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Professor Phasmid
ask
Professor Phasmid
...here to help!

Ask me any question about insect care, prof@small-life.co.uk

I post my answers here every Wednesday...


For photos and videos of my insects on Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/profphasmid/

For more stick insect information, read the Keeping Stick Insects book, price £12.50, available from Small-Life Supplies and online bookstores. Buy the book here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What colour is stick insects' blood?
Green.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a large number of Indian stick insect nymphs that have hatched. The school summer fayre is in June and I was thinking of selling them there. Would it be possible for me to bulk buy twelve HUA Pots from you? And six of the stick insect books, signed by the author as well? Any money raised will go to the school fund.
Yes, it can be a good idea to sell your surplus stick insects at the school summer fayre, it is important though that your stall is indoors or in the shade (so the stick insects don't overheat in the sunshine). And yes, Small-Life Supplies can send you HUA Pots for your baby stick insects and "Keeping Stick Insects" books signed by the author, at a discount rate, so you can make some money for the school fund. We'll also include some free colour stick insect care leaflets for your display. It's important to provide a care sheet when you sell living creatures.

This morning I looked at my New Guinea stick insects and was shocked to see that one of them is trying to shed his skin but there's a big blob of green gunge where his front leg should be. There are six legs in the old skin, five are empty legs but the front left one is his original leg. The end of his body is still in the skin. What should I do? Will he die? His name is Timothy.
Oh dear, sometimes stick insects mess up their skin-changes despite being kept in the correct conditions. Unfortunately Timothy was unable to pull his new leg out of the old skin and so that is why he has discarded the leg. Usually when a stick insect throws off a leg it is a clean process with no mess, but if this happens during a skin-change (ecdysis) , there is blood loss (and their blood is green). You should leave Timothy alone to complete the skin-change, all that is left for him to do is pull out the rest of his abdomen. If he hasn't done this in an hour's time , you will need to intervene and gently pull the old skin off (wetting it if necessary to ease this process). Like other species of stick insect, a New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) nymph can cope with just five legs and so Timothy won't die because of this. The front legs are the most important legs because they help to push off the old skin during skin-changes, so his next skin-change will be more difficult for him to do, but not impossible.

I'd love some stick insects but I have a cat. Are your ELC cages able to withstand a cat attack? What would happen if one escaped?
The ELC cage is made from strong plastic and so can withstand a cat tapping on the side with its paw. There have always been free roaming cats at Small-Life Supplies, some cats take more of an interest in the stick insects than others. If they are interested, they sit by the mesh side of the ELC cage looking at the stick insects. None of our cats have ever taken the lid off the ELC cage, so the stick insects have always been safe. On the odd occasion that a stick insect has made a break for it, we have been alerted to this by a cat finding it and tapping it cautiously with its paw.

We acquired a group of adult stick insects and eggs several months ago. We presumed they were Indian stick insects until I realised we actually seemed to have Annam stick insects. I intend to hatch the eggs we do have, if I can. One keeper on a facebook group says the eggs take about 5 months to hatch? Have you any experience with these at all please?
Yes, I have reared these stick insects for many years but don't have them anymore. The correct name is Vietnamese stick insect (Baculum extradentatum) and yes, their eggs hatch in approx five months. There is a similar species from Thailand (Baculum thaii), the female also has horns on her head, but the Thailand eggs are a different shape from the Vietnamese eggs and hatch much faster, usually after two months. Another difference is that Vietnamese stick insects have bodies of a rougher texture than Thailand stick insects. But a really unusual feature of the Vietnamese stick insects is the colour of their shed skins. Most shed stick insect skins are cream/white but the shed skins of Vietnamese stick insects have a pink tinge. Thailand stick insects are much more common than Vietnamese (formerly called Annam) stick insects, so it's worth checking that you do have these. If you email me a photo of the adult female, I'll be able to let you know.

I just bought a stick insect cage from the charity shop. The sides of the cage are a little stained and so please can you tell me what's best to clean them up? It says ELC cage 2013 on the label. I need some mats for it, do the ones you sell now fit this old model?
The most effective cleaning agent for this is the "Parazone Bleach Plus stain remover" which is sold in plastic silver bottles with a pink top in hardware stores and discount shops. There are a range of Parazone bleach products, sold in different coloured bottles, and so you need to look hard for this particular one because it is harder to find than the others. Clean the cage with warm water (not hot) and use the "Parazone Bleach Plus stain remover" on a soft cleaning sponge to rub off the stains. Rinse well with cold tap water and dry with a soft cotton tea towel. The ELC cages have been the same size since they were launched in 2012 and so the ELC cage Liners we sell now will still fit the an ELC cage manufactured in 2013. It's also worth looking underneath the cage, there should be five black feet (one at each corner and one in the centre). Because this is an old cage, the central foot may have been knocked off, but we can send you another one to stick back in its place. We can include this free of charge when we send you the Liners.


At last some sun! Any news on the caterpillars?
Small-Life Supplies does have some British caterpillars that have hatched. However they are tiny, and so are not large enough to send yet. They should be ready to send in a few weeks time. Details will be posted on-line as soon as they're ready to send out.


Is there such a thing as an active stick insect?
Different species of stick insect have different behaviours. And within a species, the activity of the individual stick insect varies with how old it is. Probably the most active stick insects are the adult Thailand stick insect (Baculum thaii) males. At rest they can vigorously rock from side to side, "dancing" as they try to mimic a twig blowing in the wind. And they like to walk quickly and can soon walk up a wall to the ceiling given the opportunity!


Thank you so much for the heads up about the Cambridge event last Friday. We enjoyed it so much, and there was a lot more to see than we were expecting! It was interesting talking to you about your eucalyptus plants and I remember you saying yours are grown without pesticides, but what was the other thing you leave out - it's slipped my mind what, but I know it was important!
Glad you enjoyed the event, a wide range of nature topics are covered and so it's well worth visiting this annual event. Our potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants are grown without pesticides in the soil, so this means that there is no risk of harmful chemicals being taken up by the stem and being distributed throughout the leaves. Our potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants are also grown without "growth inhibitor" added. Amazingly, many commercially available eucalyptus plants now have growth inhibitors added, these are added to stop the plants from growing! Obviously if you are buying a plant as a foodsource for stick insects, you want it to grow as fast as possible, and so it's very important that it doesn't have "growth inhibitor" added.

Help please as we have reached a stalemate here! My six year old wants some stick insects and so we have been looking at your website and decided on the New Guinea ones. But then Grandpa stepped in and showed her images of the bright green Jungle Nymph stick insect, so she now wants those instead because they are more colourful. But I wanted to get everything from Small-Life Supplies, I don't suppose you sell Jungle Nymphs? We will be investing in the ELC cage obvs.
Jungle Nymph stick insects are usually called Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata). When young they are beige, the females only become bright green when they are older. They are very slow growing. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) can be a bright mottled green when young and then brown when adults. However, for a six year old, New Guinea stick insects are the far better choice. This is because young New Guinea stick insects are much more active than young Malaysian stick insects. And the adult New Guinea stick insects are much easier to handle than adult Malaysian stick insects. Small-Life Supplies does supply Malaysian stick insects but we do not recommend them as being suitable for young children, this species should only be kept by experienced stick insect keepers.

I keep New Guinea stick insects and saw that they can eat hazel leaves? I live in Birmingham. Where do I find hazel leaves, do you post them out like you do the bramble?
Hazel leaves grow on hazel trees, and are not visible in the winter because hazel trees are deciduous. Hazel trees grow best in damp places, so you can plant one in your garden (and water it well), or look for established hazel trees growing by river banks or in marshy areas. If you are able to plant your own hazel tree, you can apply to receive one for free, under the new initiative called the "The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy". This is a scheme aimed at the general public in the UK to encourage planting of easy to grow trees in gardens. Because hazel leaves need so much water, the cut sprigs should be stood in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water as soon as possible. We do not send "Fresh Cut hazel leaves" because the leaves would wilt too much in transit. In contrast, bramble requires less water and so our "Fresh Cut bramble leaves" still arrive fresh in the wallet, even after being in transit.

If entomology is the study of insects what is the name for the study of spiders?
Arachnology.

I have a newly hatched Achrioptera fallax stick insect that became a pet by accident. I am doing my best to give it the perfect environment to grow into a healthy adult as it is a sentient being. I’ve bought an untreated raspberry plant with small leaves that Sticky is happily munching. I would like to introduce Eucalyptus but am unsure which variety? I’m currently providing 20 degrees Celsius with a heat mat and cooling fan. I am keeping Sticky in a terrarium, (30cm x 30cm x 45cm high), whilst it is young and plan to transfer it to a much larger cage before it’s an adult. Your AUC cage looks ideal size wise but I’m concerned there is too much ventilation? It is not practical or desirable to have my room temp at >20 degrees Celsius all the time. I suppose it would be easy to blank sides of the AUC cage to keep the heat in whilst still having good ventilation from one side and the top? I see how this can quickly turn into a fascinating hobby.
Eucalyptus gunnii is the best species of eucalyptus for these stick insects (and other eucalyptus eating species of stick insect too). Both the round leaves and the elongated leaves can be consumed by stick insects. Our next batch of potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants should be ready soon. Achrioptera fallax stick insects do like it hotter than many other species, so a temperature of 20 degrees Celsius is better than the standard 18 degrees Celsius preferred by many other species of stick insect. The best way to achieve this elevated temperature is to position a plug-in oil-filled radiator near to the cage. A 500 Watt plug-in oil-filled radiator is ideal, it is effective and economical. Heat mats are not recommended because they dry out the foliage and surroundings too much (leading to problems with skin-changes). Fans are not necessary if you keep the stick insect in a cage with two mesh sides opposite each other (this allows natural through-draught ventilation). Large species such as Achrioptera fallax do well in large airy cages, the AUC has four ventilated sides and a solid clear roof. If you are concerned about heat loss, you could put cling film over two of the mesh sides. The important thing is to leave two opposite mesh sides open because this will facilitate the through-draught of air that this species, and others, require to thrive. When Sticky is a larger nymph and you are able to determine its gender, you will need to purchase a mate for it to keep Sticky happy.

I purchased a couple of your stick insect skins from the Cambridge exhibition, and I find them fascinating! I know my grandson will like them too. But I won't be seeing him until the summer holidays, will the skins still be in one piece or will they have decomposed by then?
The stick insect skins that Small-Life Supplies sell are the large species, so most are from the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), although we also have some of the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) and Malaysian stick insect (Heteropteryx dilatata). Anyway, regardless of the species, they do not decompose quickly and remain intact for several decades at least. So your grandson will be able to see them in the summer. However, shed stick insect skins are fragile and so if you take one out of the display pack, please handle it carefully to prevent a leg from falling off!

Can Indian stick insects eat eucalyptus? I am currently feeding mine bramble but the leaves are looking brown and so aren't looking nice and lush. There is a large eucalyptus tree overhanging the pavement further down the road and so I should be able to snip a few bits!
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves, so you could give them some sprigs of eucalyptus as well as the bramble so they can change over gradually. Please note that eucalyptus sprigs take up a lot more water than bramble sprigs and so you'll need to refill the Sprig Pot of water after a few days!


I seem to remember feeding my Indian stick insects with privet leaves when I was a child? But you don't mention privet as food on your website, is there a reason why? Are bramble leaves better food?
For decades we fed our Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) with privet leaves, but then suddenly, several years ago, they suddenly refused to eat it. This was very strange and has happened to some other stick insect keepers across the country too. So we switched ours over to bramble leaves and subsequent generations have continued to do well on a diet of bramble leaves. Our Indian stick insects will also eat hazel leaves, rose leaves and eucalyptus leaves. From time to time we give them some privet leaves but these are largely ignored although the odd Indian stick insect will still eat privet. So that is why we no longer promote privet as a foodplant for Indian stick insects and instead advise people to feed their Indian stick insects with bramble/blackberry leaves.


I'd like to enquire if the bramble cuttings sold by Small-Life.co.uk are available in longer lengths? I ask because my habitat is 90cm tall and the residents prefer to eat around the upper half, only venturing downward when the upper branches are stripped clean.
The Fresh Cut Bramble sprigs we send out are approximately 36cm long, and so are ideal to fit into the ELC cage (51cm tall). At this time of year the old bramble is dying off and the new shoots are coming through, so our stocks of suitable green leaves are limited. So at the moment, that standard length is the only length we are selling. However, when bramble is plentiful (later on in the year) we do offer longer lengths of fresh cut bramble, up to 100cm long, this is called our "bulk buy bramble" package. This has to go out by courier due to the size of the parcel.


My daughter is very interested in keeping stick insects after her Reception class looked after some (she's 5). I saw that you have an exhibition coming up at the Cambridge University Department of Zoology this Saturday and wondered if it would be suitable for us to come along to chat about keeping stick insects at home? I understand if not as I suspect it might be more geared to the professionals at the University!
Good to hear that your daughter would like her own stick insects. And yes, please bring her along to the free nature event this Saturday 7th April 2018. The Small-Life Supplies stand is near the entrance and we'll be delighted to explain a bit more about how to look after stick insects and show you and your daughter the different types of stick insects and the ELC cages. Lots of children visit this annual event, which is great because the purpose of the event is to promote nature to all.

