Pets can be challenging in any household, and insects often offer a great middle-ground – they are fun to look after, interesting, and engaging, but they don’t take as much time or energy as a cat or a dog.
We’re going to look at the top thirteen insects that are easy and cheap to keep and compare the pros and cons of owning each one.
|Insect||Food||Habitat||Needs Heat||Monthly Cost||Purchase Cost||Ease Of Care|
|Ants||Grains, fruit, insects||Ant farm||Sometimes||Minimal||Up to $70||Easy|
|Woodlice||Rotting wood||Tank or tub||No||Nil||Nil||Very easy|
|Praying Mantis||Other insects||Tank||Yes||Low||Less than $100||Medium difficulty|
|Tarantula||Beetles, grasshoppers, spiders||Tank||Sometimes||Low||Usually less than $100||Medium difficulty|
|Hissing Cockroach||Fruits, veggies, rabbit food||Lidded tank||Yes||Low||$25-$35||Very easy|
|Ground Beetle||Seeds and insects||Plastic container||No||Nil||Low||Very easy|
|Millipede||Rotting wood/leaves||Large tank||No||Nil||Around $70||Very easy|
|Cricket||Fruits and bran||Tank||Sometimes||Low||Less than $50||Very easy|
|Mealworm||Bran||Tank or bucket||No||Nil||Less than $50||Extremely easy|
|Springtail||Yeast||Tub||No||Low||Less than $20||Medium difficulty|
|Butterfly||Varies||Tank/net cage||No||Nil||Less than $20||Easy|
|Rhinoceros Beetle||Banana||Tank||No||Low||Less than $70||Quite tricky|
Many people will have had Indian stick insects as children, and these can be a bit boring – but did you know there are many kinds of stick insects?
From leaf stick insects to black beauties to Macleay’s, there are so many kinds, you’re bound to find one that suits you.
The care and cost will vary depending on the kind of stick insect that you purchaseshort-livednately, stick insects are very easy to care for.
- Food: Leaves, e.g. eucalyptus leaves, bramble, raspberry, oak, beech, etc. Different species eat different leaves.
- Habitat: A glass tank or net cage.
- Needs Heat: Not unless you live somewhere cold.
- Monthly Cost: Nil.
- Purchase Costs: Varies depending on the species, but usually between $10 and $20 for 25 eggs. A net cage costs around $25.
- Ease of care: Very easy.
- Quirks: Some males can fly, and you can watch the insects molt and gain size.
Ants are fascinating creatures to watch. They are also a superb teaching tool for young children to learn about the hive mind and group cooperation, as well as building and physics.
If you want a pet that combines learning with fun, they are a great option
- Food: Depends on the species, but often sugar water, dead insects, grains, and occasional pieces of fruit or meat.
- Habitat: An ant farm is the ideal habitat.
- Needs Heat: Potentially; ants need temperatures between 68 degrees F and 82 F in the day, and a minimum of 59 degrees F.
- Monthly Cost: A small amount to keep the tank warm and possibly the occasional piece of fruit.
- Purchase Costs: Ant farms often cost between $30 and $80. Check that ants are included.
- Ease of care: Easy.
- Quirks: Educational for both children and adults.
Woodlice make great and extremely easy pets. You can even keep them in tubs or other containers as they do not climb well, so they won’t be able to escape.
Woodlice aren’t actually insects, but they are close enough that they are worth including in the list. Arthropods have a lot in common with insects, and woodlice are fun to keep!
- Food: They feed on decaying matter, fungi, and bits of wood, but it varies depending on the species.
- Habitat: While a tank is good, you can just keep woodlice in a tub provided it is large enough. They need some dirt and some hideaway places, all of which can be gathered from nature.
- Needs Heat: No.
- Monthly Cost: Nil.
- Purchase Costs: Nil.
- Ease of care: Very easy; they need to be kept slightly damp and fed occasionally.
- Quirks: Some woodlice (Pill Bugs) will roll into a ball when they feel threatened.
One of the better-known insect pets, the praying mantis are fascinating creatures to keep. They are related to grasshoppers and cockroaches, and their hunting strategy can be enormously engaging for children to watch.
- Food: Mantis are predators and need to be fed other insects. They will eat almost anything small enough to catch. Crickets are a popular food and can be bought from most pet stores.
- Habitat: You will need a small tank or other plastic container for an adult mantis.
- Needs Heat: Yes, mantis are tropical creatures and need to be kept between 68 degrees F and 77 degrees F.
- Monthly Cost: A small amount for heat and crickets.
