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

Professor Phasmid
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Professor Phasmid
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updated 18th March 2017

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

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prof@small-life.co.uk

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Stick insects are harmed by air-borne chemicals so must not be exposed to plug-in /aerosol air fresheners, scented candles, paint fumes, flea sprays for dogs and cats, and strong smelling cleaning products. Avoid feeding stick insects young light green bramble shoots because these small new leaves can contain toxins that will harm your stick insects. Choose the older, darker green bramble leaves instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The children at nursery adore the British Eyed hawk caterpillar kits. With the weekend approaching, I assume I will need to take the HUA Pots and caterpillars home with me, to ensure they have fresh food and are cleaned out daily? Or could I leave them over the weekend (with extra food of course).
You need to take them home with you over the weekends. It doesn't work putting extra food in because this makes the interior of the HUA Pot too humid. Fortunately the HUA Pots are lightweight and easy to transport, it's best to put an elastic band around the HUA Pot to ensure the lid doesn't come off in transit.

I would like to try keeping some of your caterpillars, they sound very exciting! The trouble is, I have no idea where to get willow from (I live in London). I see that you sell fresh cut willow leaves, how many packs of these would I need for the Yellow-tail Tussock caterpillars? Also, do you have loads or are you likely to sell out?
The Yellow-tail Tussock caterpillars shall be fully grown very quickly, in the next week or so, and so just one of our packs of fresh cut willow leaves (price £1.50) should be enough food. Because these caterpillars shall be fully grown within a week or so, we need to send them out soon, on Mon 23rd and Tues 24th May 2016, so if you'd like some, please order now before they sell out. We have plenty of willow leaves.

Can Indian stick insects be kept with Thai zomproi species?
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live happily with Thailand Marbled stick insects (Parapachymorpha zomproi). Both species do well in the ELC cage and both species eat bramble (blackberry) leaves.

I like your images of your British Emperor Silk Moths that you have posted on the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page. Are these moths larger than usual, I remember you mentioning that you had produced some bumper-sized caterpillars last year?
Small-Life Supplies has been breeding British Emperor Silk Moths for many years, and usually the caterpillars (larvae) grow to a length of 5cm and a width of approx last 1cm. You are correct in remembering that in 2015 our caterpillars went super-size, reaching lengths of 8cm! They pupated (transformed into pupae) as usual at the end of June 2015 and emerged as adult silk moths the first week of May 2016. All the adult silk moths are slightly smaller than the standard size, their wingspan is approx 6cm. So the supersize caterpillars have transformed into smaller than average adult silk moths.

When will your British Emperor Silk Moth caterpillars be ready? What sort of cage would I need to keep the British Emperor Silk Moths? Are they easy to keep?
Our British Emperor Silk Moths (Saturnia pavonia) are laying eggs at the moment, and so the caterpillars will be ready to send out in a few weeks time. They are supplied with housing (a clear CTube), the caterpillars are really easy to look after, just feed them with fresh bramble leaves and replace the CTube Liner daily to ensure their surroundings are clean. After a few weeks, the caterpillars will have outgrown the CTube and need to be transferred to a larger container, the Small-Life Supplies TTQ cage is ideal (TTQ price is £39). Don't be tempted to use all-netting pop-up enclosures because these are too airy for British Emperor Silk Moth caterpillars. At the end of June the caterpillars will spin large silk cocoons on the sides of the TTQ cage. Leave these alone and wait for the adult silk moths to emerge in May 2017.

I have been buying caterpillar kits from Small-Life Supplies for many years, I've had great success with Emperor, Privet Hawk, Vapourer and Garden Tiger. When I phoned, I was told you were breeding a new type, that eats willow leaves? I can't remember what it was called, anyway, are they ready yet and where do I find willow leaves?
Willow trees grow in wet places and so look near a river. Willow trees are easy to spot because they have bark which looks very cracked and their catkins (that are out now) point upwards (instead of drooping downwards). The leaves are oval and elongated. The British Eyed Hawk Moth caterpillars eat willow leaves, these caterpillars are ready now. They are supplied with housing (a clear CTube), when they outgrow this, they should be transferred to a larger container, the TTQ cage is ideal (TTQ price is £39). Don't use an all netting enclosure to house British Eyed Hawk Moth caterpillars because such enclosures are too airy for these caterpillars.

We have four New Guinea stick insects at nursery and we are surprised that their personalities are so different. The larger female always seems to be laying eggs and marching around, unlike the other female who is more timid and hides a lot in the cardboard tube. We would really like to hatch out some eggs, we are saving them all in HUA Pots. Should we add some sand to the HUA Pots to keep the eggs buried?
Hatching New Guinea stick insect eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) can be challenging and so it's a good idea to save lots of eggs to maximise your chances. There are various tips to increase the hatching rate. One is to put about a few centimetres of soil in the HUA Pot, this will help to stop the eggs from drying out inside. Another tip is to let in a bit of steam (from a kettle) every now and then, again to increase the humidity slightly in the HUA Pot. Adding dry sand doesn't help, but adding slightly damp sand can help in increasing the humidity. However, it is important not to get the eggs too damp otherwise mould will appear and they will not develop further.

My Pink Winged stick insects are looking darker in their bodies and when I take them out to fly they seem to struggle to hold my hand, it's as if their grip is wearing off? Are they ill?
Your Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are showing the classic symptoms of old age. So they are very old and nearing the end of their lives. You can give them extra water because stick insects dying from old age are more thirsty than young ones.


Soon I shall need some more Liners for my ELC cage. I see you are currently offering free delivery on these Liners. Is this a time limited offer? If it is I'll order some now as it's quite a saving!
The free delivery offer on ELC Liners is staying for the forseeable future. Using ELC Liners helps to make the keeping of stick insects very easy which is what Small-Life Supplies wants to encourage. There is also a new option to buy one year's supply of ELC Liners, again with free delivery, and this is proving popular.

I got a couple of British Emperor Caterpillars Kits from you last year and really enjoyed them, they all got huge and all successfully spun silky cocoons as predicted. I've followed the instructions and they have been in the garage since last Summer. I keep checking them but no news as yet. Is the unseasonably chilly weather delaying their emergence or am I being too impatient? I know your instruction sheet says their emergence is late April/early May.
None of ours have emerged yet either. The recent week of cold weather will definitely have delayed their emergence, the adult moths prefer to emerge when the weather is mild so they can fly easily. If it too cold they "shiver" a lot, this involves expending a lot of energy to warm up their flight muscles to a temperature that enables them to fly. So, there is no need to be concerned, just keep checking on them and you should see the adult British Emperor Moths emerge soon (when it gets bit warmer).

I saw on the Small-Life Facebook page an advert for one of your used ELC cages on ebay, unfortunately by the time I was in a position to buy it, the cage had already been sold. Will you be listing any more? I already have some Pink Winged stick insects in an ELC cage and would like another cage to accompany some that I'm giving to my friend.
Yes, Small-Life Supplies lists used ELC cages on ebay from time to time, these are cages that have only been used for a few months to house stick insects in the stick insect breeding facility. On ebay, just search for "ELC stick insect cage" and you will see the cages currently for sale by "snailpresident". However, they are snapped up very quickly and so it's best to keep checking so you don't miss out.

One of my Macleay's has broken his antennae and one of his legs, will these grow back when he next moults?
Like all stick insects, the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) can regenerate legs at the next skin-change. If the whole leg is discarded, a new small leg can be regrown in its place. However, if a leg is broken, regeneration may or may not be possible depending on where the break is. For example, if the break is at the knee joint, a small foot can be regenerated from the knee at the next skin change. But if the break is not at a joint, regeneration is not possible. Broken antennae do not regenerate unless the antenna is completely missing, in which case a small leg will regenerate from the head at the next skin-change.

Do you need to wash the bramble leaves before giving them to the stick insects? Our school has bramble in its grounds and we are very much looking forward to receiving some New Guinea stick insects from Small- Life Supplies shortly.
We don't wash our bramble before giving it to the stick insects. But we try and collect bramble from high up (chest level) rather than ground level. This is because ground level bramble can be exposed to being urinated on by dogs (and horses) and if these animals are on medication, some of the chemicals are urinated out onto the bramble leaves. So, if you think the bramble in the school grounds may have been urinated on, it would be sensible to rinse it under a tap of cold running water. But if you don't think that's likely, or you can gather the bramble from a higher level bramble bush, then don't bother to rinse it with cold water.

I keep checking your website but aren't seeing any caterpillars yet? I'm also on your caterpillar waiting list but haven't heard anything yet. I have had different caterpillars from Small-Life Supplies every year for several years, I am excited to know what types you'll have this year?
Yes, we shall let everyone on the Caterpillar email waiting list know as soon as our caterpillars are ready to send. As you know, we encourage people to feed their caterpillars with leaves (not artificial food), the type of caterpillar you choose depends on what leaves you have ready access to. Caterpillars we are breeding this year include species that eat bramble, willow and "lords and ladies".

At what age or size do the New Guinea stick insects need to change from the HUA Pot to the ELC cage?
It's best to measure the length of the stick insect, rather than go by age. We transfer New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) from the HUA Pot to the ELC cage when the body length is 4.5cm approx. This is equivalent to a total length, including the front legs outstretched, of 6.5cm approx.

We're getting some stick insects for school next week. We're promoting nature to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the children. We're getting Indian stick insects and also the Hatching Set so we can explain about the lifecycle. Anyway, I'm also keen to get some snails, the British ones sound good, are these different to what I find in my garden?
Great that you are joining the growing number of teachers who realise the benefits of keeping living insects and snails in the classroom. Our British snails are the active Cepaea type, they are either yellow or striped. They occur across Britain, but are not the same as the brown Helix ones that often gather underneath rocks in people's gardens.

I have a baby Madagascan stick insect which I am thrilled has hatched, however it does not seem to want to eat. I have tried eucalyptus, bramble, how comes it won't eat anything?
Madagascan stick insects are usually called Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Newly hatched nymphs of this species are reluctant to eat unless older stick insects are present. So it's best to put this stick insect in a cage with some larger stick insects, they can be another species. Also, baby stick insects are thirsty and so it's best to lightly mist the bramble leaf with water so that the stick insect can drink.

I bought some Diapherodes gigantea and Macleays Spectre stick insect nymphs about a month ago. The Diapherodes are doing well and have started to moult, but over the last week I have found the Macleays Spectre one by one at the bottom of the Faunarium tank. I am wondering if they have the dreaded virus? Each one seems subdued for maybe a day, then I find it dead.
It doesn't sound like the virus, death is too quick. Instead, you need to re-consider the housing. The Faunarium tank is not ideal for Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum), because this tank has solid sides which restrict the air flow. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects require very spacious airy surroundings (even when small) so they need a much larger cage with mesh sides allowing free circulation of air. We house our Macleays Spectre stick insects in the MIC cage which has three mesh sides. Also, both Grenadan and Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have large appetites and so it's not a good idea to mix these two types together. Also, you may have purchased poor quality stick insects, can you remember what colour the Macleays Spectre nymphs were? The beige and grey ones are less healthy than the dark gold ones. Young Macleays Spectre stick insects do best on eucalyptus leaves.

What would you suggest as being a good type of stick insect for a busy person? I'm working long hours and so need a type that isn't too fussy about getting fresh leaves on time!
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very resilient and would suit your lifestyle. Obviously you should try and ensure that there are always green juicy bramble leaves in the cage for the stick insects, but on the odd occasion when the bramble has dried up, the Thailand stick insects will not panic and will continue to gnaw at the stems and dead leaves. This is completely different behaviour to many other species of stick insect which will quickly become stressed and start fighting each other if there is insufficient food present.

We have just installed the HLJ Snail Tank in the nursery and already our two Giant African Land Snails, are climbing up the sides. My question is about the lid, do we pull the two squishy cube things off?
No, leave them alone, the two squishy cube things attached to the perimeter of the lid are to hold the sides in place when they curve as the temperature rises. The HLJ Snail Tank is made from special plastic which curves as the surroundings get hotter. This is ideal for the snails because it allows more fresh air to enter the cage as it gets hotter.

Can we feed our New Guinea stick insects on ivy? We've got loads of bramble so it's not a problem if we can't.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best on bramble (blackberry) leaves and so you should keep feeding them with that. In the Summer, you can switch New Guinea stick insects over to hazel leaves and/or wild dog rose leaves. Ivy is best avoided.

When I ordered Indian stick insects by phone someone mentioned part of the bramble should be removed as it potentially contained something that is bad for them. Which part please?
The very small pale green bramble shoots should be snipped off and discarded. Although these small pale green look juicy, they can contain toxins to deter insects from eating them. Some stick insects know to avoid eating such leaves, but for those that don't it's best to play safe and remove them. You only need to do this for the next couple of weeks or so, after that time the new leaves will be over 3cm long and safe for the stick insects to eat.

Our New Guinea stick insects are now truly part of family life. They are totally settled and enjoy coming out each day to be handled and stroked. They are not so keen on going back in their cage though! The children all really love them and they have been a massive hit. We are away in the summer for three weeks and I am already wondering who will look after them. Can you accommodate them?
It's great that they are being well cared for and are a success. Small-Life Supplies do provide a "stick sitting service", price £3 per day per ELC cage. This includes giving the stick insects fresh bramble and water, handling them and allowing them to exercise. We use the ELC Cage Liners, replaced weekly. We also collect and save the eggs for you, if you wish. To make a booking, please call 01733 203358 to arrange mutually convenient drop-off and collection times.

What is the recommended amount of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect females to live happily in a mesh cage that is 20" high and rest is 14"x14"? I tried it the other way round 14" high, length 20", width 14", but I worry that is not high enough and wonder if this is the reason my female who reached adulthood four weeks ago is not laying any eggs as yet?
That size cage could house three adult male and three adult female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). This species has males and females in approx equal numbers and they mate regularly throughout their adult lives. The cage needs to be tall, so position it so that it is 20" high. No need for a taller cage. I hope you have some adult males, these are smaller than the females and have wings. If there are none present, the females will delay laying eggs, in the hope that a male will appear.

I have a large amount of Black beauties (Peruphasma schultei). Would you be interested in buying a batch? My pair of Eurycantha calcarata have been giving me ova for the last three months but I have never seen them mating - I know they are mostly active at night (I keep them in the school I work at) so I don't see them during that time. I worry that the eggs might not be fertilised?
Thank you for the offer, but we don't buy in stick insects, we breed them here in large numbers. Also, we do not distribute the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect because it can emit a chemical spray which can cause nasal and eye irritation amongst sensitive people and pets. The New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) usually mate at night. During the day, the adults often rest together in a cardboard tube in the cage. If yours are together in the daytime, they are probably mating at night, so the eggs should be fertilised. You could always add another adult pair of New Guinea stick insects, they do best in small groups.

I would like to keep New Guinea stick insects and would like your advice on housing them. I am considering your ELC cage but a friend has said she can make me a larger home-made enclosure that is much larger, about twice the size. Would New Guinea stick insects be happier in a larger cage? I kept snails before and know that for them a bigger cage was not necessarily better. I know you're the stick insect experts so part of me is thinking that maybe the ELC cage is the optimum size for four New Guinea stick insects?
Over the decades, Small-Life Supplies has trialled different species of stick insect in different designs of insect cage. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do much worse in a very large cage, so the ELC is ideal for them. The ELC cage is 20" high x 14½" wide x 10¾" deep. If you decide to accept your friend's cage offer, then the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and the New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) would live happily in that larger cage. But if you prefer the New Guinea stick insects, the ELC is the better cage. Hopefully you will be taking the stick insects out for exercise, the New Guinea stick insects benefit from about five minutes of handling every day.

I have a few Heteropteryx dilatata ova I got towards the end of 2014 that I'm still waiting to hatch - unfortunately I have been a bit lax and rarely spray them. They, like the rest of my ova are just lying in their petri dish. Are they still likely to hatch if I keep them in moist soil like the Eurycantha ova?
Malaysian stick insect eggs (Heteropteryx dilatata) take a very long time to hatch, approx 18 months. They can dry out inside, so it's best to keep them in a QBOX or HUA Pot with some damp sand. Malaysian stick insect eggs need to be kept warm throughout their incubation. You can look inside an egg to find out more. If there is an opaque yellow jelly-like interior, then the egg has not been fertilised and so has not developed. If the interior of the eggs is dry and shrivelled, you know that the egg was developing but got too dry and stopped. If you see either of the above, it is unlikely that the rest of the eggs will hatch and so they can be discarded after mid 2016. If you see a wet developing stick insect in the egg, with defined legs and a body, then although that egg is doomed, the rest are very likely to hatch, so keep misting the eggs lightly with water.

I'm looking forward to receiving my HLJ tank next week. My darling GALS deserve a nice home, sadly the place where I got them from supplied them in a cloudy tub. My question is how wet does the Liner need to be, should I wring it out after holding it under the tap?
No, the soft grey Liner needs to be sopping wet, so it is dripping water when you put it in the HLJ snail tank. Your Giant African Land Snails will be much happier in the HLJ tank. They can enjoy sliding along all the panels and roof, and because the panels are crystal clear, your snails will benefit from being able to see what is going on outside their tank.

I bought a male Macleays Spectre stick insect and two more males and females from a different breeder. Is it OK to mate the sticks with each other knowing they are brother and sister from the same generation?
Yes. If these are strong healthy stick insects, then it is a good idea to let the siblings mate because this will continue the good strain and lead to strong individuals in the next generation. Insect genetics are different from mammalian (including human) genetics where in-breeding is not recommended because it increases the risk of deformities.

I read a comment about Macleays Spectre could get a virus, I purchased some large females and have noticed one of them is lethargic. Her lower half is soft and turning black, do I need to separate her from my other Macleays? Their housing is a large mesh one, the other Macleays I purchased along with my own are fine she is the only one like this, her tail end lies flat and does not curl up.
Yes, separate her at once, preferably into a different room. She is ill and her symptoms match those of Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) affected by the virus. She is unlikely to survive. Healthy Macleays Spectre stick insects should always be able to curl up their abdomens. Even the adult males can curl up their abdomens between their wings!

I was flicking through Instagram and saw quite a few images of Giant African Land Snails with dull looking shells that are cream coloured and seem to have crack-lines. Are these snails being maltreated?
Such snails are not in good health. They have been deprived of calcium and so have resorted to grazing off each others's shells to consume calcium. Unfortunately once such severe damage has been done, the shell cannot recover and so will always look this way. Unfortunately some unreputable outlets sell large Giant African Land Snails in poor condition like this and so their new owners may not realise they have a poorly snail. The word needs to spread that healthy Giant African Land Snails have dark brown shiny patterned shells, not dull cream cracked ones.

I have a Small-Life Supplies Bug-Cage. I need some more Liners but can't find them listed on your website. Help!
Small-Life Supplies ceased production of the Bug-Cage about ten years ago, and so no longer list the Bug-Cage Liners. However, we can still supply these, because they are a cut-down version of the current ELC cage Liners, both these cages are the same depth. So please call 01733 203358 and we will be able to supply you with some Liners to fit your Bug-Cage.

Nomenclature. I like to get it right. What is the correct Latin name for the Indian phasmid, is it Carausius Morosus or Carausius morosus? And what is the genus and what is the species?
Carausius morosus is correct, this is the Latin name, also called the species. The first word of the species is the genus. So, in this example, Carausius is the genus. This always starts with a capital letter. The second word always starts with a lower case letter. Both words should be in italics, and can be in brackets, (Carausius morosus).

I have a question regarding Macleay's Spectre stick insect eggs. We had two female Macleay's who laid several eggs. Unfortunately the adults have now passed away and we would like to see if we could hatch the eggs. We've always kept the eggs in a shallow plastic dish in the same tank as the adults, but when the last adult died my husband put the tank in the garage overnight. I'm worried that the temperature out there may have killed the eggs. I have since brought them back indoors in a net cage designed for butterflies and I'm keeping them warm and spraying them daily. Is there any hope of them hatching?
Eggs from mated Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) hatch after six months. Instead of keeping the eggs in an airy cage, they should be stored in a small clear container with no air holes (such as the HUA Pot or QBOX). Exposure to sub zero temperatures should be avoided, can you remember if it was a frosty morning when they were out in the garage? Healthy Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects lay hundreds of eggs during their adult lives, unhealthy individuals only manage to lay a few eggs. Also, this species requires males to produce healthy offspring, if males are not present, the females can still lay eggs but the offspring are not as strong and the eggs take longer than six months to hatch. So, it's not looking hopeful, and spraying eggs daily is not recommended, the eggs only need a light misting when hatching is imminent.

What's the best way to pick up a stick insect?
Baby stick insects can be transferred using the tip of an artist's paintbrush, nymphs can be scooped up or gently lifted by their abdomens. Adults are best lifted by their thorax, between the second and third pairs of legs. But it all depends on the species of stick insect, full handling instructions and illustrations are in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd.

We've had our fully grown New Guinea stick insects in the nursery for a week now and so we plan to start handling them soon. How much handling should New Guinea stick insects have per day, are we talking minutes or hours? Please advise so we can accommodate this activity in our daily work plans.
It is important not to overtire adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). So five minutes of handling per day, preferably at the same time, is ideal. If you want the children to watch them outside the cage for longer, the New Guinea stick insects can be placed by a saucer of cold tap water on a table. Gently press the insect's head downwards into the water and it should start to drink. A New Guinea stick insect can drink continuously for about ten minutes, before moving away, at which point it should be returned to the cage. It's best to have only one stick insect drinking from the saucer at a time, because they don't like to be disturbed whilst drinking.

I am looking to build a cage for damselflies, as I would like rather particular dimensions and traits for a lab study. I was wondering whether I can buy just the netfix tape, as I have everything else I need to construct it, and if this is not possible, could you recommend any alternatives for attaching net to acrylic?
Yes, NetFix tape is sold separately, the price is £8 for a 25m roll (plus delivery). This NetFix tape is ideal for sticking netting to acrylic. We use NetFix tape in the production of our KMC cages. To order NetFix tape, please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 or email ange@small-life.co.uk

I'm going to buy myself a MIC cage and some Thailand stick insect nymphs for my 23rd birthday. I figure I deserve it after the nightmare few months I've had. Anyway, I'd like to breed these stick insects and so have been doing some on-line research. One advice sheet states "Rearing the males at cooler temperatures (15 to 20 degrees Celsius) may help achieve mature specimens of both sexes at the same time". I'm not sure how to do this, would I need a second cage? Or is this advice wrong, the same sheet also advises spraying water inside the cages sides?
Ignore that advice sheet! Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) need airy surroundings. It is the leaves that need misting with water every day or so, this is so the stick insects can drink from the water droplets on the leaves. Thailand stick insects have males and females in approx equal numbers. The males mature slightly faster than the females, but only by a few weeks. Adult Thailand stick insects live about seven months so the fact the males mature a few weeks ahead of the females is not a problem and no reason to try and slow down their development by keeping them cooler. Thailand stick insects mate regularly throughout their adult lives, males and females have approximately the same lifespan. There is a whole section on Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd, price £12 plus postage.

A friend was showing me her stick insects which she said were "Peruphasma schultei Pink Winged". Has she got the name right? I don't think those two names are a match? I've got Pink Winged stick insects Sipyloidea sipylus from you and they are beige and eat bramble. Hers were black scuttling things that ate privet.
You are correct, the beige stick insects with long antennae and developing wingbuds are nymphs of the Madagascan Pink Winged stick insect, with the Latin species name Sipyloidea sipylus. They will become adults with large pink wings and can fly. In contrast, the small dark stick insects your friend has are a different species, they have a velvety texture and develop small red wings to flash at predators to startle them (these wings are too small to fly with). These are the privet eating Peruvian "Black Beauty" stick insects, with the Latin species name Peruphasma schultei. Small-Life Supplies does not breed or supply these because they can emit chemical sprays which can cause nasal irritation amongst sensitive people and small pets (cat, dogs etc).

What should I give my New Guinea stick insects to hide under? At the moment they are just squeezing into a cardboard tube.
Give them several cardboard tubes, held together with an elastic band and placed horizontally on the Liner on the ELC cage. Empty kitchen roll tubes are suitable but shorten them first by trimming about 3cm (just over an inch) off one end. This is because the open ends of the tubes must be clear of the sides of the cage, so there is plenty of room for the stick insects to get in and out of the tubes. In the wild, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to pile on top of each other in dark places, and so that is why they like to do the same in captivity.

