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STEP 1… Send your questions about stick insects, caterpillars and other insects to
prof@small-life.co.uk
STEP 2… Check back every Friday to see if your question has been answered. Prof Phasmid is qualified to answer insect questions but due to high numbers of questions cannot answer them all!

 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).

  I got talking to the owner of a small local nursery school and she has agreed to try keeping some stick insects in school. I told her that your cages were by far the best around. The issue is that she can only spare £50 at the moment. I have plenty of spare Indian stick insects that I'm willing to give to her, but I wondered if there's any way I can get an ELC cage from you guys for £50 delivered?
Well done for encouraging this school to start keeping stick insects. Many nursery schools are already successfully keep stick insects, they are very low-maintenance pets, requiring a weekly change of bramble/blackberry leaves and a fresh Liner. The cheapest ELC cages are the used ones, still in very good condition because we have only used them for a few months in our breeding facility. These used ELC cages usually sell really quickly and we have just two used ones in stock at the moment. So please call 01733 203358 if you'd like to purchase one, this will be great for housing your spare Indian stick insects and is within this school's budget.

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.

Regarding taxonomy, I am pleased that you stick (excuse the pun!) with "Phasmida". I feel people who try to change names for the sake of it rather tiresome, I agree with Wikipedia when it says "Phasmida is the oldest and simplest name, first used by Leach in 1815 in ‘Brewster’s Edinburgh Encyclopaedia’ volume 9, p.119, and widely used in major entomological textbooks, dictionaries and many scientific papers and books on phasmids. As there is no compulsion to select the ‘grammatically correct’ name [which some argue is Phasmatodea Jacobson & Bianchi, 1902], selection of a long established (and simple) name is reasonable, although the probability of persuading all colleagues to agree on the use of Phasmida is unlikely."
Yes, rather like accountants who keep changing financial terminology, seemingly just for the sake of it, there are some researchers who want to keep changing species names of insects, or, in this case the "order" to which stick insects are classified. So I support the view that stick insects belong to the order Phasmida and another word for stick insects is "phasmids". And really, in 2020, to still be going on about implementing a change proposed in 1902 seems tiresome in the extreme!

I'll be fourteen on February 6th and really really want the Pink Winged stick insects. My Dad says Indian stick insects would be better. How can I persuade him to change his mind?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are easy to look after and eat bramble leaves (also eucalyptus leaves) and do well in an airy cage such as the ELC cage. When they are fully grown (adults), Pink Winged stick insects glue their eggs onto rough surfaces. They like to push their abdomens through the holes in the ELC cage and glue eggs onto the outside. So that's why you tape Hatching Mat onto the outside of the mesh wall and the Pink Winged stick insects will glue their eggs onto the Hatching Mat! The adults like to fly outside the cage and so you can take them out and wait for them to take a short flight across the room. They usually land on a wall or a window. They fly quite slowly (so are nothing like a budgerigar flapping about) and are very easy to pick up again and place back in the cage. If your Dad is concerned about them flying fast and being difficult to catch again, you can dispel these concerns. Pink Winged stick insects are easy to handle and a sensible teenager should have no problems at all with handling them. The best cage for Pink Winged stick insects is the ELC cage which has two mesh sides providing the ventilation they need and the height (51cm) they need to grow properly. Small-Life Supplies supply Pink Winged stick insects as nymphs so you can see them grow and look forward to seeing them get their wings when they are adults (in a few months time).

Just wanted to check if "bramble" is the same plant as the large blackberry bushes that grow by the allotments? I pick bowls of the large purple blackberries in the late summer and make apple and blackberry crumble!
Yes, it's the same plant. There are lots of types of bramble, some die off in the winter but others keep their green leaves. The type of bramble/blackberry bush you describe is great for providing bramble leaves for stick insects to eat and the blackberry fruits make delicious puddings as you already know!

Is there such a thing as too much ventilation in a cage? I've seen some mesh enclosures going cheap, but not sure if one would suit my New Guinea stick insects?
Unfortunately there is such a thing as too much ventilation in a cage. So whilst all mesh enclosures can be tolerated by a few species of stick insect (for example the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect, Extatosoma tiaratum), they are far too airy for many other species. So your New Guinea stick insects would be at risk in such an airy environment. However, the ELC cage is a purpose designed stick insect cage, with two mesh sides. So that cage is ideal for your New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). Also, the ELC cage has a clear front and back and roof so it is easy to see the stick insects inside the cage. Another big problem with all mesh enclosures is that they are difficult to see into.

Are you against HS2?
Yes, primarily because to build this high speed railway involves far too much destruction of the environment. To propose destroying 108 ancient woodlands, 32 sites of special scientific interest and 693 local wildlife sites in the UK is unacceptable. With the climate crisis, air pollution and increasing numbers of people with mental health issues, the UK government needs to urgently promote nature and not destroy it. The huge budget that HS2 requires should be spent elsewhere, to help alleviate the suffering in the UK.

I got some eggs from my Indian Eri silkmoths, what is the best way to care for the eggs?
Pull the eggs off the sides of the TTQ cage and place them in a QBOX. The eggs are white. In approx ten days time the eggs will turn grey, this indicates that hatching will occur in the next day or so. When the eggs hatch place a QBOX Liner and loose green privet leaves in the QBOX. Remember to dry the privet leaves first if has been raining because these Indian Eri caterpillars (Samia ricini) become ill if they eat wet leaves.

