I would check whether or not they are suitable!
Stick insects need to eat the correct food, so for most types that is bramble (blackberry), hazel, rose, eucalyptus and Photinia leaves. Olive leaves are not recommended as a primary food source. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are the most versatile eaters and can test various other leaves, so may nibble an olive leaf but won't get the nutritional benefit that they need.

I have a massive insect enclosure full of Thailand stick insects. Two months ago a friend gave me her Indian stick insect because she is moving away and can't take her with her. I put this Indian stick insect in with my Thailand stick insects, thinking she'd be OK. But the weirdest thing has happened! Her antennae have been trimmed, I don't know by her or by the Thailand stick insects, but she now has short antennae! It's as if the Thailand stick insects have said "you can live with us, but you have to look like us!".
I've seen this happen too and agree that the logical explanation is that the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) is having her antennae shortened so that she looks more like the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), which have naturally short antennae. Of course it doesn't happen every time an Indian stick insect is introduced to a cage full of Thailand stick insects, but when it does happen, it is striking that both antennae are trimmed to the same length.

How difficult is it to hatch out Indian stick insect eggs? Should the eggs be sprayed with water or not?
It is very easy to hatch out Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) if they are kept in an unventilated container (such as the HAP) and stored in a room on a shelf or table, away from direct sunshine. Do not spray the eggs with water. Hatching usually occurs four months after the eggs have been laid. The baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) should be kept in the HAP and given a wet bramble leaf to eat.

How often should Indian stick insects moult? Mine hasn’t moulted in four weeks? It is also smaller than my other one was at the same age.
Usually Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) shed their skins (moult) six times in five months. If the surroundings are very hot (for example like the very hot summer we experienced in the UK a couple of years ago) they can grow even quicker, so the time interval between skin-changes is reduced. However, occasionally one stick insect grows very slowly, and this is what you are observing. Her development is determined by genetics and not environmental conditions. This unusual behaviour is most commonly seen in Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). When this happens, similar aged stick insects can all be adults apart from one which is still a large nymph! Often the affected stick insect remains a nymph and dies before maturing, but not always. It will be interesting to see what happens to yours. There is nothing you can do to help this stick insect.

My children put loads of foliage into their enclosures as they were trying to make a nice, natural environment for the stick insects. They have of course put brambles in as food, but they have additionally added quite a few other leaves, sticks/twigs and even pine needles. I am wondering if this will be confusing for the stick insects, will they struggle to find their food source or are they quite good at locating the type of leaves they eat? Would it be better to have the tank quite bare and just put only the brambles in? We are misting them with water once a day in the evenings, and have put them in some damp oasis to keep them fresh.
It is much safer to just put foliage in the ELC cage that is safe for the stick insects to eat. So ideally just put two tall sprigs of bramble (blackberry), each approximately 40cm long, in there. You can use wet oasis to keep the cut stems fresh, or standing the stems in water makes the leaves last even longer. Using Sprig Pots of cold tap water is ideal because you can push the cut bramble stems through the central hole in the Sprig Pot, so there is no risk of the stick insects dropping in and drowning. The floor of the ELC cage needs a disposable paper ELC Liner, this makes egg collecting easy and keeps your stick insects in clean hygienic surroundings. It's best to avoid putting twigs and sticks on the Liner because these may contain tiny creatures and fungal spores which will be of no benefit to your pet stick insects.

Sorry if this has been asked before, but is any one type of stick insect poo better than another as a fertiliser for potted plants?
We have various potted plants at Small-Life Supplies, including assorted bulbs and spider plants. The poo (frass) from the Liners in the ELC cages housing Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) seems to work the best, it is easy to prepare and is effective. We tip the frass into jugs, add cold tap water and stir well. After a few days, the mixture is stirred again and then poured over our potted plants.

I've got some Christmas spending money (yay!) and will be getting an ELC cage bundle and some Pink Winged stick insects from Small-Life Supplies. I saw someone else selling "pink wing" stick insects but they are different to yours, they are like the Black Beautys but have small pink wings instead of small red wings. I know you're the expert and so please tell me what these ones should be called, so I can share the information with the seller.
Yes, there is only one official Pink Winged stick insect and that is the Madagascan species that Small-Life Supplies breed and sell, the 15cm long Sipyloidea sipylus. These are very pretty stick insects with large pink wings. They are easy to look after and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. Pink Winged stick insects do best in a tall cage with two mesh sides and so it's great that you are getting the proper ELC cage bundle to house yours. The classic Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) is a much smaller stick insect with a black body and tiny red wings. This species eats privet leaves and does not eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. Recently, some people have managed to breed a variation of this species with pale pink wings instead of the red wings. But it is incorrect to list them as "pink wing" stick insects, instead they should be listed as "Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei), pink wing morph". It is good that you wish to advise the seller about their mistake, because it is in nobody's interest to be mis-naming stick insects and fatal for the stick insects if people are buying them and then giving them the wrong food to eat.

The bramble I purchased from you before Christmas lasted very long in the fridge, which was great. My question is can you guarantee supplying fresh bramble throughout the coming months?
Fortunately, over many years we have planted loads of bramble bushes and always have access to lots of established bramble (blackberry) bushes. There has been so much rain in recent months which means that the bramble leaves are still lush and green, despite it being January and mid-winter! We need good quality bramble to feed to the thousands of stick insects that we breed at Small-Life Supplies, but always have plenty spare, so at the moment we don't see any issues in continuing to send out wallets of fresh cut bramble nationwide across the UK to customers such as yourself.

I've been looking at upgrading my net enclosure to give my Indian stick insects a better home. The ELC stick insect cage looks ideal but I am worried how my Indian stick insects will cope with going from a very airy enclosure to a less airy one? Will they be OK or is there is something I can do to ease their transition?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in a cage with two fully ventilated sides (which the ELC cage has) rather than in a cage with all-round ventilation (found in many all-netting enclosures). And no, you don't need to do anything to help them adjust, these stick insects will do much better in the ELC cage and it is great that you have researched their needs and will be looking after them properly. The ELC stick insect cage has been manufactured in the UK for the last twelve years and has been purpose designed to house stick insects.

Can all stick insects with wings fly?
No. Some species of stick insect have large wings and can fly well. These include: Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Australian Titan stick insects (Acrophylla wuelfingi). Some other species of stick insect have tiny brightly coloured wings that are too small to sustain the stick insect in flight and are instead are designed to be briefly flashed. Their function is to startle predators (with this sudden flash of colour), allowing the stick insect time to escape. Stick insect species which have this design of wing include: Javanese stick insects (Orxines macklottii), Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) and Thailand Straight / Bud Wing stick insects (Phaenopharos herwaardeni).

Sorry I am just a worried first timer! I received some Stick Insects for Christmas (best present ever) but I'm not sure how much water they need to drink? They are four Indian stick insects in the ELC cage, also they have red armpits which I have been told means they are adults?
Yes, adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have a total length of approximately 11cm and have red tops to their front legs (where they attach to the thorax, just behind the head). Indian stick insects eat green bramble (blackberry) leaves and the 40cm long cut stems should be stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water to help the leaves stay fresh for a week. Indian stick insects like to drink water in the late afternoon or early evening and so it's recommended to lightly mist the tops of the bramble leaves lightly with cold tap water at this time. Try not to get the stick insects wet, so aim the nozzle of the mister at the leaves. A light misting of the leaves is ideal, it's important not to drench the leaves, so just a few short squirts should be fine.

Thank you for your advice on straightening my Indian stick insect’s abdomen. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do this as it squirms away every time I try anything. Sometimes the sharp bend is there and other times it’s more like a curve. It’s still pooing and acting normal (so must be eating) so I’m guessing it’s healthy. My question is: will this bend be a problem when it moults next? Or could moulting straighten out the abdomen?
It's encouraging that you say the abdomen is sometimes like a curve because when it looks like this it means that the tube inside the abdomen is inflated. But because the area around the crease has been weakened, if there is too much weight being applied, the abdomen can flip over and you will see the sharp crease again. This is most likely to happen when the stick insect is resting vertically with its head down, so the weight of the abdomen above the crease is putting a strain on this weakened area. I have seen this many times and the good news is that it does improve as the stick insect grows, although it is likely to have a visible pinch in that part of the abdomen.

How many times does a stick insect moult? And what is the link between instars and moults? I am trying to make sense of a table with instars and sizes, the figures are there but I don't get it!
Most species of stick insects moult six times. Moulting is when a stick insect sheds it's old skin and dramatically increases in length. The technical term for a stick insect moulting is "ecdysis". When a stick insect is born, it emerges from its egg and is technically called a "first instar nymph". A few weeks later, the stick insect moults for the first time and as soon as this moult is completed, the stick insect is called a "second instar nymph". After the stick insect has moulted for the sixth time, it is fully grown and so no longer can be called a nymph. So, instead of being incorrectly called a "seventh instar nymph", it is called an adult (or "imago"). Using instars is a handy tool to refer to the size of the stick insect, so for example, if someone is talking about a "sixth instar stick insect nymph", you know that this stick insect only has one more skin-change to go before becoming a fully grown adult. The moulting process is how stick insects grow, so once a stick insect is an adult it never moults again.

I’m more or less a beginner, I’ve got like 30+ Indians in ELC cages. I've seen some Trachyaretaon sp eggs for sale, these stick insects look so incredibly beautiful; I would absolutely adore to have some in my collection. But enclosures? Like I said, I’m using an ELC but I’ve read that they need substrate to bury their eggs in, so does it need to be something more like glass or plastic at the bottom?
The ELC stick insect cage has two full mesh sides and this ventilation is ideal for many species of stick insect, including the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) and New Zealand stick insects (Acanthoxyla prasina). However there are a handful of species that prefer less-ventilated surroundings and these include the Giant Sabah stick insect (Trachyaretaon brueckneri), Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) and Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini). So, when housing these species in the ELC cage, you need to attach the clear Ventilation Control Panels over the white mesh sides to reduce the air-flow. And you wouldn't be able to house the Giant Sabah stick insects in the same ELC cage as your Indian stick insects because their ventilation requirements are different. Some species of stick insect bury their eggs, these species include: Giant Sabah stick insects (Trachyaretaon brueckneri), Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus), Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). So when these females are adults and ready to bury their eggs, just place our "Sand Pit" on the paper Liner in the ELC cage. The "Sand Pit" is a small plastic pot filled to the brim with dry sterilised sand and the stick insects soon learn to bury their eggs in there. Sieve the sand every week and transfer the eggs to the HAP. The egg burying species of stick insects are usually much more thirsty than the other types and so it's also a really good idea to place our shallow "Water Dish" on the Liner and keep it filled with clean cold tap water, so they can have a drink anytime.

I'm relatively new to keeping Indian sticks and I'm almost through a whole generation. I've raised 5 adults from eggs and they now have the indicative red leg patches showing they're mature. At the tail end, it looks as though the tail has opened and turned upwards. Green coloured bulbous parts can be seen (as in the photos) but I can't find what this is anywhere. I thought it may be male genitalia but I also understand males are rare and this is happening to 3 adults in the 5!
Thanks for the photos and I can confirm that you have not got male Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). You are correct in stating that male Indian stick insects are very rare, they only occur 1 in every 10000, so the probability is only 0.01%. Male Indian stick insects look very different to the females, they are much thinner, are light brown, have a red underside to the thorax and two sloping red marks on the upperside of the thorax, longer antennae, and their genitalia are hidden until they are engaging in the mating process. Male Indian stick insects behave differently too, they are hyper-active and walk very quickly! What you have are three Indian stick insects that are gynandromorphs. This condition refers to insects which have a mixture of both female and male characteristics. Your three Indian stick insects are predominantly female, but at the end of their abdomens are the classic green male genitalia, but as these are permanently on display they are not functional. This is a genetic fault and so that's why you have such a high percentage in your small sample. It's best if you don't save the eggs from these blighted individuals.

One of my Indian stick insect nymphs stopped pooing for a day (has done some since yesterday) and I don’t know if it’s eaten anything in a week. Also, it’s abdomen looks very droopy when hanging. What could be happening and is it likely to get better? I attach a photo.
I can see from your photo that this Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) has a sharp crease in her abdomen, causing the abdomen below this fold to drop down. This means that the tube inside her abdomen has a blockage where this crease is. So you need to gently squeeze her abdomen either side of the crease to re-inflate the tube inside. She should then recover quickly because her internal organs will be able to work correctly again.

I have had Indian stick insects for years and recently gave three fully grown ones to my sister for her birthday, together with another of your excellent ELC cages. Anyways, she's only had them two days but all three of them are still their classic "stick mode" on the Liner! I can tell they are still alive but am stumped as to why they are behaving this way? She has them in her front entrance, it is very bright with Christmas decorations and all the lights are always on. She doesn't use any air-fresheners and the hall thermostat is set at 20 degrees, so I don't think they're too hot.
An Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) falls to the ground in her "stick mode" with all her legs clamped alongside her body when she is frightened. This can be caused by a sudden noise, or a jolt to the cage and the stick insect will remain motionless and will look like a straight stick for several hours. However if this behaviour continues and the "stick mode" lasts for more than a day, then the stick insect is permanently stressed and from your description, the most likely cause here is continuous light. Stick insects must have a light and dark cycle, just like many other animals, and not be kept in continuous light. The fact your sister's lights are always on will be causing extreme stress to the Indian stick insects. So she needs to turn the lights off at night or move the ELC cage to a room that is light in the day and dark at night.

I am trying to work towards a career in entomology myself. I can do this "Diploma of Entomology" course on-line, 150 hours (see link attached). Is this course worth investing in? Or is it just another one of those waste of time courses?
Thanks for emailing the link, I can see this is a basic course, covering a wide range of entomological topics. Unfortunately there isn't any information on the sources of content for this course, and looking at the reviews for the other courses from this organisation, it appears that the content may be just cut and pasted from the internet. So it is likely that you can already acquire this knowledge using on-line information, or better still, from books written by professional entomologists. However, doing an on-line course does give you structure and incentive to complete the modules, and of course, may be enjoyable to do. But the diploma awarded is not likely to carry much weight in the job market. It is the recognised qualifications that matter ; these take years of full time study to achieve, for example science A levels (two years) and university biology degrees with entomology modules (three years). Or, if you intend to pursue a more practical role in rearing insects at an insect farm, then a keen open attitude with a desire to learn from people doing the job is far preferable than claiming to be knowledgable after completing a few hours of a non-practical course.

I heard an esteemed plant expert correcting a radio presenter on her pronunciation of the scientific name for giant rhubarb, and hoped you can tell me how to pronounce Carausius morosus correctly? I'm giving a science talk next month and don't want a similar humiliation!
I understand your concern, and I am happy to assist, I studied years of Latin at school and of course have had decades of experience with the scientific names /Latin species of stick insects, so know how they are pronounced! Carausius morosus is the Latin species name of the popular Indian stick insect and is pronounced as follows: "Ka (not car)-roe-see-uss" and then "Muh-roe-suss".

We had the first Pink Winged nymph hatch this week, so that was exciting. Do the stick insects need extra light when it's so dark outside?
Congratulations on your baby Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), technically called a "first instar nymph". Newly hatched Pink Winged nymphs are pale green and relatively large (4cm total length) and do best if kept in the ELC stick insect cage from birth, living with the older stick insects already housed in there. They don't need any extra light during these winter months, but try to use the best quality food you can find, so seek out nice green bramble (blackberry) leaves and avoid the less nutritious yellow and brown leaves.

One of my Indian stick insects has a pale green jelly like blob by its bottom and after extensive research I am confident this is male genitalia, but the stick insect forum chatter is suggesting it's blood?
You are correct, male genitalia in stick insects is always of a dull jelly like appearance and varies in colour depending on the species. For example, it is pale green for Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and blue for Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus). Indian stick insect blood is a green liquid, which dries to form a dark green scab and so looks completely different.

Can stick insects see in colour?
Yes, stick insects see objects clearly and in colour. All stick insects have two compound eyes, each consisting of hundreds of hexagonal lenses. All these contribute to produce a picture of the surroundings. In addition, some stick insects have three simple eyes on the top of their head. They do not form a picture - instead they register the surrounding brightness and adjust the sensitivity of the compound eyes.

Can stick insects eat anything else apart from bramble leaves? The hedgerows around here are looking pretty bleak just now, and I have Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects to feed!
In the winter, it's best to look in overgrown sheltered areas for bramble (blackberry) because these plants retain their leaves far better than bramble growing in exposed hedgerows. So I suggest you go bramble hunting in a local wood or overgrown disused railway line. Eucalyptus is eaten by both Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), so you may be lucky and have a eucalyptus tree nearby. And the evergreen popular hedging/bush called Red Robin (Photinia) is eaten by Indian stick insects too. Wallets of Fresh Cut Bramble can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies all year round, we always have lots of juicy green bramble growing outdoors here.


I got Macleay's Spectres from you in the past. I see on your website that you don't seem to have these anymore. Could you recommend anyone who does please?
Unfortunately the fatal virus that affects Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) seems to have taken a hold again, and we have seen several instances of this unhealthy (and infectious) stock for sale. Symptoms include a floppy abdomen. Unfortunately I am unable to recommend anyone at the moment. If you do find a seller, I'd recommend asking them to email you some photos of the actual stick insects, so you can see if they can curl up their abdomens or not. Avoid buying from anywhere that is selling Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects that are dragging their abdomens (tails).

Are Indian stick insect eggs likely to hatch after 5 months? I think these two might be duds but not sure when it’s safe to get rid of them.
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) usually hatch after four months, but this can be reduced to three months if the surroundings are unusually hot, or lengthened to five months if the surroundings are unusually cold. If your other Indian stick insect eggs have been hatching after four months, it is likely that these two eggs are duds. Also, if these eggs were laid by very old stick insects, they are less likely to hatch than eggs laid by younger healthier adults. But to be certain, you could keep these eggs for another month before disposing of them.

Is it safe to have stick insects delivered in December in the UK? My boyfriend wants a stick insect kit for Christmas.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies send stick insects nationwide to customers living in the UK in December. However, it must be mild enough at night for the stick insects to travel safely and so the weather forecast is monitored frequently and you are kept informed of when delivery will be. Your parcel can be left in your nominated "safe place" if you may be nipping out. The welfare of the stick insects is always prioritised and so no livestock is dispatched on any day a freezing night is forecast. Everything is dispatched by express 24 hour delivery, so the creatures are the minimum time in transit. The ELC stick insect cage is dispatched ready assembled and so you can transfer the stick insects to it on arrival. You can hide the gift in the cardboard box it arrived in until Christmas Day or give it to your boyfriend early. The stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, and some leaves are included with the stick insects for their journey, but you'll need to gather some fresh sprigs (or purchase Fresh Cut Bramble from Small-Life Supplies) because stick insects always need plenty of juicy green bramble leaves in the ELC cage.

Can't believe it! My first baby Indian stick insect hatched today in the HAP! I saved the egg on 13th August 2023 and so I wasn't expecting her to be born until 13th December 2023, she looks fine to me (photo attached), but is it going to be a problem that she's a couple of weeks premature?
Congratulations! Eggs of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) hatch after approximately four months, but this incubation time can be reduced if the surroundings are hotter than average (for example hatching times are reduced in the hotter summer months and can be slightly extended in the colder winter months). Your stick insect looks nice and healthy and so will be fine. She can live in the HAP for the next month or so, it's important to give her a wet bramble (blackberry) leaf to eat and to change the HAP Liner every few days so she is being kept in clean surroundings.

Is the "Keeping Stick Insects" book still in print?
Yes, and new copies can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies, numonday.com and ebay.co.uk

Do stick insects pee?
No, stick insects cannot produce liquid urine. Instead they produce uric acid, which is in the form of dry odourless poo. The shape of poo varies according to the species of stick insect: the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) produce thin strands, whereas the Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) produce dense chunky cuboid pellets.

We are looking at buying the ELC cage bundle for our 11 year old son who is very keen to have some stick insects. I was just wondering what stick insects you would recommend, we have never had them before. I quite like the idea of a mixture if you think that would work.
Stick insects make fantastic pets and so it's great that your son would like some. A good mixture would be Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). All these types eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and do well in the 51cm high ELC stick insect cage. Everything is in stock and there is room in the ELC cage for 4 Indian stick insects + 2 Pink Winged stick insects + 4 Thailand stick insects. These species look totally different and so it'll be easy for your son to tell them apart. More details on all of them are in the best-selling book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd (and you can purchase a signed copy with personal message!).

Do Indian stick insect eggs need much ventilation?
No, in fact for best results, store the Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) in a non-ventilated container, the HAP is ideal. If you store Indian stick insect eggs in an airy container, the babies (called first instar nymphs) often can't hatch properly and so retain the empty eggshell on a back leg or the tip of their abdomen (or both). This scenario can be easily avoided by storing the Indian stick insect eggs in a clear plastic container without air-holes.

Is this a ladybird larvae? I saw it whilst walking my dog this morning in Thetford, Norfolk.
The photo you emailed shows an adult orange ladybird with white spots. So no, it's not a ladybird larva, it's an adult ladybird. Incidentally, larvae is the plural of larva, so the word larvae refers to more than one larva, so your question should be "is this a ladybird larva?". Many people think all British ladybirds are red with black spots, but there are other colour combinations and sizes, depending on the species. There are approx 40 species of ladybird in the UK including ones with yellow bodies and black spots, black bodies with red spots, orange bodies with black spots and, as you have photographed, orange bodies with white spots. The larva (immature form) of a ladybird is a totally different shape to the adult, is wingless, and usually has a dark grey body (with splashes of colour) and six legs that have no feet!

A work colleague is leaving very soon and I know he has a few of the normal stick insects, so we thought a different type would make the perfect leaving gift! We've selected the New Guinea stick insects kit and my question is could we specify a delivery day? We're in a small industrial estate but we'd like them to arrive the day before his big send off, would this be possible? Oh, and could we get some extra bramble as well, so we can set it up nicely for the photos?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are very large, chunky and long-lived (up to three years) and so I am sure your work colleague will be delighted with your thoughtful gift. Currently the weather is mild at night and so stick insects are being dispatched to customers across the UK without any delays because it is warm enough for them to travel safely. So yes, please let us know what day you'd like to receive them (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) and this can be arranged. Also, no problem with adding the Wallet of Fresh Cut Bramble to the order, this won't increase the express delivery price of £9.96. The ELC cage is ideal for the New Guinea stick insects and this set will give your colleague years of enjoyment.

Where is the best advice on stick insects for pets?
The book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd is full of useful stick insect advice, including basic biology of stick insects and detailed information on the care, behaviour and descriptions of the popular stick insect species being kept as pets. In the UK, new copies of this book are for sale on ebay.co.uk, numonday.com and direct from small-life.co.uk. Specific stick insect questions are answered on this "Ask Professor Phasmid" page.

I was reading about the phenomenon of single gender births amongst stick insects, this is when an entire generation of eggs from mated females from a sexually dimorphic species all hatch into one gender. I would be interested to know if this has ever been witnessed in the breeding cultures of phasmids at Small-Life Supplies?
Yes, this occurred once at Small-Life Supplies, about twenty years ago. We had been rearing the Javanese stick insect (Orxines macklottii) successfully for many years, each generation producing males and females in an approximately equal ratio. Then, for no apparent reason, all the eggs hatched into males only! So we were unable to continue breeding this interesting species of stick insect. The rearing conditions and food supply had not changed.

I think I got some bad advice because I was told to spray the bodies of my Indian stick insects with water. They don't look too good so I've stopped. But am I too late?
It's a really bad idea to mist water onto the bodies of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). This is because the droplets can block the breathing holes which are positioned down either side of the body. And water that lingers on the body can cause fungal infections, this becomes really obvious because brown and black patches appear on the stick insect's body. So it's important to only spray water onto the leaves in the cage, this is so the stick insects can drink from these water droplets if they are thirsty. Hopefully your stick insects will be OK, but isolate any that exhibit fungal infections.

Do stick insects need extra heat?
No, temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius during the day and 12 degrees Celsius at night are fine for most stick insects. One of the big advantages of keeping stick insects is that they do not require extra heat when kept inside as pets. Most homes and schools in the UK should be insulated enough to accommodate these temperatures or have a programmable thermostat. However, if this does not apply and your room regularly drops below 12 degrees Celsius at night, then it's best to invest in a portable 500 Watt oil-filled radiator and plug this into a wall socket near to the ELC cage housing your stick insects. This device is safe to use, economical to run and emits a gentle warmth which raises the temperature in the stick insects' cage. Avoid ceramic heaters which can be a fire risk and avoid heat mats too because these can dry out the foliage too much and also create skin-shedding issues for the stick insects.

Our wild patch at the back of the garden has loads of bramble but now some of the main stems are brown and the bits off these are brown as well, obviously dead. I'm concerned because this is our back-up supply for the stick insects and I don't get why some of it looks fine but some is dying off?
This is normal for bramble (blackberry) bushes. Throughout the year some stems die for no apparent reason, and fresh ones grow on top. Most die-back occurs during the autumn months. Throughout the year, we always cut dead stems to ground level and remove them, this allows space for new bramble to grow. If you don't do this the new growth appears on top and the bush just gets higher and higher, and can soon become unmanageable in a garden. In wild areas, where bramble is left to grow unchecked, it soon becomes a haven for deer and other creatures to shelter inside.

Is there a reason why the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd is listed on Amazon at £139.86 (only one copy available) and yet the price is £12 on this website?
This best-selling book is not supplied by the publisher direct to Amazon and so the copies for sale on Amazon are from resellers who can ask for much higher prices. The Small-Life Supplies £12 price is for a brand new copy of "Keeping Stick Insects" and you have the option of it being signed by the author as well (at no extra charge). This book is also for sale on numonday.com, again at the fair price of £12.

I just saw your response to my question about the Indian stick insect and thought I’d email to answer the questions you’ve asked me. This Indian stick insect on the top photo is 8-9 weeks old and measures 4-4.5cm from head to tail, not including outstretched legs. She is from the same batch as the one that matured too fast so wanted to see if she is developing as she should. She lives in a different enclosure and usually a different building to the older ones which are class pets, behaves normally and just moulted. Here is the 5 week old underneath for comparison. She is smaller than her mother was and has a similar level of activity to the other stick insect, who is developing similarly and also small. She had her last shed about a week ago. Both stick insects seem healthy and have access to fresh bramble. They’ve been moved around a lot between a classroom and houses so I don’t know if that’s affected them? I woke up to find my 6 week old Indian stick insect with her head folded in like this - on closer observation I can see she’s moulting but is that normal for her head to do that? I’ve given her an extra spray in case she needed it.
Thanks for the update and more photos. Your stick insects look healthy and it is reassuring to hear that the smaller one is behaving normally. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can travel well, so don't be concerned about that. When you measure a stick insect, it's best to measure the total length, so this includes the front legs outstretched plus the body length. The average total length for an adult Indian stick insect is 10.8cm. Every stick insect begins a skin-change by bending its head round and your photo has captured this. That behaviour is normal and doesn't require intervention, so if you see this again please don't disturb the stick insect. For a stick insect that age, the process of skin-changing (ecdysis) should be relatively quick and easy and successfully completed in approximately ten minutes. It's generally better to house very young Indian stick insects in less ventilated surroundings (for example the HAP) and then transfer them to a more airy cage (the ELC cage is ideal) as they grow.

Do stick insects need a water bowl?
No, most species of stick insect obtain enough moisture from eating the bramble (blackberry) leaves. A light misting of the leaves is recommended in the afternoon so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the leaves. Only spray the leaves, do not randomly spray inside the cage and avoid getting the stick insects wet! However, a few species drink a lot more water and do require a shallow water bowl in the ELC cage, these include the following: New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Sabah (Aretaon asperrimus), Giant Sabah (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) and Malaysian (Heteropteryx dilatata).

I am a veterinarian in Belgium and right now I have a big gauze enclosure of 80cm height x 45cm depth and width. I have one female Malaysian jungle nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata) in there (I had two couples but the rest have already died) and she’s together with nine growing kids of Sunny stick insects (Sungaya inexpectata). I was wondering whether I could add some other species of stick insects to their enclosure? Since it’s a very big enclosure, full of plenty of blackberry leaves all the time. Would it be okay for example to add a couple of Australian giant prickly stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum)?
Unfortunately your existing cage is not designed for all the species you mention. Your gauze cage is too ventilated for most stick insects, but would be suitable for the following species: Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum), Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus), Thailand (Baculum thaii) and New Thailand (Baculum sp). Your Sunny stick insects (Sungaya inexpectata) would do better if they were re-housed in a cage with two mesh sides and two solid sides, so that they have through-draught ventilation but not as much as with four ventilated sides. The Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) die in cages that are too ventilated and so need to be housed in cages with much reduced air-flow. An ELC cage with Ventilation Control Panels attached over the mesh sides is ideal. Avoid housing them in glass tanks because these surroundings can become too humid causing the Malaysian stick insects' joints to go black. Unfortunately ELC stick insect cages are no longer exported to Belgium because the process is now too difficult since the UK left the EU.

This stick insect hatched mid-July and looks like an adult, but not laying eggs? Does she have any moults left or is she simply not ready to lay eggs?
Thanks for emailing a photo of your Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). She has red tops to her front legs where they join her thorax, which indicates she is mature. But she looks smaller and thinner than she should. Usually Indian stick insects take five months to become adults, so it is odd she has grown so quickly? She also looks brown at the front and green at the back, which is unusual because the bodies of Indian stick insects are usually uniform in colour. How is she behaving - is she more active than the others? Has she recently shed her skin? If so, it's best to make sure she has plenty of nice juicy green bramble leaves to eat and watch her progress. It's doubtful she will lay many eggs though, so hopefully you have some other adult Indian stick insects that will be laying eggs, so you can keep some of their eggs to hatch out?

Please tell me whether your New Guinea stick insects are still likely to be in stock in time for Christmas delivery? My grandad really wants these and will pay half towards his present. He said I could get them early if they're likely to sell out. We're in Leeds.
Yes, I'd definitely recommend getting these now, whilst they are available. Our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are really nice chunky young adults, used to being handled and will make an excellent present for your grandad. We breed them here at Small-Life Supplies but stocks of this species are limited and so they are likely to sell out within the next couple of weeks or so. The "New Guinea Stick Insects Kit " includes everything that you need to keep these impressive stick insects successfully.

Are stick insects dangerous?
Yes, some species are dangerous and should not be kept as pets. One species that some irresponsible people are selling in the UK is a small dark striped stick insect with the species name Anisomorpha buprestoides. This species has several common names including : Florida stick insect, two striped walking stick insect and Devil's rider stick insect. It also occurs naturally in the swamps in Texas, USA. This species should not be kept in captivity because it can spray a jet of acid into your eyes, causing blindness for 5 days. It also aims for the eyes of pet dogs and cats etc, causing similar agony.

What size enclosure does a stick insect need?
The minimum size recommended is 46cm high x 25cm x 25cm. The minimum height of 46cm is very important because it allows stick insects the space to moult properly. They shed their skins by sliding vertically downwards and so need a tall cage to be able to do this successfully. The ELC stick insect cage is 51cm high x 36.5cm x 27.5cm and is the perfect cage for keeping stick insects properly.

One of my Indian stick insects is due for its second moult any day now - is there still a way to tell if the moult has happened even if I don’t see the old skin?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) often moult/shed their skins at night, so you may miss seeing the actual event. And often they eat their cast-off white skin afterwards, this is done straight away whilst it is still soft and moist, when it is easy to consume and digest. However, the new size of the stick insect is very obvious, she will almost have doubled in length and so you will notice that! Also, initially her body will look a pale green, but after a few days it will darken in colour. It's best not to handle an Indian stick insect that has just shed her skin because she will be weak after her ordeal and her skin will be soft and susceptible to damage.

Thought I'd get my niece some stick insect eggs to hatch, but then saw your site and think it might be cool to get the stick insects instead? Do they travel okay? I'm in Bristol, UK.
Yes, it's much more exciting to have the actual stick insects to handle and hold, rather than waiting weeks or months for stick insect eggs to hatch! Small-Life Supplies breed harmless species of stick insects at our facility in the UK and also manufacture the proper ELC stick insect cages, which are specially designed to suit the needs of the stick insects and their owners. We guarantee live arrival and the stick insects are delivered to Bristol on a 24 hour service, to ensure minimum time in transit. We let you know when delivery will be (within a two hour time window) and of course everything is expertly packaged for safe travel. And once your niece has her own stick insects, she can save a few of their eggs and hatch out the next generation!

Is it too early to buy stick insects for Christmas?
Christmas stick insect purchases are already being accepted! A popular option is to ask for the ELC cage bundle to be delivered now, and then request the stick insects to follow on later. You can request delivery nearer to Christmas (mid-December is the latest) or you can request January 2024 delivery when things are calmer after the festivities. Or you can ask for everything to be delivered together. We guarantee live arrival and we prioritise the welfare of the stick insects, so we can only send them out when it is mild enough at night for these creatures to travel safely. This means we monitor the weather forecast frequently and we keep you updated as to when delivery will be possible.

I'm so happy that you have New Guinea stick insects for sale again, these have been on my wish-list for ages! Please can you explain about the sand and the sieve? How does it pass through the sieve if it's wet? And do you sell replacement sand?
Yes, our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are just becoming fully grown and so are ready to travel to their new homes. They are supplied in pairs of one adult female and one adult male. The female buries her eggs in dry sand and so place the Sand Pit (included in the kit) on the Liner, touching the fixed white mesh side of the ELC cage. The adult female gets a good grip on the mesh side with her large claws and then she pushes her pointed ovipositor into the dry sand and digs a hole with it, using it as a spade. She ejects an egg into the hole and then uses her ovipositor to cover it up with more dry sand. This process is repeated most days for the next year or more. Every week, you remove the Sand Pit and tip the contents into the Metal Sieve provided. Collect the dry sand which passes through the sieve and tip it back into the original Sand Pit container. It is really important to place the Sand Pit back exactly in the same position in the ELC cage because the stick insect needs to know where it is so she can lay more eggs. Because you keep re-using the sand there is no need to buy any more sand. The loose eggs should be place in a clear plastic container without airholes, for example the HAP, and some should hatch after approximately six months.

Why are they called silkmoths? Have they got silky wings?
Their wings are soft and velvety but the name is not about the wings. Silkmoths are so-called because silk can be extracted from their cocoons. The fully grown caterpillar (called a silkworm) spins a cocoon around itself using silk thread that comes out of its body. If you have your own Indian Eri silkmoth kit, you can watch this process happening, it usually takes an hour or so to complete. Once encased by the silk cocoon, the caterpillar sheds its skin for the last time and transforms into a brown pupa. Weeks later, the giant silkmoth breaks out of the pupa and crawls out of the specially weakened area at one end of the silk cocoon. With suitable knowledge and expertise, commercial entities can extract the silk from the silk cocoon by immersing it in very hot water so that the silk thread unwinds. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we also sell the empty silk cocoons as well as the Indian Eri silkmoth kits.

How necessary is it for stick insects to fly? I like the look of the Macleays Spectre stick insects but the seller said I'd need to allow the males to fly around the room once a week! That is freaking me out! I toyed with the idea of just getting females but that seems mean, so I thought maybe the males could just stay in the enclosure, but I guess that would be mean too?
The seller has advised you correctly. All adult male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have wings and should be allowed the opportunity to fly freely across a room. Some individuals are keener to fly than others, and in general those that fly the most have the shortest lifespans. And yes, you are correct in wanting both genders, because this species has a 50:50 ratio of males to females in the wild and so ideally you need to replicate this in the captive environment. Depending on your level of unease with flying stick insects, one option could be to try keeping a species that is a moderate flier (such as Pink Winged stick insects, Sipyloidea sipylus) as opposed to a keen flier (Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects). If this works out, you could then progress to keeping Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. Or, if you are really not comfortable with flying stick insects, then why not try a large chunky type that does not have wings, for example the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) may be a better option for you.

Would you say that Indian stick insects are the best sort to start with? I'm thinking ahead to my boy's birthday next month, he'll be eight and loves bugs!
Yes, definitely the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) would be an excellent choice for your son. Small-Life Supplies send out fully grown Indian stick insects and so your boy can enjoy handling these. The best enclosure for stick insects is the ELC cage and if you opt for the ELC bundle you will receive the other useful bits too, including ten disposable ELC cage Liners, the Sprig Pot (for keeping the bramble leaves fresh) and the soft Cleaning Sponge (use to wipe down the cage surfaces every month). And don't forget he can have his own signed copy of the best-selling book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd, with a hand written message wishing him a Happy 8th Birthday!

Are you able to provide more details on using stick insect frass as fertiliser for houseplants? This has piqued my interest and I am curious as to whether the frass from any species is better or worse than another?
For years, Small-Life Supplies has been tipping the frass (poo) from stick insects into a bucket, adding water, leaving a few days for it to partially dissolve, and then pouring it over house and garden plants. The nitrogen in the frass acts as an excellent fertiliser. We have found that the frass from Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) works best and is the most effective as a fertiliser. This is probably due to the shape of the frass, having a high surface area to volume ratio. So we use this in preference to the larger more compact frass produced by chunkier stick insects such as New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata).

Is it OK to handle the Indian Eri silkworms?
You can handle them but a lot of patience is needed to handle the Indian Eri silkworms (Samia ricini). This is because the rear claspers on their bodies can get a really firm grip and often they are reluctant to release this grip. In contrast, the adult Indian Eri silkmoths are easy to handle, they are huge insects and will walk across your hand and sometimes take off for a short flight around the room.

I hope you don't mind but I have never had a PayPal invoice before and so am unsure how it works? Do I need to email you my address as well as my email? I live in Birmingham and want to buy the ELC cage bundle for my stick insects (they are due an upgrade!). Do I have to log in to PayPal?
It is a very straight forward process, just let us know your email, your delivery postcode and what you want to buy. A real person at Small-Life Supplies then arranges for PayPal to email you the "PayPal invoice" which details the items you wish to purchase with the prices, including delivery. You check it's correct and then click on their "pay" link which takes you to your PayPal account so you can authorise payment. PayPal then notifies Small-Life Supplies with details of your order and they give us the delivery address that they have on file for you. At this point a real person at Small-Life Supplies emails you directly to confirm your order and advise of when delivery will be. Although we only ask for the delivery postcode, there is no harm in emailing your full address to us as well, this allows us to double check that all the details are correct.

One of my New Guinea stick insect males is a bit jumpy and curls his tail? Any tips on curbing his anxiety? He reached maturity a few weeks ago.
The ears on stick insects are near their knees and so it's recommended to talk to them in a soft calm voice because this helps them to relax. It is normal for young adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) to be a bit unsteady at first, but usually soon calm down after a few days as they get used to their new size. So your male needs some listening therapy! Also, make sure that he has a Water Dish of clean tap water in the ELC cage and plenty of good quality bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat. New Guinea stick insects benefit from being taken out the ELC cage regularly and allowed to walk across a floor or table. When you do this with your nervous male, be sure to remain calm because if he senses you are anxious, he will "play up" even more.

I phoned Small-Life Supplies to ask about the silkworms and was told they're not quite ready yet, but hopefully next week they should be big enough to travel safely. I work at a school and so we'll definitely be getting several sets, but my question is about their food? I had planned on raiding a local privet hedge, but when I checked today, it had been drastically cut back! Do the Indian Eri silkworms eat anything else?
Indian Eri silkworms (Samia ricini) do best on privet leaves, but we have also raised them on euclayptus leaves. Don't worry about the supply of fresh cut privet, because this is available to purchase alongside the silkworms, everything will be listed together on the website. If you store the bag of fresh cut privet in the bottom of the fridge, it stays fresh for a week. And more fresh cut privet can be sent to you in future weeks, as required.

We were really upset to find that one of our female New Guinea stick insects had died during her final skin shed. Looking at the body, it seems that she was unable to break through her old exoskeleton. As this is the first time that this has happened to us, we're wondering if it's a common occurrence, or if there's something that we could have done differently. Could she have been disturbed by the other adult New Guineas moving around in the cage?
Sorry to hear this. It's not the fault of the other stick insects. The first stage of ecdysis is the splitting of the exoskeleton down a line on the middle of the top of the thorax. This is triggered by a chemical response within the stick insect and sometimes this just does not work, so that is what has happened to your stick insect. The only time this is a common occurence is when a genetic fault is present, so if this starts happening with your other New Guinea stick insects, then you would need to stop breeding that particular strain because they are no longer healthy. However,in the meantime, let's hope it was just an individual stick insect with a faulty hormonal system.

I had a large collection of stick insects when I lived in Leicester, most purchased from Small-Life Supplies, I even visited one of your Open Days! Then I scaled back due to changes in personal circumstances, but now things are looking better and so I'd like to start up again. I fondly remember the "New Thailand" stick insects, these were parthenogenetic and were like a longer version of the standard Thailand. They're not on your website, so I wondered if you were still breeding these or decided to drop them from your range? Also, would the ELC cage be suitable?
It's great that you're going to be starting to keep stick insects again. And yes, we still breed "New Thailand" stick insects ( Baculum sp.) They are parthenogenetic and grow to 22cm long, so are much longer than the female Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) who grows to 18.5cm. We have large nymphs available now, I'd recommend a couple for an ELC cage, the New Thailand stick insects do well in a well ventilated cage and so yes, the ELC cage is great housing for them. To order, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 913480 weekdays, during office hours.

We put a mixture of frass and eggs from our Thailand stick insects in an ice cream tub on 25th August 2023 (my son insisted we put the exact date on!) and today there are seven babies on the lid! What do we do now?
Congratulations! Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have very short egg incubation times, so hatching after 4 weeks is normal during late summer. Most other species of stick insect have eggs which take several months to develop. And Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) eggs are particularly slow, taking one and a half years! Baby Thailand stick insects (called first instar nymphs) do well in the ELC cage from birth. So set up your ELC cage with long fresh bramble sprigs in the Sprig Pot of water, and lightly mist the leaves. Then lift off the lid of your ice cream tub and gently blow the baby stick insects off the lid onto the wet leaves. Baby stick insects are thirsty and like to drink. Young Thailand stick insects usually cluster on the leaves, but as the stick insects grow they will explore the ELC cage more and will soon be resting on the white mesh sides.

I have several Malaysian stick insect nymphs in the ELC cage, the females are green and the males are brown. Two of the green females like to hang out, they are the same size but one is much fatter than the other, does this mean she will shed her skin soon? Or is something wrong, her body feels softer than usual, if that makes sense?
Your fat female Malaysian stick insect nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata) is about to shed her skin. This will probably be tonight, so this evening (before you switch the light off) please check that she is at the top of the mesh side of the ELC, with her head facing downwards towards the Liner, so she will have plenty of room to shed her skin successfully. All stick insect nymphs look fat just before a skin-change, but the soft body is a useful indicator that means a skin-change (ecdysis) is imminent. This is why I am able to predict that your stick insect will shed her skin tonight (like most stick insects, Malaysian stick insects prefer to shed their skins during the night when it is dark).

Help please with the pub quiz! I'm compiling the wildlife questions and want to include some on stick insects, I'm thinking spelling would be the fairest way. I'll mix them up, but please check I've got it right, all the answers are A? Q.1) One egg is called: ovum (A) or ova (B). Q.2) A young stick insect is called: nymph (A) or larva (B). Q.3) Stick insect species that are 99.99% female are called: Parthenogenetic (A) or Parthogenic (B). Q.4) People who study insects are called: Entomologists (A) or Etymologists (B).
Yes, that's correct! It's great that you are including some stick insect questions, and I think you've got a good mix there of easy and more challenging ones.

I've rescued some Thailand stick insects from a guy who's moving out. They're in a bit of a mess TBH, too many in a cloudy tank. I've reserved one of your used ELC cages, which I've been told will be delivered on Thursday, so that's good to save some money! My question is about curly legs? Six or seven of the Thailand stick insect have short curly legs, why is this?
If a stick insect nymph (immature stick insect) panics or is roughly handled or is kept in overcrowded conditions or is short of food or water, it may lose one or more legs. The stick insect can still walk around using its remaining legs but initially there is nothing visible where the discarded leg used to be. However, when the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) completes its next skin change (ecdysis), a short curly leg appears! This is called a regenerated leg. Being short and curly it is not of much use at this stage, but after the next skin-change, it will have transformed into a small miniature functioning leg, which will help the stick insect a lot. And after the next skin-change (if there is another skin-change because the stick insect is still a nymph and not an adult), the leg will grow bigger and be even more useful. So don't worry about your Thailand stick insects with curly legs, because these legs will become more useful as your stick insects grow larger. And your Thailand stick insects will have a much better life in the airy ELC cage instead of the stuffy tank they started life in.
Is my stick insect OK? She briefly had her antenna in her mouth, using her leg to swallow it? Is she bored? Is she self-harming? Paula is an Indian stick insect, she lives by herself in the ELC cage and is eight months old and lays eggs most days. I have looked after her since her birth.
Paula is fine. In fact she is taking good care of herself, what you saw was her cleaning her antenna. Stick insects do this by passing each antenna in turn through their wet mouth, gently exercising their mouthparts over the surface of the antenna as it passes through. They use their front leg to guide the antenna through the mouth. This is a fast process, completed within a couple of minutes, so most people never witness this behaviour. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like to be in the company of other Indian stick insects, so I'd recommend you get some more Indian stick insects so Paula can hang out with them. There is plenty of room in the ELC cage for up to twenty Indian stick insects, and Small-Life Supplies sell adult Indian stick insects in packs of four.

The news media has emphasised that American XL bully dogs have been genetically bred to be aggressive. Can the same apply to stick insects? And if so, is anyone doing this?
Yes, some stick insects can be selectively bred to enhance particular characteristics. So yes, with stick insects, particularly aggressive individuals can be kept together to produce more aggressive offspring. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we do the complete opposite, so deliberately do not save any eggs resulting from adults (male and female) who display excessive aggression. This is because the stick insects that Small-Life Supplies supply are to be kept as pets and so need to be suitable for handling etc. Excessive aggressive behaviour can sometimes be seen in the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) and the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata). Of course as well as there being a genetic element, the method of rearing these stick insects plays a key part in how they behave, so it is always important to be calm around these large chunky stick insects and not to mistreat them or stress them by depriving them of good quality food and fresh drinking water.

One of the male Thailand stick insects seems very inactive and looks like he's not doing well. He has been mating over the last few weeks. How long after mating do the males live for, on average? He is usually very active. We know the active ones usually have a shorter lifespan.
Male and female Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) mate regularly throughout their adult lives. Both genders have the same lifespan, on average. However, the very active individuals (irrespective of gender) have shorter lifespans than their less active counterparts. This applies across all species, so for example individual adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) that fly a lot do not live as long as the ones who fly less often. And New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) that like to trek a lot across tables and floors don't live as long as individuals who prefer shorter strolls. Unfortunately it appears that your active male Thailand stick insect is dying, if the surviving female is still a relatively young adult, you could consider getting another male for her. The average lifespan for Thailand stick insects is 14 months, they are adults for 9 months of this.
It's been so hot the last week I am questioning the need to put the bramble stems in water? My stick insects are eating ALL the leaves every night, it's been 24 degrees at night and 28 degrees by day, and they're eating like crazy! Would it be OK to just put some loose stems and leaves without the water in the cage, I feed them in the evening, just before their meal?
Very hot day and night temperatures result in stick insects consuming far more food than normal. So yes, there's no point wasting time standing the food in water if it is all going to be eaten in one night! So use loose leaves and loose cut sprigs of bramble (blackberry) during this heatwave. Slant the stems and leaves upwards in the ELC cage so the stick insects can eat the leaves easily, this is better than the food being laid flat on the ELC Liner. Cooler weather is forecast this week and so room temperatures should soon be back to normal (18 degrees Celsius during the day and 12 degrees Celsius at night). At these temperatures revert to using the Sprig Pot of cold tap water to keep your bramble sprigs fresh in the cage for approximately one week.

I have noticed several of these beautiful moths in my garden this week, they have shimmering white wings a brown border (see photo attached). These are new to me so please can you enlighten me as to what they are and why there are so many at the moment in Cambridgeshire?
The populations of different species of butterflies and moths fluctuate year to year, depending on the light intensity, temperature, food availability, predator numbers etc. September 2023 has been a bumper year for the Box Tree Moth (Cydalima perspectalis) with loads of people recording sightings of them in Cambridgeshire. This is a very pretty moth and you have taken a nice photo of one. It is called the Box Tree Moth because its caterpillars eat the leaves of the ornamental Box plant (often grown as tiny hedges and for topiary). Sometimes people confuse privet leaves with box leaves but they are completely different types of plant, the box leaves are tougher and smaller and not eaten by any stick insects.

I just read a piece in the "New Scientist" magazine questioning whether it is morally right to name living organisms after people, for example the beetle Anophthalmus hitleri was named after Hitler in the 1930s. And more recently a Californian moth being classified as Neopalpa donaldtrumpi in 2017. I'd be interested in your views on the matter.
I have always been against naming any living organism after a person, mainly because there is no logical connection between the two and so I cannot see how it can be justified. So I think the practice should be stopped now. However, I feel the names such as the examples you give should remain, because this is vital to assist current biologists when they search for studies that have been done on that particular insect. The difficulty with eradicating controversial names is that it can make it impossible to find any scientific work published on that organisism. This just compounds the issue of knowledge being lost and research work being redone unnecessarily.

Is it OK to mix stick insects? I have Pink Winged stick insects in an ELC cage.
Yes, you can mix other slim stick insects in the same ELC cage as your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Good choices would be the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and/or the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii). All these stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and live well together. Avoid mixing the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) in with the above because Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects readily emit a chemical spray which irritates other stick insects (and sensitive people). And avoid mixing the Giant Sabah stick insects (Trachyareaton brueckneri) with the above because Giant Sabah stick insects prefer less-ventilated conditions and so need to be housed in the ELC cage with the Ventilation Control Panels attached (to reduce the air-flow).

Does the ELC stick insect cage dismantle for cleaning?
No. It's very important not to dismantle the ELC cage because it is not designed for this. Use a disposable pre-cut ELC Liner to contain the eggs and frass (poo) from the stick insects, and replace this Liner once a week. Having removed the lid, side panel and Liner, it is best to tip the ELC cage upsidedown and vigorously shake the cage to dislodge any debris that may have slipped off the Liner when you lifted it out. Don't worry about the stick insects on the fixed mesh side, because they have a good grip with their claws and rarely fall off (and don't get hurt even if they do let go). Use the soft Cleaning Sponge to wipe down the plastic panels and remember to always use cold water or lukewarm water. Never use hot water because this will permanently distort the plastic panels and spoil your ELC cage. A soft Cleaning Sponge is included when you purchase the ELC bundle.

We are seeking advice for our spiny leaf insect, Chip, who is looking very ill. Our spiny leaf insect is about 6 or 7 months old and moulted this morning, but now looks very weak. Her moult was standard except for the last part of removing her tail. She stayed in that position for many hours. Now, about 12 hours later, she hasn't eaten her skin, she refuses to eat but is willing to drink, and she does not have enough strength to stand on her own. We are very worried about her. We've attached photos of her and her moult for reference.
Thank you for emailing the photos, I can see Chip is an adult female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum). She has completed her final skin change successfully and is a perfect specimen. The delay in pulling her tail out of the old skin is normal behaviour. The final skin-change is the most difficult for the large species of stick insects because it requires a lot of energy. So afterwards the stick insect should not be disturbed for a couple for days, to allow her time to rest and recover. So it is unfortunate that you have bothered Chip because this will have made her even weaker. Please leave her to rest and place sprigs of leaves around her so they are in easy reach so she can eat them if she wants to. She won't eat her shed skin now because it will have hardened. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects often don't eat their shed skins, so that is no cause for concern. Sadly, sometimes the effort of completing the last skin change (ecdysis) is just too much, and despite doing a good job, the stick insect is so exhausted it dies within a few days. This behaviour is seen in the larger species of stick insect, including the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), Australian Titan stick insect (Acrophylla wuelfingi), and North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina).

On the subject of Indian stick insect parthenogenesis, in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd on page 28 it states (referring to the rare male Indian stick insect) that "These insects probably do mate despite the fact that the female can reproduce without a male". My question is, has any research work been done to analyse the gender of the offspring of those eggs (produced after mating)?
Here at Small-Life Supplies we have isolated the eggs produced from Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that have been observed to mate with the really rare male Indian stick insects. We have repeated this every time we rear a male. But the hatching eggs are still 99.99% female. In 2023 research by Japanese based scientists, headed by their National Institute for Basic Biology, have also concluded that the rare males occuring in another parthenogenetic species of stick insect, Ramulus mikado, do not reverse the parthenogenetic process, stating "our histological observation demonstrated that females received a spermataphore without sperms in their copulatory pouch". As the with Indian stick insects, the "rare males of Ramulus mikado have seemingly complete genital organs ...and show the usual mating with conspecific females".

Please can you give me examples of stick insects which have more than one species name in common usage? It's part of my dissertation and I'm gathering as many examples as possible for various insects, including phasmids.
Yes, of course, this topic continues to divide biologists, with some wanting to use the latest Latin name suggested, whilst others preferring to continue using the established Latin species names, some of which were assigned two centuries ago. The latter makes searching for previous research work published on that species much easier and so a lot of scientists are reluctant to use the new species names proposed. Current common examples include: the Annam stick insect which has been classified as Baculum extradentatum for decades, but is also now also called Medauroidea extradentata. Another example is the Giant Sabah stick insect, identified as being Trachyaretaon brueckneri but some people are now calling it Trachyaretaon carmelae. And the very colourful stick insect called Achrioptera fallax now has the alternative name of Achrioptera manga.

Our New Guinea stick insects are becoming fully grown, but WOW, what a difference in size! Tobes is tiny compared to Tristan who's massive! Both males, both perfect with all their appendages and a lovely glossy brown, but I'd say Tristan is about 50% bigger! Any reason?
There is no cause for concern, this is a frequent occurrence. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) reared in the same conditions often result in adults of vastly varying sizes. The male New Guinea stick insects often reach maturity slightly ahead of the females, and you will probably see variation in the size of your adult female New Guinea stick insects too. The genders pair up with similar sizes, so Tobes will choose to be with a small adult female, whereas Tristan will mate with the largest adult female. The smaller adults have the advantage of having longer lifespans than their larger counterparts.

I'm in the US and we have Annam walking sticks, I attach a photo. Please tell me the species name and also are they sexually dimorphic?
Yes, your photo is of a female Annam stick insect (Baculum extradentatum). And yes, they are sexually dimorphic, which means the males look different to the females. The males are slimmer. Annam stick insects have always been popular in the US and have been known for decades by the Latin species name Baculum extradentatum. There is some confusion though, because recently some members of the public are using a different Latin species name, Medauroidea extradentata to identify the same species. However, respected academic scientists continue to use the original Latin species name Baculum extradentatum and have published extensive research work on this species, covering antioxidative defence, cardiac regulation, cardiac neurons and haemocytes.

I am looking at buying the ELC stick insect cage but I cannot find where to buy the disposable liners.
You can now purchase both items together from the Small-Life Supplies page on numonday.com. That listing includes twenty green ELC Liners, but if you'd prefer blue ELC Liners or pink ELC Liners, just request this in the comments box and this will be arranged for you. Here is the link: https://www.numonday.com/shop/small-life-supplies/

My Giant African Land Snails seem very picky about their greens. Is this normal? I've no idea what weeds I'm getting for them, I'm just grabbing a handful when I'm out on a walk. But the snails aren't eating them?
Yes, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) are very fussy when it comes to eating their greens! So don't bother giving them random types of leaves because they will ignore most of them. Instead, make a note of where dandelions are growing wild near to you and harvest these plants very sparingly, so that they will continue to grow more leaves quickly. The best advice is to just take one leaf (the largest) from the plant and wait a couple of weeks before repeating the process. Having got home with your dandelion leaves, rinse these in cold tap water before giving them to your Giant African Land Snails. The purpose for rinsing the leaves is to remove any surface urine (from animals) that may be on the leaves. Also, please encourage dandelions to grow in your own garden and along the edges of any outdoor buildings such as a shed or garage.

How many feet should the ELC cage have?
Five. There is one black foot at each corner and also one central foot. The central foot keeps the cage floor level and so it is very important. Replacement ELC cage feet are available from Small-Life Supplies, so please get in touch if you need any.

I just read on the WE LOVE STICK INSECTS facebook page about somebody living in Cornwall finding a New Zealand stick insect in his bathroom! Do you know the circumstances of how this species has become naturalised in Cornwall? And is there any evidence of them heading further north in the UK?
Some New Zealand stick insects came over to the UK on cargo ships back in the early 1900s and have now become established in parts of Cornwall, because of the mild climate there. The two most common species are the Acanthoxyla prasina and the Acanthoxyla inermis. They are both usually bright green (although brown forms exist too) and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, rose leaves and conifer leaves. Both species are parthenogenetic. An adult bright green female Acanthoxyla prasina is on the cover of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd. This species has small spikes on her body, whereas the Acanthoxyla inermis has a smooth body and is sometimes called the "unarmed stick insect". There is no evidence of New Zealand stick insects being found further north in the UK, this is not surprising because most of the UK continues to experience many freezing nights during autumn, winter and spring, and stick insects subjected to repeated sub-zero temperatures die because it is too cold for them to survive.

Professor, please can you explain how Julia, my female Macleays Spectre stick insect, is now able to lay eggs? Despite there being no male? She has been fully grown for three months and I wasn't expecting this! Will they hatch?
There are three reproduction methods employed by stick insects, the method depends on the species and also availability of males. The first method is "parthenogenesis", this is where 99.99% of the stick insects are females. They lay eggs and these hatch into 99.99% females. The popular Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) are in this category. The very rare males that do occur, look and behave completely differently, and briefly mate with the females. The male stick insects are not capable of producing or laying eggs. The second method is "sexual reproduction" where males and females occur in equal numbers . The two genders look different and they mate regularly throughout their adult lives. Examples of the sexual species include: New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). After mating, the females lay eggs, the males cannot. The third method is "crisis parthenogenesis". This happens when a female stick insect from a sexual species, has no access to an adult male stick insect of the same species. So she cannot mate because there is no male. She needs to produce eggs and so her body switches to parthenogenesis, so she can still produce and lay eggs. This is what has happened to your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum). For this species, usually adult males would be present, but unfortunately as Julia is on her own, she has no choice but to switch to parthenogenetic egg production. She has put this off for a couple of months in the hope that a male might have appeared, which is why she has only just started to lay eggs. Some of her eggs will hatch, but they will take longer than eggs produced by the standard mating method, so expect babies in approximately eight months instead of the usual six months.

I've spent an enjoyable afternoon reading through the Q and As on this page! We're the proud new owners of four Indian stick insects and their super home (ELC cage). I've noticed you mention on several answers that they eat Red Robin, which is great news for us because we have these in our garden! Are the stick insects fussy about what colour these leaves are? At the moment we have both the green and the red leaves available, not sure if the red leaves would be classed as "new growth" and be harmful?
Great to hear that you have started keeping stick insects and are looking after them properly by housing them in the ELC cage. The Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that Small-Life Supplies send out are used to eating bramble (blackberry) leaves and so it's best to always have some bramble (blackberry) leaves in the ELC cage (keeping fresh in a Sprig Pot of water). But yes, you are correct, Indian stick insects will also eat some other types of leaves, including the Red Robin (Photinia sp). Indian stick insects prefer to eat the tender red leaves in preference to the older green leaves, and so please proceed and give them some of your red leaves. The concern about stick insects acquiring toxins from "new growth" only applies to the small pale bramble (blackberry) shoots, and so does not apply to red Photinia leaves.

I want some silkworms for my animal teaching placement. But I was told they must eat mulberry leaves and I have no clue where to find mulberry? Can you help?
There are different species of the silkmoth. The silkworms you refer to are the Chinese Bombyx mori species. Here at Small-Life Supplies we don't breed that species because of the problems acquiring fresh mulberry leaves, and also both the silkworms and silkmoths are rather inactive because they have been so intensively in-bred for so many generations. So I recommend another species, from India, which is called the Indian Eri silkmoth, Samia ricini. These silkworms (technically of course they're not worms but are caterpillars or larvae) eat privet leaves and so are much easier to feed! You can handle both the silkworms and the silkmoths, you can also take them out of the cage and let the adult Indian Eri silkmoths fly across a room. Small-Life Supplies breed Indian Eri silkmoths, and currently have cocoons in stock (these will emerge into the adult silkmoths within a couple of weeks).

This morning we have some Indian stick Indian hatchlings from the eggs we stored in the HAP. One little one still has the egg casing attached to his leg... Do we leave this until it naturally comes off?
Congratulations on your baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus)! If the eggshell is attached to the leg only, just leave it and it will come off by itself in due course. However, if the eggshell is covering the end of the abdomen, this is more serious because the stick insect will not be able to defecate (poo) and will die. So you can try to help by firmly holding the eggshell between your thumb and forefinger. You will feel the force of the insect as she pulls forward and tries to free herself. Most times this works and you are left with the empty eggshell. If you are not confident about doing this, another option is to place a prickly bramble stem in the HAP and let her try to free her eggshell herself by wedging it between the thorns. If she's only just hatched, she should have the energy to try and do this.

Where can I buy the "Keeping Stick Insects" book? I prefer not to purchase from Amazon.
The best-selling book "Keeping Stick Insects" can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies, by phoning 01733 203358 with your credit or debit card details. Or it can be ordered 24/7 from numonday.com (enter "Keeping Stick Insects" book into the search bar). Or, if you would like to pay with PayPal, please email Small-Life Supplies and ask for the PayPal invoice.

Two of the Vapourer caterpillars we bought from you emerged into moths yesterday! One was bigger than the other, is this normal? We let them fly off and we are excitedly checking on the other two cocoons. We'd like to do this again, do you sell refill packs?
It's great that your British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) caterpillar kit has been successful and you'd like to do this again. There is a lot of size variation amongst all three stages of caterpillar, pupa and moth. This variation occurs naturally and so is no cause for concern. And yes, the HAP containers can be re-used many times, and so Small-Life Supplies sell "Refills" comprising just the British Vapourer caterpillars.

Looking to mix different species of stick insect together, is this something you'd recommend or advise against? I've got an ELC cage and four Indian stick insects.
With your current set-up, you could add a couple of Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and/or four Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). All these stick insects do well in the ELC cage, live well together, and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. However, if you are looking for a chunkier type of stick insect, for example the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), you would need another ELC cage. This is because it's best not to house the chunky heavy stick insects with the more slender thinner species, because a slim delicate stick insect can be damaged if a chunky heavy stick insect walks over it!

Just seen several people recommend the ELC stick insect cage from Small-Life Supplies on a stick insect forum. How can I purchase on-line? I've got anxiety and so phoning is difficult.
Yes, the ELC cage is the best enclosure for stick insects. The ELC stick insect cage can be purchased on-line from our shop on numonday.com, here is the link: https://www.numonday.com/product/elc-stick-insect-cage-enclosure
Or, you can email Small-Life Supplies and request a PayPal invoice, just list the ELC and any other items you wish to purchase and your delivery postcode.


I caught my phasmid munching on the stalk of the bramble. She was swallowing it whole, spikes and all. She even severed it from the rest of the branch, causing the male on the branch below to come crashing down. She didn't stop there, she ate almost the entire thing! I'll upload a video so you can comment on this weird behaviour. As you can see, there's plenty of brambles in the enclosure with her, so why is she doing this? Should I be worried?
Sometimes stick insects eat the stalks of bramble (blackberry) when they are thirsty, so you could put a shallow Water Dish (filled with cold tap water) on the floor of the cage. Your video shows a nice green female Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata). If she already has access to a water dish, another reason for this behaviour is that she fancied a bit of variation in her diet. As well as eating the leaves, sometimes stick insects eat the petals on the bramble flowers and sometimes gnaw at the stems, as you have recorded.

Listening to Radio 4, I heard the Woodland Trust guy promoting a new policy of planting trees across urban areas of the UK, densely in small pockets, approximately tennis court size. This already happens in Japan. Interesting, I thought, what do you think?
Yes, I think it's a great idea. It works in Japan and so should be successful in the UK too. It's called the Mayawaki method. One problem of planting spaced out trees is that vandals (of all ages) can easily snap the trunks and kill the trees. This has happened at a recent housing development near to me, and unfortunately the damaged saplings are not replaced. Trees that are densely planted are less attractive targets for vandals. And it should be relatively easy to find lots of urban areas the size of a tennis court that could be used for dense tree planting. It is essentially the tree version of the "metre square project" which is so successful for promoting insects and plants. The metre square project involves leaving tiny pockets of land that are only 1metre x 1 metre completely alone and see what grows there naturally. The first year or so it may not look particularly interesting, but definitely after year 3 the area will be full of life and biodiversity.

OK, so I need more ELC enclosures, have you any deals on cut-price ones at the minute?
Our used ELC stick insect cages sell out really quickly, so to hear about the availability of used ELC cages, please check the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, or phone Small-Life Supplies (between 9am and 5pm weekdays) on 01733 203358. The used ELC cages are in very good condition, cleaned, dispatched ready assembled, and 25% cheaper than the new ones.

Thank you greatly for your reply earlier. Despite the terrible prognosis, which I half-suspected, being a Physiotherapist myself, our Sticky is alive. He shows much more energy, I am attaching a short video for you. He has been seen moving all his limbs. Every morning we leave him in the position best suited to his feeding propped up and in the morning usually find him in a different position. I will keep on keeping on and feeding him the mush from mimosa and eucalyptus leaves. He is able to chew on the small leaves now, not just the mush. Are there any powders I could add to enhance his energy levels? (I am thinking the likes of creatinine which humans use for increasing energy and stamina)? Vitamins perhaps? Should I leave him in direct sunshine? We do get some warm sunny days, despite it being winter at the moment. Would a tiny water “bowl” help?
Sticky needs to eat more of the eucalyptus leaves to build up his strength, so you need to arrange the leaves in such a way that he can eat them without too much effort. Indirect sunshine is good for this species, but be careful not to place him in full sun otherwise he will overheat and die. You could provide a shallow water dish to give him the option for a drink if he wants one. However the Australian species of stick insect generally don't require extra water to drink, because they gain enough moisture form the eucalyptus leaves they eat. I would advise against trying to boost his energy levels with supplements. This is because he needs to build up his strength gradually. So instead, wait to see what happens in the next week or so. Unfortunately Sticky is deformed and although he is showing initial signs of improvement, this may not continue. His next skin-change (ecdysis) will be a challenge, although fortunately his front legs are OK which will help him a lot in this endeavour.

Can the waste poop from stick insects be repurposed? (This question came up during a break in a work's meeting about the climate crisis and global boiling.)
Yes, the frass (poop) from stick insects contains nitrogen and so can be used as a fertiliser for potted plants. Every week when you replace the Liner in the ELC cage, just tip the contents into a bowl. Take out the eggs you wish to save and pour boiling water over the rest of the mixture. Leave to cool and store in a safe place for a week, this allows plenty of time for a lot of the frass to dissolve. After a week, stir well with an old spoon and pour the entire mixture over your potted plants. We have been doing this for years and know that it works! You don't have to worry about any eggs that are in there because the hot water is 100% effective at stopping their development.

I was out walking with my young son and he spotted one ladybird piggybacking on another one. We have seen this activity with our Thailand stick insects too, so I said they were "making babies", is this correct?
Yes, a male ladybird climbs on top of a female ladybird to mate. Stick insect species that have both genders also mate in this way. The male stick insect is smaller than the female and looks completely different, this is called "sexual dimorphism". If mating is successful, you can sometimes see the sac of sperm (called a spermatophore) attached to the outside of the female stick insect's abdomen tip. Mating occurs every few weeks to ensure that the female has a good supply of fresh sperm to fertilise her eggs. Female stick insects usually lay eggs every day for approximately seven months. However, some of the larger species such as the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) are longer lived and so the females can be laying eggs for a couple of years!

My sticky is of the Australian/Sydney variety. It has shed it's skin recently, grew two front limbs and seemed to be stuck in the skin. I gently separated him from the exo-skeleton with a tissue and threw it away. He became very soft and lethargic and stopped eating. It’s been approximately a week now. The front 1/3 is very curved (kyphosed) and trying to straighten it is almost impossible. I took the fresh eucalyptus leaves and mimosa leaves and shredded them in a blender with some water and fed him this mass yesterday. The best attempt was at night. He visibly ate a little but he’s limp again What can I do to help him? He’s very thin and fragile.
Thank you for emailing me photos of your stick insect, he is in a sorry state with a missing middle leg, damaged back legs, and a curved body which is limp. Unfortunately sometimes a stick insect messes up a skin-change (ecdysis). Often such individuals refuse to eat and die within a few days. Your stick insect will have gained some nourishment from your blended food, but unless he consumes a lot more soon he is unlikely to regain the strength to live. I would let him rest horizontally with his mouth in your blended food and leave him like that so he can eat again if he wants to. But the prognosis is not good.

So excited, we're going to get your Family Pack caterpillars! We have kept the cylinder net enclosure we raised some other butterflies in, would this be suitable for these ones too?
Please keep the British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) caterpillars in the HAP supplied as part of the Family Pack. The HAP is the best enclosure for housing these caterpillars because it provides the optimum ventilation conditions for both the caterpillars and the fresh cut bramble leaf. And once the caterpillars have metamorphosed into pupae and then into adult moths, they should be released outside. The adult male moths will walk on your fingers so you can see them up close. So your net enclosure is not suitable for this project.

Is it possible to delay the hatching of Indian stick insect eggs? Say in a fridge for instance? For up to a year or so. Instead of destroying surplus eggs is it possible to store them but with no danger of them hatching? My guess is no but would like to ask a professional first.
Putting insect eggs in a fridge (typical temperature 5 degrees Celsius) works well with butterfly and moth eggs where hatching needs to be delayed until their natural foodplant is available in the Spring. But that action mimics the cold weather experienced in the UK during winter. In general, cold delays development, so storing stick insect eggs in the fridge is likely to arrest development. However, storing stick insect eggs in the fridge for a year is a very long time and probably too long for development to resume when the ambient temperature is increased. At this time of year garden birds, such as blackbirds, have hungry chicks to feed and so you can help them by giving them your surplus Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) to eat. Just place the eggs on a white plate or saucer on the bird table. It may take the birds a few days to learn they are palatable, but once they have realised this they will soon be back for more! They will only eat dry eggs, so drain off any water if it has been raining.

Looking to expand our creepy crawly collection! Millipedes or cockroaches or snails? We're a family of five living in Hove and we get nature!
Great to hear that you all like nature and want to look after more creatures indoors. I recommend Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica), these are easy to care for, eating fresh vegetables and dandelion leaves. You can purchase young Giant African Land Snails from Small-Life Supplies, together with the special cage and thick Liners. I don't recommend keeping millipedes or cockroaches as family pets because both these creatures eat dead and decaying leaves which can cause health issues in people. This is because dead leaves smell musty and develop fungal spores which become airborne and can be inhaled by people, leading to lung and coughing issues. Long term exposure makes the problem worse and so these creatures are not suitable to be kept in childrens' bedrooms.

It's summer, so do I still have to cut off the new growth leaves on the bramble?
Yes, because this will make the larger leaves last longer in the Sprig Pot of water. If you don't cut off the new growth, the larger leaves (which are favoured by the stick insects) will wilt quicker because the stem is directing it's nutrients to the new growth causing those leaves to grow. However, it is better for the stick insects to eat the larger leaves (these are uniform green in colour) and so you want those leaves to last as long as possible in the cage.

What to do about this bent ovipositor? Does it hurt? Will it affect her egg laying?
Thank you for emailing me a photo of your female Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata). I can see has a bent ovipositor, there is nothing you can do to straighten it. However it will not cause her pain and she will still be able to dig a hole in the sterilised dry sand and lay eggs. She will also manage to flick sand over the buried eggs to cover them, although this may not be as neatly done as a female who has an undamaged ovipositor (which is shaped like a narrow spade).

Hoorah - a stick insect on Peppa Pig! Just watched the pet stick insect, called Stephen, in a tank on a bare branch, taken on a creepy crawly safari. They found a ladybird, a millipede and a grasshopper. Stephen escaped and the characters picked up various twigs asking if this was Stephen. Lots of 3 year olds have received lots of bad education, what do you think? The episode is season 7, episode 13 and I just saw it on Channel 5.
In the UK, many nursery schools have pet stick insects and so lots of young children already know that stick insects eat leaves and move around. It's unfortunate that the small squat tank had no food in at all and that Steven was by himself (stick insects like company of their own kind). The most popular stick insect is the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and 99.99% of these are female, so the pet stick insect should have had a girl's name. The narrator said that a millipede is an insect which is wrong. Insects have six legs, and milllipedes have a lot more than that, which is why they are classified as being myriapods and not insects. On the positive side, Steven the stick insect has been featured in other episodes and so it is good that the profile of pet stick insects is being raised in a popular children's TV programme.

I had Indian stick insects as a child (over forty years ago!) and now want to get some for my boy. I fed mine with privet and I kept the eggs in the airing cupboard. Has the care advice changed since then? I'll be purchasing the ELC cage and stick insects from Small-Life Supplies.
In the UK, for decades the staple food of pet Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) was privet leaves (Ligustrum vulgare). But all that changed about twenty years ago when lots of Indian stick insects (nationwide) stopped eating privet! This also happened to the stocks at Small-Life Supplies, and so we offered these hunger striking stick insects bramble (blackberry) leaves instead, which they ate with relish! Over subsequent years, the main food for our Indian stick insects is bramble (blackberry) leaves, but these stick insects can supplement their diet by eating hazel leaves, eucalyptus leaves and Red Robin (Photinia) leaves and rose leaves. When offered privet leaves now, some of our Indian stick insects will try it, but the vast majority ignore it. So that is why we no longer suggest privet as a food source for Indian stick insects. Regarding incubating Indian stick insect eggs, there is no need to use an airing cupboard, in fact this is detrimental because the warmer temperature speeds up the development of the eggs, which can lead to less healthy baby stick insects. So, it is better to be patient and store the eggs in the HAP at normal room temperature. Just leave them alone and you will see the hatchling stick insects approximately four months after the eggs have been laid.

My teacher said that populations of different sorts of insect fluctuate year by year, according to the climatic conditions, so one year could be great for one type of insect but really bad for another sort. Our homework is to research insects that are doing well in the UK at the moment, benefitting from the drought conditions and excessively hot temperatures that we've experienced so far this year. I am looking to you for guidance on this topic!
Your teacher is correct in what they have explained and it is great that you have a knowledgeable teacher who is encouraging his/her students to find out more about insects. Sightings of the the Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) were very numerous last month , so this is one example of a British butterfly that has benefitted from the climatic conditions earlier this year. And this month, there are far more Small Skipper butterflies (Thymelicus sylvestris) than in previous years.

Came back with some stick insects from the school summer fete at the weekend, so I now need to get them a suitable home! These weren't planned, but they deserve the right environment and my daughter likes them, so please let me know if you have any special offers on your ELC cages at the moment as our finances are stretched!
Great that you want to look after your new stick insects properly. If you'd like to email us a photo we can tell you what type of stick insects you have, so can advise further on their care. And yes, there is a lightly used ELC cage for sale at the moment, this is freshly cleaned and is 25% cheaper than the price of a new one. It is dispatched in the same bespoke packaging that we dispatch the new ELC cages, so you can rest assured that it will be safely delivered. The used ELC cages always sell out really quickly, so please phone 01733 203358 between 9am and 6pm weekdays if you'd like to purchase this item.

My question is about how best to wash the ELC cage? I have saved the special sponge and know about using cold or tepid water. My ELC cage is home to two New Guinea stick insects, they're coming up to be 3 years old, and is in need of a clean.
Congratulations on looking after your New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) for so long, they will be nearing the end of their lives soon, but hopefully you have saved some eggs to hatch out the next generation. It's best to wipe down the panels with the Cleaning Sponge soaked in lukewarm water and squeezed to remove surplus water. Stubborn stains can be removed easily with a dollop of bleach. Rinse by wiping down the panels with the sponge soaked in clean cold water (squeeze out the excess water first). Dry the cage with a soft cotton tea towel. The reason why cold or lukewarm is so important is because hot water will permanently distort the plastic panels. Stick insects are clean creatures but can exude brown liquid from their mouths and this happens more as the stick insects get old.