Our New Guinea stick insects seem to be settling in and we are now beginning to handle them. However they do seem to spend a lot of their time all inside the cardboard tube that you sent. Is this normal behaviour?
Yes, contented New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to pile on top of each other inside cardboard tubes. Like other stick insects, New Guinea stick insects have periods of activity during the day and the night. Now that you are handling them, you can get the used to an activity routine. So if you handle them at a set time every day, for example 4pm, they will soon learn to become active at that time. It is important not to overtire them though, so try to keep the handling down to a few minutes. You can also take them out of the cage and let them drink from a saucer of cold tap water, they can drink solidly for five minutes or more, and you can watch their mouthparts moving as they direct the water into their mouths.

I have found a centipede in my garden yesterday then a couple more. I think there is a family. Shall I try and move them or can I try and keep them as a pet. Do they bite?
British centipedes are carniverous, eating small insects, disabling them first by injecting venom from their modified claws. This is how they "bite". British centipedes move fast and are difficult to handle. Sensitive people can react to the venom. So it's probably best to leave British centipedes in the garden.

I saw your photo of the new Philippine stick insect on the Small-Life Facebook page. Can you tell me more about them please? Would they live with my Thailand stick insects in my ELC cage?
The pretty new Philippine stick insect has the Latin species name Trachyareaton echinatus. This species has more attractive markings than the standard Sabah stick insect Aretaon asperrimus and the Giant Sabah stick insect Trachyaretaon brueckneri. The Philippine stick insect female grows to 11cm and the smaller, thinner male to 9.5cm. They eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. We are breeding them in a modified ELC cage which only has one ventilated side because this species requires less ventilated conditions. So, no, they would not be suitable to mix with Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) because Thailand stick insects require the standard large airy ELC cage.

I'm gonna try and grow some eucalyptus for my lime green stick insects when they hatch. How quickly do they grow? Where can I find some? Can you find any at a florist or a gardening centre or is it everywhere and I'm just not looking hard enough.
The lime green stick insect is called the Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea). These stick insects need to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Commercially grown eucalyptus plants are routinely treated with pesticides and these chemicals will kill insects that eat the treated leaves. So buying cut eucalyptus stems from a florist is very high risk. Similarly buying a potted eucalyptus plant from a garden centre for immediate use is very high risk. One solution is to buy a potted eucalyptus and plant it in your garden, the leaves will be safe to eat in approx 12 months time. The plants are often sold in 2 litre pots and cost about £10 for a plant which is approx 1 metre tall. If your eggs are due to hatch soon, you could try and locate an established eucalyptus tree, these are very distinctive evergreen trees with decorative silver grey leaves and are sometimes grown in parks and people's gardens. Established eucalyptus trees grow very quickly, but the first year of growth is very slow and so it is not a good idea to bother planting the seeds if you need to harvest the leaves soon.

My Indian stick insect has been doing something strange. Her tail/end of abdomen appears to have split in half and there are strange moving things inside. I can see a black thing in here, is she laying an egg? I've included pictures but they are not very great, as it's hard to zoom in on a small bug!
Your photos show an old adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus), nearing the end of her life. The end of her abdomen (just before the egg laying equipment) is pinched, which is a classic symptom of a very old Indian stick insect. Because it is partially open, you can see the apparatus she uses to eject her egg out of her body, this is what you can see moving. The kindest thing to do is to give her some wet privet leaves to drink from.

I currently have five adult Indian Stick Insects which I feed with Ivy leaves. I am now thinking about keeping a couple of other species in the same enclosure, specifically - Pink Winged Stick Insects & Thailand Stick Insects. I would like to know if Ivy is a suitable food-plant for these two species? Also I have tried every other food-plant that I know is suitable for Indian Stick Insects (Bramble, Rose, etc.) but they are never interested even Privet, which I know they were fed as nymphs, go completely ignored.
There are different sorts of ivy, and you clearly have a type that your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) enjoy. So keep feeding them with this ivy. Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) need to eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, or if you want green nymphs, feed them with Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) just eat bramble (blackberry) leaves. You should put bramble and ivy in the ELC cage. Your Indian stick insects will continue to eat the ivy leaves, but the Pink Winged and Thailand stick insects will eat the bramble leaves.

My colleague and I attended the Montessori annual conference in London and now wish to purchase a SLS Snail Tank for our two Giant African Land Snails. We didn't know they ate melon and cucumber, what else should we be feeding them?
Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica) need a varied diet because this ensures they develop a nicely patterned shell. Suitable foods include: slices of cucumber, melon, courgette, avocado, red pepper and marrow. We also feed ours potato, sweet potato and carrot peelings. Dandelion leaves gathered from outside are also a favourite.

I picked up your leaflet at the Nursery World show and I'm interested in ordering the New Guinea stick insects with the ELC cage. Can the sand used for burying eggs be normal new playsand or something special?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have adult females that need to bury their eggs in sand. We supply sand in a dish that you can re-use for years, so you don't need to buy anymore. Every week you empty the contents into a metal sieve. The sand pours through the holes in the sieve, and you collect it in the blue pot and replace it back in the cage. The eggs are too large to fall through the holes and so remain in the sieve. Store these eggs in the HUA Pot and wait for them to hatch (six months later). The price of the Sand Pit (blue pot and sterilised sand) is £3.90 inc VAT. Or you could source your own pot and use your own sand , but you would need to sterilise the sand first. This is best done in a very hot oven for about thirty minutes.

How tolerant are stick insects and giant African land snails of cold? The heating is switched off on at night, will they be OK? I'm in Hertfordshire.
Many British homes and schools are well insulated and have "frost-stats" or thermostats set so that the heating will come on if the temperature falls too low. Typically 12 degrees Celsius is a typical night time room minimum temperature and the stick insects and snails are fine with that. Our breeding facility is set not to drop below 12 degrees Celsius at night. Stick insects are quite robust and can survive even cooler temperatures (down to freezing) for a short time, but long term you should be aiming to keep them in a room that does not drop below 12 degrees Celsius at night. If you are in an old building with poor insulation, a cost-effective solution is to purchase a 500 Watt oil-filled plug-in radiator to place by the cage and switch that on at night. The running cost is approx 8 pence per hour.

My New Guinea stick insect adults (that I received last week) are doing droppings and the water needs replacing. There are some tiny holes in a few leaves, but not many and I haven't seen any of them actually eating. We handled one boy and one girl and they were lovely. But today I a bit worried. One of the females is positioned very awkwardly where the side meets the bottom, she looks like she might have fallen? I very gently stroked her to try and get a response but there wasn't one and I did the same to a male but also no response? But maybe they are sleeping very deeply? I pray they will survive as my daughter is thrilled with them.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) adults often eat during the night, so that's why you haven't seen them eating. They eat from the edges of the leaves. During the day, New Guinea stick insects have periods of deep rest and activity. At rest, they like to squeeze into confined spaces, so that is why the females has wedged herself as you describe. You can place cardboard tubes horizontally into the cage (held together with an elastic band) so the New Guinea stick insects can pile on top of each other in there. New Guinea stick insects do take about a week to settle into their new surroundings and so they will become more confident and lively within the next few weeks. They respond well to routine and so if you start handling them at a set time every day, they will become active around this time.

I wonder whether I am trying to supply too much food to my six fully grown Acanthoxyla inermis stick insects? They have about a dozen bramble twigs every three days. They don't eat it all but I remember the book saying that they like to have a lot of green. I am worrying though how to feed them if the leaves vanish in the wild. This area, in spite of being in balmy Cornwall, is plagued by strong winds. The Acanthoxyla inermis have multiplied locally and are in a great many gardens around us. I am enjoying being able to have this group close enough to watch. The ELC cage is ideal for them.
Great that you have this nice variety of stick insect on your doorstep. But yes, it does sound as though you are being over generous with the food supply. However it all depends on the size of the leaves. There are lots of different types of bramble, some have tiny leaves, others have large leaves. We have access to both but use the large leaf types because that means fewer stems. There should always be some leaves in the cage, never just bare stalks. You could try putting in less, and add more if there are just bare stalks left. A weekly feed should suffice, the bramble stems keeps fresh in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water for about a week.

I recently bought four New Guinea stick insect nymphs, along with a complete set up for the ELC cage. The insects have settled well and one of the females has already shed after a couple of weeks. However, one of the males started to shed around the same time and it seemed to be stuck in the bottom half of the skin. We waited but after 36 hours we took him out to try and help him. It then became apparent that the back end of his body was curved to one side (see photo). He survived for a few days but has now sadly died. Is there anything we could have done to prevent this?
Looking at the photo you sent, it is a real shame that this insect has not managed to complete this, his final skin-change, successfully. He almost made it, he just got stuck at the end. Ecdysis (the process of skin-changing) is relatively quick, so this stick insect should have completed it within an hour. Did something interrupt his skin-change, for example maybe someone switched the light on, or perhaps there was a very loud noise or a sudden drop in temperature? You did the right thing trying to help him, an earlier intervention would have been better, but the outcome would have probably been the same. Unfortunately sometimes a stick insect will just mess up its skin-change. The final skin-changes are the most difficult ones. Hopefully the others will reach adulthood OK. If not, then there is room in the ELC cage to add some adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), we have young adults for sale at the moment.

I've seen laced winged stick insects advertised on-line, what's the difference between them and the good old Pink Winged stick insects that we all know and love?
No difference. The correct name is Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), originally from Madagascar and discovered back in 1859. It is not helpful when people invent new names for stick insects just to try and sell more of them on ebay.

Surely the "male" Indian stick insect is a gynandromorph? It's a female but with male characteristics. It is unable to mate or to reproduce. This is a full gynandromorph that completely looks like a male. No males have ever been found in the wild so they don't exist.
No, the adult male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) just has male characteristics, including pale green genitalia which are normally hidden but which he can bring out. He has no female characteristics, he looks completely different from the female, he cannot lay eggs and his behaviour is different too, male Indians are hyper-active. The term "gynandromorph" refers to insects which have a mixture of male and female traits. Such Indian stick insects are also rare, but essentially look like deformed females (their bodies are corrugated and part of the male genitalia are permanently on show). Those individuals usually manage to lay a handful of eggs. In complete contrast are the lively tan coloured male Indian stick insects who occur at a rate of 1 male for every 10000 females. Being so rare they are not often encountered in either the wild or in captivity.

Could I have just two adult female New Guinea stick insects please? Don't want males as I don't like them.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have roughly equal numbers of males and females. The adults pair up and mate frequently throughout their adult life (which may be as long as two years). If they have formed a close bond, when one adult dies, it's mate will stay with the body and can even stop eating and die too. So we supply New Guinea stick insect adults in pairs, because supplying just females would be cruel.

I would like to start keeping stick insects again. I had some Indian stick insects when I was younger but I feel ready to try a different type. I sometimes work away from home for a day or two, so I would need a robust type of stick insect that requires minimal looking after. Which would be best?
The Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very low maintenance. They have small appetites and can tolerate instances where the bramble leaves have dried up much better than many other species (that become stressed and fight). Obviously you should still be feeding them with fresh bramble leaves once a week (stood in a Sprig Pot of water), but if you are a day or two late with replenishing the bramble (due to work commitments) this will not adversely affect the Thailand stick insects. You can choose to buy Thailand stick insects nymphs or adults, both do well in the ELC cage or the MIC cage.

I took delivery of one of your new Snail Tanks last week and I am delighted with it and so is Usain, my snail, he's far more lively now. I like the concave sides, it's really clever that the warmer it gets, the more the sides curve to let more air in. I'd like to buy a snail friend for Usain, do you sell Giant African Land Snails with a shell length of about 3 inches?
We don't have any snails for sale at the moment, but we do have waiting lists for people who are interested in purchasing either Giant African Land Snails or the British yellow Grove Snail, so I have added your details to the list. Both of these types of snail do well in the new SLS Snail Tank.

We bought some New Guinea stick insects for the day nursery and they are doing great. How often do we need to change the sand?
Once a week, tip the contents of the Sand Pit into a sieve. The eggs will remain in the sieve and can be tipped into the HUA Pot (they should start hatching approx 6 months later). The sieved sand should be poured back into the blue dish and put back on the Liner in the same place. You do not need to buy new sand, you can keep re-using the sand supplied.

We have bought two large Giant African Land Snails but having just seen the photo of your snails on the Small Life Supplies Facebook page , I think they may be unwell? Most of their shells are cream and are rough to touch, they haven't got the dark brown patterns that your snails have and are certainly not shiny. Also, they've spent the whole day buried in the compost. We've given them names now and so I don't want to send them back, but how do I make them better?
Unfortunately stressed snails can gnaw at each other's shells and remove the top layer, leaving a plain cream shell exposed. Unfortunately the shell cannot recover. However, you can provide your snails with a better environment. If the snail shell size is 10cm (4") or less, your snails would do much better housed in the SLS Snail Tank. If your snails are larger, then a bigger enclosure is needed, however the important thing is to get rid of the soil and use a soft wet Liner at the bottom (we sell different sizes of soft Liners). Snails should be active, they should not be buried in the soil. Snails also need new empty hen eggshells every week because these are a good source of calcium which is an essential requirement for the snails.

I have four Australian spiky insects. The room temperatures in my home are cooler than required for them. They have become quite lethargic and not eating as much as they previous did. What is the best way of keeping them warmer? Their home is a large vertical housing unit with mesh sides and top. I went to a pet shop to ask advice and was sold a heating pad. The amount of heat this gives off is minuscule and totally inadequate. How best can I remedy this problem?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do like to be kept in a warm room, preferably in a sunny position. They do seem to prefer warmer surroundings than many other types of stick insect and so are not the best choice for someone whose house is cool. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are better at adapting to cooler surroundings. The fact your Australian stick insects are eating less and are lethargic could be due to temperature or it could be because they have succumbed to the virus which affects that species. A simple way to test for the virus is to see if they can still curl their abdomens up or are the abdomens floppy? If the latter, then they are doomed. If not, then you could buy a 500 Watt oil-filled plug-in radiator, these are widely available on-line, the price is around £20. Just plug the radiator into a socket and it will emit gentle warmth, the running costs are very low, about 8 pence per hour. It is important to buy the 500W radiator and not a more powerful one, because this suits the insects best and is the cheapest to run. We do not recommend using heat mats for stick insects, they dry up the leaves and so you should remove the heat mat asap.

I am new to keeping stick insects but so far me and my son are enjoying our new family of three adult Indian stick insects. A friend gave them to us, they are in a small tank with a slatted pink lid, I will be purchasing one of your ELC cages soon, to give them more room. My friend told us to lay the bramble stems flat on kitchen roll on the floor of the tank. But we've noticed it dries out quickly which means we have to go out foraging for bramble three times a week. I'm concerned our bramble source will be depleted soon.
Yes, it is unnecessary and wasteful to be collecting bramble three times a week to feed three Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). You only need to gather a couple of bramble sprigs once a week. Stand the thickest ends of the stems in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water and this will keep the leaves fresh for a week. Your stick insects will do much better in the ELC cage rather than their small tank with the slatted pink lid. The ELC cage is much taller than the tank you have and so there is room to insert the Sprig Pot of water containing two tall bramble sprigs. And the Indian stick insects will benefit from more space, height and through-draught ventilation from the two mesh sides of the ELC cage.

Where should I put my cage of New Guinea stick insects? I have two spots - one next to a radiator and one that is not. Which one do you think would be better? The radiators are only on during the morning and evening for a couple of hours, will this make a difference for them or confuse them?
Positioning the cage near a radiator is a good idea because New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to be warm. You could mist the leaves when the radiator comes on. In the daytime, a temperature of 18 - 21 degrees Celsius is good, and at night the temperature needs to be above 12 degrees Celsius. If you think they may need extra heat, the most economical way to give them extra heat is to buy a 500 Watt oil-filled plug-in radiator, these are widely available on-line, the price is around £20. Just plug the radiator into a socket and it will emit gentle warmth, the running costs are very low, about 8 pence per hour. It is important to buy the 500W radiator and not a more powerful one, because this suits the insects best and is the cheapest to run. New Guineas should be active when you take them out, if they are sluggish this indicates they are a bit chilly.

I have an ELC cage for my adult New Guinea stick insects, two males two females. If one of them dies do you have to retain the balance of two males to two females by introducing another?
New Guinea stick insect adults (Eurycantha calcarata) are robust and usually live at least one year. They can form strong bonds with their mate, and so if one dies from old age, it's mate often dies a few days a later. However sometimes, they are not close and so if one dies, the other can carry on for several more months and can be introduced to another potential mate. So, in the event of one of your stick insects dying, it would be best to wait for a week or so to see how its mate is reacting. New Guinea stick insects that are close often spend their time together in the cardboard tube and when one is dying, its mate stays with the dying insect for several days, and also with the dead body for a day or two.

We will be passing through Peterborough later this week and we were wondering if we could drop by and look at your stick insects? I would like to see the different types.
Sorry, but Small-Life Supplies is an on-line business and unfortunately we no longer have a showroom that is open to visitors. (We used to have a showroom in Bottesford near Nottingham, but that closed two years ago). However, we do exhibit at various public events across the country, if you join our emailing-list, you'll be kept informed of where and when these events are.

I attended the Nursery World show and visited the Small-Life stand where I fell in love with your stick insects. Your website says to just write a list of everything I would like to purchase but I don't understand what it means by my paypal email? I would like to purchase the ELC bundle and New Guinea stick insects. Is the sand pit essential and does it come with sand? If so I'll get one of those too.
Great, just email us a list of what you'd like, and we shall email the PayPal invoice back to you. The reason we request your "PayPal email" is because some customers have a separate email linked to their PayPal account, which they keep separate from a different email that they use for daily communications. And yes, the Sand Pit is supplied with sand. The adult female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) bury their eggs in dry sand, and so it is necessary to have a small dish of sand in the cage, so they can do this. The female uses her pointed ovipositor at the end of her abdomen to bury her eggs.

I purchased your fabulous ELC cage and stick insects at the Nursery World Show. The big New Guinea adults are still active, and we already have four eggs! I just went on your website and think I need a Sand Pit? Also, what sort of container would be best for the eggs? Does it need to have airholes? How long till the New Guinea stick insect eggs hatch? And are they easy to hatch?
Yes, a Sand Pit is ideal for the adult female New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) to bury her eggs. Every week, tip the contents of the Sand Pit into a sieve, save the eggs, and put the sieved sand back in the blue dish and back into the cage. The New Guinea eggs can be stored in either a QBOX or a HUA Pot, neither have air holes. When the eggs hatch (in six months time), keep the babies in the HUA Pot with a wet bramble leaf. Unlike some other species which are very easy to breed, it can be tricky to hatch New Guinea stick insect eggs and so we recommend you save a lot of these eggs, to maximise the chances of hatching out the next generation.

Do stick insects breathe from their mouth or butt? Is that a rumour?
Neither. Stick insects breathe through holes (called spiracles), positioned at regular intervals along the sides of their bodies. More details on the basic biology of stick insects are in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

I was at the Nursery World show, What a great concept to keep massive stick insects, we'll definitely be getting some, I am sure they will engage the children for ages. I had no idea that you could get such big stick insects, like those New Guinea ones. Do they eat anything else apart from bramble leaves?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do well on bramble (blackberry) leaves, and these leaves are available all year in sheltered overgrown areas. In the summer, New Guinea stick insects can be switched to wild rose leaves and also hazel leaves.

My adult female Extatosoma tiaratum is not laying (and never has done). She is on a diet of eucalyptus and lives with one adult male in an exo terra standard faunarium large, sprayed lightly every evening in a room of average temp 19-20 degrees Celsius. She is also not that old an adult, she moulted into an adult two months ago. Could you suggest a reason for the lack of eggs?
Both male and female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best in large airy surroundings. Unfortunately the housing you have has solid sides and is only ventilated at the top, so there is not enough ventilation in there for these stick insects. Spraying the leaves daily will make the matter worse, because this will increase the humidity. Your stick insects would be less stressed in a tall cage with mesh sides that permit a through-draught of air. The male would then be more likely to fly, and more likely to mate, because mating often follows exercise. The ELC cage and MIC cage are great for housing Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, because both these cages are tall and have sides which are full of holes, allowing lots of air to circulate.

I bought two of your stick insect skins at the Nursery World show, I would like some more for my other nursery, but can't see them listed on your website?
The boxed stick insect skins are fragile, and so we don't deliver these, they are only available from shows and events.

What is the maximum recommended amount of Indian stick insects to put in your ELC cage? I have kept them now for over six years (from just five original ones that I 'rescued' from a pet shop) and I have about thirty currently.
The ELC cage will comfortably hold thirty adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). It can house up to forty adults. Indian stick insects like to group together on the sides of the cage.

I saw on the telly someone from a firm releasing genetically modified mosquitoes, saying that these are sterile and so can't breed, I think she said they had caused the population to crash by 80%? Surely this is just going to create other problems? I know there are serious human diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, but reducing their population so drastically is surely going to upset the food web of life? I've heard that birds are starving to death because there are not enough insects to eat as it is.
Yes, I too am against the release of GM mosquitoes. The fact is because mosquitoes occur in such huge numbers they are a significant food source for birds and reptiles. To be wiping out huge numbers of mosquitoes will cause food shortages for creatures higher up in the food chain and food web. Similarly, indiscriminate spraying of areas with insecticide is disastrous because this action kills lots of different sorts of insects, including pollinators, which are needed for flowering plants and crops to reproduce. The best way to tackle the current Zika virus, thought to be spread by the tropical Aedes genus of mosquitoes, is to develop a vaccine that can be administered to people living in areas at risk.

Where has this Zika virus come from? Is Aedes a new mosquito? How many Brazilian babies have died?
The Zika virus has been around for decades, but it looks like the virus has mutated and it is this new mutated virus that is being linked to the microcephaly now being seen in babies in Brazil and South Polynesia. Testing is still continuing but early indications are that the Aedes genus of mosquito can transmit the Zika virus to people. Transmission occurs when the mosquito bites the person for blood (this happens in the day, unlike Anopheles mosquitoes which bite/feed at night). The Aedes genus of mosquito is found in the tropics and is also responsible for spreading chikungunya and dengue fever. In the UK we have different types of mosquito, the Culex genus, this does not transmit diseases. Microcephaly stillborn deaths are being recorded, abortions are not (because they are illegal in Brazil), 3500 Brazilian infants with microcephaly have been registered so far, their outlook is bleak. The population of Brazil is approximately 207 million. Most people infected with Zika have a very mild reaction, it is the microcephaly affecting the human foetuses that is the problem.

My six Extatosoma tiaratum have started shedding from L1 to L2 all went great except for one who's back leg sticks out at a strange angle and never moves . The stick insect still eats and is getting about fine on its remaining five legs. When it next sheds to L3 is it likely to have a new " working" back leg?
The L1, L2 etc terminology refers to larval stages, and so is not applicable to stick insect development because young stick insects are called nymphs, not larvae, and their development stages are called instars. So your young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are transitioning from their first instar to their second instar. The stick insect with the damaged leg will probably lose that leg when it completes its next skin change into the third instar. And then when it enters its fourth instar a small new regenerated leg will appear. Bizarrely, regenerated legs in this species are often curly to start with and then acquire the standard leg shape with successive skin changes.

All this talk about mosquitoes, but no one seems to be saying how likely you are to die from malaria?
Malaria has been a problem for decades and so the death data is available. There are approximately 250 million cases of malaria in the world each year with over 800,000 associated deaths, so that is a very low death rate of 0.32%. You can greatly reduce the chances of getting bitten by a mosquito by covering up (long sleeves, trousers, socks and hat) and applying insect repellant to the face. Additional malaria precautions are sleeping under a mosquito net at night and consuming the anti malarial tablets. Even if you are bitten, the chances of coming down with malaria are slim. This is because in order for a person to get malaria, they need to be bitten by an Anopheles mosquito who is carrying the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria. And that mosquito needs to be a female.