What 6 practical steps can I do to help the climate crisis? I am fifteen and my parents set me this task!
1) If you holiday abroad with your parents, try to persuade them to book a car trip by ferry (to Holland, France or Ireland), because this avoids flying and aviation pollution is very damaging to the environment. 2) Follow Greenpeace on Facebook because this reputable environmental organisation has lots of goods practical ideas. 3) Reduce your energy consumption, so ditch the hair straighteners, turn off lights, watch less TV, fill a kettle sparingly, turn the room thermostat down etc, 4) Reduce your consumerism so buy fewer new clothes and instead mix and match outfits you have, and try out retro and vintage shops. 5) Keep reminding your parents to make some behavioural changes, for example in the supermarket always buy loose apples in a paper bag rather than ones pre-packaged in single use plastic packaging. 6) Plant trees, bushes, any native British grown plant. Most people can find somewhere to do this, even if you have very limited space you can still plant a bramble plant by the fence or wall. Green plants consume carbon dioxide (CO2) and release oxygen.

I am getting back into stick insect keeping, having lapsed for a while due to work commitments. I'm after an easy to keep type , but not Indian (as I've had those before).
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are a good choice. There are males and females, they look quite different, so it's easy to tell them apart. The adult females starts off green but becomes more brown as she ages. The adult male is dark purplish brown with yellow eyes and is very active! Thailand stick insects grow to 18cm so are much longer than Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) which typically grow to 11cm. Thailand stick insects eat bramble/blackberry leaves and do well in the ELC cage which has two mesh sides and a drop on lid.

I have some Jungle Nymph stick insect eggs hatching now. What is the best way to care for these stick insects? I already have HUA Pots.
"Jungle Nymph" stick insects are also called Malaysian stick insects, Heteropteryx dilatata. Malaysian stick insect eggs take a very long time to hatch, typically 18 months! For best results, keep the baby stick insects in the HUA Pot and give them a wet bramble leaf to eat. These stick insects are slow growing, but in a couple of months they should be large enough to transfer into a larger cage. We transfer them to the TTQ cage (with the green mesh side) and house them in this cage for a few more months before transferring them to the more airy ELC cage. Most other species of stick insects can be transferred from the HUA Pot directly to the ELC cage, but we have found that the Malaysian stick insects need to have the ventilation increased more gradually which is why you need to house them in the TTQ cage with the green mesh side as an interim measure. Malaysian stick insects are spectacular (the females are huge, wide and are a vivid lime green, and the males are brown with deep purple wings). As adults, they are active stick insects and like a lot of exercise, so it recommended to take them out of the cage every few days and let them walk across the floor or a large table.

Do you have any medium size Macleays Spectre stick insects?
Small-Life Supplies do breed the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, Latin species name Extatosoma tiaratum. But at the moment we don't have any nymphs (young stick insects) for sale. We have lots of eggs though, and so this species should be back in stock in a few months time.

Seen people talking about "inverts". Is this because introverts like insects?
No. "Inverts" is slang for "invertebrates" which is the term used for creatures without backbones. Insects don't have an internal skeleton (backbone), they have an exoskeleton instead. There are many types of people who like insects, so that includes introverted people, also extroverts and the range inbetween! Also, many people who like insects also like other creatures (cats, birds, guinea pigs, dogs etc) and trees and plants, so appreciate the natural world.

Please can you help me identify which of these trees are Eucalyptus gunnii? One has oval shaped leaves and one has round leaves but my grandad says they are both the same?
Your grandad is correct. Eucalyptus gunnii leaves are a different shape, depending on the age of the tree. Young trees have thick round leaves, but when the tree is a few years old the leaves are all oval shaped and thinner.

We have just had our first two nymphs hatch. They are still in the egg tub with the other eggs. Do we need to give them brambles in there? When do we move them in to the cage with the adults?
Congratulations! Baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) need to have a drink and so it's important to put a wet bramble leaf in there. You don't say what species you have, but assuming they are Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) you keep them in the QBOX with a QBOX Liner and wet bramble leaf (insert a fresh leaf every few days) until they are a couple of months old. At that age the stick insects will be much larger and require more ventilation and so should be transferred to the ELC cage.

Our Indian Eri silkmoths have emerged and one was starting to flutter in the cage and so I let him out and he flew to the window. He's been resting there for a few hours now. What is the best way to pick him up to put him back in the cage? I don't want to damage his wings.
Some Indian Eri silkmoths (Samia ricini) are keen to fly, but most seem to prefer to rest. You did the correct thing in letting the one that was fluttering to go for a fly in your room. It's really obvious which individuals want to fly because they start to shake inside the cage (to warm their flight muscles up) and then start to flutter, as you have observed. Here at Small-Life Supplies , we let them rest where they have landed (usually a window, or a wall ) for a few hours and then gently pick them up by their large hairy abdomens. So yes, it is best not to touch their wings because this can knock off some of the scales on their wings. You can place the silkmoth back in the TTQ cage, preferably on a dead buddleia stem (because this is easy for the moth to grip onto). Most of the Indian Eri silkmoths that like to fly are males, but a few are females. If you have a female that is resting outside the cage, it is important to move her back to the TTQ cage before she starts her egg laying session!

I got a really big net enclosure thinking it would be OK to house stick insects. But unfortunately the stick insects I put in there all died within a week! They were the Guadeloupe Lamponius guerini type. There's loads of nice bramble in my garden, so why do you think the stick insects died? Could it have been unhealthy stock? (They looked OK though, they had all six legs and seemed fine when they arrived). I don't use air-fresheners, so it can't be toxic poisoning. I'd like to know what went wrong before I get replacements.
One of the problems with the large net enclosures is that they are extremely airy, indeed far too ventilated, for many stick insects. So they should only be used to house those species of stick insect that thrive in very airy environments. Unfortunately the Guadeloupe stick insect (Lamponius guerini) prefers less ventilated conditions and so should never be housed in a big net enclosure. Even the ELC cage which has two mesh sides (which is ideal ventilation for many species of stick insects) is too ventilated for Guadeloupe stick insects. So please don't purchase more Guadeloupe stick insects. Instead, you need to find a type of stick insect that will thrive in airy surroundings. The Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) would be the best choice. Also, Thailand stick insects also have small feet claws and so can cope with the fine mesh holes found in the large net enclosures. Here at Small-Life Supplies we breed Thailand stick insects in large numbers and have nice healthy ones for sale now.

