Stick Insects are extremely easy to feed. And very cheap!
The majority of stick insects will feed on plants readily available nearby. If the food is not available near you, you should reconsider keeping them, however if you go for a walk in your local park, and down your street, you are almost guaranteed to find food for one or more species.
Food should not be collected from the side of the road. Roadside verges are often sprayed with pesticides, which are designed to kill insects. This would of course be fatal to yours. They can also be covered in toxic car exhaust fumes, so this can also be bad for your pets.
Plants can be kept fresh for up to a week by keeping them watered. A lot of stick insects can drown in pots of water, so use something like Oasis (Florist’s foam, used for flower arranging – available cheap at Wilkinsons) or something similar to retain the moisture.
Wash any plants collected. There is nothing worse than collecting food for your stick insects, and then finding a spider hidden in the plant has eaten them all!
Replace the food as the leaves start to dry out. This is normally around once a week, or more if they dry out sooner.
This can be found in most areas. It grows prolifically once established. It is the plant that accompanies Blackberries in the wild. If you see Blackberries growing in your local park or even in your garden, you have Bramble. Small fresh leaves should not be fed to hatchling insects. They contain a toxin which can be deadly to small hatchlings. This seems to disappear once the leaves are bigger than 3cm, lose their ‘fuzz’ and darken in colour. Nymphs bigger than L3 or after their second moult do not appear to be affected, so if you have adult stick insects, they will be fine on all sized leaves.
This is the bush most commonly sculpted in to shapes in people’s front gardens. It grows extremely well once established, and is a source of food for a lot of stick insect species. If you do not have it growing in your garden, you could buy a small plant from a garden centre and either keep it potted to keep it under control or find somewhere in your garden to plant it. If you are friendly with your neighbours, then ask them about their privet hedge. Most will be more than happy for you to prune it as and when you need some. It grows extremely well and demands high maintenance to keep it cut back.
This is not always as easy to gather. It can be found in most woodlands, and is recognisable by its distinctive shaped leaves. Oak trees grow from Acorns, so if you find a woodland near you, you could always collect some acorns and pot them to produce some of your own Oak leaves. If kept in pots, you have no danger of taking over your garden with trees!
Another common English plant, it has white flowers with a distinctive smell. This can be recognised at a distance once you get used to it! It is a hedgerow plant, and often grows in with Privet. It produces red berries, which could be collected to start growing some Hawthorn of your own.
This is easily recognisable, and a common food for a lot of stick insects. However if you are not the owner of the Rose bush, we would recommend you ask permission before harvesting the leaves! Some people are very proud of their rose bushes!
Hazel is a common English tree, found in many woodlands. They produce nuts, which are Hazelnuts, but not the ones you buy in the supermarket. Some species of stick insect will take to Hazel, but not all.
It is the leaves of the Raspberry plant that the insects eat rather than the fruit. So if you have this growing in your garden, you can share with your insects! The fruit (the best part!) can be eaten by you, and the insects can have the leaves. Everyone wins!
Ivy is a useful food during the winter, when other foods are scarce. Try your insects on Ivy before it is the only thing left to eat, just to make sure they will eat it! You do not want to end up with no food available for them when it is Winter and there is nothing left.
Some insects will take to Lilac leaves. This is a very fragrant plant, often found in people’s gardens. It has lilac or white coloured flowers. It is decorative and attracts butterflies, so would be a good addition to a garden with room for the medium-large bush. It can be trimmed back and the size contained for those with not much room.
Some strains of Honeysuckle are green all year round. This is another good food source for during the winter time when everything else has died back for the cold weather. It has fragrant flowers and climbs well once established, so would be a pleasant addition to a garden designed for feeding insects!
This is not common in gardens or woodlands. Eucalyptus is commonly found in Australia, so a lot of Australian species thrive on it. Some species do grow well in England though, and the seeds are available on Ebay or online seed suppliers. If you are looking to keep species that only do well on Eucalyptus, then ensure your Eucalyptus plants are well established before you purchase any.
Also known as St. John’s Wort. Commonly available in tablet form as a herbal remedy for depression. It has attractive yellow flowers, and the seeds can be purchased online. Some species will only eat this plant, so if you are looking at these, then ensure that you have an established supply of it before you consider buying them. Also check your local garden centres for already established plants, but ensure that you keep some by for growing on, rather than feeding it all to your insects, as stock in garden centres often changes with the seasons, and you can not guarantee they will always have it in stock.