I read a while back that you are developing a new snail tank. Is it ready yet?
Our new snail tanks are still being tested by our Giant African Land Snails. So far, the results are very encouraging, because a special type of plastic is being used which is much easier to keep clean than the standard plastic we used in our previous snail centres (now discontinued). As soon as testing is completed, this new product shall be launched. If you'd like to go on the new snail tank waiting list, please email les@small-life.co.uk

On the Small-Life Supplies Facebook page, I saw your post inviting people to visit your stand at the Nursery World exhibition in February. My wife is a nursery nurse, would she be able to attend this event or is it just for the managers?
Yes, your wife is most welcome to attend. This event is aimed at all who work in the nursery sector. There are lots of free 30 minute talks in the theatre area for visitors, the exhibition (which includes Small-Life Supplies) is free to visit, and there is a full programme of seminars and masterclasses (these incur a charge). She needs to register online for her ticket, here is the link https://www.livebuzzreg.co.uk/2016/nw16/visitor/
The event is Fri 5th and Sat 6th Feb 2016 and the venue is Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 0QH.


Is it true that male stick insects don't live as long as female stick insects? I read somewhere that you can only expect males to survive for up to 3 months? If that's true, would I have to keep buying replacement males to make sure the eggs are fertilised?
No, it is not true that adult male stick insects only live three months. In the commonly kept types of stick insects which have males and females occuring in an equal ratio, such as the Thailand (Baculum thaii), Thailand Marbled (Parapachymorpha zomproi), Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum), New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) and Sabah (Aretaon asperrimus), it is normal for both genders to have approximately the same lifespan. So for most of those species the adult lifespan is approx 7 months, but the New Guinea is longer (approx 12 months). However there is one species, the Borneo (Phenacephorus cornucervi) where the adult males have noticeably shorter lifespans than the females, but even for this species, they live more than three months as adults.

I've seen people on ebay selling stick insects, there is a long green one with a tail spike and orange hoop on its body, called the Ramulus artemis? But it looks just like your New Thailand, Baculum sp. What's the difference?
We reared the Ramulus artemis stick insect many years ago, but no longer keep this species. Unfortunately, the New Thailand stick insect has never been properly identified, hence the temporary name of Baculum sp, where "Baculum" is Latin for twig and "Sp" is short for species. This New Thailand stick insect is very easy to rear and that is why it is often sold on ebay. But unfortunately a few years ago, someone mistakenly called the Baculum sp the much larger Ramulus artemis, and this mistake has proliferated ever since. So, the vast majority of the stick insects advertised on ebay as Ramulus artemis are not that species, but the more common New Thailand, Baculum sp.

I know you sell fresh cut privet, but do you also sell fresh cut bramble? I'm off work ill at the moment and not well enough to venture out. I have twelve Pink Winged stick insects in an ELC cage and I'm getting worried because their food is looking a bit dry.
Yes, we do send out wallets of Fresh Cut Bramble by first class post. You receive three bramble sprigs full of juicy green leaves. So that would be enough food for your twelve Pink Winged stick insects for approx ten days. The price is £7.50 inc delivery, please phone 01733 203358 to order.

I am thinking in the future of getting a praying mantis. Are Indian stick insects safe to feed to praying mantis?
No. The reason is that Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) may have eaten privet leaves and privet is toxic to many insects. Instead, damaged Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and damaged Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) can be fed to a praying mantis (mantid). However, we find they do better if fed with greenbottle flies. Just place the puparia of greenbottle flies (Lucilia caesar) on the floor of the KMC24 cage and wait for them to emerge. The flies are active and will fly around the KMC24 cage. This gives the mantid an opportunity to hone its hunting skills by capturing a moving target. The greenbottle flies are easy to feed, just place half an orange on the floor of the KMC24 cage and replace weekly.

I live in South Australia and have recently been given two pregnant Macleays Spectre stick insects. They've both been laying eggs which is great, but I'm wondering if its normal for the eggs to change colour? Yesterday morning I put my jar of eggs (approx 3 weeks since laid) outside and the 40 eggs were all a chocolatey colour. During the day it got quite hot approx 30 degrees Celsius and the jar was moved back inside where it was cooler. Later I noticed most had turned a beige more so than chocolate. Did I fry my eggs?
Oh dear, I suspect these eggs have overheated. When eggs of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are laid, they range in colour from being mainly beige to mainly brown, both with swirly patterns. The external appearance of the egg does not change during development, unless something has gone wrong. For example, eggs that have got too wet will become mouldy. You need to discard your eggs and save some more. Keep the new eggs in a small container such as a QBOX or HUA Pot. Keep them indoors in a room that does not exceed 25 degrees Celsius.

My spiny leaf stick insect moulted yesterday. She still hasn't eaten and is hanging there with her tail straight. There is a wet patch on the floor of the cage under her. Is there something wrong?
Stick insects are named after their country of origin, rather than by descriptive terms. So by "spiny leaf stick insect" I think you mean Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum). The final skin-change is a traumatic time for this insect and she needs a day or so to recover. So it is normal to see the recently shed stick insect resting, with its abdomen straight and hanging down. Sometimes the insect will eat the wet skin it has just emerged from. On other occasions, it may just rest, recovering its strength. You need to put a Sprig Pot of wet bramble stems nearby, to make it easy for the female to reach over and eat a bramble leaf when she is ready.

I purchased an Exo Terra Glass Natural Terrarium, Nano/Tall, 20cm x 20cm x 30cm for £42.99 on-line, but am now worried it might not be suitable for New Guinea stick insects? (I haven't got the stick insects yet).
No, this container is not suitable for housing New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). It is advertised as being "amphibian housing designed by European herpetologists", in other words it's for frogs (who can stick to the sides). In contrast, stick insects have claws on their feet and need to hook them around mesh holes so they can get a foothold and climb. Also, frogs want a humid environment, whereas stick insects need airy surroundings, with through-draught ventilation. And of course, adult New Guinea stick insects are large, 17cm long, and so jamming them into such a small cage would be cruel. The ELC cage is suitable for New Guinea stick insects, this cage is 51cm tall by 36.5cm x 27.5cm, and the price is £48. It has two ventilated sides with holes that the stick insects can hook their claws around. New Guinea stick insects are active insects and like to walk around the cage, both during the day and even more at night.

I'm an undergraduate student studying Ecological and Environmental Sciences and I am currently planning my honours project. It involves infesting plants with (Myzus persicae) and then also the parasitic wasp (Aphidius matricariae). To do so I need to construct a cage to prevent escapees. Can you recommend some fine insect mesh that I can buy to make these cages?
150 micron mesh (called "No Thrips Mesh") would be suitable. This is available from Small-Life Supplies, in either cut squares or in 6metre rolls. The mesh is fine, and is ideal for containing thrips, whitefly, and the peach potato aphid (Myzus persicae). Or you could purchase a KMC aphid cage, these are the same size as the KMC45 cage but have two cylinders (with mesh sleeves attached). This is an effective way of accessing the cage without letting the insects escape (you insert one hand through each mesh sleeve).

Is it possible to buy just female New Guinea stick insects from Small-Life Supplies? I don't want to be overrun with babies.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) have males and females in approximately equal numbers. It is important to keep a mixture of male and female nymphs (immature insects) together in a cage, so they grow at the correct rate. If you only keep one gender, they slow their rate of growth down, which is not healthy for them. Adult New Guinea stick insects pair up and mate regularly, so it is kinder to keep both male and female adults in the same cage (ideally an equal number of each gender) so they can do this. New Guinea stick insect eggs take about six months to hatch. You can feed surplus eggs to birds and fish, or simply drop them into water to stop them developing.

I already have three of your HUA Pots and am very pleased with them. So I would like a load more. I was wondering if you have any used ones going cheap as finances are a bit low at the moment.
Small-Life Supplies doesn't have any used HUA Pots for sale, but we do have some new ones that are for sale at a discount price because they are factory imperfects. So they are brand new HUA Pots but have a slight dent in the side and so the price is just £5 each instead of the list price of £7 each. The lids still fit fine and so these HUA Pots still work really well. These factory imperfects always sell really quickly, so if you'd like some, please email ange@small-life.co.uk

Will my female jungle nymph be OK alone as my male (I found behind the plant pot I have in for their food) is limp and showing very little sign of life. He is fully grown. Should I collect her eggs she has laid so far?
"Jungle nymphs" are also known as Malaysian stick insects (Heteropterx dilatata).The large wide adult female buries her eggs in a Sand Pit, these eggs should be removed weekly and stored in a HUA Pot. Fertilised eggs hatch one and a half years later. How long have they been fully grown? Adult Malaysians are long-lived, and so if you have had both adults for a year, then the female will probably die soon from old age. However, if they have only been adults for a few months, you should buy a young replacement adult male as a new mate for your female. Malaysian stick insects eat bramble leaves and need a Water Dish, filled with cold tap water. they like to be kept warmer than many other stick insects, so a day time room temperature of approx 20 degrees Celsius is ideal for them.

I'm curious. Does the female stick insect sit on the eggs?
No. Adult female stick insects lay eggs and then pay them no further attention. Depending on the species, the stick insect eggs may be dropped, glued, catapulted or buried in sand.

I was disappointed not to see Small-Life Supplies at the Association for Science Education conference in Birmingham today. Your stick insect displays were always the highlight of the exhibition for me. I need some more Pink Winged stick insects for my lab, is it warm enough to send them out at the moment? I don't want shivering stick insects!
Yes, unfortunately Small-Life Supplies was not exhibiting at the annual Association for Science Education conference this year (we have exhibited on several occasions in previous years). Like many other exhibitors, we support the proposal that the conference be moved to later in the year when it is warmer and so more pleasant for both exhibitors and school teachers to be in outdoor marquees. Small-Life Supplies have already been sending out lots of stick insects this year. We monitor the overnight temperature forecasts daily because it needs to be above freezing at night for the insects to travel. Lots of stick insects have already been sent out this year and more are scheduled to go out on Monday, weather permitting.

I am thinking about getting four New Guinea stick insects and one of your ELC cages. But I read elsewhere that they are ground-dwelling and so need a square tank with a big floor area? Is that wrong, I'm arguing with my girlfriend about it! We both like animals and want to keep them right.
Although some New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to rest in cardboard tubes on the cage Liner during the day, this does not mean they are ground dwelling. New Guinea stick insects have periods of activity and during this time they need a lot of exercise, and so need to be able to walk around the cage and climb up and down the sides. When a skin-change is due, New Guinea stick insects rest near the top of a mesh side (head facing downwards) so they will have plenty of room to slide vertically downwards out of their old skins. So the housing requirements of New Guinea stick insects are the same as many other species of stick insect. The best cage to house New Guinea stick insects is the ELC cage. Six adults (three pairs) will live comfortably in an ELC cage.

I have owned Indian stick insects previously, starting with just one I bought because it was all alone in a tank in a pet shop, and then later bought eggs which successfully hatched and I had 3 generations of insects from these. This was around 3 years ago now, but I would say I am reasonably experienced. I'm considering getting stick insects again, but I want to get a different species, just for variety. What species would you recommend? Could I mix multiple species? And how would I house them?
After Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), most people progress to Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). You can mix four Pink Winged stick insects and four Thailand stick insects in the same ELC cage. Those stick insects are easy to tell apart, the fawn coloured Pink Winged stick insects develop large pink wings and glue their eggs onto Hatch Mats. The Thailand stick insects have brown thin males and fatter, longer green females (at 18cm these are much longer than the 11cm Indian stick insects). Both Pink Winged stick insects and Thailand stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves.

Do you sell Peruvian black beauty stick insects?
No, we don't breed or supply Peruvian black beauty stick insects (Peruphasma schultei). The policy of Small-Life Supplies has always been to only supply harmless stick insects. Unfortunately Peruvian black beauty stick insects can emit a chemical which can cause nasal irritation amongst sensitive people, cats and dogs and so these stick insects cannot be deemed as being harmless. And they need to eat privet leaves which many customers find difficult to source.

I thought I'd seek your advice on where to make a donation to help British nature. I know you've recommended Greenpeace to others, but I was wondering if there was a smaller organisation to whom my donation of £100 would really help? I live in Surrey.
London Wildlife Protection has a good reputation and is doing commendable work. They are very grateful for all donations. Here is the link http://www.londonwildlifeprotection.org.uk/

I am writing to you from France. We were very excited because we think we may have a male Indian stick insect. He is skinnier than our adult females and very active when we take him out of the cage. He just had his 6th shed last night and it did not go well. The tail skin is stuck over his tail and I think it's green blood which has made a sort of bubble on the tail. His hind legs are also slightly mis-shaped since the shed. However, he can still walk but the tail drags. He is hanging upside down in his cage with his hind legs hanging loose and this bubble of green blood between the new and old skin of his tail. How can we get the last bit of skin off the tail?
You need to wet the area with warm water, wait a few moments and then try and gently peel off the old white skin. He needs to be able to open and close the end of the abdomen for defeacation, if he cannot do this he will die. If the green substance you are seeing is very dark shiny green with an odour, it is dried blood and should wash off. But if it is mid-green and looks as if it has a rubbery matt texture, it is his genitalia and so should be left alone!

I heard that there are now more pet tigers in US back yards being kept as pets than there are living wild in their natural habitat. Can the same be said about Australian stick insects? I know loads of people in Britain keep them as pets.
Certainly, stick insect keeping in the UK is very popular, and of course, many people have a cage containing several Australian stick insects (rather than just one), so in absolute terms the numbers of Australian stick insects in the UK must be high, although nowhere near as high as some more popular varieties such as the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) or the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata). So, at the moment, there will be more Australian stick insects living in the wild in Australia than in captivity in the UK. Also, there are several species of Australian stick insect living in the large wild areas of Queensland, Australia. At the moment, a British woman, Beth Ripper, is photographing some (her 8 week trip is funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.) Here is the link showing what she found in the last few weeks. https://phasmidexpedition.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/the-big-and-the-beautiful/

I just heard that the big St Albans Butterfly place has closed down. Just my luck, I was hoping to visit it for the first time next year! Have you any plans to set up and run anything like this?
Unfortunately the plug has been pulled on this £27 million venture that aimed to make St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK a premier attraction for people to learn about insects. At the moment Small-Life Supplies is concerned with developing and manufacturing insect cages, and also breeding insects. So, currently we have no plans to diversify into setting up a tourist attraction, although of course we are already involved in designing and supplying large insect cages to those who wish to do this.

My stick insect kit is the best Christmas present ever, my boyfriend just gave it to me. He's a bit scared of them (they're the New Guinea stick insects) but I'm sure he'll like them eventually! Anyway, my question is how often do I need to replace the sand?
The sand provided won't need replacing. Sieve it weekly, keep the eggs that are in the sieve, and put the sieved sand back into the blue dish (and put this back into the cage). Store the New Guinea eggs (Eurycantha calcarata) in the QBOX or HUA Pot.

Thank you for sending us the Hatching Set. The label says the eggs were laid on 25th Sept 2015, so when can we expect them to hatch? They are the Indian stick insect eggs.
We include a label stating when the eggs were laid and always keep some of that batch here, so we can monitor when they are hatching. Currently our Indian stick insects eggs laid on 29th Aug 2015 are hatching, so yours will be hatching within the next few weeks. Don't expect them all to hatch on the same day, it is normal for hatching to be spread out.

Where can I buy smooth stick insects?
The "smooth stick insect" is also known as the Clitarchus hookeri stick insect. It is one of the few species of stick insect that has been living in the wild in the South West of England for over a hundred years. Small-Life Supplies does not breed this species and I don't anyone who does breed them, sorry.

You say to keep the stick insect eggs in a closed container such as the QBOX and that they need no special attention in that time . Do I not need to open the box every now and then to change the air? Do I need to mist the eggs ? Should I put anything in the box with them such as coco fibre or sand to hold moisture and maintain humidity?
One advantage of stick insect eggs is that they are very easy to hatch. The eggs of many species, including Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Thailand (Baculum thaii) require no attention and should be left undisturbed in the QBOX. The eggs of a few species including Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) and New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) benefit from a very light misting of water when hatching is imminent. All our stick insects eggs are stored in QBOXES with nothing else added.

I've got 5 Macleays Spectre stick insects, 2 adult males & 1 adult female & 2 juveniles. The change in them in the final moult is amazing, the boys are fabulous & will just decide to flit about sometimes but the female is not able to stand up & carry her own weight and just lounges & hangs on leaves, she has a slight twist in her tail too. I've sent you a photos on FB. She's been OK for over a month, she's not laid any eggs and she's reluctant to eat. I wondered how much & how often she should be eating & if other females are able to stand up & walk around?
Looking at the photos on Facebook, the juvenile female looks healthy and so hopefully will become a normal adult. Unfortunately your adult female is undersized for her age, has a twisted body and her elytra (wings flaps) are sticking upwards. Such individuals are in poor health and often die prematurely having laid only a handful of eggs, or sometimes no eggs at all. The males often don't bother to mate with them. Healthy female Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) are much larger than the adult males and have big appetites. They eat daily (bramble, eucalyptus and rose leaves are best) and walk without difficulty. In contrast, an ill stick insect is weak and sometimes decides to commit suicide by refusing to eat.

Our Hatching Set has arrived (very well packaged), we are very excited about hatching our own baby stick insects. We have transferred the eggs to the QBOX as instructed. The eggs are so small, I am worried I might not be able to see the babies when they hatch! I'll have to put my glasses on!
The Hatching Set includes seven Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus). The Indian stick insect egg is brown and approx 2mm in diameter. It has a yellow lid (operculum), which the baby stick insect (first instar nymph) pushed off with its head as it hatches. The baby stick insect is much larger than the egg. It inflates its body on emergence to reach a total length of 19mm. So the babies are nearly ten times the size of the egg, so you should be able to see them without your glasses, although clear vision is useful when you are transferring the nymphs to the HUA Pot because this needs to be done carefully so you don't damage them.

I know that the colour of Indian stick insects depends on the amount of ventilation they get, so my stick insects that are kept in an ELC cage should all be green? Some of them are but some of them are light brown, or even going reddish orange. Is there any other factors that could influence their colour?
Yes. The time of day influences the colour of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), these stick insects become darker at night. Also, there is lots of natural genetic colour variation and so it is normal to have a range of colours of Indian stick insects in an ELC cage, as you have described. You are keeping them correctly.

Please tell me more about the music tastes of New Guinea stick insects. I read they like Daft Punk, Robbie Williams, Shakira...what about classical?
Yes, New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) respond well to classical music too. Several customers regularly play classical music to their New Guinea stick insects, unfortunately I don't know which pieces they respond to best. It would be an interesting research project!

Is there still time to order stick insects for Christmas? I have persuaded my friend to look after them in her flat until Christmas because there's nowhere in my flat to hide them from my daughter! Is it possible to get them delivered to my friend? She's at home with her baby but I'm at work? Would the Thailand stick insects be suitable for a sixteen year old?
Yes, lots of stick insects are being sent out at the moment, the weather is still mild at night and so these are great conditions for sending out stick insects. Lots of stick insects shall be delivered on Tuesday 15th Dec 2015, so please order now so yours can be delivered on that date. Delivery can be to your work address, or direct to your friend (the parcel needs to be signed for). Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very long and twig-like, they are lively stick insects and would be ideal for your daughter. You can keep Thailand stick insects in either the ELC cage or the MIC cage.

I see "I'm a Celebrity..." has plumbed the depths again, this time by showing a large spider being eaten alive by Ferne McCann. Spiders are sentient beings and so why is this cruelty allowed? It is abhorent.
I agree, such cruelty has no place on British television. Please complain to ITV. Hopefully if enough people complain, the producers might finally realise that promoting animal cruelty is not acceptable and will not do this kind of thing again. Killing any creature for entertainment is morally wrong, cruel, and is a dangerous message to be sending out to children.

I've ordered your Hatching Set for Christmas. Out of the seven eggs how many will hatch? I hope I do better than my neighbour - she got a netting Living Twig set but most of the eggs did not hatch and those that did died when newborns.
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs and newborns will not do well in a netting enclosure. The surroundings are far too dry and airy, causing hatching problems and early death of the nymphs, as your neighbour has experienced. In contrast, the QBOX is a small enclosed plastic box with no air holes, this is great for stick insect eggs and babies because at those stages of life unventilated surroundings are best. This is how Small-Life Supplies breeds Indian stick insects and so we know that the QBOX system works. The Hatching Set includes a QBOX and so you can rest assured that most eggs will hatch and most babies will survive.

I already have three of your ELC cages and will be getting another one for my nephew for Christmas. He's ten and bug mad, like me! I think he'd really like some New Guinea stick insects, I know this a bit cheeky but do you have any cut-price ones for sale? I remember you advertised some slightly damaged ones a while back, are there any left?
Small-Life Supplies breed New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) in large numbers and from time to time there are some slightly damaged ones (for example,with a missing foot, or a broken antenna). These stick insects are offered at a discount rate and are always snapped up very quickly. We currently have a few damaged young New Guinea stick insect adults, these are for sale at £10 for four (two pairs).

Can you explain how male moths can detect the pheromones that the females release? There must be millions of molecules in the air and I don't get how it's possible for the males to tune into these specific molecules, let alone follow them to the female over a distance of a mile or so?
This long distance tracking behaviour only occurs in species of moth which have very feathered antennae. This design enables the antennae to have enough space to accommodate specific receptors whose function is to exclusively detect the sex pheromone molecules of the female. For this to work, the male must be downwind of the female. She emits a continuous stream of pheromones over many hours, and these waft downwind. If the receptors on the male's antennae detect these molecules, the male then flies along this airborne chemical trail. Both antennae independently register the concentration of the pheromone hitting the antennal receptors, this is essential for navigation. So, for example, if the left antenna detects more pheromone that the right antenna, the moth will veer to the left (towards the source of the pheromones). The male moth follows the pheromone trail like this, until he reaches the female.

I ordered an ELC cage bundle and some Pink Winged stick insects for my daughter's Christmas present. I did ask for delivery nearer to Christmas, but would it be possible to change that and receive them next week? Whilst the weather is mild and the couriers are not overwhelmed yet, it would put my mind at rest. I have a spare room I can hide them in. She has been asking to have stick insects for Christmas for ages.
Yes, a lot of Christmas orders are to be sent out week beginning 7th Dec 2015. Like you, many people are concerned about the ever increasing volume of internet orders leading to courier delays this year and so are requesting their cages and stick insects earlier than in previous years. Also, the weather is still mild and so it's a good time to be dispatching stick insects and stick insect eggs at the moment. Please contact us on 01733 203358 so we can bring the dispatch date of your order forward.

I'd like some Indian stick insects for my son. I'm looking on-line at a cage that is 30cm x 20cm x 30cm, would that be suitable, or would one of your KMC cages be better?
Indian stick insects need to be kept in a tall cage, so a cage 51cm (20") is needed. A cage 30cm x 20cm x 30cm is far too small and is not suitable for housing stick insects. Our ELC cages are the best stick insect cages and are 51cm high. Our KMC cages are not designed for stick insects, they are for housing tarantulas and mantids (praying mantises).

I am arranging an insect-themed birthday party for my daughter's 9th birthday. Rather than give away the usual plastic tat in party bags, I was thinking your large insects posters for everyone would be great. If I bought twelve insects posters, how much would the delivery be?
Yes, our large insects posters are really good, and are on our sale page at the moment at a real bargain price of just £3.99. Delivery is capped at £9.95 and so this would be the delivery charge for twelve posters.

I couldn't sleep last night so went downstairs for a quick drink in the kitchen. That's where I keep my New Guinea stick insects. Anyway, one of them was shedding its skin so I thought I'd watch it. But it didn't move, it was like frozen. I thought skin shedding was supposed to be quick? How long does it normally take? Anyway, it's fine this morning, and it's left a perfect exoskeleton on the cage floor.
Ecdysis (skin shedding) is a vulnerable time for stick insects and is normally completed within ten to twenty minutes for a large New Guinea stick insect. This behaviour often occurs at night when it is dark. Switching the light on startles the stick insect and causes it to be motionless as you have observed. Fortunately you had a quick drink and so the stick insect was able to resume climbing out of its skin when you left the room and switched the light off. When a stick insect sheds its skin, the skin is wet and this helps it to slide off. If the stick insect is disturbed and pauses, the wet skin starts to dry out and so is harder to cast off. So, for future reference, if you disturb a stick insect shedding its skin in the dark again, please switch the light off immediately so the stick insect does not interrupt its ecdysis.