We're looking forward to receiving our Indian stick insects and ELC cage bundle from you next week. We have also ordered a Mister Curvy from you and I'd just like to check what type of water we put in it?
Mild nights are forecast for the week beginning 6th January 2020 and so Small-Life Supplies shall be dispatching stick insect kits to customers across the UK. (We can only send out living stick insects during mild nights so it is warm enough for the creatures to travel safely). The ELC cage is ideal for Indian stick insects. You shall receive a Sprig Pot (included in the ELC bundle package). Just fill the Sprig Pot with cold tap water and insert two 30cm long sprigs of bramble (with nice looking green leaves). Fill the Mister Curvy with cold tap water and lightly mist the topside of the bramble leaves in the late afternoon/early evening. This is so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the bramble leaves.

When you refer to bramble/blackberry, do you mean the same thing?
Yes. Many species of stick insect eat bramble leaves. Bramble leaves are the same as blackberry leaves. There are different types of bramble/blackberry plants, some lose a few leaves during winter months, whereas others keep most of their leaves. Some bramble/blackberry plants are ground sprawling low level bushes, whereas other types are high level plants climbing up walls. Some bramble/blackberry plants have thick leaves and large thorns on the stems, whereas other types have thin leaves and smaller thorns, and some types have no thorns at all! Fortunately, most stick insects are not fussy about which type of bramble they are offered, although during the winter, it appears that the thicker leaves with the large thorny stems are the most nutritious.

Will Indian stick insects eat privet leaves?
No, it is not a good idea to try to feed your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) exclusively on privet leaves. Whilst some strains of Indian stick insects will eat privet leaves, many other Indian stick insects (including the ones that Small-Life Supplies breed and supply) no longer eat these leaves and will starve to death unless you feed them their preferred foodplant of bramble/blackberry leaves. The "big switch" happened over ten years ago, suggesting a mutation in the stick insects. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we used to feed our Indian stick insects on privet leaves, but then they suddenly all refused to eat the privet leaves, so we switched them over to bramble/blackberry leaves. (Most other species of stick insect only eat bramble/blackberry leaves). Our Indian stick insects did much better on the bramble/blackberry leaves, noticeably becoming more lively . So we have kept feeding them with bramble/blackberry leaves ever since. From time to time we give them other leaves to eat, and our Indian stick insects will happily eat rose leaves and hazel leaves, but still reject the privet leaves. There is another species of stick insect, the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei), that still does well on privet leaves and must be fed exclusively on privet leaves. And our Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars (Samia ricini) will only eat privet leaves, so we are confident that our privet leaves are still nutritious, it is just that they are no longer palatable to our strain of Indian stick insects.

Can I put woodlice in with my stick insects as a clean up crew? Any help. Please.
No, this is not recommended because these creatures require completely different conditions. Woodlice like it cold, damp and dark, that is why you find them huddled together under stones in damp places outdoors. In contrast many species of stick insect like their surroundings to be warm, airy and light. When keeping stick insects as pets in the home, it's important to have then in a clean environment, and so that's why a disposable paper Liner on the floor of the cage works well. Using this method also enables you to sort the eggs easily and just keep a few eggs (so you don't get overrun with baby stick insects).

Our Indian stick insect eggs have started to hatch! Two so far. I have put them in a QBOX with a nice green wet bramble leaf. Do I need to do anything else? Someone else suggested cutting the leaf up into smaller pieces so that it's easier to eat?
You have done the right thing. Newly hatched Indian stick insects (called "first instar nymphs") are thirsty and so it's important to give them a wet bramble leaf so they can drink from the water droplets on the leaf. Young Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) prefer less-ventilated conditions, so the enclosed surroundings of the QBOX are ideal. When these stick insects grow larger, they need more ventilation and so should be transferred to the ventilated ELC cage. Newly hatched stick insects eat the edges of the leaves, and so provided the bramble leaf is green to the edges, there is no need to cut it up. However, if the bramble leaf has brown edges, these should be snipped off with scissors. Stick insects do best if fed nice looking leaves, so always select those leaves which look juicy and green, and avoid those that are discoloured, blotchy, dry looking, or are yellow or brown.

Wouldn't it be awesome if there was a store that carried tons and tons of insect cages? Or does this place exist and I don't know it yet?
Unfortunately the number of independent pet shops has long been declining in the UK. And the chain pet shops tend to concentrate on products with high profit margins. As a British manufacturer of insect cages, Small-Life Supplies know that proper insect cages cannot be produced in the UK at a pittance, so regretably we can not offer our range of insect cages to the big chains to sell on. However, you can view our insect cages online, and ask to go on our emailing list if you'd like to be informed as to when the next public nature/insect event is happening that Small-Life Supplies are exhibiting at. It's always nice to meet our customers in person, and at these events you have the opportunity to see our range of insect cages and decide which one you'd like.

I have two gorgeous Malaysian stick insect adult females and one male. Lately I have noticed that one of the females has a small black area where her leg joins her thorax. She can still move the leg but movement seems a bit restricted, if that makes sense? It looks a bit like rot and so I have a suspicion that I may have been overdoing the misting? They are in an ELC cage.
Yes, this "black area" can occur with Malaysians if the surroundings are too humid. So, when spraying the leaves with water, just direct the water at the leaves and not at the actual stick insects. And don't spray the sides of the cages, there should never be water streaming down the inside walls of the ELC cage. Malaysian stick insect adults do need to drink water through, so it's a good idea to take them out of the cage and let them have a good drink from a saucer of cold tap water. The adult female stick insects' abdomen will visibly swell as she drinks and then she will walk away from the water when she has had enough to drink. You can also put a shallow dish of cold tap water on the cage Liner, thus providing a constant source of drinking water for the stick insects. Unfortunately you can't reverse the damage already done, but if you do the above, the "black area" should not occur on any of the other leg joints. This affliction seems to be unique to Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata).

