Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus) are 3-4” long, nocturnal, herbivorous invertebrates native to India. However, they are prolifically invasive across the globe, and can now be found in other locations such as the United States, Mexico, Portugal, France, England, South Africa, Madagascar, and Taiwan. They are also known as “laboratory stick insects”.
Indian stick insects have a slender body that looks almost identical to a stick, especially when they tuck in their legs. Coloring is generally even brown with some bark-like texturing. They do not have wings.
Indian stick insects are among the most popular pet stick insects, and are widely known as being very easy to care for. Total lifespan is generally around one year.
Minimum terrarium size for Indian stick insects
The widely-accepted minimum formula for housing stick insects is:
- Length = 2x length
- Width = 2x length
- Height = 3x length
Height is particularly important, as stick insects need vertical space in order to molt (shed their exoskeleton) and grow properly. Using the above formula, the enclosure for an adult-sized Indian stick insect should be at least 8”L x 8”W x 12”H and made of glass, plastic, or mesh.
Indian stick insects generally get along fine when housed together in groups. However, keep in mind that if you want to keep more of them in the same enclosure, you will need a bigger enclosure — particularly along the horizontal dimensions.
Do Indian stick insects need special lighting?
If your stick insect’s enclosure is placed in a room that receives ~12 hours/day of bright natural or artificial light, then additional lighting equipment is unnecessary. However, if your pet is being kept in a dark room or you wish to put live plants in the enclosure, then you will need additional lighting equipment such as a small white fluorescent or LED grow light around 6500K color temperature.
Best temperature for Indian stick insects
Indian stick insects do best when they are kept between 63-77°F. This includes room temperature, so supplementary heating should not be required for keeping this species. However, make sure you have a way to keep the room cool if it tends to get excessively warm during summer.
The best way to keep track of the temperatures inside your Indian stick insect’s enclosure is with a digital thermometer placed in the middle of the enclosure.
Best humidity levels for Indian stick insects
Providing the right amount of humidity is very important for making sure that your stick insect is able to molt properly and stays generally healthy. That being said, Indian stick insects are quite hardy and are not too sensitive to local humidity levels.
Just make sure to lightly mist your pet’s enclosure every evening with a spray bottle to both increase the humidity and provide drinking water. It’s best to use distilled water rather than tap water, unless it has been treated to remove chlorine.
Best substrate for Indian stick insects
Your Indian stick insect terrarium should have at least 1-2” of substrate on the bottom to help maintain consistent humidity levels. Here are some moisture-friendly materials you can use:
- Zoo Med Creatures Eco Soil
- Zoo Med Creature Soil
- Zoo Med ReptiBark
- Eco Earth Plantation Soil
- Exo Terra Forest Bark
This substrate will need to be replaced weekly and the enclosure thoroughly rinsed out with hot water to maintain good hygiene.
How to decorate an Indian stick insect terrarium
In order to reduce stress, prolong your pet’s lifespan, and encourage natural behaviors, your Indian stick insect needs both objects to climb and hide behind in its enclosure. Here are some ideas of things you can use:
- cork logs/flats
- thin vines
- artificial foliage
Use hot glue to attach climbing objects to the sides and bottom of the enclosure at different angles for variety. However you arrange your enclosure, make sure to leave enough open space at the top for twice your pet’s height to use during molting.
What to feed to an Indian stick insect
Stick insects are herbivores, which means that they eat plants in order to get the nutrition that they need. Make sure a branch of fresh leaves is always available. You can stick this branch in a vase of water to keep the leaves fresh for longer!
Here are some options for leaves that are appropriate to feed to an Indian stick insect:
- Blackberry (older leaves only, no new leaves)
Oak leaves freeze well for use during winter, and blackberry leaves usually stay available through the winter as well. Romaine lettuce may be offered if you have nothing better on hand.
Never source leaves from garden centers or florists, as these are likely to be covered in chemicals that will harm your pet! Also beware of collecting leaves from plants located near roadways, where they may be contaminated with chemicals from vehicle exhaust.
How to handle your Indian stick insect
As a general rule, invertebrates are “look-but-don’t-touch” pets: fun to watch, but not to be handled regularly. However, Indian stick insects generally tolerate handling better than most.
To pick up your pet, place a hand under its front legs, then use your other hand to coax it forward from behind. Be very gentle as you do this, as it’s easy to injure a stick insect. Let it step onto your hand of its own accord, and don’t force it!
If you surprise your Indian stick insect, it may go rigid and fall off of its perch. This is normal defensive behavior, but best discouraged to prevent injury.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!
"Carausius morosus (Indian stick insect)" by Resenter1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0