You want to keep pet insects, but there are so many species out there for you to choose. While certain insects may look attractive, they might not suit you. This guide aims to help you in choosing the right pet insect to keep.

How Much Effort Do You Want to Put for Your Pet Insects

As an owner, you need to spend time caring for your pet insects. Certain species require very little care while some need more care. But all in all, the effort spent on caring pet insects is significantly lesser than that on pet dogs/cats.

Feeding your pet insects is the most frequent caring that you need to do. A beetle grub that feeds on rotten woods can be left in flake soil for months before you need to replenish the flake soil. Other insects can be fed once every few days for as long as there is enough food and the food remains fresh.

It takes a lot of work to feed carnivorous pet insects
The toughest part in keeping carnivorous insects such as mantis is to prepare their feeder insects.

Keeping carnivorous insects requires you to spend some time to feed them daily or every other day. Besides that, buying feeder insects becomes your regular chore. Hence, it is more time-consuming for carnivorous insects in terms of feeding compared to other insects.

Aside from feeding, you will need to spend some time cleaning the insect housing. If you are keeping ants, the ants will do most of the cleaning. For other insects, cleaning can be done monthly or every few months to clear their droppings. This can be as easy as rinsing the housing with water which takes you less than a minute. 

Complete Metamorphosis vs Incomplete Metamorphosis

Insects may undergo 2 types of metamorphosis: the complete and the incomplete metamorphosis. Both have different characteristics and need to be considered when choosing your pet insects.

Insects undergoing complete metamorphosis include beetles, ants, wasps, and butterflies. The eggs of those insects hatch into larvae, which look very different from the adult insects. They exhibit different behaviors and biology compared with their parents. For instance, you need to feed adult goliath beetles with fruits but dog or fish food should be provided to the larvae. You may also need to prepare separate housing for different stages to cater different needs.

The larvae of many insects spend most of their time eating, and they are generally unsightly compared to the adult insects. Beetle grubs, for instance, are far from beautiful and spend all their time burrowing in substrates. 

On the other hand, at the pupal stage, the insects do not feed nor move. Instead, they undergo extensive transformation in their body before they finally emerge as adults. It will be very boring if your insect has a long pupal stage. On the flip side, you can take a long rest.

Because of different requirements at different stages, there is more room for mistakes to happen, preventing your insects from reaching the adult stage. 

In an incomplete metamorphosis, eggs hatch into nymphs which resemble adult insects, except that they don’t have wings. The nymph behaves in a similar manner to the adult insect. They molt a few times before becoming adults. Examples of insects undergoing incomplete metamorphosis include roaches, mantis, crickets, and stick insects.

It’s easier to care for insects undergoing incomplete metamorphosis because nymphs and adults have similar needs. You can also keep them in the same housing unless they are known to cannibalize each other.

How Much Budget are You Allocating for Your Pet Insects?

Pet beetles such as the Hercules beetles are expensive insect pets.
Keeping Hercules beetle can be expensive. Photo by 海龍蛙兵 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Budget determines what insect you can keep. Initial acquisition cost, housing, and maintenance vary depending on the insect species.

Acquisition cost for insects is free if you can catch them from your backyard. If you have only a few bucks to spare, consider only insects native to where you live. If you are willing to spend a few hundred bucks, you can get rare and exotic insects, or large beetles of specific breed.

Cost for housing your pet insects can also vary a lot. For smaller insects, you can use recycled food or drink containers, which is absolutely free! Larger insects will need to be housed in fish tanks, which are more expensive. If you want to keep ants, you will need to have some budget for a formicarium.

If you really want to enjoy insect keeping, you should invest some cash on the housing and its decoration. A great housing not only makes your pet insect look nicer as a whole, but also makes your hobby look cooler to many other people.

Check if the insects you want to keep have specific temperature requirements. You’ll  need to spend some cash on temperature control equipment such as incubators, chillers or heat mats if the insects are not accustomed to the climate where you are. And please don’t forget about the electricity bill.

The last one to cover is food. Caterpillars and stick insects feed on fresh leaves, which cost nothing. If you are keeping roaches or ants, you just need to spare them a small portion of your dinner or snacks. They don’t eat a lot. 

If you are keeping carnivorous insects like mantis, you’ll need some extra cash to buy them feeder insects. It’s quite cheap though.

On the other hand, beetle jelly and flake soil for rhinoceros beetles, stag beetles and flower beetles can be rather expensive in the long run.

Availability of the Insect Species in the Market

Beetles are common insect pets in Japan, but not as popular in the US.
Beetles are common pet insects in Japan that you can easily find in pet stores.
Photo by Yusuke Takahashi / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Obviously, you need to be able to get hold of the insects to keep them. 

I bought most of my insects online because it’s not easy to find a pet store that sells insects in where I live. Besides that, there are more options on the internet compared with a local pet store.

What you can do is search for insect keeping communities from the social media. Utilize the hashtag function in your search (eg. #goliathbeetle) to find out who might be selling what.

Sometimes you might find a specialty insect store and sometimes you might find an individual hobbyist selling them. While it’s better to buy from a specialty store because it’s more reliable, it is usually cheaper to buy from a hobbyist.

Generally, native species can be easily found in the market. On the other hand, it is more difficult to get exotic species unless that species is very popular in your state or country.

For How Long Do You Want to Keep Your Pet Insect?

Do you want a pet for 3 months? 1 year? 5 years? Most insects live a short life compared to mammals. Lifespan should be something that you want to consider in choosing an insect as a pet.

Check out the typical lifespan of some of the common insects that are kept as pets in the table below:

Check out the typical lifespan of some of the common insects that are kept as pets in the table below:

Insect (Adult)Lifespan
Atlas beetle8 months
Eastern hercules beetle1-1.5 year
Hercules beetle adult1-2 year
Western hercules beetle2-3 years
Giant stag beetle9 months
Rainbow stag beetle1-1.5 year
Goliath beetle6-12 months
Rainbow dung beetle6-12 months
Blue death-feigning beetle8 years
Butterfly1-6 weeks
Crickets1-6 months
Madagascar hissing roaches2-4 years
Mantis2-6 months
Social ants*2-15 years
Stick insects1-1.5 years
Velvet ants6-12 months 
Typical lifespan of insects.
*Colony lifespan

For social insects such as ants, we generally look at the lifespan of the colony instead of the individual insect. The ant colony strives for as long as the queen lives and stays strong. 

Bear in mind that the lifespan of your insects can be affected by various factors such genetics, quality and availability of food and water, temperature, humidity, and competition etc. Generally, insects live longer at the lower limit of their optimum temperature.

What if you like an insect so much but it has a shorter lifespan than you want it to have? Luckily, many insects can be bred in captivity. Through breeding, you can easily replace the one you lost. 

Last Words

Do check out my recommendation if you need some ideas on which pet insects to start with. And don’t forget to check out my blogs for various insects-keeping guides!