My daughter only wants two Indian stick insects. Would the TTQ cage be suitable for just two Indian stick insects, or does she still need to get the ELC cage?
The ELC cage is the best cage to house between 1 and 20 Indian stick insects. (Indian stick insects like company of their own kind so it's best to keep them in groups rather than just keeping one on its own). So the ELC cage is the best housing for two Indian stick insects. This is because the ELC cage is tall (51cm high) and has two mesh sides that allow a through- draught of air which is what Indian stick insects need to thrive. The TTQ cage is not tall enough (38cm high) and only has one mesh side, so there is reduced air-flow. The TTQ cage is best suited to house large caterpillars or a praying mantis.

I received a pair of Macleays's Spectres from you in April and they have been wonderful. Sadly, the male has passed away this week. I would guess he was about a year old as they were large nymphs when they arrived. The female matured a lot more slowly than the male and has only recently become an adult. They never mated so I guess if I do get any eggs from her now they will likely not hatch? Do you think it is worth trying to get another male to keep her company or would it better to let her live out the rest of her life as a "widow"?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have males and females in approximately equal numbers and so it's best to get another male for your female. Then they can mate (they do this regularly throughout their adult lives) and the resultant eggs should hatch into healthy stick insects. If no male is present, the female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect will still produce eggs, but these will be by parthenogenesis. This is effectively an "emergency back up system" for this species and the eggs that are produced in this way tend to take much longer to hatch and the resultant offspring tend to be weaker individuals than those produced from fertilised eggs. Here at Small-Life Supplies we don't have any male Macleays Spectre nymphs for sale at the moment, so you will need to source one from elsewhere. Try to get a large male nymph (these are really obvious because they have smooth bodies and prominent wing buds). A large male nymph will travel much better than an adult male (who has large wings). And don't be tempted by fancy markings and light colour forms. This is because the most healthy male Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect nymphs are a golden brown colour and so choose one that looks like that.

I just read that a male praying mantis cannot copulate with a female praying mantis while his head is still attached to his body, is this true?
No, it is false. Here at Small-Life Supplies we used to breed praying mantises (these insects are also called mantids) and the vast majority of the time they mated successfully without the male being decapitated! The trick seemed to be to ensure that the female was well fed before introducing the male to her. And then after mating to remove the male to a separate cage.

Our pet shop sells "Sunny" stick insects and "Indian" stick insects. Which would you recommend for our little girl (she's seven)? I've just ordered the ELC cage from you.
Definitely the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). These are ideal as a first stick insect pet, they are easy to handle and if your girl keeps some of their eggs she can look forward to them hatching four months later (Indian stick insect eggs are very easy to hatch). She can safely handle her Indian stick insects (they like to walk from one hand to another). And she'll enjoy seeing the special trick that an Indian stick insect can do - it can suddenly clamp all its legs alongside its body and fall into a straight stick, and then spring to life again when you gently blow on it! Hopefully the pet shop has healthy Indian stick insects (with all six of their legs), I'd recommend purchasing large nymphs or adults (fully grown ones) because these will be easier for your daughter to handle. However, if the pet shop only has stick insects that have legs missing , I'd recommend you buy the stick insects from somewhere else. Small-Life Supplies sells healthy Indian stick insects with six legs. Indian stick insects do best if given green bramble/blackberry leaves. And it's great that you've ordered the ELC stick insect cage because this is the best cage to house Indian stick insects.

I'm so glad I found your site, my first wallet of bramble has been delivered today and it's great. I'll be ordering more, but what do I do over Christmas?
Small-Life Supplies send out green bramble/blackberry leaves all year. We still have to feed our stick insects over Christmas and so continue to gather nice quality bramble. So wallets of fresh cut bramble will be dispatched week beginning 16th December. The following week, bramble can be posted on one day only, Friday 27th December. The week after, bramble can be posted on Thursday 2nd January 2020. You may like to order now and request dispatch on those dates, so you can rest assured your order will be processed and your stick insects will not go hungry!

We are hoping to get some Thorny Stick Insects for our two daughters and we are busy collecting everything ready and learning all we can beforehand. I just wanted to ask about what water you use for misting the enclosure - do you use tap, cooled water from the kettle, rainwater?
Stick insects are named after their native country and "Thorny" stick insects are usually called "Sabah" stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) or "Giant Sabah" stick insects (Trachyaretaon brueckneri). Sabah is a state in Borneo. Unfortunately Sabah stick insects are more difficult because they need high humidity and so can't be mixed with stick insects that need airy surroundings (these include the popular Indian, Pink Winged, Thailand and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects). So Small-Life Supplies no longer breed the Sabah or Giant Sabah stick insects and don't recommend them for beginners. However, if you do go ahead and purchase Sabah stick insects, you will need to increase the humidity in the cage, so if you have an ELC cage you can use the "Ventilation Control Panels" which are clear cellophane panels that attach to the outside of the white mesh. So the ventilation is reduced but the stick insects can still hook their claws around the holes in the white sides and climb. Another tip is to place two Sprig Pots of fresh bramble in the cage, instead of just one. And Sabah stick insects also need a shallow Water Dish because they drink more water than many other types of stick insects. Adult Sabah females need a Sand Pit in which to bury their eggs. You don't mist the enclosure, it is the bramble leaves that need a light misting. Cold tap water is OK to use. So fill the Mister Curvy (or equivalent plant sprayer) with cold tap water. Also use cold tap water in the Sprig Pot and in the Water Dish. But ultimately I'd recommend not getting Sabah and instead choosing an easier to keep type of stick insect (preferably Indian stick insects or Pink Winged stick insects, or even both types because they will live happily together.)

