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In the Magazine

Insects as Pets

Pet Road Tests > Others

BREED:

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches, Stick Insects

COSTS:

$5-$50

GROOMING:

None. Stick insects go through 5 Ďinstarsí or moults whilst growing.

CHILD COMPATIBILITY:

Great for kids. Boys especially love insects.

TEMPERAMENT:

Totally independent and somewhat reclusive. Insects wonít bond with humans. Stick insect males are more flighty than females.

ACTIVITY LEVEL:

Males are most active during breeding times. Cockroaches are most active at night. All must be contained or will wander off.

AVAILABILITY:

Limited availability through pet stores. Mail order purchase is popular.

TRAINABILITY:

Forget it. Theyíre insects.

SATISFACTION RATING:

Either love them or hate them. If youíre a collector of the more curious, insects are ideal.

AGGRESSION:

Stick insects, beetles and cockroaches are not venomous or aggressive. Not all insects are harmless. Be careful if handling an unknown species.

HEALTH & LIFESPAN:

Cockroaches can live up to seven years. Stick insects survive for about one year. Handle gently and donít drop them. A vet can't help a sick insect.

NOISE:

Not noisy. You may here them munching on their leaves at night. Crickets may Ďchirpí.

INDOORS POTENTIAL

Easily kept indoors. Need a secure container otherwise escape is likely.

IDEAL FOR:

Curious collectors and budding entomologists.

POPULARITY:

Not the most popular of pets, though just about every young boy will collect insects at some point. A good low maintenance introduction to pet keeping.

TURN-ONS:

Very low maintenance.

TURN-OFFS:

Wonít bond with you.

INTERESTING FACTS:

Donít use insecticides in the home. ĎPetí is no different to Ďpestí.

Availability

Some pet stores will stock various types of insects, the most popular being the Giant Burrowing Cockroaches (Macropanesthia rhinoceros) and stick insects such as the Spiny Stick Insect (Extatasoma tiaratum) and the Goliath Stick Insect (Eurycnema goliath).

As a guide, cockroaches cost from $20 each up to $50 for a complete starter kit which includes a small container, substrate and some leaf litter. Stick insects cost from $5 each up to $35 for the starter kit. Praying Mantis arenít as popular as the other species and may require some searching to find them. Insects could be gathered from the local park or backyard. Be careful if searching for insects, although these ones are harmless, some species, such as caterpillars, can deliver a nasty sting. Watch for spiders and snakes too.

Housing and equipment

Most types of insects require only very basic equipment. Stick insects require either a glass tank, like a two foot fish tank with a secure, escape-proof lid or, for the larger stick insect varieties, a large vertical fly-screen mesh cage. These can be made at home by simply building a wooden frame and draping tulle around it.

Moist peat moss is ideal for the floor, especially for juveniles as they require a humid environment to pass through each of their five Ďinstarsí as they develop. Stick insects shed their exoskeleton as they grow. A water atomiser is a perfect way to distribute water on the leaves and in the enclosure. This will keep the environment humid and provide water for the insects to drink. A thermometer and hydrometer (to measure temperature and humidity) are also handy items.

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches will need a glass tank or plastic tub similar to a two foot fish tank in which should be a 50:50 mix of moist peat moss and clean sand 5-30cm deep. Donít use potting mix. It is too rich in nutrients. Assorted dry native leaf litter is required for burrowing and food. These are sub-tropical to tropical insects. Ideally, maintain a temperature of 25-32įC and humidity of 60-80%.

Feeding

Stick insects require fresh, broad-leafed eucalyptus or wattle branches and leaves. Cockroaches love dried eucalyptus leaves. What the stick insects donít eat, you can give to the cockies. Giant Burrowing Cockroaches also have a taste for carrot. Provide thin slices for variety.

Routine care

Spray Stick Insects up to 2-5 times daily, more during the warmer months. It is important that humidity be maintained at around 60-80% within their enclosure. Temperature should be maintained at 25-32įC. Itís best to eliminate the guess work with a thermometer and hydrometer.

Make sure the sandy soil in the cockroach tank is not too dry. Add some water via spray bottle or watering can if you think itís too dry. Donít flood the burrows by pouring too quickly. This will allow the water to soak in, rather than flow in. Make sure a cotton wool ball is wet. They may drink from this if moisture levels get too low.

Every two or three days cut fresh leaves for your stick insects, ensuring you have no spiders or wasps amongst the leaves. Rinse the leaves with cold water prior to placing the stems in fresh water and into the enclosure. Be sure to check your old leaves very carefully when changing them. The insects are well camouflaged and are easy to miss and throw out.

Every week, check the leaf litter covering the surface of the soil in the cockieís tank. The leaves should feel dry, crisp and be free of any fungal growth. Discard any leaves that look mouldy or slimy. Add new dry leaf litter as necessary. Leaf litter should include leaves from native trees, shrubs, palms and ferns. These may include eucalyptus, wattle, bottlebrush, fig palm or fern fronds. You can even add dry gum nuts, seed pods and bark. Change your cotton ball to a fresh one and wash out the dish it sits in.

Breeding

Stick Insects are parthenogenetic (meaning able to produce an embryo without fertilisation by a male) and therefore donít need a male to reproduce. Males do however occur, and are much smaller than the female. Males are fully winged and can fly short distances.

Be careful when sifting through the soil to locate your cockroaches. If you have adult cockroaches, you may discover they have reproduced. This species can have up to 25 live young, which are approximately 8mm when born and are much paler than older specimens. They are very fragile and will need special care when handling.

Things to Remember

These insects donít bite or sting. However they do possess spines on the legs that act as a defense mechanism. Sometimes they may flex their legs when handled roughly, so gentle, slow handling is recommended.

Insects are fragile and should be handled with care. Accidental dropping can cause internal haemorrhages and death.

Giant Burrowing Cockroaches canít climb the walls of glass or plastic tubs. They canít fly either. For this reason a lid may not be required, however, to reduce moisture loss from the soil, a partial lid is suggested. Deep, moist sandy soil will encourage the cockroaches to build a natural burrow system. You can keep your cockroaches in shallow sandy soil to make them easier to find, however this is not ideal as it prevents the insect from controlling its temperature according to the depth of the tunnel system.

Further information

We filmed this segment with Jacquie Love, from ĎTravelbugsí, Mobile Mini-beasts. Jacquie is available for school tutorials and sells insects for pets. Special thanks for her assistance with this Fact Sheet.

Phone (02) 4787-6362
Email: info@mini-beasts.com
Website: www.mini-beasts.com

Australian Insect Farm also specialises in selling insects through mail order.

The Australian Insect Farm
P.O. Box 26,
Innisfail Qld. 4860
Telephone (07) 40 633 860
Email: info@insectfarm.com.au
Website: www.insectfarm.com.au/

Copyright CTC Productions 2004

Disclaimer:  Burke's Backyard and Backyard Blitz do not accept payment to promote products. All recommendations are genuine. Details on the fact sheets are accurate at the time of publishing, however prices and contact information are not updated and may change.

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