What Do Walking Sticks Eat? A Quick Guide for Curious Minds

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects or stick bugs, are fascinating insects that have evolved to resemble twigs or branches in order to evade predators. There are over 3,000 species of walking stick insects, with males, females, and nymphs displaying diverse appearances and behaviors.

As a walking stick enthusiast, you might be curious about their dietary preferences. These insects are primarily herbivorous, feeding on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Their choice of plants can vary depending on the species of walking stick and their habitat. Some species are known to have a more specific preference, while others may munch on a variety of leaves.

Understanding the diet of walking sticks can help you better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and could be particularly useful if you’re considering keeping them as pets or studying them for any reason. It’s always good to learn more about the fascinating world of these unique creatures.

Diet Habitat

Types of Plants Consumed

Walking sticks, also known as leaf insects, primarily consume leaves. They prefer a variety of plants such as oak, rose, hazel, bramble, privet, and ivy[^1^]. Some species even enjoy eucalyptus and lettuce[^2^]. It’s important to provide them with the appropriate plant material to ensure a balanced diet.

Feeding Schedule

Leaf insects have a simple feeding schedule. You can offer them fresh leaves daily or every few days[^3^]. They tend to eat more during the night, as they are nocturnal creatures[^4^]. Observe your walking stick’s eating habits, and adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.

Habitat Coverage

Walking sticks inhabit a range of environments, from temperate regions to tropical forests[^5^]. They thrive in wooded areas with plenty of oak leaves, ivy leaves, and hawthorn[^6^]. Here’s a comparison of their preferred habitats:

Habitat Type Plant Coverage Region
Woodlands Oak, hazel, bramble, ivy, hawthorn Temperate
Tropical Forests Eucalyptus, rose leaves, blackberries Tropical

It’s essential to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible when keeping them in captivity.

Caring for Leaf Consumption

To ensure the health of your leaf insect, follow these guidelines[^7^]:

  • Provide pesticide-free leaves.
  • Maintain proper humidity levels.
  • Offer fresh leaves regularly.
  • Mimic their wild habitat with a mix of plants.

By understanding and catering to the dietary needs and habitat requirements of walking sticks, you can support their well-being and enjoy observing these fascinating creatures.

Adaptive Mechanisms

Self Defense

Walking sticks possess natural defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. One such strategy is their incredible ability to camouflage. They blend seamlessly with their surroundings, often mimicking the color, texture, and pattern of branches and leaves. This helps them remain undetected to predators.

They also employ chemical defenses. When threatened, some walking sticks can release a foul-smelling substance that deters predators such as birds, bats, and spiders. This pungent chemical provides an effective layer of protection to help them escape harm.

Fending Off Predators

Walking sticks have evolved various physical attributes and behaviors to fend off predators. Here are some of their remarkable features:

  • Spines: Some walking stick species have spines on their bodies. These can deter predators like rodents and reptiles from attacking them.
  • Wings: Though not all walking sticks have wings, those that do can use them to escape from danger, making it difficult for predators to catch them.
  • Mandibles: These insects have strong mandibles that can be used to effectively bite predators.
  • Size and antennae: Walking sticks can grow up to impressive sizes, with long antennae that help them navigate their environment and detect predators around them.

Physical Attributes

Features Purpose
Size Larger walking sticks can deter smaller predators who may be scared away by their size
Brown color Helps with camouflage, allowing them to blend into their surroundings
Long antennae Aids in detecting nearby threats, sensing vibrations, and navigating
Strong mandibles Used for self-defense and eating food, like leaves

In addition to these adaptations, walking sticks have developed a fascinating relationship with ants. They avoid becoming ant food by shedding parts of their body, leaving a luscious treat for the ants while they make a quick getaway. These incredible insects prove that nature has no shortage of ways for creatures to adapt and survive in their environments.

Reproduction Process

Mating Habits

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects, have diverse mating habits. Some species require a mate to reproduce, while others can produce offspring through parthenogenesis.

In species that mate, males locate females using scent and visual cues. Mating can last for hours, sometimes even days. In parthenogenetic species, females can produce offspring without males, laying unfertilized eggs that develop into new individuals.

Rearing Insects

Raising walking sticks as pets can be rewarding, but it’s essential to understand their needs and provide the right environment for their survival. Here are some key aspects to consider:

  • Habitat: A well-ventilated enclosure with proper substrate and climbing surfaces.
  • Diet: Provide fresh, pesticide-free leaves from their preferred food plants.
  • Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature suitable for the species.
  • Humidity: Provide adequate humidity to encourage proper molting and egg-laying.


The lifecycle of walking sticks consists of eggs, nymphs, and adults.

  • Eggs: Females lay eggs on the ground or under bark, sometimes even hurling them into leaf litter. Eggs can take weeks to months to hatch, depending on the species and environmental conditions, such as temperature.
  • Nymphs: After hatching, nymphs resemble miniature versions of the adults. They shed their exoskeletons and grow in size with each molt, eventually reaching maturity.
  • Adults: Once mature, walking sticks focus on finding mates (in sexually reproducing species) or laying eggs (in parthenogenetic species). Their lifespan can vary from several months to over a year, depending on the species and environmental factors.

Walking sticks can have similar behaviors in captivity as in the wild, such as mating, laying eggs, and molting. Additionally, given proper care, they can have a similar lifecycle and survival rate as their wild counterparts.

Interesting Facts

Walking Stick Varieties

There are numerous varieties of walking stick insects found across the globe. These herbivores are aptly named for their resemblance to sticks, which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Here are some examples:

  • Diapheromera femorata: Commonly found in North America.
  • Carausius morosus: Known as the Indian stick insect, native to India.