Would Thailand stick insects eat hazel leaves, do you think?
Yes, Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) eat hazel leaves. Here at Small-Life Supplies we insert Sprig Pots of fresh bramble leaves and fresh hazel leaves in to the ELC cages with Thailand stick insects and they eat them both.

I've just joined a Facebook group about nature in my local area. It is delightful seeing so many wonderful photos of insects that people are now noticing, many of them being converted to nature following "no mow May". And lots of people asking for ID of insects, many daft suggestions, but goodwill on the most part, although so many people speak of larvae when they mean larva. I can't be doing with Facebook forums full of nonsense and preaching by pseudo types!
I agree there is currently a groundswell of public opinion towards nature and the environment. A combination of factors, including environmental education in schools, the climate crisis, people going for more walks locally and indeed "no mow May" are all helping with this. About time too! And yes, sadly some Facebook forums can become most unpleasant with certain people spouting forth continuously. Sadly we have even had adults, very upset after someone has been rubbishing them on a Facebook stick insect forum, phoning Small-Life Supplies for stick insect advice and reassurance. Small-Life Supplies is keen to provide quality helpful stick insect advice over the phone and always does so in a courteous manner. And of course you can rest assured that after 38 years of being in business breeding stick insects and designing and manufacturing insect cages, the advice is worth listening too.

Reading the 17 June 2023 issue of "New Scientist" magazine, I see on page 12 a small feature on leg loss in Forsteropsalis pureora. The author refers to Harvestmen and Daddy long legs, so I had to google the species to find out what animal the article was about! It is in fact an arachnid, with eight legs. I am resident in the UK and know that Daddy long legs are six-legged insects. Might I suggest that you contact this publication and notify them about this error?
Thank you for the heads-up. And yes, you are correct, in the UK, the term "Daddy long legs" refers to a particular winged insect, called a crane-fly. Belonging to the family Tipulidae, it is also known as a Tipulid. Many people are familiar with these insects because their larvae live underground, often under lawns, and are known to gardeners as "leather jackets". The winged adults have a clumsy flight and often skim across ceilings and floors indoors, bumping into objects and losing legs. In the UK we also have native eight-legged Harvestmen opiliones. These harmless creatures are arachnids, but cannot spin webs or produce venom and so are not spiders, instead they are classified as opiliones. They have small bodies and very long legs and are very common. A quick look at the author of the article you refer to reveals that he is from the USA and so this explains the confusion, because in the USA the phrase "Daddy long legs" is used for the harvestmen opilione (and not for the tipulid/crane-fly). However, it is disappointing that the author doesn't seem to be aware of that fact, and also fails to mention the word opilione at all!

Someone recommended the ECL cage, is this the same as the ELC cage?
The ELC stick insect cage is the best cage for stick insects. The person has jumbled the letters by mistake, there is no ECL cage, it is the ELC cage. The reason why the ELC cage has been so popular for the last eleven years it has been manufactured in the UK is because it has been specially designed for the well-being of stick insects (being tall 51cm high and has two full ventilated sides for air-flow). It also benefits the stick insect owner (easy to clean out, easy to see the stick insects through the crystal clear panels, lightweight plastic construction instead of heavy glass, and of course dispatched ready built so no time consuming assembly to perform.

Is is safe for stick insects to eat the flowers on the ends of the bramble stems or should I remove them? I have twelve Indian stick insects, four adults and eight younger ones.
All stick insects including the popular Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat the petals on the flowers of bramble. These petals can be white or pink, but both are safe for stick insects to eat. The main nutrients come from the actual bramble leaves, but it's quite common to see a stick insect eating parts of the flowers too, when they are seasonally available. So leave the flowers on the cut stems.

We have two thorny stick insects, which we have had for around 6 months. We bought them from a local aquarium and reptile shop and bought an enclosure with their advice. They have been quite happy, eating well, and have shed at least twice since January. This past week they have been behaving very strangely. Their appetites have increased in the past few weeks, but behaviour much the same, limited movement until the evenings. This week both the male and female have been active, crawling around the cage all day. The female in particular has been very high up and waving her front legs about almost constantly. We thought they were going to shed but nothing has happened. Tonight the male was lying on his back and seemed unable to right himself. We righted him but he seemed to have lost control of two of his legs, and they were tucked underneath him. We’ve had them out on the kitchen table for a few hours and they’ve calmed down a lot, and regained control of their limbs. Could it be they were too hot?
Thanks for emailing the photos of these two stick insects. I can see they are young adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). They won't shed their skins again because they are already fully grown. Constant activity in this species is a classic symptom of being severely dehydrated, so it is essential you give them water to drink urgently. You should take the stick insects out of the cage and let them drink from saucers of cold tap water placed on a table. New Guinea stick insects are unusual because they do need much more water to drink than other species of stick insect, so there should always be an open dish of water available to them in the cage. Increased indoor temperatures due to sunny hot weather will have made them even more thirsty. Unfortunately as they have been in distress for a week, it may be too late to save them, but fingers crossed they recover after having a good long drink of water (an hour or more). It's also recommended to house New Guinea stick insects in the ELC cage which has two full ventilated sides because this natural airflow means the ELC cage remains a lot cooler than stuffy glass tanks with solid sides.

I have recently embraced the hobby of rearing larvae, and am currently having much success with rearing the Black Arches caterpillars, Lymantria monarcha. Zero losses so far! My question is about the sticky oak leaves I am now encountering. They stick to my fingers and I have to wash my hands afterwards. Are oak leaves normally sticky at this time of year? I have tried to rinse them but the residue is hard to remove. I've looked underneath, it's not aphids.
There is a problem in some parts of the UK at the moment with a lack of rainfall. Here in Cambridgeshire it has not rained properly for weeks. This has resulted in sap from many trees including oak and hazel not being washed off. This means the leaves look shiny and are very sticky to the human touch. Fortunately the insects are able to cope with this and so the Black Arches caterpillars can still walk across and eat the sticky oak leaves. So just continue to feed your caterpillars with the sticky oak leaves and wash your hands afterwards to clean the residue off your fingers.

Help! I have left an open tub of Thailand stick insect eggs in my room and this morning I counted ten on the ceiling! They must have hatched overnight. They're so tiny, will they be exhausted, they've had nothing to eat? And how do I get them down safely?
Thailand stick insect eggs (Baculum thaii) incubate much more quickly than most other species of stick insect, so their eggs can start hatching four to eight weeks after being laid (hotter temperatures accelerate the process). I suggest you use a step ladder and carefully move each one into a dish, using the bristles of a small paintbrush. You can encourage them to walk by gently blowing on the stick insects. Baby stick insects are thirsty so when you have gathered them all up, tip them from the dish over wet bramble leaves (stood in the Sprig Pot of cold tap water) in the ELC cage. Once they've had a drink and a nibble of bramble, your Thailand stick insects will recover quickly. And of course, place your open tub with the remaining eggs on the Liner in the ELC cage so new hatchlings can walk onto the bramble straight away.

I've started working at a new primary school and it's fab that they have class stick insects! They look good and are well cared for but there is only ivy in there (they are Indian stick insects). Apparently that's what they've always had. Please can you tell me if I should interfere and give them bramble or just continue with ivy? It's really easy to get ivy because it's growing up the school fencing.
Thank you for emailing me a photo of your school stick insects, I can see they look healthy and are a mixture of ages of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). This population of stick insects is thriving and so I recommend you continue to feed them with the fresh ivy leaves as the previous person was doing. Usually, if given the choice, Indian stick insects prefer to eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, but in circumstances where many generations of Indian stick insects have solely been eating ivy leaves, then it's not wise to try to change their habits. There are different sorts of ivy, but clearly your school ivy is good quality, evergreen and easy for you to harvest, so stick with that.

Have you seen the online confusion regarding a T shirt featuring a day flying silkmoth on a background with phases of the moon? Embarassing or what!
Yes, it is most unfortunate that a British charity promoting Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) has done this. And the accompanying description is poor too, making no mention of the fact that the British Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia) is the UK's only silkmoth! And yes, of course this is a colourful large moth that flies around during the day, so there is absolutely no connection with the phases of the moon.

As Indian stick insects originated from India, surely they'd be able to cope with high temperatures? My room is 30 degrees but both of my Indian stick insects have gone floppy and died today. They were only seven months old and I can't think of anything else that's changed, apart from the very hot weather in Cambridge today?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) did originate from India, but the stock sold as pets today has been reared in captivity in the UK for over one hundred years! So the stick insects you buy as pets have been acclimatised to much cooler indoor UK temperatures, which means the stick insects are used to a daytime temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius. So these Indian stick insects do not fare well at higher temperatures and can overheat and die, as you have experienced. Always move the cage containing Indian stick insects to a shady cooler place if the room you usually keep them in is heating up rapidly due to very hot sunny weather. It's best to take action as soon as the temperature in the room looks likely to exceed 25 degrees Celsius.

We would like to add Thailand stick insects but for now we would like to keep just the one ELC cage that we have. If our other four Indian stick insects hatch, there would be ten Indian stick insects and two Pink Winged ones in that cage. How many Thailand stick insects would you recommend? Are they all happy with bramble?
There would be room to add four Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). Unlike the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) that are parthenogenetic (99.99% female), the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have equal numbers of males and females. Small-Life Supplies supply Thailand stick insects in packs of four (two pairs). Nymphs are supplied so you can enjoy watching them grow and develop into adults over the coming months. All these three species live well together in the ELC cage and yes, they all eat bramble (blackberry) leaves.

What colour is stick insects' blood? And if a stick insect cuts herself, does a scab form?
Stick insects have green blood. If a stick insect cuts itself on a bramble thorn (this is very rare), a small amount of green blood is released. This soon dries and hardens to cover the wound, and looks dark green. It is not a scab as such because it remains there and does not drop off like it does for a human. It can be washed off with water a few weeks later.

We have Indian stick insects but the room they are in is approximately 16 degrees Celsius overnight, which is obviously warmer than the 12 degrees Celsius stated on your stick insect care leaflet. Is this going to be a problem? Fortunately the temperature during the day is ideal, at 20 degrees Celsius, the room is north facing so never gets too hot.
With Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) it is the maximum daytime temperature which is the most critical, so it's great that the room where you have your stick insects is the ideal temperature during the day. Indian stick insects can start to suffer when the daytime temperature exceeds 28 degrees Celsius, so this is why the ELC cage of Indian stick insects should never be kept in a hot sunny room. Your house must be very well insulated if it's not dropping below 16 degrees Celsius at night. Your Indian stick insects will be fine at this night time temperature. The recommendation of a slightly lower temperature is aimed at people who have to set their heating to come on at night. Obviously to reduce heating bills, we recommend a minimum temperature that will not adversely affect the welfare of the stick insects. So slightly higher temperatures than this at night are still OK for Indian stick insects, although you will find that in these conditions your stick insects will grow faster and eat a bit more.

What is the collective noun for stick insects?
Population. So it's a population of stick insects.

We're loving our Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects, and are now researching the possible option of adding Thailand stick insects to our menagerie! We'll be getting another ELC cage for these ones, if we decide to proceed. We realise Thailand stick insects are not parthenogenetic, but have seen conflicting advice online, so please can you clarify a couple of points for us? My son, Toby, would like to know if the boys live as long as the girls, or do they die off sooner? And my older daughter Mollie asks how long the mating process lasts (she timed her Vapourer moths mating for nineteen minutes).
It's great that you are all enjoying keeping Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are another easy to keep species, which thrive in the ELC cage and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. To answer Toby's question, the males live as long as the females. Both genders of Thailand stick insects darken as the adults age, and so very old adults are darker than younger adults. Mollie sounds like a potential scientist because she is already observing and recording her insects' behaviour. And yes, mating for approximately twenty minutes is standard behaviour for the British Vapourer moth (Orgygia antiqua), this occurs in the daytime, typically late afternoon and so is easy to record. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) mate regularly throughout their adults lives, but often during the night, so recording the duration is more difficult. However, like many other species of stick insect that mate, the mating process lasts continuously for several hours.

My school needs some new stick insect cages and I've been tasked with sorting this because I'm known for driving a hard bargain! I am sure you know that school budgets are still very stretched, please let me know if you offer any discounts for schools? We have been recommended to purchase the ELC stick insect cages.
The best bargain available at the moment is to purchase some "lightly used" ELC cages direct from Small-Life Supplies. These cages are typically 25% cheaper than the list price of a new one. Or, we sometimes have some that are 30% cheaper than the list price of a new one (these cages have a few more marks on them). Small-Life Supplies is VAT registered, so if you ask for the VAT receipt, your school should be able to reclaim another 20% of the price back in VAT from the government. All our lightly used ELC cages are checked and cleaned. They are dispatched in the same bespoke strong packaging as the new ones so you can rest assured they will be delivered safely. To check availability, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358.

Why don't radio presenters do a bit more research before interviewing people about insects? I was disappointed to hear on Radio 4 both presenters showing their ignorance in thinking that all moths in the UK are "clothes moths"! The guest did her best but missed the opportunity to spell it out that the vast majority of caterpillars become moths, not butterflies. There are loads of British moths: hawkmoths, silkmoths, prominent moths, tussock moths, owlet moths, eggar moths, lackey moths, tiger moths, geometer moths, carpet moths, cossid moths, burnet moths, plume moths, pyralid moths...the list goes on!
Yes, I share your frustration, nature coverage is limited on BBC radio and so it is depressing when misleading statements aren't corrected at the time and false information is broadcast. Too many people think moths are synonymous with clothes moths, when of course a clothes moth is just one type of moth. The different types of moths you list are classified as "families" of moths, each family having a Latin name. For example, the "Owlets" belong to the family Noctuidae, and within that family there are approximately 400 different species in the UK. One common species is the Large Yellow Underwing, Noctua pronuba, which is 3cm long and has two yellow hindwings.

In the "Keeping Stick Insects" book I read that the bramble leaves can injure the Pink Winged stick insects' wings with their thorns (when they're adults and have wings). They also eat eucalyptus, but can they eat thornless bramble? Or is it sufficient to keep the bramble quite low in the cage?
It's best to put just a couple of sprigs of standard bramble (with thorns) in the ELC cage. This will be OK for the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) when they have their wings. It is only when multiple Sprig Pots of bramble are stuffed into the cage that it poses a problem to the Pink Winged stick insects. This is because the Pink Winged adults sometimes like to open and close their wings in the cage and if the cage is full of bramble, there is a risk a wing may be snagged on a bramble thorn. The Pink Winged stick insects fly outside of the cage, across the room, once a week. Thornless bramble isn't as nutritious as the standard thorned types, so is not recommended. Eucalyptus is a supplement food, not a substitute for bramble.

I read in volume 9 of "Moths of GB and Ireland" that Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) have two or more broods a year, yet L.Hugh Newman says one brood. I would be interested to know of your experience on rearing Vapourer over the years.
Small-Life Supplies has been breeding British Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) for decades and so can categorically state that there are several broods (generations) every year. The largest population is the first one of the year, in Spring. The British Vapourer moths are particularly interesting because the males have wings and can fly well, but the females have no wings. The female still has legs and so climbs onto her empty cocoon (protecting the empty pupal case) and emits pheromones into the air. These chemicals are detected by the antennae of a male in the area who then flies to her and mates before flying off again. The female spends the next few hours neatly gluing her eggs side by side, usually around her empty cocoon.

I picked up Thea, my Indian stick insect, yesterday, and some brown liquid came out of her mouth! Was she sick? She seems OK today but I thought I'd ask the stick insect guru for reassurance!
Yes, Thea will be fine. Both nymphs and adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can exude a brown liquid from their mouths when they are startled, it is a defensive behaviour. When keeping stick insects as pets, they learn to recognise you and so you don't normally see this defensive behaviour. So I think you must have unintentionally startled Thea which is why she reacted like this.

I enjoyed listening to Matt Frei interviewing Stephen Barnes (vice chair of British Bee Keepers Association) on LBC radio last Saturday, I recommend your followers listen to this on catch up. It was refreshing to hear a straight talking person explaining how clever bees are, even pacing out potential suitable nesting areas to check they're big enough!
Thanks for the recommendation, I am happy to oblige. And yes, I agree, far too many scientists waffle on, instead of clearly putting across the wonders of nature. Stephen Barnes practices what he preaches, so partakes in "no mow May" and encourages others to plant native plants and wild areas in their gardens to encourage bees and other insects and wildlife.
How big should a stick insect enclosure be?
A stick insect cage needs to be TALL, at least 48cm, 18" high, so that the stick insects have plenty of room to grow properly. Stick insects grow by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins and so need lots of height in the cage to be able to do this properly. Stick insects housed in squat containers become deformed because they don't have enough room to stretch their bodies out during the skin-changing process (called ecdysis). The ELC cage is a purpose-designed stick insect cage which is 51cm, 20" high. The ELC stick insect cage also has two full mesh sides which provide the through-draught ventilation that most stick insects need to thrive in captivity.

How long can I leave my Indian stick insects for? I'm concerned about their need for water?
An ELC cage containing Indian stick insects can easily be left for a week, or at most, ten days. Before you depart, put in double the quantity of food and move the cage to the coolest part of your home. This is because the stick insects will notice your absence and become stressed, causing them to eat more. Cooler surroundings result in the stick insects eating less, hence the need to relocate the cage temporarily. It also helps to prepare the stick insects for the change in circumstances. So in addition to the providing double the food quantity for when you are away, it's also essential to do this in the week preceding your trip too. Don't be too concerned about the water requirement, this is because eating the bramble leaves provides most of the water the Indian stick insects need, and the misting of the leaves is a welcome extra but it is not critical that the leaves be misted daily. Indeed, stick insects kept in schools go without misted leaves over the weekend and they are fine. Your stick insects can manage a week to ten days without water being sprayed onto the leaves. The priority is that they have enough food and don't panic, which is why you need to follow the steps outlined above.

Sorry this isn't an insect question but a spider one! Underneath my doorstep outside is a tight ball of baby spiders (approximately the size of 1p coin) and when they are disturbed they rapidly disperse before clustering back together again. I attach a photo. I can see they are baby spiders, but do you know what type? They have yellow markings, and I don't recall seeing any big spiders looking like that?
Thanks for the photo, I currently have two of these in my garden, one on the wheelie bin and another on a large wooden spool. Their behaviour is interesting and lots of people are noticing it this year as the general interest in the natural world continues to grow. The unremarkable common name of this British spider is the "garden spider" and it's Latin species name is Araneus diadematus. The yellow markings on the baby spiders disappear as the spiders grow, which is why the adults do not look like the babies.

Thank you for explaining about "no mow May", I did wonder why so many front gardens haven't been mowed yet! Isn't it a great idea? It brightens up my daily walk with my young grandson, now for the first time in his life he is seeing so many daisies and dandelions he will be able to recognise them in the future. Sadly we live in a small flat with no garden, but I am so thankful to those who do have front gardens and who are letting them grow wild for the benefit of nature.
Yes, the "no mow May" initiative is a great success in many areas of the UK. Locally to me, many people have embraced the scheme, and the contrast between a front garden teeming with nature versus a short lawn or even worse a plastic lawn or paved/gravelled area couldn't be more stark. It is so encouraging that more people are now understanding that we have to encourage nature in our gardens, so that means native plants, insects, birds etc. More people are also realising that the "no mow May" can be extended to other months as well, some people switching to a twice yearly mow, which is fantastic for nature!

What do you put at the bottom of a stick insect tank?
Plain paper is best. This makes it easy to spot the eggs and separate them from the frass (droppings/poo). And paper does not dry up the surroundings like absorbent kitchen roll /towel can. Using pre-cut ELC Liners are very convenient, or you can cut up sheets of copier paper with scissors. It's best to replace the cage Liner once a week to ensure that the stick insects are kept in clean surroundings.

I heard something about a plan for helping nature in the UK, but I can't remember what it's called? I know you're up to speed with environmental campaigns, so I'm sure you can tell me more!
Yes, it's a new British initiative, called the "People's Plan for Nature". Everyone in the UK is encouraged to get involved to support nature, more details are here: https://peoplesplanfornature.org. Their detailed report was published earlier this year and this can be downloaded from the website. To keep the momentum going, if you support the slogan "love nature, act now", you can sign up to receive regular updates (you can unsubscribe at any time). For far too long, people interested in nature have been too slow or reticent to act, but now we are in the midst of a climate crisis, it is essential that we do all we can to protect and promote the existing nature and green spaces we have left in the UK. This plan helps to direct people on what to do to protect and restore nature.

Please can you explain the hatching process of an Indian stick insect?
When the egg is ready to hatch, the baby stick insect (called a first instar nymph) pushes off the lid (this is called the operculum) of the eggshell with her head. She quickly wriggles to pull her thorax and abdomen out (within seconds) and then pulls her front legs out, followed by her middle legs and finally back legs. The whole process only takes a minute or two. The stick insect then inflates her thorax and abdomen, so her body extends in length. The legs are already their correct size and so do not expand.

Is there any reason why my current generation of New Guinea stick insects are smaller this year than last year? I'm fairly new to keeping this species, and only have two stick insects but am enjoying their different characters very much, but am concerned that they are getting smaller? It's puzzling because nothing has changed, they are in the ELC cage and have a good supply of bramble leaves to eat and water to drink?
There is no need to be concerned, this is normal to see with this species. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we routinely see lots of size variation amongst New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), even between siblings reared together in the same cage! So although this generation of your New Guinea stick insects are smaller than the last, the next generation may be huge. One advantage of the smaller adults of New Guinea stick insects is that they usually have longer life spans than the larger ones.

Where's the best place to get stick insects?
Small-Life Supplies has an excellent reputation for delivering healthy stick insects nationwide, together with the best enclosures. And, unlike fly-by-night outfits, Small-Life Supplies is a reputable long established business, with a 38 year trading history! Free advice is given on which type of stick insects would be best for you and live arrival is guaranteed.

Is this bramble safe for our stick insects to eat, or is it still too new? Photo attached.
Your photo shows this year's growth of bramble with some tiny new leaves and some larger new leaves. I can see that the larger of these leaves are safe for the stick insects to eat, even though they are this year's growth. This is because these leaves have passed the threshold of 3cm length. Each leaf is divided into three parts, so all you need to do is to take a ruler and measure the length of one of these three parts. If it is 3cm or longer, it is safe to be consumed by a stick insect.

What is no mow May, is it an environment idea?
Yes, everyone in the UK who has a lawn (or small area of grass) is being asked not to mow it at all (ideally) or at least only mow only a very small section during the month of May. This is because this simple act will benefit the native insects enormously because May is a critical time for them to breed and emerge from hibernation. The problem with mowing garden grass in May is that loads of insects are killed in the process. This initiative occurred last year with great success, and so hopefully it will be even more popular this year. And of course this is also encouraging more people to make the switch to have a more natural looking garden permanently. It is far more enjoyable to look at British plants and wild flowers teeming with insects instead of a lifeless manicured lawn. I have been doing this for decades and am pleased that this movement is still gathering momentum, it is especially important now to help nature during this climate crisis.

Uni biology student here! A question about Indian stick insect genders and reproductive behaviour. I know the vast majority are female, some really rare males exist, also some gynandromorphs (females with partial male genitalia). I assume the males attempt to mate with the females, but do the gynandromorphs ever try to mate with the females?
At Small-life Supplies, we breed large numbers of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and have encountered all three versions that you describe. You are correct in stating that the vast majority are female and these stick insects lay eggs without mating, the vast majority hatching out into more females, this process is called parthenogenesis. Very rarely, about 1 in every 10000, a male occurs, he looks completely different and is very active. The males like to mate at night, and do so in a similar manner to species of stick insects which have males and females in equal numbers. The reported occurrence of gynandromorph Indian stick insects is increasing, probably due to unscrupulous people getting shot of their surplus stick insects, regardless of their health. This is unfortunate because the gynandromorph Indian stick insects are in poor health and do not live as long as either the healthy females or the healthy rare males. The gynandromorphs don't have fully developed male genitalia, so these green genitalia are permanently on display and don't work properly, so no, these individuals don't even attempt to mate. Some gynandromorphs can lay a few eggs, but only ten eggs or so, well below the usual 500 eggs that a healthy female Indian stick insect will lay during her lifetime.

I work in plant protection and need 50 clip cages for whiteflies. I don't want to make them, so please tell me how soon Small-Life Supplies could supply them to me (I'm in the UK) ?
Small-Life Supplies are currently manufacturing lots of clip cages for whiteflies and aphids. These clip cages are made in the UK and current lead time for 50 clip cages is 2 weeks.

Is the new growth privet dangerous for the stick insects like the new growth bramble is?
No, the new growth privet leaves are safe for stick insects to eat, and also safe for the caterpillars of the Indian Eri silkmoth (Samia ricini) to eat. However, only a very few species of stick insects thrive on a diet of privet leaves. Most species of stick insect eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and it is important to discard the very small pale green new growth of bramble leaves because this can harm the stick insects if eaten. This issue only occurs at this time of year and will soon be resolved because the new pale green leaves will quickly grow to a size where they are safe to be eaten by stick insects. This size is 3cm, so if in doubt measure the leaf to check it has a minimum length of 3cm. For more details, please watch the Small-Life Supplies YouTube video # 1.

I know that Small-Life Supplies is the manufacturer of the ELC stick insect cages and so I am asking if you have any "reject" cages for sale at the moment? I've got a lot of bills this month and so am looking to make savings where I can. If not, no worries, I'll wait till the end of next month, but my Indian stick insects are wanting a larger home and I've seen the ELC cage recommended.
Small-Life Supplies continues to manufacture the ELC cage in the UK, and has been doing so since 2012. The ELC cage is specifically designed for stick insects and would be ideal housing for your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). During the production process, all cages undergo several quality checks and if any cages have scratches on the panels, they are put to one side and sold at a 15% discount as "grade B"". Unfortunately we don't have any "grade B" cages in stock at the moment. However, we do have a few used ELC cages for sale, these have some marks and scratches but overall are still in very good condition. These used cages have been cleaned and are available at a 25% price discount. Photos of these cages are available, so if you are interested in purchasing one, please phone 01733 203358 during office hours for more details. All of our ELC cages are dispatched ready assembled and carefully packaged in strong bespoke packaging, so you can rest assured that the cage will arrive safely and not be damaged in transit.

We have just been given ten baby Indian stick insects (only a few days old) by my daughter's school. We were told to feed them wet bramble leaves. But my mother says they should eat privet leaves as that's what she fed hers when she had them as a girl years ago! I said I'd ask you for the answer.
Decades ago many people in the UK fed their Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) with privet leaves, snipped from privet hedges popular at the time. When Small-Life Supplies started, back in 1985, privet was the staple diet for Indian stick insects. But over ten years later the Indian stick insects at Small-Life Supplies that were fed on bramble (blackberry) leaves were noticeably more active and healthier than those fed on privet leaves. So the decision was made to switch the entire breeding population of Indian stick insects over to eating bramble. That practice continues today, with all the Indian stick insects at Small-Life Supplies being given wet bramble (blackberry) leaves from birth. Older Indian stick insects are sometimes given a choice of other fresh leaves including rose, hazel, eucalyptus and Red Robin (Photinia), all of which are eaten. However when privet is offered this is usually ignored, and only occasionally eaten. So I recommend you follow the school's advice and continue to feed your Indian stick insects with wet bramble leaves.

I'm intrigued by the concept of releasing British Vapourer caterpillars in my garden. I admit I was unaware of this caterpillar's existence until I came across it on your website. Aren't they colourful! Does this bright colouration protect them from being eaten by birds? If I decided to go ahead with the "buy to release" concept, how many caterpillars would you suggest I buy? My garden is nature friendly, and already has several established bramble patches which attract bees and butterflies, but are not yet home to British Vapourer caterpillars!
Yes, the British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) caterpillars are very colourful, with their yellow, red, white and black markings. This appearance is classic "warning colouration" which deters birds from eating them. When releasing British caterpillars to boost the local population, or establish a new population, there is guidance to follow. It's important the specimens are healthy. Fortunately, Small-Life Supplies are breeding really strong healthy genetic strains of British Vapourer caterpillars and their diet is always healthy fresh bramble (blackberry) leaves, artificial food is never used. A maximum of six caterpillars should only be released on one bramble bush. Release should be done in dry weather, ideally around 5pm. The British Vapourer caterpillars are available in packs of six, so you could purchase several packs, one pack of caterpillars for each of your bramble bushes. Doing this, you maximise your chances of establishing a local population of these British Vapourer caterpillars and you can enjoy seeing future generations of them for years to come.

Our stick insect eggs are hatching! Five so far, they are the Indian ones. The eldest is nine days old but TBH they all look the same size to me? How fast do they grow? Also, they all seem to be doing well in the HAP, but don't eat much bramble ...is this normal?
You won't see any difference in length between a one-day old Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and one that is a couple of weeks old. So it is completely normal for your nine day old Indian stick insect to look just like the younger ones. The dramatic growth spurt occurs when a stick insect sheds its skin, the first skin-change (ecdysis) occurs when the Indian stick insect is approximately three weeks old. After her skin-change, she will have doubled in length! The HAP is ideal housing for young Indian stick insects, because at this stage of their lives, they prefer less-ventilated surroundings. It is only when they get larger that they require more airy surroundings and so should be transferred to the ELC cage when they have a total length of 3.5cm. Young Indian stick insects do not eat much, so it is normal to only see very small pieces missing from the edges of the bramble (blackberry) leaves.

Are you guys doing any of the invert shows in the UK this year?
No. The existence and attendance of insect shows seems to be in terminal decline. And the "invertebrate shows" should be renamed as "spider shows" because the vast majority of stalls are spider related. There isn't much crossover between people interested in spiders and people interested in insects and that is one reason why Small-Life Supplies does not exhibit at "invert" shows.

Can stick insects recognise you? I have noticed Capellino, my favourite Indian stick insect, prefers to stay on my hand rather than go to my sister's.
Yes, stick insects have sensory pads in their feet and use these to recognise people via smell. So, as you have handled Capellino a lot, she knows who you are and feels safe on your hand, which is why she is hesitant about walking on your sister's hand. I have exactly the same experience with the stick insects that I handle a lot, they are reluctant to leave my hand to walk on anyone else's hand.

Would you recommend "Sunny" stick insects for a nine year old boy? My son is desperate to care for some stick insects and it's his birthday soon, so we'll be getting the whole shebang from you.
It's great that your son would like some stick insects for his birthday, but please don't get him "Sunny" stick insects. This is because this species, Sungaya inexpectata, originally from the Philippines, would not be the best type for him, and of course he would be upset if they died. These stick insects are dark and are not the easiest to keep. Instead, your son would enjoy keeping the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and/or the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) much more. This is because Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects are much more lively, colourful, easy to handle and very robust. They do well in the ELC cage and you can keep both types together in the same cage, they both eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. Small-Life Supplies can dispatch everything together on a next day express delivery service, and live arrival is guaranteed.

I have recently obtained another (poorly) Annam stickbug. She has a darkened stump(?) where her leg would have been. Will this cause problem when she moults? If so, how can I prevent it? Or will it go away on its own?
Fortunately, I can see from the photos you emailed me that this Annam stick insect (Baculum extradentatum) is fine. The stump you refer to is in fact a small regenerated leg, it will have appeared at the last moult (ecdysis) to replace the leg that was lost. Some species of stick insect, for example the Indian stick insect, Carausius morosus, are able to regenerate a recognisable new miniature leg the first time they complete a skin-change after the leg loss. But other species, including the Annam stick insect (Baculum extradentatum) and the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) regenerate a curly structure that initially bears no resemblance to a leg. However with subsequent moults, this curly structure morphs into a recognisable little leg, getting more useful with each successive skin-change. Stick insects can manage to complete skin-changes successfully even if they have a missing leg, so there is no cause for concern. You can enjoy seeing her new leg grow over the next few months.

Just wondering if you could advise, our two adult Pink Winged insects are looking a bit speckled. They’re eating and drinking as normal but just a weird colour change. Any idea why? I’ve attached some photos.
This can happen if the surroundings are too humid, so it's important to only lightly mist the bramble leaves once a day and avoid getting the stick insects wet. It's easy to tell if you are spraying too much water in the into the cage because the ELC Liner starts to curl up.

I’m new to keeping stick insects, I have just received your brilliant ELC enclosure. What’s the best procedure for cleaning out the ELC enclosure? Where do you put the stick insects while it's being cleaned? I do have a large plastic box with vents, would that do?
You can leave the stick insects on the white mesh sides of the ELC cage when you change the ELC Liner and the food, they usually don't go running off! And you can even turn the cage upside down and gently shake it, to remove any debris that may have slipped underneath the Liner and the stick insects will still hang on to the mesh side. However, before you wash the cage out (once a month), then the stick insects need to be transferred to another container. The box you have sounds OK, or another option is to put the stick insects into an empty washing up bowl and then place a tea towel on top to stop them from climbing out.

I heard someone on the radio referring to a termite as a "blind cockroach", this confused me because I don't see the connection? Surely they are classified as belonging to different orders?
Classification of insects continues to follow the Linneaus system, with insects with shared characteristics being assigned to a particular "order". So, for example, stick insects are in order Phasmida, butterflies and moths in the order Lepidoptera and beetles are in the order Coleoptera. For many decades, cockroaches have been in the order Blattodea and termites in the order Isoptera. Of course there will inevitably be some shared physical similarities across different orders, but in the example of cockroaches and termites, it is logical to have then in separate orders because their behaviour is totally different. Termites are "social insects", with thousands living together in a community, with a caste system involving termites varying in appearance according to their job, and everything revolving around prioritising the health of the one egg-laying queen. In contrast, cockroaches do not behave in this way. However, recent work on DNA analysis suggests a strong link between termites and cockroaches, so some people wish to widen the scope of Blattodea to include termites. (The comment about being blind is because many termites live underground, in the dark.)

I have a science teacher who cares for stick insects. Recently, I noticed a miserable-looking stick on the bottom of her enclosure. I felt awful for her, and I figured she'd have better chances with me where I can pay special attention to her. She is a young Annam walking stick, and I've noticed her abdomen is bent. She is on the underside of a bramble leaf, and there are drops of water accessible to her. TLDR: Can I help my young stick bug with an injured abdomen? How?
Thank you for the photos. Depending on how the abdomen is bent it can sometimes be fixed, but unfortunately I can see that your stick insect is young and the bend is not one that can be rectified. So the kindest action is to make her last few days as comfortable as possible, you are already doing this by giving her water to drink. The issue of an abdomen bent in this particular way, as seen with your stick insect, occasionally occurs in some species, notably the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and the Annam stick insect (Baculum extradentatum). It's not clear what causes this rare condition, but it only occurs with young stick insects and, unfortunately, is fatal. It is good that you are concerned about the welfare of stick insects, and that you have done all you can to help this ill stick insect.

I’m after some stick insects to keep as pets but ideally don’t want them breeding constantly, is it possible to have a pair of males for example?
Adult female stick insects lay eggs every day, but these eggs take several months to hatch, so it's easy to keep control of how many eggs you wish to save. Unwanted eggs can be fed to birds, or tip them into a dish and pour hot water onto those eggs that you don't want to develop any further. This extreme heat method is 100% effective, quick, humane and recommended by scientists. Some species of stick insect are all-female, other species have males and females in approximately equal numbers. For the latter, these bond as pairs and mate regularly throughout their adult life. So it would be a bit mean to just keep males on their own, so that is why Small-Life Supplies always supply a mixture of both males and females.

When I remove the tiny shoots off the bramble stems, is it enough to just snip the leaves off or do I have to pull the whole shoot off?
During Spring time the new shoots of bramble sprout forth and the very small leaves (under 3cm long) can harm the stick insects if they are eaten. So it's important to snip off all pale green bramble leaves that are under 3cm long. This is best done with seccateurs. It is just the leaves that need to be removed. This is demonstrated in Small-Life Supplies first YouTube video, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W396YpLlriM

How often should Pink Winged stick insects fly?
Adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) should be taken out of the ELC cage about once a week and given the opportunity to fly across the room. Some Pink Winged stick insects are keener to fly than others.

My first Indian stick insect is lethargic, and is on the bottom of the cage. She is thirteen months old and looks darker than she used to. I guess she's dying, is there anything I can do to help?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live for one year on average, and so yours has done well to live for 13 months. Old stick insects usually darken in colour, become less active and lose their ability to grip with the sticky pads on their front feet. The kindest action is to gently prop your stick insect's head on a wet leaf so she can drink. Dying stick insects are often thirsty and so making it easy for them to drink water during their final days is the kindest thing to do.

We got a pair of huge Jungle Nymph stick insects and they are a nightmare to hold and have left my son's hands with puncture wounds! Any advice, the seller refuses to have them back and so we are wondering what to do next? It's the first time we have kept stick insects, I never dreamt they would be so feisty!
It is unfortunate that you have chosen this species to start with because it is a challenging type, suitable for experienced stick insect keepers and not novices! Sometimes called the "Jungle Nymph", this is also known as the Malaysian stick insect, Heteropteryx dilatata. The adults look very impressive because they are large and chunky and the adult female is a vivid lime green. It is very important when keeping this species to handle the immature stick insects a lot whilst they are growing up to get them used to being handled. Failure to do this usually results in aggressive adults, which can only be handled safely if protective suede gardening gloves are worn. Of course if your son has lots of patience and talks to them in a calm manner you might see some improvement in their behaviour but this will probably take months. Good surroundings, plenty of food, a dish of cold clean drinking water and a Sand Pit (for the female to bury her eggs) will also help.

What do stick insects need in their tank?
Stick insects need proper climbing surfaces, so it's best to house them in a cage with two mesh sides so they can get a foothold with the small claws on their feet. The ELC cage is the best enclosure for keeping stick insects successfully. Stick insects need plenty of food, so put one or two Sprig Pots of bramble (blackberry) leaves in the cage. Most species of stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, but there are a few species which do not, so it's important to check that you are purchasing a bramble eating species. The floor of the cage should be covered with a disposable paper Liner, because this provides hygienic surroundings and makes it very easy to spot the stick insect eggs that are dropped onto the floor. No other décor is needed, and indeed is best avoided because it may harm the stick insects if it is accidentally consumed by them or emits a toxic odour.

I've been excitedly watching Martha, my largest New Guinea for the last few days because she's looking fat and is due to change her skin. Anyway, I'd turned the lights off and gone to bed, and then I woke up and I couldn't remember if I'd locked the back door, so I went downstairs to check and I switched the light on. To my surprise all the New Guinea stick insects were on the move, and there was Martha, near the top of the ELC cage, mid-moult! Wow! I'd never seen a stick insect moult before, so even though it was 2am, I stayed to watch. But it looked like Martha had frozen, she didn't move at all, so after a few minutes I gave up and went back to bed. In the morning I spotted her cast off skin, still attached to the side of the ELC cage and she's now huge! I wonder why she froze, was it because I was watching her?
Great to hear that Martha completed her skin-change (ecdysis) successfully. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are large chunky stick insects, so their shed-skins (exuviae) are particularly impressive to examine afterwards. The reason why she stopped mid-moult was because you switched the light on. It is really important not to switch the lights on after you have turned them off at night. This is because darkness triggers activity in stick insects and once they are awake and active, to suddenly have everything bright again is a real shock and so the stick insects respond by becoming motionless. This is serious if the stick insect is shedding its skin because this is a time critical activity which needs to be completed in under thirty minutes whilst the new skin is moist. Thankfully you switched the light off again after a few minutes and so Martha could complete her skin-change successfully because she was only interrupted for a few minutes. If you had left the light on, her new skin would have dried and she would have got stuck in it, resulting in her dying after a few days.

I know male Indian stick insects are incredibly rare, I hope to see one in my own culture eventually, but after seventeen years, here's hoping! But what about male Pink Winged stick insects? I imagine they occur too, have you ever seen one?
Yes, male Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are very rare, 1 occuring for very 10000 females. The male Indian stick insect is tan coloured, has two sloping red marks on the upperside of the thorax and the underside of the thorax is red. He is hyperactive, has longer antennae than the female, and of course has the green male genitalia that he exposes when he wishes to mate. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed Indian stick insects in very large numbers and over the decades have seen a few males, their frequency of occurrence supports the probability of them occuring 0.01% of the time. And yes, male Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) occur too, at a similar frequency. The male Pink Winged stick insects that we have reared at Small-Life Supplies are even more hyperactive than the male Indian stick insects and so are extremely hard to photograph! The male Pink Winged stick insect is a much smaller, slimmer version of the female, and is always flying off and running around!

Your baby snails on facebook are so cute! Do you have these for sale?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies sell baby Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica). These aren't newborn ones, which are tiny, but snails that have grown a bit, as shown in the photo. Their shell sizes are approx 1.5cm - 2cm long, which means they are too small to be housed in the standard HLQ cage because this is designed for snails with a shell length of 3cm or more. The best housing for the small snails is the SPONG, and we supply two snails together with the SPONG and an information sheet. More details will be on the website soon.

I have purchased some plants safe for stick insects! Please remind me how long I need to wait to be 100% certain they will be safe for my Pink Winged stick insects to consume?
The Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves, also eucalyptus leaves. Most potted plants purchased need to be left a very long time, 12 months, to allow time for the pesticides in the soil/compost to break down. After one year they are safe for the stick insects to eat.

What's the difference between an earthworm and a mealworm?
They are completely different creatures, and have nothing in common, apart from the ambiguous use of the word "worm". An earthworm is classified as a worm and so is an "annelid" and belongs to the phylum "Annelida". A mealworm is the larva (immature form) of the Tenebrio molitor beetle and so is an "insect", belonging to the phylum "Arthropoda" and class "Insecta".

I have one of your ELC cages which is home to four New Guinea stick insects. This morning I saw a perfect moulted skin dangling from a bramble stem, it is completely intact and a work of art! I think it's from Phoebe (my largest female) But she's now hiding in the tube with the others so I don't want to disturb her. My question is should I leave the skin in the cage for her to eat later? Previously they have all eaten their moulted skins, save a leg!
All stick insects grow by shedding their skins, this is called ecdysis. The shed skin is indeed amazing because as well as being a perfect replica of the outside of the stick insect, it also contains the linings of their inner breathing tubes as well! In the thirty minutes or so after a skin-change, the inside of the shed skin is wet and is palatable. So if a stick insect is going to eat it's skin, it does this immediately after completing the skin-change. And yes, it is common for the larger species of stick insect such as the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) to eat everything except one trophy shed leg ! If the shed skin (exuvia) is not eaten, it dries and becomes hard and brittle and so is no not suitable to be eaten. So you can remove the skin and keep it as an interesting piece, it will last for years. You are correct in not disturbing Phoebe, her new outer skin will be soft and she will need to rest after the ordeal of completing a skin-change.

I have 26 stick insects at the moment and whilst cleaning out their tank one has a strange thing on its under side. I will send a picture.
Thanks for the photo of your adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) with the green blob underneath her tail end. The green blob is male genitalia and is part of this particular stick insect. So your stick insect is mostly female but has this male characteristic, so is part male, part female, and is called a "gynandromorph". The Indian stick insect in the photo is predominantly female, so she may still lay eggs, although not very many. She can live with the other stick insects in the same cage, but is likely to die sooner than the others because of her condition.

How much should we handle our new stick insects? They are Indian stick insects, adults, purchased from Small-Life Supplies, they love walking up my son's arm!
Part of the enjoyment of keeping Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is that they are good to handle and so it is great that your son is enjoying handling them. Some Indian stick insects are naturally more active than others, in general the most active ones have slightly shorter lifespans than the less active ones. It is the same with Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), those that enjoy flying a lot do have slightly shorter lifespans than those adults that are not as keen to fly. However, in both cases a sensible time limit is approximately five minutes per day. Also, stick insects can get used to a routine, so if you handle them at a particular time every day, they soon learn to be active around that time.

I am curious as to why you include the species ID every time you mention a stick insect. I never use species names, I call my Indian stick insects "Indians", my friends do too.
I am British and live in the UK but this "Ask Prof Phasmid" page has an international audience, so when referring to an insect, I use it's common British name, for example Indian stick insect, but also it's unique Latin species name Carausius morosus. This is so people all over the world can understand which stick insect I am talking about! The Latin species name assigned to an insect is fixed, so it does not matter what country you live in, the Latin species name of the Indian stick insect will always be Carausius morosus.

Is it possible to overfeed stick insects? I now have eighteen Indian stick insects and four Pink Winged stick insects in the ELC cage and every week I put in fresh brambles in the Sprig Pot. I had a thought of putting a second Sprig Pot of brambles in as well, but I'm hesitating in case they would munch it all straight away?
You've got quite a lot of stick insects in the ELC cage and so I'd recommend putting two Sprig Pots of fresh bramble in there for them. Initially they might eat more than usual, but if you keep to the regime of two Sprig Pots of bramble per week, then the stick insects will get used to this and go back to eating their normal amount. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) seem to be able to regulate their body weight well, and generally only over eat when their surroundings dramatically change, so suddenly being given double the amount of food falls into this category. In contrast, some adult female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) can really gorge themselves on bramble and eucalyptus leaves, getting so fat they can struggle to lift their abdomens up!

Would the Jungle Nymph stick insects be good pets for a young child? My daughter is six and loves bugs, we have a copse nearby where we walk our dog, and there is loads of bramble there.
The "Jungle Nymph" stick insect is also called the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata). It is a top-of-the-range stick insect and so is best suited to people who have lots of experience in keeping stick insects. This is because Malaysian stick insects need very careful handling and have particular ventilation requirements (so add the Ventilation Control Panels to the ELC cage). Malaysian stick insects are very slow growing (they grow more than twice as slowly as other species, so reach adulthood after one year (instead of the standard five months). If they are not handled correctly, Malaysian stick insects can become aggressive and stab your fingers with the sharp spines on their legs. So, to answer your question, the answer is a resounding no! If your daughter wants a large chunky stick insect, a much better choice would be the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) because they are much easier to look after, more active, and have calm temperaments. Small-Life Supplies breed and supply New Guinea stick insects, please contact us to be added to the waiting-list, because these stick insects should be up to size and ready to dispatch in the next month or so.

My original adult Indian stick insects are still alive, incredibly, and some of their children are now only two or three moults away from adulthood. I put some of the larger babies in the ELC with the adults, and I've noticed that certain adult stick insects seem to spend a lot of time with certain babies (some of the babies are different colours, and they're of varying sizes, so I can tell a fair few of them apart). Have there been any studies demonstrating whether Indian stick insects can recognise their own offspring, or differentiate them from the offspring of other stick insects? I know a lot of their mating behaviour is pheromone-driven, so it seemed theoretically possibly that there could be similar chemical indicators of lineage.
Interesting to read your observations, I am not aware of studies being done to establish if stick insects can recognise their own offspring, so this would be an interesting project! Indeed, this should be a relatively straight forward experiment to do, using tiny dabs of non-toxic paint to identify offspring from certain females and then monitor their behaviour as they grow up with their mothers in the same ELC cage. I have noticed that hatchling New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) sometimes rest on top of adult females (but not with the adult males), but they are in communal ELC cages and so I don't know if they are with their mother or another adult female. Stick insects do have good sensory ability though, so it does seem logical they would be able to detect their birth mother (and vice-versa).

So I'll be purchasing some Pink Winged stick insects from you guys next month and I've already gone down the garden centre and selected a bushy eucalyptus plant. The manager hadn't a clue if the plant had been sprayed, so I'd appreciate your guidance on how long I need to wait for any pesticides to disappear (assuming the plant has been sprayed with pesticides)?
Many of the plants sold in garden centres have been treated with pesticides. Eucalyptus plants are often sprayed, the effects of the sprays on the leaves disappear after a couple of months. More long lasting though is the effects of the pesticides in the soil/compost in the plant pot. Those systemic insecticides are very long lasting, approximately one year, and are taken up by the plant roots and dispersed within the plant stems and veins of the leaves, so they cannot be washed off. You could ask how long the garden centre has had that particular plant, but if they don't know, you'd need to wait 12 months before using it to be absolutely sure the leaves are safe to eat and will not poison your stick insects. If you have a garden, you can plant your bushy eucalyptus plant outside, but make sure it is well away from any boundary because eucalyptus grows very quickly and you don't need the hassle of moaning neighbours! Meantime there is always the option of purchasing fresh cut bramble and eucalyptus from Small-Life Supplies.

My daughter's stick insect has got stuck mid moult and died. It was in an all net enclosure. Would the ELC cage be better housing? She was a Sabah Thorny stick insect, my daughter is very upset and wants a replacement, but I said we need to source the correct enclosure first.
Net enclosures are very airy and are far too ventilated for many species of stick insect. Often these cages are mass produced in China at low cost. However, most of the commonly kept stick insect do best in a cage with just two mesh sides, so the ELC cage (designed and manufactured in the UK) is ideal for these types. However there are a handful of species which prefer less-ventilated conditions, and your stick insect, the Sabah Thorny (Aretaon asperrimus) falls into this category. So the solution is to house it in the ELC cage but with the "Ventilation Control Panels" added. These are clear panels that attach onto the outside of the rigid mesh panels, so block off the holes and reduce the air-flow, but still allow the stick insects access to the holes to climb. When ordering your ELC cage, just request the Ventilation Control Panels (these are £2.40 for two) and the cage will be sent to you with these pre-fitted. They can be removed later on if your daughter decides to try keeping another species. The stick insect species that Small-Life Supplies breed and sell do well in the ELC cage and don't need the Ventilation Control Panels fitting.

Our Indian stick insect colony is thriving and I love the pink cage Liners for the ELC! I've got into the habit of tipping the Liner contents into a jug and adding boiling water. When the mixture has cooled, could I pour this mixture over my houseplants?
Yes, stick insect frass (droppings/poo) contains nitrogen and is an excellent fertiliser for plants. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we add boiling water to buckets of frass, let it stand for a week, stir it well, and then pour the solution around plants outdoors and also our potted indoor plants. The health and vigour of our plants is testament of its effectiveness!

Why are Malaysian stick insects so vicious?
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) can lash out with their spiky legs and hiss, but generally only do this if they feel threatened. If you handle these stick insects a lot when they are growing up and talk to them in a calm manner (their ears are by their knees), the Malaysian stick insects get used to you and relax, so this defensive behaviour disappears. And it is important not to show any fear because stick insects seem able to sense this and play up accordingly. I remember a scientist who was terrified of his aggressive adult female Malaysian stick insect. He was totally amazed when I picked her up, talked to her, and she walked across my hands without playing up at all!

We had one of our stick insect eggs hatch. I just wondered in terms of care, any tips? I think this is a male Thailand stick insect. We kept some Indian eggs so I guess if when they hatch we keep them in the HAP?
Congratulations on your baby Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii)! The scientific term for a newborn stick insect is a first instar nymph. Thailand stick insects have males and females in equal numbers, but the stick insects need to be a few months old before you can tell which gender they are, so you'll need to wait a while before you know the gender of this stick insect. Thailand stick insects do best in the ELC stick insect cage from birth, so carefully transfer this stick insect to the bramble in the ELC cage. Young Thailand stick insects usually rest on the leaf extremities of the bramble sprigs. Like other baby stick insects, Thailand stick insects are thirsty so it's best to lightly mist the bramble leaves with cold tap water. Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs take twice as long to hatch than Thailand stick insect eggs. It's best to house the baby Indian stick insects in the HAP because, unlike Thailand stick insects, Indian stick insects prefer less ventilated surroundings when they are very young. Transfer the Indian stick insects from the HAP to the ELC cage when they are have a total length of approx 3.5cm, this is when they are approx 6-8 weeks old.

My Carausius morosus colony isn't doing well. They are exhibiting a sticky green poop that is not properly dropping from them. I have six other species of plasmids feeding on the same brambles with no issue. What do you think?
The green thing you are seeing is probably not poop but partial male genitalia. If this is permanently on show, you have gynandromorph Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), so although your stick insects are predominantly female, they are also exhibiting a male characteristic which is the green male genitalia. Such individuals usually look deformed, so their bodies are not as plump and straight as the standard bodies seen on the females. Gynandromorph Indian stick insects do not mate and also struggle to lay eggs, so it is best not to breed from them because they are not healthy stock.

I've seen some conflicting advice on-line so hope you can help! When I fill my Mister Swivel with water from the tap, can I use it straight away to mist the bramble leaves for my stick insects? I have Thailand stick insects, Pink Winged stick insects and also Indian stick insects and I live in Daventry, UK.
Yes, of course, and here at Small-Life Supplies we do this all the time because we have so many cages of stick insects! In the UK, cold tap water is safe to drink immediately from the tap and safe for stick insects to drink immediately too. Some people prefer the taste of filtered tap water, or tap water that is left to chill in the fridge, but these measures make no difference health-wise to either humans or stick insects.

Can you put stick insects in a fish tank?
A fish tank is a bad enclosure for stick insects because it is not tall enough and not ventilated enough. Stick insects need a tall enclosure (at least 48cm high) and the cage should have two full mesh sides to allow for lots of air-flow. The ELC stick insect cage has been specially designed for stick insects and is available nationwide in the UK, dispatch is fast and the ELC cage is delivered ready assembled, so is ready to be used immediately!

My daughter would love a pet, but with all the turmoil in our lives, we are looking at animals that can care for themselves for a few days. Do stick insects meet this requirement?
Absolutely. One of the benefits of keeping stick insects is that they are very low maintenance and so only need feeding once a week. In fact you can even leave them unattended for a ten day stretch if you put in additional sprig pots of bramble leaves so the cage is full of food. Temperature wise they do need to be in a warm room (approximately 18 degrees Celsius ) during the day, and colder (approximately 12 degrees Celsius) at night, so if you going away, you would need to leave your heating on. Ideally you will have a programmable thermostatic timer which allows you to pre-set the day and night temperatures in the room. But if you don't have this facility, then a good compromise is to leave your heating on 24 hours at 16 degrees Celsius whilst you are away.

Does one spermatophore fertilise a stick insect for life?
No. The sperm in the spermatophore enter the female's body and fertilise the eggs she is producing at the time. The next time she mates, usually a week or two later, the male produces a new spermatophore and the sperm contained in that one fertilise the eggs she is producing at that time. Sexual stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult lives (approximately seven months or longer, depending on the species). Sometimes, the male does not produce a spermatophore, other times it falls off the female's body straight away, so not all matings are successful in transferring the sperm.

Our pink wing stick insects have had a baby. Seems one of the eggs snuck by us! It's teeny! We'll need a HAP for it. Will it be OK for a few days in the big enclosure or should we move her into something else for the time being?
If it's a baby Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) then she should be quite large and pale green. It's best to house baby Pink Winged stick insects in the ELC cage from birth, because they like airy surroundings straight away, so don't use the HAP for this species. Remember to mist the bramble leaves with water because baby Pink Winged stick insects like to drink water.

One of my Indian stick insects has lost two back legs. A few of my insects seem to be losing legs recently. Is this natural?
This is of concern, so you need to act if you can to prevent further leg loss. Are your stick insects very old? Sometimes they lose legs just before dying from old age, but this is still unusual and not normal behaviour. If your stick insects are very old, you should mist the leaves more generously with water because old stick insects drink more than younger ones. What is the quality of the leaves like? Poor quality leaves are low in nutrition and this can lead to stress and leg loss. So always pick the best quality leaves that you see. If the bramble leaves in your area are poor quality, then provide some other types of leaves as well, for example eucalyptus leaves, or Photinia red robin leaves, or rose leaves. Always collect the leaves from plants growing outside, never use potted plants because their leaves may contain residual pesticides which will kill your stick insects.

My son says that he would like one female Indian stick insect. Can they live alone?
Stick insects like company of their own kind, and so that is why Small-Life Supplies sells Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in packs of four. We would not sell just one stick insect to be kept on her own because she would be lonely.

I believe we should focus more on how nature solves complex problems and we'll spend less time re-inventing the wheel. Let's face it, Mother nature has been at this a lot longer than we have. Almost every discovery and invention we pat our back about was 'invented' first in the natural world. Gears? First invented by jumping insects. Cryoprotectants? Insects and other invertebrates having been using sugars as cryoprotectants for a millennia.
Yes, I absolutely agree with you. It's depressing and ridiculous that the wonders and workings of nature are so overlooked. However, it is encouraging that progress is being made in using insects to help people, for example with their incredible ability of sensory detection, bees can be used to detect contraband drugs by smelling them in airports. And now it's been proven that ants can be trained to smell certain odours, some are currently being used to detect cancer cells in laboratory mice.

Our pair of Nuichua rabaeyae stick insects are well over one year old. Tulip's long term partner Bradley always seemed to be connected to her. Tulip died this morning but Bradley is now very active, and walking around the cage. He's not with Tulip anymore so should I remove her body?
When one stick insect dies of old age, it's long term partner can show grief, by staying with the dead body for a day or two. In these situations, it is best to delay removing the corpse for a couple of days. This behaviour is often seen in New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), but only if the pair were particularly close. The Nuichua rabaeyae species is one of the newer species of Vietnamese stick insect to be kept as pets and so it's behaviour hasn't been observed and recorded for as long as it has for the New Guinea stick insect. It will be really obvious in the coming days how Bradley is coping with the loss of his partner. If he stops eating and keeps going to her body, he is likely to die very soon. But if he continues to be active and is eating well, he may last a few more weeks or months, depending on his actual age. Either way, I'd recommend you leave the dead body in the cage for a couple of days, before removing it and disposing of it.

Why do people say they shudder at the thought of pouring hot water over unwanted stick insect eggs? I don't shudder when I make a cup of tea!
Recently laid stick insect eggs are just liquid inside, there are no recognisable parts of an insect because the liquid is just cells at a very early stage of development. Stick insect eggs take a long time, typically months, to develop into a recognisable form. Indeed the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) eggs take one and a half years to develop! So there is no need to feel bad by using boiling water to stop the eggs from developing any further. In their native habitat, stick insects lay hundreds of eggs because most of the eggs perish either by being waterlogged or eaten. In captivity, it is important to keep sensible numbers of eggs otherwise you will have far too many stick insects. Extreme heat (such as boiling water) is 100% effective at stopping development of eggs and is very fast. Extreme cold (such as freezing) is very slow and not 100% effective because eggs thaw out when removed from the freezer and some can be viable again. This is why qualified scientists such as myself always recommend using extreme heat over extreme cold.

Help! I've just noticed something really weird, Maisee, my Indian stick insect, seems to be trying to eat her own antenna! I don't understand why she's doing this? I put in fresh bramble leaves yesterday, they are lush , gathered from behind the leisure centre, and Bobbles, my other Indian stick insect is eating a leaf at the moment.
There is no need to be concerned, Maisee is not eating her antenna, rather she is cleaning it. Antennae are important sensory organs for stick insects and are full of tiny hairs which detect sensory information from the surroundings and pass this onto the stick insect's brain. To work effectively, the antennae must be clean. So the stick insect cleans her antennae by passing each one in turn through her wet mouth, guiding it with her front feet.

I stored some proscopid exuviae in a box a few years ago and when I opened the box today, all that was left was dust!
Yes, it appears that the composition of the exoskeleton of a proscopid (horsehead grasshopper) is much more prone to disintegration than that of a phasmid (stick insect). Here at Small-Life Supplies we have shed skins of stick insects that have remained intact for decades, unlike those of proscopids which deteriorate much more quickly.

I'd like to purchase an ELC stick insect enclosure so shall I pay via PayPal or do I need an invoice first?
You need the invoice first. To get this, just email us with your delivery postcode and what you'd like to purchase. You will then receive an Order Confirmation confirming the prices and our terms and conditions. The PayPal invoice will then be generated and emailed to you. Please note that an actual person does all of this and so you will receive these communications within normal working hours.

I´d like to purchase a stick insect cage. It currently only needs to house one. Are there other sizes available other than the 51cm high one? Which seems a little large for one?
Stick insects do best in a tall cage, at least 46cm high, so the ELC cage at 51cm high is the best stick insect cage for housing stick insects, regardless of whether you have just one or if you have ten stick insects. As well as providing plenty of room for the stick insects to grow properly, a tall cage also enables you to put in decent lengths of bramble stems with leaves (push these into the Sprig Pot of cold tap water to keep the leaves fresh for one week). Stick insects like company of their own kind and so I recommend you get another stick insect to keep your existing one company.

We have just hatched out a stick insect egg. So we would like to buy a HAP container and the ELC bundle. How long should we keep the stick insect in the HAP? She's an Indian stick insect.
Congratulations! Baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in an unventilated container such as the HAP for the first few weeks of their lives. After approximately three weeks, the Indian stick insect moults for the first time and doubles in size. Keep her in the HAP for another few weeks, and then when she has a total body length (including the front legs outstretched) of 3.5cm, she is ready to be transferred to a larger, more airy enclosure, the ELC cage is ideal. Stick insects need to drink water and so it's important to put a wet bramble leaf into the HAP. When you have stick insects housed in the ELC cage, it's best to mist the bramble leaves lightly with water preferably every evening (or late afternoon).

We are new to the world of phasmids, and would value your advice on whether to start with leaf insects or stick insects? My son is fourteen and looks after his guinea pigs really well.
Great that your son is interested in animals and is responsible too. There are lots of different species of stick insects and also several different species of leaf insects. Some species are easier to keep than others, so it's always best to start with an easy species before trying to keep a more challenging type. In general, stick insects are a lot easier to keep than leaf insects, so your son would be to wise to start with keeping stick insects.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is the height of a stick insect enclosure? I'm getting some young Indian stick insects and some places say the cage needs to be 46cm high, but I've seen other places selling tanks that are only 30cm high, but that's a big difference, around one third shorter?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), and many other popular species of stick insect, need to be housed in a cage that is at least 46cm high. The ELC cage that Small-Life Supplies has designed and has been manufacturing in the UK for the last eleven years, is 51cm high. The height is extremely important, so the score is 10/10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Trying to house growing stick insects in a squat tank of 30cm is not recommended because there is not enough height to allow the stick insects room to shed their skins properly (they do this by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins which is why they need plenty of height to do this properly). It is sad to see people's photos of their deformed stick insects (with bent bodies), because these deformities have been caused by the stick insects not having enough room to straighten out their bodies after a skin-change (ecdysis). This can be so easily avoided by housing the stick insects correctly in a tall cage (46cm+ high) instead of a squat tank.

Our Pink Winged stick insects have arrived, are we OK to mist them with tap water or do they need rain/distilled water?
Like many other stick insects, the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), need to drink water from water droplets on the bramble (blackberry) and eucalyptus leaves. So lightly mist the leaves every evening or late afternoon. It doesn't matter if you miss a day or two. Set the nozzle of the plant sprayer to a fine mist and just mist the leaves, don't get the actual stick insects wet. A light misting is best, you know if you are over-spraying because the ELC cage Liner will start to curl up. In the UK, using cold tap water is fine.

My son started off with two Indian stick insects but sadly one died of old age and so we had a burial. He is concerned that the remaining stick insect will be lonely and so we would like to buy some more. I think he is right because they did rest together when they were both alive.
Your son is correct, stick insects do like company of their own kind and so it is always best to keep them in small groups rather than on their own. Small-Life Supplies supply Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in packs of four adults. There is plenty of room in the ELC cage for your surviving Indian stick insect and four new ones.

Please can you tell me when your snail tank Liners will be in stock again? I only have one left!
We are awaiting a delivery of HLQ Liners, this is scheduled for the end of next week and so, all being well, the HLQ Liners should be dispatched to customers from the middle of January. As you know, these HLQ Liners are great for using with Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica), because they are designed to be used wet (to increase the humidity in the cage), they are thick (so they cushion the impact of any snail that falls, thereby protecting it's shell from damage), and of course very hygienic (so no more little flies that are commonplace with soil/earth substrates).

My stick insects are the best Christmas present ever! Will they eat ivy as well as bramble? There's plenty of both in the churchyard. (They are Indian stick insects).
Great to hear that your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a success! They do best if given bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat, but can also eat some other types of leaves as well, including: rose, hazel, "red robin" Photinia, and eucalyptus. Privet and ivy are sometimes eaten too. Indian stick insects will thrive solely on a diet of bramble/blackberry leaves, but if you wanted to try ivy or any of the above leaves, then offer that in addition to the bramble (blackberry) leaves, in other words don't do a sudden switch. Some Indian stick insects are more fussy than others, so it's really important to always have some nice green bramble leaves in the ELC cage for them to eat. And remember to lightly mist the leaves with water once a day, so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the leaves.


Do Indian stick insects require a heater or heat lamp with the ELC cage?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a robust species, and so usually don't require any extra heating. They do well in a room that is comfortably warm during the day (approximately 18 degrees Celsius) and cooler at night (approximately 12 degrees Celsius). However, if your home is chilly and consistently below these temperatures, then you would need to provide some extra warmth for your stick insects. The most effective way to do this is to purchase a 500 Watt portable oil-filled radiator, plug it into a wall socket, and position this radiator near the ELC cage (ideally 50cm away from a white mesh side). It's really important to purchase the 500 Watt model because this emits a nice gentle warmth (unlike the more powerful 1 kiloWatt and 2 kiloWatt versions which are much more expensive to run). Heat lamps and heat mats are not recommended because they can dry out the foliage too much and may also bend and even melt the plastic panels in the ELC cage.

I thought the incubation time for Thailand stick insect eggs was two months? Mine are just starting to hatch now, after three months?
Thailand stick insect eggs (Baculum thaii) have variable incubation time, depending on the ambient temperature and light intensity. So, during a hot sunny summer, the Thailand stick insect eggs can hatch after just four weeks! The rest of the year, it is usually two months, but during gloomy rainy conditions, it can be three months. The Thailand stick insect eggs at Small-Life Supplies are also taking three months to incubate at the moment.

I am a textile student and wondered if you ever have empty silk cocoons (spun by silkmoths) for sale? I want an ethical source, I can't bear the thought of them being killed just for their silk.
Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed the large Indian Eri silkmoth (Samia ricini) . Entomologists and enthusiasts purchase the living caterpillars (also called silkworms or larvae) to rear. They also purchase the intact cocoons containing the pupal stage of the silkmoths, and enjoy seeing the wonder of the giant silkmoth emerging from the silk cocoon it has spun. Artists and textile students like yourself purchase the empty silk cocoons from us, safe in the knowledge that the silkmoths have emerged successfully and been part of the breeding programme at Small-Life Supplies, living out their full life and certainly not been killed! For more details, including prices, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 weekdays between 9am and 6pm.

My stick insects seemed very excitable today, one of my fully grown Indian stick insects stomped off so fast across the table, she actually fell off the end and landed on the floor! And then one my Pink Winged stick insects started jerking herself BACKWARDS across the floor of the ELC cage. Is this just coincidence or are they sensing something?
Stick insects do pick up on people's mood, so it's likely they are reacting to how you were feeling today. This is why it's best to try and be calm around stick insects. And never try to touch a Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insect that is jerking backwards, because she is very likely to throw off a leg when she is in such a frenzy. Most stick insects that topple off a table or are accidentally dropped are OK because they land on their feet. (In the wild they fall off branches so have evolved to land on their feet safely and avoid injury).

Instead of actual presents, I've asked my auntie, uncle and grandad for money this Christmas. This is so I can hopefully purchase a couple of ELC cage bundles for my stick insects, I've got two big Macleays Spectre stick insects and twelve Indian stick insects currently. When I got them they came with small tanks, but I've done more research and the ELC enclosures look much better. I'm not sure if I'll actually receive enough money, so please can you tell me if you'll be offering any voucher codes for discounts, or do you have any discounted ELC cages? Also, I'm in Guildford, so is there a store nearby where I could collect?
Stick insects do best in tall cages (at least 48cm high) which have two full ventilated sides, so the ELC cage (51cm high) is ideal housing and will be much better than a small tank for your Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insects and also your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). ELC cages are precision manufactured in the UK and are only available direct from Small-Life Supplies. If you'd like to save some money, you can enquire about the availability of the "grade B" ELC cages, these cages are discounted by 15% because they are brand new but there are some marks and scratches on the panels. These imperfections do not affect the functionality of the cage. All ELC cages are dispatched ready assembled by a reputable express courier and the total delivery price of two cages to Guildford, Surrey, would be £9.96.

I got my stick insects a little less than a week ago and two of my stick insect are doing just fine but my third is not OK at all and I don't know what to do. She hasn't been eating (that I know of) and she won't move, she doesn't have the strength to stand up or hang onto things (they're not old and they're all from the same litter) and I've called the store I bought them from but they don't know what to do. They told me to just lay her on the plants I have for them to eat and let her be in peace. But I am very concerned as to what this might be as she looks completely normal. Any suggestions on what to do?
Your stick insect is not well and is probably dying. Not having the "strength to stand up or hang onto things" is serious and not normal. The kindest action is to lay her on a wet leaf so she can drink, this will ease her final days. If you had said your stick insect was resting on the side of the cage but not eating, that would be normal behaviour for a stick insect preparing to undergo a skin-change (ecdysis). But the fact she is so weak indicates this is not the situation here and she is doomed.

Our colony of stick insects has now reached twenty two and so we'll be getting another ELC cage soon. They are all Pink Winged stick insects, eighteen nymphs and the original four adults, those ones are still OK but slowing down and losing the "stick" on their feet , so we are prepared for the sadness that they're coming to the end. My question is about one of the nymphs, she's third instar but only has five legs, it's a mystery how/why she lost it. Is there time for her to regrow a useful leg?
Great to hear that you are rearing your second generation of Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). And yes, the classic symptoms of old age in this species are: loss of stickiness in their feet (the front feet are affected first), reduced activity (including flying), and darker body colouration. Sometimes a leg can be lost due to a bad skin-change, a fall, or even a scuffle with another stick insect. As the affected nymph is third instar, she has another four skin-changes to complete. The regenerated leg will be very small after the first of these skin-changes, but will increase in size and function during subsequent ones. So by the time this stick insect is adult (equivalent to seventh instar), she will have a little leg, that won't be as large as her other legs, but will have all the features of a leg and be functional.

I have kept Indian stick insects as pets for many years with them regularly laying eggs and reproducing. I understand that they are virtually always female and reproduction is parthenogenetic. I currently have one subadult that looks very different to its ‘siblings’. Much thinner and darker (bottom right in photo). Could this be a male?
Congratulations! The photo you sent is of an adult male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). He looks nice and healthy and so keep him in the same cage as the adult females, so he can mate. This happens at night. The probability of a male Indian stick insect occuring is very rare, 1 in every 10000, so look after him!

I have a female Sungaya inexpectata who I am unsure whether is suffering. She is an older insect - she would have hatched around June 2021. I noticed a few weeks ago she wasn't climbing any more, so I moved her to my tank of oldies, and she then lost her two front legs in quick succession. She is in a tank on her own with leaves and water on the ground. However, I've not seen any evidence of her eating for over a week now. She seems to take up misted water, and is opening her mouthparts as if looking for food, but doesn't seem to eat any. I've tried different food sources, tried cutting the leaves up, but nothing. Do you think she is suffering? Is it kinder to let her go?
The photo you sent shows she is an old stick insect, dying from old age. Her mouthparts are open and moving because she wants to drink water. Dying stick insects appreciate extra water to drink, so it's best to put a very shallow dish of cold tap water in front of her mouth and then gently press her head downwards so her mouth is in the water. A jam jar lid is a suitable shallow container if you don't have our Water Dish. She is not suffering, she is naturally dying, so it's best to just to ease her final days by giving her extra water to drink. Don't pester her to eat, she just wants to drink and die in peace.

I have just been listening to "Nature Table" on Radio 4, which included an item on stick insects. It was quite bizarre, mainly about sexual dimorphism and mating, talking about one species where male and female can remain joined for 79 days! Sounds unlikely?
There is a species of stick insect, Nuichua rabaeyae, from Vietnam, which is most unusual because the adults mate for months at a time. Of course it's not a precise 79 days, but it is months, indeed I currently have a pair of adults and they have been coupled for several months. One of the benefits of keeping stick insects is the enjoyment of frequently handling them. Obviously you don't want to disturb them during mating, so that is why Small-Life Supplies don't recommend keeping Nuichua rabaeyae stick insects as pets.

Is there still time to purchase an ELC stick insect cage bundle and have it delivered by Christmas? I am in Nottingham and my son is bug crazy and has been given some Sunny stick insects by his science teacher. Also, I'm in and out a lot, due to work, so what happens if I'm not in when the delivery van arrives?
Yes, ELC cages and ELC cage bundles are being dispatched nationwide throughout next week. Delivery is by a reputable 24 next-day courier and you'll be emailed the delivery tracking details so you can see the approximate time of delivery. Please let us know your "safe place" so the driver can leave your parcel there if you are not in. It is great that your son has a good science teacher who is encouraging his interest in stick insects; the "Sunny" stick insects are native to The Philippines and their Latin species name is Sungaya inexpectata. These stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves and do well in the ELC cage.

The bramble leaves have spots on, is this an issue for my stick insects?
Try to find the best quality bramble/blackberry leaves that you can to feed to your stick insects. There are different types of bramble growing wild in the UK, some types fare better through the winter than others, so it's best to try and find several sources of wild growing bramble rather than just being dependent on one location. A few spots on the bramble leaves doesn't matter, but avoid leaves that are covered in blotches, or are yellow or brown. The best leaves are dark green and look juicy rather than looking dry and thin.

Should I leave the heating on at night for our stick insects? I checked the temperature this morning when I woke up and it was only 13 degrees. It's set to be 21 degrees during the day. We have Indian stick insects and want the best for them, they are part of our family.
A night time temperature of 13 degrees Celsius is fine for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), here at Small-Life Supplies we have the night time thermostat set to 12 degrees Celsius. So you don't need to change your night time settings unless you notice it drops below 12 degrees when you check in the morning. A day time temperature of 21 degrees Celsius is OK for stick insects, we have ours a bit cooler at 18 degrees Celsius, but Indian stick insects are fine in daytime temperature range of 18-21 degrees Celsius.

Can Indian stick insects eat ivy leaves? And can I get some Indian stick insects delivered before Christmas? I'm in York.
Our Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually aren't too keen on eating ivy leaves. So it's much better to feed Indian stick insects with bramble/blackberry leaves (found in overgrown areas, woods, railway embankments, by canals). Currently the UK is forecast to experience ten days of freezing overnight temperatures which means we cannot dispatch stick insects because it is too cold for them to survive. Local same-day deliveries to parts of Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire are unaffected. Please contact Small-Life Supplies this weekend so we can advise on latest weather forecast for York, but be prepared that if it's forecast to be too cold then we are unable to supply the stick insects to you before Christmas.

We would like some stick insects for Christmas, and your ELC cage bundle as well. Please can you confirm that this cage has good visibility and isn't opaque?
The ELC cage has a crystal clear front, back and roof and so visibility is excellent. Small-Life Supplies manufacture the ELC cage in the UK to the highest standards, and indeed we use lots of ELC cages to breed stick insects for resale. To get maximum enjoyment from keeping stick insects it is essential to be able to easily see them clearly. So we wouldn't even consider producing a cage with viewing panels that were cloudy.

I've got lots of silkmoth larvae, which urgently need a larger cage. Would the ELC cage be suitable for silkmoth larvae? They are Rothschildia erycina.
Yes, you keep the young larvae in the HAP and then when they are a bit bigger you transfer them to the ELC cage. They do well in a ventilated cage and the ELC cage has two mesh sides which give a through-draught of air which is ideal for silkmoth caterpillars (larvae). The fully grown larvae spin their silk cocoons on the mesh sides of the ELC cage, or some may spin their cocoons between stems of the foodplant. The ELC cage is supplied ready made and so you can use it straight away. The caterpillars must be kept in clean surroundings and so it's really important to change the paper Liner on the floor of the ELC cage frequently.

We are so happy as our children's Indian stick insect eggs have HATCHED. Hurray. Just hatched today.  We have them in the little pot we purchased from you. Can you kindly remind us what next? I can't locate the document that came with the breeding pot. A lot of joy here!
Congratulations on your baby stick insects! They need a wet bramble leaf, so place this in the HAP pot. It's best to slant the leaf in the HAP, the correct side up, so the top of the leaf is wet. Baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are thirsty and need to drink from the water droplets on top of the leaf. Every few days replace this leaf with a fresh wet bramble (blackberry) leaf. After about six weeks or so, the Indian stick insects will be much larger and when they have a total body length (including outstretched front legs) of 3.5cm they can be transferred to the ELC cage.