Do Indian stick insects eat on the day they are born? I have two hatchling Indian stick insects but I haven't seen them eat anything yet and they are two days old. But I have seen them drinking from the water droplets on the side of the tank when I mist it with water. I've put ivy in there.
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) start eating the day they are born. These stick insects usually hatch at night and are ready to start eating and drinking the next day. Instead of misting the tank with water, you need to wet the bramble leaf and then place this wet bramble leaf into the QBOX or HUA Pot, wet side uppermost. The stick insects will drink from the water droplets on the leaf and then start nibbling the edge of the leaf. Baby stick insects do not eat a lot, so do not expect the leaf to be devoured, but you should be able to see small pieces missing from the edges of the leaf. Bramble is the best type of leaf to use, ivy is not popular with many Indian stick insects and so is not recommended for the newly hatched stick insects.

I have been looking after a couple of Thailand stick insects (an adult pair) for my grandson whilst he is on an Easter holiday. Unfortunately I have had a bit of a disaster. I was reaching down in to the tank and when I lifted out the bramble, I didn't see the stick insect and the bramble thorns accidentally ripped open the side of the body of the adult female. The poor thing was in such a state I thought the kindest thing to do was to put her on the bird table and she was promptly gobbled up by a blackbird. Anyway, I now intend to buy the proper ELC cage, this looks a far more suitable enclosure and I believe living creatures deserve the best conditions. My dilemma is whether to "own up" for my carelessness? The deceased stick insect was a rusty brown colour, would it be possible for you to send me a similar looking one with the cage? Or do you think my grandson would notice the difference? He is very observant and I feel uneasy about telling him a fib.
I think you should tell your grandson that the female stick insect had died, but leave out the details of how she died. Instead mention the fact that she was very old, this is true because she was a rusty brown colour. Adult female Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) start off green and then become more brown as they age. When they are a dark rusty brown colour, they are very old and nearing the end of their natural life. So it would be better to purchase some more young Thailand stick insect adults (so females that are green) for your grandson, so he will have the opportunity to look after them for many months. It's also worth checking on any Thailand stick insect eggs that you have saved because these start to hatch after approximately two months. You can house the adult Thailand stick insects and the newly hatched Thailand stick insect nymphs together in the same ELC cage. The ELC cage has side access which makes it much easier to reach in and remove the bramble safely.

I am researching the best stick insect cage to buy and I think yours are the best. Please can you tell me how often I should wash out the cage? And what do I put the stick insects in when I wash the cage?
The ELC cage can be washed about once a month. Empty the cage first and place the stick insects in a washing up bowl and cover this with a tea towel to prevent them escaping. Wash the ELC cage using the soft Cleaning Sponge provided and use lukewarm (not hot) soapy water. Rinse well with cold water and dry with a soft tea towel. Small-Life Supplies launched the ELC cage back in 2012 following years of development. It works really well as a stick insect cage and is very practical to use , unlike wooden cages (which can be difficult to clean) and glass tanks (which are far too heavy and not ventilated enough).

My first Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect hatched today. How critical is it to give it eucalyptus instead of bramble?
It is very important to feed newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) with eucalyptus leaves instead of bramble leaves. So you need to try and source some Eucalyptus gunnii leaves quickly. Our next lot of potted Eucalyptus gunnii plants will be up to size and ready to send in a month or so. We have a waiting list of customers who want these plants, so please phone Small-Life Supplies on 01733 203358 if you'd like your name added to this waiting-list. The problem with feeding bramble to newly hatched Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects is that although they do eat the bramble, it often does not provide the essential nutrients they need and and so the stick insects often become sluggish and die when they are about two weeks old.

I am very interested in the nature event in Cambridge which you're advertising. Is it a very "high-brow" event? I don't have any qualifications and have never set foot in a university before and so I am a bit nervous. I love my stick insects though and would like to meet Dorothy Floyd. Could I possibly buy some more Liners?
No need to be nervous, this event is very friendly and welcoming. There are a range of exhibits, with lots of people manning the stands eager to talk to visitors. Everyone is welcome and the atmosphere is relaxed and not intimidating, the exhibitors are there to promote their love of nature. The Small-Life Supplies stand is near the entrance and we'll have various stick insects and cages on display, we look forward to meeting you. And yes, we'll have some packs of Liners for sale, so please remember to bring some cash with you. The event is free to visit and is on Friday 6th April and Saturday 7th April 2018. Just turn up on the day.

I have watched my Pink Winged stick insects glue their eggs onto the mesh roof of the ELC cage, I find it fascinating the care they take doing this. Are Pink Winged stick insects the only type that glue their eggs or are there others?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) certainly do take care when gluing their eggs into crevices. The mesh roof of the ELC cage is a favourite site for them to stick their eggs. Just leave the eggs where they have been glued and wait for the first instar nymphs to emerge in approximately three months time. They also have the ability to propel pre-glued eggs with some force out of their abdomen, and these eggs will adhere to whatever they land on, providing the surface is not too slippery. Another species of stick insect that glues its eggs onto rough surfaces is the Andaman Island stick insect (Sceptrophasma hispidulum). These stick insects, which were identified in 1873, have males and females, neither have wings.

I have some New Guinea stick insect eggs in a HUA pot and the first nymph has hatched today. I just wanted to check whether I leave the nymph in the HUA pot until he is bigger with some brambles for him to eat or if he can be placed straight into an ELC cage? Also, would a newly hatched nymph need a water dish to drink from or would misting the brambles suffice? 
Great news! Keep this nymph in the HUA Pot and add a wet bramble leaf. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best if housed in the HUA Pot for the first month or two of their lives. This is because they require enclosed surroundings at the start of their lives, but ventilated surroundings when they are older and larger. Take care not to place the HUA Pot in a sunny place because this will cause it to steam up inside and you do not want this to happen. So choose a place which is out of direct sunshine. A water dish is not necessary for stick insects housed in the HUA Pots because the young nymphs get enough moisture form the wet leaves. It's best to wet the leaf before putting it into the HUA Pot rather than spraying water directly into the HUA Pot.

Why do my baby Indian stick insects keep dying? Over the past few weeks the eggs have been hatching, but most of the nymphs have died after a few days, some even after they have shed once or twice. The have fresh leaves in there every day - I am feeding them ivy, as that is all I have access to and my first insect ate it. I have had about fifteen eggs hatch, and currently only have three stick insects living.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) usually have a very high survival rate and so things are going very wrong here. I suggest the following actions. Firstly, you need to stop feeding them ivy leaves. This is because although some Indian stick insects can tolerate ivy, most do not. Bramble (blackberry) leaves are far more nutritious and the best diet for Indian stick insects. Secondly, you must wet the bramble leaf before putting it into the QBOX. Baby stick insects need to be able to drink water droplets. Thirdly, position the QBOX so that is out of direct sunlight. If the QBOX is steaming up inside, the stick insects could be overheating and dying. Fourthly, check that there are no plug-in air-fresheners, scented candles etc in the vicinity because strong smells can kill stick insects. Fifthly, only keep twelve baby Indian stick insects per QBOX. And finally over bothering them with a daily feed will be causing stress and so you can reduce this to a fresh wet leaf once every three days (extending to once a week as they get larger).

I keep getting stabbed by the bramble thorns, I wear gloves but the thorns go through? Any tips?
There are loads of gardening gloves sold in garden centres etc which do not protect against bramble thorns. So you need to seek out a premium brand and look for some thick lined suede gloves. It's really important that the gloves have a thick fleece lining and that the palm and fingers are suede. It's worth trying to find some old stock of "Town and Country" gloves because these were ideal, sadly this design of heavy duty glove no longer appears to be listed in their current range.

The bramble is rather dry around here and so I was thinking about buying some of yours to tide me over. I assume it is as good as in the photo? I have four adult Indian stick insects in the ELC cage, how long do you think I could make one wallet of bramble last for them?
Yes, Small-Life Supplies is still sending out wallets of fresh cut juicy green bramble. We only pick the best pieces and use these to feed our own stick insects and to send to customers. You may be able to stretch out the contents of one wallet of bramble so that it lasts two weeks. To do this, put two sprigs of bramble in the Sprig Pot of water in the ELC cage, and keep the third sprig in the resealable wallet at the bottom of the fridge. Then after a week or so, you could replace one of the sprigs in the Sprig Pot with the unused piece that has been keeping fresh in the bottom of the fridge. It's always best to have at least two sprigs of bramble in the ELC cage, instead of just one piece.

I am very pleased with my Eucalyptus gunnii plant, I'm going to let it grow a bit before I start to use it for food. I do have a couple of questions. Firstly, have you experienced any problems with pests on the plants? I have seen some tiny leaf hopper style critters on the leaves, they move very quickly so haven't been able to get good look. Secondly, will the plant need fertilising? If so are there any stick insect friendly fertilisers out there?
We don't use pesticides on any of the foodplants and so it is inevitable that small pests can occur. Fortunately these aren't a problem for the stick insects (apart from spiders which need to be scooped up and put outside on a plant). Aphids are best placed outside too, because their sticky residue looks unsightly on the sides of the cage. Leaf hoppers and shieldbugs can occur, these mainly come in on the bramble, we haven't seen them on the eucalyptus, but we return the shieldbugs onto wild bramble outside and try to shake off the leaf hoppers there too. They are not a threat to the stick insects. Regarding fertilising the plants, we use the frass from the stick insects mixed with water and pour it on the soil. Just tip the contents of the cage Liner into a bowl of cold water, stir and leave overnight. The nitrogen from the frass (insect droppings) is good fertiliser.

I am getting some Thailand and Pink Winged stick insects. My question is do I fill the Sprig Pot with just ordinary tap water? And will they eat anything else other than ordinary bramble leaves?
Yes, just fill the Sprig Pot with ordinary cold tap water and insert two or three sprigs of bramble. After one week, refill the Sprig Pot and replace the old bramble with fresh leaves. The stick insects won't have eaten all the bramble leaves in one week but the leaves will be starting to dry up and so need replacing. The stick insects must always have juicy green bramble leaves to eat and prefer to see a generous supply in the cage rather than a sparse amount. Bramble leaves are eaten by both Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and so bramble is the best food for your display. The Pink Winged stick insects also like to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and so you could put a sprig of this in as well. Thailand stick insects can eat eucalyptus but prefer bramble and so you should have bramble in there for the Thailand stick insects to eat.

I understand that the cold weather has delayed the sending out of stick insects. But now the snow has gone, do you think you'll be able to send the stick insects out again soon? I'm after some Indian stick insects and the ELC bundle. I live in Eastbourne.
The good news is that mild nights are forecast next week and so Small-Life Supplies shall be sending out stick insects again. We do not send them out in freezing conditions because it would be too cold for them to survive, and so have held up livestock orders recently because of the cold snap. So deliveries to Eastbourne should be back to normal next week, with livestock and cages being dispatched again and next day delivery guaranteed.

Will you have more of your microscope slide boxes for sale soon?
Yes, these shall be on the Small-Life Supplies website shortly. And some will be for sale at the forthcoming NatHistFest nature and insect event at Cambridge University Zoology Department on Friday 6th April and Saturday 7th April 2018. (free entry). Our microscope slide boxes are made from aluminium and hold up to 24 microscope slides.

My Thailand stick insect eggs started to hatch this morning! I have four babies so far. They are so cute! I am just checking that I should house them in the ELC cage and not the HUA Pot?
Congratulations! Newly hatched Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) like to spread themselves around a lot of space and so do best in the ELC cage from birth. They need airy surroundings from birth and will distribute themselves around the mesh sides of the ELC cage and also cluster at the tips of the bramble leaves. Lightly mist the leaves with water in the evening.

I read that stick insects can eat soya leaves? How do I get hold of these leaves?
You need to grow your own soya plants in 5" pots, using "J Arthur Bowers Johns Innes" compost. Purchase soya beans from a health food shop, soak them to encourage them to sprout, and then plant them, one plant per pot. Limited tests so far confirm that soya leaves are eaten by Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) and Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii). The main diet of these stick insects should still be bramble leaves but soya leaves can be used as a back-up if the bramble leaves are scarce or of poor quality.

We've had our New Guinea stick insects since September and tonight we observed a female doing a wiggly kind of booty shaking dance and then depositing eggs or poos(?)into the carpet! We had them out to 'play' while we freshened their habitat. They seem to poo a lot in the sand, water dish and on the liner. I'm not sure what the eggs look like and what to do with them.
The wiggly dance you saw is the characteristic egg laying behaviour. Adult female New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) push their pointed ovipositors down into crevices and then twist from side to side as they push an egg out. This can be followed by a flicking action (useful if there is dry sand to flick over the egg to conceal it). Thick pile carpets and rugs are favoured egg laying sites, also between your fingers, as well as the Sand Pit (filled to the brim with dry sand). New Guinea stick insects have large appetites and so it is normal to see a lot of droppings around the cage. And yes, the water dish needs to be cleaned frequently so that there is clean water in there for the stick insects to drink. The eggs are grey and all the same size, smooth and a capsule shape (the droppings are grey as well but are irregular shapes and different sizes), there is a photo of the New Guinea stick insect egg in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book. Keep the eggs in a HUA Pot and shake this from time to time, the eggs should start to hatch after approximately six months.