- Purchase Costs: You will need to buy a small container (often between $10 and $20) and a heat mat (between $10 and $30). The mantis themselves vary in cost depending on the species and size, but they are usually between $8 and $22 each. You might also want bamboo skewers and a mist bottle.
- Ease of care: Reasonably easy, but will need some misting and regular live feeding. Live food also needs to be removed from the cage if it is uneaten.
- Quirks: Many species, and children will enjoy watching the camouflage and hunting tactics of the mantis.
Again, not quite an insect, tarantulas still deserve a mention on this list. They are venomous but are not generally dangerous to people. It is a good idea to choose a docile species, however. They are more suited to teenagers and adults than to young children.
Practice care and proper handling with someone else’s tarantula if possible before getting one for yourself.
- Food: Tarantulas eat beetles, grasshoppers, and other, smaller spiders.
- Habitat: You will need a tank with soil and some hiding spots. The soil should be sterile and purchased specifically for the tarantula. A bit of bark to climb on will enrich the environment and keep the tarantula happy. The soil should be kept moist.
- Needs Heat: Not directly but must be kept in a reasonably warm home. If your home is around 70 degrees, you don’t need to provide extra heat.
- Monthly Cost: No ongoing costs besides a small amount for food.
- Purchase Costs: Just the cost of a tank, which can be as little as $25. You want a 10 gallon tank. Soil will also have a small initial cost, as will a water dish and some cocoa fiber. The tarantula’s cost will vary depending on the species you choose.
- Ease of care: Need to feed and occasionally mist. Handle carefully.
- Quirks: Delicate and very beautiful creatures, it’s fun to watch them hunt and explore.
Most people wouldn’t want a cockroach for a pet, but they can be good and easy to handle insects. They are very low maintenance, good climbers and docile. They communicate through hissing.
- Food: They are easy to feed, living on fruits and vegetables and a high-protein food such as dog biscuits. They like leafy greens, but do not live on rotten food.
- Habitat: You can use a 5 – 10 gallon tank. Be aware that they can climb so a lid is needed. Use aspen shavings and keep light levels down. The cockroach should have plenty of hiding spots.
- Needs Heat: Yes, they like to be kept between 75 and 85 degrees F.
- Monthly Cost: Small amounts for food and heat, but very low cost.
- Purchase Costs: Again, low. The tank should be around $25 and you will need to pay a bit for the shavings and the hideaways. The cockroaches cost around $2 – $10.
- Ease of care: Very easy. They need feeding and occasionally cleaning out.
- Quirks: They hiss when disturbed or when communicating with others.
Beetles are fascinating and beautiful, and ground beetles make good pets. They are a great way to teach children about the life cycle and the basics of simple insect care.
- Food: These are omnivorous beetles that eat seeds, ant pupae, and fly larvae. They will also eat small insects. Be aware that they can be cannibalistic so avoid overcrowding them.
- Habitat: A plastic box will be sufficient to keep your beetles in. This needs a layer of peat or sand at the bottom, and should be kept damp. You also need to add a shelter.
- Needs Heat: No.
- Monthly Cost: A small monthly cost needed for food purchase. If you have a lot of beetles, this may add up.
- Purchase Costs: Low. You can use almost any container, and peat compost or sand should not be expensive to buy. A mister will be the only other notable expense, besides the beetles themselves. You may be able to find beetles in your garden, or purchase them fairly cheaply online.
- Ease of care: Very easy, but you may wish to separate larvae to stop the adults from eating them.
- Quirks: They reproduce readily, so they are great for teaching children about how reproduction works.
Although these are again not technically an insect, they are worth mentioning on the list of easy and fun small-scale pets you can keep. It is interesting to watch them burrow and crawl around, but be aware that some can excrete chemicals that irritate the skin.
- Food: They mostly eat their substrate, so as long as they have leaves and wood that are decomposing, they will be happy and shouldn’t need other food.
- Habitat: A mix of wood, soil, and leaves in a tank. You will occasionally need to add fresh material or boost the calcium levels. The tank should be at least as wide as the millipede is long, and twice as long.
- Needs Heat: A reasonably warm room should be sufficient, as the insect generally prefers temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees F. If a heat mat is used, make sure it doesn’t dry the substrate out too fast.
- Monthly Cost: Nil.
- Purchase Costs: You will need to buy a suitable tank with air holes, and enough substrate to make 4 – 6 inches of depth in the bottom. This should cost less than $50 and the only other things you need are the millipedes and a mister. Most adult millipedes only cost around $10 – $20.
- Ease of care: Regular misting but reasonably easy to care for as they only need their substrate for food.