I want to film some stick insects, something a bit different from the standard Indian ones. I need active stick insects that look like sticks. Which do you recommend?
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are active, especially the adult males. You can purchase Thailand nymphs, large nymphs are currently being sent out and these are a mixture of males and females. Or, we have some adult Thailand stick insects for sale too (at the same price). Thailand stick insects are easy to keep, they do well in the MIC cage or the ELC cage, and eat bramble (blackberry) leaves.

I see that you sell Indian stick insect "nymphs". Are these the larval form or eggs? What do they look like and how big are they?
Indian stick insect nymphs are immature Indian stick insects, they look like miniature versions of the adults. Stick insect eggs hatch into stick insect nymphs. Stick insects do not have a "larval form", the word "larva" is used to describe an immature insect who looks completely different from the adult form, for example a caterpillar is the larval form of a butterfly. Indian stick insect nymphs are sent out when they are approx 4cm long, so are less than half-grown (adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are approx 11cm long).

How can I hide stick insects? My daughter wants some stick insects for Christmas but I'm not sure if I can keep them alive till the big day? Do they need a lot of care?
Stick insects are very low maintenance , they just need a weekly clean out of the cage (this is done by replacing the ELC cage Liner), and a weekly change of bramble leaves (replace the bramble stems in the Sprig Pot of water with fresh sprigs of leaves). So they are very easy to keep and so you shouldn't have any problems looking after them until Christmas Day. Many customers hide the cage of stick insects in a wardrobe (but do ensure there are no traces of moth repellants or air fresheners in the wardrobe because such chemicals will harm stick insects). And remember to partly open the wardrobe door to let in some light. Another option is for a family member or friend to look after the cage of stick insects in their home until the big day arrives. Small-Life Supplies stick insect kits are being dispatched the week of the 14th Dec 2015, and even the week before (beginning 7th Dec 2015) for those customers who have requested this.

What is the Latin name for stick insect? Is it Phasmatodea?
No. The Latin word for a stick insect is Phasmid. The word Phasmatodea and also the word Phasmida are terms used to name the "order" to which stick insects (and leaf insects) are classified. Insects are classified as belonging to the "class" Insecta, and the "phylum" Arthropoda. Insects are further classified into "orders", depending on their shared physical characteristics. So butterflies and moths belong to the "order" Lepidoptera, beetles belong to the "order" Coleoptera and so on.

I would like to buy a stick insect cage for my grandson, he loves bugs and so a stick insect cage would be the perfect present for Christmas. I'm in Sheffield but he lives in Melbourne, Australia. What would be the cheapest way to send the cage to him? Is the ELC cage available in a flat pack format?
The airmail price to send an ELC cage to Australia ready assembled is £120, this price drops to £65 if the ELC cage is sent flat-packed. Or, we can send the ELC cage to you in Sheffield for you to send to him, the price to send an ELC cage to you would be £9.95 regardless of whether it is ready assembled or flat packed. ELC cages sent within the UK are usually sent out ready assembled, unless requested flat packed.

Whilst watching the latest Prince Charles interview, I heard him voicing his concerns over the deliberate destruction by burning of the Indonesian rainforests. I remember a fuss was made last year when this was happening, surely it is not still going on? So many creatures being burnt to death makes me so sad.
Yes, unfortunately the fires raging in Indonesian forests for the last few months have been even worse than last year. Some people have been trying to rescue orang-utans but the insects and many other creatures have perished, along with the trees. Thankfully heavy rain is now falling and that is extinguishing many of the fires. The scandal is that these fires are deliberate so the land can be cleared for palm oil production. But obviously the cost to the environment and the animals is so great that this practice must be stopped, such catastrophic devastation cannot be justified for economic gain. A courageous Indonesian student is spearheading a campaign to stop the fires being re-lit in 2016, her name is Rahmi Carolina. Please sign her petition to show she has global support, here is the link
http://bit.ly/1OGhJYy


When I was cleaning out my tank of stick insects, I found a ladybird underneath a bramble leaf. It is alive. Is this normal to see ladybirds at the end of November? Can I keep it with the stick insects, I have Thailand stick insects?
In the UK, adult ladybirds hibernate over the winter. They can hibernate on their own, but are more usually found congregated together (sometimes a mix of different species huddle together). Hibernating ladybirds can be found underneath bramble leaves (as you have observed), or if they are indoors, they like to group at the top of old wooden window frames. You should return your hibernating ladybird to the bramble patch where you found it so it can go back into hibernation mode until next Spring. Keeping a ladybird indoors with your stick insects is not a good idea because you would need to find aphids for it to eat and of course these are in short supply at this time of year.

I am interested in one of your ELC stick insect cages/kits for a Christmas present for my son. I see that the kits supply a number of nymphs. My Husband has childhood memories of his own stick insects laying more and more eggs and not knowing what to do with them all before they hatched. Is it possible to keep just one stick insect at a time (to keep egg laying to a minimum) and if so, do I need a cage that large?
Stick insects like company and so should be kept in small groups, that is why we supply them in packs of four. It is important to only save a few eggs and so every week, when you replace the cage Liner, just keep a few eggs and dispose of the rest (either by feeding them to birds and fish, or by pouring water over them to stop them from developing further). In Nature, most stick insect eggs perish and so when rearing stick insects in captivity, it is important to mimic Nature. The ELC cage is an ideal size for keeping stick insects, they need lots of space and ventilation and so a smaller cage would not be recommended.

I want to buy a set of tarantula tanks for Christmas. They are to be a Christmas present for myself! I have just seen your KMC tanks and they look ideal. Can I use them with the netting at the top, or does it have to be at the side?
Our new premium acrylic KMC cages are ideal for housing spiders, praying mantises and caterpillars etc. The KMC cages are cubes and so can be positioned as you wish. So yes, you can orientate your KMC cages so that the net opening is at the top. This would give you clear visibility all round the cage because all four sides would be crystal clear acrylic.

I've read that stick insects can be cannibalistic of newly-hatched sticklings, is this true? I've never seen it happening and I've got loads of QBOXES with sticklings in.
Cannibalism amongst stick insects only occurs if the stick insects are extremely stressed, for example short of food, water or very overcrowded. In such poor conditions, all ages of stick insects can be victims, and so baby stick insects are not specifically targetted to be eaten. The solution is to keep stick insects properly. The fact you are distributing your baby stick insects between QBOXES suggests that you are looking after them well and so it is to be expected that you are not seeing any suffering.

One of my son's Australian prickly leaf insects has two back legs that are dark and do not work. We have three total and the other two are fine. We have had them for a couple of months, they all had working back legs at the time we got them. Any idea what happened? Anything we can do?
"Australian Prickly" usually refers to the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), these stick insects have leafy looking legs but are classified as stick insects, not leaf insects. The adult males develop wings and their legs can be dark, becoming darker as they age. The fact your son's insect's back legs don't work could be a sign that the stick insect is dying from old age, if this is the case it will probably die after a couple of weeks. In this situation, the kindest thing to do is to give the stick insect extra water to drink. Another explanation is that the paralysis could have been caused by the stick insect falling awkwardly and damaging its nervous system. If that has happened, the stick insect won't die prematurely but will not regain the use of those limbs. However stick insects have the ability to adjust their walking patterns if they lose or damage legs, and so a four legged stick insect can manage well (particularly if it still has the most important legs, namely the front legs, which yours has).

Why don't dead New Guinea stick insect bodies decompose like other species of stick insect? Instead of going soggy, they become rock hard! And they don't even burn, I'm seeing recognisable charred remains in the garden incinerator!
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do have bodies with very tough exteriors. They have evolved like this because in the wild, New Guinea stick insects climb underneath bark and pile on top of each other, so their bodies need to be tear resistant so they are not easily cut or scraped. So the sclerotin content in the exoskeleton of New Guinea stick insects is higher than that found in the more conventional looking and softer-bodied stick insects, for example Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). High sclerotin levels are found in other types of insects with rigid exoskeletons, such as beetles. The sclerotin combines with the chitin and other proteins to form a strong substance. This does not decompose quickly and is resistant to burning, as you have observed.

I love reading this page, it's been so informative, thank you! One suggestion- could you provide a "search" box so I can skip between questions when I am looking for information about a specific species?
You can already find specific items of interest on the "Ask Professor Phasmid" page by using the "Find Function" on your computer. You need to press the CTRL key and then the letter F key on the keyboard. On the top left of the screen it will ask you what you want to find and so you type in "Pink Winged" for example, and then all mentions of "Pink Winged" will be highlighted in yellow on the screen. You can then easily click from one mention to the next.

I just recently got some spiny leaf stick insects, I noticed the end of ones tail is red and I heard that means they are going to lay eggs, is this true?
I am not sure what insect you have, because stick insects are different to leaf insects, and so a "leaf stick insect" does not exist! Leaf insects have wafer thin bodies, whereas stick insects have tubular shaped bodies. In general, female adult leaf insects and female adult stick insects start to lay eggs a couple of weeks after reaching their adult stage.

Do Indian stick insects change colour? I have some fully grown ones in an ELC cage and I swear they look darker in the evening than they do in the daytime?
Yes, the area just below the surface of the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) does change colour as the surroundings get darker. Several scientific studies have been done on this phenomenon and so it is well documented. As the light intensity drops, the body of the Indian stick insect becomes darker, as you have observed. If you have Pink Winged adult stick insects, you will also notice that their eyes become black at night.

I have too many nymphs and adult Indian stick insects. I cannot clean my cage out as there are too many. Is there anything I can do?
You need to have a good sort through the cage and reduce the numbers. I suggest you get hold of a very large cardboard box, preferably with a rim (so it's like a tray), such boxes are given away by shops that sell fridges, cookers, dishwashers etc (these cardboard trays are used as packaging). Then tip out all the contents of the cage into the tray. Wash out your cage and then put back the stick insects you wish to keep (ideally about twenty Indian stick insects in an ELC cage). You can distribute the surplus stick insects between your friends. In the future, please remember to only keep a few eggs, so you will not become overrun with stick insects again.

I saw this piece in an old SAGA article, factually incorrect I think? "Since the spread of the other species has been relatively swift, aided by our continued movement of plants around the country and beyond, it is worth looking out for all stick insect species anywhere in the UK".
Yes, this is factually incorrect because stick insects are not spreading across the UK. The New Zealand species that live in the South West of England have remained there since the 1900s because elsewhere in the UK, the overnight temperatures are too cold for them to survive. Other stick insect species that are kept as pets are even less robust and need daytime temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius and night time temperatures of 12 degrees Celsius. Obviously UK temperatures are much colder than that for much of the year and that is why stick insects cannot survive outside in the UK.

Can I commission a large stick insect cage for the retirement home where I work? I know stick insects make awesome pets and some of the residents are very keen to have a range of types in one of the communal lounge areas. We have lots of bramble in the grounds and so feeding them would be no problem.
Yes, please contact Small-Life Supplies with the approximate dimensions and we will be happy to assist. One option is to have a large clear acrylic cage with removable mesh sides, linked to an identical cage via a large connecting tube. This display looks particularly attractive and is easy to maintain. Just ask for the KMC45 cage with the tube option. Each cage is 45cm x 45cm x 45cm, which is approx 18"x 18"x 18".

I have around 20 Indian stick insects and I have recently seen several of them on the floor of the cage eating their droppings. There are also teeth marks on on the edge of the paper that I put on the floor of the cage. I feed them plenty of ivy which I replace every week so why are they trying to eat paper and droppings?
Oh dear, there is something wrong with the ivy leaves which is why your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are behaving in this way. In general, Indian stick insects prefer bramble leaves and privet leaves to ivy, so try and source some of these leaves quickly to give to your stick insects. You also need to lightly mist the leaves every evening or so with water (using a Mister Curvy is ideal).

I want to buy stick insects for Christmas. They would be a gift for my niece who is mad on bugs. I'm tempted by the Pink Winged ones, but how readily do they fly? Do they flap out of the cage as soon as they get a chance?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) make excellent pets and you receive a pack of four medium sized nymphs (wingless). In a couple of months or so, their large pink wings will appear and a few weeks after this final skin-change they will be ready to fly. Pink Winged stick insects do not fly out of the cage as soon as you lift the lid off the ELC cage. They need to be encouraged to fly. So your niece can enjoy lifting the adult insect out of the cage, watching it sit on the palm of her hand, survey the room before taking off, flying across the room and landing on the wall. Full details of Pink Winged stick insects are in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

Over the last few weeks my New Guinea stick insects have massively reduced the amount they are eating. They are still getting good quality bramble from the same sources. The only changes I can think of are that it has got colder (but still around 18 degrees in the house in the day) and they have started laying eggs. Do I need to worry?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do vary the amount of food they consume, sometimes without an obvious reason. It is quite normal for them to give the impression of not eating much on some days, when they are fully grown. I'm assuming you have provided them with a dish of cold tap water (New Guinea stick insects drink a lot when they are adults). It would be worth checking the room temperature with a good quality thermometer. If it really is 18 degrees Celsius that is OK, but if it is, say, 16 degrees Celsius that would be too cold and would explain why they are not eating enough. Also, when you take the stick insects out of the cage are they alert and active (although slow moving), or refusing to move? If the latter, you need to increase the temperature by a couple of degrees during the day. This is best done by turning up the central heating thermostat, or using an oil filled radiator plugged into a wall socket. Heat mats inside the cage are not a good idea because they dry out the bramble leaves.

How do I find you on ebay? Do I search for Small-Life Supplies?
No, just search for "ELC cage" on ebay, and look for the new ELC cages listed. When you look at the listing, glance to the right hand side and spot the link to "see other items". If you click on that you will see a few of our other products for sale. The items offered on ebay are usually on special offer. Please note that these ebay listings are only visible to customers living in the UK.

I have one of your ELC enclosures and I noticed that a static leg of one of my Thailand stick insects was folded double and sticking out through one of the holes in the side wall. I was able to gently push the leg back through without any damage. I assume that this is not a normal occurrence?
No, it's not a normal occurrence but can happen very occasionally. You did the right thing by carefully pushing the leg back through the hole. Another situation where this can happen is if a stick insect has lost a foot, and part of its leg will stick out through a hole. Again the correct response is to gently push it back through.

I currently have a pair of Jungle Nymphs and would like to get a pair of New Guinea spiny stick insects. I was wondering could I keep these two together?
No. Jungle Nymphs, usually called the Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata) are large stick insects with stripey antennae. Unfortunately other species of stick insect routinely eat the antennae of the Malaysian stick insects. So for that reason, it is best to house the Malaysian stick insects separately from other species of stick insect. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best in small groups so that is why Small-Life Supplies sell them in packs of four (two pairs). They do really well in the ELC cage and need a Sand Pit (for their eggs) and a Water Dish (filled with cold tap water).

I read this on another site "Other species of stick insect boast outrageous female-to-male ratios that avid human male daters could only dream of, such as one male for every 1,000 females" and don't really understand it.
That commentator is confused. Stick insects are divided into two groups; those which reproduce sexually (like humans) and so have males and females in approximately equal numbers, and those which produce by parthenogenesis. The latter have effectively done away with males, so the stick insects are exclusively female and lay eggs (without mating) which hatch into more females. Bizarrely, some males do occur in parthenogenetic species, but very rarely, for example in the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) there is 1 male for every 10000 females. Such males are readily attacked by the females, for example they may have an antenna snapped off or even a leg chewed. It is still not clear if any mating occurs because this has not yet been scientifically documented. However it is certainly not the case that the rare male starts mating with lots of females (like a bull in a field of cows).

Help! My Indian stick insect, Clarissa, isn't happy - her feeler is stuck to her leg! What can I do to help her?
Sometimes an antenna can get stuck to a front leg. This can be caused by the brown defensive liquid that Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) emit from their mouths which can be sticky. Or if there is a small wound, the green blood can be sticky as it dries. To help Clarissa you need to mist the area with cold tap water (from the Mister Curvy) so the two parts separate. You can then dab the area dry with a piece of kitchen roll.

OK, a team of scientists have discovered that E. tiaratum stick insects sway more when its gusty! I hope they investigate their music tastes next! They say "Sway frequency declined over time in all trials, but the number of sways was significantly higher in variable wind conditions compared with constant wind conditions. This suggests the insects pay attention to environmental cues and adjust their behavior accordingly."
University research often starts by looking at anecdotal evidence so, yes, maybe they will get around to investigating how stick insects respond to music. Anyway, the research you refer to has been done at an Australian university. Although we already know that stick insects sway to look like a twig blowing in the wind, these biologists have now confirmed this scientifically with their recordings. The research was conducted on Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum).

I quite like the idea of a mixed habitat of stick insects, is this possible? Which type would you recommend?
Yes, it is possible to mix different types of stick insect in the same cage, but it is important to match their temperaments, and their requirements for food, water and ventilation. So a good choice is Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). These stick insects live happily together in the ELC cage and look different from each other so you will be able to tell the different species apart.

The "Large White" caterpillars are still going strong at the end of October in North Devon gardens, is this a first?
No, the caterpillars of the British Large White butterfly (Pieris brassicae) are able to keep going as long as the weather is mild. Here in Peterborough we are also seeing these caterpillars outside in people's gardens. They are easy to see because they are large and are predominantly yellow. Hopefully they will be able to pupate (transform into a pupa) within the next week or so, before the weather turns colder. The pupae are equipped to survive during the winter months (the pupae do not eat), but the caterpillars will perish when temperatures are low.

I am looking after my grand-daughter's Giant African Land Snails over half-term. They are in a warm place and the soil is wet. But there is a smell and there are tiny flies buzzing about. The snails seem to be buried in the soil most of the time. I want to improve their lot and your snail tank liners seem like a godsend! But where will the snails go - do they burrow under the liner?
Your current snail set-up is far from ideal, as you have observed. I'd recommend you throw away the soil, wash the tank with soapy water and rinse well. You can put a soft snail tank liner (wetted first) on the floor of the tank, place the vegetable peelings on top and add eggshells as a calcium source. Insert a heavy dish filled with cold tap water and, if the snails are adults, a foil dish of sterilised potting compost (for their eggs). Hold each snail for a few seconds under a running tap of lukewarm water to wash the soil off its shell. Check each snail is alive because dead snails emit a strong smell. Place the healthy Giant African Land Snails back in the tank and you will soon see them exploring their clean home, usually choosing to rest under the roof of the tank. Healthy snails are active snails, and slide around the tank. They won't try and burrow under the Liner because they will no longer be stressed.

Do we have stick insects in the UK?
Yes, in certain parts of South West England there are two species: Acanthoxyla prasina and Acanthoxyla inermis species of stick insect. Both species have been living wild since their ancestors arrived on cargo ships from New Zealand back in the 1900s. Both species are green and stick like, the Acanthoxyla prasina has small spikes on its body whereas the Acanthoxyla inermis is smooth bodied. The fact that neither species has migrated northwards during the last 115 years is evidence that temperatures elsewhere in Britain are far too cold for them to survive.

Have you seen the book "Phasmids of Borneo", I ask because it is advertised at a jaw-dropping price of £125 and I wondered why it has such a high price tag?
Yes, I have seen this book, although I don't own a copy. It is a technical work concentrating on the distribution and illustrating the anatomy of the different species of stick insect (phasmid) in Borneo. The author is Dr Phil Bragg. Specialist technical books tend to have high price tags because they are not printed in huge numbers and so the unit cost of production is very high.

I am planning on buying one of your stick insect Hatching Sets for Christmas. I am wondering if you plan to extend this range by supplying other sorts of eggs, for example the Australian? If I am successful with the Indian stick insects, I thought I might try the Australian next?
The Small-Life Supplies "Hatching Set" includes seven Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus). These eggs have a four month incubation time, but the eggs you receive will be due to hatch within weeks. Indian stick insect eggs have a very successful hatching rate and the survival rate of the babies is very high, if you follow the instructions. In contrast, eggs from the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) have a lower hatching and survival rate. So no, we won't be selling Australian eggs because we don't want our customers to be disappointed.

Someone told me that if I feed my Macleays Spectre rose leaves they will go green. Is that true?
No. The way to change the colour of Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) is to feed them bramble but also insert bark containing lichens. The stick insects eat the bramble leaves for nourishment but when they nibble the lichens, this can cause the stick insects' bodies to develop blue and green hues. The mossy looking lichens work best. The change in colour is transient and so it is not passed on genetically to the next generation.


Is it too early to buy stick insects for Christmas?
No. Small-Life Supplies is already accepting Christmas orders, these will be dispatched the week beginning 14th December 2015 (weather permitting). We can't send out stick insects the following week because it is too close to Christmas and delays in the courier network are inevitable due to the high volume of parcels being processed. Obviously we don't want the stick insects to be delayed in transit and so that is why they are dispatched the week beginning 14th December 2015 (weather permitting).

I shall be retiring soon (can't wait!) and I would like to try my hand at rearing the Actias luna American Moon Moth. Do have any suggestions regarding foodplants for the caterpillars?
In captivity, the American Moon Moth (Actias luna) caterpillars do well on walnut leaves. So you need to plant some walnuts in pots and grow your own walnut plants, this is easy to do. Of course, being large caterpillars they have big appetites, so you need to plant a lot of walnuts!

I am currently running a research project at University with X-Ray Imaging looking at testing beetle exoskeleton. I am looking to purchase live beetles from a UK supplier - do you know of a contact for sourcing beetles?
There are lots of different types of beetles, one that is reared commercially in large numbers in the Tenebrio molitor beetle. Livefood suppliers sell the larval version of this insect, commonly called the "mealworm". You could purchase these and wait for them to complete their metamorphosis into pupae and then emerge as adult beetles. Or, if you needed adult beetles , then ladybirds are sold commercially to gardeners. Ladybirds are the also known as coccinellid beetles.

What exactly is a daddy long-legs? My Mum says its the winged insects with dangly legs skimming the walls in our kitchen. But my Dad says daddy long legs are those big round bodied Harvestmen spiders with long legs that radiate outwards.
In Britain, "daddy long-legs" usually refers to the insect that your mother is describing. They are craneflies and the adults appear in autumn. They are classified as Tipulids. The creatures your father is referring to are called Harvestmen , but although they have eight legs, they only have one body part and so are not classified as spiders (which have two body parts), instead they are Opiliones. They are sometimes called daddy long-legs.

My Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect is still alive but doesn't seem to be able to stand up fully she finished her shed 11 days ago. I need help.
Unfortunately the virus which exclusively affects Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) is circulating again. Affected stick insects become weak and have floppy abdomens which they can no longer curl up. A slow death is inevitable, which is what you are witnessing. All you can do is prop her on a wet leaf so she can drink, this will ease her final days.

My boyfriend lives in Paris and I would love to buy him an ELC Cage Bundle for his Indian stick insects. Is the postage to France very expensive?
The good news is that the delivery charges continue to come down as there are so many couriers competing for business. The current delivery charge to France is approximately twice the delivery charge for the UK, so is now £20, which is an all time low. So the price of sending an ELC cage bundle to your boyfriend in Paris would be £55.75 + £20 delivery.

Thanks for the heads up about Kempton insect fair, I've never been before and didn't realise it would be so big and busy! I bought some praying mantises at the fair and wondered if you supply praying mantis cages? I was thinking of something like a smaller version of that cage with the detachable sides that you had on display?
Yes, the new clear acrylic cage with detachable mesh sides can be made to different sizes. The one on display was 45cm x 45cm x 45cm, but we have already priced a smaller version, 24cm x 24cm x 24cm, for another customer, who like you, is looking for an attractive cage for a praying mantis (mantid). Please contact les@small-life.co.uk for more details.

We were so pleased to meet you at the Kempton Park insect event last weekend, we enjoy reading your Q and As every week, you provide a very good service. The ELC cage we purchased is excellent for our Pink Winged stick insects, we have four adults in there at present. My question is how many Pink Winged stick insects could we keep in there (we are keen to try and hatch out some of their eggs).
The ELC cage can house up to fifteen adult Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). Keep attaching the Hatch Mats to the outside of the cage, so that the Pink Winged stick insects can glue their eggs onto these.

I have finally persuaded the PTA to get proper stick insect cages for school! Our Open Day is coming up soon and so I think that helped! We can purchase three "ELC cage bundles", please can you let me know what the delivery charge would be? We are in West Sussex.
The delivery charge is £9.95 across the UK (except for Scottish Highlands, Northern Ireland and offshore islands). So, regardless of whether you purchase one, two, or three ELC bundles, the delivery is capped at £9.95.

