Many people love keeping bugs as pets. They’re super interesting, provide countless hours of entertainment, and educate us on how different species live. While some might shudder at the thought of intentionally bringing an insect into their home, plenty of others think it’s a great idea and happily do just that.
However, one drawback of owning pet bugs is the fact that they don’t live very long. While it’s fun to have them and they’re usually pretty easy to care for, it’s always sad when they leave us so quickly. Thankfully, there are species of insects that actually live a lot longer than you might think, which is great news for bug lovers everywhere!
If you’ve been looking for a bug buddy that will last longer than a few weeks, you’re in the right place. Read on for the top 11 pet bugs that live long lives — but first, check out this table as a quick guide:
|Praying Mantis||12-18 months|
|Stick Insects||3 years|
|Leaf Insects||1 year|
|Rainbow Stag Beetles||1 year|
|Bees||2-5 years (Queen)|
|Ants||30 years (Queen)|
|Monarch Butterflies||Up to 9 months|
|Giant Millipedes||10 years|
|Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches||2-5 years|
1. Praying Mantis
Believe it or not, there are as many as 2,300 different species of Praying Mantis, living in habitats all over the world. Though many of them are far less common and not as long-lived as their relatives, that’s still a LOT of variety! I’ve personally owned several Mantises and can confirm that they make amazing pets. Watching them grow through their various life stages to become glorious, winged adults is quite the experience!
The Praying Mantis is a carnivorous insect, known for its stealth and precision when hunting prey. They’ll spend most of their time hanging upside down, but as soon as something yummy comes along, they’re lightning fast! Some Mantis species are known to eat prey as large as Hummingbirds, but most of them will just munch on whatever insects are unfortunate enough to pass them by.
The most commonly known Mantis species — and the ones most often kept as pets — are the European Mantis, Ghost Mantis, and Giant African Mantis. These guys are super fun to keep and can live 12-18 months in captivity, as many other Mantis species can. It’s important to make sure their enclosure has enough humidity so that they can molt successfully, which can be achieved with a quick daily misting. They also need plenty of climbing sources, a decent substrate, and of course, lots of insects to devour!
2. Stick Insects
Stick Insects are also incredibly varied, with some resembling a plain old stick while others are quite beautiful. There are some species that have wings, some that have thorns, and even some that use poison as their defense mechanism. There are an estimated 6,000 species of Stick Insect in the world, mostly from sub-tropic climates with lots of trees and plants to hide in (and snack on). However, there are species that live in temperate climates, too.
Though they’re largely motionless during the day, Stick Insects can still be super fun to own as pets. If hide and seek is your favorite game, you’ll love having one of these guys! They also have an adorable wobble when they walk, which makes holding them super fun — they’ll do their little dance all the way up your arm if you let them! This is actually one of the ways they camouflage — the rocking motion mimics a branch or twig moving with the wind. Nature is so incredibly clever, isn’t it?
Depending on your preferred species of Stick Insect, these guys can live a super long time, making them great to keep as pets. Most of the larger species can survive up to 3 years in the wild, which might be even longer in captivity! To ensure you have a happy Stick Insect, keep their enclosure stocked with lots of hiding places, climbing options, and fresh leaves for them to munch on. You’ll likely have these guys for quite a while, so make sure you’re ready to commit before you get one!
3. Leaf Insects
Leaf Insects are in the same family as Stick Insects, but they’re so cool I had to give them their own section. Another master of camouflage, the Leaf Insect comes in several varieties of its own and can really fool you if you’re not paying attention! Commonly found in tropical climates, the Leaf Insect looks exactly like it sounds. They’re super hard to spot in their natural habitat, which is how they survive — and probably why they have such long lifespans!
Leaf Insects are commonly found as pets and are a joy to have in your home. They’re pretty calm during the day but are quite active at night, so you may want to put them in a place where they won’t disturb your sleep! Their walk is super cute, just like the Stick Insect: they mimic a leaf blowing in the wind as a survival tactic. Males are smaller than females and can fly when fully grown, while females have wings but can’t use them for flying.