I have just put two pink Community Tubes into the stick insect enclosure and my New Guinea stick insects are loving them! But I'm worried they may get stuck in the tubes? I counted eight in one tube, I'm worried that the ones at the bottom can't breathe? Should I cut extra openings in the tubes? Or am I worrying too much?
You are worrying too much. New Guinea stick insects choose to pile on top of each other. The ones at the bottom are fine. They breathe through their breathing holes (called spiracles) which are spaced down either side of their bodies. Our New Guineas fill the Community Tubes and none suffocate! So don't try modifying the tubes, these our made to our specification, specifically for use by New Guinea stick insects. The important thing is that each end of the tube is clear of the side of the ELC cage (so the stick insects can crawl in and out). So there should be a gap of about 7cm between the open end of the Community Tubes and the white mesh side of the ELC cage.

Should the bramble always be touching the top of the ELC cage? Or can I put in shorter bits?
At Small-Life Supplies we use varying lengths of bramble in the Sprig Pot, so it is of varying heights in the ELC cage. The important thing is that there is always a generous supply of lush juicy bramble leaves in the cage.

I'm about to take on two New Guinea stick insects nymphs. I know they eat bramble but I need a full list of everything else that they can eat. I have heard that they do eat some grasses? I also have a rambling rose or climbing rose growing would that be OK too? I want to give them a varied diet rather than just bramble all year round.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) don't need a varied diet, they do very well on a diet of juicy bramble leaves. Grasses are not suitable. Rose leaves are good, many types of rose leaves are suitable so your rambling/climbing rose can be used. In the summer hazel leaves can also be used (gather these from hazel trees, these grow in wet places, so look near rivers and marshes). It's really important to provide New Guinea stick insects with a shallow dish of cold tap water at all times. They also need a Community Tube to rest inside. And when your nymphs have matured, they will need a dish of dry sand in which the female can bury her eggs.

I have just received 6 Necroscia annulipes nymphs and I'm looking for some privet cuttings for their food. Can you help me find some?
Small-Life Supplies sell fresh cut bramble and potted eucalyptus plants, but only sell bags of fresh cut privet in the summer months. In the UK, privet hedges sometimes border cemeteries and parks, but unfortunately at this time of year, the councils have usually cut them back hard. However privet is evergreen and so you should still be able to gather some loose leaves, although obviously sprigs would be better because you can then stand the foodplant in a Sprig Pot of water and it will stay fresh for about a week. Be very careful when handling Necroscia annulipes because these stick insects can emit a chemical spray that can cause breathing problems in sensitive people. It is for that reason that Small-Life Supplies does not breed or encourage the sale of this species. There are plenty of safe species of stick insect to keep.

I have a subadult female Extatosoma tiaratum and she has not moved, eaten, or even defecated in the last 2½ days. When I spray the container she’s in I see very small movement in the abdomen and mandibles but not much leg movement she is definitely alive. Last night I lightly touched her abdomen and her back leg started scratching viciously at the end of her abdomen almost as though she was trying to scratch it off! Normally I would think moulting time!
The final skin-change is a very important event for the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) and so it is normal for the insect to rest for a few days beforehand and not move, as you have described. The vigorous leg scratching could indicate annoyance at being disturbed . Don't disturb her and hopefully she should shed her skin soon. If she hasn't moved after five days, something has gone wrong and you'll need to do the "head flick" to trigger the skin-change. In the evening, just flick your finger on her head and then leave her alone in the dark. This technique usually works and the stick insect sheds its skin during the night. Following the final skin-change the adult stick insect is quite weak and so should be given good quality bramble or eucalyptus leaves to eat so she can regain her strength quickly.

I just received the HUA Hatching Set from Small-Life Supplies and the label says the eggs were laid on October 14th 2017. Seeing as they take four months to hatch, doesn't that mean that they should be hatching today?
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) hatch after approximately four months. The eggs that were laid here at Small-Life Supplies on 5th October 2017 are hatching now, and so your eggs should start hatching in about one week's time. External factors such as ambient temperature can affect the development of the eggs, so it's normal to expect a bit of variation in the incubation time. Don't expect your eggs to all hatch on the same day, the hatching can be be spread out over a few days. Hatching usually occurs at night, so check the HUA Pot in the morning (the newly hatched "first instar" nymphs usually rest underneath the metal lid.)

Can Indian stick insects change colour? I switched the light on in the middle of the night and I swear my Indian stick insects looked a different colour to what they look like in the day?
Yes, decades ago much research was done documenting how the pigments in the exoskeleton of Indian stick insects move during the night, giving the stick insects a more vivid, and darker hue. And then they move back so that the Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) returns to its "normal colour" again during the day.

What is a baby stick insect called?
The correct scientific term for a baby stick insect is a "first instar nymph". This term is used to describe any "baby" stick insect that is 0 - 21 approx days old (at approx 21 days the stick insect completes it's first skin-change and becomes a "second instar nymph").

How important is it to have the same number of male and female New Guinea nymphs? I have two males and one female. Do you sell individual stick insects, or would I have to purchase another set of four?
With stick insects, it is better to have an equal balance of genders but not essential. Many adult New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do tend to pair up for life, but there are others who don't. So if you notice one pair of your New Guinea stick insect nymphs are always together in the Community Tube, and the other stick insect is elsewhere in the cage, then it is definitely time to get an extra female (of a similar size). But if all three like to group together, the need for an extra female is not as urgent. And yes, you can buy just one stick insect from Small-Life Supplies if it is to join a community of stick insects.

My Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect eggs have started to hatch! So I need to get the right equipment for them. What do you suggest to house the young?
When Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) hatch, the babies (called first instar nymphs) are very lively and run around. They have black bodies and orange heads and are often described as "demented ants". So it's best to put them in a large airy cage so they have plenty of space to run around. We use both the ELC cages and the shorter TTQ cages to house the young Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects. And don't forget that this species needs to eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves rather than bramble leaves, when they are young.

I am so glad to see that Small-Life Supplies are selling eucalyptus plants again! I have been on your waiting-list for ages and just got the notification email today. So I will be ordering one later today, but hope you don't mind answering my question - can I keep this as an indoor pot plant?
Our bushy Eucalyptus gunnii plants are approx 70cm tall (including pot). This plant will not thrive indoors, you need to place it outside in a sunny place and water it well. Care instructions are included with the plant. Ideally you should transplant it into your garden in a sunny place. However, if you don't have a garden, you can keep the plant in the pot supplied for a few more months. It will then need to be re-potted into a larger plant pot. To do this, choose a plant pot which has holes in the bottom so that the water can drain out. And, very importantly, only use "John Innes compost" to top up the larger plant pot, because this compost does not contain the pesticides routinely added to many other brands of potting compost. (If you use soil containing pesticides, these will be taken up by the plant and will kill the stick insects when they eat the plant leaves).

Are New Zealand stick insects easy to keep? And do you have any for sale? Do their eggs need any special care?
New Zealand stick insects (Acanthoxyla prasina) are easy to look after, they do best in a well-ventilated cage, such as the ELC cage. They eat bramble leaves , also conifer leaves. These stick insects don't like getting wet though, so it's important when misting the foodplant to avoid getting the actual insects wet. Small-Life Supplies used to breed New Zealand stick insects in large numbers, but we don't have any at the moment. Their eggs hatch in about five months, and require no special care. Just store the eggs in the QBOX and wait for them to hatch out. There is a photo of an adult female New Zealand stick insect on the cover of the "Keeping Stick Insects" book by Dorothy Floyd. Most winters some people from the South West of England contact Small-Life Supplies to report finding a New Zealand stick insect on their house! This is because New Zealand stick insects are living wild in the South West of England, and when the weather turns colder they seek out warm buildings. New Zealand stick insects came over accidentally to the UK in the 1900s on cargo ships and have been breeding here ever since, but have not migrated northwards because it is too cold for them to survive.

Can I visit and film your stick insects? I'd love to meet you and your stickies!
Unfortunately this is not possible because Small-Life Supplies does not have retail premises open to the public to visit. However, some of our stick insects will be on public display at the insect and nature event to be held in central Cambridge on 6th and 7th April 2018.

Does Small-Life Supplies ever sell stick insect nymphs? Or is it just adults? I'd quite like to watch them grow.
Yes, we send out nymphs. At the moment, the following nymphs (immature insects) are for sale (delivered to you) from Small-Life Supplies: Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus), New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatsoma tiaratum).

Please can you tell me a bit more about the Liners for your AUC cages? Could I use kitchen roll sheets as a chepaer alternative?
The disposable Liners for the AUC cage are pre-cut to fit the floor of the cage and are now available in two colour options: pink and green. The Liner is coloured on one side and white on the other. You replace the Liner once a week and if you tilt the Liner and tap it underneath, round eggs (such as the Australian Macleays Spectre) will roll off and can be collected in a bowl underneath. You could use kitchen roll but it is more effort, looks worse and doesn't work as well. For example, the kitchen roll is floppy and so you can't hold it rigid and tap it underneath to encourage the eggs to roll off. And you would need to use several pieces of kitchen roll and cut out squares from the the corners so that it would fit around the four square corner pillars of the cage.

Do adult stick insects continue to grow larger than their current size?
They don't grow any longer, this is because stick insects increase in length when they complete skin-changes and adult stick insects do not undergo any skin-changes. However, female adult stick insects will become fatter as their abdomens fill up with eggs to be laid. There is no increase in the width of adult male stick insects.

What do you think of the directive to disregard scientific literature more than ten years old?
This is not a good idea and it sets a dangerous precedent. Much detailed work on insects was carried out decades ago, for example great observational work by people such as Jean Henri Fabre, and detailed practial experiments by Wigglesworth. Whilst some progress has undoubtedly been made since, much of this classic work is still valid. So it is absurd to disregard this and effectively keep "re-inventing the wheel". For example, some fuss was made recently by the alleged "new discovery" that stick insects sway from side to side to mimic a twig blowing in the wind. In reality this has been known for decades and is printed in the book "Keeping Stick Insects" (pages 9 and 45).

I got some small Trachyaretaon brueckneri stick insect nymphs in June 2017 and they have been wonderful. I keep them in the ELC cage and take them out for a walk on the weekends. They all became adults last year apart from one which seems to be growing very slowly. She shed her skin last night but is still only about half the size of the others, and is still a nymph. What's wrong with her?
Stick insects have growth hormones which are released to trigger skin-changes. But sometimes a stick insect has a growth hormone deficiency and and so cannot release enough hormone to be able to grow at the normal rate. Such individuals live as nymphs, but often die before reaching maturity because they have reached the end of their natural lifespan.

When is the next insect show?
Small-Life Supplies will be exhibiting at the Cambridge insect and nature event, held on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th April 2018. This event is open to the public (free admission), and has a wide range of informative stands about the natural world. It is an educational event rather than a trade fair, but you'll have the opportunity to see the latest cages and insects that are available from Small-Life Supplies.

I have Indian stick insects and also Thailand stick insects. I have noticed that my five Indian stick insects consume far more food than my two Thailand stick insects. Is this normal?
Yes. Different species of stick insect have different appetites. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are known for having very small appetites, this makes them an ideal choice for people who have only limited stocks of bramble leaves. Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) have much more hearty appetites than Thailand stick insects. A species which has a very large appetite is the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum). Sometimes the adult females eat so much that they struggle to lift their big fat bodies off the ground and so sit near the bottom of the mesh with their abdomens resting on the cage floor Liner!

I was wondering if New Guinea stick insects instinctively group together on the ground? Or , would they group higher up if there was somewhere suitable?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) like to pile on top of each other, ideally under the cover of loose leaves, or inside the Community Tube. It's usually easiest to place the Community Tube on the floor of the cage, and the stick insects will crawl into this tube and pile on top of each other. However, if you create a suitable hiding place at the top of the cage, the New Guinea stick insects will hide up there. So, there is no truth in the rumour that these stick insects are ground-dwelling. They simply seek out places to hide, and usually the suitable places, for example the loose leaves and Community Tubes, are on the bottom of the cage, rather than the top.

Do many 23 year old keep stick insects? I think they'd be cool pets. But my gran says they're for kids?
Stick insects appeal to people of all ages and so yes, Small-Life Supplies has lots of customers in their early twenties who keep stick insects. Some choose the long twig-like species, such as the Thailand (Baculum thaii) stick insects, these make a great display in the AUC cage. Others prefer the more chunky species, so opt for the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) in the ELC cage. Stick insect keeping by the public became more mainstream from the 1980s onwards, this was a time when many new species were being discovered and brought back to the UK for breeding, and there was a surge to promote stick insects (via a new stick insect society, opening of butterfly farms, media coverage etc). It sounds like your gran isn't aware of this, hence her comment.

My friend has emigrated and so she gave me her Indian stick insect, Betty, who is 13 months old, and her 40cm tall terrarium. Today, I found the Betty on the floor, she seems weak. I think she could have fallen and injured herself. What can I do to help her recover? Also, are stick insects equipped to withstand a fall of 40cm?
In their natural habitat of rainforests, stick insects have evolved to withstand falls of many metres. Indeed Indian stick insects either clamp their legs against their bodies and fall as "straight sticks", or they turn round when they fall so that they land on their feet. So a fall of 40cm is not a problem. However, the age of Betty is the main factor here. Most Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) live for one year, so Betty has done well to get to 13 months. She is weak because she is dying from old age, the kindest thing to do is to prop her mouth in a shallow dish of water so she can drink. Hopefully you will have saved some of Betty's eggs and can look forward to seeing these hatch after an incubation time of approx four months.