I have just purchased an ELC cage to house my Indian stick insects. I currently have 15 nymphs. What is the maximum number of adults that this cage can house comfortably?
The ELC cage will comfortably house approximately twenty Indian stick insect adults (Carausius morosus). Housing up to forty adult Indian stick insects can still be acceptable. The absolute maximum is sixty adult Indian stick insects but housing that many in one ELC cage should be an emergency measure and not a long term arrangement.

I found two of my sixth stage Indian stick insects dead this morning and it was clear that they had died trying to moult. They lived in an ELC cage with 20ish others, mostly adults with a few older nymphs. Why has this happened and is there anything I can do to stop it happening again?
You are housing your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) correctly, and not overcrowding them. So the moulting problems could be due to the stick insects becoming too wet or too dry. Have you been overspraying the leaves or perhaps getting the stick insects wet by mistake? Or, if you have turned on the central heating recently, perhaps the leaves have dried out quicker than usual. Sprigs of leaves should be in a Sprig Pot of water and the leaves should be lightly misted every evening or so with the Mister Curvy.

So my daughter brought some stick insects back from school, the Indian type, with the red shoulders, and now the bloomin' council have massacred the privet hedge! Help! Where can I get privet- do you sell it?
At the moment, Small-Life Supplies is selling fresh cut privet by post. You receive a generous amount of privet, sent by first class post to anywhere in the UK. The price is £3.50 + £3.95. This service is available whilst stocks last.

I saw the Kempton insect event on your website and am deffo coming to it as I've been a customer for years and would love to meet you guys! I'd like another ELC cage, will you have plenty for sale? I'll need more Liners too.
Great, we are looking forward to meeting old and new customers at this insect event on Sat 3rd Oct 2015. We will have some ELC cages for sale on the day along with ELC Liners (blue and pink). Please bring enough cash because it's cash-only sales at this event.

My son has been wanting a Praying Mantis for a long time now. I can see that you stock a lot of Stick Insects, but do you do Praying Mantises as well?
We don't have any praying mantises (mantids) at the moment. However, there is a big insect fair happening on Saturday 3rd Oct 2015 at Kempton Park racecourse, postcode TW16 5AQ, and it is likely that there will be stands at this event selling praying mantises. This annual insect event is open to the public and Small-Life Supplies will have a stand showcasing our insect cages and stick insects. Just turn up on the day, doors open at 11am.

One of my Indian eggs has just hatched but the eggshell is still on the back leg of the stick insect. What should I do? I have nine other eggs, laid out of kitchen roll in the bottom of the netting habitat, is this right?
If an Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) hatches and her eggshell is still stuck to her leg or abdomen, this is a sign that the eggs have not been kept in the correct surroundings. Keeping Indian eggs as you describe is not recommended because the conditions are too dry. So you need to transfer your nine eggs to an enclosed plastic container with no airholes, the QBOX is ideal. Leave the eggshell on your stick insect's leg, the nymph will carry this around until she completes her first skin change. The baby Indian stick insects do best in an enclosed container with a wet bramble leaf, again the QBOX is ideal housing for Indian stick insects during the first month of their life.

My son has two Macleays Spectre stick insects. One of them is shedding again (nearly adult), and we were wondering if it is essential that we allow her to eat her skin, assuming, she wants to, or whether we can remove it for display? We're not sure if the skin is required for recycling of essential nutrients for example?
It is best to wait and let the stick insect decide. If she needs to consume the shed skin for nutrients she will do so, if not she won't. Stick insects only eat the skins immediately after climbing out of them (so the skin is still soft and damp) so it will be obvious within ten minutes of her finishing her skin-change whether she wants to eat it or not. Please do not disturb her during this time, because disturbance will result in her abandoning her skin (because she senses danger and consuming the skin is not a quick process).

I just read on your Facebook page that New Guinea stick insects eat hazel leaves. I have three questions. By hazel leaves, do you mean the bushes that produce the catkins, we call them "lambs tails"? Also, I saw a while back on Facebook that you were advertising damaged New Guinea stick insects cut- price, do you have any of these for sale at the moment? And if you do, will you be taking any to Kempton insect show?
Yes, hazel leaves are the large soft leaves found on hazel trees and bushes that produce the lambs tails (catkins). And yes, we have a few damaged New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) adults for sale, priced at just £5 per pair. We will be taking some to sell at the Kempton Park insect event on Saturday 3rd October 2015.

Would stick insects survive in NE England?
No, the only stick insects that are surviving outside in the UK are those found in Cornwall and parts of the South West of England. They are descendants of the New Zealand stick insects (Acanthoxyla sp), brought over on cargo ships in the 1900s. Despite being here for over one hundred years, they have not migrated northwards because it is too cold during the winter months for them to survive.

We have a soon to be five year old that went to two bug clubs and in her words "fell in love with stick insects". Her birthday is in December and we are hoping to get her some. Is there a particular type that would be more suitable? I'm thinking chunkier ones if there are such things? Do you have any books available on the care and upkeep of them so we can be fully prepared for their arrival.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are popular with young children, provided that they do not find them scary. Your daughter will be able to handle New Guinea stick insects because they are chunky and slow moving and do not have wings. Full details of New Guinea stick insects are in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd. They do well in the large ELC cage. Your daughter can watch them drink water from the Water Dish and bury their eggs in Sand Pit, both these products are listed on the New Guinea stick insects section of our "living insects" page.

I have some Indian stick insects which I have had since October last year and one of the adults has lost her two back legs and looks like she has chunks out of her front legs with green blood on her, do you think they have been fighting or is she coming to the end of her life ?
When Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are getting old, they need more water to drink and can fight and lose legs if they are short of water. Indian stick insects live on average one year, and so your stick insect is dying from old age and is short of water. You need to prop her up on a wet bramble leaf so she can drink. Be prepared that she will die within days.

Another site says New Guinea stick insects are ground dwelling and need a tank with gravel at the bottom because they don't climb?
The incorrect assertion that New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are ground dwelling comes from the fact that they like to rest by piling on top of each other (horizontally) either underneath leaves or in cardboard tubes. However, as well as doing this, they also like to rest vertically on the mesh sides of the cage. And New Guinea stick insects are active and will often walk around the whole cage, including up and down the sides, particularly at night. So, it is very important that New Guinea stick insects have a large tall cage, with mesh sides they can climb, the ELC cage is ideal for them. Never put gravel on the floor of a stick insect cage because this traps dirt and eggs. Use a disposable paper ELC Liner instead, and replace this every week.

My question is how long will an Australian prickly stick insect live without food ?
Australian "prickly" stick insects are usually called the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum). Like other stick insects, they eat daily and drink every few days (except in hot weather when they need a daily drink). If yours has escaped, it can survive only a few days without food so it is important to find it quickly.

I read about pouring hot water over Indian stick insect eggs to stop them from hatching. I feel awful about doing this, isn't it cruel to be killing them?
In nature, each Indian stick insect lays about five hundred eggs during her seven month adult lifespan. The vast majority of eggs perish, either from being waterlogged, or eaten by predators. So, in captivity, it is important to mimic nature and ensure that most of the eggs do not survive. The consequences of not doing this and having most of the eggs hatching would not be sustainable either in nature or in captivity. Indian stick insect eggs take four months to hatch, in the beginning there are just cells in the eggs, not sentient beings. So it is not at all cruel to stop eggs at that stage from developing any further. A weekly change of the cage Liner ensures that you collect the eggs up to a week after they have been laid and so disposing of them at this early stage is not at all cruel and shouldn't even be regarded as "killing".

Please tell me more about this insect event at Kempton Park Racecourse that you are advertising on your Facebook page.
The Kempton insect event is held once a year at Kempton Park Racecourse, Sunbury on Thames, Middlesex, TW16 5AQ. Open to the public at 11am, visitors can see lots firms and enthusiasts selling stick insects, spiders, insect cages, mounted specimens etc. You can just browse or buy items. No need to book, just turn up on the day! If you visit, be sure to drop by the Small-Life Supplies stand and say hello. This is an indoor event, with refreshments and toilet facilities.


I have some Pink Winged stick insects in one of your ELC cages at school, and we are now ready to keep another type. We are tempted by the New Guinea stick insects, would it be possible to mix these in the the same cage as our Pink Winged stick insects? (We have fourteen, mostly large nymphs, some adults).
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are large, heavy, chunky stick insects that are very popular with both teachers and pupils. But because they are so big, they can accidentally damage the smaller, thinner, and more delicate Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) if they clamber over them. So, it is best to house New Guinea stick insects in a separate ELC cage, and also provide the Water Dish and Sand Pit (for their eggs).

When I phoned up Small-Life Supplies a few weeks ago, the lady said that I can select the standard size New Guinea adult stick insects, or the smaller adults, and that they were the same price. Having discussed this with my son (they're for his forthcoming birthday), we have decided on the smaller adults, but I don't see them listed on your website. Are they still available?
Yes, most of our adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are the standard size, but we do have some slightly smaller adults too. Both sizes are nice and healthy, they have all been kept in the same conditions and so it is just natural variation that some individuals are larger than others. We usually send out the standard size ones, unless people specifically request the smaller ones, and so when you order, just state that you'd like the smaller adults.

We looked after the school stick insects over the holidays and have just bought and received four adult Indian stick insects from you (they are lovely!) and one of your excellent ELC cages (so much better than the black net thing they have at my son's school because we can now see what the stick insects are doing). Anyway, my question is how many eggs do you think we should save? We are looking forward to hatching out baby stick insects but don't want too many!
Each adult Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) lays approximately 500 eggs during its seven month lifespan, so it is really important only to save a few eggs. Saving twenty to thirty eggs is a good number, not all will hatch and some young may not survive, but generally Indian stick insect eggs have a high hatching rate and the nymphs (young stick insects) have a high survival rate. The ELC cage will easily accommodate approx twenty adult Indian stick insects. Just pour hot water over the unwanted eggs to stop them developing, in nature most of the eggs perish from being waterlogged or being eaten by predators.

My Indian stick insect has a green stain on the underside of her thorax. I think it is blood? Do I need to do anything or will it heal by itself?
The green stain will be a blood stain, the blood of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is dark green. You can leave it alone, or if it smells, you can spray it with cold tap water and dab off the excess water with kitchen roll. But be careful not to dab too hard because you do not want to re-open the wound.

I have recently purchased two black beauty stick insects. They are both about 7cm. What I'm asking is how often do they eat? Because the person I bought them from had been feeding them privet, and they haven't eaten any of the privet I gave them. I've had them just over a day. Could it be stress if moving preventing them eating?
Black Beauty stick insects are usually called the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insects, Peruphasma schultei. They only eat privet leaves. Changing homes does unsettle the stick insects and so it is best not to disturb them too much in the first week. To encourage them to eat, you need to lightly mist the privet leaves with water in the evening. And the privet stems should be in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water so that the leaves stay fresh and are juicy to eat. At 7cm long they are fully grown and so should be eating daily.

My husband bought our son some stick insects which he adores. The problem is that we now have hundreds and I wondered if there is anything we can do to prevent further breeding?
In the wild each female stick insect lays hundreds of eggs during its lifetime because most eggs are destroyed by predators or by being waterlogged. So, when keeping stick insects in captivity, you need to mimic nature and either feed the surplus eggs to the birds or fish, or use water. The quickest way is to pour hot water over the eggs, this will stop them developing. Stick insect eggs take several months to develop and so it is best to dispose of unwanted eggs soon after they have been laid. So when you change the cage Liner every week, that is the time to do this.

My Dad just gave me a tank with six Indian stick insect adults. It's got soil on the bottom, which I know is wrong. Would I be able to use ELC Liners, or could I use kitchen roll instead? I've said the stick insects need an ELC cage and my Dad said OK, if I look after them well he'll get me one for Christmas.
Soil on the bottom of a stick insect tank is a really bad idea because the eggs and droppings accumulate there leading to unhygienic conditions which attract small flies. Far better to use a cage Liner or plain paper. The ELC Liners are pre-cut to fit the floor of the ELC cage, so it is unlikely that your tank has the same floor area. So you could cut the ELC Liners to fit, or use plain paper for the time being. Paper is more rigid than kitchen roll and so it is easier to collect the eggs; just tilt the paper and let the Indian stick insect eggs roll off into a bowl.

Can I keep leaf insects in the ELC cage?
Yes, leaf insects do really well in the ELC cage.

I would like to buy some large stick insects for my daughter and myself. We like the look of the "Jungle Nymphs". Do you sell these? And would they be a good choice for the novice stick insect keeper?
The proper name for "Jungle nymphs" is the Malaysian stick insect, Heteropteryx dilatata. They grow large, the female is lime green and wide, the male is brown with plum coloured wings. Malaysian stick insects are less active than other types of stick insects and are more challenging to keep, so no, I would not recommend these stick insects for beginners. Far better to choose the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), these are very large and wide, do not have wings and like a lot of exercise. We have New Guinea stick insects ready now, you can choose to have green nymphs or the young brown adults, they are the same price. New Guinea stick insects do really well in the ELC cage.

I wish to study the Acanthoxyla inermis as I know that there are colonies here in Cornwall. On-line I have been fortunate to purchase a batch of nymphs but now wonder if that is a mistake as their food plants are deciduous. Please, can you advise me how to overwinter them?
The New Zealand stick insect Acanthoxyla inermis is a smooth looking green stick insect which has established itself in areas of South West Britain. There is a spikier species also present, called the Acanthoxyla prasina (this is one of the stick insects featured on the cover of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book.) Like many other stick insects, these New Zealand stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, and these leaves are available all year round. There are different types of bramble, some types die off in winter but other varieties keep their leaves. So you will be still be able to find green bramble leaves in winter. Several people have reported finding Acanthoxyla stick insects on their conifers, so this could be another suitable foodplant for these stick insects.

Some of my Macleays Spectre stick insect bodies have become very limp and squishy (for want of a better word), they haven't fallen, have lots of bramble and are sprayed regularly. Do you know what could be causing this?
Oh dear, these are the classic symptoms of the virus that has killed so many Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) over the years. Fortunately this virus does not spread to other species of stick insect. When such an outbreak occurs you need to act quickly and separate the unaffected stick insects into a separate cage and put them in a different room. Unfortunately all those stick insects with limp abdomens will die.

I have three Indian stick insects that are fully grown, about five months old. They are producing eggs and seem healthy. For the last couple of days I've noticed that they seem to be "spitting" on the side of their enclosure (see photo). I thought at first that they were drinking from water droplets that had gathered from misting, but I hadn't sprayed yet today. Can they be sick? Or can they regurgitate liquid? I haven't changed their food (they eat privet from next door's hedge).
Do not be concerned. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) sometimes do this before they eat. They regurgitate clear liquid from their mouths onto the side of the cage, then "wash" their mouthparts in this large droplet, before moving over to eat the leaves. The best time to mist their leaves with water is early evening because Indian stick insects usually have their main meal when the room is just becoming dark.

I have got some Indian stick insects. What do the eggs look like as I can't tell. Any chance of some pics to help. Also, is it best to leave the eggs in the tank to hatch?
Adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) lay a few eggs every day. Their eggs are small round and brown with a little yellow lid (operculum). Just save a few eggs and store them in a QBOX where they will hatch out in four months time. Photos of the eggs and full care details are in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

One of my 5th or 6th stage Indian stick insect nymphs has a tail that is bent almost 90 degrees away from her body. Her body is also very soft and squishy. Should I be worried and is there anything I can do?
Yes, you need to quickly squeeze the crease so reinflate the insect's body. Do this gently and she should recover, although she may have a scar visible there for the rest of her life. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) sometimes fall awkwardly and if they have just completed a skin-change their bodies are very soft and can easily fold like this as they hit the floor. It is really important to act quickly to help the stick insect.

I have a young walking stick insect that was given to me. But it has a trail of droppings hanging from its back end. What should I do? It was lively but today is on the bottom of the cage hardly moving.
Your stick insect is dehydrated and so you need to give it a drink immediately. Spray the leaves with water and let it drink from the droplets. Also, have you been giving it the correct food? Stick insects are very fussy about what they eat, most need to eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, but some other species need other plants. As you don't say what species of stick insect you have, I am unable to advise on what type of leaves it needs to eat.

Were we here before the insects? Or were we created at the same time? And as it is 2015 did we appear two thousand and fifteen years ago?
Insects were on Earth a very long time before humans. Insects are thought to have appeared approximately 325 million years ago, whilst evidence suggests that humans appeared much later, approximately 200,000 years ago. The fact the year is now 2015 just means that our calendar system started 2015 years ago, it is not a measurement of how long humans have been living on Earth.

I am a technician and would like to know if you can supply plastic whitefly and thrips cages? What is the finest mesh you supply?
Yes, we manufacture and supply cages for whitefly and thrips. These are made from clear plastic and have very fine fabric mesh. We offer five sizes of hole size, ranging from 300 micron to 100 micron. Thrips are smaller than whitefly and so need the 100, 125 or 150 micron mesh. There are two access sleeves made from this fine mesh, so you can put both hands into the cage at the same time. The cages have solid floors and have been designed so they have no gaps and are also very easy to clean.

I am so thrilled because my New Guinea stick insect eggs are hatching. So far I have thirteen in a HUA Pot with airholes and none have died. I was thinking of keeping about twenty but not sure whether I need another HUA Pot? Some of my friends would like some, so I'll be getting more HUA Pots anyway.
You are doing really well in hatching out New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), because a lot of people struggle with hatching out this species. We recommend keeping up to fifteen baby New Guinea stick insects in a HUA Pot. This species does need a bit of air flow in the HUA Pot and so remember to ask for the "starburst perforation" version of the HUA Pot, this costs an extra pound, but gives the New Guinea nymphs the extra air-flow that they need to thrive.

We have an Egyptian mantis who is currently laying oothecae like no tomorrow. In your experience, do unfertilised oothecae ever hatch?
No, on the odd occasion when we have had a parthenogenetically produced ootheca (egg case), no young have emerged. But that is not to say they would not hatch out if the ootheca was kept for long enough. Certainly with stick insects, when a female reverts to producing parthenogenetic eggs because there are no males around, some of the eggs do hatch, but take many more months to hatch than they would if mating had occurred. The resulting young are not as strong as they would be if they had hatched from fertilised eggs.

I have got twenty Pachnoda marginata beetle grubs. I have been feeding them with "leaf litter" from the woods, but sadly there's housing going up on the only woods around here. Can you help?
A lot of British people are finding it increasingly difficult to access deciduous woods to gather leaf litter to feed their beetle grubs (and African millipedes and Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches). So Small-Life Supplies are now sending bags of leaf litter by post to anywhere in the UK. This is what we use, so it is good quality leaf litter, containing oak and sycamore leaves that are breaking down, along with other nutrients that make up deciduous leaf litter. The price is £6.99, with free delivery in the UK, for a 310g bag, this would typically be enough food for a month or so.

Please can you help me. My Indian stick insect has not shed properly and has now got a horrid looking green spot/blob on it's back end. I have tried to help keep it clean but it's not keen.
Yes, the photos you sent show that your stick insect has a deformed end. The pale green blob is male genitalia but otherwise your stick insect looks like a standard female. I have seen this before, it is quite rare and it is unlikely she will be able to lay many eggs. Of more concern is the condition of the deformed end, it is essential that she is able to open and close the end to defeacate, if she cannot, she will die. You could spray the affected area with water just one more time to try and soften it. Try to avoid getting the green blob wet. Unfortunately the prognosis is not good.

My New Guinea Stick Insects are now adults and so hopefully we can expect some eggs in the near future. I have two males and two females and ideally just want to maintain a similar size next generation rather than ending up with dozens. I understand that not all eggs hatch and not all hatchlings survive. How many eggs would you advise me to save and hatch?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) bury lots of eggs during their lifetime. The eggs laid at the start and end of their adult lives are not of the best quality, and so it's best not to save those eggs. But otherwise, save most of the eggs. This is because the eggs can be tricky to hatch. A good tip is to store the batches in different pots, labelled up with the month they were laid. Lightly mist the eggs with water or better still, use steam from a shower or kettle. If you get the eggs too wet, they become mouldy and do not develop. So that is why separating batches into different pots is a good idea because it spreads the risk. If you are lucky enough to hatch some, then you need to keep them a while until they are big enough to tell the difference between males and females. Keeping an equal balance is best. And of course you always have the option to send any surplus insects or eggs to Small-Life Supplies.

Can I raise Diapherodes gigantea on Eucalyptus cinerea?
You really need to feel the thickness of the leaves. Eucalyptus eating stick insects, including the Grenadan stick insect, Diapherodes gigantea, need to be able to easily eat the leaves with their mandibles. There are lots of eucalyptus species and some produce very thick leaves which are too difficult for the stick insects to eat. That is why we always recommend using Eucalyptus gunnii, because these leaves are soft and this species of eucalyptus is very hardy and easy to grow.

I have a pair of Australian prickly stick insects. They have both been living happily in a room cage for the last 4 months. The female has had her last shed and they have mated a few times. She has stayed a nice soft brown colour but the male has become darker and seems to be more temperamental. I've seen them eat the bramble regularly and the leaves are sprayed regularly. This is the first problem I've ever had with stick insects as I've kept the Indian breed for years. Any idea on what's going on with him?
It sounds as though he is very old and about to die. "Australian prickly " are usually called Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) and have shorter lifespans than most stick insects, and so live less than one year. Very old males become darker and agitated. The kindest thing to do is to give him more water, a Water Dish of cold tap water is a good idea anyway for this species. Hopefully your female will be laying lots of eggs, these early eggs are worth keeping because they have been fertilised. We have spare young adult Australian males for sale, if you would like to buy one please get in touch.


I just found my neighbours children playing with orange and black caterpillars, they have now been released back onto the plant (see photo). I sent kids to wash their hands but is this enough - I know these caterpillars are poisonous?
The photo you sent shows the orange and black caterpillars on their foodplant of ragwort. These caterpillars are brightly coloured to deter birds from eating them because they taste unpleasant. Children can handle these caterpillars safely and it is far better to encourage children's interest in the natural world instead of scaring them into thinking every living creature is dangerous. Those caterpillars present no danger at all to humans. They are the caterpillars of the British Cinnabar Moth (Callimorpha jacobaeae). In time they will become moths with bright red and black patterned wings, hopefully the children may spot them.

I got a load of Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs and they have just started to hatch. They are running all over the place. Is the QBOX the best container for them? And how long should I feed them eucalyptus? There is a big tree by the station but it's a bit public and there may be security cameras.
You need to feed newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) with eucalyptus leaves for the first few weeks of their lives. Fortunately, they do not eat much when they are small and so a twig about 30cm long should last a couple of weeks. I'd recommend standing it in a vase of water. And then snipping off a small length, about 10cm long, and putting this in the HUA pot. That container is clear, like the QBOX, but larger, so better for these baby stick insects because they are very active and like to run around. After a few weeks, they can be switched over to bramble (blackberry) leaves and transferred to the large airy ELC cage.

Do you ever sell things cut-price? Sorry to be cheeky but money's really tight at the mo. But I want the best for all my animals and would like to have some New Guinea stick insects.
Yes, we sell imperfect items and used items cut-price. For example, thumbed copies of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book are half-price at £6. New, but dented Mister Curvys are £1, packs of six damaged New Guinea stick insect nymphs are £10, and we sell used ELC cages on ebay (auction listings, so the final price varies, but is usually around £30).

Do stick insects think? I ask because my Pink Winged stick insects look around the room before taking off for a fly. But my science teacher said insects are programmed, like computers, and can't think, they just input data and react to surroundings.
You are correct in observing that an adult Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) looks around a room before taking off. She is gathering information via the sensory hairs on her antennae and also visual information via her eyes, to see where she wants to fly to. So, yes, she is "thinking" at a basic level. The idea that stick insects are all pre-programmed is flawed because anyone who has kept and observed stick insects knows that individuals from the same species behave differently and so do not respond in the same way to identical conditions. For example, some Pink Winged stick insects are really keen to fly and try out different flying routes in a room, whereas others prefer to keep flying to a minimum and some choose not to fly at all.