Leaf Insects generally live about a year in the wild but will likely survive longer in captivity. Their enclosures should have plenty of hiding spots, places to climb, and leaves to eat. The varied species like different leaves, though, so do your research before feeding. Leaf Insects make great pets, so if you’re looking for a long-lived bug friend, this might be the one for you!
4. Rainbow Stag Beetles
Though this species might be a little trickier to get your hands on, I had to include it for reasons I’ll explain shortly. Rainbow Stag Beetles are native to Australia and New Guinea, hence the tricky part. However, they are absolutely gorgeous, and are one of the longest-lived beetle species on the planet. While traditional Stag Beetles are dark brown or black in color, these little guys have a beautiful, iridescent sheen, allowing them to take on multiple colors at a time depending on lighting. This is likely the reason for their name, or at least it would be if I were naming them!
Rainbow Stag Beetles are quite the tough guys when it comes to environment, easily handling temperatures from 50-86 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re also pretty easy to please in the food department and will happily eat small pieces of fruit from a dish in their enclosure. You can feed them “Beetle Jellies,” too — these are food mixes designed to provide beetles with their required nutrition, which is especially helpful when you don’t have access to their species-appropriate diet (as is common with some beetle pets).
Most beetles have long life spans, though the majority of this is spent as larvae underground, which isn’t much fun for pet keeping! However, the Rainbow Stag Beetle is different from many of its relatives, with adult beetles living up to 12 months in captivity. This gives you extra time to spend with them and makes the experience so much more fun! These guys are just all-around great pets and make it easy for you to enjoy them — provided you’re able to get your hands on one, that is!
If you want to get technical, Tarantulas are not really insects — they’re arachnids. However, since they’re so adorable, most people consider spiders to be bugs, and so many people keep them as pets, I thought they deserved a spot on this list. While you may cringe at the idea of having one of these in your home (and you wouldn’t be alone in doing so), Tarantulas actually make great pets, and are a long-lived species — though they do require commitment.
There are 995 species of Tarantula, and several are commonly found as pets. The Mexican Red-Kneed Tarantula and the Chilean Rose Tarantula are among the most popular species, and are said to be pretty easy to care for. These guys are carnivorous hunters, however, so if you’re not into feeding live insects to your pets, you may want to look elsewhere! Tarantulas need an enclosure that provides enough room for them to move around and spin webs, as well as a nice soft substrate and a few climbing options.
Here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: Tarantulas can live anywhere between 10 and 30 years! Females outlive the males in most species, with the girls being the most likely to reach the ripe old age of 30. Males are more likely to be around for a decade or so, which is still a very long time for a bug (or arachnid). As I said, these pets require a significant commitment. However, when cared for properly, they can make wonderful pets and become a real part of the family!
While most people don’t consider them pets, many do keep Bees for several reasons: for fresh honey, to help with Bee population decline, and aiding flower pollination are all great reasons to own a Beehive, and it’s actually becoming a very popular thing to do. While it does take some careful planning and care, Bee keeping can be a very rewarding hobby, even if you don’t get to hold or snuggle with them like you would with other pets!
Bees have quite the impact on our ecosystem. In fact, scientists tell us that if Bees were to go extinct, the whole planet would be soon to follow! It’s easy to think that such a small creature wouldn’t make that much of a difference to life on Earth, but they really do. Pollinating flowers is a huge deal to how plants grow, and without Bees many plants would die away. If you’re looking for a reason to start a Beehive or wondering how you can help the planet a little more, look no further!
While it’s true that Bees don’t typically live very long lives (worker Bees and drones generally only live up to about 12 weeks), it’s the Queen Bee that earned this insect a place on the list. Queen Bees live up to 5 years in some cases, with the average lifespan being about 2 years. Protecting the Queen is the main job of most of the other Bees, and rightly so. Considering she lays up to 2,000 eggs a day for the duration of her life, that’s a very good reason to show up for work!