I liked your picture of the two-tone Indian stick insect on Insta. I too have been breeding Indian stick insects for years, but have never seen a two-tone one. Are they as rare as the male Indians? I haven't seen one of those yet either, but hope to one day!
The two-tone Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are even rarer than the male Indian stick insects. The probability of seeing a rare male Indian stick insect is 1 in 10000 but the chance of seeing a two-tone female Indian stick insect is half that, so 1 in 20000! That's 0.005%. So we're really lucky to the have a two-tone Indian stick insect now, which is why I've put a photo of her on Instagram.

We have the GSC Aphid Cages in the lab. Now we research Tetranychus and wonder if you could supply this cage with an even smaller mesh?
There are two sizes of very fine stainless steel mesh. We use the very fine stainless steel mesh on the GSC Aphid Cage. There is now an even finer stainless steel mesh with the holes half the size. So yes, we could manufacture cages for you using this extra-fine stainless steel mesh. For those that don't know what Tetranychus is, this is a spider mite. They are not mites of spiders, but mites of plants, they are called spider mites because they spin webs on the plants.

I have kept a small number of stick insects for years and enjoy reading this page every week. Unfortunately I now have a work placement abroad for six months and so my sister has agreed to look after my stick insects until my return. I know I'm really going to miss them and wondered if you have other social media accounts which I could check into to get my "phasmid fix"?
I have an Instagram account, https://www.instagram.com/profphasmid/, this is updated frequently with photographs of stick insects that are being reared at Small-Life Supplies . So an easy way to keep in touch and see pictures of phasmids, is to become a follower on Instagram!

A week ago I received five Indian Stick Insects I purchased from a seller online. I know I received five because me and my little brother named each as we were putting them in their tank. Today I was changing their food. They were all on the ivy I had put in so I placed the ivy in a box while I put the new ivy in the tank. I then began transferring each one onto the new ivy vine. This is where I realised there was six, there shouldn’t be six since we named each individual and I had no name for the sixth one. I do not understand how an extra one has appeared as they can't survive England's climate in the wild so I couldn’t have come in from the outside. Can they duplicate themselves some how? It's such a dumb question I know but I’m so baffled right now.
No, they can't duplicate themselves. And it's too cold for Indian stick insects to live outside in the UK. Therefore you have either received six Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), with the sixth one having been hiding so you couldn't see it initially. Or, you are mistaking the shed skin of one (this is an exact replica of the stick insect but is white) for an actual stick insect. Or you are mistaking another type of insect (that has come in on the leaves) for a stick insect. I haven't seen any photos so I can't advise further. However, ivy is usually used as a last resort to feed Indian stick insects, they much prefer eating bramble/blackberry leaves, and so I hope you can find some of those leaves for them to eat.

Has there been a stick insect named after Dorothy Floyd?
No. I find it odd how some people push to have things named after them, be they roads or buildings or species! Also, the naming of species has got particularly silly now, with people naming a moth after Donald Trump etc. And the effort expended to try to change the Latin genus in a species name is ridiculous, for example some people have tried to change the genus Baculum (Latin for stick) into Ramulus (Latin for branch). Well, anyone who looks at the New Thailand stick insect knows that it is slender, straight and stick-like and so it's species name of Baculum sp. should stand.

I’m a head teacher at a Primary school and recently acquired some Diapherodes gigantea that are in a tank (nymphs) - I’m just going to purchase an ELC tank for them and I’m wondering if they will live with any of the other species featured on your site?
Diapherodes gigantea is the Latin species name for the Grenadan stick insect. These stick insects eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves and do well in a well-ventilated cage such as the ELC cage (with the mesh lid). They can be mixed with the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus), these stick insects also like well-ventilated surroundings and eat eucalyptus leaves. Pink Winged stick insects will also eat bramble/blackberry leaves.

An allotment is up for grabs near where I live. I keep stick insects, the Pink Winged and Indian types, and am considering growing food for them in an allotment because I don't have a garden of my own. Would I be allowed to grow bramble?
Several customers of Small-Life Supplies have mentioned that they use an allotment to grow food for their stick insects. But instead of growing bramble (which can be frowned upon by some gardeners who view it as a "weed"), they grow raspberry plants. The advantage of raspberry plants is that they grow fast and upright, and are accepted in many allotments because you can say you're growing them to produce the fruit (the raspberries). They are very easy to grow. Raspberry leaves are eaten by Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). The disadvantage of raspberry plants is that they die off in the winter, so you'd still have to gather bramble/blackberry in the winter months.

I have four Indian stick insects in the ELC cage and they have started to lay eggs. Is it best to pick the eggs up every day and put them in the QBOX? I don't want them to dry out.
Indian stick insect eggs (Carausius morosus) have a hard exterior and so won't dry out quickly. So it's fine to leave them in the open with the droppings (frass) on the Liner of the cage for a week or so. When you replace the ELC Liner (this should be done once a week), just tilt the Liner and gently tap underneath, the Indian eggs will roll off (and most of the frass will remain on the Liner). Tip the eggs into the QBOX , replace the lid, and stick a label on with the date (this will help you to predict when they are due to hatch, four months later).

I would like to encourage more butterflies to my garden, I have some large trees and would like to plant something underneath, Nettles have been suggested, but I don't want anything that stings!
British violets would be a good choice for you, these perennial native plants provide excellent ground cover and spread well. They grow well in dappled shade. There are two types of violets commonly available for sale : the Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) and the fragrant Sweet Violet (Viola odorata). Both are foodplants for the caterpillars (larvae) of the Dark Green Fritillary butterfly (Argynnis aglaja), the leaves of the Dog Violet are slightly thinner and so are easier to eat by the hatchling larvae. Make sure you purchase these plants from an organic supplier who has not contaminated the plants with pesticides by growing them in soil infused with these harmful chemicals.

I am putting my financial affairs in order. I would like to donate some money to an animal organisation. I like insects and birds and would welcome your advice. A cursory look at some organisations hasn't impressed me so far because the emphasis seems directed at writing reports rather than direct action to help the creatures.
I agree with you that some of these organisations seem to have lost their way. Gathering information is important, but to continue to direct funds to produce reports cataloging the decline or suffering of creatures is futile. Far better to actually do something about the problem and help the creatures! A small organisation that does a lot to help wild birds, for example relocating birds that are at imminent risk of being shot, and treating sick and injured birds, is called London Wildlife Protection, and they are always grateful to receive any donations. The large organisation involved with the bigger picture of protecting the environment is Greenpeace, they particularly welcome a bequest which you can arrange when drawing up your will with your solicitor.

Is the Titan stick insect the largest land dwelling invertebrate?
No, that accolade belongs to the Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) which has a leg span of almost 1 metre and weighs up to 4kg. These crabs live on coral atolls in the Indian and Pacific oceans and they are known for climbing trees and cracking coconuts open with their claws!

I rescued a tank rammed full of stick insects and am sorting through them. They are the Pink Winged sort. Some have missing limbs, others curved bodies. Are these genetic faults or a result of their cramped surroundings? Don't worry, I shall be purchasing a couple of your ELC cages with the mesh lids. Will their bodies straighten out? Can you combine postage?
Stick insects develop curved bodies if they are very overcrowded, or housed in in too small a container. And stick insects routinely start to lose legs when they are stressed. Being very overcrowded will be causing severe stress. Re-housing Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) in spacious airy surroundings is commendable and the stick insects will be much happier. New legs can be grown to replace those that have been lost. Bent bodies can't be straightened out, but at least no new cases of bent bodies will be seen. The total delivery price to send two cages to you is £9.95.

I'm getting some stick insects for my young son. I don't know anything about them, but he likes the look of the Black Beauty type. Is this a good choice or would the Indian stick insect be better? I am buying the ELC tank for them.
There are several issues with the Peruvian Black Beauty stick insect (Peruphasma schultei) which is why Small-Life Supplies does not breed or supply this species. They can emit a noxious chemical spray which can irritate people and sensitive pets. They scuttle quickly, rather than walking slowly. And they must eat privet (most other stick insects do well on bramble/blackberry leaves). In contrast, the Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are slow moving and are easy and safe to handle. Indian stick insects can be mixed with other stick-like stick insects, and are easy to feed, eating bramble/blackberry leaves, also eucalyptus leaves and hazel leaves (the latter are available in the summer months only). So I would recommend the Indian stick insects for your son.

I have managed to knock off and then lose the central foot under the ELC cage. So the floor is now bending downwards. Do you sell replacement feet for the cage? I need to order some more Liners as well and so could order everything at the same time.
Yes, it is important to ensure that there are always five black feet under the ELC cage. Four corner feet and one central foot under the base. So when you order the ELC Liners, just ask for a replacement cage foot, and we'll send you one, complete with fixing tape, free of charge.

I have Indian stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects, spread across three ELC cages. I feel it's time to add another species, what do you suggest?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are both long stick insects, of the conventional "stick-like" design. So you need to keep with that shape and avoid big chunky stick insects such as the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) which can harm a thin stick insect by accidentally treading on it. Suitable stick insects to mix in with the types you already have include the Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii), the New Thailand stick insects (Baculum sp) and the North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina). Please note that the North East Vietnamese stick insects can grow to enormous lengths, up to 28cm long, so when they have outgrown the ELC cage, they need to be transferred to the much larger AUC cage.

Can you send stick insects in January or is it too cold?
Small-Life Supplies monitor the weather forecast daily, because we only send out stick insects when the overnight temperature is forecast to be above freezing. In January, there is a usually a mix of very cold nights and milder nights. Already lots of stick insects have been sent out this month during the milder nights when it has been warm enough for the creatures to travel safely.

I have a tall cage, 3ft high, with four fine black mesh sides. Would this be large enough for some fully grown New Guinea stick insects? And what's the best substrate to use?
Unfortunately this enclosure is not suitable housing for New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) for two reasons. Firstly, four ventilated sides creates an environment that is far too airy for New Guinea stick insects. It is important to house New Guinea stick insects in cages which have only two mesh sides. And secondly, even if you managed to block off the mesh on two sides, that would still leave two sides of fine black mesh for them to climb on. This is not good because the mesh is the wrong size. New Guinea stick insect adults have large claws on their feet and these claws can become trapped in netting/mesh that is too fine and has apertures that are too small. The trapped stick insect will struggle to free it's foot and unfortunately this can result in the claw being snapped off. Adult stick insects cannot re-grow their claws and so this damage is permanent. The best cage to house up to six adult New Guinea stick insects is the ELC cage. This has two mesh sides with the correct size of holes that will not harm their claws. And you can easily see the stick insects through the crystal clear front, back and top of the cage. The best floor covering to use is paper, because unlike substrates such as soil, peat, vermiculite, this will not clog up the sticky pads on their feet (stick insects have both sticky pads and claws on their feet).

We have four of your New Guinea stick insects. They are fantastic but ...there are all four of them squished into one Community Tube! They have three tubes to choose from. Are they cold? Or is that fairly typical behaviour? It looks like a tight fit...
That's fine, it's a sign that they are all getting on well together! They go into separate tubes when they are upset about something. Stick insects do not radiate heat like humans do and so do not huddle together for warmth.

Following your advice, I planted some bramble by the pergola in my garden and now have a large bramble bush approximately 2 metres high! This may sound strange but it has provided more enjoyment than the honeysuckle that was struggling to grow there previously, I have seen lots of butterflies and other insects visiting it during the summer. And I was rewarded with bountiful blackberries! On New Years Day I decided to cut back the dead stems. I was surprised there were so many of them. Is this normal? The rest of the bush looks healthy and there are still lots of large green bramble leaves. Also, should I snip off the tatty leaves which have the shrivelled blackberries at the end? These leaves look in poor condition and so I won't be using these for my stick insects!
Bramble bushes grow vigorously if they are in a sunny spot with a good supply of water. So it's great that your bramble bush has grown so quickly, the site must be ideal. And yes, it is a very good idea to prune out the dead stems at this time of year. Bramble is part of the rose family and so benefits from pruning, this stimulates new growth in the Spring and Summer. Surprisingly it is completely normal to see lots of dead stems, this does not indicate there is anything wrong. In the wild, the new bramble simply grows over the dead bramble, and so the bush gets bigger and bigger every year. Various small mammals live in the "dead bramble", I have even seen Muntjac deer sleeping in there! But in a domestic garden setting, it's best to keep removing the dead bramble so that it doesn't get out of control and you can encourage healthy growth of juicy nutritious leaves. The stems of tatty leaves that bore the blackberry fruit should be removed as the leaves are too poor quality for the stick insects. As you already know, it is important to only select juicy looking leaves to feed to your stick insects.

I'm looking to expand my phasmid collection this year, will you be offering any new species for sale? I have several of your excellent ELC cages already and so am looking for types that like ventilated surroundings.
Our Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) should be up to size and ready to send within weeks, we have a new strain of these which look strong and healthy. And our North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina) are growing well and so should also be up to size to send within a month or so. The North East Vietnamese stick insects grow exceptionally long though, to an incredible 28cm, and so need to be transferred from the ELC cage to the AUC cage so they have enough room to grow properly.

Do you sell replacement sand for the Sand Pit? The level on mine has started to drop and so I would like to refill it, if this is possible.
Every week when sand is sieved, some granules get thrown away and so in time, it is inevitable that the level of sand in the Sand Pit will drop. So, yes, in response to popular demand, replacement sand will soon be listed on the Small-Life Supplies website. The price of the Sand Pit is currently £2.99 and the price of the sand refill is £2.