Can you ship live walking sticks/stick insects or stick insect eggs to the US?
No, because the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) prohibits the import of non-native insects and eggs, and so that is why Small-Life Supplies does not export livestock or eggs to the USA. None of the stick insects we breed are native to the US, they are tropical species, native to India, Thailand, Australia, Madagascar etc (although of course we take none from the wild but instead have been captive breeding them here in the UK for decades). So you'd need to source a local breeder in your state in the US. There are some native American stick insects, the Diapheromera femorata make suitable pets, but the Anisomorpha buprestoides (the Florida stick insect) should be avoided at all costs because it is a dangerous stick insect that can cause temporary blindness in people and pets with its harmful chemical spray!

The stick insect enclosure needs to be tall, right? It makes me sad that some people are still flogging 30cm or even 25cm high tanks.
A tall cage (46cm or 18") is essential for the successful rearing of stick insects. This is because stick insects slide vertically downwards out of their old skins and so need lots of height to be able to do this properly. The ELC cage, which is manufactured in the UK by Small-Life Supplies, is 51cm high and so provides plenty of height for stick insects to grow successfully. It is cruel to house stick insects in squat tanks because their surroundings are too cramped and this results in deformed stick insects which have curved bodies instead of straight bodies.

We are so pleased with our Indian stick insects and equipment bought from you, thank you. Just wondering if you recommend a form of heat pad/lamp suitable for the cage? My daughters bedroom is pretty cold.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do well if the daytime temperature is 18-21 degrees Celsius during the day and no lower than 12 degrees Celsius at night. So you could measure the temperature in the bedroom to check if it is too cold. If it is, then you could relocate the stick insects and ELC cage to a warmer room in your home. Or, if your daughter wants to carry on keeping stick insects in her bedroom, then an additional heat source will be needed. Heat pads and lamps are best avoided because they can dry up the foliage in the cage (and may also distort the plastic panels in the ELC cage). A much better heat source is a portable 500 Watt oil-filled radiator. Just plug this into a wall socket approximately 50cm from the white mesh side of the ELC cage. The 500 Watt oil-filled radiator emits a gentle warmth and is safe, effective, and economical to use. More powerful versions are available, but the 500 watt model works best for a cage of stick insects. UK nationwide delivery is available, here is the link: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/heaters-radiators/7126073.

Our son has just been diagnosed as having ASD and we're wondering if stick insects make good pets for children with autism? He's always the first to notice any spiders!
Yes, interacting with pet stick insects reduces anxiety which is advantageous to all, especially those with autism. It's great that your son is already interested in the natural world and keeping stick insects will give him an opportunity to engage with stick insects and learn more about them and insects in general. If he excels at paying attention to detail, he will enjoy examining the stick insects, their shed skins (exuviae) and their eggs.

Our class had a vote on a new school pet and giant silkmoths was the winner! Unfortunately the school budget is so very tight, I am really hoping you may be able to help us out a bit? We'd like the ELC cage bundle and some of the caterpillars of the Indian Eri silkmoth. Fortunately we have a big privet hedge by the school car park, so feeding them will be easy!
The ELC cage is great for housing the medium-sized and large Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini). The students can watch the fully grown caterpillars spin their silk cocoons on the sides of the ELC cage. And when the giant adult silkmoths emerge, the females will glue their eggs on the white mesh sides of the cage. You can save £12 if you request an ELC bundle that is "grade B", the items are still brand new, but there are some scratches which is why the discount has been applied. Please phone 01733 203358 to check availability of the "grade B" ELC bundles.

How many stick insects should we start with? Also, we'd like Indian ones and my daughter wants to know if they are all identical clones, how she can give them names?
A pack of four Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is a good number to start with, Small-Life Supplies deliver nationwide and you'll receive four adult stick insects. When we send them, we always try to include ones that look slightly different so you can easily tell them apart. So they are slightly different sizes and vary in colour, most are green, but others can be light brown. And of course their behaviours are different, some individuals are very lively, others less so. Indian stick insects reproduce by parthenogenesis which means most females lay eggs (without mating first) and these eggs hatch into more females. Male Indian stick insects are extremely rare (1 male for every 10000 females). So it is incorrect to think Indian stick insects are clones. The best housing for Indian stick insects is the ELC cage which has been purpose designed for stick insects and has been manufactured in the UK for the last ten years, so is being widely used successfully across the UK.

The baby Giant African Land Snails that we got from you are doing really great, they are super cute and it's so calming to watch them sliding around. I was walking the dog earlier today and noticed some lush dandelion leaves on the verge. It's my regular dog walking route so I'm wondering next time if I should I pick a leaf for our snails?
Yes, young Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) like eating fresh dandelion leaves. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we give our snails fresh dandelion leaves and they eat them straight away! When you have picked your leaf, remember to hold it under a running tap of cold tap water for about a minute to wash off any animal urine or dirt particles. And only pick one leaf per week because this will encourage the dandelion plant to grow more leaves. It is a mistake to take too many leaves at once because this overwhelms the dandelion plant and it responds by producing very small leaves. We have found that the snails prefer to eat the larger dandelion leaves and so it is best to harvest dandelion leaves very sparingly.

I've got some spare time and would like to do something constructive to help the environment. I support direct action but wouldn't want to put myself at risk of being arrested, so I am hoping you may be able to suggest something less dramatic that I could do but that would make a difference. I live in Cambridgeshire, UK.
There is an effective movement to stop pesticide usage in the UK, especially aimed at councils that routinely spray pesticides over paths and verges. For more details in your area see: https://www.pesticidefreecambridge.org This organisation asks Cambridge City and County councils to "get herbicides off our streets". Using reasoned argument and fact based evidence, they have had some notable successes in this endeavour in recent years, and continue to be pro-active to promote more nature and better health for people.

Does the ELC cage come in a larger size?
No, so the dimensions of the ELC cage are: Height 51cm, 20". Width 36.5cm, 14½" and Depth 27.5cm, 10¾".The ELC cage is the perfect size for most commonly kept species of stick insect, including Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). And remember that correct ventilation is key to keeping your stick insects healthy, and the ELC cage has been designed with the optimum ventilation. Here at Small-Life Supplies we use lots of ELC cages to breed our stick insects successfully.

I would like to purchase stick insects for Christmas. How do I do this?
Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 or email cindi@small-life.co.uk to arrange this. Most people choose the ELC bundle and a set of four Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), but we are happy to offer further advice if needed. For example if you wanted to add a couple of Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) to live with the Indian stick insects in the same ELC cage, that combination works well.

What detergent should I use to clean the ELC cage? Would Fairy Liquid be OK?
Fairy Liquid is OK for removing minor stains, but you'll need something stronger for more stubborn stains. Here at Small-Life Supplies we use diluted bleach on both the clear plastic panels and the white mesh plastic panels. It is very important to check the temperature of the water to make sure that you only use lukewarm water or cold water. This is because hot water will permanently distort the plastic panels. Use the soft Cleaning Sponge (supplied as part of the ELC bundle) to wash the ELC cage. Always rinse well with cold tap water and dry with a soft cotton tea towel.

Please can you update us on the status of the giant silkmoth caterpillars? My daughter has been wanting some for ages!
The good news is that our latest generation of giant Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini) is now up to size and ready to be dispatched next week. We wait until the caterpillars have changed colour from green to white because this is the stage at which they are robust and can travel safely. These caterpillars eat fresh green privet leaves and will grow dramatically over the next few weeks. Details will be added to the website within the next few days.

What stick insects is the ELC cage for?
The ELC cage is suitable for many of the commonly kept species of stick insect including the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus), Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii), New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)... and many more. However if you have extremely long stick insects, for example the 28cm long North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina), then the ELC cage is only suitable for their nymphs (immature insects) and you'd need the taller AUC cage to accommodate the very long adults.

My 13 y.o. son would love some stick insects as pets. I guess Indian stick insects would be a good starter type? Can we add another species too, or is it best to stick with one type? We'll be getting your ELC bundle as it looks the business!
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are highly recommended, they are easy to handle and feed (they eat bramble/blackberry) leaves, and thrive in the ELC cage. There is room in the ELC cage to add another species, the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are a popular choice because they are very lively. Or the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are a pretty variety that can actually fly a few metres when they are fully grown and have their wings. They all eat bramble/blackberry leaves and live together happily. More details of all these species are in the book, "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd, and all are suitable for a thirteen year old who wants to look after his stick insects properly.

Do I need to buy a fan? I would like to get some Pink Winged stick insects and have been told they need through draught ventilation. Also, do you sell the winged adults?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do best if housed in a stick insect cage with two full mesh sides opposite each other, because this enables natural through draught ventilation. So no, a fan is not needed. The ELC cage has two full mesh sides (these are not flimsy fabric but strong plastic with specially made holes), these walls are opposite each other, so the ELC cage is the ideal enclosure for Pink Winged stick insects (and many other species of stick insect too!). Small-Life Supplies breeds and sells Pink Winged stick insects, they are sold in packs of two. Pink Winged stick insects get their wings as adults but stick insects with wings get stressed easily and so we do not dispatch adult Pink Winged stick insects. Instead, only the Pink Winged stick insect nymphs (immature insects) are available for nationwide delivery. You can request medium-sized or large nymphs (they are the same price), the latter will have their wings in a few weeks time. Live arrival is guaranteed.

Have you read Cambridge University's research (Gillis) on colour change on Andaman Island stick insects (Sceptrophasma hispidulum)? Have you observed this too?
Yes, that work was done a couple of years ago and records that species of stick insect darken in colour at night after 9pm. The colour change is completed within the hour. The experiment showed that the colour change was due to changes in light conditions and is not due to circadian control. Here at Small-Life Supplies when we have been working late, we have noticed that some species of stick insect change colour at night too. The degree to which the stick insects darken depends on the species, the colour change in the Malaysian stick insect Heteropteryx dilatata, being really pronounced.

Our stick insects really are so interesting to watch, especially the Thailand ones. We’ve got lots of eggs - the Indian ones are easy to spot, I think the Thailand eggs are sort of longer and flatter? It would be nice to hatch some nymphs in the HAP but I wasn’t sure how many to save as I don’t want to be overrun!
Yes, eggs of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are round and brown, whereas eggs of Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are longer and flatter and are an irregular shape. The hatching success of eggs of both species is very high and so it's important not to save too many eggs. A good tip to encourage successful hatching of the Thailand stick insect eggs is to add some stick insect frass (poo/droppings) into the HAP containing the eggs. Don't do this with the Indian stick insect eggs, they will hatch successfully if stored in the HAP with nothing else added. On average, Thailand stick insect eggs hatch after two months and Indian stick insect eggs hatch after four months.

How often should I clean out my stick insects?
Stick insects should be kept in clean surroundings and the easiest way to achieve this is to replace the ELC cage Liner every week. This also provides the ideal opportunity to save a few of the stick insect eggs (and dispose of any unwanted eggs). Once a month it is a good idea to wipe down the clear viewing panels on the ELC cage using the soft Cleaning Sponge and lukewarm or cold soapy water. Rinse well with cold tap water and dry the cage with a soft cotton tea towel.

Earlier this year my stick insect died unexpectedly and now I realise it was probably because I fed her with fresh bramble shoots. I've got another stick insect now and don't want to repeat this mistake, so please tell me how I know when the bramble is safe to eat?
The issue of the fresh bramble shoots occurs in Springtime when the old bramble leaves die back to make way for the new bramble shoots. Although these small pale green soft bramble leaves look tempting, they are best avoided because they can contain toxins that can harm stick insects. So always pull off these new shoots and give your stick insect the older dark green leaves instead (even if they look past their best). The problem resolves itself in a few weeks because when the new bramble leaves have grown to a length of 3cm they are safe for the stick insects to eat. It is always best to have multiple locations of wild growing bramble/blackberry bushes because they all grow at slightly different rates, making it easier for you to harvest suitable leaves.

I’ve got some adult Indian stick insects in an ELC cage. There are 5 in there, and they’re definitely getting up there in age; we’ve already got a lot of eggs from them sitting in HAPs. It’s now quite late at night and quiet, and I’m stood in my kitchen where the stick insects live. I started hearing the occasional tiny crashing noise. I looked in the tank and the stick insects are being very active, walking around. But the little crashes are them falling off of the clear plastic or mesh and landing on the floor! They don’t seem too bothered by it, and just get back up and carry on. Is this normal? Could it be an indication that I’m doing something wrong, or that they’re coming towards the end of their lives?
Stick insects have claws and sticky pads on their feet and as they age, their sticky pads become less effective, resulting in increased falls amongst elderly stick insects due to loss of grip. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live for approximately one year and can show signs of deteriorating grip during the last weeks of their lives. Very old stick insects are also more thirsty than younger adults, so it would be a good idea to mist the bramble (blackberry) leaves a bit more generously during the next couple of weeks. Indian stick insects like to have a drink in the late afternoon/early evening and so that is the best time to mist the leaves lightly with cold tap water from the Mister Swivel. Don't over spray though (you'll know if you are spraying too much water because the ELC Liner will start to curl up).

We really enjoyed your YouTube video about the fast moving Buff Ermine caterpillar! We have a checklist of caterpillars but we've never seen one of these before (we live in Bedford).
Yes, this action video is our most popular one so far! The caterpillars featured in it went on to become lovely pale yellow furry British Buff Ermine Moths (Spilosoma lutea). Their eggs have now hatched into the next generation of fast moving furry caterpillars. The original caterpillars ate ragwort leaves, but this generation seems less fussy and is eating buddleia leaves as well. The populations of different species of butterfly and moth vary considerably from year to year and it looks like 2022 was a good year for Buff Ermine Moths, indeed it was the first time I have ever seen them.

Where can I get stick insects for Christmas?
You can order stick insects from Small-Life Supplies now and ask for delivery nearer to Christmas. Most Christmas orders are dispatched the third week in December and it's highly recommended to order early. Stick insects are easy to look after and so it's easy to hide them and look after them in the ELC stick insect cage until you gift them on Christmas Day.

I was watching cBBC's Newsround with my grandson and they featured a young man from the museum to answer a question sent in by a young viewer asking why do trees live so long? I was surprised at his answer, saying that it was all to do with lifespans and oak trees live for 500-1000 years because they are not eaten? And then he showed a massive shark (or whale?) saying they had long lifespans because nothing would want to eat them either! And then he said insects only live a few days because they are eaten, all this whilst cartoon spiders were walking in the background! Your thoughts please.
The answer is to do with how different plants and animals (which include insects) have evolved. Some plants have short lifespans, indeed many gardeners will be familiar with "annuals" which means the plant only lives one year, whereas "perennials" keep going year after year. Some trees, like oak trees, have very long lifespans of hundreds of years, but it is incorrect to say they are not eaten. One oak tree is home to hundreds of species of insect (approx 500 species) and of course these insects eat the leaves and suck the sap. The point is that the tree has evolved to withstand these onslaughts (by having fine tuned its metabolism). There are fundamental differences between insects and spiders, the two most obvious being number of legs and number of body divisions - insects have six legs and a body divided into three, whereas spiders have eight legs and two main body parts. So it's misleading to feature cartoon spiders if someone is talking about insects. There are colossal numbers of insect species and these have evolved to survive in many different ways. Many common insects (such as greenbottle flies) live for a few weeks. Many butterflies and moths live for a few months (remember that these insects have to grow as caterpillars and then metamorphosise within their pupae before emerging as winged adults). Many stick insects live at least one year, indeed the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) often lives for three years.

I read in "new scientist" magazine that the Australian millipede, Eumillipes persephone, has 1306 legs. I googled for more info and it says this millipede lives underground. I have a giant Congo millipede and it rests on the wall of the cage. I haven't counted but I don't think it has a thousand legs!
The giant millipedes kept as pets include the Giant Congo millipede. These are classified as belonging to the order Spirostripdita and grow to 18cm long! Small-Life Supplies used to breed these giant millipedes and found they liked to climb, and I have seen millipedes in the wild resting vertically high up on tree trunks too. Most millipedes don't have a thousand legs, and the males have fewer legs than the females (their mating apparatus replaces where the missing legs would be). The Australian millipede you mention is newsworthy because it does actually have over one thousand legs!

Precocious puberty in phasmids? My five month old Sungaya inexpectata nymph seems to have a large ovipositor at the end of her tail, despite the fact that she is not yet fully grown. In contrast, her mother didn't have an ovipositor until the age of eight months. This seems like very unusual behaviour, especially since she was produced by parthenogenesis. Is this normal? Is this her maximum size? Will she ever lay fertile eggs? I'll attach a picture.
It is normal for the ovipositor to be obvious in the female nymphs of some species of stick insect, including the Sabah stick insect (Aretaon asperrimus), New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), and the Philippine stick insect (Sungaya inexpectata). The Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) is very unusual because the ovipositor is obvious in the first instar which means this species can be sexed from birth. But for the other species, it becomes more obvious at later instars, so as the stick insects grow it becomes obvious what gender they are. There is natural variation amongst the size of the ovipositors within a species of stick insect. Looking at your photo, I can see that your current Sungaya inexpectata nymph has a perfect ovipositor that is not deformed, so she will be fine and there is no cause for concern. Perhaps your original female damaged her ovipositor when young which is why it only became noticeable when she much older and had been able to grow it back. (Or it is possible she might have just had an ovipositor that was naturally smaller than average).

I am so glad I have found a UK supplier of clip cages for aphids. Our purchasing department has a "Socially Responsible Procurement Policy" and so please confirm I can say that these Clip Cages are produced in the UK by a small business.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies manufacture Clip Cages in the UK. These Clip Cages are being used for aphid research outdoors. Our Clip Cages only weigh 8g so are lightweight and have been designed so they clip over a leaf containing aphids with minimal damage to the leaf. The three point fixing system prevents escapees and the clear viewing areas enable easy observation of the contents.

Can I keep Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects together?
Yes, both species live together happily in the ELC stick insect cage. The Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eats bramble (blackberry) leaves and so does the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus). The ELC stick insect cage easily accommodates four of each type of stick insect (they do best in small groups) and both species are easy to breed, so you can look forward to hatching a few eggs of the next generation.

There's a weird insect on my wall, it is T shaped and cream. I attach a photo. Could it be a stick insect? I live in Derby (UK).
No, it's not a stick insect, it is a Plume Moth. These are British moths that look very distinctive because they rest with their wings tightly folded up, sticking out at right angles to the body. We have uploaded a photo of a British Plume Moth on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, because this question is being asked a lot at the moment! You won't see stick insects living wild in Derby because it is far too cold for them to survive outdoors in the Midlands. There are some stick insects that have naturalised populations in the far South West of the UK, those stick insects arrived on cargo ships from New Zealand in the early 1900s and have become established there. These stick insect species are Acanthoxyla prasina and the smoother bodied Acanthoxyla inermis.

I keep reading that females of sexual species of phasmids that revert to parthenogenetic reproduction when no males are present, can only lay eggs that will only hatch into females. But is this correct? Even species known to be primarily parthenogenetic, such as Carausius morosus and Sipyloidea sipylus can produce males.
I have changed my view on this, based on personal communications from trusted individuals who have studied and reared females of Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) with no males ever present. Although the vast majority of their parthenogenetically produced eggs hatch into females (as expected) there are occasional males too! And you are correct in highlighting that occasional males occur in cultures of stick insects that normally reproduce by parthenogenesis. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we have a really rare male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) at the moment, but it has been years since we have witnessed a male Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) in our breeding stocks (male Pink Winged stick insects are even rarer than male Indian stick insects).

I have never seen an adult male Indian stick insect and I was wondering how often you see them in your breeding programmes and what kind of price one would fetch alive?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed large numbers of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and only very occasionally see an adult male. The published estimate of 1 male for every 10000 females is approximately correct. The male Indian stick insect has a slim body, is tan, has a red underside to the thorax and two red sloping marks on top of the thorax. His antennae are longer and he is hyperactive. His green genitalia are not visible until just before (and during) mating with a female. We are delighted to have one Indian male stick insect at the moment, but because he is so rare, he is priceless and so is not for sale!

My daughter wants some stick insects for school and I've been tasked with looking at the different housing options. I don't want glass but I don't want flimsy netting either. I am very tempted by the ELC cage. Would this be suitable for a school environment? They are year 6.
Year 6 equates to 10 and 11 year olds in England, at key stage 2. The ELC stick insect cage has been in production for the last ten years and lots of primary schools in the UK are successfully keeping stick insects in ELC stick insect cages. So this is an excellent choice for your daughter. The ELC cage is supplied ready assembled and so can be used straight away. And the stick insects can be sent at the same time, to minimise on delivery costs.

I got back from work today to find my miserable neighbour has cut the tops off my bramble plants and thrown the cuttings over my fence! My plants had been doing really well and had recently just gone over the top of the 6ft fence. He must have reached over the fence to do this, that is not OK is it?
The recent rain in the UK has caused the bramble (blackberry) plants to have a surge in growth, resulting in lush green leaves and tall stems. Growing your own bramble outside by a fence is an excellent way to ensure you have a convenient back-up food supply for your stick insects. However, some neighbours do not like plants growing over the boundary into their garden space. The law in England allows such people to cut any overhanging stems, providing they return the cut stems (otherwise it is classed as "theft"!). So, if any of your bramble was swaying over the fence boundary, your neighbour has the legal right to cut them off and throw them back to you. However he has no legal right to reach over the boundary and enter your garden space without your permission, so I would certainly challenge him on that if you ever spot him doing that. Meanwhile, your bramble plants will be OK, but I'd recommend you keep a better check on them and be ready to snip off and use any extra tall bits before they encroach on your neighbour's space!

I'm still avoiding public events due to COVID concerns, but am managing to catch up a bit with what's going on by watching YouTube videos posted by people who have been able to turn up. The shows don't seem very busy though, either with stands or visitors. My question is which is the next insect show you are exhibiting at?
Small-Life Supplies are participating at the Cambridge natural history event on 24th November 2022. This is an on-line event, with a wide range of exhibits promoting the natural world.

Do stick insects wash?
Yes, stick insects wash their antennae. This is because stick insects' antennae are full of sensory hairs which convey information about the surroundings to the brain of the stick insect. So it is essential that the antennae are kept clean so they can input the data properly. A stick insect washes one antenna at a time by passing it through its wet mouth, using it's front foot to guide the antenna. Occasionally feet are washed in a similar manner. Stick insects don't wash other parts of their bodies. However if the stick insect has lots of granules of soil or sand on its body it will climb into a shallow dish of water to rid itself of this dirt.

Can I buy just one Indian stick insect for my son? It would be his first pet.
It is not recommended to keep a stick insect by itself. This is because stick insects like company of their own kind and often rest together in groups in the ELC stick insect cage. So Small-Life Supplies sell Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in packs of four. Indian stick insects would be a good choice for your son, these stick insects are easy to look after, they eat bramble/blackberry leaves, and are suitable for handling.

I take it that Pink Winged stick insects actually fly? How easy is it to get them back again?
Yes, adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) fly and it is a good idea to take them out of the ELC cage and let them fly across the room about once a week. Some Pink Winged stick insects are keener to fly than others, so you need to adjust the flying schedule accordingly! The flight is relatively slow (much slower than a budgie) and the Pink Winged stick insect usually lands on the wall. It is easy to scoop the stick insect from the wall and put her back in the ELC stick insect cage. Stick insects are usually thirsty after flying and so remember to lightly mist the bramble (blackberry) leaves with cold tap water so the stick insect can have a drink.

We are enjoying our new pets, Indian stick insects, named Lucy, Ella, Kelly and Daisy. My son, Kieron, who's eight, loves having them walk up his sleeve! Anyways, today Ella fell off his elbow and landed on the floor (the right way up, fortunately!) and when I scooped her up, there was orange liquid from her mouth, is this stick insect sick? And will she be OK? She seems fine but I'm new to this so can't be sure!
I am glad your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are settling into their new home and Kieron is enjoying handling them. In the wild, stick insects sometimes fall off twigs and branches, and these stick insects have evolved to land on their feet, so they can quickly run away to safety. If they are startled, Indian stick insects also have another defence which is to exude an orange liquid form their mouths. So this is not sick, but a defensive fluid that the stick insect can quickly release from her mouth, as necessary. Ella has recovered from her fall and so there is no cause for further concern.

Will Small-Life Supplies be at any invert events this year? I could do with another ELC cage.
Unfortunately the "invert" (invertebrate) shows in the UK are now almost exclusively full of spider related stands, and so do not attract visitors interested in stick insects and caterpillars. So no, Small-Life Supplies is not exhibiting at these events this year. Small-Life Supplies continues to dispatch ELC stick insect cages daily to customers across mainland UK. And if you are looking for a real bargain, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to see if there are any used ELC cages available, these are in very good condition and are cut-price!

Some of my snail eggs have hatched, I've counted ten so far. They are super cute. Do I feed them the same as their parents? Or do they need extra nutrition? They are Giant East African Land Snails.
Here at Small-Life Supplies we start our baby Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) off by feeding them potato peelings. Then after a week, we add carrot peelings, and after another week introduce courgette and rinsed out hen eggshells (an excellent source of calcium). It's important to ensure the peelings are fresh because mould (and flies) soon appear on rotting food and snails should not be exposed to these. As the snails grow, other food (such as marrow, dandelion, red pepper, sweet potato, pear) can be added to their diet, because studies have shown that a varied diet promotes a nicely patterned shell. But in the first few weeks, it's best to stick with potato, carrot and courgette, and the rinsed out hen eggshells.

Please can you tell me how long it's likely to take to have 6 of your new Insect Observation Cages made to order? The lab trial is scheduled to start in November and so I need to know if it's feasible to expect delivery before then? I know some factories are experiencing hold ups with components.
Small-Life Supplies have all the components for our new small Insect Observation Cages in stock. The lead time on producing six of these new Insect Observation Cages is currently two weeks. The cages are then dispatched for next day delivery. Please note that we require payment with order, and sometimes this is where delays can occur, for example if Small-Life Supplies is not already on your approved supplier list, or if your finance department is slow at paying pro-forma invoices. So it's helpful if you can liaise directly with your finance department and stress the urgency for prompt payment. You can then rest assured you will receive the cages ahead of the start date of the lab trial.

On the bottom of my stick insect cage should I use paper like normal drawing paper or tissue paper?
Drawing paper or copier paper or A4 refill pad paper are all suitable. Tissue paper is too thin. Avoid kitchen roll because it's too absorbent and dries up the surroundings. Pre-cut ELC Liners fit the ELC stick insect cage and are available in three colour options: blue, pink and green.

With prices rising, could I pay for a ELC stick insect cage bundle now and request delivery just before Christmas? I live in Harpenden and this would be a perfect gift for my sister who is wanting a better enclosure for her Pink Winged stick insects.
The ELC stick insect cage is ideal housing for Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). All orders are dispatched quickly, within days, and so if you ordered the ELC stick insect cage bundle next week, you would receive it well before the end of September. So you'd need to store it at your home until gifting it to your sister at Christmas. It is not possible to purchase at today's prices and request delivery three months later. This is because high inflation means our manufacturing and logistical costs keep on increasing, so it is inevitable that our prices will increase between now and Christmas.

I'm considering getting New Guinea or Thailand stick insects but I sometimes go and stay with my mum for a week at a time. Unless she can pick me up, I'd be walking for 20 mins to get a bus for 40 minutes, and I was wondering about the options of leaving them alone for a week or possibly taking them with me on the bus in a box and then putting them in another ELC. Do either of these breeds cope well with being carried around and moved into a different home? Are New Guinea ones likely to becomes upset/aggressive by any changes such as moving around and not being handled for a week?
The ELC cage is delivered in a large strong box and you can use this box repeatedly to transport the ELC cage. Just put a bungee around the box because this makes it easy to carry on public transport, providing of course it's not too busy. Both Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are fine being carried around, ideally transported in the large ELC cage (instead of a small box). This is what we do when we have to transport stick insects by public transport. For the twenty minute walk, you can use another bungee to strap the box to a lightweight fold up luggage trolley, it is much easier to transport the box on wheels rather than carry it. New Guinea stick insect adults often mate after a car journey, so if you choose this species, expect your adult female to be very fat with eggs! It is also important that the stick insects don't get too cold for too long, so if you turn your heating down when you are away from home, that would be another reason not to leave your stick insects home alone.

Do Pink Winged stick insects fly fast?
No, adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) fly slowly. They fly angling their bodies at approximately 45 degrees and with a more or less horizontal flight path, so usually land on a wall. When the stick insect lands, it is best to put her back in the ELC cage so she doesn't overtire. The Pink Winged stick insects that Small-Life Supplies send out are medium-sized nymphs (immature insects) so they do not have their wings yet (although you can see the prominent wing buds developing on their thorax). However, after a few weeks, these stick insects will have completed more skin changes and will be fully grown. It's usually a couple of weeks after their last skin change that the Pink Winged stick insects are ready for their maiden flight. Further advice on this is in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd, together with illustrations showing the tell tale sign that flight is imminent!

We are so thrilled because Nessun and Dorma, our two Giant African Land Snails, have both laid their first clutch of eggs! How long do we need to wait till they hatch?
Congratulations! Our Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) eggs are hatching more quickly than usual at the moment, because the surrounding temperature is warmer than usual. So ours are hatching after sixteen days. It's important to keep the eggs moist, so store them in the HAP and mix in with some damp soil. It's really obvious when the baby snails hatch because the white eggshell falls away to reveal a pale brown snail, the same size as the white egg. Feed the baby snails with potato and carrot peelings and after a few weeks transfer them to the SPONG and add rinsed out hen eggshells because these provide calcium which the snails need to consume to grow properly. When the snails have outgrown the SPONG they should be transferred to the HLQ cage. This has special easy to clean panels so the snail slime can be washed off easily, leaving your snail display looking nice.

My son (age 13 and a budding entrepreneur!) would like to sell his surplus stick insects locally and would like to offer a complete package, including the proper caging. We already use your ELC stick insect cages and wondered if you offered these at a reduced price for re-sale?
ELC stick insect cages are manufactured in the UK and production costs are high, so unfortunately Small-Life Supplies cannot offer trade discounts on new cages. However, from time to time, we do sell used ELC cages at a reduced price, these cages have been cleaned and are dispatched fully assembled in the same bespoke packaging that we use to send the new cages (so you can rest assured they will be delivered safely). The used ELC cages always sell out really quickly, but we will have some available in the next few days, so please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 if you're interested. Happy to email you photos of the cages too, just ask for these when you call. Delivery is £9.96 for 1-2 cages, and £12.96 for 3-4 cages (provided they are all sent together to the same address in mainland UK, excluding Scottish Highlands).

Please help me with a uni question! "Give an example of how insects can adapt to extreme cold in a more effective manner than mammals".
Some insect eggs can adapt very well to extreme cold, effectively stopping development whilst the cold temperatures persist and restarting development when the outside temperature warms up. Some stick insects behave in this manner, with their eggs being able to survive extremely cold temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius. This strategy keeps the eggs alive in extreme cold and allows the eggs to develop and hatch only when it is warm enough for the baby stick insects (nymphs) to survive.

This is an emergency. I have some Carausius morosus nymphs dying from what looks like a fungal infection. These are the symptoms: large black spots around the body, which causes body parts to fall off; extreme fatigue; what looks like a small mushroom growing out of terminal segment; then when the blackness spreads so much that the insect loses its colour, a very slow and painful death. Now I noticed that my male Heteropteryx dilatata’s reason for being tired lately was that he was infected. I am really upset and worried that he will pass it on to his very special girlfriend, the female, who is the best creature in my life. Please tell me what this terrible infection is and how to cure it quickly.
The fungal infection in the cage has been caused by the humidity in the cage being too high. It should not smell damp. You need to urgently reduce the humidity. So you should: reduce the spraying of water on the leaves, reduce the number of bramble leaves in there, ensure there is paper on the floor of the cage (and not soil/earth), and position the cage so that there is air-flow through both sides (so check that the cage is not jammed up against a wall). But before doing all of this, you need to wash the cage with lukewarm soapy water, rinse it well with cold water and dry it thoroughly with a soft tea towel.

It looks like we'll be turning our heating down this autumn, so we can pay our gas bills. So notching it down from 24 to 22 degrees. My daughter's birthday is in November and she's been asking for Pink Winged stick insects for months, so we don't want to disappoint her. Will we need any extra heating for the stick insects?
22 degrees Celsius is plenty warm enough for keeping Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) successfully, indeed it is above the daytime temperature range of 18 -21 degrees Celsius that is recommended. So no, you won't need to provide any extra warmth for your stick insects, they will be fine in your home. Assuming you switch your heating off at night and your home has standard insulation, the night time temperature should not drop below 12 degrees Celsius, which is the recommended night time temperature for stick insects. The stick insects we breed here at Small-Life Supplies are reared at a daytime temperature of 18 -21 degrees Celsius and night time temperature of 12+ degrees Celsius.

I’ve set the ELC bundle all up and it looks great. When they shed will they hang on the side or will I need to add some mesh under the lid?
Stick insects prefer to shed their skins by hanging on the mesh side of the ELC cage and sliding downwards. This is because the stick insect knows it's much safer for it to shed its skin like this. Sliding downwards alongside the mesh wall of the cage offers far more protection than loosely dangling in the air (which is what would happen if it chose to shed from the lid). So please don't modify the ELC cage, it has been designed correctly for stick insects! Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed large numbers of stick insects in our ELC cages.

Is there more than one species of stick insect originating from Thailand?
Yes, there are several species of stick insect originating from Thailand. They have different Latin species names and the common British name often has a descriptive term. For example the "Thailand Marbled" is Parapachymorpha zomproi, the "Thailand Miniature" is Parapachymorpha spinosa, the "Thailand Straight " is Phaenopharos herwaardeni, the "New Thailand" is Baculum sp, the "Thailand Winged" is Sipyloidea sp, and the "Thailand" is Baculum thaii. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have reared them all and they are all featured in the classic stick insect "Collector Card" set. Currently, we are still rearing the Thailand stick insects and the New Thailand stick insects, both are easy to keep and eat bramble/blackberry leaves.

I have four Indian stick insects and they started producing eggs in June. I thought I'd let them get some practice in making eggs before I started saving any, so I waited till 14th July 2022 and then saved some. I was amazed today to see eight babies! How come they have hatched so quickly? Is this crazy hot weather responsible? My room has been about 28 degrees for weeks and regularly above 20 degrees at night, I'm in Ely (UK).
Indian (Carausius morosus) stick insect eggs usually take four months to hatch (at 18-21 degrees Celsius daytime temperature), but this time can be reduced to three months if the surrounding temperature is warmer. Here in the UK, we have experienced very hot outside day and night temperatures for weeks and this is responsible for reducing the incubation time even further if these eggs are stored in rooms that remain hot (like your room). Your Indian stick insects will continue to lay eggs throughout their (seven month) adult lives. The unprecedented hot spell is now over and so it is likely that if you save some of their eggs later in the year, these will develop as normal, so for example, eggs collected in November 2022 should hatch after four months, in March 2023.

I am very keen to begin keeping Stick Insects. I have access to Brambles for their food, but I also have a variety of small tree - ‘Contorted Hazel.’ Would this also be a safe source of food?
I'd recommend you start by keeping Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) because these are easy to look after and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and hazel leaves. The hazel leaves we use here at Small-Life Supplies are harvested from trees known in the UK as the "Common Hazel", Corylus avellana. These leaves are very large and flat, so are easy for the stick insects to eat. The "Contorted Hazel" has smaller leaves that are curled and so will be more difficult for the stick insects to eat. This is because Indian stick insects eat a leaf by cutting a small semi circle from the edge of the leaf and then repeat the cutting action on this same area, enlarging the area of leaf removed each time. So although it would be safe to feed your Indian stick insects with contorted hazel leaves (providing of course that you have had the plant for at least one year so the pesticides in the soil are no longer active), the Indian stick insects would prefer to eat common hazel or bramble (blackberry) leaves simply because of their flat shape.

My Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs are finally hatching! I've got several in the HAP with some fresh eucalyptus leaves, but I have a couple of questions. I'm getting the leaves from a big tree outside, and there are different sizes of leaf, which size is best for the babies? Are the small leaves toxic like the small bramble leaves? And I've only got one HAP so if I get loads of babies, would I be best to get some more HAPs or could I put them with their old mum in the ELC cage (she's moved over to eating bramble).
Congratulations! You are doing the right thing by housing the baby Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) in the HAP and feeding them exclusively on eucalyptus leaves. For best results, choose small tender young eucalyptus leaves. These are safe to eat by the babies (called first instar nymphs). The leaves should not be wet. Getting more HAPs would be the best option. At Small-Life Supplies, we always start rearing our young Macleays Spectre stick insects in HAPs with eucalyptus leaves. After a couple of months we transfer them to the ELC cage and only at that stage do we introduce bramble (blackberry) leaves and Photinia into the cage.

We ordered 4 young adult Indian stick insects from Small Life Supplies, and a ELC cage and pack. It arrived yesterday. We put in fresh bramble as instructed and removed the sticky covering on the top and sides. They seemed fine but this morning, one fell off a branch and hasn’t moved since. We are concerned she has died. They are my son’s, who is 9. And he is quite upset so I just wanted to get advice from you.
There is no need to be concerned, the photo you have emailed indicates that the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) that has fallen off the branch is just in her defensive mode. When an Indian stick insect is nervous, she rapidly clamps all her legs alongside her body, falls to the ground and remains motionless for many hours. Indian stick insects usually take about a week to settle into their new surroundings. Your son can help his Indian stick insects to relax by talking to them in a calm voice (their ears are by their knees). Over the next few weeks as he handles them, his stick insects will learn to recognise him (through the sensory pads in their feet). Assuming he is a kind boy who likes his stick insects and is gentle when handling them, his stick insects should soon be active and walking confidently across his hands. The instances of them falling down and going into "straight sticks" will be much reduced, but may occur if there is a loud noise or if the ELC cage is accidentally jolted.

I would like to buy the elc cage for stick insects but can't check out on the payment link.
The payment link is for deliveries to mainland UK only, I can see that you live in Australia and so that is why it isn't working. Unfortunately the cost of shipping one ELC cage to Australia is much more expensive than the £9.96 (Great British Pounds) shipping cost within the UK. The shipping cost to the other side of the world is very high (more than the price of the cage) because of the huge physical distance between UK and Australia. However, despite this, Small-Life Supplies does send some ELC cages to Australia. So if you are prepared to pay the high shipping cost, please email us directly for a quotation of the total price, including your delivery address, so we can calculate the airmail shipping cost for you.

I'm thinking of getting Thailand stick insects and New Guinea stick insects from you. I would like to plant real plants in the tank as part of the environment (ornamental). Are there any plants you can recommend to use that won't be eaten by the insects?
It's not a good idea to mix Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) in the same cage. This is because the New Guinea stick insects are large and bulky and so can accidentally damage a thin spindly Thailand stick insect if they tread on it! Trying to grow living plants in a stick insect enclosure presents an immediate problem regarding eggs that will accummulate in the soil. When keeping stick insects, it is really important to be able to easily gather the eggs every week and responsibly dispose of any unwanted eggs (in hot water). That is why it is highly recommended to use paper sheets or pre-cut ELC Liners on the floor of the ELC stick insect cage. Stick insects can eat certain types of houseplant, so if you are determined to do this, it would actually be better to use a plant that you know would not be harmful, for example Maranta tricolor, rather than choose one that would be unpalatable. However please note that many houseplants sold commercially are grown in soil treated with pesticides (these remain active for twelve months) and so any insect that nibbles a leaf will be poisoned, twitch uncontrollably and die a few days later. So I'd recommend abandoning your proposal. Instead use the tried and tested (and very successful method) of having fresh cut stems of foodplant (bramble/blackberry) standing fresh in Sprig Pots of cold tap water, placed on a paper Liner in the purpose designed ELC stick insect cages. In addition, the cage housing the New Guinea stick insects will need a dish of drinking water, a pot of sand (for the female to bury her eggs), and some community tubes (cardboard tubes that the stick insects can rest inside).

Is it true that Indian stick insects will only eat what they ate when they were babies?
No, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat different leaves later on in life. All the Indian stick insects we breed at Small-Life Supplies are started off on wet bramble/blackberry leaves from birth. But when these stick insects are a few months old, we often supplement their diet with wild rose leaves and hazel leaves which they consume no problem! So it is a myth that they must only eat what they ate as babies (first instar nymphs).

Where did you find the collective noun "Population" for stick insects? I can find no record of this anywhere. Did you make it up?
Sometimes the same collective noun is used for different types of insects which share some similar physical characteristics, so for example, you can have a "swarm of bees" as well as a "swarm of wasps". Stick insects share some of the same physical characteristics as grasshoppers, and many years ago, both types of insect were classified as belonging to the order "Orthoptera". Since then, stick insects have been assigned their own order "Phasmida"' or "Phasmatodea". The most popular collective noun for grasshoppers is "population" and so it is logical that same term can also be applied to stick insects. Often there are several collective nouns that can be used for the same creature, in the example of grasshoppers, a scientific study in 2010 revealed the frequency with which scientists used these terms: "population" 67% , "community" 28%, "assemblage" 4% and "guild" 1%.

In last week's "new scientist" magazine, I read about researchers discovering that the Noctua pronuba moth plays a key role in pollinating the red clover (Trifolium pratense), an important wild flower in the Swiss Alps. Do we get these moths in the UK? And if so, presumably they behave the same way here?
Yes, the Noctua pronuba is a large moth with yellow hindwings, I've seen these outside, wild in the UK, and the common name is the "Large Yellow Underwing moth". The adult moths can live five months and so are important pollinators as they fly around at night feeding from certain flowers. The contribution to pollination that night flying moths make is often overlooked because most studies are focussed on day flying pollinating insects such as bees.

Did you know that a group of lobsters is called a pod? What is a group of stick insects called?
Thanks for the information on the lobsters! There are collective nouns for various groups of insects, for example a "colony" of ants, a "swarm" of bees, a "plague" of locusts, for stick insects it's "population".

I know that in the UK, hibernating animals can briefly wake up from hibernation, have a walk or fly around, before going back into hibernation again. And I know that various British insects hibernate in this manner. But what happens in very cold countries, when there is extreme cold for months? Presumably the hibernation can't be interrupted?
Yes, what you say is correct. Many British people are surprised to see a British butterfly such as the Small tortoisehell (Aglais urticae) or the Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) flying outside in the UK on a sunny day in December, but this is completely normal because the hibernating butterfly has temporarily broken its hibernation to fly about on a sunny day. In very cold countries such as Canada, where the winter temperatures can be approximately minus 20 degrees Celsius for several months, hibernating insects remain in hibernation mode throughout. Studies on the potato beetle show they manage this by drastically slowing their metabolism by 90% to save energy, achieving this by completely breaking down their mitochondria. As Spring approaches, regeneration of the mitochondria occurs.

I am curious, Professor, as to what inspired your interest in insects? Was it a single event, or watching TV nature documentaries, or something else?
No, it wasn't TV nature documentaries, but instead direct experience. I've always liked being hands-on with animals and nature, I have lots of childhood memories of planting trees and growing plants in the garden and interacting with any passing animal (dog, cat, squirrel, bird etc). At secondary school there was a "pets club" and I looked after the school guinea pigs and the stick insects. At twelve I started keeping a pet stick insect at home and from there an interest in insect photography developed. I joined the local city entomological society which had several professional entomologists as members, and they encouraged me to pursue an academic route.

What a month! Been an interesting one to say the least. I've just got into keeping caterpillars! Just the Painted Ladies ones, but I want more!
Great to hear that you enjoy keeping caterpillars, here at Small-Life Supplies we breed several easy-to-keep species. A couple of species are in stock now, and ready to send to customers nationwide as soon as the weather cools down a bit (hopefully next week). There are the British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) that eat bramble/blackberry leaves, and the giant Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini) that eat privet leaves. Our very fast moving British Buff Ermine caterpillars have now entered the pupal stage, but you can see them running around in the new Small-Life Supplies You Tube video, here is the link: https://youtu.be/RjY6Rcd0SgY

How tall should a stick insect enclosure be?
At least 46cm (18"). The stick insects need a tall cage to be able to grow properly (they slide vertically downwards out of their old skins when they grow). And you need to be able to easily put a decent amount of food into the cage (the cut stems are standing in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water to keep the leaves fresh). The ELC stick insect cage is ideal for many species of stick insect, and the ELC cage is 51cm tall.

I read an article on-line which said that the Indian Eri silk moth adults, of the species Samia ricini, are routinely deformed because of all the in-breeding and showed some hideous photos of this. What are your views on this?
Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed various species of butterflies and moths, including the giant Indian Eri silk moth Samia ricini. Very occassionally adults emerge with deformed wings, but this is rare and occurs with all Lepidopteran species. So our adults are certainly not routinely deformed. As breeders, we only save eggs from perfect looking adults, this practice increases the health of the strain and so reduces the incidence of deformities caused by genetics. And we always provide the best environment for the adults to emerge from their cocoons, which involves providing twigs and plenty of space for them to stretch out their wings fully. Unfortunately some other breeders do not do this and so end up with deformed looking adults because they have not given the silk moths enough space or height to unfold their wings properly before the wings harden and are then permanently set. We also encourage our Samia ricini adults to fly around the room in the evening, and again, prioritise the breeding of the eggs from the best-flying adults because these are the healthiest individuals with the strongest genes. It is fun to see them flying around the room, they can be very good flyers and do several laps around the room. Unlike some other moths that get confused by the fluorescent lights and fly straight into them, the Samia ricini silkmoths do not, and continue to fly around the room, totally unaffected if the lights are on.

What's the tallest stick insect cage that you manufacture? I've got some North East Vietnamese stick insects in an ELC cage and they're doing great, but still growing! Do you breed North East Vietnamese stick insects and if so, what do you use for their housing?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies breed the North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina). These are very impressive long stick insects (growing to 25cm) and they look interesting with big lobes on their legs. We house the nymphs in the ELC cage and then transfer the large nymphs to the AUC cage (69.5cm high) and also house the adults in the AUC cage. The North East Vietnamese stick insects females lay very long thin eggs, 1.5cm long. The AUC cage is currently on special offer, it is £88 plus delivery, please phone 01733 203358 for details. It is dispatched ready assembled, and has a black aluminium frame and wide hole blue netting on all four sides. It has a drop on lid and removable base, also disposable Liners so it's easy to keep the stick insects in clean surroundings.

Can you supply Clip Cages for aphid studies?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies manufacture Clip Cages to attach to leaves to observe aphids, please phone us on 01733 203358 for details.

My therapist suggested I get a pet and suggested a Giant African Land Snail. I've seen your HLQ snail homes, and am tempted, but I am wondering if an ELC cage and stick insects would be a cheaper option long term? I'm in a really dark place with worry about money issues and am on a very low income.
Looking after a pet can be great for people's mental health, so it sounds like you have a good therapist. Keeping busy and focussing on the needs of others is a well recognised technique to stop you worrying about your own issues. Getting outside in the fresh air is also beneficial to human well-being. And if you keep stick insects you have the perfect excuse for going outside once a week to collect bramble (blackberry) leaves from overgrown areas, to feed to your stick insects. It's easy to relate to a pet if you handle and talk to it regularly, and this applies to both snails and stick insects. Giant African Land Snails eat vegetables, so many people purchase these from supermarkets or greengrocers. The snails also need to consume calcium and this is best supplied as empty hen eggshells (broken in half and rinsed out with cold tap water), two eggshells per week. As you are on a tight budget, I'd recommend you choose the stick insect option because they are cheaper to look after. You can talk to stick insects in a calm voice, their ears are by their knees.

I've just saved some Indian stick insect eggs and put them in the HAP. Should I mist them?
No. The HAP has been designed to provide the correct conditions to incubate Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus). So just leave the eggs in the HAP and don't do anything else: don't mist the eggs, don't spray water into the HAP, and don't attempt to modify the HAP in any way. The best place to store the HAP containing stick insect eggs is on a shelf or table, away from direct sunshine. Indian stick insect eggs usually start hatching after four months, but if the surroundings are particularly hot (like at the moment with the hot summer weather), the incubation time can be reduced by a month, so your eggs may start hatching after three months.

Is it cheaper for you if I pay by PayPal or by debit card?
As a British based business, Small-Life Supplies has to pay commission on payments we receive. The fees that PayPal charge businesses are considerably higher than the fees that the debit card providers charge, so that's why we prefer customers to pay using their debit card wherever possible.

I have created a wild area in my garden, but with this extreme heat we've been having, it's looking dry and brown, and now I'm getting worried because the bramble, although still green, is starting to droop. With the looming hose-pipe ban, what should I do? I really need this bramble to survive because it's a back-up supply for my Pink winged stick insects.
Even if a hose-pipe ban is in place, you are still allowed to use a watering can to water your plants. The best time to do this is early evening. Bramble recovers very quickly, so I'd recommend you water yours this evening. You don't need to use much water, just one watering can full of cold tap water every few days should be enough. Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do best on bramble (blackberry) leaves, and they can also eat eucalyptus leaves and wild rose leaves.

Have you had any casualties during this heatwave?
Fortunately not, all our stick insects, caterpillars and snails are fine. Small-Life Supplies made the investment a few years ago for our building to have an air source heat pump, which not only has a low carbon footprint, but also has air-conditioning. So despite the record breaking temperature outside, with our thermometer reading 41 degrees Celsius in the shade, the creatures and us were OK indoors. And our resident song thrush who is nesting outside in one of our bramble bushes survived too, we helped by providing her with a dish of water and periodically carefully using a watering can to cool off the vegetation surrounding her and her nest of eggs.

My son has 4 Indian nymph stick insects (bought from yourselves not that long ago). We have noticed one of them bending backwards almost at 90 degrees is this normal should we be concerned, she seems to be eating normally or is this something to do with the extreme temperatures we are seeing at the moment? Is this a sign of stress even though we have been trying to keep them cool as we can?
What you describe occasionally happens with Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and should be manually corrected by yourself asap. In very simple terms, the body of an Indian stick insect is a tube and if the tube folds backwards, it gets blocked. To make the tube fill out again, just use your thumb and forefinger to squeeze it very gently either side of the fold and it will spring back into shape. The incidence of body folding behaviour happens occasionally throughout the year, so heat is not a factor. But extreme heat does cause stress and lethargy amongst Indian stick insects, so that's why it's so important to keep the ELC cage housing them in a room that does not exceed 25 degrees Celsius, and is preferably set to a daytime temperature range of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius.

Have you thought of uploading a video on YouTube explaining that male stick insects have green or blue genitalia? It always make me giggle when I see on the Facebook forums people wondering what these green/blue blobs are at the end of their male stick insects' bodies and declaring that they must be blood!
YouTube has strict rules on what can be shown and they consider insects mating to be rude and so is not allowed! Accounts showing such material, even if clearly for educational purposes, are closed down. So that is why Small-Life Supplies YouTube channel will not be sharing any videos on this topic. You are correct though, the mating apparatus (genitalia) of male stick insects is not widely recognised. The adult male stick insects have a dull looking green or blue jelly like blob at the end of their abdomens which is completely hidden until mating is imminent. The very rare male Indian stick insect , Carausius morosus, which occurs 1 male for every 10000 females, has this too. The male mates with the adult female (by coupling their ends together), and when copulation is completed, they separate and the male genitalia disappear again inside his body. Blood of stick insects is usually pale green and is very rarely seen unless severe fighting has broken out or a stick insect has fallen and cut itself on a bramble thorn. The blood is a runny liquid and dries quickly, so looks nothing like the genitalia of a male stick insect.

I have a question about your bespoke insect cage service, is this offered to ordinary members of the public or just to educational establishments? I only need one cage and so totally understand if this isn't economically viable for you to do, but thought I'd ask anyway. I'm in Bristol.
Small-Life Supplies offers a bespoke insect cage service, but designing new cages and calculating all the costings takes up a lot of time (and in commercial terms, time is money.) That's why most of our bespoke insect cages are purchased by companies and universities who buy multiple cages. However, if the new bespoke cage is a simple modification of one of our existing cages and we have spare material in stock, then yes, we can supply one-off cages to members of the public. I suggest you phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 with more details, including external dimensions and what species of stick insects the cage is intended for, and we will be able to advise further.

I usually work from home but have opted to go into the office next week, chiefly because it's air-conditioned! It's a small friendly firm and after I explained the situation, the boss has said it's OK to bring my ELC cage and stick insects with me. I figure that'll be best for them, as I can drive to work with the air-conditioning on, park right outside work, and dash in with them! They are Indian stick insects and I can't bear to think of them overheating and dying when the temperature gets above 30 degrees like it is forecast to do. My question is how are other people safeguarding their Indian stick insects?
I am pleased you have found a solution to the impending issue of temperatures between 33 and 36 degrees Celsius being forecast for several days next week in parts of the UK. Such high temperatures are a risk to life for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) which are acclimatised to daytime temperatures of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. An added problem is that the forecast is for a prolonged spell of extreme heat, so it is essential for our customers to move the ELC cage housing Indian stick insects somewhere cooler. Air-conditioned rooms and vehicles are great. Or a shady room where the temperature will not exceed 25 degrees Celsius would be OK. If the only cool room available has no windows, simply leave the light on during the day and switch it off at night. Moving the cage down to the floor from a high shelf will also decrease the temperature slightly. Placing a wet tea towel over a pedestal fan also helps cool the room down, and keep curtains and blinds closed to to minimise solar gain.

I witnessed something strange today and would appreciate your expertise on what went on. I was measuring my caterpillars (I'm doing a growth study at uni) and as it's so warm I had all the windows open. I left the room for about ten minutes, leaving the caterpillars in an open tray, and when I got back there was a small dark insect literally crawling over the caterpillars! As I approached it, it flew out of a window. Any ideas of what it could be and what it was doing?
It was probably a parasitic wasp looking for caterpillars to inject with her eggs. It is peak season now for parasitic insects and they pounce very quickly, targetting their prey and then quickly inserting their sharp needle-like ovipositor into a caterpillar and laying an egg. The caterpillar carries on as normal over the next few weeks, with the parasitoid growing inside the caterpillar. When the parasitoid is fully grown it bursts out of the body of the caterpillar, killing it in the process. Within minutes the parasitoid tranforms into a pupa and a week or so later emerges as a winged adult parasitic wasp. The adult seeks out a mate and after mating, the female flies off to seek out caterpillars to inject. So it is likely that some of your caterpillars will now be hosting parasitoids and those affected will never reach the adult moth or butterfly stage. The adult parasitic wasp is dark and slim with a long thin ovipositor, and bears no resemblance to the familiar yellow striped garden wasp which classified as a different family of wasps.

Some of my Macleays Spectre eggs look dull? Should I be worried? The ones I have in another pot are shiny and last year I managed to hatch some eggs and they were all shiny.
Healthy Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insect eggs look shiny. So yes, you are correct to be concerned about the eggs that look dull. They have probably succumbed to a fungal infection. This can be fatal but not all of the eggs will perish, so it is still worth keeping those eggs, but obviously in a separate container to the shiny eggs. Perhaps you have overdone the misting of the eggs? It is important not to spray the eggs with too much water because this encourages mould growth.

Do you know much about Black beauties? There isn't that much information on the net about them. I've kept Papua New Guineans before. We've been donated loads of them - they were in the tiniest tank - can't believe how many babies are in there! Looking much better in the ELC but I think we'll need another at some point
Black beauty stick insects are from Peru and have the Latin species name Peruphasma schultei. They eat privet leaves (not bramble like most other species of stick insect). You have to be careful with them because when frightened they can emit a chemical spray from their bodies, which can cause mild irritation (sneezing) in people that are sensitive, and also to other animals. So, for public display, a warning notice to this effect would be a good idea to stop vulnerable people getting too close to them. Fortunately they are not as dangerous as the Jamaican stick insect (Alleophasma cyllarus/Anisomorpha cyllarus/ Malacomorpha cyllarus) and the Florida/Devil Rider stick insect (Anisomorpha buprestoides) whose chemical sprays can cause severe reactions (breathing difficulties and temporary blindness ) in people and pets, so should be avoided at all costs!

What is the best tree to support insect life in the UK? I have a meeting next week to discuss which native British trees to plant locally, so I'd appreciate your input.
Definitely oak trees. The Latin species name is Quercus robur. Oak trees do grow slowly, but live for hundreds of years, and have the accolade of supporting the most species of insects. One mature oak tree can support over 500 species of insect, and so this is another reason why existing oak trees should be protected and more oak trees should be planted. At your meeting remember to arrange a rota for people to water the new trees, because this after care greatly enhances their chances of survival but is often forgotten about!

I'm looking forward to receiving the British Cinnabar Caterpillar Kits next week, and the bags of fresh ragwort leaves. I live in the city but always keep insects, they help me stay sane! I know that the pupae won't emerge till next spring time and that they need to be stored outdoors in an unheated garage or shed. Unfortunately I don't have either of those facilities and so I wondered if I could post the pupae back to Small-Life Supplies, for you to add to your breeding stocks? A gift from me to you, and hopefully a good life for the moths
It's great that you are still able to look after some pet insects, Small-Life Supplies has a lot of customers who feel the same way as you and are benefitting mentally from maintaining some connection with the natural world, despite living in heavily built up areas. I am sure you will enjoy rearing the British Cinnabar caterpillars (Callimorpha jacobaeae), these are bright orange caterpillars with black hoops, that grow quickly to a length of 2cm. In the wild, the pupae are formed on the ground and need to remain at the surrounding natural temperatures, so that they emerge at the correct time of year (Spring 2023). If you store the pupae indoors there is a strong likelihood they will develop faster (because it is warmer indoors than outdoors) and the resulting moths may emerge in winter, when it would be too cold to release them outside. So yes, you are welcome to post the pupae back to Small-Life Supplies and we shall store them correctly so that they emerge in Spring 2023. Please contact Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 and ask for us to include some packaging and instructions with your British Cinnabar Caterpillar Kits order, so that when the time comes, you can pack the pupae safely and correctly. Obviously we'll include this packaging free of charge.

Please, please, please can you ask people to stop putting their unwanted stick insect eggs in the freezer? It's not humane, because cold just puts the development on pause, and when the eggs are taken out of the freezer they warm up inside and some can start developing again. I'm a biology teacher and am disturbed at the misguided advice being promulgated on-line, particularly when religious delusions conflict with scientific fact.
Correct, and that is why Small-Life Supplies have never suggested putting unwanted stick insect eggs in a home freezer. The proper method is to use hot water, this is immediate and 100% effective. Fire has the same effect. Or, you can mimic nature by feeding the eggs to birds and fish. Stick insect eggs take months to develop and so it's very easy to keep control of the egg numbers, by disposing of unwanted eggs responsibly every week when you replace the cage Liner in the ELC cage. In Nature, less than 1% of the eggs survive anyway, so it is responsible and not at all cruel to mimic Nature and ensure that you don't keep too many stick insect eggs.

Do sweltering temperatures suit some stick insects better than others? My room is 27 degrees just now, and the Pink Winged are flying around the room and seem happy, but my Indian stick insects are still and a bit droopy, they're still alive but don't look well at all.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do not like it hot. They have been reared in homes in the UK for many decades and have acclimatised to cooler conditions. So they do best at a daytime temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. Many Indian stick insects exhibit stressful behaviour similar to what you are observing when the temperature exceeds 25 degrees Celsius. So I'd recommend you move them to a cooler area urgently and mist the leaves with cold tap water so the stick insects can have a drink off the leaves. In contrast, some other species of stick insect including: Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are fine at hot temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius as well as comfortably warm day time temperatures of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. All these species of stick insect benefit from a cooler nightime temperature of between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius.

Interesting to read your explanation about the taxonomic classification of the Thailand stick insect and the futile debate of whether it should be in the Ramulus genus or the Baculum genus. I am a botanist and am very frustrated at the attempts being made to reclassify plants (even the beloved Hebe!), seemingly for no logical purpose. And so much knowledge is being lost, with the protagonists for change patently not knowing their Latin and Greek, unlike those of us who endured these languages at school and university entrance. So I'm just lending you my support and keep up the good work!
Thank you for your support, and I agree it is concerning when knowledge is lost. The insect classification system is based on that developed by Carl Linnaeus hundreds of years ago, back in the 1700s. Latin and Greek were the languages used, with the genus (the first word of the species name) being chosen because it represented a physical characteristic of the insect. So, for example, the Sexton Beetle, known as the burying beetle because it buries it's dead prey, was assigned the genus Necrophorus. This word derives from the Latin necro, and Greek word nekros, meaning dead body. All very logical and correct. However, around twenty years ago, I noticed that some people changed this genus to Nicrophorus, this makes no etymological sense and so presumably was a typing error. Unfortunately people who don't have any knowledge of Latin or Greek have just blindly copied this error, so much so that now Wikipedia and numerous wildlife groups falsely state that Nicrophorus is the genus. I have a large library of insect books and of course all the older ones have the genus spelt correctly as Necrophorus. So it is nonsense for Wikipedia to have now added a comment that the spelling change was made back in 1789! I don't think so!

We enjoyed raising caterpillars from you last year, but don't see any on your site? School term will be over soon, do you think there will be any available soon?
We have thousands of British Vapourer eggs, these usually hatch well in May and June, but none have hatched at all! This sometimes happens with butterfly and moth eggs, so the eggs are still viable but hatching has been delayed. As soon as they start hatching, we will inform everyone on the waiting-list. However, as your school shuts over the summer holidays, I think you would be looking at getting them in September. British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) have a very fast lifecycle, eat bramble leaves and can be released outside in the UK.

Can Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects eat hazel leaves?
Yes, we feed our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) a mixture of hazel leaves, eucalyptus leaves, bramble (blackberry) leaves and Photinia leaves. Hazel leaves are large and nutritious, but I'd recommend including some or all of the other leaves listed above as well, so don't feed Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects exclusively on hazel leaves.

Is it true that you guys discovered the Thailand stick insects over forty years ago and have been breeding them ever since? With no variation into the genetic strain? And the correct genus is Baculum not Ramulus?
I was fortunate enough to be sent a few Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) direct from the man who did discover them in Thailand, and yes, that was around forty years ago. Since then I have continually reared successive generations of Thailand stick insects, all from these original individuals, so never introducing new genetic stock. It is a very healthy strain. The correct genus is Baculum (which is the Latin word for stick), but recently some people are calling this species Ramulus (which is the Latin word for small branch). Taxonomic classification is based on the physical characteristics of the animal, and clearly the straight, rod-like Thailand stick insect looks more like a stick than a branch, so the original classification of assigning it to the Baculum genus is correct. The full species name is therefore Baculum thaii. The extra 'i' at the end of thai is deliberate and is the correct Latin.

I am in a hotel for a couple of days for a conference. I live in a block of flats and have an arrangement with my neighbour, so we look after each others pets if either of us are away. She's just messaged me to say that the ELC Liner is curling up. I haven't seen this happen before and so I hope you can shed some light on this. We are both worried, although she did say that the stick insects are OK (Indian stick insects).
If you spray too much water into the cage, or spray the water downwards instead of horizontally or upwards, the ELC Liner gets too wet and when the Liner dries out it curls up at the edge. So your neighbour needs to alter how she is spraying the leaves, so less water lands on the ELC Liner. It is important not to spray too much water onto the leaves, and so it's handy to check that the ELC Liner remains uncurled, because this shows that you are misting the leaves correctly. You have obviously been doing this right because you haven't seen the ELC Liner curling up before. But people who are new to looking after stick insects often mist the leaves wrongly to start with, but soon learn the correct technique. It's important to have flat ELC Liners because they need to be flat to do the job properly of containing the eggs and poo (frass).

I feed my Indian stick insects with fresh leaves every week and when I push the stems into water in the sprig pot, I always do a quick check for "hitch-hikers" such as spiders, ladybirds, caterpillars, ants and so on. Today I saw something I hadn't seen before. Twenty-eight spherical green eggs clustered together and glued underneath a hazel leaf. I attach a photo. What could they be? I thought at first they might be butterfly eggs but the butterfly eggs I have seen have had ridges and these eggs are just plain.
Great that you routinely check over the leaves first, this is good practice and prevents unwelcome additions to the stick insect cage. Ants are particularly troublesome and so it's important that they are not accidentally introduced into the cage. The photo you sent shows eggs of the Green Shieldbug (Palomena prasina). These eggs are plain and because they are still green, they have recently been glued to the underside of the hazel leaf. In a couple of weeks time, they will darken in colour and then the baby Shieldbugs will emerge. Some species of Shieldbug have maternal care, where the parent stays by the eggs and then protects the young nymphs who cluster underneath her body. However, the Green Shieldbug species does not exhibit this behaviour. So you could place the leaf with the eggs in a HAP and wait for them to emerge. When the babies (nymphs) emerge, they need to suck the sap out from a fresh hazel leaf, so you can either gather a fresh hazel leaf for them, or carefully put the insects back under a leaf on a hazel tree growing outside. 2022 is going to be a bumper year for these shieldbugs in the UK because a lot of people are reporting noticing these clusters of eggs for the first time.

We originally purchased 4 Indian Stick insects from you quite some time ago. Sadly they have all perished, but I did save some of the eggs and we have successfully hatched 6 in recent months. They’re doing great, and I’ve always suspected one of them might be a male. Tonight when cleaning the cage, I found this (photo attached). Having read a lot of the Q’s and A’s on the website, we’re quite excited that we may have a genuine male. Are you able to confirm please?
Thanks for the photo, but yours is not a true male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) but instead is a "gynandromorph" which means it has a mixture of male and female characteristics. The abdomen of your stick insect is thinner than a standard female, but is fatter than on a true male, and it is also misshapen which is a classic characteristic of a gynandromorph Indian stick insect. Also, the green genitalia are on show, another classic characteristic of a gynandromorph Indian stick insect. The true male Indian stick insects are very rare, occuring 1 in every 10000 females, and these males have smooth slim tan coloured bodies, with the male genitalia only appearing when mating with a female is imminent. The true males cannot lay eggs because they have no female characteristics.

I recently purchased two Thailand stick insects, the male and female pair. I'm concerned about the male as when we first got him he was very energetic, moving around the cage a lot and seemed to enjoy being handled. Now his front legs were crossed and his antennae were together and facing downwards. 1) Is it possible to overspray or underspray the leaves? 2) Is it possible that cigarette smoke can damage the insects? 3) Would even a trace of bird poo make them ill? 4) Should you change the bramble leaves as soon as you see some of them dying? The two times I have changed them there were dying leaves in there for about a day. 5) Is it possible the stick insects are getting too hot due to the summer? If so, is there any way for me to combat this? 6) Is it possible to overhandle your insects? For the first 3 days or so I was of course very happy to have them and I handled them a lot.
I am sorry to hear that your adult male Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) is dying. Various factors are involved here and so it's good that you have provided so much information so we can resolve this and prevent it happening again. Overhandling is a contributory factor, it's best to only handle Thailand stick insects for a few minutes each day and try to minimise handling for the first week to allow them to settle into their new surroundings. Stick insects don't have a filtering system and so the air just drifts into their bodies through their side holes (called spiracles). This means they are very sensitive to air-borne chemicals and so cigarette smoke is very bad for them. Thailand stick insects do not like to get too hot and so it's best to keep them in a room that is 18-21 degrees Celsius during the day (and cooler at night). Daytime temperatures up to 25 degrees Celsius are tolerated but above that the stick insects become stressed and should be moved to a cooler, shadier room. You don't want to drench the bramble leaves and so just one or two squirts from our Mister in the evening is sufficient. Your concerns about traces of bird poo and a few dying leaves are unfounded and would not have contributed to your stick insect's demise.

Would it be harmful to put compost and dried leaves in the bottom of my stick insects habitat?
Yes, this is a very bad idea so please don't do it! One consequence is that mould spores will develop and disperse into the air. This is detrimental to human health, especially so if you spend a long time in the same room as the habitat, for example a bedroom. I know too many people who are suffering from chesty coughs and lung damage because they have inhaled mould spores from dead leaves over time. The stick insects do not benefit from being housed in damp surroundings either, indeed black rot occurs on their leg joints if the surroundings are too humid. And of course, it is very difficult to sort stick insect eggs if they are being dropped onto a mixture of compost and dead leaves. That is why Small-Life Supplies supply paper Liners which are ideal to use on the floor of the stick insect cage because they keep the surroundings hygienic, are easy to use, and the spherical shaped stick insect eggs simply roll off the Liner when it is tilted and tapped underneath.

I have a question for you, I have a number of stick insects hatched from eggs and out of the colony one is brown with green goo on its rear end.
I can see from the photos you emailed that this is a rare Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) which has some male characteristics (the green goo on the rear end is the male genitalia), but also has the fat abdomen which is a female characteristic. So this stick insect is called a gynandromorph. Such individuals are rare but not as rare as the true Indian stick insect males which have entirely male characteristics and no female characteristics (so never produce eggs). There is a photo of a true male Indian stick insect in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. A true male Indian stick insect is very rare, occuring 1 in every 10000 females and his green genitalia are only seen during the mating process. In contrast,a gynandromorph Indian stick insect looks deformed, with a bumpy looking abdomen and green genitalia permanently on show. There are degrees of gynandromorphism, and some of these stick insects (with the fatter abdomens) are able to lay a few eggs, but others with the thinner abdomens cannot.

I have 5 Indian stick insects that hatched in December 2020. They are all doing really well in a large mesh cage. For the first 14 months I fed them on bramble in a pot with wet oasis and now they are eating rose leaves also kept fresh in wet oasis. I’m surprised they are living so long. Do they need any special care as they are so elderly?
It is good that all your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are still alive after one year and five months. The average lifespan of this species is one year, but we have also noticed that certain individuals can live much longer. Often it is the small individuals that have the longest lifespans. With some other stick insect species, diet can extend the lifespan, this is true for the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) where those fed on eucalyptus significantly outlive those fed on bramble. All stick insects require more water when they get very old, so I'd recommend you mist the leaves more generously with water every evening so your stick insects can have a good drink of water from the droplets on the leaves.

Shocking that on This Morning TV, Phillip Schofield is advocating killing caterpillars in your garden! And as for Richard Madeley doing his "Don't Look Up" performance with the climate activist woman a few weeks back... Don't get me wrong, I do generally like both these presenters, but just why are they both so out of touch when it comes to the climate crisis and helping nature? Is it an "old stale pale male" thing, I know they're both over 60? They should "get it" by now!
Fortunately lots of people in the UK do "get it" and understand how serious the climate crisis is. However, there appears to be a deliberate policy on mainstream TV and radio of trivialising this matter, either by ignoring the issue completely and not covering it at all, or by having live broadcasts that you describe with presenters completely out of touch on the issues. Fortunately, following these broadcasts, the complaints roll in and so sending in a complaint is one thing you can do to help effect change. There are some presenters who are up to speed, for example Liza Tarbuck clearly has an affinity with nature and reads out amusing animal observations sent in by listeners on her show on Radio 2.

My stick insect is not moving or responding when I tap her, but her antennae are levitating even though when I tap them they don’t move. Also she was laying eggs and climbing around just two weeks ago. Is she dead or alive or dying?
She is dying, probably from old age. Dying stick insects can be as you describe for a few days before becoming totally still when they have died. If you are seeing any movement at all the stick insect is still alive so don't remove it from the cage until you are certain it has passed.

Our bramble bushes are covered in greenfly! I've tried shaking the leaves outside but some some still remain, so please tell me if these insects pose any risk to my Indian stick insects?
There are a lot of aphids, greenfly and blackfly on bramble bushes at the moment. They suck the sap out of the leaves and so are reluctant to let go! You are doing the right thing in shaking off as many as you can outside. The stick insects can still eat the affected leaves but the issue is the sticky "honeydew" that these insects produce which sticks to the inside walls of the ELC cage. So after a week, you will need to remove all your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and wash the ELC cage with lukewarm soapy water (rinse well). Use the soft Cleaning Sponge (supplied as part of the ELC Bundle) to gently remove the sticky honeydew residue. Repeat this process as necessary in the coming months to ensure you continue to keep your stick insects in clean surroundings.

I'm interested in buying and looking after two of your Thailand stick insects, but noticed that the pair is one male and one female. The only reason I wouldn't want a female is that I know they produce several eggs and I don't want to have to kill the eggs/sell them on to someone else, I just want to look after the stick insects as pets. Would it be possible for me to request to have two males instead?
Small-Life Supplies breed Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) in large numbers and they have a 50:50 ratio of males to females. The adults pair up, with the strongest and largest females choosing to be with the strongest and largest males. When Small-Life Supplies send them out, we always choose a couple that is together. They mate regularly throughout their adult lives (of seven+ months), and the females lay eggs every day. In the wild, over 99% of these eggs would perish, either by being water logged, crushed, or being eaten by a predator. So, when you're keeping stick insects as pets, you need to mimic nature, the easiest way is to use water. We don't sell Thailand stick insect males separately because it would be mean to split them up from their partners.

Why is Amazon charging £112 for the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd, that's £100 over the asking price of £12 that Small-Life Supplies is selling new copies for? Am I missing something?
Small-Life Supplies does not sell via Amazon, and so the high price you are seeing is what other sellers are asking. The "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd is in stock at Small-Life Supplies, at price £12 + delivery. Signed copies are available at no extra charge.

I have three female Thailand stick insects, they have recently matured. Will they be OK as girls together? Or should I get a male (or two)? I know they'll lay eggs regardless. I just want them to be as happy as they can be and so will do whatever is best for them.
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are long twig-like stick insects, and males and females occur naturally in equal numbers. Adult Thailand stick insects mate regularly throughout their lives, and so it would be best to purchase some adult males (ideally three, but two would suffice) for your three females. Eggs resulting from mated Thailand stick insect females produce stronger offspring than those from unmated females, so that is another reason why you should get some males.

I am a newbie stick insect keeper and have just changed the Liner in the ELC cage. I have tipped the contents into a bowl and picked out a few eggs which I hope will hatch in a few months (I think the incubation is four months for Indian stick insects?) The unwanted eggs need to be terminated but does the water need to be hot or would cold water be OK? Also, I'm assuming that popping them in the freezer wouldn't work because they would thaw out when removed from the freezer?
Each Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) lays a few eggs each day during her adult lifetime, so the total number soon adds up to several hundred eggs altogether. So well done for being responsible and dealing with the unwanted eggs soon after they have been laid. At this stage the contents of each egg is just a bunch of cells and so talk of "killing" and "being cruel" is misplaced and not justified. The fastest way to stop cells developing further is to denature their structure using heat, so that is why pouring hot water over unwanted stick insect eggs is a very fast and 100% effective method for stopping development. So please use either hot tap water or, better still, boiling water from a kettle. And no, cold from a home freezer is a very slow method and not totally effective because of course the eggs warm up when they are removed from the freezer and development may recommence. Eggs of Indian stick insects usually take four months to develop.

I'm researching the mating of the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). I know males are very rare and that mating occurs at night. Do you have any more observational data on this?
You are correct, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually reproduce by parthenogenesis. However, males do exist but are very rare, 1 in every 10000 Indian stick insects is male. I have one of these rare adult male Indian stick insects at the moment. He likes to mate at night, around 10.15pm. The mating process is similar to other species of stick insect, but much faster.

Do stick insects need water?
Yes, stick insects need to drink water. This is best done by lightly misting the leaves once a day with cold tap water so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the leaves. Some species of stick insect, including the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata), and the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata), drink a lot of water and so for these species, it is best to put a shallow Water Dish in the stick insect cage. In contrast, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) only requires very small amounts of water to drink, so if you are keeping these stick insects, you only need to mist the leaves once or twice a week. For best results, house the stick insects in the ELC stick insect cage because this provides the correct ventilation to keep the stick insects successfully.