I kept loads of New Guinea stick insect eggs and am thrilled that they are starting to hatch. Unfortunately a few are dying after a few days, their bodies go a bit soggy. But the others are doing fine and are already changing colour. I'm keeping them in HUA pots. Am I doing anything wrong? I hatched out Indian stick insects and had 100% success.
You are doing fine. The success rate of hatchling New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) is lower than for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). Some baby New Guinea stick insects do die and start to decompose quickly, as you have witnessed. It is important to remove the corpses as soon as possible. We now house our baby New Guinea stick insects in HUA pots because these are more spacious than QBOXES and so are more suitable for New Guinea stick insect babies which are relatively large.

Someone gave me some Indian stick insects, saying they were L3 size. What does this mean?
Some sellers of caterpillars refer to L1, L2, L3 etc, as a means of identifying which larval stage the caterpillar is at. So L3 refers to larval stage 3, which means the caterpillar has shed twice. Unfortunately this system is sometimes being used by non-biologists to refer to stick insects, which is rather silly because stick insects do not have any larval stages. Young stick insects are called nymphs, not larvae. But the reasoning is the same, so your stick insects have shed their skins twice. They are in their third instar. They will be adults after six skin changes.

Fantastic news that your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects are back in stock, I have been wanting these for ages! Would a couple be OK in an ELC cage with my eight nymphs of Pink Winged stick insects?
Yes, there is plenty of room in the ELC cage for this number of stick insects and those two species will live happily together. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) need more water than the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). So as well as misting the bramble leaves most evenings, you need to place the Water Dish on the cage Liner. It is important to only half fill the Water Dish to prevent any small Pink Winged stick insects from dropping in and drowning.

I am looking after the school stick insects (Indian species) for the holidays. They are in a homemade netting cage with a wooden frame that is really big, it is 80cm tall and 50cm across. Do you have any really long stick insects that could live in here with the Indian stick insects? The longer the better!
Yes, we have two really long stick-like species that are available, but not listed on the website yet. There is the New Thailand species, Baculum sp. which is parthenogenetic (all females) and can grow to 22cm. And we also have the Thailand Straight (Phaenopharos herwaardeni) which have females growing to 19cm and males to 17cm. The Thailand Straight stick insect adults have tiny red wings, too small to fly with, but used as a deterrent to startle predators. We have medium and large nymphs of both species for sale now, please contact emma@small-life.co.uk for price details.

I live in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK. I attach a photo of a stick insect I have seen in my garden. I know they are not native. Are they escaped/released pets that have been living here for years, like the parakeets in London?
No, the photo you sent me is of a New Zealand stick insect (Acanthoxylla sp). These stick insects came over on cargo ships back in the 1900s and have established themselves in the wild in Cornwall. Their population has not moved further north, this is because British winters are too long and too cold for these stick insects to survive. Lots of other species of stick insects are being kept as pets in Cornwall but none of these are being seen repeatedly outdoors. It is only the New Zealand species that have become established and their populations are ticking over and not expanding.

I'm looking at possibly getting some stick insects but am wondering if they smell? Obviously they would be cleaned out regularly but do their tanks/poop tend to smell bad? I'm not really fond of that musty reptile smell you experience in pet stores and zoos.
One of the big advantages of keeping stick insects is that they do not smell if you keep them in the recommended way (an ELC cage with a paper Liner on the floor, replaced weekly). The ELC cage is well ventilated and the Liner ensures that the surroundings are clean. But if you keep stick insects in a stuffy tank with damp substrate you will get smells and small flies, but our ethos has always been to look after stick insects properly and provide the clean airy surroundings that they need to thrive. Their "poop" is called frass and is dry and does not smell. Some species can emit a defensive odour when they are frightened, but this only lasts a few seconds and rarely happens anyway.

I have three five-month old giant prickly stick insects. The female was shedding her skin and I saw her fall. When I had a look at her she was on her back with bubbly foam under chin. I was very worried so moved her off her back. She seems very weak.
Giant prickly stick insects are usually called Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum). At five months old, they should be completing their final skin change. They are very large stick insects and this final skin change is a major event for them. Because they are so large and heavy they need to be in a cage where they can get a good foothold with their claws so that their feet are firmly secured ensuring they can complete the skin change successfully, and not fall off. Unfortunately yours has fallen and so you need to free her from the old skin. Then prop her by a wet bramble leaf so she can drink. If she banged her head in the fall her nervous system may be damaged and she will not recover.

Would you recommend New Guinea stick insects for my boy (he's eleven) or would Australian stick insects be better? He wants a big type, and I have just ordered your book.
The book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd has a whole section on both of these types. I'd recommend the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) because they are long lived (18months- 3 years) and like a lot of exercise. The Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) are also dramatic to look at, but have shorter lifespans (less than one year). The adult male Australian Macleays Spectre likes to fly and so it is fun to let him out of the cage and watch him fly across the room once a week.

Our stick insects are eating privet wood, like crazy! Not the leaves. Is this normal?
No. Your stick insects are starving - they are eating the wood because they can detect that there is something wrong with the leaves. You need to switch them over to bramble leaves as soon as possible. A diet of wood does not provide the nutrition that stick insects need, this is why they need to eat leaves.

I have a four month old Indian stick insect which appeared to have moulted successfully last night but now, when hanging from a leaf, its abdomen bends at a sharp 90 degrees around the middle pair of legs. Set on top of leaf she appears to be feeding fine but wondered if this is an issue and what might have caused it? I have just five insects in a vivarium that's 45cm high by 30cm by 30cm. Wire mesh top and plenty of hanging room below bramble leaves so don't think space is a problem but wondering if glass walls not ideal as they get larger?
In simple terms, an Indian stick insect's (Carausius morosus) body is like a tube. If the insect falls awkwardly when its body is really soft (as it is after a skin change), at the point of impact the tube can close up and bend at a right angle along a crease, as you have observed. You need to act quickly so, using your fingers, gently press either side of the crease to inflate the tube. Regarding housing, stick insects like to rest on mesh surfaces, and so it is best to keep them in a cage with ventilated sides, such as the ELC cage. Larger stick insects hook their claws around mesh to climb and so find it easier to climb mesh sides rather than smooth glass sides. And because stick insects can can get a better grip with their claws on mesh surfaces, they are less likely to fall and hurt themselves.

I am a third year student studying animal behaviour at Aberystwyth University. For my dissertation I hope to do an observational behavioural experiment with Sipyloidea sipylus. At what age do they become adults with wings? How readily do they fly away or give off a liquid as a form of defence?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) mature after five months. They have to be really frightened to emit liquid from their mouths. Flying behaviour depends on the individual. A few are really keen to fly and will fly at any opportunity. But most prefer a short flight once a week, if the surroundings are warm enough. When they get full of eggs their bodies are heavier and so they fly less. And the very old stick insects prefer shorter flights. There's more information in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

We have just been to a large pet shop and were advised to buy a glass vivarium for stick insects (we haven't got those yet). Now, having seen your ELC cages, I realise we have been sold totally the wrong thing and so I will be returning the vivarium to the shop for a refund today. My question is how soon can you send me the ELC bundle and four Indian stick insects? It's for a birthday next Wednesday?
There is fast dispatch at the moment, and so orders placed on Friday and Saturday will be dispatched on Monday for a next day delivery on Tuesday. So, if you order today or tomorrow, you'll receive everything on Tuesday, in time for the birthday on Wednesday.

My New Guinea hatchlings are doing great in your HUA pot. I need a couple more HUA pots but I can't see them on the website, are they in stock?
Yes, HUA pots are available now, ask for the "starburst perforation" version because this will suit your New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) stick insects best.

My adult Pink Winged stick insect seems to be losing the grip on her front feet. They look OK but she is struggling to climb. What is wrong with her?
She is just old. When Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are old, their sticky suction pads on their front legs stop working. The stick insects also look darker in appearance and start to look thinner as well. Unfortunately she only has a couple of weeks or so left to live. Ensure the bramble leaves are misted in the evening, so she can drink from the water droplets.

On "Coronation Street", Erica said that she'd survive a nuclear holocaust along with the cockroaches. Since when have cockroaches become indestructible?
Cockroaches have no special powers and so are no more indestructible than any other insect. Cockroaches would not survive a nuclear war. It is unfortunate that the script writers of Coronation Street and other soap operas keep perpetuating this myth. It has no basis in fact.

Seeing as you breed so many stick insects, I was wondering if you ever have any damaged ones going cheap? I don't have much spare money, unfortunately. I live in Doncaster.
Yes, from time to time we have a major sort through the cages and set aside any damaged stick insects to sell cheaply. They are supplied with a colour information sheet. We recently sorted out the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) and have been selling trios of damaged New Guinea nymphs for just £5 plus £3.95 postage. More details are on the Small-Life Facebook page, or you can contact us direct, by emailing emma@small-life.co.uk

I have thirteen Indian stick insects in an ELC cage. One is not growing. Twelve of them are nearly 100mm long, but one is still only very small 30mm. All hatched within a day or two. Are they over-crowded? They are fed bramble and have plenty of fresh stuff to eat.
No, you are not over-crowding your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), because the ELC cage can comfortably house up to forty adults. It sounds like you are looking after them well, they like to see a lot of bramble leaves, and appreciate the leaves being misted with water every few days, so they can drink. The fact that one is not growing is unusual but this sometimes happens. The reason is a hormonal problem with that particular stick insect, it is not releasing enough growth hormone , which is why it is not growing as it should. Such stick insects usually die prematurely.

I accidentally snipped about 1cm off the end off the antenna of one of my New Guinea stick insects. I feel awful, it was an accident, I would never harm my pets. I was snipping the old bramble stem with my seccateurs and didn't see her in time. There is a blob of clear liquid on the end of her antenna- what should I do now to help her? And will she be able to grow it back?
You need to get a wet piece of kitchen roll and dab the end of the antenna, to soak up the blob and help clean the damaged end of the antenna. The cut end will soon seal over. Your New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) will easily be able to cope with this 1cm loss of her antenna. Stick insects cannot regenerate antennae and so she will now always have a bit of her antenna missing.

I seem to be gathering a lot of bramble for my Indian stick insects recently, do stick insects eat more when it is hotter or is it the time of year?
It is the temperature that determines how much stick insects eat. It is best to keep stick insects in a room that has a daytime temperature of between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. When the weather is hot, like it is in the UK at the moment, many houses get above 21 degrees and so the stick insects eat more. The hotter it is the more they eat. It is best to keep Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) below 25 degrees Celsius, because above this threshold they can get too hot and may start to fight each other.

The cabbages in my garden (in Oxford) are covered with yellow and grey caterpillars. My young son adores watching them and I'm conflicted - should I move the caterpillars to other plants or leave them there and sacrifice the cabbages so that my son can watch nature? I must confess I quite like watching them too!
It would be misguided to move the caterpillars to other types of plant because this would result in the caterpillars starving to death. Most caterpillars are very fussy about what they can eat and so your caterpillars, which are probably the species Pieris brassicae, must continue to eat cabbage leaves. So leave them alone and enjoy watching them grow (they get quite large). They are safe to handle and will walk across your hand. After a few weeks you may be lucky enough to see a few of the resultant Large White butterflies (this species has a high mortality rate in the pupa stage so there won't be as many butterflies as there were caterpillars).

I've noticed one of my New Guinea stick insects has lost its rear leg and another is missing half a leg. I have six stick insects in the ELC cage and at the moment they are around 50mm long. Why are they losing their legs ?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can lose legs if they are stressed (usual causes are overcrowding, lack of space, shortage of food, or lack of water). Are you giving them extra water? New Guinea stick insects drink more water than other types of stick insect and so there should be a shallow dish of water in the cage. With six stick insects, you aren't overcrowding them and they have enough space in the ELC cage. They like a generous amount of food, so you need to put two or three sprigs of bramble into the ELC cage and replace this every week.

Our Indian stick insects from Christmas 2014 are doing well, many thanks. The other day some of the eggs hatched. I have separated them into three pots, roughly four in each pot, so twelve in total. What is the best thing to do now? Do I put bramble leaf in each pot? Do we spray with water? Keep out of sun?
Yes, you need to place a wet bramble leaf in each pot. Baby stick insects are thirsty and need to drink from a wet leaf. Do not spray water into the pots. The pots should have no air-holes, we recommend QBOXES for newly hatched stick insects because these are crystal clear and have no air-holes. And yes, keep them out of the sun because it is important that the pots do not steam up inside.

My male Indian stick insect has moulted, but not all of it came off. I sprayed him with water and tried to peel the rest off as well as I could, but some remained on his tail. He seems to be doing fine now, eating and moving around, however he seems to be growing some little green ball type things on his tail area now. What are they? Are they dangerous to his health? If so how do I get rid of them?
Well done for helping him to finish shedding his skin. The green things are his genitalia, so nothing to be concerned about. There are varying degrees of being a male Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus). The rare "true" males are tan coloured, very slim, red underneath, and hyperactive, with their green genitalia only appearing when they are keen to mate. The rare "gynandromorph" male/female Indian stick insects are brown, thicker than the true males but thinner than the females, and have their green genitalia on display most of the time.

I have a Macleays stick insect. It won't be long till I move him from his jar into his proper tank. I want to keep it looking as natural as possible for him. Do you think he would prefer dirt or sand and which kind is best?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have the same design of feet as other species of stick insect, namely claws and sticky suction pads. Substrates such as dirt and sand are not recommended because the granules clog up the sticky pads on the stick insects' feet. That is why using plain paper to cover the floor of the cage is best.

Before she died my New Guinea stick insect used to listen to SHAKIRA - Hips don't lie. Now I have Indian stick insects and they are fond of Mark Ronson - Uptown funk.
Stick insects can hear (their ears are near their knees) and do respond to different sounds. "Hips don't lie" and "Uptown Funk" are both upbeat songs which are the same genre as other songs people have reported stick insects liking (upbeat songs by Daft Punk and Robbie Williams).

My Emperor caterpillar that I bought from you has been eating and pooing and is massive. But this morning it had an upset tummy and hasn't really moved since. There are a few silken fibres on the side of the CTube but as it's now lunchtime, should I be worried?
No, don't be worried, it is not a quick process for a caterpillar to transform into a pupa. The upset tummy is a sign that the caterpillar is about to start spinning its cocoon. Some caterpillars get on with this quickly, but most hesitate for a few hours before beginning. Some even start spinning in one location, then change their mind and move to a different site and spin there! So just be patient and hopefully you will see the finished silken cocoon within the next few days. Try not to disturb the caterpillar when it is spinning its cocoon.

I have enjoyed my Emperor caterpillar kit so much and measured my caterpillar, called Isobel, at 7cm yesterday! Is this a record (your advice sheet says 5cm). I think she is fully grown now though because she hasn't eaten anything today yet.
A length of 7cm is very long for an Emperor caterpillar (Saturnia pavonia) and so Isobel should develop into a huge silkmoth next year. This is the first year we have seen such large Emperor caterpillars, our biggest was nearly 8cm (see photo on Facebook). Because Isobel has stopped eating, she will pupate within days. She will remain still and may appear to shrink a little, before having an "upset tummy". She will then start to spin her silken cocoon.

I've got Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. I live in North Wales near to the beach, and I'm having problems getting hold of bramble, so it said you can feed them ivy. Two died. I've got four babies which have not long been born, I've got the temperature correct but I can't understand why they're dying?
The answer is very simple, you are feeding them the wrong food. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do not eat ivy. You need to feed the baby stick insects with Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. The older stick insects can eat either bramble leaves or eucalyptus leaves. Small-Life Supplies sell wallets of fresh cut bramble by post. But the newly hatched Macleays Spectre stick insects must eat eucalyptus leaves; you can find eucalyptus trees in parks, or in some people's gardens. If you join www.streetlife.com you can ask on there if anyone local has some spare eucalyptus leaves.

Just seen your HUA pots on the Small Life Supplies facebook page. What a great idea, I would like some of these for my mantids. But I can't find the on your website, how much are they?
Our HUA pots have just been launched on social media, and will be on the website soon. We are taking orders now and these clear sided pots with carry handle and push fit lid will start to be dispatched next week. They are £9 each, or we have packs of three slightly dented ones for £10. Delivery is by post, price £3.95.

Sorry to sound thick, but I don't understand why the Hatch Mat should be fixed outside the ELC cage? Wouldn't the Pink Winged stick insects find it easier to stick their eggs onto it if it was attached on the inside of the cage?
For years, the majority of Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) used to glue their eggs onto objects inside the cage with only a few individuals choosing to push their abdomens out through the holes in the mesh and glue their eggs outside. However, this laying eggs outside the cage behaviour is now predominant and so the Hatch Mats are an ideal solution, catching the eggs that would otherwise be stuck outside the cage.

Please can you explain the difference between a gynandromorph Indian stick insect and a male Indian stick insect?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are parthenogenetic, which means that they should be all female and lay eggs without mating. However, very occasionally, a gynandromorph appears. This stick insect has a mixture of female and male characteristics. The body resembles a female Indian stick insect, although it is usually a bit thinner, often brown and looks corrugated. The male green genitalia are exposed at the end. In contrast, the male Indian stick insect does not look deformed. He has a very slim tan coloured body and is hyper-active. The underside of his thorax is red. His green genitalia are hidden, but emerge when he wants to mate. Both the occurrence of gynandromorphs and male Indian stick insects is very rare, the probability is estimated at 1 in every 10000 females. At Small-Life Supplies, we have one male Indian stick insect at the moment. We have seen the occasional Indian gynandromorph but currently do not have any in our stocks.

The Emperor Caterpillar Kit I bought from you last week is fantastic! The caterpillar is huge and is still eating bramble leaves. Is there any way of telling if it's a girl or boy caterpillar?
I am pleased your caterpillar is doing well, they are certainly getting to a very good size this year. There is no obvious way to determine the gender of a caterpillar. You will need to wait till April 2016 to see whether it is a male or female silkmoth. You can tell the difference because the adult male moths have feathery antennae but the females have straight antennae.

I have the giant lime green stick insects and I have had a female just moult and her lower abdomen is bent. I have had another do this too.
The giant lime green stick insects are called the Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea). They do grow large and so need lots of space to be able to shed their skins properly. The height of the cage is particularly important, and so you need to check if your cage is at least 51cm high? If you keep these stick insects in cramped conditions they won't have enough room to moult properly and will become deformed, as you are witnessing.

I have four of your New Guinea stickies. Four have moulted and three are dark brown as adult. However one moulted last night and is still green? Is there a problem.
No, far from it, it sounds like you have been really fortunate to get an adult green female New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata). These are quite rare, but are nice and healthy.

I have seen other sites selling lone stick insects. This doesn't seem right to me, surely they want friends? I am placing an order with you because you seem to care about the stick insects.
Yes, thank you for your comments. Small-Life Supplies does prioritise the welfare of stick insects , which is why we design and manufacture the proper housing for them. And yes, stick insects do like company and so we sell them in packs of four because they do best in small groups.

My son would like very much to have some stick insects. He is eight and I was thinking the Indian type might be best. He likes those but also seems captivated by the Pink Winged ones. What do you suggest? We have loads of bramble on the farm.
Most people start with the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and then go on to get Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). They both eat bramble leaves and can live happily in the same ELC cage. They are both sold in packs of four and there is plenty of room in the ELC cage for four of each type. They look completely different. You could get your son both types. The "Keeping Stick Insects" book has a whole section on Indian stick insects and another section on Pink Winged stick insects, explaining all about them and what their eggs look like etc.

How can you tell if your stick insects are ready to moult? They are the New Guinea ones. One seems to be laying outside the cardboard tube whilst others are inside, just wondering if he is OK?
When New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are ready to shed their skins, they look very fat and will rest near the top of the cage for a day or so. This is because they slide downwards when they shed their skins and need plenty of height to do this. During the day, many New Guinea stick insects like to rest inside the cardboard tubes, but sometimes they rest alongside. So your male New Guinea stick insect is fine, he may be inside the tube tomorrow, or may be alongside it again.

My daughter had a Extatosoma tiaratum stick insect which laid eggs from September last year until January when she died. Three of the eggs have hatched, but the first one died after 3 weeks and the next two are more dead then alive, what are we doing wrong? We placed them with bramble and rose in a fish tank with ventilation at the top (the same the adult female was kept in). They look more dead then alive. We spray the leaves every day. What is the best way to keep the nymphs to keep them healthy?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are unusual because the newly hatched insects need to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves to thrive. They can be switched to bramble and rose leaves when they are older. So you need to source some eucalyptus leaves before the other eggs start to hatch. The best source of eucalyptus leaves is from established eucalyptus trees growing in parks and gardens in the UK. Don't be tempted to buy florist's eucalyptus sprigs or potted eucalyptus plants from garden centres because these commercially grown plants will probably have been treated with pesticides that will kill any insect that eats the leaves. The pesticides are within the plant stems which means they can not be washed off.

One of my Indian stick insect nymphs has just moulted for the second time but the shed skin is still stuck to her tail. She moulted this morning. Do I need to do anything and will she be OK?
You need to gently peel the old skin off the end of her abdomen. The best way to do this is to spray the area with cold tap water, wait a few moments, and then gently peel the old skin off. If the old skin has dried, this may take a few attempts.

One of my Thai stick insect eggs just hatched and I noticed the nymph has lost 4 legs. Will this survive with only its 2 middle legs?
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very good at regenerating limbs, and coping without all their legs, but to lose so many legs so early on is not promising. The best way to hatch Thailand eggs is not to completely separate them from the frass (droppings). So, when saving these eggs, always add a few teaspoons of frass to the eggs. This helps the hatchlings free themselves from their eggshells when they hatch, without the loss of limbs.

I've tried searching records and I'm wondering what is the largest recorded Diapherodes gigantea female recorded? Also my adult female leaf insect moulted into an adult six weeks ago but my adult male has taken no notice? Is this unusual or am I just being impatient?
I don't know what the record size of the largest female Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea) is. Small-Life Supplies don't breed this variety because it eats Eucalyptus gunnii, which can be tricky to source. Regarding the mating of leaf insects, we found they need the same technique as certain moths to encourage mating, namely an evening breeze. So, place the cage by an open window which has a gentle breeze blowing in. Do this in the evening and do not disturb them. And of course, they need to be in a cage with ventilated sides for this to work, so the ELC cage is ideal.

I live in Australia, I have two stick insects. I came home two days ago to find one on its back with a limp tail that was bleeding a little. I'm not sure if he fell or if maybe another insect was brought in on the eucalyptus leaves and hurt it. I've tried to feed it with a leaf because it doesn't appear able to move much but it hasn't eaten since it happened . It's really gone downhill in the last couple of hours. I'm wondering can it survive with a limp tail, and what can I do to help?
Sorry, but the prognosis is not good. When a stick insect cuts its body and bleeds, this can be serious as the internal organs can be exposed or damaged. In such situations you need to spray the wounded area with cold tap water because this can stop the bleeding. However, the fact that the abdomen was limp suggests that serious internal damage had occurred. As a result your stick insect has become weak and because it is not eating, this suggests that it is dying. You should give it water to drink because this will ease its final hours.

I have just ordered a British Emperor Caterpillar Kit from yourselves and am so excited! I have never kept a pet caterpillar before but these ones look really beautiful. I have been reading up on them and see that they can eat hawthorn leaves, can I give it bramble and hawthorn?
No, it's best to keep British Emperor caterpillars (Saturnia pavonia) on the same type of leaves throughout their lives. We have been feeding our British Emperor caterpillars on bramble leaves since they were born, so it is important to continue feeding them with bramble leaves. These caterpillars prefer the new growth, so choose large pale green bramble leaves rather than the tough old dark green leaves from last year's growth.


We are getting two British Emperor Caterpillar Kits for our nursery. We have an old "butterfly pavilion" that we used to hatch out the Painted Ladies butterflies. Could we transfer the Emperor Caterpillars to that, so they have more room?
No. It is important to keep the British Emperor Caterpillars in the housing supplied, namely the plastic CTubes. This is because these caterpillars need fresh cut leaves and these would shrivel up and dry out too quickly in the net butterfly pavilion. As well as being too airy, the net butterfly pavilion is too large and so the caterpillars would not only get too dry but they could wander away from the foodplant and starve. The care sheet included with the Emperor Caterpillar Kit gives instructions on their care, and stresses the need to keep each caterpillar in the CTube.