My daughter would like some bright colourful stick insects, would New Guinea stick insects be best?
New Guinea stick insects are born brown and then develop into various mottled shades of green and yellow. But then when they mature, they usually change colour again and become dark brown (although very rarely you can see green adult female or a tan coloured adult female). Small-Life Supplies are selling fully grown New Guinea stick insects at the moment and so these are all dark brown. So colour-wise, the Pink Winged would be a better choice, these are fawn coloured nymphs at the moment, but in a couple of months, will be mature and will have developed large pink wings which they can use to fly.

I have kept a couple of the very long North East Vietnamese stick insects for about a year now and have been collecting their eggs. Today I noticed that the male has lost his front leg and the female lost her middle leg. They are together on the bottom of the cage and look as if they are dying. But why are they losing legs?
The North East Vietnamese stick insects (Medauromorpha regina) are very long impressive stick insects, the females grow to 28cm and the males to 20cm. These stick insects lay very long eggs. Like other stick insects, when the North East Vietnamese stick insects are dying from old age, they become very thirsty and need extra water to drink. So it's important to spray a bramble leaf generously with water and place this on the cage Liner with the insects' mouths propped on the wet leaf so they can drink the water easily. Your stick insects may be losing legs because they are short of water. This behaviour is seen with some other species too, typically in the last week of the stick insect's life. So the kindest thing to do is to give your dying stick insects water to drink asap.

Is it true that stick insects are the only insects that can turn their heads?
No. Stick insects can only partially turn their heads and some species are better equipped than others to do this. For example the New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) has a particularly flexible "neck" and can bend its head quite well. But it is a different type of insect altogether, the praying mantis (also called a mantid) that is best designed to turn its head. This helps the praying mantis to be quick in spotting and then catching its prey (live flies etc).

I remember a few years back hearing about about biologists protesting about the proposal to rename the staple fruit fly of genetics, Drosophila melanogaster, to Sophophora melanogaster. Did this ever come about?
The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature voted to change the name. But biologists still refer to this "celebrity fly" by its original name. The reason is that much scientific research has been carried out on Drosophila melanogaster and so it makes sense to keep that name so that it is easy to find this research in searches of the literature.

I am looking after my daughter's stick insects whilst she jets off on a late winter holiday. She has told me the stick insects are the New Guinea ones and that they must eat bramble leaves, and I'm to put lots in the red topped water vessel supplied. But can you help me more please? By "lots" how many leaves do they need? I haven't seen them eating yet! They are in one of your nice ELC cages.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) need to see two or three sprigs (stems of bramble leaves) in the cage. So cut two or three sprigs, each approx 30cm long, and push the ends with the thickest stems into the red Sprig Pot (pre-filled with cold tap water). After seven days replace with fresh sprigs. The stick insects won't have eaten all the leaves during the week, but these stick insects prefer to be surrounded by lots of vegetation rather than just a few leaves.

I'd like to start keeping stick insects again in the New Year. In readiness I have been scouting around for bramble. There is a good stash nearby on a scrap of derelict land, but last week I saw the "For Sale" notice go up there saying that it comes with planning permission for six homes! I have found another place, by a car park, but the bramble there is looking a bit ropey, and not as good as on the building plot. Are some types of stick insects less fussy than others regarding the quality of their food?
It is worrying that so many bramble patches are disappearing because houses are being squeezed onto any spare bit of land. That is why it is so important to plant your own bramble by a sunny wall, if you are able to. You may even be able to dig up and transplant some of this good bramble from the building plot before it is all ripped out. Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are the most tolerant of poorer quality bramble, but obviously you need to still select the best leaves you can, with the most green bits and least spots and brown bits. Thailand stick insects also have the huge advantage in that although they are long stick insects, growing to 18cm, they have very small appetites. Small-Life Supplies breed Thailand stick insects in large numbers and these will be being sent out in January 2018, weather permitting (it needs to be above freezing at night to be warm enough for the stick insects to travel).

I was looking at a "Natural terrarium" on-line, it is 30cm x 30cm x 30cm. My husband thinks it'll do for just two Indian stick insects (my son is getting these for his birthday in January)? I read your ELC cage can have up to twenty Indian stick insects living in it, but as we only plan on getting two Indian stick insects, would a smaller terrarium be OK? I want the best for them and my son has been asking to have some pet stick insects for ages!
The ELC cage is a properly designed stick insect cage, with the height (51cm) and through-draught ventilation (two mesh sides) that the stick insects require. So whether you need a cage to house two Indian stick insects, ten Indian stick insects or twenty Indian stick insects, the ELC cage provides them with the best living conditions. The tank/terrarium you mention is only 30cm high so is nowhere near tall enough. It is made from glass and so is relatively heavy, compared to the ELC cage which is made from strong plastic. Also, the solid glass sides have the disadvantage of creating a stuffy environment, not the airy environment that you get with the mesh sides in the ELC cage.

One of my New Guinea stick insect nymphs keeps getting quite intense twitches and falling on its back. Sometimes it gets itself back up but other times I've had to help it. I've only just noticed this and it's been really struggling for the last twenty minutes or so? Everything in the enclosure seems okay and the others aren't showing any similar behaviours. Any idea what the problem is?
How old is this stick insect? When a New Guinea stick insect (Eurycantha calcarata) is very old it can keep losing its grip and toppling over. If this is what is happening, you need to gently place its face in the water dish so it can drink some water. (Dying stick insects are usually very thirsty). Or, your stick insect may have been poisoned by eating a contaminated bramble leaf. If this has happened the outlook is not good because chemical poisoning affects the central nervous system and a stick insect affected in this way cannot recover. You should replace the bramble leaves to prevent any others from eating the contaminated leaves. The fact the other stick insects are fine indicates that the problem in not one caused by air-borne chemical contamination.

Our adult New Guinea stick insects don't look at all well. There is a fan on at night and the water dish is always empty but I can't be sure if it's because they're drinking it or if they're spilling it. It's the dish I got from you and is rather shallow. Perhaps they need more water? I have a le creuset stoneware ramekin, will that be okay or is it too tall?
The fan is probably drying out the air too much, and causing the water to evaporate. You need to place a generous amount of bramble sprigs into the cage because this will increase the humidity. And you need to measure the height of your ramekin dish. If it is up to 5cm high, that is good and you can fill it to just under the brim with cold tap water. We use glass ramekin dishes that are 8cm in diameter and 4cm deep. It is very important to almost completely fill the dish with water so that the adult stick insects can bend their necks downwards and drink the water easily. These stick insects can only bend their necks a bit and so can't reach very far into the dish without falling in. Glass ramekin dishes are ideal for the adult New Guinea stick insects, but not recommended for the small New Guinea nymphs because they pose a drowning risk.

I have kept Indian stick insects, Pink Winged stick insects and would like to try another type. I can't decide whether to go for the "green bean" or the "Macleays Spectre". What do you think? I have two ELC cages but would get another one for the new stick insects.
Great to hear that you are progressing sensibly with your stick insect collection. I would recommend the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) next. These are really unusual looking stick insects with leafy legs and thick golden bodies and cone shaped heads. They eat bramble/blackberry leaves, and also Eucalyptus gunnii leaves. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects do well in the ELC cage with the mesh roof. Small-Life Supplies will be sending out Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects in January 2018, weather permitting. The correct term for the "green bean" stick insect is the Grenadan stick insect (Diapherodes gigantea). These stick insects are big and green and eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves.

I was horrified to read in a laboratory journal the heading "Is it time to eradicate mosquitoes?". And research is to be undertaken with this "goal" in mind. Seems that the emotional argument of children dying because of malaria has overshadowed the moral argument that this planet is for different animals, insects and plants, and we have to live together, not wipe out species that can cause us problems.
It is bad enough that species are going extinct due to habitat loss and chemical poisoning. It even worse, and morally wrong, for money to be thrown at research programmes trying to deliberately eradicate species. And why has this been approved? There is plenty of scientific evidence proving attempts at dramatic population loss of a targetted species often backfire, and cause even greater problems than there were before. Mosquitoes are part of the food web, a complex arrangement linking these insects with other life forms. We know there are huge numbers of mosquitoes and so dramatically reducing their population numbers will lead to food shortages for their predators. Humans already have solutions to prevent malaria - protective nets, vaccines etc, so the answer to saving the children is to implement these protective measures more effectively. And promoting birth control would help conserve resources too.

My granddaughter wants stick insects for Christmas and so I bought the bundle from you last week so that it would be ready in time and the stick insects would have had a chance to settle in. Well, I am hooked! I have been looking after them and find them so charming, I would like to buy another set for myself, with the cage of course. Am I too late to order stick insects for Christmas now?
Great to hear that you like them so much. And yes, there is still time to order stick insects for Christmas, but please be quick, because the latest date we are sending out stick insects is on Monday 18th Dec 2017, so we need to receive your order and payment before Monday.

I have three Aretaon asperrimus stick insects and I think two males and one female, just wondering if they live as a couple because two (one male and one female) live on the bottom of my vivarium in the soil always up close together and the other male is always at the top amongst the brambles and oak leaves. Is this how you’d expect them to live? They look healthy and are shedding their skin they are about 3.5cm big at moment. Is there anything you could advise to ensure they are having a lovely life?
Sabah stick insects (Aretaon asperrimus) do like to pair up and so it's best to have an equal number of males and females. So ideally you should acquire a female that is similar in age to the male who is at the top of the cage. Like most stick insects, female Sabah stick insects are larger than the males. Sabah stick insects are more thirsty than many other species, so it's a good idea to put a shallow dish of cold tap water on the floor of the cage so they can have a drink. When they are adults, the females bury their eggs in dry sand and so you'll need to put a Sand Pit in there. I would get rid of the soil because this is not hygienic and the female, when fully grown, will try to bury her eggs in the soil. It is hard to separate the eggs from the soil, but very easy to separate the eggs from the dry sand (just sift the sand through a sieve and the eggs remain in the sieve).

I purchased a "natural terrarium" on-line, it has mesh on the top and solid glass sides and a camouflaged back. Which stick insects would it suit best: Indian stick insects or New Guinea stick insects?
Neither. This is because stick insects need a cage with mesh sides that they can hook their claws around and climb. A terrarium with glass sides is smooth and so large stick insects cannot get a foothold. Stick insects like to climb and so should be kept in a cage which has sides that they are able to climb. Also, both Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) and New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best in a well-ventilated cage. This means they need a cage with two mesh sides that allow a through-draught of air. A terrarium with mesh on the roof does not allow enough movement of air. The ELC stick insect cage is the best housing for Indian stick insects and New Guinea stick insects. And the ELC cage is made from strong plastic so is much lighter than glass and easier to move around to clean out.

The bramble in our garden is looking rather sparse. Will the New Guinea stick insects eat anything else? I live in Oxfordshire.
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do best on bramble/blackberry leaves. There are lots of different types of bramble growing in the UK, some types die off during the winter, but there are other types that retain their green leaves throughout the winter months. At this time of year, it is easy to spot green bramble bushes amongst the dead vegetation of deciduous plants. In the winter, the best places to look for green bramble are sheltered overgrown areas, such as disused railway lines, woods and copses, and by overgrown canals. So you should be able to find wild bramble in Oxfordshire. Or if you want the convenience of having it delivered, you can buy fresh cut bramble by first class post from Small-Life Supplies.

I like really really like long stick insects. The longest I've kept so far is your New Thailand stick insects, one of mine measured 22cm! Do you think you may have some longer species available in 2018?
Yes, we are still hatching out eggs of the very long North East Vietnamese stick insect (Medauromorpha regina), and so hope to start selling these stick insect nymphs when they are a bit older and large enough to travel (we don't send baby stick insects because they can be too delicate for travelling). The North East Vietnamese stick insect gets even longer than the New Thailand stick insect (Baculum sp) and so I am sure you will be impressed! We keep both these long species of stick insect in the AUC cage.

When is your next expo?
The next public event that Small-Life Supplies will be exhibiting at, will be the general insect and nature event in central Cambridge in April 2018. More details will be posted on the Small-Life Supplies website next year. Small-Life Supplies will have stick insects and insect cages on display and for sale at this popular event.


I have five Pink Winged stick insect babies, they hatched from eggs glued by their mother, Missy Twiggy, on the Hatch Mat. I have some more eggs waiting to hatch and one that couldn't hatch (her head is out but her legs are stuck in the egg). My first question is should I spray the eggs with water to stop anymore getting stuck? My second question is why do the baby Pink Winged stick insects like the underside of the lid of the ELC cage so much?
Don't spray the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) eggs with water. Providing the eggs are anchored, most will hatch successfully and only a few get stuck as you have observed. Wetting the eggs of this species would do more harm than good. It is very characteristic behaviour of newly hatched Pink Winged stick insects that they like to rest on the underside of the roof of the cage. Over the years, we have reared Pink Winged stick insects in various cages and the newly hatched green first instar nymphs always rest under the lid/roof of the cage. It's a mystery why they do this. After a few weeks they choose to rest on the sides of the ELC cage as well as under the lid.