Our four ladies (Indian stick insects) which we got from you are popping out lots of eggs, we have saved some (to hatch in four months time) and put the rest on a white plate, ready to put out for the birds tomorrow. We live in Leicestershire and always feed the birds, do you know which ones will eat the stick insect eggs? I assume I put the eggs out intact (so I don't need to cull them first)?
Blackbirds and magpies enjoy eating Indian stick insect eggs, and this nutritious food is particularly beneficial to them during May and June when they are producing eggs themselves and feeding their chicks. It's great that you are putting on the sorted Indian eggs on a white plate because this helps the garden birds to form a clear "search image" of this new food, so they won't hesitate to eat it again in the future. Depending how smart and hungry your garden birds are, they will eat the stick insect eggs immediately, or they may consider this for a few days and then devour them. However, rest assured once they have eaten some of these Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus), they will be back for more. And yes, put out healthy eggs because these will be nutritious and benefit the birds. The birds don't want to eat dead eggs.

What is this and what will it eat? (Photo attached of a plain small green ridged oval shaped creature).
The photo you sent is of a Scale insect, family Coccidae. Yours is a female because she has no wings, legs or antennae. She should be attached to a leaf where she will remain for the rest of her life, sucking out the sap to feed.

I am just about to purchase an ELC bundle for my stickies. We have a vulnerable family member and so please can you tell me what your courier's policy is regarding COVID precautions during delivery?
Small-Life Supplies dispatch ELC bundles using a reputable courier who have implemented procedures for public safety (regarding COVID) during the last couple of years. They keep us updated on this and have decided to continue to act responsibly to protect their drivers and their customers. They have just issued the following statement in May 2022: " We are operating a ‘No Contact’ Delivery approach nationally where all deliveries require drivers to observe a 2 metre distance at the point of delivery. Recipients are not requested to sign our handheld devices."

Hey I was wondering if you ever offer 10% or 20% markdown on damaged ELC cages?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies offers a 20% markdown, or discount, on brand new ELC cages which have large scratches or marks. Small-Life Supplies manufacture large numbers of ELC cages but occasionally some of the plastic panels have scratches and so these cages are put aside and labelled as "grade B". Of course, these marks do not affect the performance of the cage and are barely noticeable when the food and stick insects are in the cage. These bargain cages always sell really quickly and so please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to check availability. And we are happy to email you photos of the exact ELC cage you would receive, just mention this when you call.

I'm hoping to make a career in entomology. My question is do the university courses allow you to study insects outside of daylight hours?
Good courses will allow that because, like other animals, insects follow regular time cycles when they are most active, and so it makes sense to be observing the insects during these times. Indeed when I was at Cambridge University studying beetles, we were outside in the field monitoring their activity every hour throughout the night! And I was regularly allowed late night access to the university labs to video mosquitoes because that was the time that they produced their rafts of eggs on the water in the cages.

I have failed at keeping the "unarmed New Zealand stick insect", Acanthoxyla inermis. Only a few of the eggs hatched and the nymphs ate bramble but died at various stages. One made it to adult, but always looked thin and died this morning. I have experience in keeping Pink Winged, Indian and New Guinea stick insects successfully, so don't understand what's gone wrong here? A dud genetic strain perhaps?
You are not alone, actually a lot of people struggle to keep the New Zealand stick insects successfully in captivity in the UK. There are two species of New Zealand stick insect which have been living wild in parts of the South West of the UK for over one hundred years. These are the smooth "unarmed" New Zealand stick insect Acanthoxyla inermis, and the similar looking but spiky species called the New Zealand stick insect, Acanthoxyla prasina. What you have described is typical of what others have experienced. My view is that these species have a very high mortality rate which is why their populations are not more widespread across the South West and one reason why, after a century, they have not migrated to other parts of the UK.

I'm thinking of putting soil at the bottom of the ELC cage and adding springtails and isopods, would that work? I'm getting four adult Indian stick insects and keeping the cage in my bedroom.
It's a very bad idea to add soil, springtails and isopods to the stick insects cage, here are some reasons why. The humidity would increase which is detrimental to the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). And soon you will get smelly unhygienic conditions, with little fruit flies and mould spores. You certainly don't want to be breathing in mould spores in your bedroom because this is very bad for health (damaging your lungs). Also, Indian stick insects lay eggs every day and it is important to only save a few eggs, otherwise you will have too many stick insects to cope with. Eggs that have dropped into soil are very hard to collect, unlike eggs that are dropped onto the ELC Liner, which roll off easily when the Liner is tilted. So it's much better for you and the stick insects, to use disposable ELC Liners on the floor of the ELC cage and replace the Liner once a week. You receive ten ELC Liners as part of the ELC bundle, so that's ten weeks supply. More Liners can be ordered later on, they are available in blue, green and pink.

You say that Indian stick insects can eat Photinia, but do they want the red leaves or the green leaves?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) prefer to eat the tender Photinia leaves. At this time of year, the new growth is the red leaves and so these red leaves are what the Indian stick insects like to eat. The red leaves are large and soft. It's also a good idea to put some sprigs of bramble (blackberry) leaves in the Sprig Pot of water as well, so the stick insects have a choice. However, our Indian stick insects are devouring Photinia at the moment!

I’m wondering if you can help me identify if this stick insect has passed away from a fungal infection, or if this discolouration is part of her ageing? She has been absolutely fine in herself - eating, active (same bramble as my other species who are all OK). I noticed when I picked her up once she’d passed that she almost felt a little sticky on her back. There’s no way I’d have been able to tell this previously - as she was an aggressive lady when handled! I’ve had her for nine months - she had her last moult in October 2021. She was my first Macleays so keen to learn from what happened to her for future specimens.
Your photos show an adult female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) that has died naturally from old age. Her discoloration is to be expected with the ageing process. Fortunately she does not have the particles underneath her thorax and abdomen that are visible with fungal infections, and neither does she have black rotting joints where the limbs attach to the thorax. So you have done a good job in looking after her well. An adult lifespan of six months is typical for this species if their diet is bramble, their lifespan can be longer if they are fed on eucalyptus. It is normal for very old female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects to look a bit "sweaty", so this is probably what the stickiness was that you detected. It's strange that she was aggressive, had she got a male partner? It's best if you can, to have both male and female adults, because they mate regularly throughout their adult lives and produce good quality eggs that hatch into both genders.

I've always tried to get the best bramble I can find for my stick insects, but it's getting difficult now because the old leaves have a lot of purple on them, and I'm not sure at what size the new leaves are safe for the stick insects to eat? I have mature Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects.
It can be difficult in April to find good quality bramble leaves, because being Springtime, the bramble plants are diverting their energy resources into growing the new leaves. The good news is that once the soft new pale green bramble leaves are 3cm long, they are safe for the stick insects to eat. So you should be able to find either new leaves of this size (or larger), as well as some older darker green leaves from last year's growth. And there is always the option of adding leaves from Photinia, wild rose and eucalyptus, because mature Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) can eat all of these types of leaves. Indeed, here at Small-Life Supplies, we routinely feed our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects a mixture of these leaves. See our first YouTube video "How to feed stick insects in the Spring".

How often do Heteropteryx dilatata nymphs shed their skin?
As a general rule, stick insects shed their skins six times as they grow. This process is called ecdysis. I have not personally recorded the growth spurts of Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata), although here at Small-Life Supplies we do breed this species and so it would be a straight forward exercise to do. The cast-off skins (exuviae) of most stick insects are white, but the large female nymphs of Malaysian stick insects leave skins that are green! Another unusual feature of Malaysian stick insects is the slow speed at which they grow. Many other species are fully grown within five months, but Malaysian stick insects take one year to mature, on average, and then live another two years as adults.

We received some British Vapourer caterpillars from you a while back, and they are still eating and are absolutely huge! Is this normal? We were expecting them to make their little cocoons quickly, but they keep on munching away!
Yes, this can happen. From one batch of caterpillars, born at the same time, some can develop really quickly whereas others keep on eating and grow much larger, so take longer before they pupate (transform into a pupa). So yours will pupate soon and because they are large caterpillars, each will make a large cocoon and transform into a large pupa inside the cocoon. The reason why caterpillars grow at different rates is a survival strategy, so that they make pupae at different times which means that the emergence of the adult British Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) is staggered, and so this increases their protection against spells of bad weather.

Thank you for sending me the Indian stick insects, the label attached said "Eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, wild rose leaves, eucalyptus leaves and hazel leaves." Is that list exhaustive? Around where I live there is plenty of bramble, also Photinia - would they eat that too?
Bramble (blackberry) leaves are the best leaves to feed Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). So it's great that you have good local supplies of bramble. Your stick insects will be fine just on a diet of bramble leaves (mist the leaves daily with cold tap water, so the stick insects can drink). We have tried some of our Indian stick insects on Photinia and they have thrived, so you can add some Photinia as well, from time to time. However, it's best to keep bramble (blackberry) as the main foodplant because, after many years of research, we know that this results in healthy active stick insects. Years ago, we used to feed our Indian stick insects exclusively on privet leaves, but discovered they actually do much better and are more active when fed on bramble leaves.

My daughter is a budding entomologist, she's only thirteen, but thinking ahead (!) is this something she could study at university and be a well paid career?
Yes, one way to study entomology at university is to be accepted onto a biology degree, so for example, this could be zoology or environmental biology, but with entomology modules. So top grades in A level biology and other science subjects or maths are needed. And of course, working back, that means concentrating on all the science and maths subjects at GCSE and achieving good grades in those. Your daughter won't be studying for GCSEs yet, but it's a good idea to encourage her to develop her interest in science and nature so she can have a head start. There are various career options open to qualified entomologists, including well paid roles in both academia and the commercial sector.

Two of our British Vapourer moths emerged yesterday and we noticed them start to mate at 11pm! So we left them to it, and this morning the female is still sticking her eggs in rows. The male had moved away and so we released him in the garden. My question is how normal is it for them to be mating so late at night?
British Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) usually mate soon after emerging from the pupae in their cocoons. So, in the wild, mating typically occurs during the afternoon and usually lasts a few minutes, or occasionally ten to twenty minutes. However, I assume a room light was on and so I suspect your moths emerged late in the evening and decided to start mating because the light was on. You did the right thing in letting the male fly off the next day and you can look forward to the eggs hatching within weeks. If you have too many caterpillars you can release these onto bramble bushes outdoors. It's best to distribute the caterpillars over several bramble bushes rather than just one, because a predator is more likely to spot (and eat) a dense cluster of caterpillars rather than individuals that have been spread out more thinly.

We keep our house fairly cool, around 15 to 18 degrees C (none of us particularly like having the heating on for long periods, which happily is good for gas bills and the environment), would this be OK for stick insects? I have read that some need warmer temperatures, and there are small heated mats which can be put in the bottom of cages, would we need anything like that (or special lamps etc?).
Many stick insects prefer a daily room temperature which is at least 18 degrees Celsius, and within the range of 18-21 degrees Celsius. So I'm afraid 15 degrees Celsius is a bit risky, so you'd need to provide some extra warmth. The best way to achieve this is to use a portable 500 Watt oil-filled radiator, which you plug in near the ELC cage, approximately 50cm away from a mesh side. This is an economical, safe and effective way of increasing the temperature locally. You can purchase this item on-line, here is the link: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/heaters-radiators/7126073. Heat mats are not recommended because they can dry out the foliage too much, and lamps should be avoided too.You also need to check the night time temperatuire in the room, because most stick insects do not like the temperature to be below 12 degrees Celsius at night on a regular basis. (Stick insects can tolerate drops down to freezing on the odd occasion, but should not be subject to such extreme cold routinely).

Our daughter will be fifteen soon and very much would like some stick insects as pets. We haven't kept any pets before and stick insects sound like a great option, which is very refreshing! With the cost of energy crisis though, I am concerned for later on in the year. We have decided to limit our home temperature to 18 degrees in the day, will this be warm enough for them? Or are there some types of stick insect that are better suited to slightly cooler temperatures than other types? Our house is on an estate that was built in the 1990s and so I think it's OK insulation wise, I haven't noticed it getting particularly cold at night.
A daytime temperature of 18 degrees Celsius is OK for some species of stick insect including the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). These are the most hardy stick insects, and both types are easy to keep too, so I'd recommend one, or both, of these types for your daughter. You can house them together in the ELC cage and both species eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. We have the thermostat in our stick insect breeding facility set to 12 degrees Celsius at night. So I recommend you set your room digital thermostat to 12 degrees Celsius at night too, in case there is an extreme cold snap. However usually, in a well insulated house, there is no need for the heating to come on at night because the room will be above 12 degrees Celsius anyway.

I know loads of people read your page and so I'm hoping you can include my appeal on here? "Please don't take more bramble than you need! And keep the cut bramble in water, because this way it stays fresh for a week inside the cage."
Yes, happy to repeat your appeal. It makes no sense to cut more bramble than you need, this is very wasteful and rather selfish because it deprives other stick insect owners and depletes nature. And yes, the cut stems should always be stood in water because that way the leaves stay fresh for a week or more. We recommend the Sprig Pot, just fill this with cold tap water and push the cut stems through the central hole in the Sprig Pot. If the stems are not stood in water, the stem and leaves soon dry up, so are not eaten by the stick insects and need to be thrown away within days.

I would like to make a will, and leave some money to help protect the planet. I value any help you can give me.
If you plan to leave a gift to a charity in your will, make sure you include the charity´s full name, address and registered charity number. Greenpeace has a very simple to use website, which clearly explains how to bequeath money to them. They also provide phone numbers if you wish to talk to a solicitor about this. Greenpeace rely on money from wills to help fund their vital work in saving rainforests, oceans etc and are a reputable organisation, so have my support.

Would a conservatory be a good place for my cage of Indian stick insects? Or would so much light be an issue for them? I've just received the ELC bundle and four Indian stick insect adults.
No, don't keep them in the conservatory. It's not the light that is the issue, it is the temperature. The problem with conservatories is that when it is sunny, they can get very hot and conversely at night, they can be a bit chilly. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do not like to be kept in hot surroundings, so it's really important that you choose a room in your home that is typically between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius during the day. At night, a comfortable room temperature for the stick insects is between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius. Many of our customers keep their ELC cage of stick insects in their: lounge, dining room, home office, kitchen, or bedroom.

I have got a baby Indian stick insect hatched out and now in one of your hatching pots. I was wondering how I go about feeding them and misting them? Also, how big do Indian stick insects need to be before I transfer them in to the bigger setup I bought from yourselves?
Gather a nice looking dark green bramble leaf from outside and mist the top surface of the leaf with cold tap water. Shake off the excess water and then place the leaf, wet side uppermost into the HAP, angling the leaf so that it touches the HAP Liner and then reaches upwards into the HAP. Every few days, remove the bramble leaf and replace with a fresh wet one, following the above advice. Don't spray water into the HAP because this will make the surroundings too humid. And there is no need to trim the edges of the bramble leaf unless they are shrivelled and brown. After 6 - 8 weeks your baby Indian stick insects will have grown significantly (by shedding their skins) and should now have a total length (this includes the front legs outstretched and body) of 3.5cm. There is a photo of this in the free leaflet that accompanies all orders Small-Life Supplies dispatch. This is the size at which Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) require more air and space, so this is when you should transfer them to the purpose designed ELC stick insect cage.

At what point is the new bramble growth safe for the stick insects?
The soft pale green bramble leaves need to be 3cm long to be safe for stick insects to eat. More details are on the Small-Life Supplies YouTube video # 001, called "How to feed stick insects in the Spring".

I'd appreciate your thoughts on the content of the "Comparing Life Cycles" chart (see photo attached) that I saw today on a home educator course. It's American but is being used here (in the UK), and it's full of technical errors! On the insect section it only has four sentences but there are mistakes in three of them!
Thanks for sending the photo, here is the actual text from the insect section, with my comments alongside. (1) "Born as an egg". No! An insect is born when it hatches from an egg and not before. (2) "Larvae (caterpillar) hatch and feed". Not quite correct, the author is mixing the singular and plural. A larva is the singular and larvae the plural. So one caterpillar is a larva and multiple caterpillars are larvae. (3) "Caterpillar pupates in chrysalis". Not technically correct because the caterpillar pupates into a pupa. Only a few pupae have gold markings and only these pupae can be called chrysalises (after the Greek word "chrysos" meaning gold). The image is of a Monarch chrysalis which does have some gold so can be called a chrysalis. However in the UK we do not have Monarch butterflies and so most British people will never see a Monarch chrysalis. (4) "Adults look very different from young". This shows a Monarch butterfly and yes, butterflies and moths go through "complete metamorphosis" and so the adults look nothing like the young. So you're right , this last sentence is the only one that is correct! It is depressing that such factually incorrect material is being used in an educational setting. I hope you voiced your concerns with the course co-ordinator.

Your webpage says adult Pink Winged stick insects "benefit from a weekly flight across the room". Can you elaborate a bit more please? Do I just take the lid off the ELC cage and wait for them to fly out?
No, you need to lift out the adult Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) and let her stand on your outstretched flat palm, facing away from your body. The first time you do this, it's best to hold your hand above a table. This is because she will be cautious on her maiden flight and this is likely to be short and she will probably land on the table. However, she will soon gain confidence and make longer flights successfully, so will soon be able to fly across the room and land on the wall. Then you need to pick her up and put her back inside the ELC cage. Stick insects are often thirsty after flying, so it's recommended to lightly mist the bramble leaves in the cage with water before you return her to the cage. More flying tips and illustrations of this activity are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd.

Do stick insects have their own personalities? My boyfriend says I'm being daft but I am certain they do! My gang of four New Guinea stick insects all act differently, and Billie, my biggest female, is always the one who wants to walk the furthest when I handle them. Have scientific studies been done on this by you guys?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we have bred and reared many generations of stick insects (of various species) for decades, and you are correct, it is possible to recognise that individual stick insects have different behaviours. Of course to be able to do this, you need to be in tune with the stick insects and have good observational skills, so it's great that you have this skill set. Billie sounds like a great character and so I hope she has a good long life with you, some of our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have achieved lifespans of three years! Regarding scientific studies on this topic, it is good that there is finally much more acceptance amongst biologists that all animals (including cats, birds etc) do have their own personalities. Of course many farmers and breeders of livestock have known this for decades, but some biologists still hold with the outdated (and incorrect) view that all animals only act out of instinct, or are somehow programmed.

It looks like one of the stick insects has died. It's lying on the bottom of the cage. We have carefully followed instructions, does this usually happen soon after delivery or have we done something wrong? Really worried we might lose more. She does seem pretty dead, hasn't moved for several hours. Please find attached photo. We received them two days ago.
Your photo shows a healthy adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) in her classic defensive state, so she's looking like a straight stick, with all her legs clamped against her body. Therefore, the good news is your stick insect is not dead, she is just frightened and will have moved by tomorrow morning. It is natural for stick insects to be apprehensive when they go to a new home and so you can expect them to exhibit this defensive behaviour. When a stick insect is in this defensive stick mode it can be motionless for many hours, but will definitely have come out of this state by tomorrow morning and will probably be resting on the mesh side of the ELC cage. As the stick insects get used to their new surroundings and settle in, they will relax more and so you will see this defensive behaviour less and less, although sudden loud noises or a jolt to the cage may elicit it again.

OK, so I've just counted my Indian stick insects and I have four adults and twenty five large nymphs and ten slightly smaller nymphs. They're all in the ELC cage, that was gifted to me at Christmas by my fabulous auntie, and has been so much better than the net enclosure I had before. Anyways, here's the thing, my budget is tight but I'm gonna need another ELC, so do you have any going cheap? If not, no worries, I'll wait a bit longer till I can afford it, but I thought I'd ask!
It's great that your Indian stick insects are doing well and that you are looking after them properly and not wanting to overcrowd them. Up to twenty adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are recommended per ELC cage, and so you are correct in realising that another ELC cage is needed before all your nymphs mature. Small-Life Supplies does have some lightly used ELC cages for sale at a discount price, but such cages are always snapped up really quickly, so I suggest you phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to ask if any are available at the moment.

I remember keeping stick insects many years ago, they were Indian ones, and I struggled to tell the difference between the eggs and poo? Have you any advice, my grandson would like some, he already has a terrarium and only wants a couple. Is the postage less if I buy just two stick insects instead of four?

Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like company of their own kind and so Small-Life Supplies sell them in packs of four. They are sent within the UK expertly packaged and via an express 24 hour delivery service, to minimise the time in transit, that is why we can guarantee live arrival. This delivery service is premium and so costs a lot more than the risky budget slower services, so this is why £9.95 is the fixed price. Indian stick insects do best in the ELC cage (which is 51cm tall and has two mesh sides) and you line the floor with an ELC Liner. Every week, when you replace the Liner, just tilt it and tap it underneath and the Indian stick insect eggs roll off. The Indian stick insect eggs are round and brown with a yellow lid (operculum) and so look very different to the stick insects' poo/droppings/frass which is irregularly shaped and dark grey or black.

Is there photographic guidance on getting safe bramble leaves for stick insects?
Yes. At this time of year lots of people are asking this question because the new growth of bramble is here and it's important to avoid picking the young leaves because they have toxins (that can harm the stick insects). We've just put a photo on our Facebook page to show which bramble leaves to choose. Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/smallLifeSupplies

I have a question about stick insect eggs. I have 4 Indian stick insects in the ELC cage who have grown well on a diet of bramble leaves, but when I cleaned out the cage I saw a lot of eggs amongst the poo and spent the best part of Saturday afternoon sorting out stick insect eggs from stick insect poo. I probably think I have had lots of eggs amongst the poo in the past and just emptied them onto the soil of my indoor mango plant. I have the eggs in a plastic sealed pot and lift the lid daily to allow air to get inside, do I need to mist the eggs or do I leave them dry while in the pot and just allow them to hatch? I do so want to hatch some baby sticks from eggs so really need to know what is the correct way to look after the eggs. See photo attached of the pot of eggs.
I can see from your photo that your Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) look healthy and so you can expect babies within three to four months. You have hundreds of eggs, and most will hatch, so now is the time to decide how many you want to keep, I suggest no more than fifty unless you want to have hundreds of stick insects. You can just leave the eggs in the sealed pot, there is no need to lift the lid daily because there is plenty of air in the pot. You should smell the pot though to see if you can detect any plastic type smell, because some plastics emit an odour and this can deform the hatchlings. But if you can't smell anything, it should be OK. Don't mist the eggs, this is not necessary for this species and is likely to make the eggs go mouldy. When the eggs start to hatch, it's best to house the babies (called first instar nymphs) in HAP pots. We use these for our baby stick insects and they are great and crystal clear so you can see the stick insects easily. Many customers have two HAP pots, one to store the eggs and the other to house the baby stick insects until they are ready to be transferred to the ELC cage.

I've just ordered fresh cut bramble Small-Life Supplies. Do you have a rough estimate on how long the bramble will last?
You'll receive three sprigs of fresh cut bramble with juicy dark green leaves. Push the thicker end of each stem into a Sprig Pot of cold tap water and insert into the ELC cage. The leaves should stay fresh for 7-10 days. If you only have a few stick insects, you can lengthen this time by only putting two stems in the Sprig Pot and keeping the remaining stem in the resealable wallet in the bottom of the fridge, to use later.

I was shocked to read that many British small tortoiseshell butterflies have died this year because it has been such a mild winter they have woken up early and starved to death because it is too early for flowers. Looking around my small garden, I planted two buddleia bushes last year for the butterflies, both have leaves on, but no flowers. The rest of my garden is paved for easy maintenance. Should I be putting out food for the butterflies, like I do for the birds, and if so, what type?
British Small tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais urticae) hibernate during the cold winter months, but it is normal for them to wake up on the odd sunny day and fly around for a short time before going back into hibernation. Every year I have some hibernating in my garage and see them fly to a window, have a drink and then go back to sleep. So it is not true that they must feed, it is water that they need. And total emergence from hibernation is not just temperature dependant, it also depends on the light intensity etc, and so it is unlikely that many Small Tortoiseshell butterflies have been fooled into emerging from hibernation early. However, it is still important to have British flowers in your garden all year because these provide a food source for any passing insect that eats nectar. I strongly recommend you consider participating in the "square metre project". This concept has been running for decades and is so easy to do and really effective. Just pull up some of your slabs to reveal the earth in a size approximately 1metre by 1metre. You don't have to do anything else apart from wait and leave that area alone. In time, native weeds will grow there, including flowering nettle and flowering violets. I have these areas and flowers in my garden now and they are a lifeline for passing insects. Far from looking a mess, it can look pretty and colourful. It will take time to establish, but it's well worth the wait. In the meantime, you can put out a 10% sugar solution to feed any passing insects, details on how to make this are in the second Small-Life Supplies You Tube video, titled "How to rear British butterflies, video # 002".

My son got some large giant chocolate millipedes and his hands have gone yellow! No one warned me about this, what's happening here?
The millipedes are frightened and are releasing their defensive liquid, this stains the skin on human fingers yellow. After a few days the colour will wash off. However, if giant millipedes are being looked after properly, they shouldn't be frightened and so won't release this liquid. It's likely that your millipedes are nervous because they have just arrived at their new home, so it's important that your son is calm and patient with them and minimises handling them for the first couple of weeks to give them time to settle in. These African "chocolate" millipedes eat orange and cucumber slices and dead oak leaves. They need a shallow dish of water to drink from. And they are best housed in the ELC cage (with Ventilation Control Panels attached to reduce the airflow), because they like to climb and rest on the mesh sides. Keep a dish of sterilised soil in there because the female buries her eggs in soil.

How many eggs do Indian stick insects lay and hatch and how many can live in ELC cage? I'm slightly worried about ending up with hundreds of stick insects.
You can house up to twenty adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in the ELC cage, and we recommend starting with a pack of four adults. They can be handled straight away and there are differences in appearance so you should be able to tell them apart and give them names. Each Indian stick insect lays about three eggs a day throughout her adult life, these eggs are dropped onto the Liner and roll off when the Liner is tilted and tapped underneath. So every week, when you replace the Liner, just collect the eggs by letting them roll off the Liner into a dish. You can feed unwanted eggs to birds or fish or pour hot water on the eggs if you don't want them to develop any further. Place the eggs you want to keep in the HAP. Indian stick insects have a high success rate of hatching, so only keep 20 - 25 eggs. Indian stick insect eggs take a long time to hatch, four months, and so there is no risk of suddenly being overrun if you follow the above advice.

We collected our bramble this morning, it's looking OK, with big green leaves. But at the base of the leaves are pale green shoots, what should we do with these?
Just pull the shoots off and discard them. The stick insects will then only eat the large dark green leaves. If you leave the shoots on, they will soon unfurl into soft pale new leaves, which present a danger to stick insects because this new growth contains toxins (to help prevent the leaves being eaten). Some stick insects seem to know not to eat the new growth, but others don't, so it's not worth taking the risk and leaving the shoots on.

I am getting a pair of Heteropteryx dilatata soon and I was just wondering whether I could keep them in the ELC cage with my Sungaya inexpectata?
It is best to house Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) separately from other species of stick insect. Malaysian stick insect adults are large bulky stick insects and can accidentally damage a smaller type stick insect if they accidentally tread on it. And Malaysian stick insects have long stripey antennae which are readily eaten by other species of stick insect! Malaysian stick insects are very slow growing and although active as adults are not lively when younger. However, it is still important to handle them regularly as they grow up so they are used to being handled and do not develop into aggressive adults. People who boast about their angry Malaysian stick insects lashing out have not been looking after them properly.

Is a 32cm high tank tall enough for stick insects?
No, stick insects need a much taller cage, at least 46cm (18 inches), so they have plenty of room to grow properly. Housing stick insects in cages that are only 32cm ( 12 ½") high is likely to lead to stunted growth or stick insects with deformed bent bodies. The ELC stick insect cage is the best cage for stick insects and is 51cm (20 inches) tall and has two ventilated sides, providing optimum conditions to keep stick insects successfully.

Is cuttlefish or eggshells better for land snails?
Eggshells are better than cuttlefish because they have a lower salt content. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we stopped using cuttlefish over twenty years ago and have found our Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) do much better on rinsed out hen eggshells. We break the eggs in half and rinse out each half under cold running tap water. The snails climb inside the rinsed out eggshell and gnaw at it from within, consuming calcium in the process (which the snails need to ensure their shells stay strong). However, the snails are fussy about what type of hen eggshell they prefer. The most expensive free range eggshells are their favourite, these are clearly far better quality (and more ethically produced) than the cheaper alternatives.

I've got a mini spritzer bottle but I have to fill it daily because it doesn't hold much water. I'm tempted by your "Mister Swivel" but would like to know if it's better to fill it every day, or could I refill it when it's empty? What do you guys do at Small-Life Supplies?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we use Mister Swivels to lightly mist the bramble leaves in the stick insects' cages every afternoon. We mist the leaves daily but only change the water in the Mister Swivels about once a week. The water in the open drinking Water Dishes is changed daily, so there is always clean drinking water available for the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). However the cold tap water in the Mister Swivel is enclosed and so only needs changing once a week and not every day. You will find it much easier to use the Mister Swivel, particularly with it's feature of the directional nozzle, and the large capacity means it holds a decent amount of water, so you won't have the hassle of having to refill it daily.

I have a 30x30x45cm cage - will this be the right size for Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects as I have been doing a lot of reading, but wanted to be sure.
When keeping stick insects, the height and ventilation of the cage are the key features which need to be correct. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) can be kept in a cage with a minimum height of 46cm high (18 inches), our ELC cages are 51cm high (20 inches). Many stick insects, including this species, need two whole sides to be ventilated, so the surroundings are not stuffy. The ELC cage has two mesh sides, opposite each other, providing perfect ventilation. I don't know what the ventilation is like on your cage, but if it has four solid glass or plastic sides, these are not recommended for keeping Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects successfully.

Do Indian stick insects need extra heat?
Indian stick insects do best indoors in a room that is 18-21 degrees Celsius during the day, and no lower than 12 degrees Celsius at night. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have been reared in captivity in the UK for decades and so thrive at these indoor room temperatures, which they have become acclimatised to. In fact, Indian stick insects become stressed if they are kept in surroundings which are too hot, issues often arise if the room temperature exceeds 25 degrees Celsius. Stressed stick insects fight each other, nibble each other's knee joints and lose legs. This is not acceptable, so to keep your Indian stick insects healthy and undamaged, it is important to keep them in the proper cages in a room that is within the correct temperature range.

I've been misting Indian stick insects eggs every morning for the last two months, they are in the open and on kitchen roll, but still none have hatched. Will they ever?
Unfortunately, that is not a good technique for this species. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) eggs hatch best if they are kept in an unventilated container (such as the HAP) and not misted. Left alone, they usually hatch after four months. When they hatch, it's important to give the baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) a wet bramble leaf, so they can drink from the water droplets on the leaf before nibbling the leaf.

Thank goodness spring is coming and I'm seeing the fresh bramble shoots. But I've been told these are not good for the stick insects? I'm a newbie, I have Pink Winged stick insects (best Christmas present ever!) and would appreciate your advice, I don't want any harm to come to them.
Always remove and discard the fresh bramble shoots before feeding your stick insects. The small pale green soft new leaves may look fresh and healthy, but they contain toxins (to help protect the plant from creatures that want to eat this new growth). So continue to give your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) the older, darker green bramble leaves instead, even if they look a bit ropey. You can also give them evergreen eucalyptus leaves, the standard Eucalyptus gunnii is a popular choice, it's best to source these leaves from eucalyptus trees growing locally.

Can you tell the age of an adult Indian stick insect just by looking at it?
Yes, to experienced breeders such as myself, this is possible to do. So, if you purchase adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) from Small-Life Supplies, you can rest assured that you will be sent young adults and not old ones! In general, adult Indian stick insects live for approximately seven months. As they age, they darken ever so slightly, and when they are old, their abdomens are slimmer than before. Very old Indian stick insects can lose the ability to grip with the sticky pads on their feet, it's usually the pads on their front legs that deteriorate first.

Please can you tell me is it okay to put Indian stick insects in the same cage as Australian stick insects?
Both Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) like a side ventilated cage and can live together in the same ELC cage, but there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, don't overcrowd them because this increases the risk of an Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect accidentally standing on an Indian stick insect and damaging it. When they are fully grown, female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are very large and bulky. So maybe only house up to four Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects and ten Indian stick insects in one ELC cage. Secondly, be careful when misting the bramble leaves with water. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects prefer a weekly spray of the leaves, whereas the Indian stick insects drink more often (daily or every few days). One solution is to take the Sprig Pot of bramble out of the cage, mist the leaves lightly and let the Indian stick insects drink. Evening is the best time to do this. When they have finished drinking and the rest of the water has evaporated from the leaves, the Sprig Pot of bramble can be returned to the ELC cage. Unfortunately Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects can become ill if they drink too much water (they don't seem to know when to stop).

Do stick insects need UV light?
No, stick insects do not need UV light. That is why stick insects can be housed in a room with no outside window (to let in daylight) and why a UV light is not required. However, stick insects do need a light and dark cycle. So stick insects should have light during the day, this can be from the room ceiling fluorescent tube or lightbulb (so not a light attached to the cage) and be in darkness at night (so always switch off the room light at night, and also switch off any floor lamps and table lamps).

Is it possible to arrange a regular weekly delivery of bramble from Small-Life Supplies for the next three weeks? Or do I need to phone every time? The flippin council have gone and cleared the bramble bushes by the footpath that I have been using, and I just haven't got the energy at the moment to start hunting around for more bramble. I have fifteen Indian stick insects in an ELC cage.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies can arrange this for you, one phone call is all it takes to set up a regular supply for whatever period of time you choose, so in your case, three weeks. It is very frustrating when bramble bushes are decimated by council workers, such action is unnecessary because as long as the bushes are trimmed back from the path they are a haven for nature and very handy for people who need bramble to feed their stick insects!

Wow, just read about the stick insect that's half male and half female on the BBC news! Have you ever had one like that, I know you breed loads? And they're gonna kill him? That made me sad.
Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed large numbers of stick insects, but have never reared one that has a body split down the middle, with one half looking female and the other half looking male. We have seen rare gynandromorph Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), but these stick insects have a combination of male and female characteristics, and are not visibly split down the middle with one side being male and one side being female. So the stick insect featured on the BBC news is extremely rare and valuable. Much can be learnt from observing living stick insects and so when such an extreme example of this rare phenomenon occurs (it's called gynandromorphism), this is an ideal opportunity for filming the living creature. Unfortunately though, it appears that a decision has been made to kill this stick insect (a Grenadan stick insect, Diapherodes gigantea, called "Charlie") so it can be added to a museum collection in the UK. A strange decision because stick insects can be preserved after they have died naturally from old age. It would have been interesting to see how long such an unusual stick insect could live for. Charlie could have even been a YouTube sensation!

Do Indian stick insects eat lettuce? If not, what should I be hunting for on a very windy February day? I live in Bradford, West Yorkshire.
No, lettuce will kill Indian stick insects (they become waterlogged and die). Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) must be given the correct leaves to eat, otherwise they will suffer and die. Indian stick insects can eat the following leaves: bramble (blackberry) leaves, rose leaves - wild dog rose or garden rose (if these have not been sprayed), eucalyptus leaves. Sometimes Indian stick insects can eat privet leaves and/or ivy leaves. But in the winter, it's best to source bramble (blackberry) leaves for Indian stick insects. You can find bramble (blackberry) leaves in overgrown areas such as disused railway lines, canal embankments, woods, and wasteland. If you need time to find a local source, there is always the option of purchasing fresh cut bramble stems with leaves attached from Small-Life Supplies, and have this delivered to your door.

I have 19 Indian stick insects. I am having a problem with fruit flies (I think that's what they are). I have been told that apple cider vinegar is good to prevent them but I am reluctant to use it. Will it hurt or harm my 19 babies?
Apple cider vinegar has a strong smell and as a general rule, anything with a strong smell should be kept well away from stick insects. The issue here is your set up. Fruit flies thrive in damp unhygienic surroundings and so the solution is to change your set up, otherwise the fruit flies will just keep returning. Your set up is not good for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) which do best in clean surroundings. So I recommend you throw way your substrate (I'm guessing it's moist soil/peat or similar) and then thoroughly wash out your enclosure with lukewarm soapy water. Rinse well with cold tap water and dry thoroughly with a soft cotton tea towel. Place sheets of A4 copier paper (or sheets of A4 paper from a refill pad) on the floor of the enclosure. Add fresh bramble stems, stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water, mist these leaves lightly with cold tap water, and then add the Indian stick insects. Your stick insects will be more healthy and do much better in this new set up, and you both won't have the irritation of the small fruit flies.

I have a New Guinea stick insect that recently shed and it has gotten both it's antenna stuck in the shed, I have tried putting water on it but that didn't work, do you have any suggestions?
Looking at the photo you sent, this female New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) has not managed to free the end of her antennae from her cast off skin. You can help her, but you will need to be careful, calm and patient. You need to carefully cut away as much of the old cast off white skin as you can with a small pair of nail scissors. Start by cutting the white skin between the antennae, so that the antennae are separated. Then you can deal with one antenna at a time. Hold the tip of the antenna with your fingers and carefully snip away as much of the old skin as you can that is stuck to that antenna. Repeat with the other antenna. Then let the stick insect rest. In a few days time you can squirt a bit of water onto the end of each antenna, wait ten minutes and then see if you can peel any more of the old skin off. If this is not possible, don't worry the stick insect should be able to manage OK. Such problems are unusual and it can help to avoid them happening in the future by putting more bramble in the cage, so you could put two Sprig Pots of bramble into that cage instead of just one.

How tall should a stick insect enclosure be? For the standard stick insect?
A stick insect cage should be approximately 50cm tall, this allows plenty of room for the stick insects to grow properly. This is because stick insects grow by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins (this process is called ecdysis) and so need sufficient height in the cage to be able to do this properly. Shorter enclosures are not tall enough and can result in stunted growth or stick insects with deformed bodies that are curved and bent (because there was not enough height in the cage for their bodies to straighten out properly). The "standard stick insect" is the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). Indian stick insects do best if housed in the ELC stick insect cage (51cm high) when they have a total length of 3.5cm or more. Baby Indian stick insects (also called first instar nymphs) prefer a smaller, less ventilated cage, and do well in the HAP (which is 13cm tall).

I have sadly found my male Macleays Spectre dead today - I was initially not too surprised as he is quite old. However, his front leg was missing when I found him. It was firmly attached when he was last alive. I've had insects lose a limb shedding and live happily without it - however I'm wondering whether this is an injury that caused his death? He doesn't appear to have any other injuries or a fungal infection, and the female sharing his food (which comes from my garden) appears totally normal. Any thoughts on whether this was his cause of death, or a strange coincidence?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) usually live just under one year if their main foodplant is bramble (blackberry) leaves, and a few months longer if their main foodplant is eucalyptus leaves. The adult males have wings and those males that like to fly a lot have shorter lifespans than males that are less keen on flying. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do not often lose legs, but as with other species of stick insect, losing a leg is not fatal. So the leg loss has not contributed to the death of your male. Very old male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects darken in colour and sometimes become more brittle, so a foot can snap off or a leg can break off. So, although this is not inevitable, it sounds like this has happened to your male.

My daughter is looking forward to her new snail home. But I´ve just realised that both of her snails shells are only 1.5cm long. Do you supply a special snail home for smaller snails? And if so, is it too late to add it to my existing order for the HLQ?
The HLQ cage is designed for Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) with a shell length of 3cm. For snails with a shell length of half this size, 1.5cm, it's best to house them in the SPONG, this is our new snail home, designed by Small-Life Supplies, for smaller snails. The SPONG is supplied with SPONG Liners, which are made from the same material as HLQ Liners and so are designed to be used wet, to increase the humidity in the cage. Providing your order has not been dispatched yet, there is still time to add items to it, so please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to do this.

I was wondering if you still sell empty silkmoth cocoons? I bought some off you a couple of years ago but can't find them on your site at the moment?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies breeds giant Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) and so we have a regular supply of the silk cocoons that are vacated when the adult silkmoths emerge. The empty silk cocoons are for sale, we also sell the actual insects that have died form old age. More details are on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, or you can phone (during office hours) 01733 203358.

So my New Guinea stick insect's name is Bert, he is around six months old. I have had him for around one week now. I'm still not able to get him on my hand, but he has been letting me give him little pats on his back which is really good. The issue I'm having is, Bert sometimes goes crazy and jerks around on the shiny grey floor of the ELC cage. Is he OK?
Bert is a little nervous at the moment which is why is behaving like this. His behaviour suggests he has recently become an adult and is getting used to his new size. Most male New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) adapt quickly and there are no issues, but a few become excitable and jerk and topple over, which is what you are seeing. A slippery surface just makes things worse because the stick insect cannot grip onto anything to be able to turn himself back over again. So the first thing you need to do is to put an ELC Liner on the floor of the ELC cage because this has a rougher texture. You can also calmly talk to Bert (his ears are by his knees) because this can help him to relax. He should calm down within a week. Changing homes at such a critical time is not ideal and this will have added to his upset. Thinking ahead, Bert will definitely need company of his own kind, so acquiring a young adult female New Guinea stick insect for him is strongly recommended. And don't forget to put a shallow dish of clean cold tap water in the cage (because New Guinea stick insects drink a lot of water and become stressed if they are deprived of water).

Can I just check about the foliage please? Will Indian stick insects only eat wild rose, not domestic ones? (I have normal roses in the garden but not traditional dog roses). The hazel tree is bare at the moment so are we best sticking to a diet of brambles?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are not fussy about the type of rose leaves they eat, so domestic (or garden) rose leaves are eaten, as are wild dog rose leaves. However, be very careful if you are using your own garden roses to check that they have not been sprayed with insecticides, because such plants will not be safe for the stick insects to eat. Also, double check the year you planted the roses in your garden and do not use any plants that have been planted within the last 12 months. This is because many commercially sold potted roses are grown in soil that is infused with pesticides and these chemicals remain active for a whole year. So during a whole year, the poisons are taken up by the plant roots and distributed within the plant (and so cannot be washed off) and will kill any insect that eats the leaves. Regarding other foliage options, Indian stick insects do really well on bramble (blackberry) leaves, lightly misted with cold tap water in the evening. And you can also give Indian stick insects some hazel leaves when these grow on the trees again, in the summer months.

Please tell me what temperature I should set my room thermostat to so that my stick insects will be happy. We are discussing purchasing Indian stick insects and an ELC bundle as they appear to be family friendly pets.
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are great family pets. They are clean creatures and easy to look after. A lounge is a good room to keep them in, just place the ELC cage on a table or shelf (but not on the windowsill). A daytime temperature of 18 degrees Celsius is OK, so this is what you need to set the room thermostat to. If it's a sunny day and the room warms up a few degrees more that is OK, so anywhere between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius is fine for Indian stick insects during the day. At night, you can programme or set your room thermostat to 12 degrees Celsius, this drop in temperature at night suits Indian stick insects well. If your house is well insulated it may not drop below 14 degrees Celsius, but that is OK for Indian stick insects too.

We've just bought a 60cm screen mesh vivarium and are now ready to buy some stick insects! Does someone need to be here to accept delivery? And what type do you recommend, my thirteen year old son would like a conventional looking stick insect, not one of the lobster ones!
One issue with that design of vivarium (that is not advertised as being a stick insect cage) is that it has so much ventilation (four ventilated panels) and so is very draughty. Most stick insects do best in a cage with half that amount of ventilation, so just two ventilated sides. This is why the ELC stick insect cage, which has been developed after many years of research and development, has two ventilated sides. However, there a couple of Thailand species of stick insect that can thrive in a very airy cage. And your son should like these because they are a stick-like shape. Small-Life Supplies has both in stock, the 18cm long Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) and the larger 22cm long New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp). Both these Thailand stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. We let you know in advance what day delivery will be, and also provide a two hour delivery window so you know when to expect the parcel. However, if you may be nipping out, please let us know where your "safe place" is and the driver will leave the parcel there for you. The driver will take a photo as proof of delivery.

We have just received our first pair of New Guinea stick insects nymphs from you and are very pleased with them. We already have the ELC cage and the other bits and bobs, and now my other son would like his own pair as well! My question is would you advise getting another pair of nymphs or would a pair of adults be better to go in with the ones we already have?
It's great that you all like the New Guinea stick insects nymphs (Eurycantha calcarata) and will be caring for these stick insects properly. I'd recommend another pair of nymphs, rather than adults, to complement the nymphs you already have. There is a lot of colour variation amongst the nymphs and so it is easy to tell them apart and give them names.

I am so glad I've found your site and the ELC cage looks bonny. Are the viewing panels glass?
The ELC cage is an attractive cage, specially designed cage for housing stick insects, and is now celebrating ten years of production in the UK. The viewing panels are crystal clear and are not glass, but premium plastic. This has the huge advantage that the ELC cage is not heavy and so it is easy to move around and clean. I don't recommend glass enclosures for keeping stick insects because glass is heavy and this makes it very difficult to move the cage around and clean it thoroughly. It is important to wash the stick insect cage out every month so that it looks nice and is properly clean and hygienic. If you purchase the ELC bundle , it comes with a soft Cleaning Sponge which makes it very easy to wash the cage with lukewarm soapy water.

One of my Carausius morosus has regenerated one of its antenna as a foot, how rare is this? When I received it it was missing both antennae, a leg and a foot and it is now an adult and has regenerated both limbs and part of an antenna (about 5mm) but its right antenna has developed into a foot (the whole tarsus segment).
This is standard practice in regeneration. A stick insect can regenerate limbs but struggles to regenerate substantial amounts of antennae. If the antennal break is set deep back in the head, a foot is regenerated in its place. This is seen with various species of stick insect, including Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). Also, in Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), you can see a photo of this in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. Of course, in captivity seeing such extreme damage is rare, so it is disturbing that you have received such a badly damaged stick insect, particularly as Carausius morosus is such a common type. So if you purchased this stick insect, you would be justified in contacting the seller to complain.

I see that you're selling silkmoth pupae? I don't understand, I thought they spun silk cocoons?
Yes, when fully grown, each Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillar (Samia ricini) spins a silk cocoon and then pupates (forms a pupa) inside this protective outer covering. The silk cocoon is white and the pupa is brown. A pupa that is alive twitches at the pointed end, so it's easy to determine if the pupa is still alive by gently touching it at the pointed end. Sometimes the caterpillar is unsuccessful in spinning a complete cocoon and so the pupa falls out of it. Or sometimes a caterpillar spins a cocoon over the exit hole of another cocoon, and so we manually intervene to remove the trapped pupa, thereby saving it. If the exit hole in the cocoon is blocked off, the emerging silkmoth has no chance of getting out and will die. In captivity, the health of the adult Indian Eri silkmoth is not affected if it emerges from a loose pupa or from a pupa surrounded by a cocoon. So that is why Small-Life Supplies sell both. The loose pupae are slightly cheaper than the ones surrounded by cocoons.

I'm delighted to share my fascination with stick insects with my grand daughter, Lily, who's nine. Sadly her mother doesn't understand how her daughter can be so interested in nature, so the stick insects reside at my house, rather than at theirs. I wanted to ask you how common this situation is? I have always loved animals, but sadly by daughter has not inherited this view and has always been very materialistic.
This is a common situation, it is known as "skip-gen", in other words skipping a generation. And stick insects are a great skip-gen interest! It is fantastic that you and Lily can enjoy looking after stick insects at your house. Your daughter is unlikely to change her viewpoint, so Lily must be so relieved to be able to visit you and help care for the stick insects. It is very likely that Lily will retain her appreciation of animals and nature, and so this should be encouraged. Many scientists start off by showing an interest in the natural world.

I have just had a baby Indian stick insect hatching. The egg sac is still on its’ tail and two back legs after 3-4 days from when it hatched. Do you think it will still fall off? Or should we gently intervene?
When Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs hatch, they usually free themselves completely from the eggshell. Occasionally, the eggshell may be retained on a leg (or two), in this situation do not intervene. However, very occasionally, the eggshell may be retained on the end of the abdomen, or, as you have seen, on the abdomen and one (or two) of the back legs. In this situation, it is essential to intervene within 24 hours and hold the eggshell between your thumb and forefinger. The stick insect will pull on the eggshell (you will feel her force) and, as soon as she has pulled her tail out, you should let go. The reason why it is so important to get the eggshell off the end of the abdomen is because the stick insect cannot defecate with the eggshell still attached there. Unfortunately after 3-4 days, you have probably left it too late, but it's worth a try to see if you can save this stick insect.

I'm not meaning to be rude, but do all adult male stick insects have a greenish jelly type blob that they bring out for mating? Even the incredibly rare male Indian stick insect?
Yes, that is their genitalia. The colour varies, depending on the species of stick insect, it is usually green, but sometimes blue and sometimes dark grey. It is green in the really rare male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). After mating, this equipment retracts back into the stick insect and is no longer visible. If mating has been successful, the female now has a small white (or pink) round sac of sperm attached to the outside of her body, at the end. This is called a spermatophore and, over the next day or so, releases sperm into her body to fertilise her eggs. The empty sac then falls off.

To light or not to light? I've got one of your fantastic ELC cages for my four New Guinea stick insects and am weighing up the pros and cons of lighting it up with LEDs? The room is kinda gloomy, but then again, the New Guinea stick insects are often in the pink tubes, so I'm a bit conflicted as to what's best?
Don't illuminate the ELC cage. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like darker surroundings, they would be very stressed in bright light. In the wild the New Guinea stick insects pile on top on each under underneath tree bark, away from the light. In captivity, these stick insects rest on top of each other in the pink cardboard Community Tubes, as you have observed. At night, during the dark,the New Guinea stick insects are the most active, and climb up and down the mesh sides of the ELC cage.

I know that we benefit from eating a varied diet, does the same apply to Indian stick insects? Or should they be fed on just the one food ?
Rules that apply to humans don't necessarily apply to stick insects. And diet is one example. In the wild, stick insects remain near their foodplant and eat that throughout their lives. So, in captivity it is a good idea to feed your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) with just one foodplant, namely bramble (blackberry) leaves. However, if your supply of bramble (blackberry) is scarce or of poor quality, Indian stick insects can switch to eating certain other types of leaves, for example hazel leaves and wild rose leaves. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we start all our Indian stick insects off on bramble (blackberry) leaves. In the summer months, we sometimes supplement their diet with hazel (and wild rose) leaves, but this is done just to conserve the bramble stocks for the winter months. Hazel trees are deciduous and so have no leaves during the winter.

Why are stick insects not genetically identical to their mother?
Because they are not clones. Stick insects don't clone themselves. They reproduce by parthenogenesis. Some species such as the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) use parthenogenesis as their standard method of reproduction. So these stick insects are all female and lay eggs (without mating first), these eggs hatch into more females. But their daughters have lots of variation, both in size, behaviour, colour etc and so are not clones of their mothers. Some other species of stick insect such as New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have males and females occurring in approximately equal numbers. So the standard method of reproduction in these species is for the adults to mate and then eggs to be laid which hatch into equal numbers of males and females. However, even those species can revert to an emergency system of parthenogenetic reproduction if there are no males present. But again, this is not cloning and so there will be variation amongst the offspring.

I thought I'd share my success with bramble planting with you and your followers. I took your advice and planted some bramble plants (rescued from a development site) in the 1 metre gap between my brick garage and the neighbour's wooden fence. It's stony ground that's breaking up a bit. Fast forward a year and that entire gap is full of bramble! An extra bonus is today I found two empty bird's nests in there, whilst cutting out the dead stems. The big nest I think was a blackbird's , I am not sure what type the small nest is. But I'm so happy to have changed this barren area into a wildlife haven and helped feed my stick insects as well.
Well done, and thank you for sharing this positive experience. And yes, bramble is very easy to grow and thrives in poor soil. It's great that the birds benefited too, no doubt they will be back to build new nests there later on this year.

Are arachnids invertebrates?
Yes. Invertebrates are animals without backbones. Arachnids (which includes spiders) don't have backbones, neither do insects. So both arachinds and insects are invertebrates.

I'm wondering if Indian stick insects can eat ivy?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) should only be fed ivy leaves as a last resort. Indian stick insects do best if fed bramble (blackberry) leaves, which are available all year round. Indian stick insects can also eat hazel leaves and wild rose leaves when these are available in the summer months.

We'd really like to add the New Guinea stick insects to our growing collection of phasmids. Could a couple fit in to an ELC cage that is currently housing 4 Thailand stick insects and 4 Indian stick insects? Or would it be better to get another ELC cage?
Great that you wish to expand your stick insect collection. After being out of stock for a while, our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are now ready to send out to customers. These are a really healthy strain, great for handling and nice and large! New Guinea stick insects do require some extra bits in their cage (Sand Pit, Water Dish, Community Tubes), these are available to purchase from us. New Guinea stick insects are very large bulky stick insects and so really need to be housed separately from other species of stick insect, so need their own ELC cage. Their sheer bulk and weight means that a New Guinea stick insect can harm an Indian stick insect or a Thailand stick insect if it accidentally treads on one!

My daughter was given four baby Achatina fulica snails for Christmas, they are super cute! Her birthday is not until September, but I was thinking about getting her an HLQ snail cage. But how quickly will her snails grow? They seem to be growing already, and like to slide inside the eggshells we place in their clear box.
Achatina fulica is the Latin species name for the East African Land Snail. This is a popular pet, easy to look after and safe to keep. The young snails grow quickly and so should have a shell length of 3cm within nine months, this is the minimum size at which they can be kept in our specially designed snail cage called the HLQ. Rinsed out hen eggshells (broken into halves) are an ideal source of calcium for the snails, and as you have observed, they climb inside the empty eggshells and gnaw at them from the inside. You are lucky to have baby snails, this is ideal because you can give them a varied diet of assorted vegetable peelings , which is very important because a varied diet promotes a nicely patterned shell. And its good that you have four snails because, as with many other living creatures, they like company of their own kind.

So tempted by your New Guinea stick insects, they look awesome! My seven year old loves dinosaurs and wants some of these stick insects, are they suitable for such a young boy (he's very careful and loves bugs).
Our New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are used to being handled and are great for young children. They don't have wings and walk along slowly, so can be stroked gently on their backs. New Guinea stick insects have large claws and can get a good grip, so patience is needed when picking them up, but they benefit from lots of attention and being talked to (their ears are by their knees). Many New Guinea stick insects live for approximately two years, but here at Small-Life Supplies we have had many that live for three years! We have stunning young adults for sale now.

On a UK wildlife chat group someone mentioned there were zero acorns in his woods this year, a view echoed by others. What is going on? Is this because of the Climate Crisis? How are the squirrels going to cope? There aren't oak trees in my local woods but there are other trees which look fine and there's loads of bramble!
From time to time, many plants (including bramble) have a bumper year for producing large quantities of seeds (fruits, acorns etc). This is a big energy drain on the plant and so the following year it producing much fewer seeds, or sometimes none at all. This is how these plants have evolved to survive, and so is not related to the Climate Crisis. What is being seen across the UK in 2021 is a bad year for oaks, with many not producing a single acorn! But last year a bumper crop of acorns was produced. So yes, the squirrels will be hungry this year, fortunately they can eat other nuts as well as acorns. If you know anyone who routinely chases squirrels away from their garden bird feeders, you could ask them to stop and explain to them that the squirrels are starving this year and need to eat!

Are Indian stick insects polyphagous? I know they eat bramble leaves and rose leaves, so I thought that meant they're polyphagous, because they're eating more than one type of plant? But my teacher says I'm wrong.
Polyphagous means eating more than one "family" of plant. Plants are classified into "families" and both bramble and rose are classified as belonging to the "Rosaceae family". Indian stick insects do eat these leaves and also leaves from some other plants belonging to the Rosaceae family, including raspberry and Photinia Red Robin. However, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) don't just eat plants from the Rosaceae family and will thrive by eating plants belonging to some other families. So, Indian stick insects do well on hazel leaves and eucalyptus leaves. Neither of these plants belong to the Rosaceae family. So yes, this means that Indian stick insects are polyphagous, and can either be fed just one type of plant or a mixture of the ones listed above. ( I suspect your teacher didn't know that Indian stick insects can eat such a range of plants and thought they only ate leaves belonging to one family, the Rosaceae family).

We wish you a Merry Christmas and peaceful New Year. All our stick insects that we got from you earlier this year are fine and provided much enjoyment. My son Angus, who is five, would like to know if someone is going to care for the stick insects at Small-Life Supplies on Christmas Day, or will they be left alone?
Thank you for the festive wishes and I am pleased your stick insects are a success. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed stick insects (and caterpillars and snails) in large numbers. So, as livestock farmers, we have to look after these creatures every single day of the year, and that includes Christmas. So please reassure Angus that all the stick insects (and other creatures) at Small-Life Supplies will be attended to on Christmas Day and there will be plenty of fresh food and water for them. And, as usual the daytime room temperature will be set at 18 degrees Celsius and the nighttime temperature 14 degrees Celsius.

All my stick insects died, I only had them four days, they had potted ivy . And yes, I asked the garden centre if the plants had been sprayed and they said no, they hadn't. I washed the leaves just in case. I'm gutted.
It is far too risky putting potted plants from a garden centre/supermarket/online supplier into a cage of stick insects, without being 100% certain that no pesticides have been used. The question to ask is not if the plants have been sprayed, but are there pesticides in the soil? Unfortunately the vast majority of potted plants offered for sale are grown in soil that is infused with pesticides. These poisons are taken up within the plant stem and distributed within the leaves. So no amount of washing the leaves will remove these chemicals because they are inside the leaves, not on the surface! These pesticides in the soil remain active for twelve months and so you have to wait over a year before it is safe to let the stick insects eat the leaves.

I've bought stuff from you for many years and have always been very pleased with your customer service and insects and cages. I am thinking about getting some giant snails, I see your HLQ snail cage on your website, but can't see any snails listed? Might these be available in January? I did see another site listing Giant African Land Snails and described them as "WC". I don't understand the reference to the toilet?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed the creatures we sell and these include Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica). The ones we have available at the moment are young and are housed in our nursery snail homes. They need to be housed in there until they have a shell length of 3cm at which point they are ready to be transferred to the HLQ cage. These young snails (and nursery snail homes) shall be dispatched in January 2022 (weather permitting). We feed our Giant African Land Snails a varied diet from birth which is very important becuase a varied diet results in a nicely patterned shell. The acronym "WC" that you have seen on another website means "Wild Caught". This is a cruel practice because creatures are being taken from their native environment and shipped over to the UK. Those that survive the journey are wild creatures and so are very frightened, not used to being handled, and not acclimatised to living indoors. Some survive, others die of stress, others may be ill etc. So, to summarise, I would never recommend purchasing any type of pet that is "Wild Caught", and most certainly not one that has been imported from a hot country.

I have put brambles into the sprig pot and misted them with water. Am I supposed to do the misting every day or just once a week when the brambles get changed? I have Indian stick insects. Also, can the stick insects be on the brambles when I mist or should they not get wet?
Ideally, try to lightly mist the uppermost surface of the bramble leaves once a day, preferably in the evening. This is recommended, but not critical, so don't worry if you forget and miss a day or two. Try not to get the actual stick insects wet, so direct the water spray around them, if the stick insects are on the bramble. Generally this is not an issue because Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) prefer to rest on the white mesh sides of the ELC stick insect cage rather than on the bramble. If you are using an old plant sprayer, then adjust the nozzle to emit a fine spray of water, instead of a strong jet. If you purchased a Mister from Small-Life Supplies, this will have already been done for you and the Mister tested and approved as working correctly before it was dispatched to you.

We love our Indian silkmoth caterpillars, they are super big and munching loads. There is an empty house up for sale close by with a huge privet hedge, which we are helpfully trimming! But we've noticed some of the privet leaves are brown and tightly curled up, they look like there's a critter inside? What do we do about these leaves?
Great that you are enjoying keeping the Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini). And yes, they have large appetites, and eat a lot of privet. These caterpillars will only eat the leaves, and so will not attempt to eat the homes of other insects (these are within the brown curled leaves you are seeing). So, every day, when you remove the denuded stems and insert fresh sprigs of privet, you will see a pile of the curled brown leaves on the Liner of the cage. You should collect these in a dish and return them to the outdoor privet hedge on your next visit. Also, when harvesting privet leaves, try to pick stems containing nutritious green leaves in preference to those with purple or yellowing privet leaves.

Is it too late to buy stick insects for Christmas?
Almost! Please contact Small-Life Supplies urgently because the latest date for sending stick insects is Monday 13th December 2021. There are significant delays in some parts of the country this year (due to COVID, driver shortages and high numbers of parcels), so please check with us that your area is not affected. Fortunately mild nights are forecast next week and so there aren't cold weather delays (we only send out stick insects when it is mid enough at night for them to travel safely).

I'm expecting four Indian stick insects and an ELC cage bundle next week. How do I hide them safely from our excited son until Christmas Day? Do we need to open up the parcel immediately, or can it wait till the end of our work day?
You can wait till the end of your work day before opening the parcel. The parcel is large because the ELC cage is delivered ready assembled. Follow the unpacking instructions inside the box. Then place a Liner on the floor of the ELC cage. Fill the Sprig Pot with cold tap water and insert fresh bramble stems. (If you don't have these ready, you can use the loose leaves that have been sent and collect two fresh bramble sprigs the next day). Mist the leaves lightly with cold tap water. Add the stick insects. Then place the whole cage carefully back inside the large cardboard box it arrived in. Leave the top flaps of the box open so air and light can enter the cage. It should be easy to hide the box, but don't put it anywhere with strong fragrances because stick insects can be harmed by strong smells. The fresh bramble sprigs that you collect should stay fresh in the Sprig Pot of water for about one week, so you'll probably need to replace them with another couple of sprigs on 22nd December. Always select nice green bramble leaves rather than tatty yellowing ones.

My Macleays Spectre stick insects passed away last week. They were two ladies and were almost one year old. I'm pretty sure it was old age because they were slowing down and darker than when they were younger. I've kept some of their eggs, I do hope some may hatch, even though my ladies never saw a male?
Yes, what you describe is typical of how stick insects age. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) usually live approximately one year, if fed exclusively on bramble (blackberry) leaves as adults. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we have found that this lifespan is extended if eucalyptus and Photinia are included in their diet too, as adults. This species has males and females in equal numbers and so it is better to have males in the cage as well, if this is possible. Without males fertilising the females, the females switch to their emergency mode of reproduction, which is parthenogenesis. This means that they lay eggs which will hatch into more females. Incubation time for fertilised eggs is approximately six months, but parthenogenetically produced eggs take a bit longer, so you could be waiting for approximately eight months.

I spotted a tiny ladybird running across my floor, it must have fallen out of the bramble I snipped when I went out on my lunch break. I've popped it in a QBOX for now. It's dark outside, so I can't really go back to the bramble bush now, will the little mite be OK till tomorrow? It's super cute!
Yes, a ladybird will be fine in a QBOX overnight. This is what we do here at Small-Life Supplies, we gather up any ladybirds and shieldbugs that come in on the bramble and place them in QBOXES, before returning them to where they came from the next day. It's best to put a bramble leaf in the QBOX so the ladybird has something to rest on. In December, ladybirds are hibernating outside, often underneath a bramble leaf. The reason why your ladybird is so active is because it is indoors in a warm bright room. However it will soon revert to hibernating again when you place it back on the bramble bush outside tomorrow.

I think my daughter will have enough going on during Christmas, so will it be possible to delay dispatch of her stick insect kit until the start of next year? She has been wanting stick insects for ages!
Yes, Small-Life Supplies are accepting orders now, for dispatch in January 2022. We have to monitor the overnight weather forecast regularly because we can only dispatch stick insects when it is mild enough at night for them to travel safely. So we don't send them if freezing temperatures are forecast. Fortunately such cold snaps usually only last one or two nights, and so any delay is not too long. We keep you updated by email regarding when your order will be delivered.

I've ordered and received your ELC stick insect cage bundle, thank you very much. I would appreciate your help about the reasoning behind which stick insects to choose. I've seen "green beans" and "Nuichuae" suggested and yet your site recommends Indian stick insects. I know you guys are experts, so will follow your guidance, but am curious as to why you recommend Indian stick insects ahead of the others? They are for me (I'm 37 and live in Bristol).
The Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that Small-Life Supplies have in stock are all descendants from the original stick insect kept by Dorothy Floyd, back in 1976! So, they are a very strong strain, nice and healthy, lively, easy to handle, and have nice colours (mostly green, but some are beige, dark grey and brown). Indian stick insects thrive in the ELC cage and cluster together on the mesh sides. The "green beans" are originally from Grenada and have the Latin name Diapherodes gigantea. These are green stick insects, larger than the Indian stick insects, but less active and unable to do the party trick of clamping their legs together and falling into a striaght stick (like the Indian stick insects can do). The "Nui Chua" are a smaller species, from Vietnam, the Latin name is Nuichua rabaeyae, again much less active than Indian stick insects and the adults spend most of their time mating, so preventing you from handling them. The adult female can also emits a slight smell when handled. A lot of enjoyment from keeping stick insects is derived from interacting with them and so that is why we strongly recommend an engaging and lively species that benefits from being handled, and the Indian stick insect definitely ticks these boxes!

I’m taking on some stick insects, and I’ve bought one of your ELC cages for them which has arrived and is perfect. I’ve just recently bought a bramble (blackberry) plant which is in a plant pot with soil, but was just wondering as it’s fairly small with long branches, would it be okay to put the pot directly in with the stick insects? Or should it just be a few branches in with them? Also, what can go in their cage with them? There’s not much online but wanted to be safe.
Please don't put this potted plant in the ELC stick insect cage. This is because many potted plants sold in the UK have been grown in soil containing pesticides. These chemicals are taken up within the plant and so cannot be washed off. They will cause an agonising death for any stick insect that eats a leaf, causing the stick insect to become paralysed and lose co-ordination of its legs. These pesticides are active for 12 months, so you will need to wait a very long time before you can use this plant. A much better method is to put fresh cut stems of bramble into the cage, standing the cut stems in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water to keep fresh. You don't need to add anything else to the ELC cage, your stick insects can climb up and down the mesh sides and across the foodplant. Lightly mist the leaves with cold tap water every evening , but don't overdo it (you don't want to see water streaming down the walls of the cage).

I've just got four Indian stick insects and have set up their home with fresh brambles in water. There's loads of brambles around the paddock where I work. But someone said I need to put privet leaves in the cage too? That's going to be hard because I live in a flat and I don't want to pinch privet from someone else's hedge! But I want to do right by my new pets, what do you advise?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) will do just fine on bramble (blackberry) leaves. They don't need to eat any other types of leaf, and you are fortunate to have a plentiful supply of bramble at the paddock. So there is no issue here. At Small-Life Supplies we feed our Indian stick insects with bramble (blackberry) leaves and they are really healthy. Many years ago, we used to feed them on privet leaves, but found that the Indian stick insects were more active if fed bramble leaves, so actually it appears that bramble (blackberry) leaves are the best foodplant for Indian stick insects.

Gobsmacked that Amazon only have one used copy of "Keeping Stick Insects" book and are asking £94.95! What's that about? How come Small-Life is selling new copies for £12?
Small-Life Supplies do not trade via Amazon, and contrary to their "ooh, that's a low price" advertising campaign, it can be cheaper to buy items direct from other suppliers. So it's a no-brainer, you can purchase a new copy of "Keeping Stick Insects" and have it signed by the author (at no extra cost), from Small-Life Supplies at £12 + delivery. Or, you can purchase a new copy of this book for £12 + delivery on-line from www.numonday.com (this is a UK selling platform that only promotes products created in Britain).

Can you send me Indian stick insects to arrive Tuesday 21st December?
Unfortunately this will not be possible. There are already delays in the UK delivery network due to: (1) covid (2) driver shortages (3) winter weather. These delays are only going to get worse, so Small-Life Supplies will not be dispatching parcels the week beginning 20th December 2021 and the week beginning 27th December 2021. Fortunately, deliveries are still happening next week, but we are monitoring the delays across the country and advising customers accordingly. So please be as flexible as possible regarding the delivery date. Small-Life Supplies will always prioritise the welfare of the creatures and will only dispatch stick insects when it is fast and warm enough for them to travel safely. If this is a Christmas gift, remember that you can hide the ELC stick insect cage containing the stick insects, in the large cardboard box it is delivered in. The fresh bramble stays fresh for a week in the Sprig Pot of water and as long as the cardboard box is open at the top (to let light and air into the cage), the stick insects will be OK.

Are there any virtual insect events happening at the moment? I daren't go to any in-person events with all this COVID around.
Yes, there is a virtual event in Cambridge happening now that includes displays about the natural world, including insects. Here is the link:
http://www.cnhs.org.uk/conversazione/2nd-online-nathistfest

We already have Indian nymphs in our ELC cage, which I read can cohabit with Pink Winged stick insects. I assume both species lay eggs... do we need the hatch mats up from day one or can we wait?
Yes, you can house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) together with Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) in the same ELC cage. Both these species do well in the ventilated ELC cage and they both eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, also hazel leaves and wild rose leaves. Both species are parthenogenetic which means they are all females and they lay eggs when they are fully grown. Indian stick insect adults drop their eggs onto the Liner of the cage, whereas Pink Winged stick insect adults glue them around the ELC cage. They have learnt to push their abdomens through the holes in the mesh sides and glue their eggs onto the outside of the cage! That is why you sellotape a Hatch Mat onto the outside of the mesh wall, to encourage the eggs to be glued onto the Hatch Mat. Pink Winged stick insects usually start to lay eggs a couple of weeks after becoming adults (and acquiring wings), so there is no need to attach the Hatch Mat until then.

Do Macleays Spectre stick insects solely rely on visual crypsis in the wild?
No. Visual crypsis (also called camouflage) is just one of the defences of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), this passive defence is manifested by the leafy looking lobes on their legs. The main defence is looking like a scorpion, these stick insects curl their tails up to mimic the classic scorpion pose and deter potential predators. Another defence is to emit a chemical spray from their bodies, this has a slight smell and would deter predators. Fortunately this spray is harmless to humans and so is not an issue, unlike some other species of stick insect such as Anisomorpha buprestoides which release a toxic spray that can cause temporary blindness. And the adult male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect has large wings and is good at flying, so in the wild he can quickly take off and fly away from danger. So, this species has a number of active defences and does not just rely on the passive defence of visual crypsis.

Is there much variation in the incubation length of Indian stick insect eggs? I have some that were laid in August and they are hatching now and all looking good. They have been in the lounge at my home in Surrey in one of your HAPs.
There is a bit of variation amongst the incubation time of all stick insect eggs, with warmer surroundings shortening the incubation time. So, most Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) will hatch after four months if kept indoors in a room that is comfortably warm. But this time can be shortened to three months if the room is above 18 degrees Celsius during the day and above 12 degrees Celsius at night. Indian stick insects that have hatched after three months will still be healthy. Recently in the UK, the weather has been milder than usual and we have had lots of sunny days here, so the Indian stick insect eggs at Small-Life Supplies are also hatching ahead of their due date (so our August 2021 Indian stick insect eggs are hatching now too).

Can I specify a particular delivery date for Christmas delivery? I'm getting a stick insect cage bundle with stick insects for my daughter. We're in London. And, just to be absolutely sure, she can put Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects in the same cage?
It's best to be as flexible as possible regarding Christmas deliveries. Most are going out week beginning 6th December 2021 and week beginning 13th December 2021. None are going out the week beginning 20th December 2021 because it is far too risky with severe delays inevitable due to high volumes of parcels, COVID, and staff shortages within the delivery network. The delivery driver can leave the parcel in your "safe place" if you are not at home, and we email you the delivery details so you can track the progress of your parcel on-line. We also need to ensure that it is mild enough for the creatures to travel safely, fortunately it usually is in December (although there may be a cold snap) which is why we need to monitor the nightly weather forecast daily. And yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) can live happily together in the same ELC cage. Both these species of stick insect eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, hazel leaves, and eucalyptus leaves and do well in the purpose-designed proper ELC stick insect cage.

I have recently started a new home for Indian stick insects and notice some sway from side to side. Is this anything to be concerned about please.
It is perfectly normal for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) to sway from side to side. They do this to mimic a twig blowing in the wind. So this behaviour enhances their camouflage and is nothing to be concerned about.

I’m a first time stick insect keeper, my son was given some for his 3rd birthday from some friends. We love them and they seem to be thriving. I thought you’d love to see our little fella! We have 5 females and this little man who my son has called Ken, ha ha!
Thanks for the photo of your adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). You are really lucky to have Ken, the chance of having a true male Indian stick insect is 1 in 10000! All your stick insects look really healthy and Ken has all the attributes of a true male Indian stick insect, and so matches the photo of a male Indian stick insect in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book. The gynandromorphs (which show both male and female characteristics) are more common (though still rare). But your stick insect is a true male because he shows no female characteristics. He cannot produce or lay eggs (unlike the gynandromorphs). He will try and mate with an adult female Indian stick insect. This usually happens when it's dark and it is only at this time his green genitalia will be visible.

I would like to buy another ELC stick insect cage. The last one I seem to remember came in a plain box, is this still the situation? I don't want others to know what is being delivered!
Yes, the ELC stick insect cage is dispatched in a plain brown cardboard box (made specially so it is extra strong) and secured with plain white packaging tape. The ELC stick insect cage is dispatched ready assembled and so this box is large. The box does not have anything printed on it (apart from your address and the delivery service details).

Please can you recommend a good general book about British insects? My son is nine and is fascinated by insects and so I'd like to encourage him. He's advanced for his age and so it can't be too babyish, but he won't want a boring book with too much detail either.
I strongly recommend the "Insects in Britain" set of books (four in total), written by George E.Hyde. These are slim books, only 32 pages long and A5 size. They are packed with great colour photographs and accurate descriptions, concentrating on the behaviour of the insects and where to find them. These four books are written in an easy-to-read style and so can be enjoyed by adults, teenagers and intelligent nine year olds. Sadly they are out-of-print now, but used copies are regularly offered for sale on ebay and secondhand online book stores.

I recently acquired six Extatosoma tiaratum (2/3rd instar), one Sipyloidea sipylus (1/2nd instar) and five Carausius morosus (4th instar) but unfortunately one of the E. tiaratum and the S. sipylus have already died within about a week of me having them (I think another of the E. tiaratum nymphs is on its way out too). I have no idea what could have possibly caused this. I change their food regularly and substrate, it's not too humid or dry or hot or cold in their enclosure, there is no mould or fungal infection going around that I can see, they aren't overcrowded and they have enough room to shed their skin properly. The S. sipylus died literally overnight, it was fine in the evening and when I checked the next morning it was dead. The E. tiaratum I noticed was becoming a bit lethargic and not responding much to touch and wasn't eating or drinking and it rapidly got worse over the course of 2-3 days and then just died. I have now noticed this with another E. tiaratum nymph. I feed all of them on bramble which I get from my local park so there are no insecticides or other chemicals on the leaves. Do you have any thoughts on what could be happening and how to prevent this in the future?
The three species you mention all thrive in airy cages, with through-draught ventilation (so they need a cage with two mesh sides). The ELC stick insect cage is ideal. The floor should be covered with a paper Liner and not "substrate" (because this will increase the dampness). You don't mention the size of your enclosure, but this quantity of stick insects could be housed together in one ELC cage (size 51cm (high) x 36.5cm x 27.5cm). It's not surprising your Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) died, this species is very delicate when young and so it is a shame that your seller sold you such a young insect. That is why Small-Life Supplies only sell Pink Winged stick insects that are much larger, usually fourth instar. The sluggish behaviour of your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) indicate they are unhealthy, this could be because they are poor genetic stock, or may be afflicted by the air-borne virus which affects specifically this species. Either way, the prognosis is not good. Hopefully your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) will continue to fare better. It is easy to determine if they are healthy by looking at them, they should have all six legs and full antennae and be active.

I want stick insects for Christmas, some that say "wow!". Any ideas?
There are two large showy stick insects that definitely have the wow factor. Both species are reared by Small-Life Supplies and are in stock now. The Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) has leafy looking legs and cone-shaped heads. And the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) looks prehistoric, and is very wide and chunky. Both types do well in the ELC cage. Details on these large stick insects shall be on this website soon.