I just received an email from Small-Life Supplies telling me that you'll have some new stick insects in soon. Please can you tell me a bit more about these Guadeloupe stick insects? Could I keep them in the ELC cage with my Indian stick insects?
We have been breeding Guadeloupe stick insects (Lamponius guerini) for many years, but they are often not listed for sale because we don't have enough of them. This year has been a good breeding year for this species and so they will be ready mid June 2015. Guadeloupe stick insects have rough textured bodies and like to be kept in a sunny room, they like rest in the sunshine. Their bodies can be plain beige or can have white patterns on it. They need reduced ventilation, so cannot be mixed with Indian stick insects. Keep Guadeloupe stick insects in an ELC cage with the Ventilation Control Panels attached. Guadeloupe stick insects are slow moving, very robust, and eat bramble leaves.

My friend said Harlequin ladybirds should be instantly squashed because they are very quickly killing off all the resident species. Do you agree?
No. There is lots of natural migration of insects across different countries and the inevitable consequence of this is that some new species become established in certain areas, to the detriment of existing ones. Ecosystems are always changing and "survival of the fittest" prevails, be it individuals or species. Harlequin ladybirds are now well established in the UK, and so it is pointless and cruel to squash them.

Our stick insects have gone from strength to strength. They have gone through successful moults (I have just finished watching one, he's massive now) and are now big and fat and over 3" long. I was wondering since the little tank we have them in may be too small for their next moult as it is roughly 6" tall. Is it best to stagger their introduction in to the tank they will fit comfortably in when fully grown adults. Or is there a point in size and development when you can put them in the big adult tank and they will be fine to carry on developing into adulthood?
It's best to use just two sizes of cage. A small container to act as a nursery for the newly hatched and baby stick insects, and then the ELC cage to house the larger nymphs and adults. So at 3" long, your stick insects are definitely ready to be transferred to a large cage. The ELC cage is 20" high, and provides plenty of room and height for stick insects to grow properly. A netting pop up cage is not recommended because these enclosures can be too airy and the fabric mesh size can be so small that the stick insects claws become trapped and can snap off.

My New Guinea stick insects have just arrived, they are so cute. Do these hang to shed their skins? Should I make sure there is a sprig for each?
Like all stick insects, New Guinea stick insects, Eurycantha calcarata, shed their skins by sliding vertically downwards. Usually they choose a spot at the top mesh side of the ELC cage, so they can get a good grip with their claws. So there is no need to insert extra hanging places in the ELC cage. The Sprig Pot should have one or two tall bramble stems inserted into it. Occasionally a stick insect can hang onto the top of one of these bramble sprigs to shed, but in the vast majority of cases, they choose the white mesh side of the cage instead because it gives them more secure support.


Does it explain in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book how to exercise the stick insects? I can understand handling but not sure what exercise involves, no mini treadmill. What sort of exercise do New Guinea stick insects like?
The book "Keeping Stick Insects" tells you how to handle the different species of stick insect, including how to take Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) out for a fly across the room. The best exercise for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) is walking. So you can take the insects out of the cage and let them walk across the floor. Avoid shiny tiled floors because these are too slippery, and avoid plush long pile carpets because the insects can tangle their claws in the long fibres. Short pile carpets and rough wooden floors are the best. Adult New Guinea stick insects prefer longer walks than the nymphs.

I have four Indian stick insects and have just changed from cut ivy to living plants in an attempt to allow them some peace and quiet from changing the food. Two of the stick insects I notice have wonky tails, bent off to left, not up like a scorpion. Have I poisoned them or is this normal?
Oh dear, it is usually a mistake to insert a growing plant into the cage because potted plants are often grown in compost infused with pesticides that are taken up by the plant and ingested by the insects when they eat the leaves. So it's best to feed stick insects with cut foodplant, stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water. This should be changed once a week. Indian stick insects do not mind being disturbed when the food is changed. In any case, the stick insects are usually on the sides of the ELC cage, so disruption is kept to a minimum. Careless handling can deform their bodies. Poisoning results in severe twitching and death.

My last two Indian stick insect nymphs have hatched and one of them has the egg stuck to its tail. It is not stuck to its legs so should I try to pull it off?
Always try to remove the eggshell if it is attached to the end of the abdomen, because the stick insect cannot survive with it left on. The best way to do this is to hold the eggshell and let the stick insect pull itself free. Do not try and pull it off yourself because if it pulled off too quickly, the inner white lining of the eggshell will still be left attached to the insect, and the insect will be doomed.

I have five Indian nymphs that have not yet moulted at all in an airtight container. This container is about 4.5cm tall and 12cm wide. Is the container tall enough for them to moult safely?
No, this container is too squat. You need to transfer all your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) to a taller unventilated container. The QBOXES are ideal, and are what we use and recommend. Each QBOX is 7cm x 7cm x 7cm and will comfortably house up to twelve baby Indian stick insects. QBOXES are £4.20 each.

How often should I mist my stick insects? I have just installed them in the classroom and the children are so excited!
Never mist the actual stick insects, they do not like getting wet. Their foodplant should be misted every day or so with cold tap water. An afternoon misting is better than a morning misting, Do not drench the leaves, a light misting is sufficient. It does not matter if you miss a few days (for example the weekend). We sell Mister Curvy plant sprayers, these are £2.70 each, or we have some new ones with a small dent that are just £1.

How are your British Emperor caterpillars coming along? I'm desperate for one but can't see them on your website, although I can see photos on your Facebook page.
We plan to start sending out the British Emperor caterpillars next week. These insects currently have orange hoops but will change into green caterpillars with black hoops and yellow spots as they grow. They eat bramble leaves. Details of prices etc will be on Facebook soon. Facebook page for Small Life Supplies


I own a small playgroup and whilst chatting to another playgroup owner, heard about your company! You came highly recommended and so I really want to get the Indian stick insects and habitat for my playgroup. My question is can we send you a cheque?
Yes, we still accept cheques, just make it payable to "Small-Life Supplies". We sell a lot of stick insect kits to playgroups, the ELC cage is nice and sturdy and is ideal for showcasing the stick insects to the children. Adult Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can be handled by very young children, under supervision of course.

Please advise me, Professor, as I am puzzled as to to why you call your stick insect enclosure a "cage" and not a "vivarium"?
I believe in using clear language, with simple words everyone can understand. Also, the word "vivarium" usually conjures up the image of a squat glass tank, whereas the word "cage" suggests a well ventilated enclosure. The ELC stick insect cages have two sides full of holes, and so are well-ventilated cages. ELC cages are also tall, being 51cm or 20 inches high, so bear no resemblance at all to a tank or "vivarium".

I have a dish containing ova from the Indian stick insect and the Thailand stick insect. Both sets of stick insect ova are hatching now but I am finding some of the Indian stick insects on the outside of the ELC cage? They just stay there. Also, even though the Thailand stick insects are thinner than the Indian stick insects, none of those have escaped, why is this?
Different species of stick insect exhibit different behaviour, and different species of stick insect have different housing ventilation requirements. Some species, including the Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) and the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), need lots of space and very airy surroundings to roam as soon as they hatch. So these stick insects need to be housed in the large ventilated ELC cage as soon as they are born. They show no inclination to escape, probably because the conditions are ideal for them. In contrast, many other species, including the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus), do best in enclosed (unventilated) surroundings for the first month of life. So it's best to house baby Indian stick insects in a QBOX until they are at least a month old, after which they can be transferred to the more ventilated ELC cage. So you need to gather up your baby Indian stick insects and transfer them into QBOXES (up to twelve hatchlings per QBOX). Place a wet bramble leaf in each QBOX so the stick insects can drink.

My baby Thailand stick insects are just hatching, they are so cute! They look so fragile I am scared to touch them. Can they jump? Or do they just walk?
Newly hatched Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are very thin and delicate. it's best not to touch them too much and let them cluster on the ends of the bramble sprigs in the ELC cage. Thailand stick insects do not jump. They walk around in a dainty manner.

I have a new arrival! Doreen is my first nymph and I am not sure if I can feed her ivy (I have no supply of good quality bramble near me). Also when should I move her in with the adults?
You don't say which species of stick insect Doreen is, but if she is an Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus), then you can give her a wet ivy, bramble or privet leaf to eat. You need to house Doreen in a QBOX until she is about a month old, at which time she can be transferred to the more airy and much larger ELC cage.

How warm should I keep my cage of Indian stick insects? Another website advises "stick insects should be kept fairly warm, around 70-75 F , (21-24 C)", but you don't seem to stress this and I don't really want to keep the heating on all day whilst I am at work?
That advice from the other website is incorrect. The optimum temperature range for Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) is 18-21 degrees Celsius. Indian stick insects do not like hot conditions, and keeping them at temperatures over 25 degrees Celsius causes aggression and fighting between individuals, resulting in leg loss.

My teacher gets us to wash the bramble leaves before putting them in the cage for the stick insects (we have three different species, but New Guineas are my favourite). Anyway, I just wanted to ask why we are doing this?
Rinsing the bramble with cold tap water is a good idea if the bramble has been collected from ground level plants which may have been exposed to dog and/or horse urine. This is because those animals may have had medication , some of which they wee out onto the leaves. Of course, a better solution is to avoid gathering the bramble from the ground and snip it off bramble bushes higher up, for example waist height , instead. The days of washing bramble leaves collected from roadsides are long gone because in the UK the practice of adding lead to petrol was stopped decades ago.


Do stick insects lay eggs all the the time? How would you get rid of eggs you don't want?
Most adult female stick insects lay eggs every day or so, throughout their adult lives. This is because in the wild, most of these eggs would be eaten or destroyed by water. So, you can mimic nature by feeding the surplus eggs to birds and fish, or soaking them in a bowl of water. Very hot temperatures instantly stop development of the eggs and so many people opt to pour hot water over the eggs because this method is very fast and effective. In contrast, exposing to the eggs to very cold temperatures is a much slower process. So do not be tempted to put the eggs in the freezer as some other sites suggest.

I have just got nine Indian stick insect eggs, and have put them on a piece of of kitchen roll on the bottom of my enclosure at room temperature. I have read on some websites that you need to spray the eggs with water once or twice a week to keep them humid, do I need to do this, or will the insects just hatch without this? Also how long do you think the Indian stick insects will take to hatch from their ovas?
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) take four months to hatch, and so you need to ask the seller when these eggs were laid. You need to take the eggs out of your enclosure and throw away the kitchen roll. Just place the eggs inside a small closed container, with no air holes, the QBOX is ideal. Do not spray the eggs with water. When they hatch you need to give the hatchlings a wet bramble leaf to eat.

Is the ELC suitable for moult hoppers? Pets at Home sell these insects as livefood but I want to keep them as pets.
"Moult Hoppers" is a term coined by the pet store chain called Pets at Home to help sell locusts. I have had a look at their website and these insects are actually the Desert Locust, Latin name Schistocerca gregaria. (Pets at Home have mis-spelt this Latin name). Being locusts, they need to be kept in a heated cage, so no, the ELC cage is not suitable. These insects do well in our "Swarm Locust Cage", which is our heated cage, specially designed for locusts. Many people enjoy keeping locusts as pets, they eat fresh grass and bury their eggs in beakers of damp sand. Keep the lightbulb (for heating) switched on during the day, and switch it off at night.

One of my female Diapherodes gigantea shed last night. It was the third or fourth time she has shed. She looked as though she had died when I looked in the cage. She started to move but one of her legs is hurt. She is dragging it and it is twisted. Is this common? Will she survive with a broken leg?
Unfortunately skin-changes (ecdysis) are risky times for stick insects, and sometimes things go wrong, as has happened with your Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea). Stick insects have the ability to discard a leg if it is damaged, and so that it what your stick insect will probably do. A stick insect can manage fine with five legs. Just make sure her cage is big enough, because Grenadan stick insects do grow large and need a lot of room. Grenadan stick insects do best on eucalyptus leaves. Lightly mist the leaves with water every few days.

I've had my stick insect for about 10/11 months and is always normally active and healthy. Now she has her front legs curled right under and is hardly moving and has fallen on her back a couple of times. She was OK two days ago. Is she dying or suffering?
Your stick insect is dying from old age. The kindest thing to do is to prop her onto a wet leaf so she can drink. Dying insects like to drink water.

I am the manager of a small pre- school. We would like to purchase some stick insects and a habitat for them, please can you tell me how to order. Also are they suitable for pre-school children?
Yes, we sell a lot of stick insect kits to pre-schools. You can choose between the standard Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), or the really chunky New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata). And the ELC cage bundle includes a suitable cage and accessories. Just phone or email your order to us, payment can be made by credit card, debit card, PayPal, BACS or cheque.

I would like to buy some common stick insects for my six year old son. We already have a large netting butterfly enclosure and also an old fish tank. I realise neither are ideal housing but which would be better? Or do you have any cut-price stick insect cages for sale?
You could cover the top of the fish tank with a piece of voile or net curtain, and then stand it on end to make the cage as tall as possible. That is a better option than using a netting butterfly enclosure (which would be too ventilated and difficult to see into). Obviously a proper stick insect cage is the best option and we have some ex-demonstration cages which we sell cut-price on ebay, search for "ELC cage".

I saw this rubbish on a site purporting to be knowledgable about pet care ...."Female stick insects don't actually need a male to lay eggs (much like poultry) but when they do meet up with a male counterpart they mate but only stay together for a few weeks after which they go their separate ways."
Unfortunately there are various sites springing up which regurgitate incorrect information about stick insects. They try to over simplify the facts and this results in conveying the wrong information. There are an estimated 2000 different species of stick insect. Some are parthenogenetic, which means that they are all-female and lay eggs, without mating, and these eggs hatch into more females. The males are so rare that they effectively play no part in the reproduction process. In contrast, there are other stick insect species where males and females occur in equal numbers. These adults pair up, and mate regularly throughout their adult lives. The duration time of mating varies according to the species and the individuals. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are quick, mating is usually less than thirty minutes, whereas Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) can mate for several hours.

I have heard that if you give Indian stick insects one type of leaf you can't switch and there's no going back. I am feeding mine ivy.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can switch between different foodplants. In general, their favourite foodplant is bramble leaves, followed by privet, rose, and then ivy. Of course some individual Indian stick insects are more fussy than others, so the first time you attempt to switch the foodplant, it is a good idea to put both foodplants in at the same time, just to check that your stick insects will try the new foodplant.

Our regular bramble patch is looking sparse and tatty, and the older leaves are dark purple! I know not to give the stick insects the young bramble shoots, but where can I find decent leaves? I have a car and am prepared to travel.
You need to try and locate some bramble bushes that have benefitted from some rain. Suitable locations include sheltered disused railway lines and overgrown canal embankments. Bramble supplies in wooded areas are not great quality at the moment, this is because we have had so little rain, that the trees in the woods are extracting more ground water from the soil, resulting in reduced water for the shallow roots of the ground covering plants, such as bramble. The bramble leaves in many wooded areas are very dry and not nutritious for stick insects to eat.

What is the most humane way of killing surplus stick insect eggs? I must have around 100 nymphs, as I've kept the eggs that came with them, and have had 4-5 babies hatch each day since rescue. The new eggs, I've kept 10-12 so as not to be mean, but have get rid of the rest.
In nature, an Indian stick insect will lay about 500 eggs over its seven month adult life. Most of these eggs will perish, many become water logged, and many are eaten. When keeping stick insects as pets, you need to mimic nature, so that the population does not explode. An effective method is to empty the contents of the cage Liner into a bowl and pour hot water into the bowl. This will immediately stop development in the eggs. The hotter the water, the quicker the effect. Or, if you wanted to feed the eggs to birds or fish, you could this, but you would need to spend time separating the eggs from the droppings. Garden blackbirds will eat the eggs , providing they are dry, but it usually takes them a few days to realise that it is safe for them to eat a bowl of stick insect eggs, so don't be concerned if the eggs are not eaten immediately. Do not be tempted to put eggs in the freezer (like some sites suggest) because cold temperatures slow up embryonic development instead of stopping it quickly.

Any news on your caterpillar availability yet? I reared an Emperor two years ago and I found it to be a very emotional experience, I seemed to really connect with it and cried with joy when I released it. I am a 32 year old female and am new to this, I had no idea the experience would be so rewarding.
Good news, our British Emperor eggs (Eudia pavonia) started to hatch yesterday. We are feeding this generation on bramble leaves (instead of hawthorn leaves). So the Emperor caterpillars will be listed on the web site when they are a bit larger, in a few weeks time. I am glad you enjoyed your personal experience of connecting with nature, other customers have made similar comments.

What do you recommend we do with the Indian stick insect eggs we have collected and put in the QBOXES? Other sites recommend spraying the stick insect eggs up to twice a day to keep them moist but warn about mould.
The best way to incubate Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) is to store them in the QBOX, with the lid on. Do not spray the eggs. Using this method, the hatching rate is very high, with the baby nymphs emerging after four months.

Do you have any experience incubating the eggs of Oreophoetes peruana? If so how did you do it?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies was one of the first breeders of this colourful Peruvian stick insect, back in the 1990s. Unfortunately we ceased breeding this species commercially once our supplier of chemical-free potted ferns retired. Peruvian Fern stick insects do best on certain ferns (for example the Male Fern) and it is important to have an indoor year-round supply of potted ferns rather than rely on outdoor plants (which die off in cold winters). The eggs are very easy to hatch, we stored them in QBOXES with a bit of frass mixed in, and the incubation time was three months. It is important to keep both the Peruvian Fern stick insects and their eggs in a place that does not exceed 18 degrees Celsius, this is because they do best in cooler surroundings.

I have a very large population of rescued Indian stick insects. I'm feeding them privet, but the bush I'm using is not having a chance to grow enough, as I'm taking too many leaves each time. I have a THORNLESS blackberry bush in the garden. Is this safe for the Indians to eat? I do not know the plants proper name.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are less fussy than some other species of stick insect and so will eat certain plants, other than privet (Ligustrum vulgare). Indian stick insects can eat various types of bramble, including thornless varieties. But, you do need to check when you planted the bush in your garden. This is because many potted plants are grown in compost infused with strong pesticides that remain active for 12 months. If these chemicals are still active, they will kill any insect that eats the plant leaves. But if you've had the plant for over one year, it should be safe for the stick insects to eat. Wild growing ivy is also another foodplant for Indian stick insects, although not their favourite (they prefer bramble and privet).

I am worried about my Pink Winged stick insects. Lately they have been getting mangled wings at their last skin change. Why is this happening?
This is a common occurence at this time of year, made worse in times of drought. I think it is because the bramble leaves are of poor quality and not providing the nutrients that Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) need. The problem is that the small young bramble shoots can harm the stick insects and so Pink Winged stick insects have learnt to avoid eating those shoots. The older leaves are of poor quality because the bramble plant is diverting its resources into new growth. There is a problem with bramble quality at the moment, because British rainfall has been much lower than usual, and so the bramble plants are suffering, their leaves are dry and not lush.

I have bought several caterpillar kits from Small-Life Supplies over the years and been delighted with them. I am planning my work schedule (I am a teacher) and wondered if you know yet when the caterpillars are likely to be ready this year?
Because of the dry and mild Spring, British butterflies and moths are several weeks ahead of schedule this year. So we anticipate our eggs will be hatching very soon and then we can advertise what species of caterpillars we have for sale. But at the moment it is looking likely that species normally offered in June will be for sale in May.

Our new college finance department is rather slow and so I was wondering if I pay for an ELC bundle with my own PayPal account, are you able to email me a receipt so I can claim it back from finance in due course? Our stick insects need a larger home!
A depressingly large number of lecturers report this problem to us about their finance departments. So yes, we can accept a private payment from you and then email you a receipted VAT invoice after we have dispatched the goods. You can then chase your finance department to pay you back your money. One reason why Small-Life Supplies no longer gives credit to colleges is because of the late payment policy by finance departments, typically six months! But I understand that internal payments are much faster, particularly if you go round in person.

I bought an ELC bundle and New Guinea stick insects from Small-Life Supplies. I have put the sand tray, cardboard tube and water dish in. There was also a sponge in the package- I'm not sure what that's for and if it needs to go in the cage?
The sponge is the Cleaning Sponge. Use this to wash the ELC cage with warm soapy water every fortnight to keep the cage clean. Rinse the cage well with cold water and dry with a tea towel.

How come a lot of the babies don't live long? I only get one in about ten to live, what am I doing wrong? As soon as they hatch I put them on to the ivy plant so they have food.
You don't say what type of stick insects you have. Not many types eat ivy, most prefer bramble (blackberry) leaves and these leaves need to be wet so the baby stick insects can drink. Baby stick insects usually do best in a closed container, such as a QBOX, so avoid housing them in very airy enclosures such as the netting pop-up cages.

Explain how external stimuli affects phasmids?
Temperature affects the activity level of phasmids (stick insects), increasing the temperature increases their activity. Phasmids are more active when the light intensity is low, so they are active at night. Increased noise and vibration increases the phasmids' stress levels and so increases their egg production.

My Indian stick insect eggs have recently hatched and I have noticed that one of them has a bent tail? It is nearly at a right angle, is this okay? And will the nymph have trouble shedding its skin?
Sometimes a newly hatched Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) has a bent tail (abdomen). It is unusual but I have seen many example of such insects over the years. Many die before their first skin change, but some do survive and manage to complete their first skin change successfully. Their bodies seem to straighten more as they grow, but continue to look a bit curved.

I want to keep giant katydids. Can I use an ELC cage?
Not really. This is because katydids need to be kept warmer than stick insects and so katydids need a heated cage. We manufacture a heated cage, this is supplied with the option of a raised mesh floor (for locusts) or without a raised mesh floor (for katydids). So please contact us to enquire about the heated cage without the raised mesh floor. This cage is supplied ready assembled with the electrics, apart from the lightbulb which you need to supply.

I have a collection of Pink Winged stick insects that are just maturing. One of them only has one wing. How is this possible when she has been cloned?
Cloning of Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) does not happen. They reproduce by parthenogenesis. This means eggs are laid (without mating) and the nymphs that hatch are all females. There is variation amongst the offspring that are sisters. They can have different behaviour and there can be slight physical variations (usually in size and colour). I have also seen Pink Winged adults with only one wing, but this is extremely rare.

Which colour of ELC cage Liners are best - blue or pink? Do the stick insects have a preference? Which do you use?
The stick insects do not have a preference, they do well with either colour. We alternate the colours in our stick insect breeding facility because it makes it easier to keep track of which cage needs to be cleaned out next. It is important to replace the Liner in the stick insect cage once a week, to ensure the stick insects are being kept in clean surroundings.

I have just bought some lovely New Guinea stick insects from you. I don't understand the instruction about the cardboard tube which came with them. Should I prop it vertically in the ELC cage? I've tried putting it horizontally but the open ends seem so close to the cage sides I fear the stick insects may get trapped?
The cardboard tubes supplied free with the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are already cut to the correct length. So place the tube horizontally on the Liner. The New Guinea stick insects are able to squeeze into and out of the ends of the tube. Ensure both ends of the tube are clear of the cage sides. If you have a lot of New Guinea stick insects in the cage, you can add another tube. Cut this to the same length and attach it to the original tube with a rubber band.

My son and I are thrilled with our new four adult Indian stick insects which we received from Small-Life Supplies last week. They are nicely set up in the ELC cage and we have a QBOX ready for the eggs. My question is will more than 1 in 2 eggs hatch? I need to know how many eggs we should keep!
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) have a very high hatching rate and so yes, more than 1 in 2 eggs will hatch. In fact nearly all the eggs hatch, so it's best not to keep too many eggs. The incubation time of Indian stick insect eggs is approximately four months.

I want to buy a stick insect cage bundle with the stick insects. I am so glad I have found you because I can't believe how many small tanks are being marketed as being suitable for stick insects when clearly they aren't. Anyway, I just wanted to clarify the delivery charges...is it £9.95 for the cage and £9.95 for the stick insects? Or do you offer combined postage? I live in Bristol.
The delivery charge is capped at £9.95 (for mainland UK). So the total delivery cost for your entire order will be £9.95. It is important to keep stick insects in a proper cage, the key features being that it is tall and well-ventilated. The ELC cage is 51cm high and has two mesh sides, so is an ideal cage to house most types of stick insect. Small tanks are not suitable for keeping stick insects.

