Pet of the week: The stick insect

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The Independent Online

What on earth is it? It's a phasmid, which you'll agree sounds like quite a cool gang to belong to. There are some 3,000 species of stick insect, 300 of which can be bred in captivity, so you'll be spoilt for choice. But take advice before you rush out and get one – some can grow up to half a metre long. More like a log insect.

Does he bite? He nibbles, mainly blackberry and bramble leaves and other vegetation such as privet, so feeding time is simple and the diet is easy to get hold of.

Where does he live? In a vivarium, a tank in which you keep exotic insects. In the case of phasmids, they need vertical space as much as horizontal, as they shed their skins (or exoskeletons) as they grow, and in order to do this, they need space to hang out. Literally. Preferably with some interesting twiggy type diversions.

Neat trick. Anything else they can do? No, that's about it. But you will find it fascinating how the stick insect adapts to his environment. It's true – they really do look like sticks! If you're looking for a pet who fetches the morning paper and does tricks, get a dog. Seriously, they are affectionate and do like to clamber over your arms and interact and explore, but they are very delicate creatures, so no rough and tumble, please.

Why own one? Your friends will be breathless with anticipation as you invite them round for another game of "Spot the stick insect" – those winter evenings will just fly by ... Plus they are an excellent way for children to learn about the world of invertebrates.

Who would own a stick insect? Entomologists, camouflage enthusiasts, Peter Crouch.

Where can I get one? If you are serious about getting a stick insect (and it is one of the most popular of all pet insects), you should contact a reputable supplier, such as Martin French, who runs the company, is full of enthusiasm and knowledge for these and many other types of insects and invertebrates. The insects are usually sent through the post either as nymphs or as eggs. Also visit