I had some baby insects born in April this year. They were the offspring of adults I bought from you the end of last year. In the past week, 6 of the babies from the same tank have died for what seems no reason. Do you have any ideas what may have caused this? I am always careful where I get the brambles from so I am a little puzzled.
Sudden death in stick insects usually results from chemical poisoning. So when you are collecting bramble, it is really important to snip pieces that are high up, (so not on the ground), because these higher up stems are less likely to have been urinated on by dogs that have been medicated. Also, you need to look at the possible occurence of air-borne chemicals. So, in your house, you need to avoid using anything that gives off a strong smell, so that includes paint fumes, scented candles, aerosol or plug-in air-fresheners etc. And if you have pet cats or dogs that you treat with spot-on flea treatment, you must isolate the stick insects from the treated animals for a couple of days.

Can I ask please if it's OK to use the Indian stick insect 20” enclosure without any floor covering? Could I sweep it instead?
It is a lot easier to use a paper Liner on the floor of the ELC cage and replace this Liner weekly. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) drop their eggs onto the floor and if you tilt the ELC Liner and tap it gently underneath, the Indian stick insect eggs roll off and can easily be collected in a dish. Proper ELC Liners are the most convenient to use because they are pre-cut to fit the size of the ELC floor, and the coating on the Liner enables the eggs to roll off easily. Alternatively, you could use large sheets of copier paper and cut these to size yourself with scissors. Kitchen roll is not ideal because it is absorbent and dimpled, so the eggs don't roll off as easily. No floor covering at all is not recommended because repeated sweeping would scratch the floor of the ELC cage. And when the droppings (frass) get wet, a brown liquid is released and this stains the plastic floor. These are stubborn stains but can be removed with neat bleach (rinse off thoroughly), but why put yourself to all that effort when it can be so easily avoided by using paper Liners?

I wonder if you can tell me how unusual this sighting is? Yesterday morning, at about 11am, I saw a butterfly (either a small tortoiseshell or a peacock) flying across my drive. I live in the East of England and it is turning chilly here, the bird water bowls had iced over first thing. The weather brightened up later though, but I don't remember seeing a butterfly flying about in November before. Is this another consequence of global warming?
Some British butterflies, including the brightly coloured Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and the Peacock (Inachis io) hibernate during the cold months as adult butterflies. This process is called "overwintering" and lasts from autumn to spring. The butterfly usually selects a sheltered place, such as high up in the eaves of a porch or a shed, and rests with its wings folded together, hiding the colourful patterns so it is better camouflaged. However, as with other hibernating creatures, if it is a bright sunny day, the butterfly can temporarily break from hibernation and go for a fly and have a drink of water. Alternatively, if the butterfly has only just started hibernation and realises that the site it has chosen is not ideal, it waits for a bright sunny day before flying off and selecting a new place to rest for the next few months. Either way, this is what you have seen. This behaviour has been commonplace for hundreds of years. So no, it is not a consequence of the global warming that is impacting the world.

How fussy are stick insects about what they eat? My friend has some spare Indian stick insects, she hatched these from eggs and she has been feeding them bramble leaves. They are fully grown now, and 11cm long. At the back of my garden are some hazel trees and so I was hoping to use some of these leaves to feed the stick insects, but am not sure if that would be OK ?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can switch between eating different types of leaves, but these must be from certain types of plants. Hazel leaves are on the suitable foodplant list, so are rose leaves, eucalyptus leaves, and bramble (blackberry) leaves. The fact that your friends' Indian stick insects have only ever eaten bramble leaves does not exclude you from giving them alternatives. So yes, by all means give them some hazel leaves to eat. However, it would be prudent to include some bramble leaves as well, just in case you have a particularly fussy stick insect that refuses to try the hazel leaves. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we start all our Indian stick insects off on bramble (blackberry) leaves, and find the overwhelming majority have no problem at all with switching to other foodplants such as hazel and rose when they are older. Of course, now autumn is here, the green hazel leaves will soon be turning yellow and falling off the trees, so your time of using green hazel leaves this year is limited. It is important when feeding stick insects to use green leaves and not leaves that are yellow or brown (this is because the green leaves are the most nutritious).

I live in Italy but would very much like an ELC cage delivered to my father who lives in Sittingbourne, England. It is a gift, so I wonder if it is possible for you to (i) not include a receipt with the price and (ii) include a card addressed to him from me, wishing him a Happy Retirement. Please let me know if these are possible and how much extra is due.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies can do the above with pleasure, with no extra charge to pay! All parcels are packaged manually with care and so we are able to accommodate specific requests like this with ease.

I'm sixteen and really interested in insects and nature. Are there any groups you know of that give people like me more facts about the natural world? I want facts, not daft views expressed by people who are always on facebook groups!
It's great that you're interested in insects and nature and want to learn more from reputable sources. There is a virtual event coming up, in November 2021, which is free to access and shall have a range of informative displays about the natural world. This is an annual educational event, aimed at members of the public who are interested in nature, and so sounds ideal for you. Small-Life Supplies are supporting this event again and our topic this year is about some unusual observations we have made on the giant Samia ricini Indian silkmoth. This is an annual event and in previous years there have been fascinating displays covering a wide range of nature, including conservation work, survey results, plants, micro organisms, the British Antarctic Survey etc. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the societies, experts, and organisations behind the exhibits, to learn more. Due to COVID-19, it's an on-line virtual event this year, and Small-Life Supplies shall be publicising more details nearer to the time of the event.

Is it humane to put stick insects in the freezer? Some of mine are losing their stick on their feet which I think means their time is nearly up? I don't want them to suffer.
It is very cruel to put living stick insects in the freezer to kill them. It is not humane. Their cells burst as their body temperature drops, and death is slow. When a stick insect is very old, it loses the grip on its sticky pads on its feet, but this is completely natural and the stick insect is not suffering, it is just old and dying from old age. Such stick insects appreciate extra water to drink and so the kindest thing to do is to place a wet bramble leaf underneath its mouth, so it can easily drink some water from the surface of the leaf. This action eases the stick insects' final hours.

We are so looking forward to welcoming stick insects to our family! We have decided upon the ELC bundle and a Mister Swivel and four adult Indian stick insects from you. But we have a couple of questions first... what do we do when the Liners run out? Can we use kitchen roll or must it be paper? And is tap water OK for the Mister Swivel or would rainwater from our garage roof water butt be better?
Great that you are getting the proper set up for the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). Ten disposable ELC cage Liners are included in the ELC bundle, you use one Liner per week. So, after ten weeks, you can purchase more ELC Liners (pre-cut to size and available in a choice of three colours: pink, blue, green), these Liners are the most convenient option and the coating on the Liner enables the eggs from the Indian stick insects to roll off easily, saving you lots of time when collecting the eggs. We always use the ELC Liners in our breeding facility (and we have a lot of ELC cages!). Alternatively, if you have large sheets of paper, you could cut up those to size yourself with scissors. Don't use kitchen roll though because this is absorbent and can dry up the surroundings, which is detrimental to the stick insects. And yes, standard cold tap water is suitable for filling the Mister Swivel. So no need to harvest your stored rainwater, you can use that for other things.

Are Indian stick insects clones? Mine seem to have distinct personalities, I have Jules who is brown and really active and always the first out of the cage, Champney who's more laid back, and Foodsta who's always hanging out on the bramble! They are all sisters but I don't understand this clone thing?
No, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are not clones. They reproduce by parthenogenesis which is not the same as cloning. So yes, you are correct in observing the behavioural differences and physical differences between your Indian stick insects who all share the same parent.

Our Indian babies are here already! The eggs were laid in August and so we had hoped for Christmas stick insects! What's the cause? We live in Milton Keynes. Also, are whole leaves OK or do we need to rip them up?
The mild weather in the UK has caused lots of early hatchings of people's stick insects. Indeed our Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs are hatching very early too, eggs laid on 6th August 2021 hatched last night, so well ahead of their due hatching date of 6th December 2021. These baby stick insects look fine and healthy and so we have given them wet bramble leaves to eat. You need to do the same with yours, and it's best to keep them in a small unventilated container (such as the HAP) for the first few weeks of their lives. Depending on the size of the leaf, either insert a partial or whole bramble leaf into the HAP. Don't bother ripping the leaf, because the stick insects are well equipped to eat from the edges of the leaf. The important thing is that the leaf is wet, so lightly mist it with cold tap water before you put it into the HAP, the stick insects will then be able to drink water form the surface of the leaf.

Can you guarantee the stick insects you send out will have all their legs? I would like to photograph them and so want nice specimens only.
Of course! Small-Life Supplies only sell healthy six legged stick insects, that is what you pay for! Occasionally we may have a damaged one (from a moult that has gone wrong), but such individuals are held back and offered free of charge to people who specifically request damaged stick insects. We are always keen to help customers and so if you are after a particular colour or feature for your photography, just let us know when you order. For example, some of the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) nymphs have particularly stripey legs, and our adult Thailand stick insects are a nice range of beige, fawn, brown and green.

I had a stick insect that was smaller and darker than my others. They have all grown well, but recently the small dark one moulted, it had the old skin stuck to the very end of its abdomen. It had red forelegs so I presume it's the last moult. I gave it a little spritz and removed most of the old skin, the next day I was worried it wasn't able to poop as it had a lump at the end of its abdomen so I gave it a spritz and gently handled it's rear end to check if it was blocked by the old skin. I noticed then the green jellyish blobs. I'm worried I've injured the insect as 24 hours later I checked it closely and there's a black bit at the end, and the green jellyish bits are smaller. I managed to get two photos that sort of show a red thorax and the green blob. What do you think? It is male? Is it mixed? Is it injured? It's moving about fine and eating. In fact it is really fast and active which made inspection very tricky!
Yes, he's a rare male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). The green blobs are his genitalia. It'll be touch and go during the next few days to see if he is going to be OK. But it's a really good sign that he is eating. Hopefully he is drinking too (just lightly mist the leaves with water so he can drink the water droplets from the leaves). Hope he makes it!

Is it too early to order a stick insect enclosure for Christmas?! I'd like to get an ELC bundle for my wife, she has Pink Winged stick insects and would like a better enclosure, the ELC cage looks ideal.
Small-Life Supplies are accepting Christmas orders now. When ordering, please state if you'd like delivery now, or in December. And yes, the ELC cage is ideal for housing Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). You may also like to purchase our Hatch Mats, attach one to the outside of the mesh side of the ELC and wait for the adult Pink Winged stick insects to push their abdomens through the mesh holes and glue their eggs onto the Hatch Mat. This method helps prevent the ELC cage being cluttered with eggs.

Help! I recently lost over 30 black beauty stick insects for some unknown reason. I had been feeding them all from eggs using the privet from our own garden, but then they started dying one by one, all showing the same symptoms, no control of their legs or bodies and flipping over onto their backs and holding their heads down then after a few days they all died in a little more over 24 hours. I then bought 10 nymphs from a great breeder and all were healthy when they arrived, I placed them into a brand new pop up cage and all seem to be doing well, but now one of the larger babies is acting the same way as my last batch, what the hell is happening to them? I have no sprays in my bedroom and definitely no pesticides on the privet, please help me as I’m totally stumped and about to give up on this endangered beauty.
The symptoms are indicative of chemical poisoning, which affects the stick insects' nervous system, resulting in loss of control of limbs etc. You say pesticides have not been used on the privet, but is there a chance that some airborne pesticides may have blown over, perhaps from a neighbouring farmer's field or a neighbour liberally spraying weedkiller about? If not, then you need to check what is happening within your home. Have you a pet cat or dog that has recently been treated with spot-on flea treatment? Or is any decorating or painting happening now? Or has someone plugged in an air-freshener without you realising? It is vital that you identify the source of the air-borne chemicals urgently before the rest of your Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) die such a horrible death.

One of our Indian girls is walking funny, on taking a closer look, her left antenna seems to be stuck to her front left leg! How can we help her?
This is very easy to resolve. Just lightly spray the affected area with cold tap water from a Little Mister (or Mister Swivel) and wait a few minutes. Then, carefully brush the area with a small child's paintbrush, and the bond should break, separating the antenna from the leg. If it doesn't work first time, try again, but be very gentle because antennae are very important to the stick insect and can be easily damaged.

I am a regular customer of Small-Life Supplies and have bought lots of your qbox caterpillar kits over the years. I saved the qboxes because they looked too good to throw away. Anyway, I now have some New Guinea stick insects hatching, this is the first time I have managed to hatch any and so I am well chuffed. My question is how many can I house in the qboxes?
Congratulations on hatching out your New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) eggs, these can be tricky to hatch. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we house just three baby New Guinea stick insects per QBOX. Insert a QBOX Liner and add a wet bramble leaf, this is best angled in the QBOX rather than being laid flat on the Liner. It's important not to overcrowd the New Guinea stick insect babies (called first instar nymph), because if they are overcrowded, these stick insects will fight leading to lost legs and damaged antennae.

We might be interested in the giant silk moths, I´ve tried to read a bit about them but briefly how does their lifecycle work, I´m worried we might get inundated with moths!
In a few weeks time our Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini) shall be large enough to send out to customers. House these in the TTQ cage and feed them with fresh privet leaves. After a few weeks they spin silk cocoons on the side of the TTQ cage. Approx ten days later the giant silkmoths emerge, these do not eat. If you have males and females they will mate and the female then glues a clutch of white eggs on the side of the TTQ cage. After a week the adults die of old age and that is when you flick the eggs off into a QBOX or HAP. The eggs are hard and so this is easy to do. The silkmoth eggs hatch quickly, after only a couple of weeks, and so you need to decide quickly how many eggs you want to save to hatch out. The unwanted eggs can be distributed to interested friends, or you can pour boiling water over the white eggs to stop them developing further. It's really obvious when hatching is imminent because the eggs change colour from white to grey. You keep the baby caterpillars in the HAP or QBOX until they are large enough to be transferred to the TTQ cage.

Would one sprig pot be enough? Should we order a second one?
It's a good idea to get two Sprig Pots. That way you can fill a Sprig Pot with fresh bramble (blackberry) leaves and mist these with cold tap water, so it is all ready to be inserted in the ELC cage when you take out the old leaves and replace the Liner. Having everything ready makes the weekly cleaning out of the ELC cage much easier. It is also important to use a clean Sprig Pot. We wash our Sprig Pots once a week. Sprig Pots are dishwasher safe (at 45 degrees Celsius) and so having a spare Sprig Pot also gives you plenty of time to wash and rinse your Sprig Pot.

I deal with GDPR at work and would just like to double check that my card data will be disposed of securely if I place an order by phone?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies has strict procedures in place which means that all sensitive card details are stored securely whilst the order is being processed and then destroyed in a secure manner as soon as the order has been dispatched. Small-Life Supplies is fully PCI DSS compliant, and is subject to annual certification of this. So you can order over the phone with confidence that your data will not be compromised.

I saw on your YouTube channel that you can use Photinia leaves to feed Macleays Spectre stick insects. Please tell me if Small-Life Supplies sells Photinia? And can this be used as a sole foodsource, or is is best used as a supplement?
Small-Life Supplies does sell fresh cut Photinia in re-sealable wallets that you store in the bottom of the fridge to keep fresh. Small-Life Supplies also sells fresh cut bramble/blackberry sprigs in the same way. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) should be fed exclusively with eucalyptus leaves for the first couple of months of their lives. After that time, the medium-sized nymphs and adult stick insects can be kept on this diet of eucalyptus (if you have ample supplies of this foodplant) or switched over to bramble/blackberry leaves (these leaves grow wild and so are usually more plentiful). Photinia can be used as a supplement, but it is not recommended as a sole food source.

Am hoping you may have some used ELC cages in stock? I'd like a couple more, if that's possible? I live in Kettering, so please tell me what combined postage would be?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies has some lightly used ELC cages in stock now. These have been cleaned and are in very good condition (with only very minor marks and scratches) and are offered at a reduced price. And yes, combined postage is available, so the total delivery price for two ELC cages is £9.95 to Kettering. The used ELC cages are dispatched in the same strong bespoke packaging as the new ELC cages, and are sent ready assembled so you can use them straight away. Delivery is fast and is by courier. A photograph is taken on delivery because the courier drivers are still following the COVID rules and so are not getting signatures at this time.

For my Indian stick insects; Pablo, Pootle, Picket and three nymphs, I currently use bramble but it's hard to find good pieces around my area and I get pricked by it a lot when I find some. So recently I’ve been wondering if my Indian stick insects would be able to eat Ivy since this is everywhere! Would you be able to inform me if it is a good idea to feed my Indian stick insects ivy?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat certain types of ivy, but tend not be too keen on it, so I don't recommend using it as the main food source. It would be better to try and find more sources of bramble, our latest YouTube video explains where to look for it. Use seccateurs to snip the stems and wear thick suede gardening gloves (that are lined) to protect your hands! Wild rose and garden rose leaves (not sprayed) are eaten by Indian stick insects, also hazel leaves, and eucalyptus leaves.

We're going to be getting stick insects for our seven year old boy, he loves dinosaurs and giant stick insects, so are thinking about the "Jungle Nymphs", as they will get nice and big. He already has a netting pop-up cage, would that be a suitable enclosure?
It is not a good idea to choose Jungle Nymphs, also known as Malaysian stick insects, Heteropteryx dilatata, as a starter stick insect. This species is suitable for experienced stick insect keepers, not novices. Malaysian stick insects require careful and regular handling whilst young, to ensure they will develop into adults that can be handled easily. Incorrect and insufficient handling of these stick insects when young, results in aggressive adults that can only be handled if you are wearing thick gardening gloves to protect you from being jabbed by their sharp spines. A netting enclosure is unsuitable housing because it is far too airy for Malaysian stick insects. A much better choice would be the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), these get large and chunky, look prehistoric, and do well in the ELC cage. Small-Life Supplies breed and supply New Guinea stick insects, they eat bramble leaves and need a Water Dish because they drink a lot of water.

We would very much like to start keeping stick insects and are looking at getting some of the Nui Chua Vietnamese stick insects. The seller suggested two females because we don't intend to breed from them. Which enclosure would you suggest would be best?
The Nui Chua Vietnamese stick insect (Nuichua rabaeyae) is a sexual species of stick insect and so has males and females in approximately equal numbers. So it is better to have both males and females, instead of just one gender. If no males are present, the females lay eggs anyway by a process called parthenogenesis. So your seller has not given good advice. The ELC cage is suitable for housing Nui Chua Vietnamese stick insects. Line the floor with a disposable ELC Liner and every week replace the Liner and tip the contents into a dish. Add hot water to the dish and this will stop any eggs from developing any further. Place bramble sprigs into the Sprig Pot (filled with cold tap water) and lightly mist the bramble leave with water from a fine plant sprayer (such as the Adjustable Mister or Little Mister).

We're looking at getting a starter set of stick insects for our six year old son. Your ELC cage has been recommended for stick insects and so we'd like that, but my question is how many stick insects do you recommend we start with?
Great that your boy is soon to be getting stick insects, I am sure he will get a lot of enjoyment from them. Four adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) would be an excellent choice as starter stick insects. Indian stick insects like to group together on a mesh side of the ELC cage, and so four individuals is a good amount to start with. Your son can give them names, they are easy to tell apart because there are slight differences in colour, size and behaviour. And he can enjoy letting them walk across his hands.

I am in a bit of a situation. I've got myself five stick insects and it's getting cold here in Finland. All the leaves from the oaks and maples have fallen or gone to bad. I've got this hybrid lettuce that's made from Romaine & Cosmopolitan lettuce, and it is organic so I wonder if it would work?
Our customers in Finland grow lemon balm to feed their stick insects and say this works well. So you could try to urgently source some lemon balm (pesticide free). It's also worth offering your stick insect various houseplants that you know to be free of pesticides (in other words, you have kept these plants for more than twelve months). You can also grow your own soya plants indoors, but obviously it will be weeks before these have leaves, so you need to source an alternative urgently. Some customers in the USA recommend Romaine lettuce, but here in the UK, what we call Romaine lettuce is not suitable for stick insects and kills them. So I would be very reluctant to risk using your hybrid lettuce for your stick insects in Finland.

My friend is moving away to a start a new job and she has gifted me her collection of stick insects because she knows I love stickies! Anyway, there's a new type in the ELC cage that I haven't kept before, it's the Nuichua rabaeyae species of stick insect from Vietnam. The thing is the male is always, and I mean always, on the back of the female! Should I be concerned?
The Nuichua rabaeyae species is commonly called the "Vietnamese Nui Chua stick insect". They started being kept as pets approximately six years ago but are very odd because, as you have observed, the adult male is permanently on the female, and is carried around by her. This behaviour is not seen with other species of stick insect. So, what you are observing is normal for this species, so there is no need to be concerned, just let them be.

OK, so I am after some really long stick insects! But an easy type, I can't be faffing about with extra heat and fogging machines! Suggestions please, I live in Peterborough, so is collection an option?
The longest stick insects in stock now at Small-Life Supplies are the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) at 18cm long, and the New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp) at 22cm long. Both these species eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and are easy to keep. Keep them indoors and lightly mist the leaves from a hand held plant sprayer (such as the Little Mister) every evening. Thailand stick insects and New Thailand stick insects can be housed together in the same cage, the tall AUC cage (which is 70cm high) is ideal. We have both new AUC cages and lightly used AUC cages (at a discount price) in stock. Collection isn't possible, but we can deliver locally using one of the Small-Life Supplies vehicles, so a same-day delivery to you in Peterborough is no problem.

Your video says I only need three strands of bramble for a cage of stick insects. I'm due to get four Indian stick insects and two Pink Winged stick insects so will this be enough?
Different species of stick insect have different appetites. Some species have small appetites, these include Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). So yes, three bramble (blackberry) sprigs, each approx 40cm long, would be ample food for your six stick insects, and would last one week in the ELC cage (keeping fresh in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water). However, if you keep bigger, bulkier types of stick insects, such as the Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), then you'd need to put in double the amount of food, because these stick insects have much larger appetites, so use two Sprig Pots, each containing three sprigs of bramble (blackberry) leaves.
Here is the link to this new YouTube video Video #009

I have four Macleays Spectre stick insects. One is a very large lichen which I added only a week ago along with 2 other smaller normal ones. I had one existing stick insect who is much smaller and younger than the rest. The small one has now found its way onto the back of the large lichen! What does this mean?
Thanks for sending this nice photo, showing the small brown Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) resting on top of the fancy pale lichen coloured stick insect. The small one is just being curious of its new cage mate and the large lichen one is being patient by letting the small one rest on its back. So it looks like both these stick insects are content and will live together happily in the same ELC cage. This is good news because if they didn't get on with each other, the large one would have shaken the small one off straight away!

Our Pink Winged stick insects that we got from you earlier in the year have provided us with much enjoyment and furnished us with eggs that we are saving on the Hatch Mat. In the last week we have noticed that Daisy, who was the first one to mature and so we assume is the oldest, seems to have lost the grip in her front feet? She can still walk OK and my daughter, Freya, loves to handle her, but her front feet are not sticky, like they used to be. Should we be worried?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) lose the grip in their feet when they are very old. So you need to explain this to Freya because Daisy has not got long to live. When the stickiness in the feet goes, death is not imminent but usually occurs within a couple of weeks or so. Very old stick insects benefit from drinking extra water and so you should spray the bramble leaves more generously with water during the last weeks of Daisy's life. You may also notice that her body turns a darker shade of pink, this is normal for old Pink Winged stick insects.

I’m concerned that our Indian sticks are not getting enough daylight, we have the blinds down in the day just to keep the heat of the sun out. Would it be wise getting a light for the enclosure or next to it?
Like many species of stick insect, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do not like bright light. So having the room dimmed by the closed blinds is perfectly OK for them. What is really important is that the room is dark at night and lighter in the day, so the stick insects are exposed to a night/day cycle. There are a few species of stick insect that benefit from bright sunshine during day, these include the Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini) and the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). For these species, the ELC cage can be moved to a sunny place (but not directly on a window sill) when a sunny day is forecast.

Our family now includes four Indian stick insects and we love them! My son adores them climbing up his arm! Is it OK to take them out every day, they have the red armpits and are plump adults?
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can be handled daily. Their feet are very sensitive and they soon learn to recognise the scent from your fingers from the sensory pads on their feet. Relaxed stick insects are active and so it is good that your adult Indian stick insects are walking up your son's arm. It's important not to overtire stick insects though, and so try to keep the handling sessions to just few minutes per day. Some of the larger species have much more stamina and so benefit from longer handling sessions, these include the chunky New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata).

Very interested to see the pics showing your Samia ricini cocoons on your Facebook page. I've always fed mine on privet, so to get such a size difference, do you have to feed them eucalyptus straight away, or can you add eucalyptus later?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we have always fed our Samia ricini caterpillars with fresh privet leaves. But whilst replenishing their leaves a few weeks ago, some of our caterpillars raced over to some fresh eucalyptus leaves that were on the table and started eating those straight away! So we put both eucalyptus and privet into one cage, and found that all the caterpillars that ate the eucalyptus produced significantly larger cocoons. These caterpillars were all from the same batch and so are the same age, they were all eating privet for the first few weeks of their lives. So if you want to try this experiment yourself, you can give eucalyptus to caterpillars that are already eating privet leaves. We're looking forward to seeing what size of Indian Eri silkmoth will emerge from the larger cocoons!

My teenage son has three glass tanks of Giant Millipedes in his room, also two glass tanks of Giant African Land Snails. He says they need humid habitats and mould and mites are normal? I'm concerned now though because there is a damp smell and something catches in my throat whenever I enter his room (it's a very small room). Any advice?
You should remove these set-ups from your son's bedroom immediately. No person should be sleeping in a room with lots of mould spores, because you inhale these as you sleep, causing long term damage to your lungs. The fact you can detect the damp, and the spores are already catching in your throat indicates there is a serious health risk for you, and even more so for your son who spends many more hours in that room. Housing millipedes and snails in stuffy glass tanks that encourage mould and mites are very bad conditions for these creatures, and so their needs should be addressed urgently too. Giant millipedes like to climb and so can be housed in ELC cages (with one Ventilation Control Panel attached to reduce air-flow.) Giant African Land Snails thrive in the HLQ cages, use our special wet HLQ Liners to increase humidity hygienically, without promoting mould and mites. Giant millipedes like to eat dead leaves and these will have a damp smell, so it's not recommended to house these in a bedroom. Giant African Land Snails eat vegetable peelings and dandelion leaves, so this food needs to be replaced every day or two before any mould develops on the food. It sounds like your son has been ill informed because healthy millipedes and snails that are being looked after properly, certainly do not have mites crawling all over them!

Do giant stick insects tolerate cold better than spindly ones? My room is 16 degrees Celsius, and I was thinking a bulky body may be a better insulator than a thin one, but I may be wrong?
Actually, the bulky looking stick insects, including Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum), Malaysian (Heteropteryx dilatata) and New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) need to be kept in a warmer room than their thinner counterparts to thrive. So you've come to the wrong conclusion; it's the more spindly ones that can tolerate colder temperatures better. Most stick insects prefer a daytime temperature of 18-21 degrees, so a room that is only 16 degrees Celsius in the daytime is a bit chilly. You could purchase an oil-filled radiator on-line from Radio Spares, these are economical to run and easy to operate, just plug it into an electrical socket. The 500Watt model is best because this emits a gentle warmth. Priced approx £35 here is the link https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/heaters-radiators/7126073.
So, for a cooler room, the thin Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) would be your best choice. Small-Life Supplies breed these in large numbers and we have both medium-sized nymphs and adults for sale at the moment.

We received some eggs by post, from a different seller, and they arrived in a petri dish, with cotton wool. I know to keep the eggs without airholes and so would this petri dish be OK? I'm not sure what to do with the cotton wool? The label says "Laboratory Stick Insect Ova". I live in Halifax.
"Laboratory stick insect" is another term for "Indian stick insect" and so it is likely that you have these eggs (the scientific word for eggs is ova). Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs are small, round and light brown with a small yellow lid. You are correct in thinking that Indian stick insect eggs do best if stored in an unventilated container. However, the petri dish is too squat and so this will cause problems when the eggs start to hatch. This is because the baby stick insect is considerably larger than the eggshell from which it emerges. So, for best results, tip the eggs into a HAP. This is a clear container that is manufactured by Small-Life Supplies specifically for storing eggs and housing baby stick insects. HAPs are the optimum size for this, 13cm high and 7.5cm in diameter. Discard the cotton wool, this was probably used as packaging to stop the eggs rattling around in transit, and is of no benefit now they have arrived.

I was told to feed Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect hatchlings eucalyptus leaves, so I have been doing that, and also putting bramble in their containers. To my surprise the stick insects are eating both the eucalyptus and the bramble leaves. So I don't understand why I need to bother with the eucalyptus, particularly as it's a lot more bother for me to find it.
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) will always eat bramble (blackberry) leaves from birth, but the point is, this can be very risky to the health of the stick insects. There are lots of different types of bramble and some types are OK and so the stick insects will be fine. However, there is a strong chance that the stick insects will consume the bramble for two weeks and then all die. So, a much safer option is to exclusively feed the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect hatchlings with eucalyptus leaves and continue to do this for the next few weeks. This method usually results in a near 100% success rate, so with zero or a very low death rate. The Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect nymphs can be given bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat when they are a couple of months old, and will eat this bramble with no ill effects. So, why risk killing them all, when all you have to do is feed them on eucalyptus for a couple of months, and then switch them over to bramble as they grow?

I took delivery of a bouquet of flowers. When I realised who had sent them I didn't want them, and tried to throw them away, but my friend insisted on giving me £15 for them. The thing is I don't want anything to do with this, so please can you suggest somewhere I can send this money to and move on.
Greenpeace UK welcome one-off donations. This is easy to do, just go to their website and click the button to donate £15 and enter your card or PayPal details. Here is the link: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/support-us/.
Greenpeace UK has the sense to realise that many people want to donate when they can, and not be obliged to donate regularly via a standing order, so very clearly display the "one-off donation" button on their website. You can enter an amount of your choice, or click on one of their pre-set buttons; £5, £15, £25 or £50.

Our Indian stick insects are laying eggs, we'll save some, but what do we do with the rest?
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) need four months to develop, so it's best to dispose of unwanted eggs in the weeks just after they have been laid, rather than delaying until months later, when hatching is imminent. You could ask around first to see if any friends or relatives would like some. Another option is to feed unwanted eggs to birds (including chickens, blackbirds and magpies) and fish. Please don't just throw eggs in the bin because this won't stop them developing, neither will a short spell in a fridge or freezer (because the eggs thaw out when removed and start developing again). Extreme heat is 100% effective and very fast. So you can either throw the eggs into a garden fire or stove, or tip them into a bowl and pour boiling water on top. It is really important not to save too many eggs because they have a high success rate in hatching and it's far better to dispose of surplus eggs rather than have too many living stick insects to cope with.

I am a stick insect grandma! Three hatched this morning! What to do next? Rip up leaves or not? Ventilation holes or not? Help! (They are Indian stick insects).
Congratulations! Place the baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in a HAP pot. This is a clear container that Small-Life Supplies manufacture and supply, because the HAP is ideal housing for baby Indian stick insects. We use lots of HAPs in the Small-Life Supplies breeding facility. Baby Indian stick insects prefer less ventilated conditions, and so air/ventilation holes are not recommended. There is plenty of air in the HAP and fresh air enters when you lift the lid off to replace the bramble leaf. No need to waste your time ripping up leaves! Indian stick insects easily eat leaves as they naturally are; stick insects have mouthparts specially designed to cut and eat the edges of the leaf. However, baby Indian stick insects are thirsty and so it's important to place a slightly wet bramble leaf in the HAP, so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the leaf. So lightly mist the top of the bramble leaf with cold tap water before you put it into the HAP. Use a disposable HAP Liner on the floor of the HAP to ensure the stick insects are kept in clean surroundings.

The ELC stick insect enclosure has been highly recommended to me, so I would like to order one. Can I specify delivery to be by Wednesday 8th September (because that's my son's 15th birthday)?
Yes, just mention the birthday when you order, and ask for delivery for the day before, Tuesday 7th September 2021. The ELC cage is fantastic for many species of stick insect, and very easy to keep clean (using the disposable ELC Liners and Cleaning Sponge). If you upgraded to the ELC bundle, you would receive those items as well, and also the Sprig Pot (designed to keep the bramble leaves fresh in water and also preventing accidental drownings at the same time). The ELC cage is dispatched ready assembled in bespoke packaging, and so is ready for immediate use.

I bought a large potted eucalyptus plant from Small-Life Supplies a few months ago, and now that summer is nearing the end, I would like to plant it in my garden. I am not a gardener and so please can you advise me on the best way to do this.
The best time to plant a eucalyptus in the garden is when a prolonged period of settled weather is forecast, so please check the weather forecast first. Delay planting if a very hot or very cold spell is predicted. Choose a sunny spot in your garden and dig over the soil well using a long handled spade. Break up any clumps with a long handled garden fork. (If you don't possess these tools, you may be able to borrow these from a neighbour, or by putting a request out on a local Facebook group). Dig a deep hole, a bit wider than the diameter of the plant pot. It is important that this hole is at least one metre away from the boundary fence (to allow space for the plant to grow outwards). Immerse the whole plant pot in a bucket of cold water for one hour and, when it feels heavy, carefully lift out the wet soil ball of roots (leave the soil attached) and discard the plant pot. Lower the plant into the hole, so the top of the soil is flush with the surrounding ground. Fill in any spaces with the soil you have dug out. Then stamp on the top with your feet so it is well anchored into the ground. Water in the evening every day for the next few days. After this time, a weekly water in the evening will suffice (unless there is a hot spell in which case increase the watering to daily, so do this every evening). But don’t over-water. It is easy to tell if you are over-watering because instead of the water draining quickly into the soil, you will see puddles of standing water remaining on top of the soil. Continue to feed the plant, an easy way to do this is to use the stick insect and caterpillar droppings (called frass). Just tip these on the soil around the plant. The frass contains nitrogen and is an excellent fertiliser.

I'm enjoying my new venture of photographing insects, particularly moths, around where I live, in Berkshire. I attach a photo of an unusual looking one with a sort of geometric pattern on its wings. It has similarities to the Angle Shade moth, but has differences too, so I am hoping you can enlighten me with your wisdom and tell me what it is?
Your photo is of the British Orange Swift moth (Hepialus sylvina). 2021 seems to have been a good year for these moths, with many people reporting sightings of them. The wing pattern bears some similarities with that of the British Angle Shade moth (Phlogophora meticulosa). However, the British Orange Swift moth interlocks its wings differently from many other species of moth, so when this moth is resting, its wings are slanted upwards instead of laying flat. Another obvious difference is the texture of the thorax - it is fluffy and orange in the British Orange Swift moth but is smooth and grey in the British Angle Shade moth.

Sorry if this question has been asked before, but please can you tell me how long I have to wait before using a plant that I've bought from the garden centre to feed my stick insects? There's so much conflicting advice online, I thought I'd ask someone who knows!
Many commercially grown potted plants have pesticides in the soil. These remain active for 12 months and are taken up by the plants roots and distributed within the plant, through its stems and into the leaves. An insect is unable to detect pesticides and so any insect that eats a leaf will ingest some pesticide and be poisoned. The effects are immediate; the insect twitches and loses co-ordination of its limbs. Death follows within hours or days (depending on the size of the insect). Washing the leaves is pointless because the pesticides are inside the leaf, not on the outside. So, if you purchase a plant from a garden centre, it is best to wait one year before using it to feed to your stick insects. A better option is to source plants grown without the use of pesticides, but to be sure of this you will need to find a reputable supplier that is truthful. Small-Life Supplies do sell potted bramble and eucalyptus plants, grown specially without the use of pesticides, so please get in touch if you'd like to be added to the waiting-list for these.

I'm setting up the ELC stick insect cage in readiness for my four Indian stick insect adults that are arriving next week. What is the optimum length of each bramble sprig? Do I need to cut the thorns off? Should I cut off the bottom leaf - will it smell if it's stood in the water in the Sprig Pot?
Cut two sprigs of bramble (blackberry), each 40cm long. Fill the Sprig Pot with cold tap water and then push the thicker end of each of the bramble stems into the water. Don't submerge a leaf, so remove the lower leaf if it looks like it will be in the water. (Submerged leaves will smell and discolour the water.) No need to waste time cutting off the thorns, these are not an issue for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). When you receive your Indian stick insects, lightly mist the bramble leaves with cold tap water (direct the water spray towards the leaves from the Mister Swivel), this is so the stick insects can drink from the droplets on the leaves. Don't randomly spray inside the cage, and avoid getting the actual stick insects wet.

OK, so after eighteen years, I think I finally have a male Indian stick insect! I attach a photo, fingers crossed he is a boy? I also breed Pink Winged stick insects, do rare males occur in this species too?
Congratulations! You have a true male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). It matches the photo of a male Indian stick insect in the book "Keeping Stick Insects". A male Indian stick insect is very rare, occurring 1 in every 10000 females. The gynandromorphs (which show both male and female characteristics) are more common (though still rare). But your stick insect is a true male because he shows no female characteristics. He cannot produce or lay eggs (unlike the gynandromorphs). He will try and mate with an adult female Indian stick insect. This usually happens when it's dark and it is only at this time his green genitalia will be visible. And yes, male Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do occur, these are extremely rare, even more rare than the male Indian stick insects. The few I have been fortunate enough to rear have been slimmer than the females, and extremely hyper-active, making them very difficult to photograph because they keep taking off to fly!

Will Small-Life Supplies be exhibiting at the Kempton Park insect show this October?
This event has been cancelled for the second year running, due to COVID. Prior to 2020, Small-Life Supplies has regularly exhibited at this annual insect event (recognised as the largest event of its kind in the UK). It was a pleasure to meet old and new customers whilst showcasing the stick insects, snails and caterpillars that we breed, alongside the specialist insect cages that we manufacture.

I collected bramble from a new place, it looked OK when I cut it, but now I'm back home, the leaves have started to turn black? Like big black blotches, appearing within hours? There's a bit of a musty smell too? Will they be OK for my stick insects?
This happens when the area around the bramble bushes has been too damp for too long, and so I'd avoid collecting any more bramble from that area for at least a few more weeks. You need to dispose of that lot of bramble and collect fresh from a different area. Stick insects need to eat green bramble leaves which look OK, so no, never try to feed them with leaves that are obviously bad (because this will not be good for the stick insects' health).

How are hermaphrodites different to gynandromorphs? And what does this sentence mean: "the word gynandromorph means a form having both gynaecoid and android features"?
Creatures which are hermaphrodites, such as Giant African Land Snails, look the same. They mate and then they both lay eggs. This is because they all possess both male and female reproductive parts. So hermaphroditism is the standard method of reproduction amongst these creatures. However, gynadromorphs are a rare occurrence and this sometimes happens in stick insects. The insect looks deformed because it visibly displays both female and male characteristics. So, for example, with an Indian stick insect gynandromorph, the abdomen looks corrugated and a few eggs are produced, but with difficulty because at the end of the abdomen the green male genitalia are visible. The sentence you need help with, is saying that a gynandromorph has both female and male characteristics, by using terms derived from ancient Greek words to convey this fact. ("Gyne" is ancient Greek for woman and "andr" is ancient Greek for male).

I loved seeing your baby stick insects on YouTube, so cute! How long does it typically take for a stick insect to hatch out of the egg?
Yes, baby stick insects are very cute and each species looks and behaves so differently! Hatching is incredibly quick, usually less than a minute. The baby stick insect (called a first instar nymph) is all squashed up in the egg and so when the baby stick insect emerges it's legs are the correct length, but its body is much smaller and looks funny as it is out of proportion. Within minutes the body inflates and the resultant stick insect looks like those featured in the video.

I found an old glass tank in the garage, would it be OK as an enclosure for Pink Winged stick insects if I rigged up a mesh lid for it? It's about 25cm high.
No, it wouldn't be suitable because it would be far too small and too stuffy for Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Stick insects grow by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins, and so need plenty of height to be able to do this successfully. The ELC stick insect cage is 51cm high which is twice the height you have. Pink Winged stick insects do well in airy surroundings and the ELC cage has two mesh sides which provide the through-draught of air these stick insects need. A tank with ventilation just on the top does not let enough air into the cage and people who house their stick insects in such tanks comment that their stick insects spend all their time on the lid (trying to get to the fresh air!).

How long is a stick insect’s memory for?
Quite a while! For example, if you keep New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and place their Sand Pit in one part of the cage for several days and then remove it, you will see adult the females go to the site where the Sand Pit should be and wait for it to return. (It's rather like a wild woodpigeon waiting on a garden bird table to be fed in the morning. And woodpigeons are acknowledged as being more intelligent than many other wild birds). Also, if you handle your stick insects at a regular time during the day, they soon learn this and remember to become active at that time.

Are there any stick insects that prefer less ventilated surroundings?
Yes, there are a few species that need to be housed in less ventilated enclosures. These include the: Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus), Giant Sabah stick insects (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) and the Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini). So, if you intend to house these species in the ELC cage, it is important that you attach the Ventilation Control Panel to one or both of the mesh panels, to block off the air-flow. The Ventilation Control Panel is completely clear and so does not affect the light entering the cage, and because it is fitted to the outside of the mesh, the stick insects can still hook their claws around the mesh side and climb up the wall easily. Small-Life Supplies can supply the ELC cage with the Ventilation Control Panel fitted, or, if you already have the ELC cage, you can purchase the Ventilation Control Panel separately.

Help! My neighbour wants to cut the privet hedge between our two gardens. It's my hedge but he even wants to come into my garden to cut it on my side! He's elderly and very condescending towards me (I'm a 31 year-old female). Any tips on how to handle this tricky situation are most welcome. I have Indian silkmoth caterpillars but don't see why I should have to divulge this to him.
Legally, he can cut the privet hedge on his side, but the hedge guidance states that hedge trimming should not occur during bird nesting season (1st March to 31st August,). So, if you think there may be any nesting birds in the privet hedge, you could explain that it is a criminal offence to disturb nesting birds (see the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). At least this conversation gets it across that you know your facts and appreciate nature. Unfortunately there is a "neat and tidy" brigade of people who think they can go and bully others into their point of view. It is your hedge, in your garden, and he needs to back off! The problem with bullies is they expect people to cave in, for a quiet life. So I suggest you politely explain to him that you will continue to maintain your hedge on your side. Explain that you already have the tools to do this, so are declining his offer of help and will trim your side of the hedge when you see fit. You could also stress that you enjoy looking at a natural hedge, rather than a neatly clipped one, and that scientific studies have shown that an appreciation of the natural world enhances mental health and a sense of well being. Try to keep the tone cordial and don't divulge the other reason why you need the privet, because that is none of his business.

Curious as to why you are calling Thailand stick insects Baculum thaii, when some other people are saying the name has changed to Ramulus thaii?
Many professional entomologists (and botanists) are dismayed when attempts are made to change Latin species names for no good reason. The whole point of having the binomial Latin species name system (devised by Carl Linnaeus and explained in his book "Systema naturae", the 1758 edition), is that one species name is uniquely assigned to an organism. This means that anybody from anywhere in the world can refer to this insect or plant by its Latin species name and everyone knows which species they are talking about. Occasionally, mistakes are made in the classification, and in these cases, the original Latin species name allotted may need to be revised. However, there are many more examples where people try to change the name for no justified reason, so one can only speculate at their motives. Unfortunately, the result is massive confusion and this threatens the status quo of the classification system. So, in these situations, many professional scientists choose to ignore the proposed new name and continue to use the established species name for the species. Like many scientists, I have the benefit of years of Latin education, and know that "Baculum" is a Latin word for "stick", whereas "Ramulus", is a Latin word for "little branch". So, when classifying the Thailand stick insect, which has the appearance of a long thin stick, it is clearly absurd to create confusion by attempting to abandon the word Baculum in favour of Ramulus. That is why I, along with others, continue to refer to the Thailand stick insect by it's established Latin species name of Baculum thaii.

I'm so worried about Fern, my largest stick insect. She is an Indian stick insect and shed her skin a couple of days ago. She is now fully grown, I think, but something is wrong. She is hanging from the bramble with her head facing the floor but there is a sharp crease in her body (in the abdomen section), which means it has folded back on itself, and so the end of her abdomen is facing the floor also. What's going on and is there anything I can do to help?
This doesn't happen very often, but when it does happen, it is important to act quickly, before the body sets in this position. I have seen this occur in some Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and a few Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Following her final skin-change, Fern is weak and the surface of her body is soft and not fully hardened yet. In very simple terms, the inside of her body is basically a tube that needs to be reinflated around the crease. So, place your thumb and forefinger at each end of the crease and squeeze gently so that this area inflates again. Then, carefully place the stick insect (with her head uppermost) on some good quality bramble leaves that you have lightly misted with water. This should encourage her to eat, which is important because she needs energy to complete the exterior hardening process of her new skin.

I'm hoping to get some giant silkworms from Small-Life Supplies soon. There is a privet hedge further down my street, but is there anything else I can use as food?
Small-Life Supplies breeds giant Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) in large numbers and the caterpillars (also called silkworms) will be up to size soon and ready to send out to customers. Keep them in the TTQ cage and push cut stems of fresh cut privet through the holes in the Privet Platform, so that the caterpillars have easy access to food that is standing upright (rather than laying horizontally in the cage). You have the option of purchasing fresh cut privet from Small-Life Supplies, or gathering your own privet from privet hedges. Or, another option is to feed these caterpillars with fresh cut Eucalyptus gunnii, again the best method is to push these stems through the holes in the Privet Platform so the sprigs of leaves are standing upright.

I live in Camden but have a friend in the US who has "stick bugs" which she insists are Vietnamese? Do you happen to know what species they may be? They have short antennae and little flaps on their legs and she says their bodies are a bit like sandpaper to touch.
Yes, in the USA, phasmids are called "stick bugs" or "walking sticks", whereas in the UK they are called "stick insects". In the USA, there are a few species that are kept as pets, with the Vietnamese stick insect (Baculum extradentatum) having been a popular species there for decades. And your description perfectly describes this species. This Vietnamese species is not commonly kept in the UK, I used to rear them many years ago, but no longer have them. I remember another unusual fact about Vietnamese stick insects is that their shed skins often had a pinkish tinge, which is unusual because shed skins (exuviae) of other stick insect species are white or cream.

Thank goodness I have found you, Professor, a source of expert insect advice. I am intrigued by the behaviour of the really rare male Indian stick insects. I have never seen one, but hope to one day! I believe they are hyper-active, but do they like to hang out with the females?
I have reared a few male Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) over the decades I have been keeping stick insects. Their occurrence is extremely rare, with only 1 male for every 10000 females, and so it is always nice to spot one! The male Indian stick insect looks very distinctive (with red underside of thorax, slim smooth tan coloured body, and two sloping red marks on the upperside of the thorax) and he behaves differently too. A male Indian stick insect is very active and walks quickly. And yes, the male Indian stick insect hangs out with the females. I have one adult male Indian stick insect at the moment, and he rests on the mesh side of the ELC cage with his girlfriends. This behaviour is exactly the same as sexual species of stick insect, where a male and female are together, often with their feet on each other. And, as with those species, when the male Indian stick insect is ready to mate, a green blob containing his genitalia appears from the end of his abdomen and he moves this over to the end of the female's abdomen. Others have observed Indian stick insects mating, but this occurs at night and is quick, so it has not been filmed yet.

I'll be getting some Macleays Spectre stick insects soon and am trying to source the best enclosure for them. They'll be young ones, so will need appropriate moulting perches. Do they have a preference of where to moult from?
The ELC cage is the best enclosure to house a few Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). The holes in the two white mesh sides of the ELC cage provide a superb foothold for these stick insects to get a firm grip (they hook their claws around the holes) and shed their skins successfully. Most stick insects, including the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, favour shedding their skins by starting at the top of the mesh side and then sliding downwards, against the mesh side. Dangling from a branch or from a mesh roof is far more risky because the stick insect can sway around more and there is more clutter underneath, so this is why the stick insects choose to moult their skins (this process is called ecdysis) on the mesh sides of the ELC cage. Small-Life Supplies house and breed large numbers of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects successfully in our best-selling ELC cages, which have two mesh sides and solid crystal clear front, back and roof.

Are there different levels of complexity amongst stick insect species regarding stick insect care? I know there are amongst tropical fish, but I confess I know very little about stick insects. My daughter has expressed an interest in the "Jungle Nymph", please can you tell me if that would be a suitable one for a novice seven year old (and her Dad)?
Some species of stick insect are much easier to keep than other species. Also, some species are more robust and easier to handle than others. The "Jungle Nymph" is usually called the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata), and is a very impressive large chunky stick insect with bright lime green females and brown spiky males with plum coloured wings. Malaysian stick insects are suited for experienced stick insect keepers and require care during handling, so are definitely not appropriate for a novice (of any age). Fortunately there are easy-to-keep species of stick insect that would be suitable for you and your daughter, these include the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). She can handle these stick insects and hatch out some of their eggs. Both these species eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and do well in the ELC cage, and you can even house these two types of stick insect together in the same cage.

I want to have four Macleays Spectre because they look awesome and just what I want, so I always want to do the right husbandry so they will have happy lives with me. I was thinking of buying a glass sided cage with mesh top because I was worried about winter time as my home gets cool like down to 13c at night when I'm sleeping.
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) prefer more ventilated conditions, and so a smooth sided glass tank would be too stuffy for them and is not recommended. A night time temperature of 13 degrees Celsius is not cold and is no cause for concern. Most commonly kept stick insects are fine at night time temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius and a daytime temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius. The ELC cage is a great enclosure for up to six adult Australian Macleays Spectre. You can clearly see the stick insects through the crystal clear front, top and back, and the stick insects rest on the white mesh sides because they can comfortably hook their claws around the correctly sized holes in the white mesh. Small-Life Supplies breed Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects and our eggs are hatching now, so the nymphs (immature stick insects) shall be ready for sale in a couple of months.

I was sent some of the "Unarmed stick insect" eggs from my Uncle Fabian, who lives in Devon, and has these living in his garden. Four have hatched so far. I don't have a HAP Pot and so I have been keeping them in a small plastic clip-lock box and putting in fresh wet bramble leaves. The stick insects are still alive and are eating, but they are losing legs, one has six legs, one has five legs, and two have four legs. Obviously I'm doing something wrong, please let me know what to do, because I want the best for my stick insects.
Great to hear that these stick insects are living successfully in your Uncle Fabian's garden! The "Unarmed stick insect", originally came over to the South West of the UK in the 1900s, accidentally brought over on cargo ships from New Zealand, together with another, more spiky species. The Latin species name of the smoother stick insect (hence it's name the "Unarmed stick insect") is Acanthoxyla inermis. The Latin species name of the spiky species is Acanthoxyla prasina. The best way to look after these New Zealand stick insects is to house them in the ELC cage from birth. So, for this species, do not use the HAP or any other unventilated container because this results in leg loss, as you have observed. Set up the ELC cage, with a Liner at the bottom and push two or three long bramble stems with nice looking leaves into the Sprig Pot of water. Lightly mist the leaves with cold tap water in the evening. The New Zealand stick insects prefer to rest on the leaves, but well away from each other, so they do not cluster together like many other species of young stick insects.

We are keeping stick insects at my secondary school. We've moved them from a plastic tank with a mesh lid (not very successful), to a mesh container. Much better. I want to give them a proper home, and make it easier for the students to see them. Next term, maybe add a new species. I'm very glad to have found your website and all the information.
Fantastic that you are keeping stick insects at your secondary school. Stick insects are very easy to keep in schools and are a great educational resource as well as being a popular pet for both the students and staff. The ELC cage is used in many schools, it is a robust cage and has a crystal clear front, back and roof, so it's really easy to see the stick insects inside. The ELC cage has been designed after decades of research and development into what conditions stick insects need to thrive, and so this cage has two ventilated sides and is 51cm tall, so the stick insects have optimum ventilation and plenty of room to grow properly. And yes, you can mix some different species of stick insect together, so for example, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can live together successfully with Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). All these stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, and these leaves should be misted lightly with cold tap water, ideally every day. However, it doesn't matter if you miss a day or two, so not misting over the weekend is not a problem.

Can Indian stick insects and Black Beauty stick insects live together?
Yes, you can house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) together. For best results, keep them in the ELC cage and put in two Sprig Pots; one containing bramble (for the Indian stick insects) and the other containing privet (for the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects). Be careful when keeping Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects because they can emit a spray that can cause sneezing in sensitive people and other pets. That is why Small-Life Supplies do not breed or supply Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects. The spray is a defence mechanism and so the more relaxed your stick insects are, the less likely they are to spray. So it's important not to overcrowd the cage with stick insects because this will cause the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects to be stressed and therefore more likely to spray.

I get that British Cinnabar caterpillars have the warning colouration as a means of protection, so birds see these bright colours and don't eat the caterpillars because they know they will taste bad. But if birds don't eat Cinnabar caterpillars, what does?
Like many species of caterpillars, the parasitic Ichneumon wasps kill Cinnabar caterpillars. These tiny black wasps lay their eggs inside the bodies of the Cinnabar caterpillars. The eggs hatch and the larvae live and grow inside the caterpillar, eating it from within. The caterpillar is alive during this time and continues to feed and move around normally so, in a young caterpillar, it is not obvious that it has been parasitised. When the caterpillar is fully grown, the Ichneumon wasp larvae are fully grown too, and they burst out of the body of the living caterpillar, killing it in the process. That is why they are called parasitoids, rather than parasites. The fully grown Ichneumon larvae then transform into pupae, encased in torpedo-shaped white cocoons. The adult Ichnemon wasps emerge a week or so later and fly off. After mating, the females go off in search of more caterpillars to inject with their eggs. Populations of Cinnabar caterpillars are particularly easy for them to spot, because they are brightly coloured and cluster together at the top of ragwort plants.

I am so pleased to have finally found you, a qualified insect expert, professor! I have just spent the last hour reading your answers on this page and have learnt so much! I am planning to start keeping stick insects soon and so am learning as much as possible first. Of course I'll be buying the "Keeping Stick Insects" book too, does it make any difference to you if I buy it direct from Small-Life Supplies or from numonday.com? I'm in Bournemouth.
Thank you for your kind comments, much appreciated. If you just want the book at this time, then it is better for us if you order it from www.numonday.com. The reason being it helps our ratings on that platform and you can leave a review. And it is easier for you because you can order online from www.numonday.com anytime 24/7.

How confident are your Indian stick insects at being handled? I had some years ago and remember they liked running up my arm! I've just ordered four fully grown ones from you.
Yes, our Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are used to being handled and benefit from this interaction. Indian stick insects can get used to a routine, so if you handle them once a day, at the same time every day, the stick insects will soon learn to become active at that time. Indian stick insects can walk across your hands, or up your arm, or across a table. The larger species of stick insect need more exercise, and so if you progress to keeping the large New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) or the even larger Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata), I recommend letting these adults walk across the floor or carpet.

I see you have British Vapourer caterpillars listed on your website. I'd like some of those, also do you have any other types available now?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies has three types of caterpillar in stock now: (1) British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua), these have a fast lifecycle and eat bramble leaves. (2) British Cinnabar (Callimorpha jacobaeae), these eat ragwort leaves and will emerge as bright red moths next year. (3). Indian Eri silkmoth (Samia ricini), these have a fast lifecycle and eat privet leaves. For more details, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358, or check back on the website soon, because all these species shall be listed for sale very soon.

Can Indian stick insects and Black Beauty stick insects live together?
Yes, you can house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) together. For best results, only keep a few in the ELC cage and put in two Sprig Pots; one containing bramble (for the Indian stick insects) and the other containing privet (for the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects). Be careful when keeping Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects because they can emit a spray that can cause sneezing in sensitive people and other pets. That is why Small-Life Supplies do not breed or supply Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects. The spray is a defence mechanism and so the more relaxed your stick insects are, the less likely they are to spray. So it's important not to overcrowd the cage with stick insects because this will cause the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects to be stressed and therefore more likely to spray.

What enclosure is best for stick insects? Is bigger necessarily better? I'm hoping to get some Indian stick insects for my lad.
The ELC stick insect cage is the best enclosure for most stick insects, including Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). The ELC cage is tall, 51cm (20 inches) and this is the optimum height of cage for most of the commonly kept species of stick insect. Crucially, the ELC cage is a properly designed stick insect cage and so has the correct ventilation requirements for stick insects. It is also robust and very practical, and you can easily see the stick insects through the crystal clear plastic front, back and lid. And no, bigger is not better. In fact, trying to use a stuffy glass tank or a massive draughty netting enclosure is not recommended because these habitats have the wrong ventilation, are too heavy (or too flimsy) and have visibility issues too.

My daughter has been really good at looking after her stick insects that we got from you earlier this year. She has now expressed an interest in Giant African Land Snails. My question is regarding disposal of unwanted eggs. We use the hot water method on the Indian stick insects eggs, would we need to do the same with the Giant African Land Snail eggs? Ideally we'd like to hatch some out, but don't want too many!
Snail eggs are very different from stick insect eggs. The incubation time of Giant African Land Snail (Achatina fulica) eggs is approximately three weeks, which is much faster than the four months that Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs need to develop. So it is important to act quickly to dispose of unwanted snail eggs before they start developing properly. Giant African Land Snail eggs only develop if they are wet, they must glisten at all times or else they will quickly dry up inside and disintegrate. So, you could use the hot water method, or you could spread the eggs out over kitchen roll and they will soon dry up, look dull and stop developing. The snail eggs which you wish to save need to be kept wet, a good tip is to mix them with a bit of soil, spray some cold tap water on top, and store in a small plastic container with no air-holes (such as the HAP). You may also like to distribute your spare eggs to interested friends. When the eggs hatch, place one potato peeling and one carrot peeling on top of the mixture because the snails will want to eat straight away. Unlike stick insects where the baby stick insect is much larger than the egg, the baby snail is the same size as the eggshell from which it emerges.

I was listening to Radio 2 and they had a man talking about Cinnabar caterpillars. I haven't seen these for years, are they easy to rear?
Yes, British Cinnabar caterpillars (Callimorpha jacobaeae) are very easy to rear, providing you have a good supply of ragwort. This is a tall weed, often seen on country road verges, with distinctive ragged green leaves and bright yellow flowers. Ragwort has long roots and does not thrive as a potted plant, so if you 'd like to keep these caterpillars, please ensure that you have ready access to these plants growing wild. I have some ragwort plants in my garden, they are very easy to grow and come up year after year with no care required! In fact this is a good strategy because the bright red British Cinnabar moths do not fly far and so it is one of the easiest species to establish in your garden and you get the benefit from seeing the bright red moths flitting between the flowers during the day. The caterpillars are bright orange with black hoops and so add a splash of colour too. They start eating the ragwort leaves from the top of the plant and work their way downwards. Birds leave them alone because this warning colouration signals they are poisonous to eat.

Will Small-Life Supplies be getting some new species of stick insect in soon? I want another species!!
Small-Life Supplies breed several species of stick insects, and only when these are in stock in large numbers are they are listed on the website. So yes, as well as the species currently listed, we breed other species too. Our large New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are coming up to size, and so will be listed on the website soon. And later in the year, the chunky Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) should be ready (their eggs are hatching at the moment). All the species of stick insect that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply are harmless, used to being handled, and do well in the ELC cage or the larger AUC cage.

I'd like to try my hand at Giant African Land Snails. I see you do the kit, but what about the snails? Do you sell these, or have any tips on what to look for, or avoid?
Small-Life Supplies do breed Giant African land Snails (Achatina fulica). Please get in touch if you'd like to go on the waiting-list, we should have some more eggs for sale soon. Or, if you would prefer to get the actual snails, you could maybe find someone who is selling their surplus and can show you actual photographs of the snails. This is very important because it will help you decide if they are healthy or not. It's best to start with medium-sized snails with a shell length of approx 3cm, you can tell if the snail is healthy because it's shell will be nicely patterned and shiny (don't purchase ones that are plain and dull, or have white patches). Giant African Land Snails like company and so I'd recommend purchasing 2, 3 or 4 individuals, all of a similar size. You can keep them properly in the HLQ snail cage and use the wet HLQ Liners to maintain the humidity (without having the inconvenience of fly infestations that result from using wet soil for this purpose). Our general advice sheet on caring for Giant African Land Snails is supplied free with their housing (developed by Small-Life Supplies, this is called the HLQ cage, and manufactured in the UK).

My guinea pigs show emotion, so do my cats, but even I was surprised to see my stick insects show emotion! Pixie and Brutus (my New Guinea stick insects) were coming up to three years old, sadly Brutus died last week and Pixie stayed by his dead body for three days. She's moved away now and so we'll bury him this evening. Have you see this behaviour in stick insects too?
Yes, some stick insects certainly do grieve. I have seen this many times, particularly with New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), and people have contacted me before to recount their detailed observations of this, like you have. What you describe is normal behaviour for two stick insects that have had a close bond for years and and then one has died from old age. Usually the surviving one dies a week or so later, and so be prepared that Pixie will probably pass soon.

We have three young Macleays Spectre stick insects but my daughter is a bit concerned that the HAP tube should have a breathing hole? Though I have explained that if the eucalyptus is changed every day it will refresh the air, so just making sure that is correct? Also, I assume we don’t need to put the sprig in water if it’s being changed every day?
Small-Life Supplies has invested decades in research, development and testing of different methods of hatching stick insect eggs, and also rearing the different species of stick insects throughout their development. So, from these results, we know the HAP works really well for rearing young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), because it is the optimum size and has no ventilation. In fact, we use lots of HAPs at the Small-Life Supplies stick insect breeding facility to rear the young Macleays Spectre, because using this method is phenomonally successful, usually 100% successful! And yes, just place the fresh sprig of eucalyptus in the HAP, do not stand it in water. However, rather than replace it daily, every few days is best, so you don't bother the stick insects too much. There is plenty of air in the HAP and so don't feel pressured to lift off the lid daily, this really is not necessary or recommended. And definitely don't make air holes in the HAP because this will cause the eucalyptus to dry up and become inedible. After a month or so, your stick insects will be larger and at that stage should be transferred to a bigger, more ventilated enclosure, the ELC cage is ideal.

Any tips on incubating Giant African Land Snail eggs? We have our first clutch!
Congratulations! It's important to keep Giant African Land Snail (Achatina fulica) eggs moist. So scoop them up, gently mix in some damp soil, and store in a small closed plastic container. Store this separately to your cage of snails. In a few weeks time, the eggs should start hatching and you will see the baby snails on the surface. As soon as you see them, place a carrot and potato peeling on top, so they can start to eat straight away.

My 20 month old stick insect died today and her baby, Sprig, is by herself. I don’t want her to be alone. Please can you help me persuade my parents into getting some more insects by saying they need to be in herds of stick insects.
Sorry to hear that your 20 month old stick insect has died, she got to be a good age. Stick insects definitely benefit from having the company of other stick insects, so it is not recommended to keep one on its own. They can have company of their own kind, or, depending on the species, can be mixed with another species. I don't know what species Sprig is, but if she is a long thin stick insect, she could be mixed with Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). All these species eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and do well in the ELC cage. Small-Life Supplies breed all the above species and so you rest assured that these stick insects are all safe to keep and harmless.

Can stick insects eat lettuce?
No, lettuce is not recommended as food for stick insects in the UK. The stick insects become waterlogged and die. So please do not give your stick insects lettuce if you live in the UK. This question keeps being asked because some American keepers of stick insects claim to have some success with feeding their stick insects with "romaine lettuce". This is not the case in the UK, because romaine lettuce, flat lettuce and little gem lettuce are all fatal for stick insects. So, either "romaine lettuce" is different in the US from the UK, or the species of stick insects surviving on being fed romaine lettuce in the US are different from those being reared in the UK.

I'm hoping you might be able to advise on our recently hatched Indian stick insect egg! We collected four eggs on 28th March and were surprised to find a nymph had already hatched last week! We put a damp bramble leaf in the Q-box and she's been eating day and night. None of the other three eggs have hatched and we're wondering if Willow is early? Also, because of the damp leaf (which we replace every two days) I'm not sure if the other three eggs will be OK as the liner of the Q-box is also getting damp. We changed the liner today and had to gently remove then replace the eggs. Are we doing the recommended care?
Yes, Willow has hatched very early! If the room temperature is very warm, Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) can hatch ahead of the standard four month incubation time. (Our eggs from the batch laid on 1st March 2021 batch are hatching now, so only one week faster than expected). It's important to keep your remaining three eggs dry, so place these in a bottle top and place on the QBOX Liner. You are looking after them well, just take care to angle the wet bramble leaf away from the eggs so they don't get wet.

Will stick insects eat each other?
Not if they are being looked after properly. However, if the stick insects are starving, or short of water, or very overcrowded, then they will fight and nibble each other's knee joints and worse. If you are keeping stick insects, it is important to look after them properly and so you should never see any cannibalism.

When do stick insects sleep?
Stick insects sleep mostly during the day. Stick insects can get used to a routine, so if you regularly handle them at a certain time during the day, they will become active around this time.

We purchased your ELC cage and we’re very pleased with it. We’re planning for a holiday so how can we keep the stick insects watered during that week.
If you are leaving your stick insects at home, choose the coolest room in your house because this will minimise their activity and food intake during the week you are away. Stick insects do notice a change of routine and will panic and eat more when you go away, so it is important to give them at least twice as much food before you depart. The bramble stems must have enough water to last the week, so use several Sprig Pots filled with cold tap water rather than cramming more stems into one Sprig Pot. Fortunately, most species can easily manage a week without the leaves being misted with water. The exceptions are the chunky New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) . So if you have either of those species, place a shallow ramekin dish of cold tap water in the cage.

We got our male thorny stick insect about a year ago and he was quite big back then so guessing he must be old. Over the last few days, we noticed a blue thing on the end of his body (his genitalia I later learnt) and that he wasn’t moving quite as much as usual, although he did perk up when we cleaned the tank and put new leaves in. However, the blue thing had really grown this morning and he was struggling to move and was on his back any ideas? Have attached pictures. He’s alone in the tank.
Stick insects are named after their native country, and so "Thorny" stick insects are usually called Sabah stick insects (Sabah is near Borneo) and Aretaon asperrimus is the Latin species name. In this species, males and females occur in approximately equal numbers and mating occurs regularly throughout their adult lives. Unfortunately your male is not living with a female and so that is why you have not seen his blue genitalia before. The genitalia are only visible when mating is imminent or when death is imminent. Your male is now at the end of his life and that is why he is weak and has his blue genitalia on show. Dying stick insects are thirsty and so the kindest thing for you to do is to prop his mouth on a wet bramble leaf so he can drink from the water droplets.

I was wondering why my Indian stick insects were eating the ELC liners, the sticks of the bramble plants and the petals of the bramble flowers... is something wrong with them and will they be okay?
This is classic behaviour shown by Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that are trying to get extra nutrients and water. They won't be harmed by what they have eaten but there are steps you can take to help. Try to gather bramble that doesn't have flowers on the end, because the flowerless stems have darker green leaves that are more nutritious for the stick insects (see the latest Small-Life Supplies YouTube video #6, which explains this in more detail). You could also add some hazel leaves or wild rose leaves if you can find these growing locally. And a light misting of the leaves in the evening is recommended. Indian stick insects do not like their surroundings too hot, so you could move the ELC cage to a cooler place in your home, one that does not get above 25 degrees Celsius. (Ideally the temperature for Indian stick insects should be between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius during the day).

I currently have 2 Pink Winged stick insects and I love them. They have recently developed their wings and are a bit trickier to handle now. I have 2 questions: firstly, I’m concerned about some contradicting things I’ve read on the irritant that they can spray as a defence. I’ve certainly smelt it before when trying to clean out their enclosure etc. Some people say it’s harmless and others say it’s very dangerous. Could you shed some light on this? And secondly, approximately how soon after developing wings should I expect them to lay eggs? I don’t want to breed them so I want to be disposing of the eggs as soon as possible.
Rest assured there is no danger from the spray from Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Small-Life Supplies is a reputable firm and we only breed and supply safe species of stick insect to schools and homes across the UK. There are some species of stick insect that can emit harmful sprays (even causing temporary blindness and breathing difficulties) but the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) is not one of those! Pink Winged stick insects usually start to produce eggs a couple of weeks after becoming adults and acquiring wings. The eggs are glued onto surfaces. If you attach a Hatch Mat to the outside of the mesh on the ELC cage, the stick insects will poke their abdomens through the mesh and glue eggs onto the Hatch Mats! When the Hatch Mat is full, you can remove it and stick on another Hatch Mat. You can purchase Hatch Mats from Small-Life Supplies, price £3 for a pack of six, plus delivery.

I have seen an advert for "ET stick insects", do you know what type these are? The seller says they need to eat eucalyptus leaves as babies but can eat eucalyptus and bramble leaves when older. I've got a massive eucalyptus tree in the garden so they sound a good fit for me but I would like to know a bit more about them before I commit to buy.
Yes, " ET" is the seller's abbreviation for "Extatosoma tiaratum", which is the Latin species name for the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect. These are chunky stick insects with conical heads and leafy looking legs. The adult males have wings and are good fliers, so need to be taken out of the cage every few days so they can fly across a room. It is great that you have easy access to eucalyptus leaves because the newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects thrive on eucalyptus leaves from birth. And if you continue to feed them on eucalyptus leaves, they have a longer lifespan than if they were switched to bramble leaves. The ELC cage is a great cage for this species because they like a cage with two mesh sides. Be prepared that Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have large appetites, particularly in the summer months! And, only give these stick insects a minimal amount of water because too much water can make them ill, so only mist the leaves very occasionally. More details are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd which has a whole section on this species. Be sure to examine at a current photo of the actual stick insects for sale and only proceed with your purchase if they have their tails curled up (floppy abdomens indicate severe illness in this species).

I just got back from work and my room temperature is 28 degrees. I opened the window but it's only cooled down to 26 degrees and my Indian stick insects don't look well. They are adults and I haven't had them long, will they be OK (they're in the ELC cage)?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have been reared in captivity in the UK for over one hundred years and have acclimatised to normal room temperatures of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius during the day, and cooler at night (10 - 12 degrees Celsius). So these Indian stick insects struggle to cope with much higher temperatures, and start showing signs of stress at temperatures exceeding 25 degrees Celsius. So you need to cool them down by placing them in a cooler room, or switching a fan on with a wet tea towel in front of it. Mist the bramble leaves with cold tap water so the stick insects can have a drink. Tomorrow, when you go to work, please place the ELC cage containing the stick insects in the coolest part of your home and keep the curtains or blinds closed in that area to prevent the room from warming up too much.

I'm intending to use the Indian silkmoth for my new art project "Unexpected Beauty". I think it will be cool to see them emerge too! When they've died, how fragile are they to handle?
That's an excellent choice for art, the Indian silkmoth (Samia ricini) has beautifully patterned wings and a furry stripey body. When these silkmoths die from old age (they only live approx one week as moths), they can still be handled relatively easily without being damaged. So we already have customers who create naturalistic scenes with the dead silkmoths glued onto twigs etc. At the moment the living silkmoth cocoons are being dispatched and so you can expect to see the giant Indian silkmoths emerge within weeks. We also have a few dead specimens (these have died from old age) of these Indian Samia ricini moths, also some British Pieris brassicae butterflies and some British Orgyia antiqua moths, so please get in touch if you'd like any of these too.

What is wrong with the bramble leaves this year? I picked some for my Indian stick insects but the leaves were wafer thin and went black a few hours later!
People across the UK are reporting problems with the quality of bramble (blackberry) leaves this year (2021). It's because we had a very dry April , followed by a very wet May. These unusual conditions were last seen back in 1997 and the results are the same; the bramble has suffered terribly but other wild plants such as nettles, buttercups and dandelions are having a bumper year! If possible, try and include other leaves for your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), suitable leaves include wild rose leaves and hazel leaves, both of these are now available. Many bramble leaves are very thin and not as nutritious as they should be, so try to delay harvesting those until they have recovered, hopefully later in the year.

I am looking forward to getting some of the British Pieris brassicae caterpillars. I saw your YouTube video about the brassica plants, I don't have such a field nearby but I have noticed some similar looking plants with yellow flowers bordering the bridleway. Is there an easy way to tell if these are brassica plants?
The easiest way to spot a brassica plant is to count the number of petals on the flower. So if the yellow plants you have found have four petals, they will be brassica plants. It's always best to feed the British Pieris brassicae caterpillars on leaves gathered from wild brassica plants, or from home-grown cabbage plants, or from nasturtium plants grown from seed in the garden or windowbox.

Can you please tell me how the lichen variant in Macleays Spectre stick insects came about?
The credit for this goes to a secondary school science teacher in Northern Ireland. I was speaking to him at a science conference back in 1990 and he had discovered that if he put twigs covered with lichen into his cages containing young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), interesting colour variations would occur amongst those stick insects. So this isn't a genetic change, it is purely caused by the environmental conditions. The resultant offspring of these stick insects will be the standard colour unless they too are reared in cages full of lichen.

What is the best way to clean the HAP? My Large White butterflies flew off today, it is the first time I have had these and all of them metamorphosed successfully and so I am well pleased. I would like to do this again which is why I want to clean the HAP but it has lots of silk threads stuck inside to the main part and also the lid. The empty pupal cases came off easily but the silk threads seem well stuck on!
Congratulations on successfully raising your British Pieris brassicae caterpillars and releasing the butterflies outdoors. An easy method to clean the HAP is to dismantle it and place the three parts (main body, lid and base) into the dishwasher. We wash ours on the 45 degree Celsius temperature setting with 30 minute duration. These caterpillars do spin a lot of fibres on the inside of the HAP but just one session in the dishwasher at the settings above will clean the HAP effectively and not distort it. Even the HAP label will stay on because it is a dishwasher proof label. To purchase more British Pieris brassicae caterpillars from Small-Life Supplies, please get in touch and explain that you'd like a caterpillars refill pack.

How many original stick insect cages have Small-Life Supplies created over the years?
Small-Life Supplies specialise in designing and manufacturing (in the UK) insect cages. Since the firm was created in 1985, we have created twelve designs of stick insect cages that have been put into production, all manufacturing taking place in the UK. Old designs are phased out as new cages are developed. The ELC stick insect cage is currently in production, so new ELC stick insect cages are being manufactured every day and dispatched ready assembled to customers across the UK.

I bought some adult Indian stick insects from you towards the end of last year. Their eggs have now produced babies - 17 of them, about 6 weeks ago! At the moment they are housed in a fish tank with net over the top to stop them escaping! At what stage do they go into an ELC stick insect enclosure please?
Congratulations on your baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus)! You can transfer them into the ELC stick insect cage when they are approximately 3.5cm long (that is the total length including the front legs outstretched). Indian stick insects reach that size when they are about two months old and as yours are six weeks old now, they should be ready to be transferred within the next couple of weeks.

How quickly is Small-Life Supplies sending out stick insects? My daughter's birthday is Friday 11th June, what's the deadline for ordering to ensure delivery by then?
Small-Life Supplies breed stick insects in large numbers and all the species listed on the website are in stock and ready for dispatch. Small-Life Supplies also manufacture the ELC stick insect cages in the UK and so these cages are in stock too. Orders are usually dispatched a few days after receipt of order. So, if you require delivery the day before your daughter's birthday, on Thursday 10th June 2021, you would need to place your order by Monday 7th June. Or, instead of leaving it to the last minute, you could have peace of mind by placing the order now and request delivery for Thursday 10th June 2021.

I bought two Crowned stick insect nymphs on the 5th April. They both shed their first skin at around the same time. Then one of the stick insects started looking nice and fat and as predicted she shed another skin around 10 days ago, so she now looks a lot bigger than the other one. The other one still looks tiny and all thin, I see it eating and it's lively enough, but it doesn't look like it's going to shed any time soon. It this OK? Or is it a bad sign when one keeps growing but the other seems to have stopped? (We are in Adelaide so it's winter here).
The Crowned stick insect is an Australian species, Latin species name Onchestus rentzi. In general, male stick insects usually grow faster than female stick insects. So if your larger one is a male, there is nothing to be concerned about. If not, there could be three reasons: 1). Occasionally, a stick insect has endocrine issues and does not grow. This is more common amongst caterpillars, but does sometimes happen with stick insects. But it's too early to say if this is what is happening here. 2). The fact it is winter in Adelaide (Australia) means that the leaves may not be at their most nutritious. Poor quality food can slow down growth. To combat this, always select the best quality leaves you can find for your stick insects. 3). The smaller individual may naturally just be less vigorous than the other one or, in very rare cases, is being bullied by the larger one? You could try putting additional leaves in there, on the other side of the cage, so the smaller one can access food without being disturbed by the larger one.