- Quirks: Low toxicity makes them unsuitable for young children, but fine for older kids or adults. They can be very colorful and their ease of care makes them ideal for beginners.
Instead of feeding crickets to another insect, you could try keeping them yourself. They are fun and unusual bugs, and a lot of people enjoy the singing noise that they make.
- Food: Food requirements vary by species, but most crickets will eat fresh fruits, bran, and oats. You can also give them rabbit food.
- Habitat: Crickets need a well ventilated container with a good lid. You should provide some cover, like egg cartons, or dry wood. They also need slightly damp peat in the bottom of the tank.
- Needs Heat: While they don’t need heat to survive, they may benefit from a heat pad if the environment is cold.
- Monthly Cost: Minimal, especially if you don’t use heat. You can feed them mostly on bran and fruit.
- Purchase Costs: Crickets can be kept in a fairly small tank and only need a bit of peat compost and a few egg cartons in terms of materials. The crickets themselves cost quite varied amounts, depending on the species, but are usually inexpensive, and may cost as little as 50 cents.
- Ease of care: Crickets are very easy to care for, and besides the occasional misting and a little food occasionally, they need no attention.
- Quirks: The song of the cricket is very pleasing to some people, and watching them spring around can be fun for children.
Possibly the best low maintenance pet there is, mealworms are not very interesting, but they can satisfy the need to care for something and teach good responsibility. They are also very tactile to hold!
- Food: Mealworms will eat oats and small pieces of fresh vegetables.
- Habitat: You should keep mealworms in a container in a bed of oats and bran. The container should be reasonably deep or lidded, because they can climb and escape.
- Needs Heat: No.
- Monthly Cost: Just a few vegetables and oats.
- Purchase Costs: Mealworms are very cheap and you can buy about 1000 for $16. You can use any lidded container to keep them in, so the only other cost is oats.
- Ease of care: Extremely easy. They get their water from vegetables, so you don’t need to change a water dish.
- Quirks: They are very pleasant to hold.
These are great insects for learning about the life cycle, and their bright colors can appeal to children. They are good fun in schools and are again very easy to care for.
Food: You can feed them live yeast.
Habitat: Keep them in any small tub with a layer of plaster of Paris at the bottom. They need to be fairly damp at all times.
Needs Heat: No.
Monthly Cost: Tiny amount of yeast.
Purchase Costs: Springtails can be bought for around $5.99 and need no special set-up besides the plaster of Paris.
Ease of care: Reasonably easy once you have established how much water they need; this is a tricky balance.
Quirks: Great for undertaking some simple experiments with children!
Although a short-lived pet, butterflies are whimsical and appealing. They cannot really be handled, but they are a great teaching tool for children, especially if you start with caterpillars.
- Food: Heavily dependent on the species, but should be easy to gather from the wild.
- Habitat: Caterpillars can be kept in a tank, but butterflies may need a net cage. Many people release the butterflies once they have hatched.
- Needs Heat: Not usually.
- Monthly Cost: None if you are able to gather food nearby.
- Purchase Costs: A net cage costs around $10, or you can use an aerated plastic tank for caterpillars.
- Ease of care: Easy; they should not need much besides an appropriate food and sometimes sugar water.
- Quirks: You can easily collect caterpillars and enjoy the entire pupating process!
Very cute and fun, the rhinoceros beetle has a little horn on its head and will really appeal to children.
- Food: These beetles enjoy banana and can eat a full 5 cm in a day.
- Habitat: These beetles like having a dark area and will benefit from a whole section of the tank being blacked out. Scraps of wood and compost can be used for the flooring.
- Needs Heat: No, room temperature is sufficient.
- Monthly Cost: Only the cost of bananas.
- Purchase Costs: You will need a tank large enough to make a dark and light area. Ideally, each area should be around 25 x 35 x 40 cm, so the tank is quite large. Costs may vary. Beetles are usually around $10 each.
- Ease of care: Beetles need misting and feeding most days, and cleaning out about once a month, so they are more challenging than most insects.
- Quirks: These beetles can fly. They don’t like to be handled a lot, but a little is fine!
At the end of the day
Insects make amazing, educational pets, and there is a lot you can choose from! They are also a very inexpensive option compared with other pets.
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:THE JOYS OF OWNING A PET TARANTULA – PART I of II
The Three Best Kinds of Spiders to Keep as Pets
THE JOYS OF OWNING A PET TARANTULA – Part II of II
Can Caterpillars Hurt You? 10 Toxic Caterpillars & Everything You Need to Know to Stay Safe
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