Plans for the study went on the back burner today, as my order of stick insects arrived. I'd bought two 99p batches of ten insects, which came with the morning post, together with some very fine mesh I'd bought on eBay. So instead of decorating or polishing, I decided to make two lids for a couple of fish tanks I had in the garden shed. I thought one tank would do for the locusts when they grow into adults, whilst the bigger tank would be perfect for the stick insects. Floor space isn't too important for them, but they need height - at least four times their length, as they hang downwards when they are shedding their skins. Given that adults are about ten cms in length, that's a minimum of 40 cms, so the bigger tank fits the bill. I cut pine strips to length, then glued and pinned the mesh between the strips. It took a while, as I had to wait for each layer of glue to dry.
You can, at a push, keep stick insects in an old sweet jar, with tiny holes drilled in the lid. And here's today's handy tip - you can buy special insect 'homes' in pet shops, but you can also buy plant propagators from garden centres at about a quarter of the price. I bought a propagator for four quid in B&Q recently, and I saw a vivarium in a pet shop yesterday priced at £19, and they are both the same size.
My new arrivals are Indian stick insects (Carausius morosus). I've kept them several times before, and always enjoyed them. They come originally from the Palmi hills in the Tamil Nadu district of Southern India, and are probably the easiest stick insects to keep. They will tolerate room temperature, but need lots of ventilation, as they can be susceptible to mould. They can be handled, but I try to keep this to a minimum. They will eat ivy, bramble or privet, although they will also take raspberry leaves, firethorn, oak and, sometimes, lettuce. Spray with tepid water twice a week, but do not drench them. Clean out the droppings every ten to fourteen days. Supply plenty of tall vegetation for them to climb. Stick insects are invariably female - males are really quite rare - but they are capable of parthenogenesis, (the females can reproduce without males, as, incidentally, can Komodo dragons!). They lay three or four eggs a day, and a single female may lay up to a hundred eggs during her lifetime, (they live for about a year). The eggs are small, dark coloured, and sometimes slightly ridged; they resemble plant seeds. Keep the eggs on vermiculite or damp kitchen paper, watch out for mould, and they will hatch in between six to twelve months. The nymphs will grow quickly. Don't handle the babies - use a soft paintbrush to lift them.
... oh, and what is brown and sticky?
Why, a stick, of course.