Is it better to feed Indian stick insects a variety of leaves or is it better to just give them bramble leaves to eat?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do really well if fed exclusively on bramble (blackberry) leaves. However, if your bramble supplies are limited, you can switch Indian stick insects over to wild rose leaves and/or hazel leaves when these leaves are available during the summer months.

Are there really stick insects living wild in Cornwall? If so, are they escaped Indian stick insects?
There are small populations of New Zealand stick insects living wild in Cornwall. People are finding these nymphs on bramble bushes, rose bushes and conifer trees during the Spring and Summer months. In the late Autumn, sightings of the adult stick insects are reported on people's exterior brickwork of their houses (the adult stick insects are attracted to the warmth of the buildings because the nights are now getting much colder). These New Zealand stick insects are the Acanthoxyla genus, and are usually the Acanthoxyla prasina species and the smoother bodied Acanthoxyla inermis species. They can be either brown or green. If they are green, the colour is much more of a vivid green than the green colour seen in Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). Another easy way to tell them apart is that New Zealand stick insects always have short antennae, whereas Indian stick insects have long antennae (unless these have been damaged and parts have broken off). New Zealand stick insects arrived in the South West of the UK on cargo ships in the 1900s and so have been naturalised in Cornwall for over one hundred years.

My cabbage white butterflies have started to emerge which is very exciting. I released a couple on Wednesday when it was lovely and sunny. I'm assuming it's not a good idea to release them in this awful wind and rain? As it's looking bad for the next few days what can I do to keep them healthy until the weather is better. They're in a large net cage and I've popped in a sprig pot with some wild flower cuttings. Is there anything else I can do?
You've done the right thing in delaying release and putting some wild flowers in the cage. The butterflies of Pieris brassicae do feed, they uncurl the proboscis and suck up nectar, and flowers such as yellow dandelions and white hawthorn blossom are suitable. It is also a good idea to put in some cotton wool balls soaked in 10% honey solution, because this is a favourite food for these butterflies! This is easy and quick to make, to see how it's done, please look at the short Small-Life Supplies YouTube video #002, here.
And yes, please keep them indoors for a few days until the weather becomes more pleasant, then you can let them go.

There's such conflicting advice on-line, I am so glad I have found you, Professor. Can you switch the type of leaves that Indian stick insects eat, or must they stay on the same type all their lives? The description of Indian stick insects on this site says they can eat bramble leaves and hazel leaves, so does this mean you guys feed them on both these leaves from birth?
It is a myth that Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) must only be fed on what they ate when they were young. All the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) reared at Small-Life Supplies are fed exclusively on bramble (blackberry) leaves for the first two months of their lives (when they live in QBOXES and HAPs). These stick insects are then 3.5cm long (total length which includes the front legs outstretched and the body) and transferred to ELC cages. When they are in the ELC cages, they are fed with bramble (blackberry) leaves and also given other leaves such as wild rose leaves and hazel leaves to eat. Our Indian stick insects have no problem at all in eating all three types of leaves with enthusiasm. So no, we don't feed hazel leaves to baby stick insects, because it not necessary. Indian stick insects can all be started on bramble leaves and will readily eat hazel and rose when they are larger.

How much is delivery of an ELC cage bundle to Aberdeenshire? And if I bought two ELC bundles, both to be delivered to me, what would the delivery price be? Finally, how long does delivery usually take?
Unfortunately there is a delivery surcharge imposed by our couriers to all Aberdeenshire AB postcodes. The total delivery to AB postcodes is currently 18.69 pounds. So, delivery for one ELC bundle would be 18.69 pounds, and delivery for two ELC bundles would still be 18.69 pounds. Small-Life Supplies continue to process orders quickly and so your ELC cage bundles would be dispatched within days and are usually delivered the next day, so are only one day in transit.

We are thrilled with our four girls: Opiris, Morea, Elidia and Mystis (all Indian stick insects!), we received these from you last month and they are all doing well and laying eggs! We have been collecting bramble leaves every week as per the instructions and pouring hot water over the eggs that we don't need. I know the eggs aren't sentient but I find that part a bit difficult, is there an alternative?
I am pleased that your Indian stick insects are doing well and providing enjoyment for your family. In the wild, each Indian stick insect would lay hundreds of eggs over it's lifetime, the reason so many eggs are produced is because over 99% perish, either by being eaten by predators, or being crushed, or being water-logged. Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) take four months to develop, and so most people dispose of the surplus eggs when they are at an early stage of their incubation when there is just liquid in the egg, not a fully formed baby stick insect about to emerge. Hot water is by far the most effective and fastest method, instantly denaturing the contents of the egg and stopping further development. Another option is to toss the eggs into a garden fire or wood burning stove. Or, a useful alternative is to feed the eggs to garden birds or fish, this is a good choice at this time of year as these creatures have their offspring to feed and so demand for any additional food is high. If you sort out the Indian stick insect eggs and place them on a white saucer on the bird table, you should soon see them being eaten by blackbirds and magpies.

Should I try freezing some bramble? Or is this not a good idea? I'm in Derby, UK.
Freezing bramble doesn't work well, and so I don't recommend this for you. Living in Derby you should be able to find wild bramble all year round, it grows in woods, on disused railway lines, overgrown canal embankments, derelict sites earmarked for building houses etc. Or, you can plant your own bramble plants, they do well in poor soil and so can even thrive at the edge of a sunny gravel drive!

Thank you for sending me the HAPs and HAP Liners, so well packaged too! Is the HAP dishwasher safe? The HAP dismantles into three parts for easy cleaning. The lid and main body need to be washed by hand (use warm, not hot, soapy water and rinse well). The black base is made from a different type of plastic and so this base is dishwasher safe.

I have two Giant African Land Snails (Dakota and Ash), they are much more lively since I upgraded them to the HLQ tank and those wet liners are super cool! I noticed in the field today some large dandelion leaves and so I picked some for Dakota and Ash. I also saw ragwort leaves, would ragwort leaves also be suitable for Giant African Land Snails to eat?
Great that your Giant African Land Snails are prospering in the HLQ cage. Being able to actually clearly see out of the clear sides of the HLQ cage make the surroundings much more interesting for snails and so that is one reason why they are more active. And yes, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) benefit from a varied diet, and so it's good that you are giving them different leaves to eat. Both dandelion leaves and ragwort leaves are popular with Giant African Land Snails. They also need other foods such as sweet potato, courgette, red pepper, marrow and pears, so they have a balanced nutritious diet. Also rinsed out hen egg shells (as a source of calcium) and dish of fresh cold tap water to drink.

We keep our stick insects in the conservatory but we now seem to have lots of ants! How can we get rid of them?
You need to sweep or vacuum up the ants and put them outside, at the furthest point from your house. And for the next couple of weeks, increase the cleaning in the conservatory, so sweep or hoover the floor more frequently and clean all shelves and tables. The ants are looking for crumbs of food and so will search elsewhere if you keep the room spotless. In the short term, the stick insect cage needs to be cleaned out more frequently too, to deter ants from entering the cage. Ants will harm stick insects and eat their eggs, so it is imperative to encourage the ants to move elsewhere as soon as possible. Don't be tempted to use any commercial insecticides because these chemicals will kill your stick insects.

Thank you for quick delivery of the ELC cage, looks fantastic! Are you getting any other species of stick insects in soon ?
Small-Life Supplies breed various species of stick insect in large numbers. The species listed on the website are ones which are available now. We are breeding other species and these will be listed when the nymphs (immature stick insects) are large enough to travel safely. Live arrival is guaranteed and we only send out nymphs when they are optimum size to travel safely. Small-Life Supplies take great care in selecting which species to breed and sell. The species of stick insect that Small-Life Supplies breed are chosen because they are safe for children and adults to keep (so do not emit irritating chemical sprays which can harm people, even causing temporary blindness in the case of the Florida stick insect, Anisomorpha buprestoides), look attractive and thrive in the ELC cage.

I have been successfully keeping Sungaya inexpectata and having a good success rate with hatching. Unfortunately today one of my second generation females died unexpectedly, and I just can’t work out why. She had reached full adult size and was sat quietly on the floor of her enclosure yesterday - something I’ve observed others doing frequently, so didn’t think much of it. Today she is very definitely no longer with us. The rest of the sticks in the enclosure seem absolutely fine (some of them are quite old - about 18 months); humidity and temperature are on point, bramble comes from my own garden so is free from pollutants, chemicals etc; no sign of a fungal infection. I thought she might be looking for somewhere to lay so didn’t disturb her at the time but now am kicking myself. Any idea of what else could have caused her premature death?
A shallow Water Dish is recommended with this species, the Philippines "Sunny" stick insect, Sungaya inexpectata. Adult females drink a lot, and so this may have been a contributing factor. So I'd advise putting a shallow dish of water into the cage now, this will also be of benefit to your older stick insects (the very old stick insects require more water than younger adults). Another factor could be the quality of the bramble, at this time of year it isn't the best nutritional quality because the old leaves are dying off and the new growth is being very slow to get established due to the unseasonal lack of rain in recent weeks in the UK.

So glad that Small-Life is on Youtube at last! Will you be posting videos regularly? And how much does it is cost to subscribe to your channel?
The Small-Life Supplies youtube channel will be regularly uploading videos on stick insect care, butterfly and moth care etc. It is FREE to subscribe to our channel, just hit the "subscribe" button under the video and then tick the box that you want to be notified when new Small-Life Supplies videos are posted. You will then be notified by Youtube when this happens.

What are the defining features of a male Indian stick insect?
Look at the adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and check he has ALL of the following characteristics: two sloping red marks on the top of the thorax, red underside to thorax, abdomen is smooth and straight (not corrugated or lumpy), body colour is tan/light brown, hyperactive, slim, and when in "straight stick" mode, the back legs are longer than the abdomen. Male Indian stick insects are very rare, occurring 1 in every 10000 females. If your stick insect only has some of the above characteristics, it is not a male, but an insect with both female and male attributes, this is known as a "gynandromorph" derived from the three Greek words for female, male and form.

I'm hoping you can let me know where I've gone wrong with this large white chrysalis - I have attached a photo. The caterpillar made their chrysalis on the lid of the HAP pot so I moved the lid without touching it to a large net cage where I usually hatch my pupae. Today I have found it flat and dark brown and there is also some dark brown fluid near it. Has something got in to the cage and predated it?
A pupa leaks brown fluid if it has been damaged or has died inside. A dead pupa often smells bad and so I suggest you sniff it and discard it if it smells bad. Tiny parasitic wasps (which look nothing like a standard yellow and black garden wasp that most people think wasps should look like) are common and responsible for the majority of deaths of Pieris brassicae in the UK. So it is possible that your pupa might have been injected by a parasitic wasp. Or this pupa may have succumbed to an air borne bacterial or viral infection. If this has happened it will disintegrate into a brown smelly mush as soon as you gently prod it with a small paintbrush. It is wise to do this anyway because if it is still alive it will twitch at the pointed end.

Someone has given me their collection of Aretaon asperrimus stick insects because they lost interest. There are 26 of them, in a glass tank and they are all huddled at the bottom. I want to care for them properly and so would like to purchase the ELC cage but am concerned the massive increase in ventilation may be a shock to them? What do you think?
This species, the Sabah stick insect (Aretaon asperrimus) is unusual because all stages prefer less ventilated conditions. So it is essential to block off one of the mesh sides of the ELC cage, so there is no through draught ventilation. Small-Life Supplies do this for you, so when you order the ELC cage, just ask for the "Ventilation Control Panel" to be fitted over the fixed mesh side to block off the ventilation on that side of the cage. (This costs an extra £2). The Ventilation Control Panel is clear and so does not affect the light entering the cage. And the mesh holes are still on the inside so the stick insects can still climb up both mesh sides. You will also need to provide a shallow Water Dish and a Pot of Sand (for these stick insect to bury their eggs). The same set-up is also required when keeping the Giant Sabah stick insect (Trachyaretaon brueckneri).

I am beginner on caring for stick insects and I have some problems. So three days ago I got my first stick insects "Sungaya inexpectata". The problem is that they don't eat. The temperature and wetness is good, I gave them raspberry leaves. But I found one insect dead. Maybe you will know where the problem is?
I think you have already answered your question, they are not eating the raspberry leaves. So you need to give them bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat. The Sungaya inexpectata is found wild in The Philippines and is sometimes called the "Sunny stick insect". A daytime temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius is ideal, dropping to 12 degrees Celsius at night. Lightly mist the bramble leaves (but not the stick insects) with cold tap water once a day and also leave a shallow dish of cold tap water in the cage so these stick insects can drink water from the water dish. It is unfortunate that you have started with this species. A much easier species to begin keeping is the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus).

If I ordered some stick insects from Small-Life Supplies, would they be sent with six legs? I'd prefer six legs if that's possible.
Of course! Small-Life Supplies breed stick insects in large numbers and we only sell healthy stick insects, which have all six legs. This has always been our philosophy, over the last 36 years of trading, and will remain so. It beggars belief that some other sellers are charging full price for the stick insects but warning potential customers that they may receive stick insects with legs missing! Also, leg loss amongst healthy stocks of stick insects is rare and not commonplace.

Remind me again, what's the safe size of new growth bramble leaves? There's loads near me but the leaves look so small and I don't want to harm my Indian stick insects!
Yes, at the moment it is difficult in many parts of the UK to find bramble leaves large enough (3cm long) to be safe for stick insects to eat. The problem is caused by lack of rain. If you do an online search for "How to feed stick insects in the Spring youtube", you should find the short Small-Life Supplies youtube video on this topic.

The shed in my garden is overgrown with bramble. I rather like the idea of making it a permanent outdoor home for British caterpillars. Would this work? I see you breed the British Vapourer caterpillars, do you offer the caterpillars as a bulk buy without the housing? How many would you suggest to form a sustainable community? Or am I being too ambitious? I live in Witney, Oxfordshire.
This is a great idea and something I have been doing for years and so I know it works. And the British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) is particularly suitable for establishing outside because the females can't fly off (they don't have wings), and so remain on the bramble, laying eggs. Before embarking on this venture, it's important to establish that the bramble patch is not going to be hacked back by the council or ripped out by building developers, but as your bramble is on your own property, it will be safe for as long as you live there. So yes, I'd recommend proceeding and you can look forward to seeing generations of British Vapourer caterpillars on the bramble on your shed for years to come! Fifteen caterpillars is a good number to release, together with about five pupae. Small-Life Supplies have plenty in stock, and can supply these without the housing, so when you receive them, they are ready to be carefully placed on your bramble outside. To order, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 and ask for the "outdoor Vapourer pack".

My hands and eyesight are failing me and sadly my limited mobility is affecting my life. I would so love to set some butterflies free in my garden, I have been a keen gardener and so my garden has plenty of flowers. But I can't cope with fiddly things and so won't be able to feed caterpillars. I wondered if you ever have any pupae for sale? And if so, how I could buy some? My friend is typing this email for me, so I can't order on-line and I don't use PayPal anyway. Would my Lloyds bank card details be safe if I phoned to pay? I know you have been in business for many years and so that gives me some confidence, but one can never be too careful!
Small-Life Supplies breeds the British Large White butterfly (Pieris brassicae) in large numbers. Most customers purchase the caterpillars and enjoy watching the fast lifecycle. However, I understand why you would want the next stage, the pupae. The good news is that these are also supplied, three pupae are sent in a ventilated container with a twig already inserted (the freshly emerged butterfly climbs on this and stretches out its wings). The pupae do not eat, so all you have to do is look at this clear container every day and if a butterfly has emerged, wait a few hours (this allows time for its wings to harden and become strong enough for flying), then take the lid off and let the butterfly fly off. These butterflies like to feed from flowers and so your garden sounds lovely. The British Large White butterflies mate and then lay eggs on brassica plants, so if you have any nasturtiums in your garden, these would be ideal for the eggs. If not, the butterflies will fly off in search of brassica plants in other gardens or fields. Regarding paying with a card over the phone, you can rest assured that your details are safe with Small-Life Supplies. This is because Small-Life Supplies is fully compliant in the "Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard" scheme which means that we follow strict practices whilst we have your sensitive information to ensure that it is safe. And your card details are destroyed as soon as the order is processed. To place an order by phone, please call Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 during office hours.

Our Cabbage White caterpillars that we bought from you are now big and still and looking like they are ready to enter the pupation phase. I really would like to see this change of a caterpillar changing into a pupa and wondered if you knew when this is likely to happen, I mean morning or afternoon? And how long does it take?
When the Pieris brassicae caterpillar is about 4cm long it stops eating and becomes very still. After a day or two it shrinks a bit (it can reduce to 3cm). Just before embarking on its final skin change, the caterpillar twitches and then its outer skin splits down the middle of its thorax, behind its head. This duration of this final skin change is approximately 14 minutes. It is amazing to watch, most of ours have been doing this mid-morning, but a few do this metamorphosis in the afternoon and a few do this at night.

I’ve had more stick insect babies hatching now and it’s getting hard to tell them apart. Is it OK to draw a dot in sharpie on their exoskeletons (once they’re adults). I like knowing which stick is which .
There are different types of Sharpie pens. Some are strong smelling because they give off solvents, and so shouldn't be used on stick insects. But a small dot of coloured water-based paint from a water-based Sharpie pen would be OK. The best place is on the top thorax of the stick insect. The thorax is the area between the head and the abdomen, all six legs are attached to the thorax. It is best to avoid trying to mark the abdomen because this is where the breathing holes (spiracles) are located and you would not want to risk any liquid entering a breathing hole by mistake.

I have put an order in for your Pieris brassicae caterpillars and I am looking forward to receiving them next week. I've thought of two questions already ... Will they eat lettuce as well as cabbage? And I have an old fish tank, would this be OK for keeping them in (it looks larger than the HAP containers you supply and so they'd have more space).
Great that you're getting some of these nice yellow Pieris brassicae caterpillars, we're sending out lots at the moment! This type of caterpillar only eats brassica leaves, which means that the leaves must be classified as belonging to the brassica family. So suitable leaves include cabbage, nasturtium and broccoli. But not lettuce because lettuce is not a brassica. Please house the caterpillars in the HAP supplied, this is a clear container which we know works really well for raising these caterpillars into butterflies. Your fish tank would be too large (there is a risk that the caterpillars can wander off the leaves and starve to death). Also, if you have a window open, there is a risk that tiny parasitic insects can fly in and inject their eggs inside the caterpillars in your fish tank. This happens so fast you would probably not even notice but your caterpillars would be doomed and would never develop into butterflies. Fortunately the HAP has a drop over lid and this prevents the tiny parasitic insects from getting to the caterpillars. In the wild, the vast majority of Pieris brassicae caterpillars are attacked by tiny parasitic insects (called ichneumons) and die before they become butterflies. Detailed information is supplied with the Pieris brassicae caterpillar kits and so please follow this advice to ensure success with rearing these Large White butterflies.

I currently have six Indian stick insects (third generation with me). Three have 'normal' tapered back ends and are a sandy colour but three are very different in this region: a sort of split with green gelatinous looking matter. They're also a darker brown colour. From what I'd read these may be 'male' but they were clearly laying eggs recently (please see attached photos). I've read there is a male/female possibility with stick insects, please could you let me know what you think is going on. I'm extremely curious about it!
Thank you for emailing the photos of your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). None are males. The males are much thinner and have a red underside to their thorax. Yours are female (which is why they are able to lay eggs) but have some male characteristics (the green part is the male genitalia). Such individuals don't lay many eggs and tend to die prematurely, so it's best to not save their eggs. So instead, keep some eggs from your other three standard females, because these individuals are more healthy.

A work colleague is retiring and told me he plans to rent out his bees for pollinating plants? I had never heard of this before, I thought bees were kept to produce honey, but he said honey was a bi-product and more money is to be made from hiring bees out as pollinators. Is this right?
Hiring honey bees out as pollinators is big business and has been for years. The bees are transported in big lorries to crops and released to pollinate the plants. Afterwards they are gathered up and taken to the next pollinating job. Occasionally this hits the news because the lorry transporting the bees is involved in a road traffic accident and hundreds of thousands of bees escape. Recently the industry has come in for criticism because some unscrupulous owners are overworking their bees and making them pollinate too many plants, and not letting them rest enough. In the natural world, bees do rest for several months and do not work as pollinators at all during the winter. But, unfortunately some unscrupulous owners ignore this fact and continue to work their bees very hard throughout the year, leading to the inevitable consequence of premature death for these overworked bees. Hopefully your colleague is more "in tune" with his bees and will look after them properly.

Is there a difference between "Indian" stick insects and "Green Indian" stick insects? I have seen both types for sale on-line on general seller platforms.
No difference, they are the same and so both have the stick insect species name Carausius morosus. Indian stick insects are usually called Indian stick insects , but the alternative name "Laboratory stick insect" has been in use for decades. "Green Indian" is a bit of a silly name because Indian stick insects are not always green. Although many are green, lots are beige, fawn, or occasionally black; the colour variation is correlated to how humid their cage is and what leaves they are eating.

Have you had experience with Giant African millipedes? I am thinking about getting some, but the seller I've found suggests keeping them in a glass tank, saying they don't climb, they stay on the ground? But I have seen wild millipedes climbing up trees, so don't rate this guys advice.
Yes, millipedes like to climb, and in the wild they do climb up tree trunks. I have seen huge millipedes climbing up trees in the wild in the tropical island of Reunion Island (near Madagascar) when I visited there. So when keeping millipedes in captivity, it is vital to provide vertical surfaces they can easily climb. You can use the ELC cage to house millipedes, because they can climb up the white mesh sides. If you purchase millipedes from this seller, you will need to insert extra twigs and bark in the ELC cage to encourage them to climb. This is because they will not have climbed for a very long time if they have been kept incorrectly in a tank with no possibility of being able to climb, and so those millipedes will need to learn how to climb again. Because these millipedes have been kept in bad conditions, they may be infested with mites. So before purchasing from this seller, please ask if the millipedes have mites. Poor sellers will say yes, it is normal for millipedes to be invested with mites. It is not! Small-Life Supplies used to keep various species of giant African millipede and they liked to rest on the mesh sides of the cages with their heads curled round. We fed ours with dead oak and sycamore leaves, also slices of orange and cucumber. Millipedes also need protein pellets. Our millipedes never had mites crawling all over them.

We're looking at lifecycles next term and I wondered if comparing and contrasting the lifecycles of the Pieris brassicae and the Orgyia antiqua butterflies and moths would work? I'm keen on having some life (apart from the students!) in class and this seems a better bet ethically than hatching out chick eggs in school. Please can you tell me what you think, I like the idea of getting the deceased specimens too and the information leaflet looks helpful.
Yes, raising caterpillars in school is easy to do and our kits are very educational because they involve the caterpillars eating real leaves (instead of artificial food). Also, our caterpillars are not in sealed units, so they can be taken out of the HAP enclosures and observed more closely. We breed all the caterpillars here at Small-Life Supplies and supply species that are widespread across the UK which means they have a good chance of surviving outside when they are released as adults. If the school has a "nature zone" in its grounds, the students can see them released there. Or, if the school does not have this facility, a staff member can release them in her garden and film this on her phone. Either way, there is great transparency on the welfare of the creatures. It's a great idea to compare and contrast fast lifecycles of different species, and really fortunate at the moment because both species are in stock now. The information leaflets contain concise, accurate information on metamorphosis and so should assist teachers greatly. And the bagged deceased specimens can be examined in great detail using phones or microscopes.

My daughter loves butterflies and so I intend to put an order in for a Pieris brassicae kit this weekend. We'll be getting your broccoli leaves too. But what happens if they eat all these leaves... can we purchase more quickly? And if so, what would the delivery price be? (We live in Berkshire).
Great that your daughter likes butterflies and I'm sure she will enjoy watching her own caterpillars grow and transform into the British Large White butterflies. These caterpillars eat various leaves of the brassica family, so will also eat cabbage leaves and nasturtium leaves. It is important that the leaves are green and not yellow (the leaves turn yellow when they are starting to decompose). And yes, if you need to buy another bag of broccoli leaves, the price is £2.50 per bag of leaves + £6.95 express courier delivery (for next day delivery).

I am researching gender discrimination in science, in particular regarding language used. In this regard, do you have any examples of female stick insects being referred to differently from male stick insects?
Well done for researching this issue, as usual the more people who highlight a problem, the more chance there is of corrective action being taken. And now with a spotlight once again being shone on sexism, it's a good time to look at how language is used. To answer your question, one phrase I have heard is that female stick insects are "just egg machines" but of course I have never heard anyone say male stick insects are "just sperm machines". It's comments like that that illustrate the issue you are highlighting. (Also, of course the term "machine" is inappropriate in this context anyway, because stick insects are animals, not inanimate objects).

I heard there are far more British moths than British butterflies, but by a factor of what? Ten times? Twenty times??
Forty-two times! So there are currently approximately 60 species of British butterfly and approximately 2500 species of British moth. Small-Life Supplies breeds some of these and so you can enjoy taking care of the caterpillars and then release the butterflies and moths outside in the spring and summer months.

I have four Giant African Land Snails (two very large and two medium). With the recent sunshine, they have become much more active and are often exploring the HLQ tank and hanging underneath the lid. Today I saw Dmitri (one of the smaller ones) having a piggyback ride on Maurice (the largest snail). Honestly, it looked as they though they were playing but my boyfriend said I was being silly and anthropomorphising. But I'm not so sure, I think there is more to snails that people give them credit for, what are your views?
Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) do show emotion. For example, I had one adult pair that had been close for many years and when one died of old age, the other one remained with the corpse for a few days before sealing itself in its shell. It was four moths before it emerged and then only became more active when it was put with some new younger Giant African Land Snails. That snail had clearly been very depressed but fortunately has recovered now. I too have noticed younger ones having a ride on the shell of a larger snail, occasionally I have seen three younger snails all on the shell of a larger snail at the same time! It seems clear that the snails are enjoying themselves. Similarly, they are more active when they are happy, so there is lots of anecdotal evidence of snails exploring the HLQ cage more when they have had a new type of food to eat which they have enjoyed eating. So you are correct. I am pleased Dmitri and Maurice and your other snails are happy and being well looked after.

The bramble patch local to me now has a mixture of older large leaves (in varying condition) and pale green buds. Over the past few days some of the pale green buds have sprouted small leaves. I know the tiny leaves can be toxic to stick insects and should be removed, but what size is it safe for these new leaves to be given to the stick insects? I have Indian stick insects.
At this time of year (Spring) the old green bramble leaves are harder to find because they are dying off because the new soft green leaves are being produced. These very small pale green soft bramble leaves should not be given to your stick insects because they can contain toxins. So, only choose stems which have some older dark green leaves on, and snip off the young shoots before putting the stems in the Sprig Pot of water. In a few weeks time, the new growth will be larger, and when each part of the bramble leaf is 3cm, it is safe for the stick insects to eat. Most bramble leaves are made up of three smaller leaves, and so each of those needs to at least 3cm long down the middle (the longest part).

Please can you tell me do I just spray the leaves with water? Or do I spray inside the cage? I have just purchased an ELC cage and transferred my eight Indian stick insects that were living in a net pop-up.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) need to drink water and so yes, it is necessary to lightly mist the bramble/blackberry leaves with cold tap water from the "Little Mister" or the "Mister Swivel". Late afternoon or early evening is the best time to do this. Try to avoid getting the actual stick insects wet. Do not randomly spray water inside the ELC cage because this will make the surroundings too damp which is unhealthy for the Indian stick insects. Also, if too much water drops onto the cage Liner, the Liner will curl up.

Ooops... we kept rather too many Indian stick insect eggs, we are novices and didn't realise so many would hatch, well actually all 38 of them! We love our stickies and will keep ten but want to find good homes for the rest. Your cages are excellent and we wondered if you have any discount deals on multiple cage purchases?
Yes, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 and ask about the lightly used ELC cages, these are in very good condition but are discounted as they have been lightly used. These cages are cleaned before dispatch and supplied ready assembled, so are ready to be used immediately. It is really good that you are looking for good homes for your surplus stick insects and this is easier to achieve if you can supply the proper cage at the same time so the new owners have the correct equipment. The ELC cage is great to house Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that are 3.5cm long or larger. Baby Indian stick insects should be housed in the HAP (because when they are babies they prefer less ventilated surroundings).

I'm on the list for your British Large White butterflies and am looking forward to receiving them after Easter. Do they have any preference regarding what they eat, I mean is red cabbage OK or must it be green?
The caterpillars of the British Large White butterflies (Pieris brassicae) eat leaves from the brassica family. So this includes both red cabbage and green cabbage leaves. If you feed them red cabbage there is a possibility that the wing colour of the adults (that will emerge a few weeks later) is slightly darker, but this aberration is hardly noticeable. Other brassica leaves that are suitable food include nasturtium leaves and broccoli leaves. Looking ahead, now is the optimum time to be planting nasturtium seeds in your garden or windowbox or hanging basket, these will provide good leaves for the next generation of British Large White butterflies.

Are some types of stick insect livelier than others during the daytime?
Yes, Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are one of the livelier species of stick insect, being active during the day. The adult male Thailand stick insects are particularly active.

Does Small-Life Supplies have any African sun beetles for sale? And what's the best housing for them?
Yes, we breed African fruit beetles (sometimes called sun beetles) and they are in stock. These are large yellow and black patterned beetles that are easy to keep, eating oranges and dead sycamore leaves. These African fruit beetles (Pachnoda sp) like to climb and so it's important to house them in a cage with white mesh sides that they can climb easily, so the TTQ, ELC and ELS cages are all suitable. These beetles like the sunshine and so place the cage in a sunny position. When they defecate they make a bit of a mess and so you need to regularly wash the cage with warm water and bleach (rinse thoroughly afterwards) to keep the cage clean. When it is hot the beetles fly within the cage, you can also take them out of the cage and let them fly across a room (they make a buzzing noise like a bee when they fly).

Would it be better to start off with two Indian stick insects or four Indian stick insects in the ELC enclosure? I know stick insects mustn't be on their own, but I don't want too many eggs!
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like to group together in the ELC cage, so I'd recommend four being better than just two. (And of course there is plenty of room in the ELC cage for many more, the ELC can house up to twenty adults). When Indian stick insects are fully grown (adults) they lay eggs every day without mating. So every week, when you change the Liner in the ELC cage, just tip the contents of the Liner into a bowl. You may wish to save a few eggs, but it is important to discard the rest properly, and so you can feed the eggs to garden birds or fish. If this is not possible, you can throw the eggs into a fire, so they are destroyed at once. Or, it may be easier to boil a kettle and pour the hot water over the eggs. The extreme heat denatures the egg structure inside, instantly preventing further development. In the wild, so many eggs are laid because 99% are destroyed by being crushed, water logged, burnt or eaten. It is much more responsible to dispose of the eggs rather than keep hundreds of eggs and then have hundreds of baby stick insects to re-home. Indian stick insects have a very high hatching success rate and so it is essential to only keep a few eggs, to avoid the problem of having too many stick insects. Indian stick insect eggs take a relatively long time to incubate, typically it's four months before they hatch.

Our two Macleays stick insects, Kingsley and Queenie, were coupled most of yesterday and the pink spermatophore is still attached to Queenie.(We know this having consulted the book!). A friend said Kingsley will die soon, and Queenie will be fertilised for life...I think she's talking rubbish (she's got this info on-line) but I thought I'd just check with you?
Yes, your friend is incorrect, unfortunately there is some rubbish advice about stick insects swirling around on-line, and this is one example. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) mate frequently throughout their adult lives, with the male producing a spermatophore (bag of sperm) each time. So Kingsley and Queenie should live another seven months as adults, or even longer if they are fed on eucalyptus instead of bramble. The spermatophores vary in colour, they can be pink or white.

I'm a newly qualified teacher and I'll be doing lifecycles with my class after Easter. The on-line resources focus on the Monarch butterfly, which seems very odd to me because we don't have Monarchs in England! My grandma used to be a biology teacher and she said she always used "Cabbage White" butterflies in school . Is this something you could help me with, or do you breed and supply any other native English butterflies?
I agree it is crazy to be studying the lifecycles of non-native species whilst completely ignoring lifecycles of native British species of insects! Keeping caterpillars in school is an easy and quick project and brings science alive, which is far better than just reading about it on-line and in books. Small-Life Supplies breeds various species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths). The British species we currently breed that have very fast lifecycles include the Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) , these have very colourful caterpillars that eat bramble/blackberry leaves and are in stock now. And soon we should have the the British Large White Butterfly, also known as "Cabbage Whites" (Pieris brassicae), these caterpillars eat nasturtium leaves, also cabbage leaves and broccoli leaves.

Do any British arthropods eat stick insects?
Yes, some British spiders can eat stick insects. They spin fibres around the stick insect's body and then slowly devour the dead stick insect over several days. So, if ever you knock over the cage of stick insects and they escape, it is important to find them quickly before the house spiders do! In the summer, some people take their stick insects out into the garden for some fresh air. If you do this, it is important to be watching the stick insects the whole time, otherwise garden wasps will appear and start eating the live stick insects!

Do stick insects have brains?
Yes.

Please explain why you're not supposed to disturb a stick insect that is changing her skin?
Stick insects grow by climbing out of their skins every few weeks. This process is called ecdysis and, depending on the size of the stick insect, takes approximately ten minutes to one hour to complete. The stick insect is very vulnerable during this time and must not be disturbed for the following three reasons. (1). A jolt to the cage may cause the stick insect to fall to the ground and it will then struggle to complete its skin-change successfully (unless you quickly re-attach it by sellotaping part of its old skin to a high point in the cage). (2). Loud noise can panic the stick insect, causing it to become motionless and stop the ecdysis. This is disastrous because the new skin is soft but quickly hardens and the inside of the old skin is wet but quickly dries, so it is essential the process is completed without interruption before the new skin hardens and the old skin dries, making it impossible to separate them. (3). Often, stick insects shed their skins at night when it is completely dark. Switching a light on will cause the stick insect to panic and become motionless and stop the ecdysis. So if you inadvertently do this, it is essential to turn the light off immediately so the stick insect can complete the skin-change successfully.

Would a water jug be OK as a temporary home for baby Indian stick insects? Just until the HAP pot arrives?
A water jug is a bit too large, so a clear tumbler would be better. The size is important because if it is too large, the cut bramble leaves will dry up too quickly. You need to cut paper circles to line the floor of the container and replace these every few days to ensure that the stick insects are kept in clean surroundings. Place a wet bramble leaf in the container and cover the top with cling film. Do not make air holes because this will let too much air in and dry up the bramble leaf.

Please help me because I am getting so confused and want the best for my stickies! I have kept Indian stick insects for years and have always fed them privet leaves. Now I would like to get another sort, but you don't list privet as food for any of the ones you sell? Is this because privet is bad for them or is it because bramble is better that privet?
There are only a few species of stick insect that will thrive on privet leaves. These include the Peruvian Black stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) and also (depending on the strain) the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). The Indian stick insects reared at Small-Life Supplies suddenly refused to eat privet many years ago and still refuse privet. That is why we recommend feeding this species with bramble (blackberry) leaves. And they will also eat rose leaves and hazel leaves. However, your Indian stick insects are OK with privet and so you can continue to feed yours with privet. The vast majority of other species of stick insect do NOT eat privet and so should not be offered privet because it is not a suitable food source for them. So they would starve to death. Most of these species of stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. The species that Small-Life Supplies breed and sell all eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and so it is important to locate some bramble bushes growing wild in your neighbourhood before purchasing the stick insects. Or there is always the option of purchasing wallets of fresh cut bramble from Small-Life Supplies. There are a few species of stick insect that eat other types of leaf, for example the Peruvian Fern stick insect (Oreohoetes peruana) eats fern leaves and the Javanese stick insect (Orxines macklottii) eats rhododendron leaves, but Small-Life Supplies no longer breeds these species.

Would there be space in the ELC cage for 4 Indian stick insects and 6 Thailand stick insects?
Yes, there is space in the ELC cage to house these two species together. Both like airy surroundings and both eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. It's easy to tell them apart at all stages by looking at their antennae. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have long antennae but Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) have short antennae.

I have been picking out the Macleays Spectre stick insects eggs from the cage liner today, and some eggs are mostly cream but others are mostly chestnut brown. Both types have marbled effects, are shiny, and the same size. I have two adult pairs in the ELC cage, do you think one female is laying the cream eggs and the other one the brown eggs? And if so, is one colour more likely to hatch than the other?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) lay large hard round eggs and so it is easy to pick them up with your fingers. For best results, store these eggs in the HUA Pot and wait for them to hatch approximately six months later. You are correct in deducing that the different colour versions are from different females. This is just natural variation and so both versions have an equal chance of hatching. Eggs which are less likely to hatch are smaller than normal, or mishapen. When your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs hatch it is strongly recommended to feed the hatchlings with eucalyptus leaves. This is because their survival rate can be as high as 100% if fed exclusively on eucalyptus for the first few weeks of their lives. After that time, you can either keep them on eucalyptus or introduce bramble/blackberry leaves as a supplement.

We have welcomed four Indian stick insects to our family and have enjoyed caring for them since November. With Spring just around the corner, we are considering having some butterflies? As we are all new to this, please can you give us some advice on the best species to purchase and a little guidance as to what this would entail?
I am pleased that your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have been a success. Small-Life Supplies also breed various easy-to-keep species of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and supply these as caterpillars. Their care is very easy, just feed the caterpillars with the fresh leaves suggested, keep them in the housing supplied, and watch them grow! Our British Vapourer (Orgyia antiqua) and the British Large White (Pieris brassicae) both have very fast lifecycles and can be released outdoors in the UK when they are adults. If you want a giant tropical species, we also breed the Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini), these have a slower lifecycle and need to be kept in a warm room indoors throughout their life. Our British Vapourer caterpillar kits are in stock now, the other types should be ready in a month or so.

We were given some Indian stick insect eggs and were delighted when six hatched. We followed the information sheet provided and gave them ivy leaves to eat. Four died soon afterwards which we are upset about. Two are doing OK and have shed their skins for the first time. On reading your advice I think we did wrong?
Ivy leaves are really a last resort, it is much better to feed Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) with bramble (blackberry) leaves. Baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) are thirsty and so it's important to put a slightly wet bramble leaf into the HAP pot so they can have a drink. Losing four out of six is well below what the success rate should be, so it is unfortunate that you were given poor advice. I recommend you give your surviving Indian stick insects bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat (mist these leaves lightly with water once a day). But short-term do continue giving them ivy as well because this is what they are used to and it may take a few days (or longer) for them to switch over to eating the bramble (blackberry) leaves. Keep the leaves fresh by standing the stems in the Sprig Pot of cold tap water.

Thank you so much for the ELC cage, my Pink Winged stick insects look so much happier in their new home! I would like to house another type in there, what would you recommend? Fortunately we have loads of bramble in the woods nearby.
Great that you like the ELC cage, it is ideal for Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) because as well as being the optimum size and having the correct ventilation, the smooth sided holes in the white mesh sides are the perfect size for the eggs (Pink Winged stick insects glue their eggs in there). You can mix Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) in the same ELC cage as Pink Winged stick insects, also Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). All these three species look completely different and so it is easy to tell them apart. They all eat bramble (blackberry) leaves.

I am interested on your views of poor genetic stock circulating amongst Indian stick insects. I have noticed people posting photos of their Indian stick insects with deformities, specifically those females with partial green mating apparatus permanently on show. I see that many of these stick insects and others do not look in the best of health and are being reared in cramped and poorly ventilated tanks.
There has been a recent surge in people selling their surplus Indian stick insects, and unfortunately some of the stock offered for sale is of poor quality. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) reproduce by parthenogenesis, and the really deformed individuals that you describe only lay a few eggs, unlike a healthy female who lays several hundred eggs during her lifetime. So, of more concern are the conditions in which these stick insects are being housed. It is sad when people don't look after their stick insects and think it's OK for their stick insects to be eating each other and losing legs! All the Indian stick insects that Small-Life Supplies sell are the direct descendants from one original stick insect that was born in 1976. So these stick insects are a very healthy strong strain. All our Indian stick insects are reared in QBOXES and HAP pots (when very young) and then ELC cages which provide the optimum conditions for second instar nymphs up to adult stick insects (seventh instar).

Ages ago I got some "grade B" ELC cages off you, via ebay(?), I can't remember because it was over a year ago. Anyways, how do I buy more "grade B" ELC cages ? I need another couple, they're definitely the best around!
Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 (daytime during office hours) and ask if there are any "grade B" ELC cages in stock. These cages are brand new but have minor marks and scratches and so are sold at a reduced price. (This means they always sell really quickly!). ELC cages are dispatched ready assembled and so can be used straight away. Unfortunately the ebay fees for business sellers are now so high it is no longer economically viable for us to sell our cages on this platform. ELC cages are precision made in the UK and so have a relatively high manufacturing cost. It's easy to purchase items from Small-Life Supplies and you can choose to pay by credit/debit/AMEX card or PayPal or bank transfer.

We noticed a ladybird sitting on one of our Indian stick insects! It looked quite funny, but will it do any harm? (I know ladybirds eat aphids but surely a stick insect is too big for a ladybird to eat?). We live in Basingstoke and have been caring for stick insects for about eight months now, and loving it!
The ladybird was probably hiding in a bramble leaf (this is a common place for ladybirds to hibernate during the winter months), and so has been introduced into your cage when you replenished the bramble food. The ladybird has now woken up in your warm home and is exploring the cage, and has settled to rest on a stick insect. Active ladybirds need to eat small insects to survive, and you are correct in stating that their normal diet is aphids. You need to put the ladybird back outside in a bramble bush, so it can go back into hibernation mode again. Please don't keep it in the cage with your stick insects because it will be hungry and needs to eat. You don't really want to have aphids living inside your cage because they leave a sticky residue on the sides of the cage. If there no aphids to eat, your ladybird may try to nibble part of a stick insect, but if your stick insects are large, they will shake the ladybird off and so it will starve to death. So it's best to put the ladybird back outside in a bramble bush today or tomorrow. And when you next gather fresh bramble, just check underneath the bramble leaves for hibernating ladybirds (they usually cluster in small groups) and hide any you find back in the bramble bush.

Back in October of last year we purchased from you four Indian sticks - they have been a joy for us and thoroughly enjoy taking care of them. They are so lively, and love to have a walk about on our arms and hands regularly! We put in fresh bramble but recently the bramble to choose from outside has become pretty dry and not too healthy looking - naturally I guess as the weather at this time of the year does dry it up. Are there any other suggestions as to what they would like and thrive on as an alternative?
The quality of the bramble leaves is vary variable at the moment, so it's best to seek out different bramble/blackberry sites so you can choose the best of what is available. Leaves with a few blotches are still OK for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) to eat. Indian stick insects also eat eucalyptus leaves, and so you can supplement their bramble diet with a bit of eucalyptus if you have a eucalyptus tree growing nearby (these trees are evergreen and have silvery green leaves). And ensure that the leaves are misted with water every evening so the stick insects can have a drink. Please don't be tempted to purchase a potted plant on-line or from a garden centre unless you can be absolutely certain that no pesticides are in the soil (many commercially grown plants are treated with chemicals that remain active for a whole year and will kill any insect that eats the leaves).

I gave my two Giant African Land Snails, Bloomer and Bayer, some sweet potato yesterday, which they started eating immediately! And now I have spotted a clutch of shiny white eggs in the food dish! Are the two events related or is it just a coincidence? This is their first time and there are dozens of eggs, I've decided to try and hatch around half of them, but what is the best way to dispose of the rest? Will the garden birds eat the eggs?
Congratulations to Bloomer and Bayer. Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) eggs need to be kept moist in order to develop properly and so you need to scoop them out of the dish with a spoon and place them in an unventilated container (with no airholes). It's best to use a clear container (such as the HAP) so you can see that they are still glistening and moist, and spot the baby snails when they hatch in a few weeks time. Unwanted snail eggs can be spread out on kitchen roll and they will soon dry out and cease developing inside. You can put the eggs on the bird table outside but be aware that these eggs quickly dry up in the sunshine and so the birds will need to be quick! Giant African Land Snails mate when they are happy (or at the other extreme very stressed), so yes it appears they really liked the sweet potato.

We saw the photo of your Malaysian stick insects mating on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page with the comment that they had been going at it for 6 hours! Is it usual for mating to take this long or is this couple especially amorous? Can they move around or do they stay in the same place?
The adult Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteyx dilatata) featured on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook Page, finally uncoupled after twelve hours! They stayed at the top of the ELC cage the entire time. Malaysian stick insects are large and bulky and so tend to stay in the same place during mating. Some smaller species , for example the Sabah stick insect (Aretaon asperrimus) can walk around during mating, sometimes the female walks over to a bramble leaf and starts eating it, despite the male being on her copulating! The time two stick insects spend mating depends on the species and on the individuals, some take a few minutes, others several hours, a few longer still, so many hours.

How are the stick insects in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, going to survive with the unexpected snow and minus 18 degree Celsius temperatures? When I lived there I loved seeing them on my tires, they were the Diapheromera femorata species.
Unfortunately the extreme cold weather that is happening now in Texas will kill many wild animals and birds. Cold blooded animals such as insects are more suited to tolerate extreme temperatures than warm blooded creatures, and some insects can effectively drastically reduce their metabolism and appear lifeless but are actually still alive and ready to recover when the temperature increases. The chances of their survival increases the shorter the cold snap is. And stick insect eggs are even better protected than the actual stick insects at surviving extreme cold. So it is likely that although many of the American stick insects will perish on this occasion, some will survive and many of their eggs will survive. I am aware that these stick insects like to rest on car tyres in Texas, but am not sure why they do this.

I've just been given 8 adult Indian stick insects (I assume they're adults as they have little pink/red patches on their legs). Out of the 8, only 4 have all 6 legs. The other 4 range from 3-5 legs. Some of these have part legs, and some have legs completely missing. I have read that stickies can lose a leg and can regrow with their next moult but as these are presumably adults, I've started to worry. How have the insects lost so many legs? Can they survive with only 3 legs?
Oh dear, it's not normal for adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) to have lost so many legs. When they are kept properly, the vast majority should have all six legs, and it's rare to see one with only five legs. So it appears whoever had them before you was making some mistakes with their care. If Indian stick insects are very stressed they fight and this causes them to lose legs, unfortunately adult stick insects are unable to regenerate legs. You need to ensure they don't lose any more legs, so check the following; (i) make sure their cage is suitable (the ELC cage is ideal, being 51cm high, with two mesh sides) (ii) ensure they have enough water, so lightly mist the bramble/blackberry leaves every day or so (iii) give them nice green bramble/blackberry leaves to eat (iv) switch the room light off at night (v) keep them in a room that is not too hot, ideally 18-21 degrees Celsius during the day and approx 12 degrees Celsius at night. The front legs are the most important and so I hope the stick insect with three legs still has her front legs. Stick insects can adapt to having missing limbs, but you can help by inserting climbing props into the cage to help the disabled stick insects to access their food more easily.

Could you please help me with one thing? I’m not sure about the water. Do I spray the leaves? How often? What if the water gets on them?
Yes, it's best to lightly mist the bramble/blackberry leaves with cold tap water. This is best done in the late afternoon or evening. It doesn't have to be every day, so don't worry if you miss a day or two. Stick insects do obtain some moisture from within the leaves, but also like to drink water directly from water droplets on the leaf surfaces. Stick insects do not like getting wet, so it's best to use a plant sprayer that emits a fine mist rather than a strong jet, and direct this spray at the leaves and not the actual stick insects. If a stick insect gets wet it usually walks away. Small-Life Supplies have two designs of plant sprayer available, the Mister Curvy and the Mister Swivel. We pre-set the adjustable nozzle to a fine mist setting before they are dispatched to customers. The Mister Swivel has the advantage of having a directional nozzle which makes targetted spraying into the cages even easier.

Our school purchased some stick insects off you last year. At first eggs were discarded unknowingly but once I took them on, I spotted the eggs in the bottom. I started collecting them under the impression they wouldn't all hatch. I was wrong...... The time has come and so far 36 have hatched, all staying within school however I counted the eggs left and I have up to 300 unhatched. Problem is they were all put in the box together so I'm unaware of which will hatch next. I've started discarding newly laid eggs but the thought of killing nymphs about to hatch is causing me stress.  My concern is they are already formed inside.
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs take about four months to hatch, so yes, it's best to dispose of unwanted eggs soon after they have been laid. And remember to label the eggs you keep with the month they were laid. I suggest you put your remaining eggs in the garage because the cooler temperature will slow down the development of the eggs you have, thereby giving you more time to find homes for the hatchlings. The easiest way to distribute Indian stick insect babies is to include a suitable home for them and information sheet. These stick insects like company of their own kind and so are best offered in groups. Small-Life Supplies sell clear HAP Pots (costing just a few pounds) which are suitable housing for up to twelve baby Indian stick insects (they can live in here until they are two months old). Perhaps you could distribute these set-ups to some of the children at school? (Either as pets or as part of a school topic). If you'd like to do this, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 so we can put together a package for you and include several free colour stick insect information sheets.

I was reading below about “sub standard” eggs and how the stick who hatches from it is unhealthy. Anyway one of my stick insects, Paty, only ever laid deformed or small eggs in her lifetime. She was always the energetic one out of all her sisters but she died recently even before her oldest sister Splinter, who is still alive. When they hatch they are probably going to be undersized sickly nymphs and die young like their mother but I kind of miss Paty and want to have a new generation of Patys or should I kill them?
Yes, you can keep Paty's eggs and see what happens. The hatching success rate of deformed and small eggs is low, and sickly nymphs are more likely to die than healthy ones. But it will be interesting to see if the ones that do make it to adulthood show the same behavioural characteristics as Paty. I have noticed that undersized Indian adult stick insects (Carausius morosus) are often more lively than their standard sized sisters. Rare male Indian stick insects are very lively too. But it's also worth saving some of Splinter's eggs so you retain some healthy stick insects in your cage.

I woke up in the middle of the night because I needed to check if I had locked the front door. When I switched the light on in the hall, I saw all my New Guinea stick insects very active, marching up and down the walls of the ELC cage. I have never seen them so lively! Is this species nocturnal?
Stick insects of all species are most active at night but have spells of activity during the day too. You can get them used to a routine of activity, so if you handle them at a specific time every day, they will soon learn to become active at that time. Adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like a lot of exercise, so it is recommended to take them out of the cage regularly and let them have a good walk across a hard floor or carpet. It's important to watch them though because they can quickly climb up a table or chair leg, and you don't want to lose them!

How common is parthenogenesis amongst insects?
Parthenogenesis (virgin birth) is quite common. Stick insects including the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) reproduce by parthenogenesis and males are exceedingly rare (I have only ever seen a few males of these species over the decades!). Some grasshoppers and moths can also switch to parthenogenetic reproduction if no males are present. Aphids produce parthenogenetic viviparous (live birth) generations of females in the summer. And in honey bees the queen's unfertilised eggs hatch into drones.

We received our Indian stick insect egg kit last month (January) They were laid on the 10th of October. We followed the instructions and they are in their little container, in the Qbox with a Qbox Liner on the bottom. All completely dry (as I had to double check this as kept seeing online advice saying it should be slightly damp but was assured that it should all be dry). It's now the 10th of February and we still have no stick insect babies. Should they be hatching by now?
There is no need to worry, the vast majority of our batch of Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) laid on 10th October 2020 have not hatched yet. The earlier batches are still hatching well, and so the current incubation time is slightly over the four months expected. This sometimes happens during the winter months. Your set up is correct, so please be patient as you are doing everything properly.

One of the children in my class would like to ask you a question about the stick insect eggs: Do the stick insect eggs die if you freeze them? We'd love to know your response.
Probably, as long as the eggs are exposed to this extreme cold (a domestic freezer is typically set to a temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius) for a long time, preferably months. However, if the eggs are only put in the freezer for a shorter time, there is the risk that a few eggs may "shut down" inside but then restart once they are taken out of the freezer and warm up again. So that is why freezing eggs is not a method recommended by scientists for disposing of unwanted stick insect eggs. A faster and 100% effective method is to use extreme heat because this permanently distorts the contents ending development forever. So tip the unwanted eggs into a dish and pour boiling on top. Or throw the eggs into a fire or hot stove. If you would like others to benefit from your surplus eggs, they can be distributed to other people to hatch out, or fed to birds and fish.

How do insects stop themselves from freezing in the winter?
University research is still being done on this topic because there are several factors involved. It is already known that before an insect goes into hibernation, it reduces its water content. The insect also changes the composition of its haemolymph (blood) by increasing the level of glycerol, thereby lowering the freezing point. The method for eliminating the nucleating agents which trigger freezing is still being investigated.

What's best to put on the floor of a stick insect enclosure? Paper or kitchen towel or soil? Particularly for the species that need to bury eggs?
Definitely paper because you can replace this every week and it is very easy to collect the eggs and dispose of the rest. Kitchen towel/roll is not recommended because it is absorbent and so absorbs some moisture from the surroundings which is detrimental to the leaves and stick insects. Soil is the worst option because this traps all the eggs and poo/droppings/frass, leading to unhygienic surroundings and a population explosion of baby stick insects in a few months time. If you have stick insects that need to bury their eggs, for example the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) then keep these in an ELC cage with a paper liner on the floor and just put in a pot of dry sand for the female to bury her eggs in. You can then sieve this sand every week (using a large metal sieve), and put the pot of sieved sand back in the cage and store the eggs separately in a HUA Pot.

We are very excited to have received our new stick insects (two Pink Winged stick insects) from you. We followed the instructions exactly and are delighted that they are now exploring their new home (the ELC enclosure). The email said to wait an hour before opening the box of stick insects because it is very important that they warm up slowly, not quickly. We did this, but wondered the reason why? My husband wanted to put them on the radiator but I insisted no, we must follow the advice from the supplier!
Thank goodness you did follow our advice, we email all customers this advice because it is so important to let stick insects warm up slowly, and not quickly. So just letting them warm up at room temperature for an hour is recommended, but putting them near a hot heat source such as a radiator is not. This is because the exoskeleton of a stick insect (called its cuticle) has a waxy layer and this can melt if the stick insect gets too hot, leading to death of the stick insect. (In the summer this is what happens if a stick insect is left inside a parked car on a very hot sunny day, because the temperature within the car quickly soars). It is always best to follow the advice from reputable suppliers, such as Small-Life Supplies, as we do know what we are talking about! I am pleased your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are settling in well in their ELC cage, you can look forward to these stick insects acquiring their nice pink wings in a couple of months and also gluing their eggs in the holes in the ELC white mesh sides.

The bramble plants in my garden have some dead branches, some are whole dead branches and some are part branches. I know they are definitely dead because they are a tan brown colour and very dry. I can see buds on the other stems and there are still a lot of green leaves left on those stems and so I am confused! Why are my plants dying? Is there anything I can do? It has been a lifeline having these plants growing in my garden to feed my stick insects. I only have one cage of stick insects so not that many, but I want to continue to take good care of them. I am in Northampton.
The good news is that your bramble plants are not dying, what you are seeing is the death of a few stems and branches which is completely normal for bramble/blackberry bushes. This is just how bramble plants are, many stems stay alive year after year, but other apparently healthy branches die off, shedding all their leaves and the prickly stems turning a light brown colour. In wild overgrown areas, the new stems grow on top of the old dead ones. But to cultivate bramble bushes in your garden , it is recommended to cut out the dead stems completely. February is a good time to do this because the new leaves have not yet appeared and so you can easily snip off the dead stems and branches and pull these out of the skeleton bramble bush. It's easiest to snip the dead bits into sections and pull these out, you will need some sharp seccateurs and thick gardening gloves.

My daughter enjoys collecting her Indian stick insects by letting them roll off the liner. She says it's very relaxing (she's 22 and like others is finding working from home in this lockdown a bit of a struggle). Anyhow, amongst all the more or less perfect eggs is a very small one, still perfectly formed but much smaller than the rest. Will this one hatch?
Yes, I agree with your daughter that repeatedly tilting the ELC Liner to encourage the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs to roll off is a mesmerising and calming activity. And as you have observed, most Indian stick insect eggs are standard looking ones, and the majority of these will hatch into healthy baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs). Occasionally a tiny egg is produced, such eggs are "sub standard" and an undersized sickly stick insect will emerge (if the egg hatches). When keeping stick insects, it's best to keep and breed healthy specimens and so I don't recommend saving eggs that are undersized or deformed.

I'm a first timer at keeping stick insects and have just received your Egg Kit with eight Indian stick insect eggs. I have set it up following the instructions included. Out of my eight eggs, how many are likely to hatch?
There is a very high success rate of hatching our Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus), providing that you strictly follow the instructions included. Feedback from our customers indicates the hatching success rate is between 6 and 8 eggs, so very high!

Have you any information about the stick insects turning up in Cornwall on people's houses? Is this a consequence of the climate crisis?
This has been happening for decades, we know this because every autumn and winter, some residents of Cornwall contact Small-Life Supplies very excited because a large green stick insect has appeared on the wall of their house or on their door! There are two species of stick insect, both transported accidentally on cargo ships from New Zealand to South West England in the early 1900s, and have become naturalised in balmy Cornwall. As winter approaches, the adult stick insects seek out the warmth from buildings, which is why they can be spotted on people's homes! The species are Acanthoxyla prasina and the smoother bodied Acanthoxyla inermis. Both have vivid green and brown forms. (There is a photo of the Acanthoxyla prasina adult on the cover of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd, see the green stick insect on the bottom left of the group photograph). The New Zealand stick insect populations survive outdoors in Cornwall, they live about one year, with the adults dying off in the winter and the eggs hatching in late Spring. The climate crisis has had no effect on these populations, because they are still small in number and have not migrated further north and so are still restricted to the South West of England, particularly Cornwall.

A parent has given our nursery four giant African land snails, all around 4cm long. I want to give them the best home and so have just ordered your HLQ snail tank bundle. Unfortunately the lady who donated her snails just kept them in a storage tub half full with soil and said they were always buried in the soil which is why she and her son lost interest. I don't think she knew much about how to care for them . Anyway, I am worried that such a dramatic change in enclosure might be a bit of shock to them? What do you think? Should I maybe put a bit of soil in the new enclosure? I will be guided by your expertise!
It's great that your nursery school now has some Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) to look after. These snails do really well in nursery schools because they are warm environments with lots going on (snails are very curious and are most active when they see lots happening around them). I suggest you set up the HLQ tank following the instructions supplied and place the special wet grey HLQ Liner on the floor (this increases the humidity and also provides a soft landing area should a snail accidentally fall off the roof). Then, gently hold each snail under a running tap of lukewarm water (not hot water) for a few seconds and gently rub the shell to remove the traces of dirt. Be very careful not to let any water enter the snail's breathing hole (this is a really obvious large hole underneath the snail). Once the snails are in their new clean enclosure they will start to explore and this will delight the children. Don't be tempted to put in any soil yet. You only need a small pot of soil when the snails are ready to bury eggs and yours aren't large enough to do this yet.

Is the ELC stick insect cage cat-proof? Tabitha my ten year old tabby cat takes a keen interest in nature! I hope to purchase the Thailand stick insect nymphs and the ELC cage bundle.
There have always been cats at Small-Life Supplies and so we know how appealing stick insects are to most cats! (Although it very much depends on the individual cat, most cats are interested in the stick insects but a few cats are not). The ELC cage is a strong cage with very robust sides and so will not be damaged if a cat repeatedly taps the side of the cage with its paws and claws. Having kept various breeds of cat including Tabby, Bombay black, Maine Coon and British Shorthair, I know none of these could work out how to lift the lid off the ELC cage, but there have been reports of Siamese cats knowing what to do! As Tabitha is a tabby cat interested in insects, you need to place the cage somewhere where she cannot knock the cage off. The ELC cage would be a suitable cage for your Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and will not be damaged by Tabitha patting the sides. (Don't be tempted to use a cage made from fabric or fine metal mesh because this will quickly be torn or dented by her claws and paws).

Please can you tell me if Pink Winged stick insects are included in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd? If so, I would like to buy a signed copy, how do I go about this? I live in Bristol and am working at home for the forseeable!
Yes, there is a whole section on Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) in the book "Keeping Stick Insects", giving details on sizes of these stick insects, how to encourage the adults to fly and descriptions of the eggs and the unusual behaviour of gluing the eggs to rough surfaces. New copies of this book are being dispatched to customers across the UK by courier. So delivery to Bristol is no problem and the driver will knock on your door and then stand back 2 metres to observe social distancing. You can order a signed copy over the phone, by calling 01733 203358. Or send an email to cindi@small-life.co.uk saying you want to buy a signed copy of the book. Or you can order a signed copy on-line from nu monday, here is the link: https://www.numonday.com/product/book-keeping-stick-insects-signed-copy-on-request/

I'm looking to purchase one of your stick insect kits for my little girl who will be 5 in three weeks time. She already has a strong interest in nature and will take good care of them, under my supervision of course. Would you advise us getting the Indian stick insects or the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects? We'll be getting the ELC bundle as well and we are lucky enough to live in the country so there is lots of bramble around us.
It's great that your daughter likes nature and I am sure she will retain this interest for many years to come. I expect she will want to handle her new pets and so I recommend selecting the option of four adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) rather than four nymphs (immature ones). This is because at 11cm long the adults are twice the size of the large nymphs and so are better suited for being handled by a young child. These adults are just starting to lay eggs and so your daughter can have fun in collecting some of these eggs and she can look forward to hatching out the baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) in four months time. The Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are a bit harder to keep, prefer eucalyptus to eat, and also the adult males have wings and need to fly, so keeping that species is more challenging so not recommended for someone just starting out with keeping stick insects.

I'm completing a school topic on insects and am stuck on question three "name an insect that protects its young and explain how it achieves this". Can you help?
Yes, the female earwig (order Dermaptera). Unlike most insects, the female earwig takes great care of her eggs and young. She lays about forty eggs in a hole. Every day she licks each one clean! She broods her eggs like a hen. She even helps the young out of their eggshells. The offspring are white & stay with her in the hole. She then makes boxing gloves out of dried mud and puts these on her back feet. She uses these to punch enemies! She stays in the same place to lay more eggs. This is so she can protect her first family while guarding her next batch of eggs. The young earwigs look like their parents except they are much smaller and white instead of brown. Earwigs grow by climbing out of their skins and are adult within six months.

My question is about misting. Is there anything special about your "Mister Curvy" sprayers or would any plant sprayer suffice? I think I have one lying about somewhere but I don't know what's it's been used for in the past, so I'm thinking it would probably be a good idea to buy a new one to be on the safe side?
When keeping stick insects, it is important to lightly mist the leaves with water so the stick insects can drink from the droplets on the leaves. Ideally this should be done once a day, preferably in the late afternoon or evening. (However, this frequency is not critical and so it doesn't matter of you forget and miss a day or two). Try to avoid getting the actual stick insects wet and don't randomly mist inside the cage, instead direct the water spray at the leaves only. A fine mist is preferable to a strong jet of water and here at Small-Life Supplies, we set the adjustable nozzle of each Mister Curvy to emit a fine mist before we dispatch them. So the Mister Curvy you receive is set correctly and ready for immediate use. It is very risky to use an old plant sprayer if it may have contained liquid with harmful chemicals, so I'd definitely recommend playing safe and purchasing a new Mister Curvy specifically to use on the leaves in your stick insect cage.

Our two Malaysian stick insects that we purchased from you last year don't seem to be that active in their ELC cage, but when we take them out they both go for a good explore across the floor! Is this normal? They are really great by the way and have provided us all with much entertainment and enjoyment. We are thrilled as the female, Martha, is now gifting us with huge eggs and so we very much look forward to those hatching next year!
I am pleased your Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are doing well and yes, the behaviour you describe is completely normal for that species. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we regularly take out all our Malaysian stick insects out of their ELC cages and let them walk across the floor because they do like to have a lot of exercise. And yes their eggs are relatively large for stick insects, being 8mm x 5 mm. Hatching of Malaysian stick insect eggs does take a very long time, typically one and a half years, but is well worth the wait!

My Indian Eri are all in cocoons. When they emerge, what do the adults eat? And can I breed them? If not, can I buy some more from you?
It's good news that your Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars/silkworms have successfully pupated and are undergoing their metamorphosis within their pupae protected by their white cocoons. You can look forward to the adult Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) emerging in a couple of weeks or so. If you are lucky enough to have both males and females, they will mate in the TTQ cage and then the adult female will start to neatly glue her white eggs in rows on the sides of the TTQ cage. These silkmoths are large but generally not very active within the cage. So it is recommended to take them out of the cage in the evening and let them fly within the room. Some are keen to fly, others less so. After a few short flights, they can be placed back inside the TTQ cage. The adult Indian Eri silkmoths do not have mouthparts and so do not eat or drink. They live about one week and then die. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we continue to breed Indian Eri silkmoths and our next batch of caterpillars/silkworms should be ready to send out in the Spring.

I live in Cumbria and would very much like to purchase one of your ELC stick insect cages as my existing home-made tank needs upgrading! The issue is that I don't have PayPal and work nights so I can't phone you and pay by card. How can I proceed?
You can purchase the ELC cage safely anytime online on the https://www.numonday.com/product/elc-stick-insect-cage-enclosure/ website. Pay there securely online and we shall dispatch the cage to you promptly. As you are asleep during the day, please let us know where the driver can safely leave the parcel without disturbing you (for example in the porch, or in the garden etc).

Any tips on how to get my Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects to eat more? They are all OK but I'm concerned because they don't seem to be eating that much. They just seem to nibble at the bramble and eucalyptus, I put one stem of each into the Sprig Pot and replace these once a week.
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) should have hearty appetites, so you are right to be concerned if yours are just having small nibbles of the leaves. At this time of year (January), the leaves are of poorer quality and a bit drier than they are in the summer months. So, I'd recommend putting more leaves into the cage, we use two Sprig Pots full of leaves rather than just one Sprig Pot full during the winter months. Give them the thick juicy looking green bramble leaves instead of the thin, drier looking types. And try to gather eucalyptus leaves that don't look too dry and ones that don't have small nobbles underneath the leaves. Garden rose leaves are still nutritious at this time of year and so you can also give your stick insects these leaves (provided of course you haven't sprayed them with any pesticides last summer). Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects also benefit from direct sunshine, so try to position the cage in a room that is south facing and gets lots of natural sunshine (but don't put the cage on a windowsill because this is subject to extreme temperatures). Many stick insects do well at a daytime room temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and night time temperature of 12 degrees Celsius, but Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects will eat more at hotter temperatures and so you could also move them to a warmer place in your home (and preferably with a south facing window as explained above).

We are so pleased because all 8 of the eggs you sent us for Christmas have hatched! The hatching was spread out but we are so pleased to have had 100% success! One stick insect shed her skin this morning, it was so exciting for us to see. I am so glad I found your company. We have the ELC cage and are looking forward to seeing our stick insects grow.
That's great to hear, I am delighted that your Egg Kit with Indian stick insect eggs has been such a success.

I am seeing conflicting answers on the stick insect forums about exactly what is the green blob that appears at the end of the adult male stick insects. Some people say blood, some say "naughty bits". Enlighten me please?
It's usually the male genitalia. So when the adult male is ready to mate, his equipment is on show and this is within the green rubbery blob that appears at the end of his abdomen. It's usually green, but can be blue or brown. After mating, it is put away and so is no longer visible. Stick insect blood is green but is a liquid and so looks completely different to the genitalia. Also, the blood does not disappear but dries to form a dark green scab. Stick insects can cut themselves if they fall on a sharp bramble thorn but usually the sightings of the green blob on the end of the male's body are his genitalia or in your words his "naughty bits". Stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult lives and so it is not uncommon to see this if you keep them in a cage at home. Mating usually continues for several hours.

Do you sell rooted bramble plants? We would like to have stick insects again and I thought it would be best to buy our own plant to source their food rather than collecting it on walks around the village.
Small-Life Supplies do sell rooted bramble plants, but these will be available later in the year. However it takes about two years for these to become large sprawling bramble plants, so this is more of a long term solution. The best place to plant them is by a sunny fence or wall. You can use our "climbing hooks" to train the bramble to grow upwards and cover the fence or wall. Please ask to go on the waiting list and you'll be contacted as soon as the plants are ready to send out. Please don't be tempted to buy a potted bramble plant from a garden centre because many are routinely grown in compost containing pesticides which are active for 12 months, and these poisons are taken up within the plant stems and so can't be washed off.

I got some Indian stick insect eggs from you for Christmas and the label says they were laid on 26th September 2020. They haven't hatched yet, should I be worried?
No, don't be worried. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we label up when eggs are laid and always keep control batches corresponding to those dispatched to customers. Eggs laid earlier in September 2020 are hatching out nicely, but our control batch of eggs laid on 26th September 2020 have not started to hatch yet, so there is no cause for concern. Just be patient and you will see the little babies (called first instar nymphs) hatching in January!

We received our stick insects earlier this month, they are great, thank you. They were active at first but now are not moving much. We see the poo on the Liner and bits missing from the leaves, so they are definitely still alive! The only change we've made since getting them is to place the cage by our Christmas light display, this is on 24/7 so could this be affecting them? I'm not sure how aware stick insects are of their surroundings?
Stick insects are very aware of their surroundings, as well as having two "normal" eyes either side of their head, they also have extra "simple" eyes on the top of their head (to detect light intensity) and their antennae are full of sensory hairs inputting data from their surroundings. When keeping stick insects, it is really important that they have light during the day and complete darkness at night. So your permanent light display will be causing massive stress to your stick insects and this is why they are now so inactive. Fortunately you can easily resolve this issue by moving the cage of stick insects somewhere else in your house which has light during the day but is dark at night. Or you could switch off your light display after 10pm at night.

I have always given Babs and Mags (my two female Macleays Spectre adults) fresh eucalyptus every week. Knowing how busy I'd be with all the festivities, I put in extra eucalyptus two weeks ago, thinking it would last and the weird thing is that although there are still lots of leaves in there that are green, they are so very dry and some just drop off when you touch them. As soon as I realised this today I raced to rescue Babs and Mags but they have both died, nestled in these dry leaves. I feel so awful, these stick insects were not old and so I know I am responsible. I know you can't help on this one, but thought my sad tale may help others from making the same mistake.
I am sorry to hear this and can sympathise, because the appearance of eucalyptus leaves from a distance can be very misleading. At this time of year (winter) the eucalyptus leaves can dry up within about one week, even when stood in a Sprig Pot of water, but this is not immediately obvious unlike bramble (blackberry) leaves which shrivel up when they have died. So as you have observed, dead, inedible eucalyptus leaves may still look OK, but feel brittle and readily fall off the stem. So it is very important to give Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) fresh eucalyptus leaves every week, and to be on the safe side, you can also put in some fresh bramble (blackberry) leaves, also stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water to keep fresh.

What's the maximum size of Indian stick insect that I can keep in the QBOX enclosure?
When an Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) reaches a total length (including body and front legs outstretched) of 3.5cm she should be transferred from the QBOX to the larger more airy ELC stick insect cage. But don't transfer her on the day she sheds her skin and becomes this size because she will be weak after her skin-change (ecdysis). So wait a few days to give her time to regain her strength. Remember to lightly mist the bramble (blackberry) leaves in the ELC cage once a day so she can drink from the water droplets on the leaves. And stand the cut stems of foodplant in the Sprig Pot of cold water so that the leaves will stay fresh for approx one week.

I'm gutted as Ginny, my favourite New Guinea stick insect, has died of old age. She was two and a half and was a real character, always the first to walk out of the cage and up my arm! I am going to bury her in the garden. My brother says I'm too soft and she was only an insect, but I felt a special connection to her. He says I should chuck her in the bin. What do you think?
You sound like a sensitive person who has indeed formed a special bond with Ginny. So ignore your mean brother and bury Ginny in the garden with dignity. Many people are genuinely upset when their pets die and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Also you are correct in realising that New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have different personalities.

I'm keeping Peruvian Black Beauty (Peruphasma schultei) stick insect nymphs and they currently aren't showing any size difference, so wondering if they're perhaps a group of all the same sex. Although I know they reproduce sexually, I've read one of your previous answers which I believe said "all stick insects can reproduce parthenogenetically" - so does this include these guys? I'm not particularly fussed about breeding either way, but it'd be good to know if I'll be expecting eggs if I did end up with an all girl group.
Normally, the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) have males and females in roughly equal numbers, so the adults mate regularly and the females lay fertilised eggs. However, if no males are present, the female stick insects revert to "emergency mode" and reproduce by parthenogenesis. So yes, expect eggs if you have only have females. With sexual species such as this, it is always better to have males because the resultant offspring will be more healthy.

Will Small-Life be open between Christmas and New Year?
Small-Life Supplies will be answering the phone and responding to emails on 29th, 30th and 31st December 2020. And of course, being an insect farmer, we are still feeding and looking after all the insects (and snails) that we breed every day! Small-Life Supplies continues to follow government guidelines and is not permitting any visitors to our premises during this COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to accept orders to be delivered to customers' homes and workplaces, these orders shall be dispatched in January to customers nationwide.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that when I owned stick insects (over forty years ago!) mine ate privet? They were just the common or garden ones.
Yes, you most probably had the Indian stick insect, Carausius morosus. For decades these did indeed do very well on privet leaves. But about twenty years ago, for some unknown reason, many Indian stick insects (including the ones reared at Small-Life Supplies) suddenly refused to eat privet leaves! This was very strange, but fortunately they ate bramble (blackberry) leaves enthusiastically and have been eating these leaves ever since. Our Indian stick insects will happily eat other types of leaves, including wild dog rose leaves and hazel leaves, but most still refuse to eat privet leaves which is why we recommend bramble leaves for them.

Are there any aquatic caterpillars in the UK like the ones in Japan?
It is not common, but yes, there are some aquatic caterpillars (larvae) in the UK. For example, the Brown China Mark Moth (Nymphula nympheata). This belongs to the Pyralid family of moths. The eggs are laid underneath the leaves of aquatic plants (pondweed, bur-reed and frog-bit) and hatch in July. The larvae make floating oval shelters from the leaf fragments and then stay in the water, eating the leaf from underneath for the next eleven months! After this time, they pupate between leaves just above the water surface and emerge into a small brown patterned moth approx 1.5cm long.

Angela, my Indian stick insect, has just started to lay eggs! Reading your advice, I see I need a QBOX for her eggs. My question is should I put kitchen roll in the bottom of the QBOX? Or do I need your QBOX Liners? I am so excited, she has made me very happy!
That's good news and Angela will continue to lay eggs every day for the next seven months, so don't save too many eggs or you will have too many baby stick insects! Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs are best stored in an empty QBOX with the lid on. So don't put any floor covering in the QBOX for the eggs. The Liners are needed when the eggs hatch and you are housing the baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) in the QBOX. It's important to keep stick insects in clean surroundings and so the QBOX liner should be replaced every few days. QBOX Liners are not expensive, a pack of twenty is 1.20 pounds. Kitchen roll is not recommended because it is absorbent and dries out the surroundings too much.

I have a leopard spotted gecko but can I allow some stick insects to live with him? Will he eat them they are about half the size of him .... not sure of their genus or species as they were gifted to me as their owner had to rehome them.
Please house the stick insects separately from the gecko. As you know geckos are insectivorous and need to eat live insects. So it would be very stressful for the stick insects (and potentially fatal for them) to be housed with this lizard.

I wondered if it was possible for the Indian stick insect egg kit to be delivered nearer to Christmas as it is a surprise Christmas present for my son & I was hoping he would get to watch the eggs hatch?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies is still processing Christmas orders. We will try to arrange delivery nearer to Christmas, but it's best to be as flexible as possible regarding delivery because we can only dispatch stick insect egg kits during mild nights (when it is warm enough for the eggs to travel safely). We are monitoring the nightly weather forecast daily and will let you know in advance when delivery will be. The eggs we are sending out for Christmas are due to hatch late December 2020 and so your son shouldn't have to wait too long before seeing the babies (called first instar nymphs). Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs usually hatch at night and the process of hatching is very fast (within minutes), so it is unlikely he will get to see the actual hatching process, although not impossible because some eggs do hatch out during the daytime.