Do you ever have Jungle Nymphs for sale?
Yes, here at Small-Life Supplies we breed Malaysian stick insects (also called "Jungle Nymphs"), species name Heteropteryx dilatata. In fact they are being sent out at the moment (during mild nights) . There is always a very high demand for this species and so we are currently supplying the people on our waiting-list first, before we can list them on the website. If you'd like to be added to the Malaysian stick insect waiting list , please get in touch.

My son wants a lizard for Christmas, he's only five, so I said no. I thought a stick insect would be a better choice, what do you think?
Yes, stick insects are great pets for five year olds, providing you choose a species that is robust and moves fairly slowly. So the best types are the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus), we have adults he could handle (carefully of course). Or, if he likes lizards, then the prehistoric-looking New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) might be a better choice. These are slow moving stick insects with very wide bodies that can be stroked by young children. Small-Life Supplies sell stick insects in groups of four (because they like company of their own kind rather than being kept on their own). And the ELC cage has been designed specially for stick insects and so provides the correct ventilation and space requirements. You'll need a source of fresh bramble/blackberry leaves, so it's best to start looking now at disused railway lines, overgrown canal embankments, wooded areas etc to make sure you know where to find juicy green bramble leaves.

My question is about privet leaves. I have been foraging leaves from a hedge outside a council building for my Indian silkworms. But the council have just trimmed the hedge and the privet leaves have turned purple! I have seen yellow privet leaves before in the autumn, but not purple ones. I googled this and some people suggest it's a result of "honey fungus" and the hedge is doomed. But the leaves have been fine up until the trim so I wondered if you know what's going on? Fortunately I have now found another hedge with green leaves.
I am glad you have found another privet hedge with green leaves. It's really important to feed caterpillars (and the privet-eating stick insects) with juicy looking green privet leaves because these contain the right nutrients. The purple privet leaves and the yellow privet leaves are not nutritious and should not be collected. One common reason why green privet leaves suddenly turn a purplish/brown colour is extreme stress. So in your case, the hedge outside the council building has been subjected to a trim just after a long period of excessive rain and wind followed by plummeting overnight temperatures! It is absurd that so much gardening knowledge has been lost from so many council workers and they cut trees and hedges when the conditions are not suitable, leading to unsightly and stressed plants. These staff need better training so they appreciate the plants are alive and living, and use best practice regarding their maintenance. Unfortunately the line about purple privet leaves only being caused by "honey fungus" is an excuse used far too often. Even worse this wrong diagnosis can then be used as a justification to rip out the entire hedge (to stop the spread of the fungus)!

I need to find eucalyptus and someone said Small-Life Supplies sell pesticide-free eucalyptus plants? I can't see them on your site, I hope you have some available because I'm fast running out of eucalyptus for my Diapherodes gigantea and they won't eat anything else!
Diapherodes gigantea is the Latin species name for the Grenadan stick insect, sometimes called the "green bean" stick insect. This is a large bright green stick insect that does best on eucalyptus leaves. At the moment Small-Life Supplies is sending out wallets of fresh cut Eucalyptus gunnii leaves to customers (but stocks are limited which is why it isn't listed on the website). So please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 if you'd like to purchase fresh eucalyptus leaves. You can store it in the bottom of the fridge to help the leaves stay fresh for longer. Our potted eucalyptus plants are sold out, but we do have a waiting-list for next year's plants, so please get in touch if you'd like to be added to that waiting-list (there's no-obligation to buy).

During my biological studies we were told that the human population was predicted to crash around 2030. We discussed the possible causes (disease, war etc). But now I hear that some insect populations are already crashing, I am thinking it could be the insects that will be responsible? What do you think? I wish the scientists were in charge so the planet could be saved.
Scientists have been warning against excessive human population growth, rising global temperatures and resultant rising sea levels, over consumption, pollution, destruction of nature etc for decades, but unfortunately big business and politicians (many of whom have very little scientific knowledge) have not listened. Now, finally, the message that the world is in a climate emergency is getting across. But still the fires in the Amazon and Australia rage and our news channels in the UK still focus on local murders and road traffic accidents, completely ignoring the "bigger picture" concerning the environmental catastrophe that is happening now. And yes, insects are essential to the survival of the human race, so if they go, so do we. It is alarming and very depressing that so many people have no idea how important insects are. The basics of ecosystems and how plants and insects interact has not been taught effectively in many schools. Obviously being a biologist you will already know that insects pollinate plants and this is essential for plants to reproduce. And insects are the main food source for a lot of birds and other animals. The scientists need to be more assertive at this crucial time and urgent corrective action taken, based on biological knowledge.

We'd like stick insects for Christmas. Can they be delivered on Christmas Eve (as it's a Tuesday)?
The Christmas orders are being dispatched week beginning 9th December 2019 and the week beginning 16th December 2019. It is best to be as flexible as possible regarding the delivery date because we are reliant on the weather being mild at night for the stick insects to travel safely. So we can only dispatch stick insects during mild nights and we will have to wait till nearer the time before we have accurate weather forecasts. Small-Life Supplies are accepting stick insect orders now for delivery nearer to Christmas. It is helpful to include delivery instructions (including which neighbour or safe place to leave your parcel if you are not there when delivery is attempted) when placing your order. The cage of stick insects can be hidden in a wardrobe or spare room until Christmas Day. Unfortunately it is much too risky to attempt delivery on Christmas Eve (we cannot risk livestock being held up with the huge volumes of Christmas parcels).

