Even in the realm of exotic pets, insects are not always someone’s first choice. A lot of us only interact with insects in order to feed our pets. But that doesn’t have to be the case!
The best pet insects are a great option for those who want an exotic pet without the high maintenance of a bird or reptile. Pet insects are also perfect for anyone who just wants to expand their collection, or maybe doesn’t have the space for a 50+ gallon enclosure.
There are a lot of really neat insects out there that make great candidates as pets. Here is a list of the 7 best pet insects we think would be a good choice for beginners.
Did you ever own an ant farm as a kid? Or perhaps there was one in your classroom. Ant colonies are always active and it can be fun to watch them.
And better yet? You only need a single mated queen to get your colony started. Well, you’ll also need food, water, and an enclosure. Keep in mind that growing a colony will take time. It’s perfectly okay to grab a few workers along with the queen when starting the colony. Just make sure you read up on the species of ant you’re keeping!
Ants are omnivores and will eat almost anything you provide. Be sure to offer a balanced diet and you are good to go. A small colony won’t need much space to start. Over time their numbers will expand and you can upgrade the enclosure as needed.
Well of course we need to mention roaches when it comes to the best pet insects! Though, there are a few species besides dubias that make great pets.
- Death’s Head Cockroach
- Dubia Cockroach
- Indian Domino Cockroach
- Madagascar Hissing Cockroach
All of these different roaches have unique characteristics that make for interesting pets. Dubias are, of course, great and nutritious feeders. Many who keep colonies come to find their dubias rather cute and some will set a few aside to keep specifically as pets.
Madagascar hissing roaches are well known for the hissing sound they make. They’re also pretty big as far as roaches go. The death’s head and Indian domino roaches are both named for their unique markings. The death’s heads have a skull-like pattern on their back, and the Indian domino roaches are all black with white spots.
While male dubias have wings, they can’t fly. Death’s head roaches, on the other hand? Make sure their enclosure has a good lid or they may start flying all over! The care for pet roaches will vary some depending on their natural climate, but check out our dubia care guide to get started!
These little critters almost remind me of Pokémon with how collectible they are. They’re a popular feature in bioactive setups because they’re useful when it comes to cleaning up decaying matter. Not only that, they have a whole rainbow of colorations to choose from!
Depending on the size of your isopods, you can get away with an enclosure that’s the size of a shoebox. Just give them substrate to travel in, keep the humidity up, and toss them some organic matter (decaying wood, leaf litter, etc.) to chow down on.
Compared to the rest of the best pet insects you can collect, isopods are the easiest to house.
- Praying Mantis
Not that all of these insects aren’t cool, but praying mantises are cool. They may not move a lot compared to some other insects, but they’re incredible hunters and have over 2,000 species that come in all different colors.
My personal favorite is the orchid mantis– I highly recommend looking up pictures if you haven’t already. They’re absolutely gorgeous. This species alone is what earns the praying mantis a spot on this list of great pet invertebrates. I’m not biased at all.
When it comes to giving your mantis a home, vertical space is important. They love to climb. Food can be anything from fruit flies to small dubias depending on how large your mantis is. They also tend to be cannibalistic at times… but that’s probably fine.
- Stick Insects
Like the praying mantis, the stick insect will not move around too much. They are experts at blending into their surroundings. It just makes it all the more mesmerizing when you are able to watch them move about.
Stick insects need a similar setup to the praying mantis. But unlike our cannibalistic friends, the stick insect is an herbivore. The fresher the foliage the better! They tend to be picky about what plants they eat so don’t take it personally if they turn away from your first few offerings.
I know, I know… tarantulas aren’t insects, but they are easy to keep! Some even come with enough sass to rival a bearded dragon’s. They are one of the best invertebrate pets for a reason after all.
The fact that they can be any color from deep black to cobalt blue is just a bonus.
Make sure your tarantula’s enclosure is at least 4 times the width of their leg span. Oh, and give them some extra height if they’re an arboreal (living trees) species. They’ll also need a few inches of substrate for burrowing.
As far as food goes, tarantulas are insectivores and eat infrequently compared to most pets. Read this blog for more information on feeding tarantulas!
- Mason Bees
If you like the idea of pet insects but aren’t too keen on having them in your house – or live with someone who’s squeamish around bugs – consider providing habitat to wild bees in your area.
Mason bees are native to North America and are one of the best pollinators around. Plus, they aren’t aggressive and rarely sting. And creating a home for them is super easy!
If mason bees sound like your thing, the Ecological Landscape Alliance has a great article about how to attract and care for them.
Want The Best Feeders For The Best Pet Insects?
Many insects consume other insects and that’s okay! We have plenty of dubias, mealworms, and superworms for sale. And who knows—you may just end up keeping one as your own pet dubia!