Do stick insects make good pets? I mean do they do anything apart from looking like a stick? My daughter wants stick insects for Christmas, but I'm a bit of an arachnophobe. She is always looking for bugs when she's outside, she's ten and we live in Marlborough.
As your daughter is showing a strong interest in insects, it makes sense to encourage this and buy her the Christmas present she wants. I have seen countless children who are interested in insects go on to pursue successful careers in science. Meanwhile, she will enjoy keeping stick insects as pets. If she chooses Indian stick insects, she can enjoy seeing them put all their legs together and the fall into a straight stick, if she chooses Pink Winged stick insects, she can take them out of the cage and let them fly across the room. Many children enjoy collecting the eggs, keeping records of how many are laid and when they hatch etc. She can watch them eat (they take semi-circular cuts out of the leaves), and grow (they do this by sliding vertically downwards out of their old skins), and she can try to film these events too.

Is bramble the same as raspberry?
No, but they are similar and both leaves are eaten by stick insects. Bramble is also called blackberry and there are lots of types of bramble growing wild in the UK. Some types of bramble die off in the winter, but other sorts, particularly with the two-tone green and purple stems, continue to have green leaves throughout the winter. Raspberry plants tend to grow upright instead of sprawling like bramble does. And the raspberry leaves are usually only present during the late spring and summer months.

Are stick insects sentient? When my New Guinea stick insect is walking across the floor, she always pauses when she gets to the table. She then waggles her antennae about as though she is thinking about whether or not to climb up the table leg.
Yes, stick insects are sentient.

I hope this doesn't sound daft but what am I supposed to do with the Cleaning Sponge? Do I leave it in the ELC cage with the stick insects? The ELC cage is brilliant by the way!
Don't keep the Cleaning Sponge inside the cage, instead store it by your sink. Once a month empty the cage of its contents and then you can wash the ELC cage in lukewarm (not hot) soapy water, using the Cleaning Sponge to scrub off any marks without scratching the plastic. Rinse well with cold water and dry with a soft tea towel (an old cotton tea towel is best to use because these are very soft and won't scratch the cage).

I want stick insects for Christmas, what's the latest I can order? Do you use Hermes?
Christmas stick insect orders are being taken now, so best not to delay. Stick insects and cages that are Christmas gifts shall be dispatched mid December, weather permitting. It needs to be above freezing at night for the creatures to travel, Small-Life Supplies will email you in advance to let you know of the delivery date. Parcels can be left with a neighbour or in a safe place, please let us know these details when you order so we can pass the instruction to the courier. Small-Life Supplies uses a reputable fast 24-hour courier. We do not use the Hermes courier because although they are cheaper, their service is much slower.

Does the ELC cage come in different sizes? I want to get some New Guinea stick insects for a Christmas present but am not sure that the ELC is large enough?
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) do really well in the ELC cage, this is what we use to rear them in large numbers. Here at Small-Life Supplies we have tried housing New Guinea stick insects in different designs and sizes of cage over the years, and the ELC cage is by far the best cage for this species. There is a smaller version of the ELC cage, called the TTQ cage, this is suitable as a nursery cage for New Guinea stick insects. So we house baby New Guineas in the HUA Pot, then transfer them to the TTQ cage after a skin-change, and then transfer them to the ELC cage after another skin-change. The ELC cage can accommodate up to six adult New Guinea stick insects.

Can you give me some advice regarding raising Achrioptera fallax? How many eggs can I keep in one QBOX at a time? Do I need to attend to ova at all until they hatch? How do I care for the nymphs? I have read they need moving air for 15 mins every hour.
Like other stick insects, you can keep lots of Achrioptera fallax eggs in a QBOX, up to about 1cm deep. With this species, it is best to mix the eggs with some of the droppings (frass) from the adult stick insects. This technique helps the baby stick insects (called first instar nymphs) to hatch successfully. When the eggs on the bottom layer hatch, the hatchlings wriggle upwards and rest under the lid of the QBOX. In the evening, transfer the babies to a HUA Pot and give them a slightly wet bramble leaf to eat. A fan is not necessary. It helps to gently shake the egg mixture in the QBOX about once a week, this gentle movement seems to encourage the successful development of the eggs.

Do male Pink Winged stick insects exist? I know male Indian stick insects exist but are very rare.
Yes, male Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) do exist but are even more rare than male Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). I have only ever seen three male Pink Winged stick insects! They are much smaller and thinner than the females and are hyper-active. Male Indian stick insects are smaller, thinner and hyper-active too, they are estimated to occur at a frequency of 1 male to every 10000 females.

I have an AUC cage and need more Liners. The ones I have are green but the lady I spoke to on the phone said that you'd have some new pink AUC Liners ready in December. Is that still the case?
Yes, the new pink AUC Liners shall be ready next week. They will be the same price as the green AUC Liners.

When I spray the leaves should I get the stick insects wet too? I've ordered some New Guinea stick insects to arrive next week and want to do things right.
Stick insects do not like getting wet and so aim the spray of water onto the leaves, not at the stick insects. Better still, mist the bramble before you put it into the cage. New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) drink more water than most stick insects, and so ensure that there is always a shallow dish of clean cold tap water in the ELC cage. New Guinea stick insects can drink from the droplets on the bramble leaves, but these stick insects need to have long drinking sessions from the water dish.

I purchased some Thai and Pink Wing stick insects at the entomologist fair in October, the Thai sticks have been mating and the female has laid eggs, I have been collecting her eggs and keeping them in a container for the last month or so, could you please advise how long they take to hatch approximately?
Thailand stick insect eggs (Baculum thaii) usually hatch after two months. If the surroundings are exceptionally hot, for example during a hot summer, this incubation time is reduced to four weeks. Thailand stick insect eggs have one of the shortest incubation times of all stick insects. For best results, mix the Thailand stick insect eggs in with some of the droppings (frass), this action promotes successful hatching. Hatchling Thailand stick insects can become tangled up if they hatch from a dish just containing Thailand eggs. More details on Thailand stick insects and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are in the best-selling book "Keeping Stick Insects" by Dorothy Floyd.

I got rid of the Water Dish in the cage because my New Guinea stick insects (adults) kept pooing in it and making it messy. But was this an error? I spritz the leaves for them daily.

Yes, that was a big mistake and you need to put a dish of shallow cold tap water back in the the cage. The reason is that adult New Guinea stick insect adults (Eurycantha calcarata) drink a lot of water, and can spend a few minutes or even ten to twenty minutes drinking water. So they simply won't be getting enough water just by sucking up water droplets that have landed on some spritzed bramble leaves. Also, as well as drinking from the water dish, the adult female New Guinea stick insect can also use it to wash her ovipositor after burying eggs in the Sand Pit. Sometimes stick insect droppings land in the water dish, making it messy, as you have observed. This is why it's best to replace the water in the Water Dish every day or so, to ensure that the stick insects are drinking water that is clean and not polluted.

Which is the correct spelling - is it Eurycantha calcerata or Eurycantha calcarata? Or can both be used?
Eurycantha calcarata is the correct spelling. This is the Latin species name of the New Guinea stick insect. There is only one way to correctly spell this species and it is Eurycantha calcarata.

I'm thinking of purchasing your HLQ cage for some giant African land snails. Would the cage be big enough for two adults? I believe these snails need a heat mat in winter, is it easy to position one under the cage, or would this dry out the liner?
Yes, the HLQ cage is ideal for a pair of Giant African Land Snails (Achatina fulica). Extra heating should not be necessary, Giant African Land Snails are like stick insects in that they do well if kept indoors in a room that is comfortably warm in the day (18-21 degrees Celsius) and cooler at night (minimum of 12 degrees Celsius). Small-Life Supplies have been breeding Giant African Land Snails for decades and do not use heat mats or extra heating. Place a wet Liner on the floor of the HLQ cage, this will dry slightly during the week, and so needs to be replaced or re-wetted once a week.

I am shocked and disgusted that the majority of British MPs have voted that animals are not sentient beings? For crying out loud, our politicians can't be THAT stupid, so is there something else behind this?
Obviously animals are sentient beings, it is absurd to suggest otherwise. So yes, this vote has been made to promote a political agenda, rather than reflect the views of the individual MPs. It was not a free vote and so MPs voted as directed by their whips. However, this vote sends out a very bad message and to risk jeopardising the progress that has been made in animal welfare is repugnant. Britain and other countries should be prioritising improvements to animal welfare, and protecting the environment also. It would help the cause if there were more biologists and scientists in government and in positions of power.

Our Indian stick insects arrived on Thursday and were transferred to their new home with fresh food etc. One of them did look different to the others and appeared to be very still and a paler colour. Is she unwell?
There is some natural colour variation amongst Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), most are green but some are fawn and the odd one is dark grey, their colour is no reflection on their state of health. Indian stick insects can go into a defensive "stick mode" for several hours, this often happens after a journey and so there is no cause for concern. It usually takes about a week for stick insects to settle in to their new surroundings.

Do many people get stick insects for Christmas?
Yes, Christmas is a very busy time for Small-Life Supplies because lots of people (of all ages) buy stick insects and the ELC cage bundle as gifts or as presents for themselves. This year, we have the larger AUC cage for sale also, and so will be even busier.

Sometimes I see my stick insect make a water bubble from her mouth? Why does she do this? She is the Indian species.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) sometimes wet their mouthparts and exercise them before eating. To do this the stick insect produces a water droplet, usually on the side of the cage, and then dips her mouthparts into it. This usually happens in the early evening because Indian stick insects prefer to eat when it has just become dark.

My stick insect has his foot stuck in his egg. Should I try and pull the egg off?
A stick insect should be able to hatch successfully and completely free itself from the empty eggshell. Occasionally though, the eggshell may still be attached to the end of the back leg. Do not try and pull the eggshell off because this will cause the stick insect to panic and throw off its whole leg. So leave it alone and the stick insect will lose the eggshell when it changes its skin for the first time (this event usually occurs when the stick insect nymph is approximately three weeks old).

Our Indian stick insects arrived yesterday, we noticed one was more active than the other three. This particular insect munched happily as we watched and later seemed happy to climb on my grandson's hand, walking from one hand to the other and up his arm for about five minutes. This morning the same again with one insect, but the other three did not move at all. Two were hanging side by side on the netting side of the container about half way up and another one horizontally near the top. Now, six hours later there is no movement from any of them. Is it usual for them to be inactive for long periods?
Yes, Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) do rest a lot and so there is no cause for concern. The individual stick insects exhibit different behaviour, so are easy to tell apart, you can already spot the naturally active one. Handling for about five minutes a day is about right, it's important not to over handle the stick insects because they can get over tired.

Do Pink Winged stick insects prefer to be thrown up into the air to fly? Or is it better to let them decide when to take off?
Winged stick insects (and birds) prefer to take off when they want to, so do not throw them into the air. For best results, place the adult Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) on the outstretched palm of your hand. This should be over a table and about 2 metres from a wall. You will see the stick insect turning her head as she considers where she will fly to. Usually they start off cautiously and will do a short flight to the table. And then, as they become more confident, they fly further, across a room. Some Pink Winged stick insect adults are better at flying than others. Remember to mist the leaves with water before returning the stick insect to the ELC cage, because the stick insect is usually thirsty after a flight.

I have a question about suitability of privet leaves as food for stick insects? I'm sure we fed our school stick insects with privet (but that was many years ago!). Anyway I am now the proud owner of four Indian stick insects but they won't touch the privet, they will eat the bramble leaves though.
Privet used to be the staple diet of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). However, privet hedges are less common now in the UK and so lots of people have switched over to feeding their Indian stick insects with bramble leaves, which are easier to source and grow. Small-Life Supplies stopped using privet four years ago. Our Indian stick insects now reject privet leaves, but they will eat other leaves, including bramble/blackberry, hazel, eucalyptus and rose leaves.

I know stick insect eggs are supposed to resemble plant seeds, but can you tell me what plant seed looks like the egg of an Indian stick insect?
Seeds of the Brussels sprout are fairly similar to the eggs of Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) because they are about the same size , similar shape and colour (mid-brown). However, the seed of the Brussels sprout is missing the yellow lid (operculum) which is present on the egg of the Indian stick insect.

I thought New Guinea stick insect eggs were supposed to hatch after six months? My adults started laying in June 2017 and today I saw a baby New Guinea stick insect, it is very cute! My room is hot and gets lots of sun, is this why the eggs are hatching early? They're great pets, I hope more hatch.
The eggs of New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) usually hatch after six months, but if the eggs have been stored in very warm surroundings, their development can be accelerated and they can hatch after five months, as you have observed. The eggs usually hatch at night. To help them hatch, you can very lightly mist the eggs with water the night before. But be careful not to get the eggs too wet because this will lead to mould and cause problems, so only give them a very light short spray of water.

My daughter wants stick insects for Christmas. I don't know anything about them and so am thankful that I have found your site. I am thinking of getting the ELC bundle first so I could set it all up, and then buying the stick insects later, to be delivered as near to Christmas as possible. Would this be OK?
You could do that, but you'd be paying the £9.95 delivery charge twice. And there isn't much "setting up" of the cage to do, it is supplied ready assembled, so all you have to do is peel off the protective sheeting off the cage, insert a Liner and then insert the bramble stems in the Sprig Pot of water. So I'd recommend buying everything together and save yourself £9.95. Small-Life Supplies are accepting Christmas orders now, these will be dispatched mid December onwards. When you order, it is important to request "Christmas delivery", so we know to delay dispatch until mid December.

