Back in October, the park ranger where we take nature classes asked if we would be interested in taking some stick bugs. They keep stick bugs in the nature center to demonstrate camouflage. There were so many they were overcrowding the cage. They aren't native to our area, so they couldn't simply be released into the wild. After thinking about it, we came back the following week with a cage and took home five stick bugs.
These have to be my most favorite pet ever. They have very few requirements. A cage with some dirt and sticks, a spray bottle to mist them every day, and all they eat are leaves. I can do leaves. I don't have to worry about leaves escaping the way the crickets would when we kept anoles.
We did have a couple of mishaps. When we first transferred them to their new home, we lost one. Stick bug camouflage is very effective. We couldn't find it for hours until Sierra decided to spray water in the tank. The missing stick bug was sitting on the spray bottle. In our defense, the bottle had a floral pattern on it that made it difficult to see. Stick bugs specialize in hiding in plain sight. The second mishap occurred two months later, on Christmas Eve. Dusty had taken to sitting on top of the stick bug tank. When I went to take her off, she dug her nails into the screen lid and toppled the tank. Four of the stick bugs were accounted for, but it took us some time carefully sifting through tank debris to find the fifth. It's hard to find something that isn't moving and resembles the sticks in its tank. It didn't survive suddenly getting buried by dirt.
Camouflage can be a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is that it took months for the cats to realize we had them. The anole and its cricket food was noticed from the first day we brought it home. We really needed to work hard to keep the cats from harming it. The stick bugs existence went unnoticed until the end of December, when Merlin happened to see them move after I sprayed them.
Sierra loves the stick bugs. Whenever she takes one out to hold, it raises its front legs in the air and sways as if it is doing the wave or shouting "Alleluia!" They look unreal, like something a child put together that came to life. I suppose that would add to their appeal if I were a child. There is something exciting about a piece of wood coming to life. Think Pinocchio.
Sierra has learned a lot from watching them. They have tiny antennae on their head. They sway sometimes, as if they are twigs that have been stirred by a breeze. They molt when they get bigger and then they eat their own molt. I wonder, can you still be considered vegetarian if you eat your own molt? Or would it be like taking off a too small shirt and eating it rather than throwing it out? That does happens to be one of my favorite features about them. They are very neat creatures that clean up after themselves. I also like that they don't knock things over, wake me up in the wee hours of the morning or yowl loudly when they are hungry.