Insects as Pets: What You Need to Know

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Written By ManuelPeterson

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Keeping insects as pets is many people’s idea of a nightmare, but for others, it’s a fun and rewarding hobby. Insects might not cuddle on the couch like a cat or dog, but they are interesting and unique. They can also be easier to care for in situations where people have to be away from the house for many hours each day or if they take frequent short trips away from home. For many people, insects and other invertebrates are the perfect pets.

If you are looking for the perfect invertebrate pet to add to your household, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. While many invertebrates make great pets, others are not so suitable. For example, the Chilean rose tarantula can make a calm and easy-to-care-for pet while the skeleton tarantula is skittish and suitable only for experts. Before settling on a specific species or kind of animal, make sure you have done your research.

Is it Legal to Keep Insects?

It is legal to keep most kinds of invertebrates and insects as long as they are not banned in your area. If a species or type is banned in an area it is usually because they pose a threat to the wildlife or habitat when released. Most insects and invertebrates are allowed as pets and can usually be kept without needing a license. They can be acquired from breeders, pet stores, and other hobbyists.

How to House Invertebrates

Most invertebrates and insects can live in small cages of mesh, acrylic, or glass. Cages that are around 1 foot in size are perfect for most of these animals. They will also need a substrate as well as branches, rocks, and other natural items. Many prefer to shelter under rocks or logs in the wild, and these species will need dark places to hide. Others are arboreal and will not be happy unless they have branches and plants to climb on. Some tropical insects need heating pads and frequent misting to maintain heat and humidity requirements.

How to Keep Stick Insects

Stick insects are one of the most common insect pets. They are easy to care for and don’t have many special requirements. Stick insects can live in small to medium-sized cages and are usually comfortable at room temperature. They do require high humidity, which can be difficult to maintain. They are herbivorous and eat a variety of plants such as blackberry and oak leaves. If you do keep these animals, make sure to check your local laws and ensure the insects never escape their cage. They can be invasive and dangerous to local plants if they get released, so they are illegal in some areas.

How to Keep Tarantulas

Tarantulas are not everyone’s idea of great pets. However, for those who like them, they can be very fun and interesting to keep. Tarantulas can be ground-dwelling or tree-dwelling, but for pet owners, the ground-dwelling species are often easier to care for. They need a small to medium-sized cage with substrate, such as coconut bark, and branches for climbing. They also need at least one hide to shelter in. Tarantulas eat prey such as crickets and roaches. Larger specimens may enjoy eating an occasional pinky mouse as well.

Tarantulas don’t usually enjoy handling, although some are more tolerant than others. They can have small hairs that break off and can be irritating. They also have toxic venom, which is about as painful as a bee sting. However, if properly cared for most tarantulas never bite.

How to Keep Cockroaches

Hissing Madagascar Cockroaches are an exotic insect species that can be kept as pets. They aren’t usually skittish and eat an omnivorous diet. They have an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they have no larval stage. Instead, they hatch in the same form as they have as adults. They also carry their egg sacks inside until they hatch, so they give live birth.

All of this makes hissing cockroaches easy and interesting pets.  They can be housed in a small aquarium or invertebrate cage. They aren’t picky about housing, humidity, or bedding requirements. They are easy to feed, as they eat a combination of dog or cat food and fresh items like fruits and vegetables. These insects are large, about 2-3 inches as adults, and have no wings. They are not well suited to human habitations, so they won’t escape and infest your house.

How to Keep Mantids

Mantids are carnivorous insects that can be from 1-6 inches long, although they are usually on the smaller side of that range. Most of them come from tropical climates, although not all of them. Mantids make good pets and are usually easy to keep, although tropical species do have humidity and temperature requirements.

Mantids don’t need large cages and if they are given too much room, they may have trouble finding their food. They need enough space to molt and hunt, as well as branches or plants to climb on. They eat insects of all kinds, such as crickets, moths, and flies. Mantids from tropical locations such as African mantids need heat pads under their cages and frequent misting to maintain humidity.