I am new to keeping stick insects and so am doing my research before I purchase some. Please can you tell me how often I need to change the cage liners? I am thinking of getting four Indian stick insects (adult size) and the ELC cage bundle. Do Indian stick insects produce a lot of poo?
The ELC cage is perfect for housing four Indian stick insect adults (Carausius morosus). Indeed this cage will house up to twenty adult Indian stick insects, so it is a good idea of you save some of their eggs and wait for these to hatch out in four months time. Regardless of whether your ELC cage is housing four or twenty stick insects, it is still best to replace the ELC cage Liner once a week. Remove the Sprig Pot of food, and then carefully lift out the cage Liner. Then hold the Liner above a bowl, tilt the Liner and gently tap it underneath. The Indian stick insect eggs are round and will roll off the Liner and into the bowl. Transfer some of these eggs into a QBOX and stick a label on with the date (because this will help remind you when the eggs are due to hatch, four months later). Four Indian stick insects will not produce much frass/poo/droppings in a week, but it is important to keep the surroundings clean and so that is why a weekly change of ELC Liner is strongly recommended.

You ship the book to the US? Sure, I'd like a signed book.
Yes, new copies of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book are sent to the USA (and the rest of the world). At the moment, new signed copies are on Ebay internationally at a discount rate! So the total price, including shipping by airmail post to the USA, is approx 14 GBP (approx 18 USD). Delivery time is approx one week. Just go on ebay and search for eBay item number: 174102673390

I mentioned that I'd like to encourage my teenage daughter (who loves animals) to have some stick insects and a co-worker suggested I could use her old glass vivarium which has a mesh lid. So I have compared this to the ELC cage you recommend, and I see that it is larger but has the solid sides and no side access. Would the benefit of a larger cage outweigh the disadvantage of the the solid sides and no side access? I don't want to get the wrong thing as I strongly believe in caring for creatures correctly.
No, the disadvantages of the glass vivarium you describe strongly outweigh the minor benefit of a bit more space. And don't forget how heavy a glass tank is, and that this heavy weight means that it is difficult to move around to clean and wash. The ELC cage has been specially designed as a stick insect cage, and so has the key features that stick insects require, including two mesh sides and the correct height of 51cm. It is sturdy yet light enough to be moved around easily and so can be placed on a sink draining board and washed every month. The weekly care is very easy, just place a pre-cut disposable ELC Liner on the floor of the cage and add a Sprig Pot (filled with cold tap water and fresh cut bramble sprigs). When your daughter wants to take her stick insects out of the cage, she can reach down from the top of the cage, or she can slide up one white mesh panel and reach sideways into the cage. Most of the time the stick insects will be resting on the white mesh sides, this is because the ELC sides are full of holes that are the correct size for the stick insects to hook their claws around and get a good grip.

A couple of my Vapourer moths emerged from their cocoons this morning, both are females. I put them outside on the garden table under the wooden gazebo, but so far no males have flown to them. It's getting dark now, so I have brought them back inside. I'll try again tomorrow, do you think I should use the same place or try a different location? I don't want them to be gobbled up by birds! Also, is the black wiggly thing coming out of their bottoms the method they use to release the pheromones?
Yes, try again tomorrow, using the same location. It's important to give the Vapourer female moths some protection from hungry birds and so by placing them underneath a wooden gazebo is ideal. At this time of year (November) there are fewer British Vapourer moths flying around than in the summer months, and so it can take a day or two before you see any wild males arrive. If you have some more Vapourer cocoons waiting to emerge, you can hope that you get a male. A good tip is to release the male outdoors near the females. Depending on the individual, some males fly to a female immediately and start to mate, whereas other males like to have a fly around the garden first and then mate. And some other males like to fly out of the garden and then fly back a few hours later to mate! The best time for an adult female Vapourer moth to mate is within the first five days of her adult life. After that time her body shrinks and she becomes weak, dying a couple of days later. You don't have to sit watching your female moths to see if they have mated because it is only after mating that the female starts to lay hundreds of eggs, neatly arranged on the QBOX lid. Unmated females produce a haphazard line of up to ten eggs, these are not worth saving because they are unlikely to hatch into healthy insects. And yes, the black pulsating body part is releasing the pheromones.

I really like the very long stick insects. What is the longest type of stick insect that you sell?
The North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina) is the longest type of stick insect Small-Life Supplies are breeding at the moment. Our eggs are hatching now and these stick insects grow quickly and eat bramble/blackberry leaves. You keep the young nymphs and medium sized nymphs in the ELC cage (51cm tall). But the large nymphs and adults need an even larger cage, so the AUC cage (70cm tall) is ideal. The North East Vietnamese stick insects need a well-ventilated cage and so the four mesh sides of the AUC cage are ideal for these stick insects. The females grow especially long, adult females can reach lengths of 27cm, adult males 21.5cm! If you'd like to go on the waiting-list for these impressive stick insects, just get in touch and we'll let you know as soon as they are ready to send out.

Just wondered if Small-Life will be at any of the smaller insect shows being held this year? I'd like to buy a stick insect cage for Christmas.
Small-Life Supplies is already accepting orders for Christmas dispatch and so you're welcome to order now and request delivery of your stick insect cage nearer to Christmas. Small-Life Supplies does exhibit at the major insect and nature events, but not at the small shows, so our next event is in 2020.

What would be the maximum number of Indian stick insects to have in a tank size 45cm high x 30cm x 30cm? I have just inherited a tank with adults and nymphs in it, and I am worried there are too many for the size of the tank. What is the MOST humane way to dispose of the eggs? I clean out the tissue paper every few days. I currently separate out the eggs and put them in the freezer. Would it be a humane option to throw them onto a burning log fire as then I wouldn't need to separate eggs from tissue paper/poop? I could pop it all on the fire at the same time. But my main concern is that I do whatever is most humane.
You could house up to twenty adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in your tank. And yes, scrunching up the tissue paper and throwing the contents into the burning log fire is the most humane way to destroy unwanted stick insect eggs. This is because exposure to fire is very fast and totally effective. Please do not put any more eggs in the freezer because exposure to cold can sometimes just arrest the development of the eggs, which means the eggs can start developing again when they are removed from the freezer. Another humane method which can be used (for people who don't have a log fire) is to pour hot water over the eggs and droppings (frass).