My six Indian stick insects have now all shed their skins but the width of their bodies is less than the diameter of the holes in the ELC cage. I am worried that if I put them in the ELC cage they might try to squeeze out, although thinking about this I'm not sure if that would even be possible because I think their middle legs would get in the way? Or don't they try to escape? I have a nice new ELC cage ready for them. They are in the QBOX at the moment.
Your Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can be transferred to the ELC cage now. They do not try to squeeze through the holes.

My four New Guinea nymphs which I received a few days ago seem a bit glum. I've given them bramble. Our last regular Indian stick insects ate wall ivy. Could I try that?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best on bramble (blackerry) leaves and so you should continue to feed them with these leaves. You can gather bramble leaves yourself from overgrown areas (such as canal embankments, wooded areas, disused railway lines), or we can send a wallet of Fresh Cut Bramble to you (price £7.30 including first class postage to anywhere in the UK). Because you have only had your New Guinea stick insect nymphs for a few days they have not had a chance yet to settle in to their new home, so this is why they look a bit despondent. You need to be patient and not bother them too much for the first week or so, this will make it easier for them to settle in to their new surroundings.

Fantastic that you're still in business! I was a customer of Small-Life Supplies when I was a teenager (many years ago!) and I bought an African mantid from you back then, which did really well. I couldn't see any mantids on your website - do you still breed them? And do you sell mantid cages?
Small-Life Supplies do manufacture mantid cages, they are the same size as the ELC cage but have a central vertical partition, dividing the cage into two halves. So you can keep live food in one half and a mantid in the other half, or you can have two mantids (one in each half). We no longer breed mantids, we now concentrate on breeding stick insects and caterpillars.

As a kid I kept Swallowtail butterflies, so I wondered if you supply these as I'd love to have them again?
We don't breed Swallowtail butterflies but do have caterpillars of other species of butterfly and moth available later in the year.

Why oh why is the RSPCA saying "Stick insects need a diet of fresh leaves. Most will live on bramble and privet, but Indian stick insects eat privet, hawthorn and rose as well."
It is bad that the RSPCA is publishing incorrect information about stick insects. Whilst the RSPCA is correct in saying that stick insects need a diet of fresh leaves, it is completely wrong to claim that "most will live on bramble and privet" because this implies that both foodplants are suitable for most stick insects. In fact most stick insects will eat bramble, but only a handful of species will eat privet. Indeed bramble eating stick insects will starve to death if their owners only give them privet to eat. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) eat bramble (blackberry) leaves, also privet, rose, ivy, and eucalyptus leaves. But hawthorn is not a recommended foodplant for Indian stick insects long term.

I was a bit surprised to read on the Natural History Museum page about insects the comment "As the caterpillar grows, it sheds its skin like a snake". Surely, the average British child is more likely to encounter an insect rather than a snake, so why even mention how a snake grows?
Bizarrely, the fact that snakes grow by shedding their skins is taught in British schools from an early stage. But the fact that insects grow like this is not usually even mentioned! So, despite the fact that humans are surrounded by insects, most British people do not know that insects grow by climbing out of their skins. It is absurd that there is not more taught about insects in schools. However, many schools do keep living stick insects in the classroom and good teachers encourage students to have their own stick insects to observe and care for. Anyone who keeps young stick insects can watch them grow and see the skin-changing process (ecdysis) for themself.

I like the look of the Necrosia annulipes stick insect and wondered if you ever have any of those for sale?
These are very attractive thin green stick insects from Malaysia. They are easy to keep, they eat privet leaves and the females push their eggs into dry oasis blocks. The reason why Small-Life Supplies does not breed this species is because these stick insects can emit chemicals which can cause nasal irritation in sensitive people and small pet animals (dogs, cats etc). Small-Life Supplies only breed stick insects which are safe to handle and do not cause health problems.

I'm in Perth, Western Australia. I have just bought two adult female Goliath stick insects. I purchased them with their enclosure that they've been in for six months. One I've seen eating at the top of the cage. The other is hanging around near the bottom of the enclosure, and she looks to have black liquid coming from her vent. It looks like there is an egg there too. Is she egg bound? I'll admit I'm a bit concerned for her.
You are right to be concerned about the female on the floor of the cage. When stick insects are dying from old age they can emit a black viscous liquid from the end of their abdomen. Sometimes they can also release a thick brown liquid from their mouths. The kindest thing you can do is to give her a shallow dish of cold tap water to drink, dying creatures usually appreciate a drink. It would be a good idea to get an adult male for your surviving female stick insect, Australian Goliath stick insects (Eurycnema goliath) have males and females in roughly equal numbers and the adults mate regularly, maximising the probability of the eggs being fertile.

I would like some New Guinea stick insects but there seems to be conflicting on-line advice about their behaviour, is the following true? "This is a terrestrial form of stick insect, with a broad, relatively flattened body which rarely shows any inclination to climb. As befits a species which lives mainly on the ground, these stick insects will eat grass".
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarara) are wide chunky stick insects that like to pile on top of each other. That is why we recommend putting an empty loo roll in the cage so they can all pile on top of each other in there. However, when they are not resting, they like to explore the surroundings and so benefit from being taken out of the cage for a walk and climb. Inside the ELC cage they will climb the sides, which they can do easily because the holes in the sides of the ELC cage give them a good foothold. Unfortunately, if you don't keep them properly and just put New Guinea stick insects into a glass tank they will be unable to climb because the sides are too slippery for them to get a foothold with their claws. New Guinea stick insects need to eat bramble leaves. Grass does not provide the nutrients they need and so is not a suitable food source.

It's difficult to tell from the photos/description of the ELC cage how sturdy it is. I have a cat, he's grown up and doesn't generally do anything destructive (he's paid very little attention to my axolotl which lives in an aquarium) but I wondered if the ELC was easily pushed over or broken by a cat?
The ELC cage is made from strong plastic. It is a robust and would be hard for a cat to damage. None of our cats have ever knocked over an ELC cage. We do recommend this cage as being suitable for people who have cats.

I have four Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects, one female and three males. I'm looking to mix them with other types of stick insect but I am not entirely sure which they would be best with. I have a very stroppy female so I think I need to be careful with it.
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) are large chunky insects with small spines. They have large appetites, do well on bramble and eucalyptus leaves, and need a large airy cage (such as the MIC cage). Other stick insect species that do well in these conditions tend to be thin, and because your female is temperamental I would advise against adding thin stick insects in case they get hurt. You could add another one or two female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects to even up the gender balance. That action may help calm her down as well.

I bought some Sabah stick insects off you but now I have too many. I was just wondering would you be OK to buy some off me?
Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) are easy to breed and so it is important to only save a few eggs to avoid getting too many stick insects. We breed several species of stick insect commercially, including Sabah stick insects, and so do not buy them in. So thank you for asking, but we are declining your offer.

I have just seen your amazing green beetles on your Facebook page. Can I buy some please? And how do I look after them?
Yes, we have a few large grubs available, these will develop into shiny green beetles. The cream coloured grubs eat decaying leaves (we supply a bag of these with the grubs). After a few weeks the grubs transform into pupae and weeks/months later (depending on temperature) the green adult beetles emerge. The adult beetles eat oranges. For more details please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358.

I live in France and wondered if it is possible to send one of your ELC cages to me? How much and what is the delay in sending it to me?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies is now sending ELC cages to France. Delivery is by courier, the progress of the parcel can be tracked on-line, and delivery time is usually two days. The delivery price to send an ELC to most of France is £29. The ELC cage is sent assembled and a signature is needed on delivery.

I was looking on another British website whilst researching obtaining butterfly larvae for release, and was surprised to read "Take no notice of Butterfly Conservation and Moth recording groups who say release is wrong or against the law, (which it is not), they have their own agenda and think everybody should do as they say". It sounds as though these organisations are ruffling some feathers! I'd be interested to hear your views?
Recording has its uses but when species are in terminal decline I see little point in allocating time and effort into recording their extinction. So I applaud small captive release programmes and feel the organisations to which you refer should as well, instead of being irked because it distorts their records. We all have to look at the bigger picture. For decades I have promoted the active release of small populations of native British species of butterfly and moth, with great success. Some other commercial insect breeders also do this, realising that we can actually make a difference and boost our native butterfly and moth populations long term. One important fact is that the numbers released in one area must be small (ideally less than ten). Large scale release does not work, because the birds see what is happening and gather for a bumper meal.

I have just ordered the ELC cage and Sprig Pot for my stick insects. In the cage other than the leaves, do we need to put in anything else, like twigs, or sticks?
Stick insects like to see a generous amount of food and so it is best to push a couple of long sprigs of bramble into the Sprig Pot, so there is lots of green foliage in the cage. It is not necessary to insert any other twigs or sticks. Your stick insects will spend most of their time on the white mesh sides of the cage, which they can easily grip with their claws. This set up looks attractive and you will be able to see your stick insects clearly. The floor of the ELC cage should have a paper ELC Liner, so the stick insects are kept in clean surroundings.

I have two New Guinea stick insects and have noticed that, when handling them, they have started dragging or scratching the ends of their abdomens along my hand. They seem to curl the end of their bodies downwards and scrape their body along my hand. Should I be worried?
Yes, you need to take action on this. Are these both male stick insects? If so, you need to get some females. Another explanation could be that they have an irritation brought on by mites. Are their surroundings clean? New Guinea stick insects do best in an ELC cage with a paper ELC Liner on the floor, it is important not to use soil or peat because these substrates can encourage mites. It would be a good idea to wash out their cage. You could also hold their abdomens under a running tap of tepid water for a few seconds.

My female Diapherodes gigantea moulted over a week ago into a sub-adult. Since then she has just slept on the side of the ELC tank and is very inactive. When I move her to a eucalyptus leaf, she soon finds her way back to the side of the ELC?
Undergoing a skin-change becomes more exhausting for a stick insect the larger it gets. Your female Grenadan stick insect is very large now and so needs time to recover from her last skin-change. She is most comfortable resting in the day on the white mesh side of the ELC cage and so you should leave her there. She will move over to the eucalyptus at night for a night time feed. You should mist the leaves lightly with water in the evening just before you switch the light off, this will encourage her to drink and eat.

I own a female Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect, which I have had since last summer when she was in her nymph stage. For the past few days I have noticed her becoming weaker, every morning I have found her lying on her back on the floor of the cage. Today she was on the floor of her cage with her four front legs folded to her chest. I put her on a piece of bark which I made into a platform, and placed some fresh leaves sprayed with water next to her. Now its been a few hours and her legs are still folded but she is flinching every few minutes, I presume that she is dying. Why is this happening when she's barely a year old?
Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have shorter lifespans than many other stick insect species, so a lifespan of just under one year is normal. When a stick insect is dying of old age, it crosses its legs and that is what you have observed. Dying stick insects are thirsty and so you have done the right thing in ensuring she has water to drink.

My teacher wrote "Parthenogenesis, unfertilised birth, is common amongst stick insects". Is that true?
The strict translation of parthenogenesis is virgin birth, from the Greek "parthenos" meaning virgin, and "genesis" meaning birth. So yes, this effectively means "unfertilised birth". Some species of stick insect are exclusively parthenogenetic and so only reproduce using this method. Examples include the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus). But many more stick insect species reproduce sexually, so have males and females who mate regularly. But the species that reproduce sexually have the ability to revert to a parthenogenetic means of reproduction if no males are present. So your teacher should have explained this a bit more to support the statement that parthenogenesis is common amongst stick insects.

Does Small-Life Supplies have a Facebook page?
Yes, here is the link Small Life Supplies

I have been tasked with purchasing a stick insect cage for the school, the child who is providing the stick insects says they will be ready in March. Do you supply different sized cages for the different species? The stick insects we are getting grow to approximately 12cm long.
Most of the commonly kept species of stick insect can be housed in either our ELC cage (51cm high) or the MIC cage (46cm high). It is only the really huge stick insects (that grow to 33cm long) that need larger cages. So I'd recommend the ELC cage to house your stick insects.

Sorry to ask this question, but I've just had my hours cut at work and I wondered if have any QBOX "seconds" for sale? I've got lots of Indian and Guadeloupe stick insects hatching and need more QBOXES (I have one QBOX already and it is great).
Small-Life Supplies usually has some secondhand items for sale which have been used in our breeding facility, and we sell these cheaply. These used items include ELC cages (we list these on ebay), used QBOXES, and from time to time other insect cages and snail centres. We have used QBOXES for sale now, please email emma@small-life.co.uk for price details, or phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358.

I have some African fruit beetles and have been looking for a better environment to house them, so was delighted to hear about your new beetle cage on the Small Life Supplies Facebook page. But I can't find these beetle cages on your website, how can I order one?
Our new beetle cages will be listed on this website very soon. They are great for housing African fruit beetles (including Pachnoda aemula, Pachnoda marginata etc). Both mesh sides are removable and so it is very easy to keep this beetle cage clean by washing these panels in a sink of soapy water using the cleaning sponge provided. Some of our used beetle cages are being listed cheaply on ebay now, just search for "beetle cage".

I have six adult Indian stick insects in an ELC cage and one has just died. She had been an adult for just over a month. My room gets quite cold at night and I was wondering if that has something to do with it? I feed them on bramble, however the leaves have started to get brown spots on them.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) typically live for seven months and so yours has died prematurely. It is important stick insects have good quality green bramble leaves to eat, so it is best to avoid leaves with brown spots. If this is not possible, you could try giving them juicy green ivy leaves (gathered from outdoors). If the temperature of your room is likely to drop below 10 degrees Celsius at night, you could invest in an oil-filled radiator. Choose one that is 500W or 600W because these are very economical to run and can be bought cheaply from budget hardware stores. Simply plug the oil-filled radiator into a wall socket at night, it is designed to run safely for many hours, emitting a gentle warmth.

We need help, we have just found that our five stick insects have multiplied into what looks like about 80 little ones. What do we do?
Stick insect eggs take several months to hatch and so unfortunately it appears that you haven't cleaned the cage out for months. It is important to clean the cage out once a week, the best way to do this is to place a fresh Liner on the floor of the cage. When you remove the old Liner you can save a few eggs. Surplus eggs can be fed to birds or fish. Or some people just tip the remaining contents of the Liner into a bowl and pour hot water on top, this is a very fast and effective way of stopping the eggs from developing further. If you don't do any of this, you can be overrun with too many stick insects, which you then need to find homes for.

Are Sabah stick insects covered in detail in Keeping Stick Insects by Dorothy Floyd?
No, the Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) are not covered in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book. Neither is the larger variety, the Giant Sabah (Trachyareaton brueckneri) . However, this book covers other topics that apply to both these species, for example, general biology of stick insects, stick insect handling etc.

Why have my stick insect's front legs gone red ?
When the front legs go red in the area where they join the body of the stick insect, it means that the stick insect is fully grown. This is only seen in some species, for example the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) and the adult female Guadeloupe stick insect (Lamponius guerini).

I have just taken on a giant lime green stick insect female over one year old. Should she have a heater? Should I get her a companion? Aside from brambles what else should I feed her? The previous owner seems to think that she is not long for this world but I want to make it as a lovely as possible if this is the case.
I'm not sure which species of stick insect you have. "Giant lime green" describes the Grenadan stick insect, Diapherodes gigantea, but this species does best on Eucalyptus gunnii leaves, not bramble. "Giant lime green" is also used to describe the Malaysian stick insect female, Heteropteryx dilatata. Do you have a photo you could email so I could identify the stick insect? Stick insects like company of their own kind. A heater is not necessary if you have a warm centrally heated room.

My Macleays Spectre stick insect female won't lay eggs. It is about month or so now after mating and she won't lay any. How long do you think until she will start to lay eggs? She also started to poop black, like one every four poops.
Australian Macleays Spectre (Extatosoma tiaratum) adult stick insects mate regularly and so you should keep adult pairs together in the same cage. Not all matings are successful. A successful mating results in the female's body swelling up as it fills with eggs. Black droppings are no cause for concern, the colour of the droppings is partly determined by the quality and type of the food. Macleays Spectre stick insects eat both Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and bramble leaves.

Are the Indian stick insect nymphs you sell big enough to go straight in to the ELC cage or would they be able to get out through the ventilation holes?
It's only the newly hatched Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) that need to be kept in QBOXES and that is mainly because they prefer less-ventilated conditions at that age. After completing their first skin-change, they benefit from increased air-flow and can be transferred to the ELC cage. The Indian stick insect nymphs we supply have completed several skin-changes and so have already been living in ELC cages for months. They are far too big to escape through the ventilation holes and show little desire to escape anyway (for example, if the lid is left off the cage by mistake, most of the stick insects will still be in the ELC cage the following morning).

At college we have some Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in a glass tank with a notice saying "spray substrate, not the animals". I'm concerned that this is not the optimum environment for them?
No, those conditions are far from ideal. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) do best in a large airy cage, so the sides of the cage should be full of holes, and not be solid glass. The stick insects drink from the leaves and so the notice should say "spray leaves". It is good that the current notice advises against spraying the stick insects, because the insects do not like that. But to recommend spraying the substrate is a very bad idea because this will encourage mould. There shouldn't be substrate, the best floor lining is paper.

I saw your new mantis cages on Facebook, please can you tell me a bit more about them? Are they similar in size to the ELC cage (I already have those for my stick insects and am very pleased with them).
Yes, our new mantid (praying mantis) cage is the same size as the ELC cage. But the mantid cage has a central partition, so you can house two mantids in one cage (separated from each other by the partition). The sides have smaller ventilation holes than the sides of the ELC cage. The side panels are all fixed, so you get into the cage by lifting off the lid. The mantids are able to climb the sides and benefit from the through draught ventilation.

If I put a giant spiny stick insect in with my Indian stick insect, will they kill each other?
Stick insects are named after their native country, and so "giant spiny" stick insects are usually called the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata). Both New Guinea stick insects and Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) benefit from living in a tall well-ventilated cage such as the ELC cage, and both these species eat bramble leaves. They can be mixed together, but I would recommend getting several of each type because they prefer to group together with their own kind in small groups, rather than being on their own. They won't kill each other.

Can you tell me how do I change the sprigs of soiled foliage and liner during an Indian stick insects skin shedding without disturbing the process?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) often shed their skins when it is dark, so if you turn the light on when a stick insect is shedding its skin, it is important to switch the light off straight away. Occasionally they shed during the daytime, usually on the white mesh side of the ELC cage, but sometimes from the bramble. Do not disturb the insect during this process, so just wait until it has finished and has turned round to be next to its shed skin, before you attempt to change the Liner etc. Ideally, you should leave it another thirty minutes to give the stick insect time to eat its old skin (they don't always do this though).

We have three New Guinea stick insects. The two males appear fine and have undergone one moult since we got them in December. The female hasn't moulted yet, but the top section of the thorax appears to be softer than the rest of her body. Should we be worried and how can we tell what instar she is?
In the days preceeding a skin-change, the exoskeleton of the stick insect looks fatter and becomes softer. When ecdysis begins, the skin splits down the top of the thorax, along the centre. Very occasionally, the old skin splits but the skin change does not begin and so the insect dies a few days later. Hopefully your stick insect will be undergoing its skin change now. She should have positioned herself upside down near the top of the ELC cage, on one of the mesh sides so she has a good grip. There are seven instars, the adult stage is the seventh instar.

I got some Grenadan stick insects (Diapherodes gigantea) for my father in  law who reitred recently as a way of getting into a new hobby. The person I got them from gave us a nice large bunch of eucalyptus and explaind they feed only on the eucalyptus now we are finding it near impossible to get a supply and the food we have is almost gone. Do you sell eucalyptus like you do bramble?
We have limited stocks of eucalyptus and so unfortunately are unable to supply fresh cut eucalyptus by post. It is important that you source some euclayptus soon because this is what the Grenadan stick insects need to eat. There are different species of eucalyptus, the best one is Eucalayptus gunnii, because this has soft leaves that the stick insects can eat. If you cannot find a tree locally, then you could try a garden centre. It is important to buy a British grown plant that has not been treated with insecticides. It works out cheaper to buy a huge plant for £30 -£40 rather than several small plants, typically priced around £15.

We are interested in buying multiple aphid cages. Can you guarantee the insects won't escape? Also, do you issue VAT exemption certificates?
We manufacture aphid cages and can supply our stock size, or if you have a specific size you require, please contact us to discuss options for supplying bespoke aphid cages. We use extremely fine stainless steel mesh and have a proven sealing system which ensures there are no gaps. We receive repeat orders for aphid cages and so are confident that they work well. We do not issue VAT exemption certificates, but we are VAT registered and issue VAT invoices so you can claim the VAT back.

Why do some sellers advise not using tap water for the Sprig Pots? In England the tap water is safe for people, so surely is OK for stick insects too? Are these sellers trying to get us to waste our money on buying the florist gel packs?
British cold tap water is perfectly safe to use. So, yes, we recommend using cold tap water in the Sprig Pots and also cold tap water in the Mister Curvy plant sprayers (to mist the leaves lightly with water). We do not sell or recommend buying the gel because it is not necessary.

My collection of ELC cages now stands at five, and I remember reading somewhere that you sell the smart shelving for them, but I can't find details on your website?
Yes, we sell two shelving systems, both modern and high quality, made from wood and easy to assemble. They both the same height and have three shelves. The smaller unit accommodates six ELC cages (two per shelf), the larger one nine ELC cages (three per shelf). We use these shelving systems because they work well and are a very efficient use of space. For prices, please phone 01733 203358.

I have no skill at all in hatching any New Guinea stick insect eggs. I can't seem to balance the moisture & end up with rot. I did read that woodlice munch the mould, is this a factoid? Also is there a time period where they won't hatch anymore, e.g. should I persist with old eggs?
New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) stick insect eggs can be tricky to hatch which is why it's a good idea to save lots of eggs and keep them in different QBOXES. If yours are going mouldy they are getting too moist. One solution is to keep the eggs near the shower and let a little bit of steam into the QBOX every ten days or so. Incubation is usually six to eight months, so if nothing has emerged after ten months you can discard them. I would not recommend involving woodlice. The eggs should not be mouldy.

I have received some Indian stick insects and have no clue how to look after them. I have 17 of them and can't tell them apart. Shall I put a bit of nail varnish on the ends or is there another way?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do best in a tall airy cage such as the ELC cage. They have soft bodies and so I would be wary of marking them with nail varnish. That technique is usually used on insects with hard bodies, for example the elytra (hard wing coverings) of beetles. Also, if the insects are immature (nymphs), they will cast off their outer skins and markings, as they grow. Your stick insects will behave differently, so with observation you should be able to identify some of them due to their actions. They have a pecking order within the cage and the strongest healthiest ones will be at the top of the sides of ELC cage, with the weaker ones usually on the foodplant.

For the last two days a butterfly has been fluttering around inside my garage and it has now sadly died. I googled it and identified it as a Small Tortoiseshell. I now realise it was hibernating in the wrong place. How can I avoid this happening again, I want to help butterflies. I live in Birmingham.
Colourful British butterflies (including Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, both classified as Vanessids) hibernate through British winters but during warm sunny spells, they can wake up and fly around searching for a drink of water. So it's best to let them out of the garage/ shed /attic room if you see one active in the winter. Encouraging hibernation outdoors can be achieved by stacking some reclaimed roof-tiles against a sunny wall, this practice is endorsed by entomologists.

Bit awkward, my gran has bought me a pop up laundry basket thingy for my new stick insects. I really wanted New Guinea stick insects but don't think that will be good housing for them?
No, the pop up net enclosures are not recommended for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) because the netting sides are rather flimsy for the weight of the heavy New Guinea stick insects and also the holes in the netting can be too small for the New Guinea stick insects to hook their claws around without getting them trapped. Light weight stick insects with small feet can do OK in your enclosure, so you could consider Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii).

We are taking our Indian stick insect away on holiday and it laid eggs but we don't want them to hatch whilst we are away. What should I do?
Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) eggs take four months to hatch, and so you need to check when the eggs were laid to see if hatching is imminent. If it is, you really need to take the eggs with you because the hatchlings like to drink from a wet bramble leaf. Indian stick insect eggs do best in the QBOX and this is quite small, being 7cm cubed, so is easy to transport. The baby Indian stick insects do best in the QBOX too.
MYTH EXPLODED

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

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


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