I have several adult pairs of Aretaon asperrimus, they always seem to be mating! Anyhow, I think one of the adult males has died during the act. He is still coupled to the female. Not sure what to do now?.
Yes, the Sabah stick insect (Aretaon asperrimus) and the larger Giant Sabah stick insect (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) can mate for several days at a time. Even when they are not mating, the adult male is often resting on top of the adult female. Sometimes several males stack up on top of one female, there can be up to three adult males! Occasionally a male dies during mating. The female carries on as normal, so she eats and moves around. After a few days he will drop off, so it's best to leave them alone and not try to intervene.

Do you send the ELC cage by Royal Mail? And how long does it normally take?
No, the ELC cage is delivered by courier the day after we dispatch it. You will receive the delivery tracking details by email and deliveries are made between 8am and 4pm weekdays. We can instruct the driver to leave the parcel with a neighbour, or in a safe place, for example a porch, please give us these instructions at time of ordering. ELC cages are in stock and so you would receive yours within a few days of ordering. Very urgent orders requiring a same day dispatch are accommodated wherever possible.

I got my ELC cage last week and I have noticed it is very staticy. So when I try to sweep the base, the poo sticks to the sides by static. What can I do ?
This is easy to fix, you just need to wash the cage with lukewarm soapy water (using the Small-Life Supplies soft "Cleaning Sponge"). Rinse well with cold water. Dry the cage with a soft cotton tea-towel (an old one is best because these are softer than new ones). It is important to keep stick insects in clean surroundings, so it's best to line the floor of the ELC cage with a pre-cut ELC cage Liner (these are sold in packs of ten, and are available in pink and blue). Every week, remove the Liner, tip the cage upside down and shake out any debris remaining, before placing a new Liner on the floor of the cage.

Can Pink Winged stick insects eat lettuce?
Some types of lettuce can be tolerated by Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus), but they do much better if fed bramble/blackberry leaves, hazel leaves or rose leaves. Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) need bramble leaves, eucalyptus leaves or rose leaves. There is usually a plentiful supply of bramble (blackberry) in wild overgrown places, such as woods/forests, by canals or disused railway lines. If you have a garden, now is a good time to plant bramble (choose a sunny spot near a wall or fence), the leaves will be ready to harvest next Summer.

I am so glad that I came across your website (you were recommended by a colleague!) because I have been looking for a good supplier of captive-bred caterpillars for ages. I can't see any for sale on your website, I realise British ones are out of season in November, but might you have some tropical ones for sale soon?
Yes, we are breeding the Indian Eri silkmoth and the good news is that the latest batch of adult Indian Eri silkmoths have just started to emerge from their silk cocoons. They will mate and lay eggs soon, and the resultant caterpillars should be ready to send out in a few weeks time. We have a waiting-list for people who would like to be notified when these white caterpillars are ready. If you would like your name to be added to the list, please email emma@small-life.co.uk asking to be put on the caterpillar waiting-list. Indian Eri silkmoth caterpillars eat privet leaves, you can gather these yourself from a privet hedge or you can buy a bag of fresh cut privet from Small-Life Supplies.

When you say feed your stick insects bramble, do you mean the leaves, the stems, the petals or the berries? I'm guessing the leaves? If so, how many leaves will they get through in a week? I'm planning on getting a starter pack of your four Indian stick insects adults and an ELC cage bundle for my son.
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) need to eat green juicy bramble leaves. To keep these leaves fresh, it's best to cut two 30cm long stems of bramble with leaves attached (these are called sprigs) and push the thicker end of the stems into cold tap water in the Sprig Pot. The cut stem will take up the water and the leaves will stay fresh for just over a week. There will be about twelve leaves in the cage, and at the end of the week there will chunks missing from most of these leaves. Stick insects should always have leaves in the cage, never just bare stalks. They can gnaw the stems but this is an emergency action, only carried out when there are no leaves to eat. Eating petals is a treat for stick insects and they sometimes suck at the blackberries for extra moisture if the surroundings are hot.

I want to buy stick insects from a reputable place and Small-Life Supplies seems to fit the bill! I like the look of the Thailand stick insects, but I am a bit anxious about damaging them (accidentally) when handling them? These stick insects are for my son (aged fifteen) and myself, do you think they'd be OK if we handled them gently? We haven't had stick insects before and naturally we'd be getting the proper cage as well from yourselves.
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) are long thin stick insects but are actually more robust than they appear. So yes, it's fine for Thailand stick insects to be handled by adults and teenagers. The adult male Thailand stick insects are particularly active. Thailand stick insects need to be kept in a large airy cage, so you need either the ELC cage (if you just want to try keeping a few Thailand stick insects), or the larger AUC cage (ideal for keeping up to twenty Thailand stick insect adults). Thailand stick insects eat bramble (blackberry) leaves and are easy to breed, their eggs usually start to hatch after two months. Thailand stick insects are an easy to keep variety of stick insect and look amazing, being so thin and twig-like.

My daughter told me to get her a stick insect vivarium for Christmas because she wants to get some stick insects (Indian ones, three months old) from her friend. Could you help with this? Do they need special heating? Do they bite?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are an easy-to-keep type of stick insect and do well if kept indoors in a comfortably warm room, so they don't require extra heating. The best housing for the Indian nymphs (immature ones) and adults is the ELC cage. At three months old, her Indian stick insects will still be nymphs, they become adults when they are five months old. Small-Life Supplies use the word "cage" instead of "vivarium" because our cages have holes on the sides allowing for good ventilation. This is what stick insects need to be healthy. A vivarium is another word for a tank, this has solid sides and so is not recommended for housing stick insects. Stick insects do not bite, they are herbivorous/vegetarian and have mouthparts designed for cutting and chewing leaves. Indian stick insects are safe to handle and I am sure your daughter will enjoy looking after them.

I have an ELC cage with six New Guinea stick insect adults. How many Community Tubes do I need?
I'd recommend putting two Community Tubes in the ELC cage, banded together with an elastic rubber band. This enables the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) to decide who goes in which tube. This will vary from day to day.

Our 10 year old daughter is interested in keeping stick insects. Are you open to the public or do you only trade by post?
We no longer have a showroom and so all the insect cages and stick insects are now delivered directly to customers' homes nationwide. The cages are supplied ready assembled and so can be used straight away. The stick insects are sent by express delivery and live arrival is guaranteed. If you need any advice on which type to choose, please phone Small-Life Supplies weekdays between 9am and 5.30pm on 01733 203358.

Is there a name for when stick insects play dead?
Thanatosis. The Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) also demonstrates catalepsy when she puts all her legs together and falls as a straight "stick".

Do male stick insects have shorter lifespans than the females? Specifically Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects.
No. Both genders have approximately the same lifespan. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) have shorter lifespans than many other species of stick insect, both males and females living for just under one year. The adults mate regularly during their adult life which is why you should always keep male and female stick insects together, ideally having an equal number of males and females.

Can green bean stick insects live in the ELC?
Yes, unless you have a lot in which case use the larger AUC cage. And please don't get these stick insects unless you have easy access to Eucalyptus gunnii trees because these stick insects, originally from Grenada, need to eat eucalyptus leaves. The Latin species name of these Grenadan stick insects is Diapherodes gigantea.

Can people who are immunocompromised keep stick insects?
Some regular customers of Small-Life Supplies have alerted us that they are immunocompromised but continue to keep stick insects successfully and benefit greatly from the experience. Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) are often the preferred choice because these stick insects have relatively small claws. More care needs to be taken with the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) because these have larger claws that may puncture the skin. However for immunocompromised people this risk can be eliminated by double-gloving (wearing gloves inside heavy duty gardening gloves).

I have a new baby Indian stick insect that hatched yesterday. Where is the best place to keep her?
Don't keep the baby Indian stick insect (Carausius morosus) in the ELC cage. She will do much better in a smaller clearer container with no air holes. We use QBOXES. And give her a wet bramble leaf so she can drink from the water droplets on the leaves. After a month of living in the QBOX your Indian stick insect will need larger and more ventilated surroundings, so she should then be transferred to the ELC cage.

The ELC looks perfect for me, however I'm a little worried the juveniles will escape through the mesh apertures? Is this worry founded?
Small-Life Supplies has been designing, manufacturing and distributing insect cages for over thirty years. The business has survived this long because the cages work! It would make no sense at all to sell cages that the creatures could escape from and yet sometimes we are still asked this question? So your worry is unfounded. Species such as Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) and Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) can be housed in the ELC cage from birth. But some other species, including the Indian (Carausius morosus) and New Guinea (Eurycantha calcarata) and Giant Sabah (Trachyaretaon brueckneri) should be housed in less ventilated surroundings when young and so should be housed in the QBOX or HUA Pot for the first month of their lives. They can then be transferred to the ELC cage where they will then be old enough to benefit from the more airy surroundings that the ELC cage provides. It is very important not to house the newly hatched stick insects of certain species in airy cages, so please contact us with details of what type of stick insects you have and we can advise further.

I am new to keeping stick insects and can't decide which ones to get. Are some easier to keep than others? I would like some fancy ones, the Achrioptera fallax look interesting and I like the idea of flying stick insects!
Depending on the species, stick insects can be easy or difficult to keep. Here at Small-Life Supplies we trial lots of different species and then select the easy types and concentrate on breeding those. So, if you would like to keep flying stick insects, then the Pink Winged stick insect (Sipyloidea sipylus) are the best choice. They are easy to keep, eating bramble and eucalyptus leaves, and they have nice pink wings as adults which they use to fly across a room. Pink Winged stick insects are in stock now and do well in the ELC cage (with mesh roof for their eggs). The Achrioptera fallax species has males and females, the males have blueish bodies, the females are fawn. Both genders have small wings but these are too small to fly with and their purpose is to be flashed at potential predators to startle them. Many people struggle to keep Achrioptera fallax stick insects alive and so it's not a type of stick insect that we recommend.

OK, you have inspired me to plant some bramble by my wooden fence. The tossers at the council have just sprayed weedkiller on the last oasis of wild bramble in town and so I will now have to trek out to get supplies. So I need to plant a good supply now. My question is can I buy bramble plants from Small-Life Supplies?
Unfortunately there is growing trend for councils in the UK to waste money by spraying weed killer on small wild areas, that previously have been left for insects, plants and birds to inhabit. It seems senseless, the brown dead plants are left to wither and look very unattractive. When challenged, the workmen say the wildlife will "relocate" when actually it won't , because they have killed it. Anyway, good to hear that you are joining the growing number of people who are actively planting bramble. No skill is required, just a sunny fence panel and some soil (this doesn't even have to be of good quality). Autumn is a great time to plant bramble, and yes, Small-Life Supplies can send you some "bare-rooted" plants. We send them on a next-day service the day we lift them from the ground and so it's important to be flexible regarding the delivery date. When you receive the plants, it is important to plant them in the ground straight away, and water them in the evening for the first three days.

I would like very much to buy an ELC cage bundle and New Guinea stick insects and ancillary items for my partner's 40th birthday. Unfortunately I am working in Spain on his birthday (on 24th October) and so I was wondering if you could do me a massive favour and include a card saying "Happy 40th Seb, much love KrisXX"? And could I schedule delivery for the 24th? He is taking the day off and so will be at home, so it will be a fantastic surprise. How much extra would I have to pay?
Yes, delivery on Tuesday 24th Oct 2017 can be arranged. And yes, we can include a card as requested, there will be no extra charge for this.

I am confused about which substrate to use. Some people say toilet paper or kitchen roll, but I'm thinking sand may look nicer? I have the Diapherodes green bean stick insects.
Sand is made up of granules which can clog up the stick insects' sticky pads on their feet, so that is why sand is not recommended as a substrate. For the same reason, vermiculite, peat and soil are not recommended either. Instead the floor covering of the cage should be paper, or kitchen roll. Toilet paper can be snagged by the claws on stick insects' feet and so isn't very practical. "Diapherodes green bean stick insects" are called the Grenadan stick insect, Diapherodes gigantea, they are large green stick insects that eat eucalyptus leaves. These stick insects do well in the ELC cage, but if you have a lot of adults they need more room and do well in the AUC cage. Pre-cut cage Liners can be purchased from Small-Life Supplies for both the ELC and AUC cages. As well as saving you time, these Liners are practical and make the display look nice.

I have three male Macleays Spectre stick insects and two females. Two of the males fly but the third one doesn't. He swivels his head but then does not take off.
Before taking off , the stick insect turns its head to choose where it is going to fly to. Some stick insects are more confident flyers than others. The fact your reticent male is turning his head indicates he is thinking about taking off. But the fact he doesn't lift off indicates he is lacking confidence. So you need to give him extra time and encourage him to fly a short distance, from your hand to a table. He will then get better with practice and start flying across the room. This is assuming his wings are OK and neatly folded back along his body? Sometimes Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) mess up their final skin-change and do not pump out their wings properly so they do not fully extend and look crumpled.