I was out earlier today getting bramble for my stick insects from a disused area by the town carpark. I noticed a lot of the leaves now have some dark spots on them. I gathered the best looking ones, so TBH they don't look too bad, they are still green, but they are not as pristine looking as they were in the summer. This is my first year at keeping stick insects, so should I be concerned or is this just a winter thing and nothing to be concerned about?
There is no need to be concerned about bramble leaves that have minor marks or discoloration. You are correct in assuming that in the winter months the bramble leaves are going to be of poorer quality than in the summer months. And you are doing the right thing in harvesting the best looking ones. As long as the bramble (blackberry) leaves are mostly green and look "juicy" and not dry, it does not matter if they have a few marks on them. The leaves to avoid are the brown and yellow leaves, and also ones which are covered in black spots on the uppersides or covered with orange blotches (called "rust") on the undersides. At this time of year, the best bramble bushes to harvest from are those with two-tone stems, half green and half purple.

My son's gutted because both his Indian stick insects have died. We had been feeding them with bramble leaves but heard they liked rose and so I bought a small potted rose plant. I washed the leaves to wash off the pesticides but the stick insects were jerking which I was told was pesticide poisoning?
Never buy a potted plant and feed it to your stick insects without first checking with the supplier that no pesticides have been used in the soil. Many potted plants are routinely grown with pesticides added into the soil and these chemicals are active for a whole 12 months. These pesticides travel from the soil to within the plant and so are inside the leaves, meaning they cannot be washed off. Any insect that eats these leaves will unknowingly consume the pesticide, and then suffer a slow death, twitching uncontrollably because the insect's nervous system is damaged by these chemicals. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat rose leaves but these must be from a safe source, for example dog rose plants that are found outdoors, growing in wild overgrown areas (similar to where bramble (blackberry) is found).

I have just ordered some of your Indian Eri silkworms by phone. I already have the TTQ cage and was advised to also purchase a Privet Platform, so I did, but please can you explain to me how I should be using this?
The Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) that we are currently sending out to customers are 2cm long and are living in the HUA Pot. When they outgrow this container, the caterpillars should be transferred to the TTQ cage (this has one ventilated side and so is ideal for these caterpillars). The Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars like to eat privet from stems that are vertical (rather than being piled horizontally in a heap). So the Privet Platform is ideal for this because it is full of holes, each one being the diameter of a privet stem. So just push eight or so stems through eight holes in the Privet Platform (space them out so the caterpillars can climb up and eat the leaves easily). If you push each stem about 2cm though the hole, the Privet Platform will be stable and the privet will keep standing upright. Do not stand the stems in water because, like many caterpillars, the Indian Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars do best if fed with fresh cut stems. Obviously take out the bare stalks and replace with fresh privet sprigs as necessary.

Is it too early to order stick insects for Christmas? Can I request delivery week beginning 21st December?
You can order stick insects for Christmas now from Small-Life Supplies. Most orders should be delivered week beginning 14th December 2020, and we'll let you know in advance what day delivery will be. The stick insects (and stick insect egg kits) can be hidden in a wardrobe or a spare room until Christmas Day. And, if you order fresh cut bramble, that can be delivered at the same time to make feeding easy. The week beginning 21st December is Christmas week and the express delivery services are likely to be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of parcels, leading to delays. We always prioritise the welfare of the creatures and so we won't be dispatching livestock that week.

Is there any benefit in replenishing the bramble twice a week rather than once a week? How tall should the stems be? I'm planning on acquiring four Indian stick insects and one of the Small-Life ELC enclosure bundles.
Changing the fresh bramble leaves once a week is recommended. Just push a couple of bramble sprigs about 35cm tall into a Sprig Pot filled with cold tap water. Always choose the best looking sprigs you can, those with nice healthy looking green bramble (blackberry) leaves (because these will be the most nutritious for your stick insects). Mist the leaves lightly with cold tap water, preferably in the late afternoon or early evening, because that is the time of day when Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like to have a drink. Replenishing the food twice weekly is wasteful, and can cause unnecessary stress to your stick insects.

I'm housing Thailand stick insects and North East Vietnamese stick insects in one of your AUC cages and they all seem to be thriving. It's the first time I've kept North East Vietnamese stick insects (I got them from Small-Life Supplies as nymphs earlier this year), and so I don't know what their eggs look like?
The AUC cage is excellent for adult Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina), and I am pleased your stick insects are doing well. The eggs of the North East Vietnamese stick insect really are very unusual because they are so very long and thin, they are over four times the length of Thailand stick insect eggs! A photo of these two species of stick insect egg side by side has recently been uploaded on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, so if you visit that page you can see the difference!

Have you still got some of those "grade B" ELC cages for sale? I work at a rescue and someone dropped off a tank rammed full of Thailand stick insects. Some of the dear souls have got curved bodies, from being so overcrowded, so I need several cages!
Small-Life Supplies manufacture ELC cages in the UK. Completed cages are checked at quality control and any cages that do not meet the quality control standard are put aside and labelled as "grade B". Such cages are still brand new but have minor scratches or marks on the panels, and so are offered cut-price. Please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 to check current availability of "grade B" ELC cages. It is sad when people overcrowd their stick insects because such overcrowding does lead to deformities, notably curved bodies as you have seen. If this curvature is in the adults, it can not be corrected. However, the nymphs can straighten out their bodies a bit at each successive skin-change (ecdysis) if kept in the proper cage (ELC cage) and not overcrowded.

We have managed to successfully hatch some nymphs (Indian), at what point can they go into the big cage from the cube, as I am conscious the cube doesn't have air holes in it?
You don't need to worry that the QBOX is not ventilated, plenty of fresh air enters the QBOX when you lift the lid off to insert a fresh wet bramble leaf every couple of days. (You can even leave the QBOX closed for up to a week and the stick insects will not suffocate!) Indian stick insects do best in non-ventilated surroundings for the first month or two of their lives and then they need more space and air and so should be transferred to the ELC cage. It is important no to overcrowd your stick insects in the QBOX so only keep up to twelve baby stick insects (first instar nymphs) in one QBOX, or up to six second instar nymphs (approx six weeks old) in one QBOX.

Is it true that Indian stick insects will only eat certain species of leaves later on in life if they have eaten those types of leaves as babies? So, for example, if I want to feed Indian stick insects with rose leaves later on, is it imperative to feed them rose leaves before these stick insects complete their first moult? My Indian stick insects are young and eating bramble leaves, but when I stay with my gran (I hope!) in the summer I am hoping to use some of her rose leaves to feed them?
No. The claim that older stick insects can only eat what they ate as first instar nymphs (babies) is false. Our Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are only given bramble (blackberry) leaves to eat for the first few months of their lives, but this does not stop them eating rose leaves when they are older. In fact they like to eat wild dog rose leaves, garden rose leaves, hazel leaves and eucalyptus leaves. So your stick insects should be fine if you give them rose leaves from your gran's garden. But first, please check that she hasn't sprayed her roses with any pesticides, and also make sure that the rose bushes have been in the garden for at least one year (because it takes 12 months for the pesticides in the potting compost to break down and not be harmful to insects).

I’ve got a male Macleays Spectre and its just recently shed and now has full size wings. Although one wing appears not to have opened out properly and a couple of its legs now seem to be backwards. He’s walking like he can’t control the direction of his legs properly. He was fine before this shed. Anything I can do?
Unfortunately, occasionally, stick insects make a mess of their skin-change (ecdysis) and this is what has happened to your male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum). There is nothing you can do to mend his legs or wing. It is now up to him whether he wants to continue with life, so you will need to wait and see if he continues to eat and live, or decides to stop eating and die. Small-Life Supplies has some fully grown young adults (with perfect wings and legs) of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect for sale, so please get in touch if you'd like to purchase some. They are dispatched with smooth eucalyptus leaves so they travel safely (and there is no risk of their wings being torn by sharp bramble thorns in transit.)

I collected bramble for my stick insects today and as I was pushing it into the Sprig Pot, I spotted two ladybirds cuddled up together under one of the leaves! I put them in a QBOX and they soon started moving around, so my questions are (i) is it normal for ladybirds to be around in November in Dagenham? and (ii) will they be OK overnight in the QBOX, or should I head back to the bramble area now ?
Ladybirds hibernate over winter, typically hiding in curled up dead leaves or clustering on the underside of slightly curled green bramble leaves. The ladybirds you found will have become active because they have warmed up in the QBOX in your home and feel exposed, causing them to seek shelter. So you should put a bramble leaf in the QBOX for them to hide under. You can wait till tomorrow before putting them back in the bramble area if it's too dark to go there now.

With Lockdown 2.0 now in action, please can you let us know if you are still open?
Small-Life Supplies are remaining fully operational throughout Lockdown 2.0. We continue to dispatch parcels daily. Customer visits to our premises are not permitted. For those in our Production & Dispatch teams, we are following COVID secure guidelines. The courier drivers continue to adopt the ‘No Contact Delivery Practice’ and so will take a photograph as proof of delivery instead of a signature.

I looked up the difference between a chrysalis and a cocoon before I taught the children in my class and came across this: "Cocoons are specific to moths, while chryslises are formed by butterflies. Moths spin silk around themselves and molt inside the silk casing. This provides extra warmth and protection from the surrounding environment." But - yikes - I've just seen your answer to someone else with a similar query (pupa vs chrysalis) and read your response. Do I need to 'unteach' my children this information, is this not accurate? It's quite overwhelming for us primary school teachers who are not given this information from one reliable source - we have to research many things before teaching and I really want to make sure we get it right!
Oh gosh, yes you do need to re-teach the children, so they have the correct facts. My earlier answer explaining that "chrysalis" is the word used for a gold pupa is correct and the examples I gave were for British insects. Of course there are other insects across the world which also have gold pupae and so these can be called chrysalises too. The American Monarch pupa is green but has gold dots and so that is why many people refer to that pupa as a chrysalis. However, most butterfly pupae do not have any gold and so should not be called chrysalises, the correct term is pupae. The claim that "moths spin silk around themselves" is misleading. Actually the majority of moth species do not do this, they have hard brown pupae, hidden just under the soil. There are some moth pupae (included silkmoths and some other families) which are surrounded by silk (spun by the fully grown caterpillar as it enters pupation). And other moth pupae are surrounded by a loose sac they make out of soil granules or bits of leaf they stick together. Some butterfly pupae, for example the Skippers (Hesperiidae), also fabricate cocoons out of silk and bits of leaf to protect the pupae. So the claim that "cocoons are specific to moths" is incorrect because some butterflies have cocoons too.

Still got the boxes of eucalyptus in stock? Would be good for my Macleays. Never given eucalyptus to my Pink Winged though, would they eat it?
Lots of our fresh cut eucalyptus is being sent out at the moment because it is on special discount! When it is sold out, it will disappear from the website, we only list items that are in stock and ready to be dispatched. Your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) should eat (and enjoy) the eucalyptus leaves. I advise putting both bramble leaves and eucalyptus leaves in their cage because your stick insects have never seen eucalyptus before and so may be a bit cautious about eating it at first. Our Pink Winged stick insects are keen to eat eucalyptus. Pink Winged stick insects that eat eucalyptus have bodies that are greener in colour, than those that eat bramble.

Do I need a heat mat for my stick insects? When I got up this morning the digital reading was 13 degrees. I am working at home and it is 20 degrees in the day. My stick insects seem OK (I got them from Small-Life Supplies and have four Indian stick insects in an ELC enclosure) but I thought I'd check because I want the best for them.
You could check what temperature your room thermostat is set to at night. Many people set this to 12 degrees Celsius. This means that the room temperature will not dip below 12 degrees Celsius at night and this is fine for many species of stick insect, including Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). So an early morning reading of 13 degrees Celsius is no cause for concern. I do not recommend heat mats because they can dry out the surroundings (and the leaves) too much, which can be detrimental to the stick insects. Stick insects need a warm daytime temperature, ideally between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius, so at 20 degrees Celsius during the day, your stick insects are in an optimum environment! Remember to mist the bramble leaves in the late afternoon or early evening so the stick insects can have a drink form the water droplets on the leaves.

My daughter's birthday is in a couple of weeks and she's been pestering me for ages about having her own stick insects. So three questions, are you still able to send out the ELC bundle and stick insects (what with this latest lockdown)? And could she have two species together, she wants both Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects? And should I order now or later (are you likely to run out of stock?)
The Small-Life Supplies website is frequently updated and so any item listed on the website is in stock. We breed large numbers of easy to keep species of stick insect and currently have lots of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in stock, with more hatching daily. Our Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) temporarily sold out , but more nymphs are just coming up to the optimum size for sending and so this species will be back listed on the website very soon. It is really important that stick insects are shipped when they are robust enough to travel and so that is why we do not send out baby stick insects. You can house Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects together safely in the same ELC cage, there is plenty of room for four of each type. Small-Life Supplies is still allowed to work, despite this second lockdown, and so yes, we can dispatch the ELC bundle and the stick insects to be delivered for your daughter's birthday. Please order now and request delivery nearer to her birthday.

I have found a eucalyptus tree overhanging the pavement and I thought great, a handy food supply for my eight Macleays Spectre. But on closer examination, the leaves feel rough and have nodules on the underside. Will these be OK for my stickies, or should I look elsewhere?
Don't give the stick insects diseased leaves (unless you have absolutely no other choice). Eucalyptus leaves should be smooth and healthy. At the moment Small-Life Supplies is sending out fresh cut eucalyptus leaves, we have just uploaded a photo to show that our leaves are nice and healthy. We have loads at the moment and so it is on special offer.

One question about Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects - on the note enclosed with the stick insects it said that these stick insects prefer leaves not to be misted, should I provide water in a different form for them to drink?
When keeping Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) there are two things you need to do to be successful with the large nymphs. Firstly, they like an airy cage, so the ELC stick insect cage is ideal. Secondly, unlike other stick insects, Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do best if they are not given additional water. They get enough moisture from the leaves. So don't mist the leaves or provide a shallow dish of water. If you ignore this advice, it is likely you will see that these stick insects become addicted to drinking water, and unfortunately soon fall ill and succumb to the virus which affects this species (manifesting in the classic symptoms of floppy abdomen and death a few weeks later).

If I just got one Indian stick insect, could I keep her in the TTQ cage?
This is not recommended. Stick insects like company of their own kind and so that is why Small-Life Supplies sells them in small groups of four. So we would not sell one on its own. Indian stick insects do best in a cage with two mesh sides, so the ELC cage is ideal. The TTQ cage only has one mesh side. And of course the ELC stick insect is the correct height for most stick insects (51cm tall), whereas the TTQ cage (which is primarily a cage for a praying mantis or large silkworms) is only 38cm tall. It is so important to keep stick insects in a tall cage so that they have plenty of room to grow properly.

Just wondering if you had any ex-display or used stick insect cages for sale at the moment?
We don't at the moment but we do have a few "grade B" ELC stick insect cages in stock. These are brand new but are reduced in price because they have minor marks and scratches. So the price is £42.50 per "grade B" ELC cage or £49.99 for the "grade B" ELC cage bundle. Delivery extra. These cages are supplied fully assembled in a large box and so are ready to be used immediately. They are offered to customers within mainland UK only. To place an order, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 , or email cindi@small-life.co.uk

On a scale of 1 to 5 (where 5 is the most important) what figure do you give to the importance of having a mesh lid on a stick insect enclosure which has adult Indian stick insects living in it?
The answer depends on where else the ventilation is in the cage. So, if you are keeping stick insects in a properly designed stick insect cage with two mesh sides (such as the ELC cage), my answer would be 1 because that cage already has optimum ventilation and adding a mesh roof would make the surroundings too airy. However, if you are housing stick insects in a glass tank (with four solid glass sides) then the answer would be 5 because adult Indian stick insects need ventilation in their cage. However, just roof ventilation is far from ideal because it does not provide the circulation of air that stick insects need.

I received four female Indian stick insects a few weeks ago and now have collected some eggs which I have in a QBOX. Will these hatch? I’m worried they won’t hatch if I have no male stick insects so the eggs won’t be fertilised? I’m hoping to demonstrate life cycles to my year 5 children so would really like them to hatch.
The eggs are very likely to hatch, so it's important not to save too many eggs or you will have too many stick insects! Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) reproduce by "parthenogenesis" which means that females lay eggs (without mating) that hatch into more females. You are very unlikely to see a male Indian stick insect (they occur 1 in every 10000 females), males are not required for this species to reproduce.

The Indian Eri silkmoths we got from you laid eggs and we noticed they are changing colour, no longer white but dark grey, are they going mouldy? Thing is I don't see how as we haven't misted them and they are glued on the white mesh side (of the TTQ cage).
No, they aren't going mouldy, they are about to hatch! So congratulations and tomorrow, be prepared for seeing baby caterpillars, they are tiny, about 3mm long, and cluster around their empty eggshells. You can carefully transfer them to a QBOX (using the end of a small artist's paintbrush) and place a privet leaf in there. They will slowly congregate on the privet leaf and start eating it.

Please can you mention the recent death of Martin White on your page?. Many of us are releasing healthy larvae and seeing the success of this, and I feel such efforts should be acknowledged and applauded.
Yes, for decades Martin White was actively rearing British butterfly and moth larvae for "rewilding", both by himself and via his customers. He kept accurate records of his work and was keen to encourage others to help nature. The release of native healthy caterpillars has undoubtedly boosted the British populations of certain butterflies and moths. The species of British caterpillars that Small-Life Supplies rear are naturally widespread across the UK and we too encourage people to breed and release these in their gardens to help new populations get established. Of course this has to be combined with providing the correct foodplant for the caterpillars, so, for example with the British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua), it's important to encourage bramble (blackberry) to grow by a fence or wall in the garden.

I'm trying to teach my kids about insects and am getting so confused I thought I'd ask you! We have been gripped by watching our British Vapourer caterpillars develop, and I know the scientific word for caterpillar is larva. Your information sheet says they become "pupae" but a lot of the other educational resources on-line say that larvae become "chrysalises"? So please tell me what the difference is between a pupa and a chrysalis?
Caterpillars (larvae) grow by climbing out of their skins, until they are as large as they will grow. The caterpillar then undergoes a massive transformation by shedding its skin for the final time and becomes a pupa. A few species of caterpillars make gold pupae, these are called chrysalises, after the Greek word "chrysos" which means gold. The caterpillars which are able to make these gold coloured pupae/chrysalises are small in number, and belong to the Vanessid family of butterflies (these include the familiar British Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies). However, the vast majority of pupae are not gold in colour, they are brown, and so it is incorrect to call these chrysalises, they should just be called pupae. Pupae can be encased in a cocoon spun from fibres (as seen with the British Vapourer) or many pupae are buried just underneath the soil.

Do stick insects get ill? My Macleays Spectre are dying one by one, they can't seem to hold their tails up anymore, they're still young but look sick?
Stick insects should not get ill if they are hatched from healthy adults and looked after properly, so this means housing them in the correctly ventilated cage and giving them suitable fresh leaves to eat. However, one species, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) can succumb to a viral infection, showing the symptoms you describe. Death follows within weeks and it is important not to replenish the cage immediately with new stocks because the infection can pass to them with fatal results. When purchasing Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, it is essential to only purchase them from breeders who are sending out healthy specimens (which can curl their abdomens up and walk around with the abdomen curled above the body). Avoid buying these stick insects if they are dragging their bodies and advise the seller that these stick insects are unwell and should not be sold.

Would a UV lamp be beneficial to my stick insects?
No, a UV light is not necessary. Your stick insects will be fine if kept in an ELC stick insect cage that is in a room with or without a window. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have reared large numbers of stick insects in rooms with and without access to natural light and for most species of stick insect it makes no difference to their health. The exception is the Guadeloupe stick insect (Lamponius guerini) which benefits from direct sunshine, and so if you intend keeping that species, I'd recommend you house them in a cage kept in a sunny room.

Does your ELC Cage come apart? For cleaning? If so, is it easy to put back together again? And what is the best cleaning product to use?
The ELC cage is supplied ready assembled in a large box and should NOT be dismantled. A soft Cleaning Sponge is included with the ELC cage bundle (and you can buy additional Cleaning Sponges separately at £1 each). Every month you can take the stick insects out of the cage and then wash it with lukewarm (or cold) water. Any stains can be easily removed by pouring some "Parozone stain remover" (sold in hardware outlets in a silver bottle) onto the Cleaning Sponge and gently rubbing the affected area. Rinse well with cool water. Never use hot water because this will permanently distort the plastic panels. Dry the cage with a soft cotton tea towel.

Are you selling stick insects for Christmas? I'd like some for my daughter, she's been asking for some for ages.
Small-Life Supplies breeds stick insects in large numbers and also manufactures stick insect cages, here in the UK. So there is no shortage of supply of these items. In previous years, December is always a very busy time, because stick insects are a popular Christmas gift. However, this year there may be an issue with express deliveries before Christmas due to the delivery drivers being overwhelmed by huge numbers of parcels and potentially more COVID-19 restrictions, who knows? There are no delivery problems at the moment and so we are recommending customers get their Christmas presents delivered early this year, just in case the delivery situation gets a lot worse in December.

I have long regarded Small-Life Supplies as the trusted source for stick insect advice, and have recommended you to others. I have several adult Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in the ELC cage (of course!). I have noticed that Freddie (one of the adult males) has recently started to look darker, but is still behaving as he normally does? He completed his last ecdysis in March and loves to fly. He's not reaching the end of the road is he?
Thank you for your positive comments and I am pleased that your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have been a success. Darkening can occur in this species when the stick insects are old and nearing the end of their life. As Freddie has been adult for seven months, he is quite old now and so won't have long to live. I have noticed that male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects that like to fly a lot often die earlier than their less active brothers, so that is probably why he is the first to darken in colour.

I have only just discovered your page, despite being stick insect daft for years. We have one that was a surprise addition when buying a Prickly insect and we have no idea what it is. Can you help to identify from these pictures please? We have had it two months and it has tripled in size.
Your photos show a nice green healthy Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). She is fully grown (as shown by her red tops to her front legs), so keep a look out for her round brown eggs with yellow lids that she will be dropping on the floor of the cage. She will lay eggs every day for the next seven months or so, and it is important not to keep too many eggs or you will have too many stick insects! Like your Prickly stick insect (usually called the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect, Extatosoma tiaratum) your Indian stick insect does well in a well-ventilated cage (such as the ELC stick insect cage). Store her eggs in the QBOX and they will start hatching after approximately four months. Indian stick insects reproduce by parthenogenesis which means that they are all female and the eggs laid by an adult female will hatch into more females.

I wonder what cage is most suitable for leaf insects?
There are different species of leaf insect, the commonly kept ones do well in the TTQ cage when small and then transferred to the ELC cage when they are medium sized nymphs. Adults do well in the ELC cage.

I have just ordered some Sprig Pots as I had a bit of a drama with one of my Indian stick insects dropping in the jamjar of water! I fished her out and she didn't move, so I thought she's drowned. But then a few hours later she was OK again! What happened?
Stick insects have breathing holes (called spiracles) regularly spaced along both sides of their abdomen. If the stick insect is submerged in water, it can close these spiracles for several hours. When the stick insect is rescued it takes a while for her to recover, but usually within several hours she is back to normal. This is what happened to your stick insect, which is why she did not drown. It is fortunate you found her when you did, because stick insects can only close their spiracles for a few hours. If it had been the next day before you spotted her, she would have been in the water too long and would have died. The Sprig Pots are excellent for preventing stick insects dropping in water because the Sprig Pots just have one central hole and are supplied with a cotton wool ball to plug any gaps around the bramble stems.

My room gets chilly at night, so I'd like to get one of those oil-filled radiators you recommend. Like others, I'm not going anywhere at the moment due to COVID-19 and so I'm hoping you can recommend somewhere that can deliver one to me fast (before the cold weather arrives!). I'm in Daventry, Northants. I am the proud owner of fourteen Indian stick insects and they live in the ELC cage.
Yes, an oil-filled radiator is an excellent choice for people who keep stick insects in a room that gets chilly at night. It is important to purchase the 500 Watt model (and not a more powerful one) , this can be left safely switched on all night and will emit a gentle warmth. Place it by the table which has your ELC cage on, positioning the radiator about 50cm away from one of the mesh sides. Radio Spares online has these 500 Watt oil-filled radiators in stock at the moment, price £28.36, and they deliver to your home in Daventry. Here is the link https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/space-heaters-radiators/7126073/

Absolutely love the snail HLQ cage, totally fabulous, thank you. Can my GALS eat fruit?
Yes, Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) can eat some fruit. They like apples and pears, so you can place cut slices (or just the outer peelings) on a dish and place this on the wet HLQ Liner. Don't use bananas because these decay very quickly and can attract small fruit flies.

My Indian sticks are all now mature and producing eggs. How long can I now expect the adults to live? During the warm summer they only took 3 -4 months to reach maturity. Is it OK to feed the surplus eggs to my chickens as a treat, any risk to the chickens/problem with the food supply given we eat the (chicken) eggs? Otherwise is pouring boiling water over the eggs the best way to ensure they don't hatch?
Adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually live approx seven months. And yes, there are no health issues with feeding their eggs to the chickens, we have customers who have been doing this successfully for years! If you stop keeping chickens, then the most effective method of disposing of Indian stick insect eggs is to pour hot water over the eggs, just tip the eggs and frass /poo/droppings from the cage Liner into a dish , boil a kettle and pour the hot water on top of the mixture.

I have about 9 juveniles that I raised and they eventually mated and laid eggs. About 20 eggs have hatched within the last 4 days, and I noticed that about half of them have some sort of deformity - missing two legs, slightly bent bodies and bodies that are bent back on itself. So far, 5 of them have died. I really don't know why this is the case as I have stored the eggs very carefully in the suitable environment.
This could be due to poor genetic stock, or it could be due to the container the eggs were stored in. As with all animals, it is best to purchase your stick insects from a reputable breeder who keeps strong healthy strains of each species. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we only save the eggs from the best healthy specimens. We store our stick insect eggs in QBOXES which are manufactured from a type of plastic that does not emit harmful fumes. There are other types of plastic that can emit low levels of fumes and these chemicals can cause deformities amongst stick insects.

I only have a few ELC Liners left, so am about to order some more . Do the stick insects have any colour preference when it comes to Liners?
ELC cage Liners are available in green, blue and pink. For many stick insects the colour of cage Liner doesn't seem to matter. However Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do seem to prefer to glue their eggs onto pale blue paper. It's best to use an ELC Liner on the floor of the ELC cage and replace this every week. ELC Liners are much better than kitchen roll, this is because the latter is absorbent and so tends to dry out the surroundings.

Like you, I "get" nature, and I try to spread this message to others. Please can you remind folk of the crime of HS2 that is continuing, especially the cutting down of ancient woods in Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire that is happening now! More on-the-ground support is needed, and financial donations too. Search for the "stop HS2" group and the "HS2 rebellion" group, both are working hard to stop this madness. Giving up is not an option for us.
Yes, it is utterly absurd that the HS2 high speed rail link building project is continuing in England. It is even more ridiculous now because in the UK there has been a massive shift towards home-working (due to COVID-19), with all indications that this will be a permanent shift in British working behaviour. Train usage has plummeted whilst the demand for access to green wild areas has massively increased. Hardly reported on the news, the few remaining precious and much loved ancient trees (some 300 years old) are still being cut down, more cherished nature reserves are being destroyed, and the rampant disregard for all wildlife continues. Yet there is still a bewildering belief amongst the people in charge that this ill-thought out scheme should continue and that mass ecocide is OK? The insults fly at these individuals and organisations on social media, the accusers being traumatised at witnessing such obscene vandalism. And the claim that this wilful catastrophic ecological damage will be offset by mass planting of trees and shrubs being planted elsewhere in the UK is false, a convenient myth perpetuated by non-biologists.

I want stick insects but I feel bad about the idea of destroying the eggs. Would a solution be for me to just get males?
Whilst it is true that you won't get any eggs from male stick insects, keeping only male stick insects is not a good solution. This is because adult stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult lives , which can be at least seven months, and so it would be mean to have only males in the cage. So it would be better to have a mix of both genders. Female stick insects do lay a lot of eggs during their life and this is because in Nature, the vast majority of the eggs perish. The eggs may be eaten or crushed by other creatures , or succumb to being water-logged. So you shouldn't feel bad about stopping eggs from developing. The quickest method is every week to tip the mixture of eggs and poo/droppings (frass) on the cage Liner into a dish. Boil a kettle and and then pour some boiling water on top of the mixture in the dish. Allow to cool and then discard, safe in the knowledge that the eggs are no longer viable.

I'd like to send an ELC cage to Belfast for my sister's birthday later this month. I see that delivery is £9.95 in England, but what is it to Northern Ireland? I am used to paying surcharges to get stuff over there!
Yes, delivery for the ELC cage within mainland UK is £9.95 and the ELC cage is supplied ready-assembled in a large box which is very strong (we have this packaging made specially). Deliveries to Belfast, Northern Ireland, are calculated on the volume of the box, so for these deliveries, we send the ELC cage flat-packed to minimise the volume. The delivery price to send one ELC cage to Belfast, Northern Ireland is £18. When you have ordered, we email you a short video to show you how to assemble the ELC cage, this is easy and quick to accomplish.

My Indian stick insects usually rest on the white mesh of the ELC cage, near the top. They are not at all camouflaged there, so I am surprised at this. I thought they would prefer to hang off the bramble stems?
The behaviour of your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is normal for pet stick insects. Indian stick insects like to group together with each other, so it is normal to see several grouped together, sometimes at different angles. The healthiest specimens always congregate at the top of the cage, leaving the weakest ones at the bottom. Indian stick insects like to rest on the white mesh of the ELC cage because they can get a firm grip around the optimum sized holes in the mesh. This means the stick insects can relax, safe in the knowledge they will not fall. Hanging off bramble stems is not as comfortable for them, which is why these stick insects prefer to rest on the white mesh sides.

I'm with David Mitchell who was saying this week on BBC Radio 2 how ridiculous it is when equal weight is being given to opinion and scientific fact. The flat earth numpties being a case in point. So just a large thumbs up to you to carry on spreading the science about insects!
Thank you for your support. I do agree with you and David Mitchell, unfortunately some people are now accusing David Mitchell of being a "grumpy old man", which seems to be the default insult!

I have a small collection of just four Pink Winged stick insects but they have been a great help to me over the recent difficult months. I have just returned from a brisk walk with more fresh bramble for them. I don't have a dog and have always felt a bit self-conscious walking around fields by myself before, but now I am getting bramble I have a focus and feel much more confident. Today I noticed a large wild rose bush next to one of the brambles, the leaves are still green and I wondered if I should get some for my Pink Winged stick insects? I have only ever given them bramble leaves before and so am unsure if they would be brave enough to eat it?
I am pleased that you are enjoying keeping stick insects and are benefitting from the experience. And yes, Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do like to eat wild rose leaves. So I suggest you snip a couple of rose stems and push those into the Sprig Pot of water along with the stems of bramble leaves. This gives the stick insects a choice of what to eat, but I expect they will be tempted by the rose leaves! It doesn't matter that your stick insects haven't eaten rose leaves before, the preferred foodplants of Pink Winged stick insects are bramble, rose and eucalyptus.

Would there be an award for videoing a male Indian stick insect mating with a female Indian stick insect? I'm thinking yes, surely?
It would certainly be major news in the insect world to capture this rare event. Hopefully someone will record this event soon, the race is on! Male Indian stick insects are extremely rare, occuring 1 in every 10000 females!

I purchased an AUC cage from you a few months ago, I need another for my Thailand stick insects, but can't see AUCs on your site? Will they be back in stock soon?
The original AUC cage had a white aluminium frame and blue mesh. These are currently out of stock, but a new version, the same size but with a black aluminium frame and blue mesh will be listed soon. If you have a lot of Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) then housing them in the AUC cage is an excellent choice because this cage is much larger than the ELC cage and so can accommodate lots of Thailand stick insects.

I'm after a Stick Insect Egg Kit for my daughter, for Christmas. Do you still sell these?
Yes, the Small-Life Supplies "Stick Insect Egg Kit" is always one of our most popular products at Christmas. The eggs that are included are due to hatch early January, so just after the hustle and bustle of Christmas! Please contact us directly to go on the waiting-list for this item and you will be invoiced nearer the time of dispatch. Eight Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs are sent together with the appropriate housing and advice sheet.

The Malaysian stick insects we bought from you this year have grown into majestic adults, evidently smitten with each other as they mate every few days, for hours at a time! Is this normal? No eggs yet though?
Our adult Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are mating a lot too, and other customers who have received insects from this year's batch are reporting the same, so this is a good sign and there is no cause for concern. It usually takes a few weeks before the adult female's body swells with eggs. When she has a very fat body, you need to place the Sand Pit in the ELC cage (by a mesh side) so she can bury her eggs in the dry sand. Adult Malaysian stick insects have large appetites and so it's a good idea to put two Sprig Pots of juicy bramble leaves in the cage. Adult Malaysian stick insects also drink a a lot of water, so as well as misting the bramble leaves in the evening, you can also put a shallow Water Dish on the Liner in the ELC cage. Fill the Water Dish with cold tap water and replace this water daily so that the water is clean for them to drink.

Is it my imagination, or is the bramble in better shape this year? My patch is full of green leaves, with new growth even! Last year some was yellowing and so I had to hunt further afield.
You are correct, it is a great year for good quality bramble (blackberry) leaves. Our bramble bushes are still lush and green, and like you have observed, still producing new leaves, even though it is autumn. Perhaps the increased light intensity (due to lack of air travel and associated "global dimming") is partly responsible, or maybe it is just that the weather conditions have generally been more favourable to bramble plants this year. Either way, it is great that there is so much nice green bramble leaves leaves around, so ample food to feed people's stick insects!

We bought 4 Indian and 2 Australian stick insects from you last week which my son loves, thank you!! I am just slightly concerned as because of the two types living together, you advised to take the Indians out every 2-3 days onto a second Sprig Pot to spray with water. The problem is the insects seem to be in “stick” mode most of the time, not sure if this is normal? I am worried that they won’t drink in the time they’re out as they seem so inactive and if there is a better way to do this? The Australians are doing really well and the Indians are laying eggs so I presume they’re OK but why are they just hanging most of the time?
Your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are still settling in to their new surroundings and so will become more active over the coming weeks as they relax and get used to you and your son. It can help to handle them at a particular time in the day, so they get used to the routine and become more active around that time. Their ears are by their knees and so it's a good idea to talk to them in a calm voice because this will help them to relax. It's best to lightly mist the bramble leaves with water first and then take the Indian stick insects out of the cage, handle them and place them on the wet leaves whilst talking to them. Late afternoon or early evening is a good time to handle them and encourage them to have a drink of water.

Do you send your cages to Belfast?
Yes, ELC cages, TTQ cages and HLQ cages are all sent to Belfast (Northern Ireland) via UPS courier. These cages are dispatched flat-packed and we email you a short video showing how to assemble the cage. Assembly is easy and quick, only taking a few minutes. Flat-packed cages are only dispatched to customers who live outside mainland UK. (Customers living in mainland UK receive cages ready built).

I have four adult Indian stick insects 13 months old. I had fifteen eggs hatch in May. All apart from one are a lovely pale green. I have one very thin, delicate brown one with red on on the thorax and it's really pretty.  The antennae are much longer than the others. Could it be a male?  It's end is different from the green ones. I know that the chances are one in 10000. I have attached photos.  Also tonight when I was taking out the adults and the young ones from the big tank into a big plastic tub so I could clean out their tank, I noticed the brown one climb on the back of one of the adults. It curled the end of its tail around the back end of the adult female then put the end of his body  inside the end of the female's body for a couple seconds then took it out. Could I have a rare male? Is this mating? I was like wow!!
Congratulations! Yes, I can see clearly from your photos that you have a really rare adult male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus)! He looks nice and healthy and it's great that you have witnessed him mating. Next time, please be ready to take a photo or video of him mating because this is such a rare (and quick) event, it would be a huge achievement if it could be recorded.

My cat, Fluffs, loves to chase butterflies and other insects in the garden. Do you think she will bother my stick insects? I plan to order the ELC bundle and Australian stick insects later this month and am trying to work out where the best place would be for them.
Many cats are interested in insects, so it sounds like Fluffs will show an interest in your stick insects! Fortunately the ELC cage is strong and sturdy and so even if she pats the sides with her paws, she will not damage the ELC cage. The cats at Small-Life Supplies show varying amounts of interest in the stick insects but none have ever managed to get into any of the cages or cause any harm to the stick insects. The best place for a cage of stick insects is on a table or a shelf. Avoid windowsills because these are subject to extremes of temperature and avoid the floor because this is too draughty. With pet cats it is worth remembering that if you use "Stronghold spot on" flea treatment (or a similar product applied to the back of the neck of the cat), you must keep the cat in a different room to the stick insects for at least 24 hours, to prevent the chemicals used in this treatment from killing your stick insects.

About twenty Indian stick insect eggs have hatched in the past four days, these are eggs laid from my adult stick insects and have been incubated by me so I know they’ve been stored safely and correctly. So my problem is, I had a nymph hatch around three days ago, I woke up and saw her newly hatched in the tank. All of the others are normal, however the front of her body is completely twisted back on itself. I hoped it was due to hatching and it would straighten but it’s been over three days and she’s not changed one bit. She can walk but not in a straight line and falls over a lot. I’ve been putting leaves right in front of her in the hopes that she will eat however I haven’t seen her doing so yet. What do you think the cause of this is and will it correct? Is there anything I can do to help her (photos and video attached).
Unfortunately this is a severe deformity and she's unlikely to survive. Stick insects are very occasionally born with slightly bent bodies, and can cope with this. However, your stick insect's thorax is bent back on itself, which means that as well as having difficulty in walking, she will not be able to perform her first skin-change successfully. That is why she has decided not to eat and effectively bring her life to an end quickly. Thankfully your others are OK and so it appears that this stick insect is just very unfortunate. She has freed herself completely from her eggshell which is good, however her thorax is too badly bent for her to continue with life. As with all dying stick insects, the kindest action is to place wet leaves near her so she can drink water to ease her final hours.

We were hesitant about transferring our Indian stick insect nymphs up to the ELC cage, but since we have they have blossomed and are growing fast! Would two Sprig Pots be better than one? They eat a lot of bramble!
Yes, many people keep two Sprig Pots of fresh cut bramble in the ELC cage. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) like to see a lot of bramble (blackberry) leaves and so it's always best to be generous with the amount of fresh leaves you provide for them.

My Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are now adults, the males have lovely big wings and are terrific at whizzing around the room. Yesterday, it was late and I noticed both of them had a tan coloured rubbery thing coming out of their back ends. They still had a fly around the room, with this on show, is this normal?
As you have probably guessed, the "tan coloured rubbery thing" is part of the male genitalia. So your males were both preparing to mate with the females, but when you offered them the opportunity to have a fly around the room, they could not resist. It sounds like they are very good at flying (some are better than others) and enjoy flying . They usually fly without their genitalia on show, but are able to fly with the genitalia out if the opportunity to fly presents itself and they are really keen to fly.

I'm getting Indian stick insects for my Year 7 class. We're so excited! I am planning on leaving the cage at school over the weekend but am concerned it may get a bit chilly in the winter? Any tips? Our school was built in the 1970s and takes a while to warm up on a Monday morning in winter.
Many schools keep stick insects successfully in the classroom and lab, and Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a great choice because they are one of the most hardy stick insects. Ideally the day time temperature should be around 18 - 21 degrees Celsius, and the night time temperature approximately 12 degrees Celsius. Schools with poor insulation will get cold at night, but most have frost-stats to stop the temperature dropping below freezing. (Indian stick insects must always be kept above freezing). So your stick insects should be OK but you can help by taking the following steps. You could purchase a portable 500 Watt oil-filled radiator (price £29 from Radio Spares), position this near the ventilated side of the ELC cage, and plug it into a wall socket on Friday afternoon. It is safe to leave switched on all weekend and is very economical to run, costing approximately 10 pence per hour. It is really important to purchase the 500 Watt oil-filled radiator and not a more powerful one, because the stick insects just require a bit of extra warmth and this is what a 500W oil-filled radiator achieves very effectively.

My daughter wants some Giant African snails for Christmas and so I am chuffed to have found your site. All around I am seeing prices go up and so I am just checking that if I ordered now could you guarantee supplying the items in December at today's prices? And are your stocks of cages held in the UK or are they coming in from China?
Right from its inception in 1985, Small-Life Supplies has always designed and manufactured insect cages and snail cages in the UK. It is a core company policy! So our cages are precision made in the UK and stored in the UK ready for dispatch. And our insects and snails are captive-bred in our breeding facility in the UK. We routinely delay dispatch of orders for birthdays and Christmas etc, so yes, please proceed and order now, requesting delivery nearer to Christmas. You will be debited at today's prices and not charged any more.

Thrilled with the Macleays you sent us, they have been an instant hit with the whole family. We shall be keeping some eggs for sure. Our garden isn't huge but there is a sunny bit at the back where we could plant a eucalyptus. But the eucalyptus plants have disappeared from your site, when will they be back in stock? Can the plant be delivered safely?
Small-Life only have a few large potted eucalyptus plants left in stock, so please get in touch if you'd like one. All are approx 1 metre tall but have varying amounts of leaves and so are priced accordingly (the most expensive are the bushiest and the cheapest are the ones that have been pruned). They are all growing well and so will continue to produce more leaves. Thinking ahead, you will need eucalyptus leaves next Spring when your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs start to hatch, so it makes sense to plant the eucalyptus now, to give it time to get established. Our eucalyptus plants are expertly packaged in bespoke packaging and so will arrive in excellent condition. They are sent on a next-day courier to minimise transit time.

I think it would be reasonable to keep 4 Indian Stick Insects and 2 Australian Macleays Spectre together in an ELC cage, could you confirm if this would be OK for the insects?
Yes, there is plenty of space in the ELC cage to house these numbers of stick insects. And both Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do well in the ELC cage because this cage is tall (51cm) and has two ventilated sides with the correct size of holes (that don't snag the claws on the feet of the stick insects). However you do need to be aware that these species have different water requirements. Unlike many other species of stick insects, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do best if the bramble (and eucalyptus) leaves are NOT misted with water. But the Indian stick insects DO like the leaves to misted with water (so the stick insects can then drink from the water droplets on the leaves). So, when keeping both these species together in the same cage, it is important to never mist the leaves inside the cage. Instead, have another Sprig Pot containing bramble leaves outside the cage and every few days mist those leaves with water and then carefully take the Indian stick insects out of the cage and place them on the wet leaves. Indian stick insects only drink water for a short time (a few minutes maximum) and so when they start to move away from the wet leaves, these stick insects can be placed back inside the ELC cage.

I read online that every day you need to move stick insects onto the leaves so they can eat. That seems like a lot of faff! Is it fake?
When keeping stick insects you certainly should not be having to move them onto the leaves every day. If they are being housed correctly stick insects can move around unaided. So before keeping stick insects it is important to look at the size of the holes in the enclosure. Unfortunately some enclosures have holes that are far too small and these trap the claws on the stick insects' feet, making it difficult for the stick insects to move around freely. In such circumstances, you will see the stick insects moving awkwardly and tugging to free each foot as they walk. The solution is to rehouse the stick insect in a cage with larger hole size mesh. The stick insects can then walk freely around the cage and onto the leaves when they are hungry. All the stick insect cages that Small-Life Supplies design and manufacture have the correct sized holes for housing stick insects.

Our North East Vietnamese stick insects that we got from you earlier this year are now enormous! At the time you only had pink AUC Liners, which my son isn't too keen about! We have almost finished the packet and wondered if there are any other colours available? Also, what's the best enclosure for their eggs?
Glad your North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina) are doing well, these are certainly very impressive stick insects, some have stripes and large lobes on their legs. They do well in the AUC cage and you can pick up their really long eggs and store these in the HUA Pot. The nymphs can be housed in the TTQ cage or the ELC cage until they are too large and then they can be transferred to the AUC cage so they have plenty of space to grow properly. The pink AUC Liners have all been sold and now we have green AUC Liners available.

 I was just wondering at what age the Indian stick insects could move from the QBOX to the ELC insect house? Do they need something in between? The holes look too big in the side of the insect house to contain them.
The QBOX is ideal for housing up to twelve baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), these are called "first instar nymphs". When they are about one month old, the stick insects will have completed their first skin-change and can be transferred to the ventilated ELC cage. The stick insects are now called "second instar nymphs". Or, if you prefer, you can keep them in QBOXES for a few more weeks until they have completed a second skin-change, and become "third instar nymphs". Only keep up to six second instar nymphs in a QBOX. We rear large numbers of Indian stick insects using these methods and know that they definitely do not get out through the holes in the ELC cage. So, you can be confident that the QBOX to ELC cage method works really well and you do not have to worry about escapees!

I'm looking for a cheap pet for Christmas for my daughter, who is eight. Someone suggested stick insects are cheap pets? Is this true? Do you sell stick insects for Christmas? She loves animals but there's no way I can afford to buy pet food now that I've lost my job and my car.
Stick insects are cheap to feed, because you can collect their food (bramble leaves) from wild overgrown areas. Hopefully you have suitable areas nearby which you can walk or cycle to? You will need some gardening gloves and a pair of seccateurs to snip the bramble (choose the stems with juicy green leaves). Stick insects are low maintenance because they only need feeding once a week, you keep the stems with leaves fresh by standing them in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water. Stick insects can be handled by a sensible eight year old, and so I am sure your daughter will enjoy having her own to look after. The main outlay is the ELC stick insect cage (£52.50) , but it is important to have the correct housing so that the stick insects are kept in the proper conditions so will be healthy. The Christmas stick insect orders are dispatched in mid December, but you can place your order anytime from September onwards and request "Christmas stick insect delivery". The Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a popular choice for a novice stick insect keeper, these are easy to handle and look after, and eat bramble/blackberry leaves. Everything is delivered together and the cage is supplied ready built so there is no assembly to do.

One of my stick insects suffered a really bad moult and so I put her on the birdtable. A magpie soon swooped down and ate her. I thought I'd share this with you and your followers because it gave me some comfort to know that her misfortune was not in vain.
Yes, in nature some birds eat insects and so you did the right thing. The magpie had a meal and the injured stick insect died quickly.

 What do you do if a stick insect is hatched but the egg is still stuck to her tail?
Hold onto the eggshell with your fingers and you will feel her pulling as she tries to break free. Usually she will be successful and and be able to pull her abdomen out of the eggshell completely. An unsuccessful outcome is when she frees herself from the eggshell but in so doing the inner white sac lining the eggshell is pulled out of the eggshell and this remains attached to her abdomen. The reason why it is important to intervene when an eggshell is still attached to the tail is because this prevents the stick insect from defecating. If the eggshell is attached to one or more legs but not the tail, the eggshell should be left alone for it will come off at the first skin-change, still attached to the old skin.

 Following your advice, I bought some of your bramble plants and planted them by my wooden fence earlier this year. They are doing really well but are now started to trail across the ground? Is there anyway I can encourage them to grow upwards?
Yes, it's really easy to get bramble to grow up a fence. Just buy some "32mm cup hooks" and screw these into the wooden fence, at various heights. You can then position the bramble across the fence, using the hooks to secure the stems. This needs to be done carefully so you don't damage the stems. For extra security, thicker stems can be tied to the cup hooks with a piece of string (tie the string very loosely around the stem so as not to constrict it's future growth).

 I saw your site and it's been very informative, especially with the misinformation out there. My partner and I have four lovable munchy Eurycantha calcarata's, and I was wondering if there is a stick insect equivalent to catnip or alcohol? I know other insects like to indulge in the odd sip of alcohol, but it seems strange since their brains and blood don't work the same way as ours. No experimentation done, just curious.
Yes, it is funny to see wasps staggering around, drunk on the alcohol from fermenting pears and apples that have dropped to the ground. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) certainly benefit from a lot of handling and being talked to. There is anecdotal evidence that they prefer some types of music too. And of course, taking adult New Guinea stick insects on a car journey encourages them to mate. Sometimes these stick insects eat petals from bramble plants and occasionally suck the blackberries and stems of bramble, but none of these illicit any unusual behavioural response. So I don't think there is an equivalent to catnip or alcohol that these stick insects would be likely to encounter in their natural environment.

 My daughter was gifted some stick insects and told to push the bramble stems into a pot of wet earth. The issue is the leaves droop so quickly we are having to collect fresh leaves every other day! I see you recommend a "Sprig Pot", does this keep the leaves fresh for longer than a day, even in hot weather?
Yes, the Sprig Pot is a handy container which you fill with cold tap water. The depth of water is approx 6cm and so this is deep enough to supply enough water to cut stems of bramble for up to one week. You can see the water level by looking at the outside of the pot and so can always top it up with water during very hot weather (when obviously the cut stems take up more water than usual). Sticking cut stems into wet soil is not recommended because there is not enough water available for the stem to suck up and so the leaves will wilt very quickly (as you have witnessed). Similarly a very shallow tub which you can only fill a couple of centimetres deep with water is not suitable either because the cut stems soak up much more water than this within days. Sprig Pots also have the advantage of having one central hole so it is easy to push the cut stems through the hole and plug any gaps with the cotton wool provided. Our Sprig Pots are made in the UK, are dishwasher safe, and always have red lids.

 Professor Phasmid, kindly tell me if you are American or British? And is your alma mater the leading university in the UK?
British, and yes, educated at one of the UK's top two universities (Cambridge University).

 Yesterday our Australian stick insect shed her skin and I have left the exoskeleton in with her but she has not eaten it? Should I remove it now?
Yes. Some stick insects eat their shed skins, others do not. For those stick insects that choose to eat their old skins/exoskeletons (the scientific word for this is exuvia), this is always done immediately after the skin-change has been completed, when the cast off skin is still soft and wet on the inside. If the cast off skin is not eaten, it soon dries and hardens, and so within hours it is too difficult to eat and so is discarded. So you need to carefully pick it up and remove it from the cage. Although brittle, the exuvia can be examined closely and is an interesting specimen. The exuviae do not degrade and so are suitable objects to be framed or used in nature art displays. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have some exuviae in plastic display boxes dating back 20+ years!

 I got a stick insect enclosure online but it's massive! I have had to put it on the floor. Which means Mrs Purrs (my cat) is interested and she has already dented the mesh in several places. Are the ELC cages cat-proof ?
The ELC cages are sturdy cages that have thick strong white plastic mesh sides that cannot be dented or damaged by a cat. Even if a cat wees on it, the mesh panel can be washed spotlessly clean. The cats at Small-Life Supplies sometimes like to watch the stick insects but the cats cannot damage the cages. It is not a good idea to have a stick insect cage on the floor because this is likely to be too chilly for the stick insects in the winter months, with cold draughts blowing across the floor. We recommend positioning the ELC cage on a shelf or table. The base of the ELC cage is fixed and so during the weekly clean-out, you can turn the cage upside down and give it a shake to dislodge any debris that may have sneaked under the ELC Liner. The ELC cage is not heavy and so can easily be lifted up and moved around (unlike glass tanks which are cumbersome and heavy).

 Is the insect fair at Kempton Park happening this October?
No, this annual event has been cancelled due to COVID-19. However, Small-Life Supplies continues to send out stick insects, caterpillars, beetles, snails, insect cages, leaves, plants, books etc and has done so throughout this pandemic. The delivery drivers are still following the "no contact delivery practice" and so you don't need to sign for the parcels when they are delivered, photographic evidence is used instead as proof of successful delivery.

 I took out my stick insects this morning and I was shocked when one of them suddenly dropped her middle leg off! These are my fully grown Indian stick insects, I have twelve in an ELC cage and so they're not overcrowded. I usually handle them in the evening but I was up early this morning and so broke the routine. Do you think this was the reason? And will she be OK?
Stick insects can get used to a routine, and so yes, she could have been alarmed at being handled at a different time and panicked. Or, very occasionally, a stick insect can panic for no obvious reason and discard a leg. Because this is an adult stick insect, she will not be able to regenerate her leg and so will have to adapt to life with five legs. She will still be able to walk OK and will have no difficulty eating because she still has both her front legs. However, she will have some hearing loss because she has lost a leg and stick insects have their ears located near their knees.

 If male stick insects only show their thingummy when they are mating and male Indians have not been observed mating, how does anyone know the colour is mid-green?
The rubbery green mass is something that the male stick insect displays just prior to mating. It surrounds the actual mating "tool". And if the male is disturbed, he can quickly retract this mass again and not proceed with mating. Male Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are very rare, with one male occuring for every 10000 females. The male Indian stick insect cannot lay any eggs and he looks completely different to the female, having a slender light brown brown body with a red underside to the thorax. At the end of his abdomen is a bulge, typical of that seen with male adults from other stick insect species where males are common (occuring in 50% of the population). When the adult male Indian stick insect is "in the mood" he displays a mid-green rubbery mass from the bulge at the end of his abdomen. Here at Small-Life Supplies Indian stick insects are reared in huge numbers and so male Indians do occur from time to time. So I have been fortunate to have witnessed this pre-mating behaviour in Indian stick insects which is why I know the colour of this rubbery mass is mid-green.

How do you distinguish a cranefly pupa from a moth pupa? I dug up a shiny brown thing in my garden that twitches at one end - I think it is a pupa of some sort?
Although both are buried just below the soil, these pupae look completely different. The crane-fly pupa is elongated, looking uniformly tubular, and has protuberances at both ends. Moth pupae are much fatter at one end and more like a teardrop in shape, and have a smooth outline. Moth pupae twitch at one end and are usually dark brown or russet brown. So you have unearthed a moth pupa. You can either pop it back in your garden, just underneath the soil, or, if you are curious to see what type of moth emerges, keep it in a HUA Pot with a little bit of soil at the bottom and some twigs arranged at angles so that the emerging moth can climb up one of these and pump out its wings properly. The pupa does not eat, but you know it is still alive because it can twitch when disturbed. Crane-flies are classified as belonging to the family Tipulidae and the order Diptera. Moths are classified as belonging to the order Lepidoptera.

The bramble plants we purchased from you have yielded lots of blackberries! Aside from crumbles, any ideas on what to do with them all? It has been a pleasure to watch the blackbirds eating them, even feeding them to their young, but there are so many some are even starting to go mouldy on the plant, so we can take a few more!
If you have a nutri-bullet or similar juicer, you can quickly make some smoothies. Use a handful of ripe blackberries, a ripe banana, a splash of orange juice and a cup of cold water and blend these for a few seconds. Store in the fridge for an hour and then you have a refreshing cold drink to enjoy later!

I interrupted my New Guinea stick insects last night. Boris was on top of Sheila and there was this blueish rubbery looking mass coming out of his bottom. Without being rude, I presume this is his ding-a-ling? Do all adult male stick insects have this strange looking "equipment"?
Yes. You have glimpsed the outer genitalia of a male stick insect. Most of the time this is not visible, but obviously when mating is imminent the adult male brings it out. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) usually mate at night. The colour varies according to the stick insect species. It is mid green in the rare Indian stick insect male (Carausius morosus).

I see so much conflicting advice online about using oak, ivy and even lettuce as foodplants. But I trust you guys and as you don't mention these foodstuffs, I guess they are not recommended? I don't want to risk harming Garth and Hetty, they are my New Guinea stick insects, whom I'm giving bramble and hazel leaves to eat (stuffed into two Sprig Pots!).
It's great that you're giving Garth and Hetty plenty of food, because New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do have large appetites! They also need a Water Dish , so hopefully you've already got one in the cage, filled with clean cold tap water? Unfortunately there is quite a bit of rubbish advice posted on-line, often by people who have no experience of successfully keeping stick insects! So always check the provenance of advice before following it. Ivy can be used as a last resort to feed Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). I do not recommend using oak or lettuce to feed stick insects. It is always sad when people contact me to say they have just fed their stick insects with these leaves and their stick insects have died soon after. As well as feeding bramble/blackberry leaves and hazel leaves to your New Guinea stick insects, you can also give them rose leaves (either garden rose or wild dog rose) to eat. Obviously if you are using garden rose leaves please check first that the rose bushes have not been sprayed with pesticides and that the plants have been in the ground for at least one year (it takes this long for the pesticides in the commercially supplied compost to break down).

Can we keep different stick insects together? We are thinking about some Thailand stick insects and Indian stick insects.
Yes, you can mix Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in the same ELC cage. Both these species do best in a cage with two mesh sides and both eat bramble/blackberry leaves (lightly mist the leaves with water in the evening so the stick insects can drink from the droplets on the leaves). It's important not to overcrowd stick insects, so a population of four Thailand stick insects and four Indian stick insects in the ELC cage would be a good choice.

 Can we take our stick insects on our staycation? We have booked a week away at a self catering cottage, surrounded by woodland, so there should be no shortage of bramble leaves! Do the stick insects travel OK in the car, we have four Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in an ELC cage.
Yes, stick insects travel fine in the ELC cage, you can support the cage with a seatbelt in a passenger seat. Put a large piece of cardboard underneath the cage first because this will prevent you accidentally knocking the central foot off! It is very important to be aware of the temperature inside the car when you stop for breaks, because on a hot sunny day the interior temperature of a car can quickly soar to lethally high levels and kill your stick insects. So it's always best to park in the shade and leave someone standing outside the parked car with the stick insects. Never risk leaving the stick insects in a hot car because they can overheat and die very quickly, within ten minutes. You also need to contact the owners of the self-catering cottage now and request they remove all plug-in air-fresheners, in advance of your arrival, citing "allergy issues". With the alarming increase in human allergy issues, more hotels, bed and breakfasts, and self-catering cottages are receiving requests to remove their air-fresheners and so will happily comply with this request. Unfortunately the chemicals released by these products can induce bad headaches amongst sensitive people (and of course can harm your stick insects).

Is it possible to overfeed a stick insect, like it is with goldfish? I ask because I am putting in two Sprig Pots of eucalyptus and my female adult Macleays are massive, their abdomens are huge and a bit sweaty looking?
Adult female Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) stick insects do have large appetites and to have such fat looking insects as you describe is a sign that you have really healthy specimens! So please continue to give them plenty of food. Some of our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects get so fat they look ready to burst, but fortunately they don't, they just keep laying lots of eggs! The abdomens of healthy female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and Guadeloupe (Lamponius guerini) swell up in a similar dramatic fashion, particularly during the summer months.

Tips please for Miranda, our much loved Indian stick insect who has just started to lay eggs. Best pot to store the eggs? And how likely are we to see a male, will we ever?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) lay eggs every day throughout their adult lifespan which typically lasts for seven months. So every week, when you change the paper Liner in the ELC cage, just tilt it and Miranda's eggs will roll off. Save some of them in a QBOX and discard the rest (feed to garden birds or pour hot water over the eggs to stop them from developing further). Even if you saved all of Miranda's eggs (approximately 600) you would be unlikely to see a male because these are so rare, with one male occuring for every 10000 females. Miranda's eggs hatch by parthenogenesis into more females, hatching of Indian stick insect eggs usually takes about four months.

We are researching the correct care of stick insects and are pleased that your site is so informative. Their care seems straight forward, the cage liner replaced once a week and the food replenished once a week also. So why are some other sites complicating things, suggesting isopods, humidity gauges, even electric operated fans?!
There are always people who like to over complicate things, but one of the main advantages of keeping stick insects is that their care is so straight forward. My view is that it is better to keep things simple wherever possible and use methods of animal husbandry that are proven to work. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have tried different rearing techniques over the decades, and have concluded that the best method of keeping most stick insects successfully is in the ELC cages, which we have purpose-designed for stick insects. These cages have two mesh sides so the air-flow is natural (so no need for a fan!) and the solid floor should be lined with a disposable paper Liner, replaced weekly. This is very important because it enables the creatures to be kept in clean surroundings, and it is very easy to save the eggs you want and dispose of the rest. Isopods (woodlice) require damp conditions (soil and dead leaves) to thrive and this is the complete opposite of what most stick insects need. Indeed, having cages with damp rotting substrates (floor coverings) in the home is certainly not recommended because it is unsanitary, smells, encourages flies and mould spores, the latter of course being hazardous to human health.

Thank you so much for the Vapourer caterpillars, they are delightful with such intricate colouring. My question is regarding their preferred foodplant. I have located two bramble bushes, one has small trifoliate leaves, so a whole leaf would fit into the QBOX. The other has large trifoliate leaves, so I would need to cut one part off and put that in the QBOX. Which would be better?
It's the quality of the leaf that is important. So it's best to select a leaf that is dark green rather than pale green. And disregard leaves with blotches or rust. We usually choose the small trifoliate leaves for the caterpillars in the QBOXES and use the sprigs containing the large trifoliate leaves for the stick insects. The British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) will eat both, so it's up to you to decide which of your bramble bushes has the best looking leaves. Before putting the leaf into the QBOX, cut the whole stem off because then the leaf is easier to position inside the QBOX.

We have babies, yay! I believe they are called "L1 Indian Nymphs", is that right? Do we need to cut the edges off the wet bramble leaf to encourage them to eat? We have three so far in a QBOX and seven more eggs, will two QBOXES be enough?
Congratulations! Baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are called "First Instar Nymphs". When they shed their skin (this process is called ecdysis) for the first time , they dramatically increase in size and are called "Second Instar Nymphs". The "L1" term is not correct because it is shorthand for "Larval Stage 1" and stick insects don't have any larval stages, they have nymphal stages instead which are measured in instars. You use the L1, L2 etc numbering system for caterpillars because caterpillars are larvae, not nymphs. And no, you don't need to trim the bramble leaves, it is summer and bramble leaves are in good condition now. (But in the winter, if they have brown edges these should be trimmed off). Two QBOXES are enough, you can transfer the Indian stick insect nymphs to the ELC cage when they have completed one or two skin-changes.

I'm looking for a stick insect starter kit uk for my seven year old son. What would you recommend?
The best stick insect starter kit uk is the ELC bundle and four Indian stick insects. The ELC cage is a purpose designed stick insect cage that is delivered ready assembled. The Indian stick insects are harmless and fully grown so can be handled safely by a careful seven year old. The ELC cage has three crystal clear plastic viewing panels so your son can see his stick insects easily. The cage has two mesh sides which provide lots of ventilation so the cage doesn't steam up inside. Disposable Liners are included to put on the cage floor and a Sprig Pot is included too which you fill up with water and push in the stems of bramble leaves. A colour leaflet is included about stick insect care and everything is produced in the UK with fast delivery and live arrival guaranteed!

We have been keeping Indian stick insects for about 10 months now. We have 20 in a tank which is 45cm high x 30cm x 30cm. Recently, we have noticed that something strange on a few of their legs. It looks as though a chunk is missing, almost as though something has nibbled it! Also some legs seem shorter with a black stump on the end. We feed them well, with plenty of privet which we change weekly. We are worried they are eating each other, but I think this size tank is adequate?
Unfortunately your stick insects are now stressed and have started to nibble each other's legs. There could be one or more reasons for this. It's not the size of the tank that is the issue, but probably the ventilation. If the tank has solid sides and just top ventilation, it could be getting too stuffy inside. The warmer the weather gets, the more of a problem this lack of ventilation is. (In contrast, the proper ELC stick insect cage has two mesh sides, providing the optimum ventilation for Indian stick insects, Carausius morosus). Also, at ten months old, your stick insects are getting old (they usually live twelve months) and will need more water, so it's important to mist the leaves with cold tap water, preferably in the evening. Privet is being eaten by your stick insects, but many Indian stick insects do much better if fed with bramble leaves, so you could try putting both privet and bramble into the tank. The floor of the tank should be covered with a sheet or two of copier paper, cut to size. Avoid using soil or wet coir as a substrate because these materials will increase the humidity within the tank too much. Avoid using kitchen roll because this absorbs moisture and can reduce the humidity within the tank too much.

 I bought a mixed tub of eggs a while back from another seller and now have a mixture of hatchlings. TBH I don't know what I've got, apart from the Macleays Spectre stick insects. The thing is they all have wonky legs and although they are active, they don't live long. I'd appreciate any help you can give me.
It's a sign of poor quality genetic stock if your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are all hatching out with wonky legs. It is normal to see an occasional sickly stick insect emerge with wonky legs, but the vast majority should have nice straight legs and be holding their bodies up and looking healthy. Many ill hatchling stick insects don't survive . Those that do survive are always unhealthy. So if you want to have a go at rearing this generation, I'd advise against saving their eggs. To give your current Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect hatchlings the best chance of survival, feed them with eucalyptus leaves and house them in an airy cage.

  I have 3x female and 2x male Thorny stick insects (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) who are hitting maturity and starting to produce ova (currently about 1 ova/day between them). I have my thornies in a setup that is 30x30x60cm - how many adults do you think would be feasible to house in this, before I need to invest in another enclosure? And what I should do once I have too many ova? I was thinking about separating the males into a different enclosure (I have a smaller setup which will be the 'nursery' once I have nymphs, and believe this species cannot reproduce via parthenogenesis). However, I have been told this is unethical as it is better to let them behave naturally and go through natural reproduction cycles, then just freeze the excess ova once I have too many.
Female Giant Sabah stick insects (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) bury their eggs in dry sand and so you'll need to put a pot of dry sand into the cage for them. Sterilised Sand Pits are available from Small-Life Supplies, also the metal sieves. Every week sieve the eggs and save those you want. Unwanted eggs should be tipped into a bowl and then pour on boiling water because this will immediately stop the eggs from developing any further. Please do not freeze the eggs because this is not 100% effective. Your enclosure can house up to six adult Giant Sabah stick insects, it is important not to overcrowd them. If you want an ELC cage to house this species, please ask for the Ventilation Control Panel to be attached, because this species needs higher humidity than many other types of stick insect. Also, Giant Sabah stick insects do need extra water and so it's important to put a shallow Water Dish (filled with clean cold tap water) on the sheets of paper lining the floor of the cage. All stick insects can revert to parthenogenesis if there are no males present and so the females will lay eggs regardless. So please continue to house both genders together, ideally with a roughly equal split of males to females, and just control the numbers of eggs you keep by using the boiling water method described.

 We have four very happy munching little Indian stick insects, named Watermelon, Mango, Cherry and Lily! I have noticed today that there appears to be eggs amongst the poop. Do I just keep adding them to the little hatch box as I see them? If so how many can I pop in there?
Adult Indian stick insects lay eggs every day, they drop their round brown eggs onto the cage floor. There's no rush to pick up the eggs, so you can wait till the end of the week when you replace the ELC Liner to sort out the eggs. The easiest way is to tilt the ELC Liner, gently tap it underneath and you can then direct the eggs that roll off into a bowl underneath. You can put some eggs in the QBOX and then discard the rest (you can place unwanted eggs on a white saucer and put this on the bird table for the garden birds to eat). Indian stick insect eggs take approximately four months to hatch, you can keep up to one hundred eggs in a QBOX, but many people choose to only save about twenty or thirty eggs to keep their stick insect population more manageable. If Indian stick insect eggs are kept in the QBOX they have a very high hatching rate (over 90% success rate).

 Your Pachnoda beetles caught my eye. Are they really that big? I thought ladybirds were our biggest flying beetles?
Pachnoda beetles are much larger than ladybirds, about four times the size! And British stag beetles and British cockchafer beetles are much larger than British ladybirds, so ladybirds are not the biggest British flying beetles. The Pachnoda beetles are naturally found in Africa but have been captive-bred in the UK for decades. You can let them walk on your fingers and they are ideal subjects for photography because they are so bright and colourful.

  I am doing life cycles with my Year 5 pupils next year so was wondering what the creature with the quickest lifecycle will be - with the most obvious stages to watch? Also, you say that stick insects should be fed on bramble and hazel - but aren't they both deciduous? What do you give them in winter - or do they hibernate?
Small-Life Supplies breed lots of British Vapourer caterpillars continuously and so these are ready now and we should have another generation ready in September. You get four colourful caterpillars, just feed them with bramble leaves and watch them grow. They spin cocoons on the side or lid of the QBOX and the adults usually emerge after 10+ days. Unlike some other suppliers which feed their caterpillars on artificial food in sealed pots, our philosophy is to encourage the children to watch the caterpillars eating real natural leaves because that is what happens naturally. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat hazel leaves, but yes hazel is a deciduous tree and the leaves drop off in the autumn. However, there are different species of bramble/blackberry plants growing wild in the UK and many common types retain their green leaves throughout winter. So you should have no problem in finding fresh green bramble leaves all year in the UK. Stick insects have a slow lifecycle, but you can still see the whole lifecycle within a school year. You need to keep the stick insects inside and they make great classroom pets, and are particularly appreciated by children who have no pets of their own at home. Stick insects do not hibernate. There are school topic ideas in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book.

 I am really enjoying looking after my stick insects and am looking at them much more now that I am working from home. I have four Indian stick insects. Would I be able to add a couple of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects to the same ELC cage? I know the Australians are a more bulky species but the cage looks spacious enough to accommodate both species?
Yes, you can mix Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) in the same ELC cage, providing that you don't overcrowd them. So yes, four Indian stick insects and two Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects would be fine in the ELC cage, both species like a well-ventilated cage and both eat bramble/blackberry leaves. Thinking ahead, if you'd like to breed the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects you could plant a eucalyptus tree in your garden now. Our eucalyptus trees have been grown specially without pesticdes added to the soil and so are safe for the stick insects to eat. For best results, feed the newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects on eucalyptus leaves. These stick insects can eat bramble leaves when they are a bit larger. We breed lots of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects at Small-Life Supplies and more of our medium-sized nymphs shall be ready very soon.

 Please can you advise me the best way to stop being stabbed by bramble thorns? I use gardening gloves to push the bramble stems into the Sprig Pot but some of the thorns still get through and hurt my fingers!
Your question reminded me of how new recruits were trained to feed the stick insects at Small-Life Supplies. Many initially attempted to do what you are doing. However, the correct way is to put the gardening gloves on and then to use the seccateurs to push the bramble stems into the Sprig Pot. Whilst doing this, only use light pressure on the seccateurs so you can hold the bramble stem and push it into the Sprig Pot without cutting through the stem. It takes a bit of practice but this is quite easy to learn and of course you have the reward of no more pricked fingers!

  Do you ship your TTQ praying mantis cage overseas? And if so, how long is the shipping time?
Yes. To minimise export shipping costs the TTQ cage is dispatched flat-packed. It is easy to assemble and we email you a short video showing you how to put it together. We use FedEx International Prority airmail to ship parcels overseas. Current delivery time is still very fast, even next day delivery to some countries. Please allow a few days for us to process your order and package it up carefully so it is not damaged in transit.

 I have noticed large black blotches appearing on the bramble leaves? This is happening a few days after I have collected the leaves. The leaves are green when I collect them so I don't understand what is going on? So I am having to gather twice as much bramble as I used to.
This can happen at this time of year. This phenomenon seems to occur when there hasn't been enough rain. We are seeing it too here at Small-Life Supplies. Fortunately it has rained a lot in recent days and so this problem should disappear. Meanwhile, continue discarding the bramble when you see large black blotches and gather fresh leaves because it is important that the stick insects have nice green bramble/blackberry leaves to eat.

  We would like very much to rear English caterpillars. This is new to us and so please can you tell me if it's easy to do? We live in Bournemouth and have let part of our garden grow wild. It would be fantastic if we could get a little population established there!
Yes, the British Vapourer caterpillar kits are extremely easy and many of our customers report they are so pleased with the experience and have recommended it to others. British Vapourers have a fast lifecycle and so you'd see the adults and hopefully resultant eggs within weeks! And if you purchase more than one kit, you increase your chances of getting males and females and so increase the chances of the population getting established in your garden. British Vapourer caterpillars eat bramble/blackberry leaves and so hopefully you will have some of that growing in the wild part of your garden. If you have ragwort growing in your garden (these are tall plants with ragged looking leaves and clusters of yellow flowers) you could also try the British Cinnabar caterpillar kits. These have a longer lifecycle and so you'd see the red adults next Spring.

  I have had four adult Indian Stick insects for almost a year.  I had eggs hatch from January a few weeks ago. And a couple more each day. I am not keeping anymore eggs, I am freezing them as recommended to be most humane way of disposal. The nymphs are  currently in a tall nano tank. There are ten so far at varying sizes.  I expect my adults will not have a lot longer to live. I am moving the biggest of the nymphs into my 30x30x60 enclosure. The pet shop where I got my stickies is going to take some nymphs from me. I just want enough to keep a steady supply of them so I do not have to buy again.  What I would like to know is once the nymphs reach sub adult hood how many could I keep in the big tank?  There is tons of room  in the big tank but I do not want to overcrowd.
You could keep about thirty sub-adults, or thirty Indian stick insect adults in a cage 30cm x 30cm x 60cm high. It is important not to overcrowd stick insects because this leads to them becoming stressed and fighting each other, snapping off antennae and breaking limbs. You are correct in thinking that Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live for about one year in total. Indian stick insect eggs have a high hatching rate and so it's important not to keep too many of them or else you will get too many stick insects. Insect eggs are not sentient and so do not feel pain. They can be a useful foodsource for garden blackbirds and magpies, so it's a good idea to sort the eggs and put them on a white saucer on the bird table in the garden. After a few days the birds recognise them as food and eat them very quickly. Freezing stick insects eggs is not 100% effective, because the cold temperature can sometimes just stall their development, so when the eggs are taken out of the freezer they warm up and continue to develop.

I am expecting my Thailand stick insects and ELC cage bundle next week. Should I gather bramble beforehand so that it's all ready for their arrival? And do I need to snip off the bramble thorns ( can the stick insects even hurt themselves on the thorns? ).
Our stick insects are packaged with plenty of food and so there is no need to gather bramble in advance. So it's best to wait till they arrive and then you can gather bramble later day or the following day. Two stems, each approximately 40cm long, is sufficient food to last a cage containing six Thailand stick insects about one week. They won't eat all that in one week, but it's best to replace the leaves after one week because the quality of the leaves will be starting to deteriorate, even though the stems are stood in the Sprig Pot of cold water. Bramble thorns are not a problem for Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) , so no need to waste your time cutting the thorns off. In general the thorns are no problem for stick insects, except for some winged species which occasionally may snag an open wing on a bramble thorn (but this is very rare occurrence).


Do you sell heat pads? I am thinking I may need them for my Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs and my Malaysian stick insect eggs? Also, do I need Sand Pits for both these species?
The best way to hatch out Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs (Extatosoma tiaratum) is to put them in a HUA Pot in a warm room. About six months after they have been laid, very lightly mist the eggs with cold tap water because this helps to trigger hatching the following day. The same method should be used for Malaysian stick insect eggs (Heteropteryx dilatata), but these take much longer to hatch (one and a half years) so delay misting the eggs until 18 months have passed. Don't use heat mats. The Malaysian stick insect female buries her eggs in dry sand and so you'll need a Sand Pit for her. However, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect female catapults her eggs across the cage and so she does not use a Sand Pit.

I know that stick insects have their ears near their knees, so if a stick insect loses a leg is it's hearing impaired until it regenerates a new leg?
Yes. Fortunately stick insects are able to regenerate legs and the scolopidial organs(required for hearing) are regenerated too, inside the leg. However if an adult stick insect loses a leg, it will suffer permanent hearing loss because adult stick insects are unable to regenerate legs because adult stick insects no longer undergo ecdysis (moulting/ skin shedding).

Some months ago, we ended up with a small number of stick insects - a mixture of Sunnys, Indians and Pink Wings. However, since then they've been breeding like crazy, laying eggs in the substrate without us noticing, and now we have too many babies. Could you please offer some suggestions as to what we can do with them?
These three species: Philippine stick insects (Sungaya inexpectata), Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are easy to breed varieties and so it's important to only keep a few eggs, to avoid getting too many offspring. So, rather than using substrate, where eggs can lay hidden and hatch out months later, it is much better to use a paper Liner on the floor of the cage and replace this weekly, saving just a few eggs. That way you avoid the problem altogether, so I recommend you ditch the substrate immediately so from now on you can easily keep control of the number of eggs saved. As for distributing your surplus stick insects, if you have lots of people walking past your door you could put out a notice saying that you have packs of six baby stick insects for sale inside (so knock on the door). Stress on the notice that an information sheet is included and six baby stick insects are already packaged up in a clear container and that you follow social distancing rules. If you are struggling to source suitable clear containers, Small-Life Supplies sell packs of HAP Pots, which are tall clear containers, ideal for housing baby stick insects. Remember to put a wet bramble leaf in the pot because baby stick insects like to drink water.