Walking sticks have a wide distribution, and they can be found in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. They can be seen at San Diego Zoo and read about in National Geographic articles.

Walking Sticks and Society

Walking stick insects are primarily herbivores and love to munch on various plants such as ferns and shrubs. In captivity, they require proper care, including a well-ventilated tank and specific food sources. An example of a suitable diet might include:

  • Blackberry leaves
  • Rose leaves
  • Lettuce from the supermarket

It’s essential to maintain the appropriate humidity level inside the tank by gently misting it daily. These insects molt and shed their skin as they grow, so ensure your walking stick has a proper space to hang and shed its molted skin.

Research Findings

Current research findings have brought up some intriguing insights into the world of walking stick insects:

  • They are capable of releasing chemicals as a defense mechanism against predators.
  • Female walking sticks can reproduce without males through a process known as parthenogenesis.
  • Some species exhibit a remarkable camouflage feature, like existent on paper or leaves.

Here’s a comparison table to show the difference between two common walking stick insects:

Species Region Size Diet
Diapheromera femorata North America 3-4 inches Vegetation
Carausius morosus India 2.5-4 inches Leaves

In conclusion, walking stick insects are fascinating creatures with various species found worldwide. Their herbivorous diet, unique defense mechanisms, and intriguing reproductive process make them a fantastic subject for research and appreciation in a captive environment. Just ensure proper care is taken to keep them healthy and happy.


In summary, walking sticks mainly feed on leaves from various plants. Their diet consists of foliage, which provides them with essential nutrients for growth and survival.

Some examples of plants that walking sticks enjoy include:

  • Oak leaves
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Ivy

As a comparison, here’s a table of some commonly consumed leaves by walking sticks:

Plant Leaves Consumed Common Habitat
Oak Yes Forests, woodland
Raspberry Yes Gardens, meadows
Ivy Yes Hedgerows, walls

In conclusion, understanding the diet of walking sticks can help you appreciate these fascinating creatures better.

By knowing the type of plants they consume, you can ensure their well-being if you keep them as pets and contribute to their conservation in the wild. So, enjoy observing these unique insects and remember to support their natural habitats to keep them thriving.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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18 thoughts on “What Do Walking Sticks Eat? A Quick Guide for Curious Minds”

    • Thanks for the comment. We did some research and on BunyipCo, we learned that the longest Stick Insect in Australia is the Gargantuan Stick Insect,Ctenomorpha gargantua. That information is supported on Mark David’s Titan Stick Insect page and he states: “I’ve learned that some Australian stick insects get even bigger, reaching lengths of more than half a metre (if you include the oustretched legs). Paul Brock, one of the authors of this field guide, told me about one species, Ctenomorpha gargantua, reaching approximately 615 mm (once again, that’s if you include the outstretched legs). “

  1. You may want to update your info on the spray defensive mechanism of this walking stick. The spray ducts are located just behind it’s head, not at the end of it’s abdomen.

    • This is a very old posting, and we have since read what you have stated, that the spray ducts are located behind the head. We will let this comment section supply the information that contradicts the posting as the original information came to us from what we assume is some expert in the Department of Entomology from the University of FLorida. Perhaps Lyle buss was a student intern ten years ago.

  2. Hello again!
    Funnily enough i had these guys identified overnight by a stick insect breeder located in Sydney. The species is Candovia peridromes, or the Sydney stick insect. They are found from Sydney NSW down the coast through Victoria into south Australia. They apparently feed on Acacia and Eucalyptus, and hide during the day.

  3. Hello again!
    Funnily enough i had these guys identified overnight by a stick insect breeder located in Sydney. The species is Candovia peridromes, or the Sydney stick insect. They are found from Sydney NSW down the coast through Victoria into south Australia. They apparently feed on Acacia and Eucalyptus, and hide during the day.

  4. This is a female Candovia peridromes, commonly called the Sydney Stick Insect despite the fact that it ranges widely. Males are brown, so your description matches, and they are often found in grass and small shrubs. They are not commonly noticed so there aren’t too many images online, but you should be able to get some information if you look hard enough. Hope this helps!

    • The original file sent to us was very low resolution and most definitely NOT altered in PhotoShop. The wide angle lens does make objects closer to the camera appear disproportionately larger than they are. Notice how small the man’s feet look relative to the large hand in the foreground.

  5. Its Nov. 9, 2018…. 37 degrees….in Texas..
    I found 2 walking sticks and brought them inside to show children. I dont have a proper cage and want to put them outside but didn’t want them to freeze. Can I put them back outside or will it kill them?

  6. Its Nov. 9, 2018…. 37 degrees….in Texas..
    I found 2 walking sticks and brought them inside to show children. I dont have a proper cage and want to put them outside but didn’t want them to freeze. Can I put them back outside or will it kill them?

  7. I’ll have to get a photo of the bug I’m seeing here in Texas. It looks like a stick at least three inches long and for the past couple weeks they always have another one of them, about a third of its size, hanging on its back. Maybe mating? The actual bug will spray some liquid if disturbed. That liquid smells interesting, but I was worried it was making me lightheaded smelling it. I believe it’ll also cause a burning feeling if it gets in your eyes. I never see them during the day, only at night I see one occasionally on a concrete trail.

    • Definitely mating Muskmares. They have a noxious spray that they are reported to aim into the eyes of any attacker with amazing accuracy. According to BugGuide: “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.”


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