My son has been given some stick insects, Indian ones I think, for his birthday, together with a large glass tank. I am sorry but this tank is so heavy I do not like it at all. Also, I have read that stick insects need to breathe fresh air and the existing tank has solid sides which I realise are far from ideal. So, please can you tell me how heavy your ELC cage is? And confirm that it is not made of glass? And can you suggest any uses for the soon-to-be-redundant tank?
Glass tanks are mass produced and often optimistically marketed as being suitable for housing all sorts of creatures. However, here at Small-Life Supplies, we have researched and developed cages suitable for keeping stick insects because glass tanks are certainly not recommended. Glass tanks are very heavy as you have discovered, and the solid sides do not facilitate a through-draught of air, which is what stick insects require to thrive. Also, the solid sides provide no foothold for the stick insects' claws to wrap around and so the stick insects are restricted to climbing the bramble stems because they cannot get a grip on the sides of the cage. The ELC cage weighs 2.4kg and so is light and easy to move around. The ELC cage is made from strong plastic and has two sides full of specially made holes that provide the air-flow that the stick insects need to breathe and also the holes provide ideal climbing surfaces for their claws to hook around. In answer to your last question, perhaps a trip to the glass recycling skip?

Out of interest... can you keep different stick insects in same enclosure ?
It depends on the species. Bulky stick insects, such as New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata), Macleays Spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum) and Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) are best kept in separate ELC cages. This is because they can accidentally harm a thinner species of stick insect if they tread on it. The thinner types can be mixed together, so Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) can be kept in the same ELC cage as the Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus). And the very long species can be mixed together too, so Thailand (Baculum thaii) , New Thailand (Baculum sp) and North East Vietnamese (Medauromorpha regina) can all be kept together in the large AUC cage.

I would like to buy an AUC cage for my husband's Christmas present. Can I pay now and have it delivered later? Also, I work at home on Tuesdays and so I was wondering if I can specify delivery on Tuesday 19th December? Or would Tuesday 12th December be better?
Yes, you can order and pay now and delivery can be delayed until December. The week before Christmas will be exceptionally busy for the courier network and so delivery on Tuesday 12th December would be the best option to avoid any Christmas delays.

I have an insulated shed for my reptiles. Would the stick insects need extra heating?
Stick insects must be kept in a room that is comfortably warm in the day (18-21 degrees Celsius) and cooler at night (12- 14 degrees Celsius). So yes, you will need oil-filled radiators to maintain these temperatures. Select the 500 Watt oil-filled radiators, these plug in to a wall socket and emit a gentle warmth. They cost approx £25 new. Stick insects also need daylight and so you need to position the cage so they will see the light coming in from the window.

I am planning on getting four adult Indian stick insects and an ELC bundle for myself. I am 24 and have always wanted these. I live in the country and so have lots of access to brambles. Do I need another receptacle to put the stick insects in when I change the leaves?
Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) spend most of their time resting on the white mesh sides of the ELC cage. So every week, when you take out the Sprig Pot of bramble , the chances are that all the stick insects are still in the cage on the mesh sides. Replace the Liner and, if you would like to save a few Indian stick insect eggs, just tilt the old Liner and gently tap it underneath, the eggs will roll off and can be caught in a large dish. Place the fresh bramble sprigs (in the Sprig Pot of fresh cold tap water) onto the middle of the new Liner. If there are any stick insects on the old bramble, just lift them off and encourage them to walk on to the mesh sides. Or, if they have clamped all their legs together and look like straight sticks, gently place them on the new Liner. So no, you don't need a receptacle for four stick insects, but you do need dish to capture the eggs that roll off the Liner.

Just wondered if you sell a larger version of the Sprig Pot? I find the Sprig Pots are useful for my ELC cage but a bit small for my AUC cage. Also, my eucalyptus sprigs seems to suck up water a lot quicker than my bramble sprigs, is this normal?
Sprig Pots are ideal for ELC cages, just fill with cold tap water and insert a couple of sprigs of bramble, approx 33cm long. For the AUC cage, a larger vessel is required and so we use a large jamjar with two holes punched in the lid, to accommodate the 55cm long bramble sprigs. Using these methods ensures that there is enough water in the Sprig Pot or jamjar to keep the bramble fresh for a week. If you have stick insects that eat Eucalyptus gunnii leaves, then you need to top up the water every few days. This is because cut eucalyptus stems do take up water a lot quicker than bramble, as you have found. If you do not top the water up, the container will be completely dry and although the eucalyptus leaves will not shrivel up, they will become dry, brittle, less nutritious and difficult for the stick insects to consume.

My friend has gots loads and loads of Thailand stick insects, I'm helping her to rehome some of them and we're doing well so far. We're putting the money towards buying an AUC cage. But the larger ones have curved bodies? They're about five or six months old. Her cage is 40cm high.
Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) do need a large tall cage, so ideally the AUC cage, which is 70cm high. Or, if you only have a few Thailand stick insects, then the ELC cage at 51cm high would do. So a cage 40cm high is way too small to house these stick insects. Another problem is the overcrowding, stick insects should never be overcrowded because this causes stress. The curved bodies you are seeing in the adults are deformities arising from the cramped conditions. Unfortunately curved bodies do not straighten out. However, there is time to stop any more becoming deformed by rehousing the immature stick insects (nymphs) in a much taller airy cage. As you haven't got enough money for the AUC cage yet, you could make a temporary cage from a tall cardboard box with some net curtain taped over rectangles that you cut out with scissors. This won't look great but it will be much kinder to keep the stick insects in an environment where they have room to grow properly and not become deformed.

I'd like to buy some stick insects for my son and you guys seem to know what you're talking about. I have a couple of daft questions. Your ELC cage seems to have rough sides, are these better than the smooth glass sides you get in tanks? And the general purpose tanks I have seen elsewhere have decorative backgrounds, do the stick insects need this?
Stick insects have claws and sticky pads on their feet and the larger the stick insects grow, the more they rely on their claws to get a grip and climb. Smooth sided glass tanks do not provide any grip for these claws and so we do not recommend housing stick insects in glass tanks. In contrast, the ELC insect cage has two white sides full of specially made holes which are the optimum size for the stick insects to hook their claws around and climb. The top, back and front of the ELC cage are clear plastic and so that lets in lots of light into the cage. These surfaces are easy to clean with the Cleaning Sponge (included with the ELC bundle). Decorative backgrounds can make the cage look dark and gloomy, it much better to display the stick insects in a light airy cage and better for them too, because they can see what is happening outside the cage.

I got some Parapachymorpha zomproi stick insect eggs and am reading conflicting information about them. Some people say they are parthenogenetic, others not. Which is it?
Parapachymorpha zomproi is the Latin species name for the Thailand Marbled stick insect. Small-Life Supplies used to breed this species in large numbers, and they have males and females in roughly equal numbers. They are a leggy looking stick insect, the females have attractive patterns of colours whereas the males tend to be plain brown. More information is on the Small-Life Supplies Collector Card for that species. There are nineteen Collector Cards and the Thailand Marbled stick insect Collector Card is #2 in the set. As with most sexual species of stick insect, reproduction by pathenogenesis is possible if no males are present.

I am thinking of buying giant jungle stick insects. There are three for sale at the moment, I understand you say they need company, so is three good? We have not kept stick insects before. What cage do you recommend, and what accessories. The nymphs are eight weeks old I think. Your cages look excellent. Is this species mentioned in your book?
Stick insects like company of their own kind and so should always be kept in small groups. "Jungle" stick insects are usually called Malaysian stick insects (Heteropteryx dilatata) and this species has males and females in equal numbers, so a pack of four (two pairs) would be better than just three. Young Malaysian stick insects are inactive and very slow growing and require a lot of regular handling to avoid aggression later on in life. It's not really a species that is recommended for someone who hasn't had stick insects before, unless you are a very patient person who is exceptionally "in tune" with animals. Malaysian stick insects are not recommended for children. Malaysian stick insects are more sensitive to cold than many other stick insects and so need to be in a room that is comfortably warm in the day and not too cold at night. They eat bramble leaves and are not in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book but are featured on the Small-Life Supplies Collector Card #19. People keep up to four Malaysian stick insects successfully in the ELC cage, these stick insects also need the Sand Pit for the eggs and a Water Dish. Or, if you would prefer to try a much easier species of stick insect that is a similar size and shape (but brown instead of green), then the New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) are highly recommended. New Guinea stick insects are far more active than Malaysian stick insects, much easier to handle, very tolerant of standard room temperatures, easier to breed, and wingless (the adult male Malaysian stick insect has wings). And there is a whole section on New Guinea stick insects in the "Keeping Stick Insects" book, also this species is featured on the Small-Life Supplies Collector Card #9.

Is there a pink version of the AUC cage?
At the moment, the AUC cage is only available in blue netting on a white aluminium frame. The AUC Liners are green. However, due to popular demand, we hope to offer the option of pink AUC Liners soon.

I have persuaded my partner to come to the Kempton insect fair with me on Saturday. There is parking right? And it's £4 entrance to get in? I'll bring some cash because I need another ELC cage and maybe an AUC cage as well, will there be any show discounts? Whereabouts is the Small-Life Supplies stand? Are there toilets?
Yes, adult entrance is £4 and there is parking on-site. There are free toilets in the hall too. The Small-Life Supplies stand is on the ground floor, by the wall, on the opposite side to the entrance. The Small-Life Supplies stand has lighting and large insect silhouettes on the stand, so is easy to spot. Our banner to "join the revolution" in keeping insects properly is eye-catching too. And yes, show discounts are offered on the ELC cages, the AUC cages, and the insects that we shall have for sale on the day. It is cash-sales only at this event.

How often should I let my Pink Winged stick insect, called Pink, fly? At the moment I take Pink out once a week so she can exercise her wings, but she doesn't always want to fly?
Pink Winged stick insects (Sipyloidea sipylus) prefer to fly when it is hotter and so they fly most in the summer months. But yes, carry on taking her out for a weekly walk and fly (when she wants to). Remember to mist the bramble leaves with water just before putting her back in the cage because Pink Winged stick insects usually like a drink of water after flying.

We have been keeping Extatosoma tiaratum females in one of your ELC cages for just over a year, with great enjoyment. I am writing now because one of the two adults has just died, and the second is looking poorly. I’m not sure whether it is the end of their natural life cycle - although I thought I’d read somewhere that they had a lifespan of around three years - or whether we’ve got something wrong. She gradually became more and more lethargic, and we found her on the bottom of the cage several times, moving less and less. We knew it was probably the end when she stopped eating a few days ago, as she was always enthusiastic about new leaves until then. We haven’t been spraying their bramble leaves, as our very first nymphs died of damp, so I was wondering, with the colder weather and the central heating turned on, whether we’ve killed them by dehydration? However, I don’t remember spraying them last year through the winter at all. I’d like to get it right for the sake of the eight nymphs we have in 3rd-5th instar, and any advice you could give us would be greatly appreciated.
Extatosoma tiaratum is the Latin species name of the Australian Macleays Spectre stick insect. These are large stick insects with leafy looking legs and the adult males have wings and are good flyers. Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have shorter lifespans than most stick insects, typically living for just under one year. It is another large chunky type, the New Guinea stick insect, Eurycantha calcarata, that is very long lived and can live up to three years (although eighteen months to two years is more common). So your Australian Macleays Spectre stick insects have reached a good age and are now just dying from old age. I would advise you carry on rearing your nymphs as you have been doing because they are appear to be getting enough moisture from the leaves you are giving them. However, if the nymphs become exceptionally active and start to repeatedly touch the sides of the ELC cage with their mouthparts, this indicates they are thirsty and so if you see that happening, you need to mist the leaves very lightly with cold tap water.

We hope to go to Kempton Park insect fair this Saturday, I have always been interested in the natural world and it's looking like my grand daughter has inherited this interest too. I have been trying to purchase silkworms but have only found kits with artificial food, do you happen to know if there will be any stalls selling silkworms at this event (I recall the silkworms ate mulberry leaves?).
The Chinese silkworm Bombyx mori, eats mulberry leaves but is now sold by other suppliers with artificial food. Here at Small-Life Supplies, we breed another type of silkworm, called the Indian Eri silkworm, Samia ricini. That species eats privet leaves and lilac leaves. Small-Life Supplies shall be selling both the Indian Eri silkworms and the Indian Eri cocoons at the Kempton insect fair on Saturday 30th Sept 2017. The Indian Eri silk moths are due to emerge from the cocoons after approximately four weeks.

Will our New Guinea stick insects (just arrived) be stressed by our dog barking? Obviously are keeping them separate but the dog is loud!
New Guinea stick insects (Eurycantha calcarata) get used to noise, so they will get used to your dog barking. The adult females lay more eggs in noisy environments, so your females may lay a lot of eggs initially and then reduce the number when they get used to the noise.

I have some nymphs (Thai stick insect ones) that have hatched over the past couple of days.  Do I need to spray them or do anything specific with the leaves?  I had read somewhere about cutting the bramble leaves into strips.  They are the first offspring of my school stick insects so I am pretty clueless.  When can I transfer them to the same enclosure as the fully grown ones?
Baby Thailand stick insects (Baculum thaii) start eating bramble/blackberry leaves straight away, they are able to nibble the edges of the leaves and so you don't need to cut the leaves. Avoid using new shoots of bramble leaves and in the winter you may need to trim the edges of the leaves off, but only if they have brown edges. Thailand stick insects like airy surroundings from birth, and so we keep ours in TTQ cages and ELC cages. The young Thailand nymphs like to cluster at the tips of the bramble leaves. Keep the bramble stems fresh in a Sprig Pot of cold tap water. Thailand stick insects like to drink from the water droplets on the leaves, and so it's important to very lightly mist the leaves with cold tap water daily, preferably in the late afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MYTH EXPLODED

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

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


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