Quick question about the QBOX which I'm very pleased with. How many Indian nymphs will it hold comfortably? I've got 7 nymphs already in the QBOX (3 eggs left to hatch). 3 of the nymphs have had their first moult and are now about 3cm long. Should I move the larger ones to the ELC cage now or are they still small enough to get through the ventilation holes. Would I be better waiting for the 2nd moult? I don't want to move them too soon nor do I want it to get too crowded in the QBOX.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can be transferred to the ELC cage after their first moult. So you can transfer your three largest stick insect nymphs from the QBOX to the ELC cage. This will give the remaining ones in the QBOX more room. Continue to put a wet bramble leaf in the QBOX and remember to lightly spray the bramble leaves in the ELC cage so the stick insects houses in that cage can still drink water from the water droplets on the leaves. The bramble stems in the ELC cage need to be stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water because this will help keep the leaves fresh for a week or so.

Do stick insects like sugar water?
"Sugar water" is a 10% sugar solution (so to make it you need to mix one teaspoon of sugar and nine teaspoons of warm tap water). It is beneficial for pollinating insects in distress, so can be used to feed exhausted bees. It's also used to feed pollinating butterflies and moths reared in captivity if there is a shortage of available flowers. Stick insects are not pollinators and so have no need for sugar water. However, in extreme cases of starvation, you can offer stick insects sugar water (or slices of an orange) if there is absolutely no foodplant available, and this will help keep them alive for another day. Obviously such extreme situations should be very rare and you should always have plenty of proper food for your stick insects (most species eat bramble/blackberry leaves, but there are a few species which eat other leaves, such as eucalyptus and privet). Stick insects do drink water, and normal cold tap water is best. Simply fill a fine plant sprayer (such as the Mister Curvy) with cold tap water and lightly mist the leaves (not the stick insects) in the late afternoon or early evening.

Is Small-Life Supplies still sending out stick insects and cages to Chertsey during this pandemic? My son's birthday is on 8th July so when should I order?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies is still sending out livestock and equipment on a next day delivery service across the UK (with the exception of Scottish Highlands and offshore islands). So deliveries to Chertsey, Surrey are fine. Everything is packaged really well and of course live arrival is guaranteed. At this time of year we do need to monitor the weather forecast to check that it is not too hot for the creatures to travel. So if the temperature is forecast to be above 28 degrees Celsius we have to delay dispatching orders because the interior of some of the delivery vehicles (those which are not air-conditioned) soar above 30 degrees Celsius and this is too hot for the stick insects. Fortunately these "hot weather delays" usually only last a few days and so we are usually able to resume deliveries quickly. As this is a birthday present, it is best to order now and request delivery on Tuesday 7th July 2020. Be sure to mention that it is a birthday present and then we will make a note and keep you informed of any hot weather delays forecast so you can alter the delivery date if necessary.

I am teaching my children about insects but am unsure how to pronounce certain words! Do you know of an on-line resource that I could use? The three words I am struggling with are: parthenogenesis, ecdysis and vapourer. Also, we are on your waiting-list for the vapourer caterpillars, any idea when these might be back in stock?
Yes, just click on the audio icon on these links: https://www.lexico.com/definition/parthenogenesis, https://www.lexico.com/definition/ecdysis, and https://www.lexico.com/definition/vapourer. You will hear a person pronouncing these words correctly. There is only one correct way to pronounce parthenogenesis and vapourer. But there are two acceptable ways to pronounce ecdysis, the first way (voiced by the man) is the version I use. Here at Small-Life Supplies, it has been an exceptionally good year for breeding British Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) and so we have lots of eggs which should be hatching very soon. Once the caterpillars have grown a bit so they are robust enough to travel, we shall be sending them out to customers across the UK. These caterpillars are brightly coloured with yellow and red patterns, and are really easy to look after, eating fresh bramble/blackberry leaves.

The four Indian stick insects arrived today, thank you so much. Where would you recommend putting them when I clean out their cage?
The Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually rest on the white mesh sides of the ELC cage. They have a firm grip and so even if you turn the cage upside-down (to shake out any debris that may have fallen under the ELC Liner) they cling on! So usually you just replace the Liner and the food with the stick insects still in the cage, resting on the sides. Once a month it is a good idea to wash the ELC cage with cold or lukewarm water (do not use hot water because this will distort the plastic) and use the soft Cleaning Sponge to the wipe down the panels. Before doing this, you will need to take the stick insects out of the cage first, and so it's a good idea to put them in a Pyrex basin or a salad bowl, and lay a cotton tea towel over the top to stop them from running out.

I do enjoy reading this page, and I am uplifted by good news, particularly in these difficult times. So here is some more good news for you to share to boost the spirits of all of the nature lovers out there! 11000 native trees have been just planted in a former tip at Magheraglass, Cookstown, Northern Ireland.
Great to hear this, another example of active tree planting and creation of new woodland. It is worth mentioning that it isn't enough just to plant trees. Once planted they need to be watered regularly because this will greatly increase their chances of survival. I am pleased to read that Indiwoods, the organisation behind the Magheraglass scheme, has factored in three years of aftercare, to ensure the ongoing welfare of these trees. It is also wise to plant a mixture of species of tree because this minimises the spread of any disease and also minimises losses (because many diseases are species specific). Fortunately lots of different species of tree have been planted in Magheraglass.

I'm struggling to find privet and bramble for my stick insects. I'm new to this, I am receiving my first two Indian stickies, early next week. I honestly thought privet and bramble were going to be easy to find. I live in a housing estate and I'm struggling. Do you sell bramble or privet potted plants that have been untreated?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best on bramble/blackberry leaves, these can be gathered from overgrown areas such as disused railway lines, canal embankments etc. Or you can buy fresh cut bramble from Small-Life Supplies (this stays fresh for 7-10 days if stood in water). Potted bramble is too slow growing to be viable. Lots of Indian stick insects stopped eating privet years ago, so we no longer recommend privet. However, Indian stick insects also eat wild rose leaves and hazel leaves (hazel trees grow in wet places such as river banks).

My grandchildren would love some stick insects, can Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects be housed together? Also, they have a 40cm netting cube cage, would this be suitable?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) can be housed together successfully. Both types eat bramble/blackberry leaves. A 40cm netting cube cage is not recommended because it is too airy (all netting enclosures let in too much air), and 40cm height is not tall enough. The stick insects will be much healthier in the ELC cage which is the correct height (51cm) and also has two mesh sides which provide optimum ventilation. The other panels on the ELC cage are crystal clear plastic so it's easy to see the stick insects.

I'm getting some Pachnoda beetles. What do they eat?
The Pachnoda beetles are large African fruit beetles, they have chunky bodies with yellow and black markings. Pachnoda beetles are good to handle and easy to look after and do well in the ELC cage or the slightly shorter ELS cage. Both these cages have two mesh sides which is the correct ventilation for these beetles. Pachnoda beetles do best if given slices of fresh orange to eat, they also need a shallow Water Dish filled with fresh cold tap water. Dead buddleia twigs provide extra climbing surfaces for these beetles. During hot days the beetles like to fly within the cage. Sometimes they crashland upside-down on the floor and so to help them get up again it is important to put mesh rectangles on top of the cage Liner. These help the beetles to get a foothold and this helps them to right themselves quickly.

I have noticed the bramble around me has started to flower. But not all the stems. Should I be snipping the stems with the flowers or the ones without the flowers? My instinct is to leave the flowers for the bees!
The best bramble/blackberry leaves are on the thickest stems, these are the primary stems, from which other stems grow. These primary stems grow the fastest and so you can harvest some of them but this needs to be done sparingly because you need to leave as much as possible because these stems are needed to generate lots more bramble during the coming months. So at this time of year, it is probably inevitable that you will need to harvest some bramble stems with flowers. You can always leave most of the flowers behind because the bees will still visit cut flowers. The stick insects eat the actual leaves, but also sometimes eat the petals on the bramble flowers, so you can put a few sprigs of bramble with flowers still attached into your stick insect cage.

I have 7 Extatosoma tiaratum and I think they have parasites or mites on them, most likely brought in from the food. The black ones are on two and only on the mouth parts and are difficult to get off (I haven’t been able to yet without damaging the insects mouth). The red ones ping off quite easily but they are in difficult places and the insects move too much. I was wondering if you had any advice that could help, I don’t want to infest my house also!
The best way to remove detritus from stick insect mouthparts is by soaking the area with water and carefully using the tip of a fine artist's paintbrush. Great care is needed to avoid damaging the maxillary palps. Also, ill stick insects can sometimes have parts of their mouthparts going black, usually this occurs if the stick insects are being housed in surroundings that are too humid. It is difficult to determine from your photos what the black areas in the mouthparts actually are. Flicking mites off the body is best done with a dry paintbrush. Then the stick insects' cage should be thoroughly cleaned and dried to prevent a re-occurence. Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best in a dry airy cage, so use a cage with two or more mesh sides. It is not normal for stick insects kept in the correct conditions to have what you are seeing, so it is good that you are trying to address this issue. At the moment, here in the UK, we are having to shake and flick off aphids which are on the undersides of bramble leaves. This is to stop aphids getting into the stick insect cages and secreting their sticky "honey dew" on the walls of the cages!

One of my stick insects started blowing bubbles through her mouth. Is this normal?
This behaviour usually indicates that the stick insect is exercising its mouthparts before eating, in effect "washing" its mouthparts. Extra water is appreciated at this time, so that is why you should mist the leaves in the evening with cold tap water, because many stick insects start to eat at dusk. For those species that require more water (New Guinea, Sabah, Philippine Sunny, Malaysian) put a shallow Water Dish (of cold tap water) on the Liner of the cage.

I am thinking about getting one or two of your potted eucalyptus plants because my Extatosoma eggs are due to hatch next month. My track record with plants isn't great, do you have any tips or are these eucalyptus plants really easy to keep alive?
Our potted Eucalyptus plants are very tall (over one metre) and at this time of year are growing fast. So, for best results, you will need to either plant them outside in your garden (in a sunny place), or re-pot them into a larger plant pot (with holes in the bottom). These plants need feeding, so as well as using the frass (poo/dropppings) from your stick insects which you scatter over the soil, we also recommend using the "Baby Bio" liquid plant food which you dilute and then pour on top of the soil. At this time of year, Eucalyptus plants need daily watering, cold tap water is fine and this is best done with a watering can in the evening. Instructions are included with every plant sent out, but overall they are easy to look after and you don't need to be "green fingered" to keep them alive! It's great that you are planning ahead because it is so important to feed newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) with young tender eucalyptus leaves.

We have so enjoyed looking after our stick insects during the last ten weeks of isolation. Your ELC cage is marvellous, we can actually see the stick insects so well! So far, we have three Pink Winged stick insects and four Indian stick insects. Would there be room for a couple of Macleays Spectre too?
Yes, you could add a couple of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) into the ELC cage as well. But you wouldn't want to add any more stick insects than that because it's important not to overcrowd them. All these species eat bramble/blackberry leaves, and also eucalyptus leaves. Young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are available from Small-Life Supplies now.

What was the bible book on stick insects before the Dorothy Floyd "Keeping Stick Insects" book?
A similar sized hardback book called "Stick and Leaf Insects", written by a British biology teacher called John T Clark, who worked at Uppingham School, England. Published in 1974 this book has long been out of print, but from time to time pre-owned copies pop up on ebay at cheap prices.

I have housed the following stick insects together: Malaysians, young Green Bean and Black Beauty. I have privet, eucalyptus, bramble and oak. But my hatchling Diapherodes gigantea are not interested in the eucalyptus whatsoever, what is your view please?
Some species of stick insects can be housed successfully together in the same cage but unfortunately the combination you have is not recommended, in fact you have chosen three types that should all be housed separately! Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) do best in their own cage because their stripy antennae can be nibbled by other species of stick insect. And they need a Water Dish and pot of dry sand for the female to bury her eggs. The Grenadan (Green Bean) stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea) grow large and so are best kept in their own large airy cage. The Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) can emit a spray which can irritate other stick insects (and also sensitive people and pets). The Malaysian stick insects eat bramble leaves and the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects eat privet leaves. The Grenadan stick insects eat certain species of Eucalyptus leaves, but there are many species of eucalyptus, so perhaps you are giving them the wrong one? Also, hatchling stick insects can only eat the young tender eucalyptus leaves (the older thicker leaves can be too tough for them).

Our New Guinea stick insects are looking poorly. We have had them for two months and they have been eating bramble leaves. I read that oak was a suitable foodplant and so I put in oak which they ate, but now they are dying. I wish I had stuck with bramble now, I feel awful.
Yes, it is best to stick with using bramble leaves for most stick insects, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) also eat hazel leaves and rose leaves. Ignore people recommending oak because these leaves can cause illness and death, as you are witnessing. Sadly there is a lot of incorrect advice online and on insect forums, posted by inexperienced people who think they are helping but who are actually not.

Does the colour of the ELC cage Liner affect the behaviour or health of the stick insects?
For most species of stick insect, the colour of the ELC cage Liner is not significant. ELC Liners are available in green, blue and pink. However, for adult Pink Winged stick insects, (Sipyloidea sipylus) , there is anecdotal evidence that they seem to prefer to glue their eggs onto the pale blue Liners. However, I don't think this observation has been properly tested scientifically yet.

Can Indian stick insects eat ivy? We have loads of it in the garden.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best if fed with bramble/blackberry leaves. They also eat hazel leaves and rose leaves. Ivy leaves should only be used as a last resort.

Can I keep different stick insects in the same enclosure? If so, any suggestions (I'd want to be able to tell them apart easily!)
Yes, you can mix Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) altogether in the same ELC cage. It's easy to differentiate these species: the Indian and Pink Winged stick insects both have long antennae, but the Pink Winged have wings as adults and noticeable wingbuds as nymphs. Thailand stick insects have very short antennae. All these stick insects eat bramble/ blackberry leaves and do well in the purpose-designed ELC stick insect cage.

I fancy having a go at keeping the Macleays Spectre stick insect. Is that a type that Small-Life Supplies breed? And any tips on getting the fancy colour morphs or is it just pot luck?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies breed the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) and our nymphs (juvenile insects) and just coming up to be the correct size to send out to customers. For best results, house these stick insects in the airy ELC cage and feed these stick insects with eucalyptus leaves. The interesting colour variations are achieved by placing twigs containing lichen into the ELC cage.

Our Indian Eri silkmoths emerged at the weekend and we now have a cluster of white eggs! Are the hatchlings easy to rear? We'd love to try!
Congratulations! The Indian Eri silkmoth eggs (Samia ricini) are white but darken the day before hatching. The baby caterpillars (called larvae) eat privet leaves and group together underneath the privet leaves. They are very easy to look after providing their surroundings are kept clean and dry (so never give them wet privet leaves to eat).

I commend your efforts on promoting nature and opposing unnecessary building and destruction of green spaces and woodland. I thought I'd share the good news that plans to "develop" 130 acres of greenbelt land near Wigan have been stopped! The government has overuled the local council's decision, thank goodness.
Thanks for sharing the good news, it is important to shout about the successes, which have resulted from campaigners and lots of people emailing and writing objection letters to the authorities. It shows that democracy can still work in the UK and it is always worth members of the public exercising their democratic right to send in an objection to any proposed development that would be detrimental (or completely destroy) natural countryside or green space.

I’m new to keeping stick insects and am interested in Aretaon asperrimus I believe that they’re called thorny stick insects but I’m finding it so hard to find anything about them online! I was just wondering if soil would be a suitable substrate for the bottom of the enclosure and also how to clean the enclosure and how often. Would I have to empty all of the soil and change it every day as it sounds very messy.
Aretaon asperrimus is the Latin species name for the Sabah stick insect, sometimes called the Sabah thorny stick insect because it is a brown spiky stick insect. It's not the best species to start with because they are not very active and can all suddenly die for no apparent reason, which is upsetting. Sabah stick insects prefer less ventilated conditions to many other stick insects, so if housing them in the ELC cage it's important to block off one of the mesh sides with cling film or a Ventilation Control Panel to reduce the air-flow. The best substrate is an ELC Liner or you can cut a large paper sheet down to size. Avoid soil because this is messy, unhygienic and will clog up the sticky pads on the stick insects' feet. When the Sabah stick insects are fully grown, they require a dish of dry sterilised sand into which the females bury their eggs. Sabah stick insects drink more water than many other species of stick insect, and so place a shallow dish of cold tap water onto the cage Liner.

Looking at getting some Australian stick insects, Macleays Spectre. Do they need a heat mat? My room is pretty warm anyway.
No, a heat mat is not necessary and has the disadvantage of drying up the air within the cage. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do well at a daytime temperature of 18-21 degrees Celsius, dropping to a night-time temperature of 12-14 degrees Celsius. That temperature range is common amongst many properties in the UK and so if your room is warm anyway, I don't think temperature will be an issue for your stick insects. Small-Life Supplies breed Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in large numbers, and ours are hatching now and so shall be ready for sale within a few weeks. This species does best on Eucalyptus leaves rather than bramble and so we feed ours on euclayptus leaves throughout their lives. Our specially grown pesticide-free large potted eucalyptus plants are currently available to mainland UK (excluding Scottish Highlands) and are delivered by express next day courier. Australian stick insects do well in the ELC cage but do grow large, so we recommend keeping a maximum of six Australian stick insects per cage.

What would be best thing that you can supply for housing one or two leaf insects?
Just like stick insects, many leaf insects do best in airy surroundings, so the ELC cage is ideal housing for them. As the well as having two mesh sides, the ELC cage also has the huge advantage of having a crystal clear front, back and roof, so you can easily see the leaf insects. This is much better than the all-netting or all-mesh enclosures being sold by some reptile outlets, which don't offer this clear view. Leaf insects like company of their own kind, so it's best to purchase several leaf insects rather than just one on its own. But be aware that leaf insects are harder to keep than stick insects, and are more challenging to handle because of their tendency to cling onto your fingers and not let go!

Do you sell caterpillar refills? I have my QBOXES from last year and would love to do the caterpillar thing again!
Yes, you can buy caterpillar refills from Small-Life Supplies. The British Vapourer caterpillars are being sent out to customers now. Up to four caterpillars can live happily in the crystal clear QBOX, eating fresh bramble/blackberry leaves. The cocoons are spun on the sides or lid of the QBOX and the adults emerge a week or two later. It's best to release the adults outside, this is a British species naturally widespread across the UK and so it is OK to set them free outdoors. When you order the caterpillar refill, don't forget to ask for more QBOX Liners if you have run out of these.

My five year old would love some pet insects. Stick insects or leaf insects - what would you suggest?
Definitely stick insects. They are much easier to keep than leaf insects, are more robust and are easier to handle. The Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are a great choice and your child can watch them grow dramatically over the next few months as they will shed their skins several more times. Adult Indian stick insects can be handled safely by a careful five year old. Small-Life Supplies is sending out medium-sized Indian stick insects at the moment, live arrival is guaranteed. The best housing for Indian stick insects is the ELC cage and your five year old can help with changing the ELC Liner every week and also lightly misting the bramble/blackberry leaves with water so the stick insects can have a drink from the water droplets on the leaves.

Would you be so kind to bring it to the attention of your followers that the terrible destruction of forests and woodland is STILL continuing in the Congo, the Amazon and the UK (for HS2), DESPITE the Coronavirus pandemic. Consumerism may be faltering but habitat destruction is continuing apace! We all need to be vigilant and keep up the pressure to STOP it.
Yes, it is very depressing that wildlife and nature continues to be destroyed and has not abated in recent months. In the UK it is absurd that HS2 (High Speed 2 rail link) is still continuing, despite recent evidence (resulting from COVID-19 workplace changes) that 44% of the working British public are now able to work from home. The fact that so many people are able to work from home indicates that travel between cities for business is not as essential as many people thought it was. The direct routes chosen for HS2 were done so with speed in mind, that is why there is so much destruction of the British ancient woodlands because the brief was to prioritise speed for business over everything else. Clearly most people travelling between cities for leisure aren't that bothered about shaving twenty minutes off their total journey time, in fact many people prefer a more leisurely train journey where they can relax and enjoy their meals at a relaxed pace. So yes, the fight continues, and it is vitally important for people to continue to contact their MPs, sign petitions, support Greenpeace etc to ensure these issues are kept in the news and ultimately stop this destruction of the natural world.

Considering stick insects as fascinating pets for my kids. Will ivy leaves kill them especially if they've been fed raspberry leaves all summer (we grow a lot of soft fruit but all our plants are deciduous and I am concerned about finding a reliable winter food source). If the raspberry stems are slightly thorny is that likely to be a problem for them?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an ideal species for your children. You can feed Indian stick insects with raspberry leaves during the summer, and then when these leaves have died off, you can switch to using bramble/blackberry leaves (some bramble dies off but there are other types of bramble that have green leaves available all year). Best to avoid ivy leaves. It's worth investing in some decent gardening gloves so you can collect both the raspberry and bramble sprigs without shredding your fingers! The stick insects are not bothered by the thorns so there is no need to cut the thorns off the stems.

I am a stick insect novice and like the look of your ELC cages! I was told stick insects shed their skins so am unsure how they can do this in your cage as it doesn't have a mesh roof?
Stick insects prefer to shed their skins whilst holding securely onto the wall of the cage. The ELC cage has mesh sides which makes it easy for the stick insect to slide vertically downwards out of its old skin, brushing against this mesh side as it does so. This is far preferable to dangling from a mesh roof and swaying around, being exposed at such a vulnerable time. People who say stick insects need to shed from a mesh roof are saying this because they are housing their stick insects in tanks with smooth sides that do not offer a secure foothold for the stick insects, in other words, their stick insects have no choice but to head for the mesh roof! When we have kept stick insects in cages with mesh sides and a mesh roof, the stick insects overwhelmingly prefer to shed their skins whilst holding onto a mesh side and sliding downwards. Much research has gone into our designs of stick insect cages over the last 35 years and the ELC cage is proven to be a great enclosure for housing stick insects. The ELC cage has two mesh sides, one of which slides upwards so you can reach into the cage from the side as well as via the top (through the lift off lid).

Can giant Macleays stick insects live with green fly aphids? Wondering if I need to remove the brambles and do more without any on it?
Try to avoid putting bramble containing lots of aphids (they usually hide underneath the leaves) into your cage of stick insects. The aphids won't harm your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) but they will produce a sticky residue which looks unsightly. So a good tip is to flick most of the aphids off the leaves when you gather the bramble. And you'll probably need to wash the cage as well before you insert the fresh aphid-free bramble. If you are using an ELC cage, just wash it with lukewarm water (not hot water) and "Parozone stain remover", using the soft Cleaning Sponge to remove the sticky residue from the sides and roof. Rinse well with cold water and dry with a soft cotton tea towel.

Is there such a thing as a dangerous stick insect? I'm guessing not, but thought I'd check!
Yes, there are a few very dangerous species of stick insect. One of the worst is the Florida stick insect, Latin species name Anisomorpha buprestoides. This is dangerous because it can squirt out a liquid that can cause temporary blindness and pain if this lands on a human eyeball or on an eye of a pet dog, hamster, guinea pigs etc. Unfortunately some individuals are now selling these stick insects on-line as "Devil Rider" stick insects and not even warning potential customers of the risk! This is foolish and irresponsible and should be called out. Of course Small-Life Supplies only breed and sell species of stick insect that are safe to keep and handle.

Our garden centre sells thornless blackberry - worth a try or not? We have a lot of Pink Winged stick insects.
No, don't bother. The thornless blackberry leaves tend to be rather thin and so are not that good nutritionally. And it is very high risk to purchase a plant from a garden centre without knowing if pesticides are in the potting compost or if the plant has been sprayed with insecticide. The potted plants that Small-Life Supplies sell are grown specially without the use of chemicals and so are safe for the stick insects to eat. Our large potted eucalyptus plants are in stock and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do well on eucalyptus leaves, the nymphs becoming more green the more eucalyptus they eat.

We are looking for insect cages, specifically for containment of aphids. Can you forward a price-list?
Small-Life Supplies manufacture the "GSC aphid cage", this is a large precision made galvanised steel cage, with a lockable door and four fine stainless steel mesh panels to provide optimum air-flow. These cages are made to order and so please let us know how many you require, so a quotation can be emailed to you. Aphid cages are 60cm x 60cm x 60cm and dispatched ready assembled. They are being used successfully in universities and research establishments across the UK.

How long are your deliveries taking during this Corona virus time? I need another ELC cage for my expanding stick insect collection.
Orders are still being dispatched very quickly, so are only taking a few days to process. Dispatch is by courier on a next day delivery service. Small-Life Supplies is following government guidance regarding safe working practices during this outbreak of COVID-19. The courier delivery drivers are too, so your parcel will be delivered to you safely, observing social distancing and "no contact practice". The ELC cage is manufactured in the UK and manufacturing of these cages is still continuing.

Will a stick insect be lonely if housed by itself?
Yes. Stick insects like company of their own kind. This is really obvious when you keep several in a cage because the stick insects group together on the walls of the ELC cage. That is why Small-Life Supplies always sell stick insects in small groups, rather than individually.

Is it OK to feed young bramble leaves to my Malaysian stick insects?
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) and other bramble eating stick insects need to eat the bramble/blackberry leaves that are at least 3cm long. Each bramble leaf is made up of at least three smaller leaf parts and each of these smaller parts needs to be more than 3cm. At this time of year, the new growth of bramble wilts quickly and so it's important to put the sprigs in the Sprig Pot of cold tap water as soon as possible after you have gathered the bramble from outside. Cut off the smallest leaves at the top of the stems and discard these because the very small leaves can contain toxins which can harm insects that eat those leaves.

I used to keep stick insects as a hobby at University and Sabahs were always my favourites, so I treated myself to 5 young adults recently. They’re in a 30x45x30 glass tank with mesh lid, partially covered for humidity. The temperature is consistently around 20 degrees and humidity 80-99%. They have water and a dish of sand on the floor, which is covered by kitchen roll. Three of my insects seem determined to spend all of their time on the floor, which I don’t remember seeing previous insects do. Is this normal? Could there be something causing them to do this? The culprits are two females and one male (he has a damaged foot which he arrived with - initially I thought this could be a factor). I am moving them from the floor to the bramble when they have been there over a day, but is this the right thing to do?
It's a very bad sign if Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) are on the floor so you are right to be concerned. They can do this before dying, so be prepared for the worst. A daytime temperature of 20 degrees Celsius is OK for this species, but it does need to drop at night, preferably to around 14 degrees Celsius. Also, I think your enclosure is far too humid, so I would remove the cover over the top mesh to increase the air flow into the tank. Sabah stick insects are unusual in that they prefer less air-flow to many other species, so we house ours in cages with one mesh side (instead of the standard two mesh sides). It is good that you have provided a dry sand dish and a water dish, but kitchen roll is not recommended because it absorbs moisture and so dries out the air. So replace the kitchen roll with sheets of copier paper, cut to size with scissors. You could also try putting two Sprig Pots of bramble in the tank, we have found this species likes to be surrounded by lots of bramble (and mist the leaves lightly in the evening). Ill stick insects need rest and so moving them onto the bramble is probably counter-productive.

My son’s Indian stick insect eggs have just hatched and the nymphs are currently in an entirely mesh enclosure. I’d like to transfer them to the ELC tank ideally as will keep them warmer but am concerned the holes in the sides might be too big and they’ll escape. Is this tank suitable for nymphs as well as adults?
Young Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in an unventilated container. The best enclosures are clear and over 7cm tall, so either the QBOX or the HUA Pot. Insert a Liner and a wet bramble leaf because young stick insects like to drink water from the droplets on a leaf. After a couple of months, the Indian stick insects will be much larger and will require a more airy cage, so it is at this stage you should transfer them to the ELC cage. This is a much taller cage (51cm high) and so instead of putting loose leaves on the Liner, it is better to insert two long lengths of bramble sprigs (each approx 30cm long), and push the thicker cut ends into a Sprig Pot of cold tap water. This will keep the leaves fresh for a week or so. Lightly mist the leaves with cold tap water (from the Mister Curvy), but avoid getting the actual stick insects wet.

I am noticing butterflies with orange tips to their wings in my garden. I haven't seen these before and am unsure if it is because I am in the garden much more nowadays (because of the lockdown) or have conditions been particularly favourable for these butterflies this year?
It is a very good year for the orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines), so their population numbers are higher than usual this year. A member of the Pierid (white) family, this species is challenging to photograph with its wings open (showing the orange tips) because this butterfly does not settle on a flower for long! It does rest longer with its wings closed, but the undersides of the wings are patterned and so there is not the striking contrast seen with the white of the upper wing and the orange tip.

I'm sixteen and getting stick insects next week. Seeing as they're from tropical places, do I need a heat mat for the ELC? My room is not super hot, the thermostat is set to 20 degrees Celsius daytime.
Stick insects have been reared in the UK indoors for generations and so have acclimatised to those conditions. The temperature in our stick insect breeding facility is set to 18 degrees Celsius during the day and 12 degrees Celsius at night. So no, do not buy a heating mat.

We made the mistake of going on an insect forum and got such conflicting advice, we quickly came off it! Someone gave my daughter some Indian stick insect eggs and they've started to hatch. We were told they eat ivy, but I understand that we should be feeding them bramble leaves instead? If this is correct, can we switch leaves, or must they stick with ivy?
Yes, you should switch leaves asap because your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) will do much better if they eat bramble/blackberry leaves. There is no issue with switching foodplants for Indian stick insects, they are very versatile and can eat ivy one week and bramble the next week! Forums can be good at encouraging people, but unfortunately some people post rubbish advice which, at it's worst, can have fatal consequences for stick insects. Ivy leaves should only be used as a last resort for feeding Indian stick insects.

I've calculated I have saved over £100 on not eating out (because of Corona) and so have a shopping list of stuff I can now buy from you guys, including Pink Winged stick insects and the ELC enclosure bundle. But I'm freaking out about their wings - how easy are they to catch once they've taken off?
The Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) currently being dispatched to customers are large nymphs, so are up to 9cm long. They don't have their wings yet, these appear when the stick insects are fully grown (in a few weeks time). Don't worry about them flying, they fly very slowly and land on a wall. You can then pick the stick insect up (this is very easy to do) and place it back in the ELC cage. It's a good idea to mist the leaves first because a Pink Winged stick insect that has just had a fly is usually thirsty and appreciates a drink of water from a wet leaf. The ELC cage is excellent housing for this species, it is nice and tall (51cm) and has two mesh sides that provide the through-draught ventilation that these stick insects need to thrive.

Could you please tell me if a stick insect is an easy pet for children? Also the enclosure we would need?
Yes, stick insects are easy for children to look after, they need to put fresh bramble/blackberry leaves in the cage once a week and replace the paper Liner at the bottom of the cage once a week. The best stick insects to start with are the
Indian stick insects, and the best housing for them is the ELC cage bundle.

Do you sell lures for Emperor silk moths?
No. There are some firms that sell pheromone lures for Emperor silk moths (Saturnia pavonia), the idea is to put this product outside and wait for the adult male moths to fly to it. Small-Life Supplies prefers a more natural approach, so we recommend putting the female Emperor silk moth outside and waiting for the adult males to detect the airborne pheromones she releases and fly to her. Mating happens straight away and then the female starts to glue her eggs onto the surface she is resting on. This behaviour is also seen amongst some other day flying British moths, notably the British Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua). Small-Life Supplies breed these in huge numbers and they'll be in stock again very soon because we have lots of eggs hatching now.

Is there a reason you don't you sell leaf insects?
Yes, there are several reasons why Small-Life Supplies promote stick insects instead of leaf insects. In general, male leaf insects mature much faster than female ones, and then have a short lifespan as adults, so it is difficult to commercially breed large numbers of leaf insects. Their appeal is less than for stick insects because more skill is needed when handling leaf insects (they tend to be quite clingy on your fingers, so this makes them unsuitable for people lacking manual dexterity and patience!) And leaf insects are generally more delicate than stick insects and so can die prematurely, which is obviously upsetting.

I do hope you are OK doing this pandemic. I bought an ELC cage last year from you at the Kempton Park event and need another. I was going to wait but there doesn't seem much point now. I don't suppose you have any discounted cages for sale at the moment?
From time to time Small-Life Supplies sells off lightly used ELC cages and ELC-se cages, these are very good value because they have only been used for a few months in our breeding facility and so are in very good condition. We have just four of these discounted cages in stock right now and so please phone Small-Life Supplies weekdays between 9am and 6pm on 01733 203358 if you'd like to purchase one. Small-Life Supplies has been operating throughout this pandemic and dispatching cages on a next-day courier delivery service. Fortunately this delivery service is performing very well and so customers are receiving their cages on time. We let you know in advance when delivery will be and safe practices are followed so there is no contact between you and the delivery driver.

Stick insects have helped me so much in my life and I'd like to make a donation to Small-Life Supplies using the "Pay It Forward" idea so someone else who is in financial difficulties can benefit. How do I go about making a payment for your ELC cage bundle (to be sent to someone else)?
That is very kind of you. Just email ange@small-life.co.uk with a message saying that you'd like to order the ELC cage bundle on the "Pay It Forward scheme". You will receive the PayPal invoice and when you pay that we shall have the ELC cage bundle ready to send to someone in financial need. Please rest assured that we do our best to ensure that it will be sent to someone who fits the hardship criteria and will benefit.

Should I cut the thorns off the bramble stems? I've just got Indian stick insects. I tried them with privet but they weren't keen, so I am now using bramble.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best if fed with bramble/blackberry leaves. There is no need to cut the thorns off because the stick insects are quite capable of stepping around sharp thorns and so are not hurt by them. At this time of year choose blackberry leaves which are more than 3cm long , each leaf is made up of three parts and each of those parts needs to be at least 3cm long. This is because the very small bramble leaves can contain toxins which can harm the stick insects. Lots of Indian stick insects (including those reared at Small-Life Supplies) suddenly stopped eating privet leaves en masse years ago, and so it is not surprising that yours don't like privet.

Our first Vapourer moths emerged yesterday and so far we have one male and one female in the QBOX. He is flying around inside the QBOX but is showing no interest in her! He must know she is there - is he avoiding her because they are siblings?
It is OK for sibling British Vapourer moths (Orgyia antiqua) to mate because they still produce healthy offspring. So that is not the reason he is avoiding her. Instead he is one of those males that likes to have a good fly before mating, so the best thing is to release him outside and let him fly off. He should return within a few hours. He can then find her via her airborne pheromone trail and mate. So you need to place the QBOX with the female in an open area of the garden (well away from cobwebs that could trap any visiting males). It's best to put it on a chair or table so it's not on the ground. Of course another male may find her first, but it doesn't matter, you will know she has mated because she starts to lay lots of eggs immediately after mating.

Glad to see Small-Life Supplies is still going through this Corona virus. I would like to purchase an ELC stick insect cage bundle for my grand daughter, but would like to know first how long my order would take to arrive?
It's 17th April 2020 today, and so far all of our ELC cage bundles that we have sent this week and in recent weeks have been successfully delivered to our customers on a next-day courier service. So, if you ordered today (Friday), your ELC bundle would be dispatched on Monday, for delivery the following day, Tuesday.

How often should I mist my stick insects? I have a mixture of Thailand stick insect adults and large nymphs and they eat bramble leaves.
It's best to lightly spray the bramble leaves with the Mister Curvy (filled with cold tap water) once a day, preferably in the late afternoon or early evening. It's not essential to do this every day, so it doesn't matter if you miss a day or two. Always direct the water spray at the bramble leaves only. Avoid getting the stick insects wet and avoid soaking the Liner or walls of the ELC cage.

What do you think of the RSPCA's care sheet on stick insects? A quick critique please!
The RSPCA has produced several care sheets on stick insects over the years. I have just downloaded their current care sheet and generally it is very good advice. It stresses the need for a tall ventilated cage and the need to keep it clean by lining the floor with paper sheets, changed regularly. It warns about the risk of using leaves treated with pesticides and how to spot if you have done this. Bramble leaves are recommended as food, which is correct. There is an error at the end when it says that Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) lay their eggs in a clutch. In fact they do not do this, instead (just like other stick insects) they lay a few eggs every day during their adult lives (approx seven months duration).

I've got some Qs about the Dead Insect Kits. Do ya kill the critters and the plants? How'd ya stick the critters to the plants? Do the critters and plants shrivel up?
No, we don't kill anything. The Indian Eri silkmoths have died naturally from old age in our insect breeding facility. The thistles grow outside, they flowered last year and these are the dead thistle heads from last year. The thistle heads have lots of small spikes and so these hold the dead silkmoths in place. Or, to make your arrangement permanent, you could use a drop of PVA glue to secure the insects and cocoons in place. The thistles on stems and the dead Indian Eri silkmoths are already dried and will not shrivel up anymore. But because they are dry, you need to be careful handling them to avoid bits breaking off.

I'm fifteen and getting my first stick insects next week! Indian ones. Please tell me if I can add another species later on? Is there room in the ELC cage for two types?
Yes, you can mix some different species of stick insect together, but not all types can be mixed together, so it's best to check with Small-Life Supplies first. It is great that you are starting out with Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), these are an excellent choice. You'll receive four Indian stick insects and so there is plenty of room to add three Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) stick insects later on. Or, you could add four Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) instead. All these stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves and do best in the ELC cage which is tall and has two ventilated sides.

Thank goodness for my stick insects keeping me sane during these troubling times. Browsing your site yesterday I saw your new "Dead Insect Art", but couldn't see how large these silkmoths are? I'm tempted if they're a good size!
Yes, the dead Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) offered have died from natural causes and are a good size. The wingspans are between 11cm and 13cm, so approx 5 inches. And the empty white silk cocoons are approx 5cm long, so 2 inches.

I listen to news reports saying one advantage of this dreadful pandemic is that you can hear the birds singing again, but I am not so sure. The birdsong in my garden actually seems quieter than usual. And I am seeing about the same amount of insects as before, the usual butterflies waking up from hibernation, some bees, wasps and midges. I would be interested to read your thoughts?
Yes, I too am seeing no change in the insect populations local to me. This isn't that surprising because although car usage has dropped significantly, the days when huge numbers of insects were splattered on car windscreens are long gone (this cliff edge drop in insect populations was decades ago). And there seem to be fewer garden birds around, which means less birdsong. This is probably because so many birds are starving. Unfortunately in the UK the fashion for slabbing gardens and ripping out bushes and weeds still continues, in fact at the moment it is very prolific because there are so many people at home "tidying up" their gardens. By removing nature from gardens, people are, unwittingly in many cases, not only removing nesting sites for birds but also removing the food source (insects and worms) of carnivorous birds. And although many people continue to purchase seed to feed the herbivorous birds in their gardens, many woodpigeons and gulls that frequent town centres are really starving now because these areas are so deserted. So, in the UK, these desperate birds are having to rely on the dedicated people who make considerable efforts to get into town centres to feed them. However the drop in air pollution is good news and is a direct result from drastically reducing air travel and road trips.

I am at home with the children and we plan to study insects next week. Do you have any deceased insect specimens they could touch and examine?
Small-Life Supplies breeds stick insects, butterflies and moths and so yes, we have a regular supply of insects that have died naturally from old age. And yes, these specimens are ideal for people to examine, view through a microscope, draw etc. The dead stick insects decompose quickly, but the dead silkmoths don't and so I'd recommend these for you and your children. At the moment, we have large Indian Eri silkmoths and also their empty silk cocoons, so we are selling these together, with information about this species (Samia ricini). For more details, please see Dead Insect Art

I feed my stick insects on ivy, I think this is a poisonous plant? I was going to use my dud stick insects for food for my chameleon?
Some people feed their injured stick insects to reptiles, but this should only be done if the stick insects have been feeding on bramble leaves. You are correct in thinking that ivy is poisonous (so is privet) and so it is not recommended to feed chameleons with stick insects that have eaten these plants.

Sorry to be thick, but your website now says delivery is by "no contact delivery practice". What does this mean? I'm desperate for another ELC cage and eucalyptus plant for my stick insects, are you still able to get deliveries to houses? I'm near Bath.
"No contact delivery practice" means the delivery driver knocks on your door, stands back at least 2 metres and takes a photo as proof that the parcel has been delivered. At the moment the UK government is supporting logistics and so the courier networks are still delivering all products to homes across the UK. The budget courier firms are experiencing delays but the firm we use is actually delivering earlier than usual, with some of our parcels being delivered as early at 7.30am! When your goods are dispatched we email you the delivery tracking details and so you can see what time your parcels will be delivered (there is a two hour delivery window). And if you may be nipping out, we can ask the driver to leave your parcels in the garden or porch or other safe place.

I had a stick insect and then she had babies, which are clones of her, but they are very strange colours. Two of my baby stick insects are twins and one of them is really dark brown and the other is white (I think she might be an albino stick insect). Why are they so different if they are clones of Twiggy?
Cloning is not the same as parthenogenesis. Some stick insects reproduce by parthenogenesis which means they lay eggs without mating. But the resultant offspring show natural variations in size, colour and behaviour. One insect hatches from one egg and so twins do not occur. So it is entirely normal for a female stick insect to lay eggs parthenogenetically and for the offspring (called nymphs) to show colour variations, which is what Twiggy's nymphs are like. Stick insects are often pale when they have just completed a skin-change, but soon darken in colour as their new exoskeleton hardens.

Yesterday I released the Vapourers I got from you the other week! How come they have been so superfast with their lifecycle? It was lovely to see them flying off in the sunshine, it actually made me quite emotional (and I'm 58!).
Yes, it is very strange at the moment, we have British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) growing normally, others becoming huge, others pupating early and some becoming adults already - and all of these scenarios are from eggs that have hatched at the same time! Our adults are now mating and laying eggs, so it will be interesting to see if the next generation behave in such a strange manner. I am pleased you enjoyed the experience, and you are not alone in feeling emotional, many customers have said they felt this way too.

Just wondering if my Pink Winged girls would like eucalyptus because they have never eaten it before? And if I ordered a plant today, how soon would I receive it (with all this craziness that is going on right now). I am in Basingstoke.
The fact that your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) have not eaten eucalyptus leaves before is not a problem, these stick insects should still be able to eat eucalyptus leaves. We start all our Pink Winged stick insects off on a diet of bramble/blackberry leaves and have found no problems when presenting nymphs or adults with eucalyptus to eat for the first time. Our large potted eucalyptus plants are delivered by next day courier and this service is still working well across the UK at the moment, so you would receive your plant next week. We let you know the delivery day in advance and are happy to let the driver know where to leave your parcel, for example by your door, in your garden, in the open garage etc. Please remember to include this delivery instruction when you order (but don't worry if you forget because we shall remind you before dispatching the plant).

Today, my first Indian stick insect hatched from an egg laid on 10th November 2019. I was expecting it to hatch on 10th March 2020, can you offer any explanation as to why it is late?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) eggs usually hatch after four months, but this incubation time is dependent on temperature. So, if your room has been a bit cold for a spell, then the incubation time can be slightly longer. This is the most likely explanation. Our Indian stick insect eggs are stored at a daytime temperature of 18 degrees Celsius and a night-time temperature of 12 degrees Celsius, and they hatch after four months.

Thank you so much for keeping going in these difficult times. My daughter is so happy with the stick insects and cage she received from you. They are the Pink Winged ones. We are now looking out for bramble bushes on our daily walks, but there seems to be a lot with the new growth, which I know we need to avoid. How long will it be before the leaves are safe for the stick insects to eat?
At this time of year (Spring) the old green bramble leaves are harder to find because they are dying off because the new soft green leaves are being produced. These very small pale green soft bramble leaves should not be given to your stick insects because they can contain toxins. So, only choose stems which have some older dark green leaves on, and snip off the young shoots before putting the stems in the Sprig Pot of water. In a few weeks time, the new growth will be larger, and when each part of the bramble leaf is 3cm, it is safe for the stick insects to eat. Most bramble leaves are made up of three smaller leaves, and so each of those needs to at least 3cm long down the middle (the longest part).

I imagine the insect event at Cambridge has been cancelled? I know on-line shopping is allowed, so can I still buy from you? I need another ELC cage for my expanding stick insect collection!
Yes, sadly the Cambridge nature event has been cancelled for this year due to COVID-19, but should be back in April 2021. Small-Life Supplies is following government advice and so we are still sending out our ELC cages and other products to customers across the UK.

What is going on with the privet? Lately I have put it in water but it crisps up within days! My stick insects can't eat that, so I gather more. Nothing has changed otherwise, is it just the time of year? The leaves look good and they have buds on. Any tips?
Yes, it is the time of year that is responsible. Cut privet with lots of buds on does not last well in water. So you need to look at the hedge more carefully and try and snip the bits with hardly any new buds on. These stems last much longer in water. In a few weeks time, the problem will disappear because the new buds will have grown and the privet leaves will last much longer in cold water.

I want to get a Violin praying mantis and have been doing my research. You probably already know that this unique species of mantis needs a lot of heat and a well ventilated cage with a mesh lid. Looking at the range of cages that Small-Life Supplies supply, would the ELC cage with a mesh lid be the best option?
The problem with the Violin praying mantis is the extra heat it requires. The ELC cage is designed to be used at room temperature. So it's really important not to direct a powerful heat source at the ELC cage because this excessive heat will distort the clear plastic front panel and the clear back panel of the cage. So unfortunately the ELC cage would not be suitable. Instead, you could choose a bespoke cage made from aluminium mesh and glass because these materials would not distort with the extra heat. However, this would be a more expensive option and would take longer to manufacture.

I am having to self isolate because of corona virus. I have four Pink Winged stick insects and want to know if you are still sending out leaves for people to feed stick insects during these difficult times? If so, how long would your food last?
Yes, at the moment we are still sending out fresh cut bramble leaves and potted eucalyptus plants by next day courier. Your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are able to eat both types of leaves. Based on the appetites of four Pink Winged stick insects, the Wallet of Fresh Cut Bramble would be enough food for 7-10 days and the potted eucalyptus would be enough food for at least one month.

I am hoping you are keeping busy and are well. The prospect of lockdown is terrifying and so I am making plans. I am trying to keep calm and reassure my daughters that "life goes on" and so I thought it would help if we watched a caterpillar lifecycle over the coming weeks. How successful are we likely to be with your British Vapourer caterpillars? We have bramble at the back of the garden but I haven't noticed these caterpillars before, so I am not sure how common they are in England?
We breed British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) in large numbers and they are now at the optimum size to be sent out to customers. This species is very easy to look after, just feed them with a fresh dark green bramble leaf (avoid the new soft pale green leaves) every day or so and see them grow quickly and transform into pupae. A couple of weeks or so later you will see the adults emerge, if you have both sexes, they will mate and then the females will lay eggs for you to hatch out if you wish. Or, you can release them into your garden. British Vapourer caterpillars naturally occur across the UK and so any you release will have a good chance of surviving outside and reproducing.

I have female Macleays Spectre stick insects. I've noticed in the past few months that when I pass their cage I can often hear a scratching sound & when I look into it I can see them rubbing their tails with their hind legs, do you know why this is? It looks very strange and I'm hoping that this something natural they do.
This behaviour is seen amongst various species of stick insect. It indicates that the stick insects want to mate. So hopefully you can source some adult male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) soon.

I have Extatosoma tiaratum set up in a large mesh enclosure. I am using kitchen roll but it dries out very quickly. I know they are not a humid species but also need about 60% for safe moulting. (My house is 40-50%). I would like to set up a bioactive tray at the bottom to keep this humidity without spraying the enclosure very often. Does this sound viable?
The bioactive tray idea is flawed and not a route I would recommend. Creatures that live in soil and leaf litter require high humidity environments and one problem with trying to recreate this in captivity is that you are likely to get mould which is a problem for your stick insects' health as well as your own! Also, the species you have, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) is noted for its need for airy surroundings, in other words the complete opposite of high humidity, so trying to merge the two systems in one cage is not wise. Your assertion about needing 60% RH for safe moulting is false. However, you have been correctly advised about the large mesh enclosure, this is good for this species. You could make an immediate improvement by replacing the kitchen roll with sheets of flat paper (because kitchen roll is known to absorb far more moisture than paper). But the floor covering should not be wet, it should be dry.

With the current situation is the delivery service still available? I am after a TTQ cage for my son's mantid.
Yes, our insect cages are still being dispatched across the UK on a next-day courier delivery service. A mantid (praying mantis) eats live insects and small worms, so when choosing the TTQ cage, please select the version with the small opening flap on the lid. This is very handy because you can just lift this small flap on the lid and drop in the livefood for the mantid to eat.

I'm from across the ditch in Australia & I have 3 Extatosoma tiaratum which I have had for over a year now. All 3 of my female Extatosoma have laid eggs, which I've had in a container with airflow holes & a piece of paper towel which I misted every couple of days but I feel they have just dried out and are never going to hatch. Could you please let me know what type of setup would be best for the eggs?
You don't mention having adult males? The incubation time of six months is for eggs produced by females that have mated with males. If there are no males, the females can still lay eggs by parthenogenesis, but the incubation time is usually longer (8-12 months). Here at Small-Life Supplies we have tried different techniques for hatching Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) eggs. We find that the best method is to keep them in a clear container without airflow holes, so we use HUA Pots. During the months of incubation, we shake the eggs from time to time because this movement leads to an increased hatching rate. We only very lightly mist the eggs with water very occasionally (once a month or so). But when hatching is due, we increase the misting rate to once a day. For best results feed baby Australian stick insects with eucalyptus leaves.

Is there any way you could have the ELC bundle and Pink Winged stick insects and eucalyptus plant delivered to my home? I am a primary school teacher and am worried about school being closed because of the corona virus.
Yes, this last week we have been arranging for school and university deliveries to be delivered to home addresses for customers who have requested this. So, yes, your order can be delivered to your home. And if your school is still open and you are at work when the parcels are delivered, don't worry because the parcels can be left in your "safe place". Just let us know, when you place your order, where you'd like the driver to leave your parcels if no one is at home to receive them.

I have a question about my new caterpillars. I started to change their bramble leaves today only to find that several of them have started to pupate. They haven't been through any skin changes yet and haven't really grown much. Is this normal? I have been keeping them in Q-boxes (3 in each) and changing the leaves everyday and making sure the leaves are dry.
I think you need to check the bramble leaves. The British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antiqua) prefer the thick bramble leaves (from the bushes with the two-tone green and purple stems) rather than the thin bramble leaves that are also found at this time of year. And always use the dark green leaves and not the light green soft new leaves. Our Vapourer caterpillars are still in the caterpillar stage, and so it looks like some of yours have panicked and entered the pupa phase early. Sometimes the food is the cause, another possibility is not enough natural light. So check that your QBOXES are in a room where there is natural daylight during the day and darkness at night. But don't position them in direct sunshine because this can cause them to steam up inside and make the caterpillars ill. The ones that have pupated early can usually still emerge as adults OK, although they are usually smaller.

I have a job interview with a butterfly house and am really scared! I have kept Indian and Pink Winged stick insects for years, but that's it. Do I lie and say I've kept other things like praying mantises too? I'm afraid I won't have enough experience to get the job, although it sounds like a dream job looking after lots of insects. Please help.
Never lie at a job interview, speaking as someone who has interviewed lots of people, it's usually obvious and there is no place in a small team for an untrustworthy employee. So, speak with enthusiasm about the stick insects you have, show some photos of your set-ups, explaining what you know about their welfare needs (tall cage, well ventilated, weekly bramble feed). An ability to work fast is essential for employees in small businesses, so if you can think of any examples of past work or activities that can support this, be sure to mention this. Also, check that your appearance is clean and smart, don't wear perfume/aftershave, be on time, and don't take your Mum along! Interviewers make allowances for some nerves, so don't worry about that. Another good tip is to do a bit of research about the firm first, and make sure you tell the interviewer that you know they have been in business since x and they have x number of visitors. This is important because it shows you have a general interest in working there, rather than it being "just a job". Good luck!

Can you get COVID-19 from a mosquito?
No. COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets (so via people sneezing and coughing). A secondary spread is by people touching a contaminated surface and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

I am looking for stick insects near me but it's proving difficult. The stick insects are for my daughter's birthday next week, am I too late to order from Small-Life Supplies? I want some easy ones, so am thinking Indian stick insects would be the best?
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are the best type of stick insect to start with. Our Indian stick insects are really strong and healthy and we are sending out young nymphs at the moment so your daughter can enjoy watching them grow over the next few months. Fortunately the weather forecast is for mild nights next week (week beginning 9th March 2020) so we shall be sending out live stick insects again. (We can only send them out when it is warm enough at night for them to travel safely). So please place your order as soon as possible, either by phoning Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 (with debit/credit/AMEX card details), or by emailing ange@small-life.co.uk (if you prefer to pay by PayPal).

The Indian stick insect eggs that we saved from Penelope (sadly no longer with us) have started to hatch. So far we have four in the QBOX. Three of them have no egg attached. But one has the egg still attached to her back right leg. Will this be a problem? What should I do?
Don't do anything. The stick insect with the eggshell attached will manage OK carrying about this empty eggshell on her leg. This will only be for a few weeks because when she is approx three weeks old she will complete her first skin-change (ecdysis) and the eggshell will come off together with the rest of her outer skin (exoskeleton). Please don't try and pull the eggshell off her leg because there is a high risk of deforming her leg, or making her panic causing her to throw off her leg completely (she would then only have five legs).

I'm not having much luck with my Macleays Spectre stick insect babies. The eggs hatch, the little ones eat the bramble and then they start to pass after about two weeks. Any tips? I've hatched out Indian stick insects successfully (in QBOXES) so don't know what I'm doing wrong? I've got loads more Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs so please help!
When Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs hatch, it's best to keep them in the QBOX and give them a wet bramble leaf to eat. This method works well with many other species of stick insect. However, the technique for rearing Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) is different. Newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are very active and so need more space to run around. We keep ours in the HUA Pots, which are much larger than QBOXES. There are lots of different types of bramble, some types are suitable for many species of stick insect but not to the baby Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. So even though they eat the bramble, they die a week or two later, which is what you are experiencing. So, it's much safer to feed this species on eucalyptus leaves. You can gather eucalyptus leaves from established eucalyptus trees growing outside, or buy the leaves (or potted plants) from Small-Life Supplies. For best results, do not spray the eucalyptus leaves. After a few weeks, you can transfer the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects from the HUA Pot into the TTQ cage, and then when they are larger still, they can be transferred into the ELC cage. These are large stick insects, so only keep a maximum of three pairs in the ELC cage.

What is the best substrate for a stick insect enclosure? I have New Guinea stick insect adults but have read conflicting advice; silica, coir, peat, vermiculite, shredded paper, crumpled paper? I haven't got the ELC cage, mine are in a large tank.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are large chunky stick insects with large claws and sticky pads on their feet. The best floor covering (substrate) is paper, not shredded or crumpled, but flat. Some people use newspaper cut to size, other people use sheets of office copier paper. If you get the ELC cage, you can purchase pre-cut ELC cage Liners, in green, blue or pink. One reason why a flat paper Liner is so important is that the stick insects can easily walk across it. (Their foot sticky pads care easily clogged with the granules found in sand, peat etc.) And a paper floor covering makes it easy to keep the cage clean and easy to sort the eggs. New Guinea stick insects use their claws to climb rough surfaces and that is one reason why the ELC cage is so much better than a tank, because it enables the stick insects to climb the walls of the cage easily (by hooking their claws around the sturdy mesh sides). So, you'll need to fix some vertical climbing surfaces within your tank, because adult New Guinea stick insects struggle to get a grip on a smooth glass or plastic wall. Also, remember to put a ramekin dish of cold tap water on the floor on the cage (so the stick insects can drink), also some Community Tubes (these are cardboard tubes in which the stick insects like to hide), and a ramekin dish filled to the brim with dry sand (for the females to bury their eggs).

Can you give me an example of two phasmids which belong to the same genus?
Yes, the New Guinea stick insect which is of the genus Eurycantha and the species is Eurycantha calcarata. And a smaller, less spiny, New Guinea stick insect species which is of the genus Eurycantha and has the species name Eurycantha insularis (also called Eurycantha coriacea). If you look at these stick insects you will see they have broadly similar physical characteristics which is why they are both assigned to the same genus.

How often should I spray my stick insects? And how much water should I use?
Never spray the actual stick insects because they don't like getting wet! But do lightly mist the bramble leaves with water, ideally once a day (but it doesn't matter if you miss a few days), so the stick insects can drink water from the droplets on the leaves. If you have Australian stick insects that are eating eucalyptus leaves, do not spray the eucalyptus leaves with water at all. Some stick insects, such as the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) and the Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) need to drink a lot of water, and so for these stick insects provide a shallow dish of cold tap water for them to drink. Never spray randomly in the stick insect cage, so when using the Mister Curvy (or similar water sprayer), always direct the water at the leaves. You will know if you are over-doing the spraying because the ELC Liner will get too wet and start to curl up.

How big will your eucalyptus grow? I need to know how much space it is going to need - and is one enough?
The eucalyptus plants we are sending out at the moment have the potential to grow into large trees (as high as a house). They are attractive trees, evergreen and fragrant and their fruits and flowers are enjoyed by birds and bees. However, if space is limited in your garden, you have the option to reduce the height by lopping off the top of the central trunk, and this will encourage the plant to grow outwards rather than upwards. It is important to feed your eucalyptus plants and the droppings/frass (from the stick insects) make excellent fertiliser if you scatter them on the soil and then water. Most people choose to get at least two plants, so they can alternate the harvesting of the leaves between the eucalyptus plants.

Lifecycles of insects is my next science topic at school. Can you supply any insects with a fast lifecycle?
Yes, our British Vapourer caterpillar kits are being dispatched to customers across the UK next week. This species has a fast lifecycle and so you can observe complete metamorphosis of the caterpillar to pupa to adult within weeks! These caterpillars eat bramble/blackberry leaves and so are easy to feed, and we supply the whole kit to you, including the QBOX housing, at low cost.

Thank you so much for being a reputable source of information. There is so much tripe on forums, often the sound advice is drowned out by rubbish "advice"! Anyway, my question is about the cute Malaysians I purchased from you. They are still in their TTQ cage and seem happy enough, one shed its skin yesterday but doesn't seem that much larger. Is this normal? I think you said you were holding some back the same age and so please can you let me know if you have upgraded yours to the ELC cage yet, or are yours still in the TTQ cage?
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are very slow growing, particularly in the winter months we have noticed. So yes, our Malaysian stick insects are still housed in the TTQ cage. Don't be concerned about the lack of dramatic growth following a skin change, this is probably due to the gloomy weather we have been having and also of course the bramble is never at its best quality at this time of year (just before the new growth begins). Thank you for your compliments, forums enable people to share experiences but it is frustrating when bad advice is posted, particularly on livestock forums where the consequences can be fatal.

How long do stick insects live for?
Most stick insects live for about one year, but some species live slightly less, other species longer. So, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) usually live just under one year , whereas the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) live for 14 months, and the New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) can live up to three years.

Sauntered into "Pets at Home" looking for a pet for my animal-mad grand daughter who will be thirteen next month. Was astounded that bunny rabbits are 45 pound each, with a recommendation that two be kept. The bearded dragon lizards were cheaper but downside seems to be the pricey kit and the ongoing cost of buying the live locusts as food. So then I had the brainwave... stick insects! But, alas, none in store, perhaps not expensive enough? So that leads me to you, can you do me the whole caboodle with ELC cage and stick insects for south of 100 pounds?
Years ago, Small-Life Supplies used to supply pet shop chains with stick insects and cages to sell on. But we decided to stop, mainly because of concerns about stick insect welfare (unfortunately some pet shops have a high turnover of staff and the animal husbandry knowledge sometimes wasn't being passed on). So yes, you can purchase the correct stick insect kit (called the ELC bundle) from Small-Life Supplies, and a small group of stick insects, all delivered to you quickly and including a colour care sheet, for a total amount of £84.94. If you need help in deciding which stick insects to choose for your granddaughter, please phone Small-Life Supplies, between 9am and 6pm weekdays on 01733 203358 and we'll explain the advantages of the different species.

What are the stick insect enclosure requirements?
Many stick insects like a tall cage, approx 51cm high, with two mesh sides providing a through draught of air flow. Stick insects have claws on their feet and need to hook them around a rough surface so they can climb. So having mesh sides is very important, as are the size of the holes. If the holes are too small, the stick insects can get their claws stuck and they can actually break off (this is serious because the claws do not grow back). The ELC cage is ideal for many species of stick insect, this cage has two mesh sides, a lift off lid, a side that slides upwards so you can easily reach into the cage, and large crystal clear viewing panels so you can easily view your stick insects. The ELC cage is 51cm high and we use lots of ELC cages here at Small-Life Supplies to breed various species of stick insect. The minority of exceptionally long stick insect species of stick insect that grow to lengths exceeding 20cm should be housed in a taller cage, so we house those species in the 70cm high AUC cages.

How soon could I receive a eucalyptus plant? My Macleays Spectre are being born at the mo!
Orders received on Friday are usually delivered on Tuesday. So, to purchase a large potted eucalyptus plant urgently, please phone 01733 203358 with your credit/debit/AMEX card details. These plants are large and bushy and go out in boxes that are over 1metre tall. Our eucalyptus plants are grown without pesticides and so are safe for the stick insects to eat. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best on eucalyptus leaves, rather than bramble leaves, for the first couple of months or so of their lives. And there is growing evidence that their lifespan is extended if you continue to feed them eucalyptus leaves rather than bramble for the rest of their lives.

What are hexapods?
This is a term that is used to describe six legged creatures. In other words, insects!

Can my baby stick insects go in with the adults?
It depends on which type (species) of stick insect you have. This is because, depending on the species, some baby stick insects require less ventilated conditions whereas the adults need airy surroundings. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an example of this, so it's important to house baby Indian stick insects in a small unventilated container (such as QBOX, HUA Pot or HAP Tube), but house the larger nymphs and adults in the ELC cage (which has two ventilated sides). However, another popular species the Pink Winged (Sipyloidea sipylus) require airy surroundings throughout their lives, and so should be housed in the ventilated ELC cage from birth.

Is my stick insect dying? It is struggling to grip onto things. It doesn't want to fly anymore either, it's a Pink Wing stick insect.
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) live for about one year. When they are old adults, they look darker than the younger adults and fly less. When a Pink Winged stick insect is very old, the sticky pads on all her feet do not work as well and so the stick insect struggles to grip surfaces. So , yes, I think your stick insect is dying from old age. The kindest thing to do is to give her extra water to drink during her final weeks. This is because dying stick insects appreciate having extra cold tap water to drink.

I enjoy reading this page every week. I am a newbie to stick insects and was thrilled that one of mine shed its skin overnight. My question is about the discarded skin, it has only partially been eaten. Is that normal? The stick insect looks fine. I hope you can answer my question, I know you probably have lots of questions coming in.
Yes, lots of people send me questions, and I try to cover a range of topics. I am pleased your stick insect has shed its skin successfully (most do if kept in the correct housing). Don't be concerned that it hasn't eaten all of its shed skin, the stick insect may not have been that hungry, or may have been disturbed part way through eating its cast off skin. The stick insect needs to consume its shed skin whilst the skin is soft and wet and so it needs to be eaten immediately after the skin-change (ecdysis) has been completed.

I gave my stick insects a bunch of roses as a treat but now their co-ordination is off. I did wash the leaves first to remove pesticides that may have been sprayed on, so don't understand what's going on? How can I help them recover? I will be gutted if they die.
Unfortunately your stick insects have been poisoned by pesticides contained within the rose leaves. Commercially grown plants are often cultivated in soils that are treated with insecticides. These chemicals are taken up by the plant roots and distributed within the plant to the veins in its leaves. So no amount of washing the outside of the leaves is going to remove the poisons that are within the leaves. Stick insects that eat contaminated leaves will die, it's awful to watch because their central nervous system is attacked and that is why the stick insects lose co-ordination of their legs. To avoid this happening with any new stick insects you obtain, please only feed them with blackberry leaves that you have gathered from a safe wild area (such as woods, canal embankments, disused railway lines etc). Or, if you have a species of stick insect that eats eucalyptus leaves, you can buy safe potted eucalyptus plants from Small-Life Supplies (grown specially without the use of pesticides, so they are safe for the stick insects to eat).

I googled pet shops that sell stick insects near me and none came up. So I thought I'd get some from Small-Life Supplies. Do you guarantee they will arrive alive?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies guarantee live arrival of stick insects. We have decades of experience of packaging livestock correctly and so you can be confident that your stick insects will be safe in transit. At this time of year we monitor the overnight temperature forecast because we can only dispatch stick insects during mild nights when it is warm enough for them to travel (so we do not send out stick insects in freezing conditions).

How much space do stick insects need?
The stick insect cage should be 51cm or 20 inches high, this is to provide the height stick insects need to moult successfully (they slide downwards from their old skins when they grow). It is really important to provide ventilation on the sides of the cage, so a cage with two mesh walls opposite each other is ideal. The ELC cage is a successful purpose-designed stick insect cage, manufactured in the UK, and being used successfully by stick insect keepers across the UK and Europe.

Can stick insects eat lettuce?
No, this is not recommended. Lettuce does not contain the correct nutrients that stick insects need to thrive. In the UK people who have given their stick insects lettuce to eat report their stick insects become waterlogged and die. Flat lettuce, little gem lettuce and romaine lettuce have all been tried. Most stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves and some species eat eucalyptus leaves. Privet leaves are eaten by the Black Beauty Peruvian stick insect (Peruphasma schultei). Years ago the popular Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) ate privet leaves, but many strains of Indian stick insects, incuding those reared at Small-Life Supplies, no longer eat privet leaves and must be fed on bramble/blackberry leaves.

I am on your waiting list for two eucalyptus plants. Will the delivery be £9.95 or twice that? I know they are large plants! Also, please tell me what species of eucalyptus they are?
Our large potted eucalyptus plants shall be sent out in bespoke strong boxes that are over 1 metre high. They will be very well packaged and dispatched on a next-day courier service. You can get up to three plants delivered for £9.95 delivery, so the delivery price for two plants would still be £9.95. We start sending them out week beginning 17th February 2020. Two species are available; Eucalyptus gunnii and Eucalyptus urnigera. Both are suitable to feed Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) and Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea). Both have been grown without the use of pesticides and so are safe for the stick insects to eat. Both are easy to grow outdoors, the Eucalyptus urnigera is marginally hardier.

Where can I buy stick insects online in the UK?
Small-Life Supplies breed and supply stick insects to customers in the UK. We specialise in breeding the easy-to-keep varieties that are robust enough to be handled regularly. The stick insects that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply are harmless, we do not condone the selling of dangerous species which can harm people and pets. An example of a dangerous species is the Florida stick insect (also called Devil Rider), Anisomorpha buprestoides, which can spray a white liquid that can cause temporary blindness in people and pet dogs etc if the chemical spray lands on an eyeball.

I am a regular customer, though to date just for privet for my wonderful Black Beauties. These Pink Winged guys caught my eye. How much bramble and eucalyptus would these four guys eat a week? Are they OK to be housed together like my Beauties? If not, how would you recommend I house them?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) don't have large appetites and so one wallet of Fresh Cut Bramble (three stems) should be enough food to last four stick insects for 10-14 days. Our insect breeding facility is set at 18 degrees Celsius during the day, but on hot summer days, it gets hotter and the stick insects do eat more if the temperature rises. Long term it would be more economical to plant eucalyptus in your garden, our very large bushy plants shall be ready to send out in just over one week's time. Eucalyptus grows quickly, particularly during the summer months. Pink Winged stick insects do best in an airy cage, the ELC cage is ideal because it has two mesh sides that facilitate a through-draught of air. The mesh version of the ELC lid is perfect for Pink Winged stick insects because it lets even more air into the cage and provides extra areas for them to glue their eggs. The four Pink Winged stick insects will live happily together in the same ELC cage. But I wouldn't advise mixing them with your Black Beauty Peruvian stick insects (Peruphasma schultei) because those stick insects eat privet leaves and can emit a spray that can irritate the Pink winged stick insects.

On another website it says that Eri silkmoth caterpillars will accept rhododendron, laurel and Acuba in addition to privet. Would you agree with this assertion? I was visiting the website because I had an idea about raising some native caterpillars to release the adult butterflies and moths, sort of a mini conservation project! What are your thoughts about such an endeavor? Will it just be too small of an impact? If you feel it is a good idea, any tips on species that would be best to raise in coastal Dorset?
Here at Small-Life Supplies we have a really strong strain of Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) that we have only ever given privet leaves. When rearing caterpillars, if the foodplant is working well and the strain is not weakening, the best advice is to stick with the foodplant, so we are continuing to exclusively use privet. Several years ago we reared large numbers of British Emperor Moths (Saturnia pavonia) successfully on hawthorn, but then that strain weakened and the next generation refused hawthorn and would only eat bramble/blackberry leaves, producing the largest caterpillars of that species we have ever seen! Releasing small numbers of butterflies and moths is an excellent idea, one that we encourage. A good tip is to only release a few individuals, preferably less than six, in one area and to release them about 5pm. Small-Life Supplies breed various species of British butterflies and moths, the success of the different species fluctuates from year to year, depending on the light intensity etc. So we recommend people go on our "British caterpillar waiting-lists" to be notified as soon as we have any caterpillars available. Our British Vapourer caterpillars (Orgyia antigua) are just starting to hatch and so these should be ready to send out in a few weeks time. They are very colourful caterpillars that eat bramble leaves. They can be released in your garden to start or boost the population.

My Giant African Land Snail looks ill. I am giving it cucumber and cuttlefish but it's shell is looking dry and ridged. It isn't active anymore. The heat mat is underneath the tank with 2cm of soil on top.
An infra red heat mat underneath the tank is ineffective because the heat is absorbed by the tank and soil substrate. So the heat mat should be positioned inside the tank, on one of the sides. It's best to replace the cuttlefish with rinsed out hen eggshells (broken in half) because these have a much lower salt content and are far better for your snail. Your snail needs visual stimulation, so place it in a busy area with lots going on, so it has plenty to see. Ideally get another snail because it will be lonely by itself. And Giant African Land Snails need a varied diet, so you need to put carrot and potato peelings in there, also courgette and slices of marrow. And a Water Dish full of clean cold tap water because snails need to drink water.

I am looking for a stick insect enclosure. I have Sabah stick insects, species Aretaon asperrimus. Would the ELC be OK for these stick insects?
Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) are unusual in that they need higher humidity than many other stick insect species. So, if you are using the ELC cage to house Sabah stick insects, be sure to use the Ventilation Control Panels as well. These are clear cellophane panels which attach to the outside of the mesh to reduce the air-flow, yet still provide the walls with footholds for the stick insects to climb easily.

What size are your stick insects when you send them out? Are they tiny? And do you use a special courier?
If you buy adult stick insects they are at least 10cm long, depending on the species. If you purchase "nymphs", these are juvenile stick insects which are a few months old and so are usually at least 8cm long. So the stick insects you buy from Small-Life Supplies are a good size when you receive them. Small-Life Supplies has been sending out stick insects for decades and so know the best way to package them for safe transit. Live arrival is guaranteed and a next-day express delivery service is automatically used. We monitor the night time weather forecast daily because we can only send out stick insects during mild nights (when it is warm enough for them to travel safely).

The Malaysian stick insects I bought from Small-Life Supplies in December are doing good and have recently moulted. They are still beige and the longest one measures 9cm in total. I am housing them in the TTQ cage as you advised, please can you tell me if you think they are ready to be upgraded to the ELC cage , or should I wait a few more weeks?
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are more sensitive to their surroundings than other species, and require the cage ventilation to be increased gradually. So it's important to house them in the HUA Pot and then the TTQ for the first few months of their lives. With a total length (including antennae) of 9cm, Malaysian stick insects should still be housed in the TTQ cage. So you need to keep yours in the TTQ cage for a while longer and wait for them to complete their next skin-change. At that time you will need to wait another week or so (to let them recover from the ordeal of a skin-change) and then they will be ready to go into the ELC cage. Provide lots of lush bramble in the ELC cage and place the shallow Water Dish on the cage Liner so they can have drink of water when they want to.

Four of my stick insects died last week and I don't know why. I bought ten a couple of months ago off someone else (sorry!) and they started off very well, being lively and rushing out of the tank. But they have deteriorated since then and I don't know why? The food is nice, it's eucalyptus from my sister's garden and she doesn't use any sprays. I have a very tall tank for them, 90cm, with glass sides and I spray inside daily. The stick insects are the Macleays Spectre type, and they are about the length of my thumb, so not old.
One very important fact about Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) is that they like dry, airy surroundings. So the correct ventilation is far more important than the overall size of the cage. The issue with your tank is that it is not ventilated enough. It has solid glass sides and these do not let air flow within the cage. So it is no surprise that your stick insects have not thrived in this environment. And unfortunately you have made things worse by misting inside the cage, thereby increasing the humidity even more. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are unusual because they do not need to drink water (unlike many other stick insects species which do need to drink extra water) and so a great tip for successful keeping of this species is not to spray the eucalyptus leaves at all with water. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we house small numbers (up to six) of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in the ELC cage (with the mesh ELC lid ). The ELC cage has two mesh sides that allows a through-draught of air. Larger quantities of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are housed in the AUC cage which has four heavy duty netting sides that allow plenty of air-flow.

Any news of the eucalyptus yet? My Macleays Spectre eggs are due to hatch soon so I need to be prepared!
Yes, our potted eucalyptus plants are looking really good and will be ready to send out within weeks. We shall notify everyone on the waiting-list first and then list the plants on the website. These plants are supplied specially for stick insects to eat. So they are grown without the use of pesticides, making them safe for stick insects to eat. Eucalyptus leaves are particularly enjoyed by Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), and Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea).

Our Indian stick insects have made yellow/brown stains on our netting enclosure. Their poo is black and so what's causing these stains? And how do I get them off? I'm hoping to get our stick insects a better home, so will get the ELC cage soon.
When alarmed, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can release a dark yellow liquid from their mouths. The nymphs and adults can do this. This is what is staining the sides of your enclosure. Indian stick insects do very well in the ELC cage, this has solid mesh sides and solid clear PVC sides, which can be easily scrubbed clean with the Cleaning Sponge (included as the part of the ELC bundle) and "Parozone bleach plus stain remover" (sold in hardware shops in silver bottles with pink tops). Be sure to rinse well with lukewarm or cold water and dry with a soft tea towel before putting the stick insects back into the cage.

I've kept stick insects since I was 15 and I would love to grow my collection. I have just purchased your book and am tempted by the New Guinea stick insects. But I saw on another site someone warning how aggressive they are? Should I be worried?
Like all animals, the cause of stick insect behaviour is part genetic and part environmental. So if you are keeping stick insects in bad conditions or maltreating them, then obviously the stick insects will be very stressed and be aggressive. This is most obvious in a species that has spines on its legs, like the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), and such an unhappy stick insect can lash out. However, if you are keeping New Guinea stick insects properly (in an ELC cage) and looking after them well (providing fresh bramble leaves and a dish of clean drinking water), there shouldn't be any problems. However, it's also important to purchase your stick insects from a reputable breeder who has been treating them well, so they don't arrive with any behavioural issues. Of course, here at Small-Life Supplies, we treat our stick insects very well and handle them frequently, so they have good temperaments. Many of our customers remark how pleased they are with the New Guinea stick insects and how rewarding these long-lived stick insects are as pets.

I have eight baby Indian stick insects, all happy in a QBOX. I have to go away for five days and am stressing out about my babies! I can't take them with me and don't really want to hand them over to someone else to look after in case they mess it up! Is there enough air in the QBOX to last eight insects for five days? I have left them for two days before and they have been fine, so perhaps I am worrying unnecessarily? My flat heating is on an automatic timer and so there's no worries there.
They'll be fine! There is plenty of air in the QBOX, so you could leave it unopened for a week and your baby Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) would still be OK. A wet bramble leaf will stay fresh for up to one week in a QBOX and so your stick insects can continue to enjoy eating nutritious bramble whilst you are away for five days.

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