I would like to help establish some butterfly/moth colonies in my small garden. For the last two years I have trying to transform it into a wild garden, so now there are loads of weeds and self seeded wild flowers. The insects are moving back in, some I have never seen before and had to look them up to identify them! I have seen you breed the British Vapourer caterpillars, if I got some of those do you think there would be a chance of them establishing a self-sustaining colony in my garden? I have loads of bramble!
It's great that you are doing this and yes, it is usually easy to establish new butterfly/moths populations in "semi overgrown" gardens. A garden filled with insects and native wild British flowers and plants is far more interesting and calming than a manicured piece of lawn (or worse still astro-turf)! Your chances of success are high providing you have the correct foodplants for the caterpillars (larvae) and plenty of native British flowers from which the adult butterflies and moths can feed. The British Vapourer Moth is a good one to establish, I recommend releasing up to twelve individuals outside. The British Speckled Wood Butterfly is another easy one to establish outside. These caterpillars eat grass. To begin with you can rear the caterpillars indoors and then release the adult moths/butterflies in your garden. The best time to release the adult moths/butterflies is between 5pm and 6pm to minimise their chances of being eaten by birds. Again, low volume releases of up to twelve are more successful than if you release large numbers (this is because large scale releases are noticed by the birds who then feast on the insects).

I am getting some Indian stick insects. Will they do better on bramble leaves or privet leaves?
Here at Small-Life Supplies, we feed all our Indian stick insects on bramble leaves. We stopped using privet leaves many years ago, because when given the choice, our stick insects chose to eat bramble leaves rather than privet leaves. Also, we noticed our Indian stick insects became more active when they were eating bramble/blackberry leaves. As a general rule, active stick insects are healthier than sluggish ones.

Please can you tell me how long Macleays Spectre stick insects live for? I hatched out five eggs in October 2018, these became four males and one female. One of the males died early on, but the others have been doing well until recently when the began to show signs of slowing down, presumably because they are old? Anyway, the last male died yesterday, and now Margot (the female) looks darker. She is still eating eucalyptus but not as much as she used to. I fear she is nearing the end?
It has long been thought that Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have shorter lifespans than many other stick insects, so typically live just under one year. However, if they are fed exclusively on eucalyptus (rather than being transferred over to bramble from eucalyptus), this appears to extend their lifespan to approx one year. So your experience supports this view. And yes, you are correct in deducing that very old stick insects look darker, move more slowly and have a reduced appetite. So Margot is nearing the end of her life, but hopefully you will have saved some of her eggs and can look forward to rearing the next generation.

I have had a cage of Indian stick insects in my classroom for the past 8 months - the children love to observe their behaviour and handle them from time to time. My question is, now that the colder weather is setting in, do I need to provide a heat source for the insects, to be used at night and over the weekend? The heating is turned off completely at school during these times. It is an old Victorian building and can get very chilly. I bring the insects home with me during the holidays, but I turn off the heating at night (an energy saving measure instilled by my parents, and more environmentally friendly I feel). Would covering the cage with blanket at night be of any use?
Yes, covering the cage with a blanket at night certainly helps. Another tip is to also place a hot water bottle near the cage (but obviously this will go cold after a few hours). A safe and low cost option is to buy an oil-filled radiator and plug this in near the cage. If you plug it into a timer, you can programme it to emit gentle warmth throughout the night. Free-standing oil-filled radiators are low-cost (approx £20) and the best one to choose is one that emits 500 Watts. Avoid the more powerful ones because these emit too much heat and will dry up the leaves in the cage. The running cost is only 9 pence per hour. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are robust and do well in schools, but if the school building is old and chilly then they do need a bit of extra heat at night during the cold autumn and winter months.

Our Indian Eri caterpillars are massive and having upset tummies? The privet is the same as normal and so I don't know what could have caused the upset?
When a caterpillar is fully grow and about to pupate (transform into a pupa) it has an "upset tummy" and so excretes wet waste (instead of dry waste). The caterpillar then shrinks a bit and if it is the Indian Eri caterpilar (Samia ricini) , it changes colour from white to pale yellow. Then it starts to spin a silk cocoon and will transform into a pupa within this cocoon. So there is no cause for concern for your caterpillars, they are simply fully grown and about to embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Just to clarify, a young stick insect is called a nymph?
Yes, all stick insects that are not adult/fully grown/imago are called "nymphs". And these nymphs are categorised further according to their size. So, a newly hatched stick insect (baby) is scientifically called a "first instar nymph". When this stick insect sheds its skin for the first time (which happens when it is a few weeks old) it dramatically increases in size and is now called a "second instar nymph". Most stick insects shed their skins six times in five months, and so when the stick insect reaches its seventh instar, it is no longer called a "seventh instar nymph" but instead is called an adult (or imago).

I have asked my boyfriend to get me stick insects for Christmas. With the ELC bundle obviously. I have chosen Thailand stick insects, my concern is if you can deliver stick insects in December? I'm thinking possible snow...
Many people want stick insects for Christmas and Small-Life Supplies is geared up for this busy time of year. We prioritise the welfare of the stick insects and so can only send them during mild nights (when the overnight temperature is above freezing). So it's best to be as flexible as possible regarding the delivery day. Fortunately the very cold snaps in December usually only last a few days and so we have always been able to dispatch all Christmas orders successfully to our customers. We let you know in advance when delivery will be and can make arrangements for the parcel to be left with a neighbour or in a safe place if you are nipping out. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are an excellent choice, they are lively stick insects which darken as they mature.

The Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars that I bought from you are doing really well, as are my Pink Winged stick insects that I purchased from you previously. Now that the nights are getting colder, I was wondering what temperature I should set my room thermostat to at night?
You need to set your room thermostat to 12 degrees Celsius at night, to make sure that your insects do not get too cold. And a daytime temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius is ideal for your stick insects and caterpillars.

My stick insects are in a tub with a mesh top, they spend all their time on the mesh lid? Why is this? Is it because they like to be upside down? They are Indian stick insects.
Your Indian stick insects are trying to get to the air. So no, it is not because they want to be upside-down, they are resting on the mesh lid because they like to be near the fresh air. When you keep Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) in the ELC cage, the stick insects rest on the two vertical mesh sides, they do this because these sides are ventilated.

How do you pronounce Vapourer caterpillar? I presumed it was "Vapour"- "er"? But my teacher said "Vap"-"aura"? Has she made a mistake? She's the art teacher.
Yes. You are correct. It is pronounced "Vape"-"or"-"rer". This is an easy to breed British moth which has colourful caterpillars (with red, yellow and black markings). They don't look like a conventional smooth looking caterpillar but have hairs and four yellow tufts, so they are great subjects to photograph and draw! Small-Life Supplies breed and supply these caterpillars, they eat bramble/blackberry leaves and are easy to look after. And being a native species to Britain (Orgyia antigua) , you can release them outside when they are adults.

Is it a good idea to keep a pot eucalyptus plant indoors? I live in Bristol.
No. Potted eucalyptus plants should be kept outside. This is because they needs lots of sunlight (and to be watered well). The potted eucalyptus plants that Small-Life Supplies sell can be kept outdoors in a pot, or, better still, transplanted into your garden. Our next batch of plants should be ready next Spring, so please ask to go be added to our waiting-list now, and you'll ne notified when the plants are back in stock. Our eucalyptus plants are grown specially without pesticides which means the leaves are safe for the stick insects to eat.

Should I provide a bowl of water for my Indian stick insects? They are in a large net enclosure with a zip, but seem thirsty? I am saving up for an ELC!
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually obtain sufficient moisture from the bramble/blackberry leaves which they eat. It is a good idea to lightly mist the leaves (but not the stick insects) with cold tap water from the Mister Curvy, preferably in the late afternoon/early evening. This does not have to be done every day. One problem with your current housing is that there is too much ventilation for Indian stick insects because this cage has all-round ventilation, making the surroundings too dry and this is what is making your stick insects extra thirsty. So yes, you could insert a shallow dish with some cold tap water (only filled do a depth of a few millimetres to prevent accidental drowning). Put paper on the floor of the cage (avoid kitchen roll because this is absorbent and will dry out the surroundings even more). When you get your ELC cage, you can remove the Water Dish because the ELC cage has two ventilated sides and two solid sides, so provides the optimum conditions for Indian stick insects.

Am looking to plant some bramble plants by my fence. I remember you saying you can supply these, can't spot them on your site just now, so please tell me when they'll be back in stock and what's involved?
Small-Life Supplies supply "bare-rooted" bramble plants. This means we dig them up in the morning, pack and dispatch them in the afternoon, for delivery to the customer the following day. The customer then needs to plant them outside later that day. Obviously all this takes some planning, so it's best for the customer to have already decided where the plant is going to be planted. You have already done this, and a spot by the fence is ideal. November is a good time to be planting bramble and so we have a waiting-list for customers who want to receive bramble plants in a couple of weeks. You can choose to buy just one plant or several plants, the delivery charge is the same regardless of the size of order. The important thing is to plant them out the day you receive them and water them afterwards. You don't have to prepare the ground in advance, just dig a hole and insert the plant when it arrives. Don't try and put the bramble plant into a flower pot, this is because a bramble plant needs space to sprawl and so is an outdoor plant.

I have just ordered an ELC cage bundle and am looking forward to it arriving later this week. I know it comes with a cleaning sponge, please can you explain the best way to clean this cage and how often this needs to be done? It is for my African fruit beetles.
The ELC cage is perfect housing for African fruit beetles (Pachnoda marginata). These large yellow and black beetles climb the white mesh sides of the cage and rest there during the day. Once a week, you need to replace the ELC Liner on the floor of the cage and wash the cage also. So remove the contents and then wash the cage using cold or lukewarm (not hot) water. Stubborn stains can be easily removed using the cleaning sponge and "Parozone bleach plus stain remover" (this is sold in silver bottles from "Savers" stores in the UK). Rinse well with cold water. Dry with a soft old cotton tea towel. African fruit beetles defecate on the mesh sides and this is why the cage needs a weekly wash. You can place chunks of orange and apple on the ELC Liner and insert dead buddleia twigs in the Sprig Pot so the beetles have more places to explore. Remember to add a dish of John Innes potting compost too, this is so the beetles can bury their eggs in the compost. When these eggs hatch, put slices of orange and apple on the top so the beetle larvae can eat these.

Do Giant African Land Snails grieve? Tom, my snail that I'd had for four years died a week ago and Tina, his mate, hasn't come out of her shell since. (I know they are hermaphrodites but my son chose these names!)
Yes, Tina is grieving. When Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) are upset they can upturn their water dish and tip over their food dishes. However when a snail's mate dies, the surviving snail becomes very subdued. Sometimes the snail stops eating and will retreat into its shell for months, sealing the entrance with a white covering. If this happens, do not disturb the snail, but obviously check on it daily to see if it has emerged (because it will then need food and water). In our experience, the grieving process takes several months and then the snail starts to behave normally again, eating and being active and curious again.

My pair of Malaysian stick insects are still fawn, I have had them for several months! I thought the female nymph was supposed to be green? She is definitely female, I can see her ovipositor.
Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are very slow growing, so it is normal for them to be fawn coloured for months. When the female nymph is medium sized she becomes green and retains this colour for the rest of her life. So large female nymphs and the adult females are a bright lime green colour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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