Ant colonies are the quintessential first pets for kids, and double as a great educational tool. Seeing the intricacies of how an Ant colony works has likely been the starting point for many of the world’s gifted biologists — it’s really interesting and fun to experience! Ants are much like Bees in that they protect their Queen at all costs, have worker Ants and soldier Ants, and seem way less significant than they actually are. There are 14,000 species of Ants worldwide, of all different sizes — each with their own unique purpose.
Another tiny species that has a huge impact on the planet, Ants are responsible for aerating and improving the chemistry of soil, dispersing seeds, and disposing of dead animals, to name a few. They also help to reduce the population of several species of pests — like Fleas and Ticks — by preying on their eggs, which I’m sure we can all agree is a good thing! While some Ant species are downright scary (think Bullet Ant or Fire Ant), they’re mostly just annoying to have in your house — unless you want them there, that is.
Like Bees, worker Ants and drones are not the most long-lived of the colony, only surviving from a few weeks to a few months at most. But the Queen Ant can live as long as 30 years in some species, which is quite the achievement for such a busy lady! Laying eggs is an important job, and the Queen does this for her entire lifespan once she’s reached maturity. It’s no wonder the other Ants work so hard to protect her — she’s an important figure for their survival!
Like Tarantulas, Scorpions also classify as arachnid rather than insect. But given their bug-like looks and the fact that they’re more popular as pets than you might think, I’ve included them here anyway. While they get a bad rap as dangerous creatures due to their venom, most Scorpions can’t actually do serious harm if they sting you. Despite popular opinion, out of the nearly 2,000 species of Scorpion, there are only 40 or so that can actually kill a person.
Considering the fact that these guys are literally prehistoric and have been around for millions of years, they’re pretty impressive if you ask me! They’re also known for living quite long lives, especially the Emperor Scorpion — which also happens to be the most common species kept as pets. Despite their scary looking pincers and a tail that most definitely means business, Scorpions are actually quite reclusive and don’t go looking for trouble. They’d much rather be left alone, but if you bother them in the wild, they’ll let you know it!
Scorpions in general live anywhere from 3-8 years in captivity; and quite a bit less in the wild. The Emperor Scorpion I mentioned earlier will generally live between 6 and 8 years as a pet, making it one of the longest-lived Scorpion species around. They’re also recommended as great beginner pets for anyone wanting to keep Scorpions, due to them being generally docile, not having super potent venom, and the fact that they’re pretty low maintenance as far as pets go. If you’re into Scorpions but aren’t sure where to start, this might be the perfect match!
9. Monarch Butterflies
Another insect that could use a little help to stay afloat is the Butterfly. Known for their beautiful wings of vibrant colors and intricate patterns, these guys flutter by and bring smiles to on lookers everywhere. A common classroom project for young kids, the Butterfly life cycle is quite a fascinating one. Their metamorphosis from tiny Caterpillars to stunning winged creatures is quite the sight to behold, and many children (and adults) adore being part of this transformational process.
There is over 17,000 species of Butterfly in the world, with around 750 residing in the US. Each species has their own colors, patterns, and preferred food sources, and they’re all different sizes — with some having wingspans of up to 11 inches! Sadly, Butterflies are slowly losing numbers, which is a great reason to bring some Caterpillars home, hatch them, and set them free. There are many organizations dedicated to helping Butterflies survive, so it won’t be hard to get started!
Butterflies are largely with you for the Caterpillar, chrysalis, and hatching stages — after which you’ll set them free. However, this is quite an amazing experience and well worth it in my opinion! While many adult Butterflies won’t live longer than a month or two, the migratory Monarch Butterfly lives up to 9 months, making it the longest-lived Butterfly species (and one of the species that needs the most help). While saying goodbye is bittersweet, you’ve helped Butterflies survive a little longer and been part of an awesome experience!
10. Giant Millipedes
Quite an amazing sight to behold, the Millipede appears to move in a sort of floating motion. However, as its name suggests, it has plenty of legs, which all work together to produce this magical illusion.
Though regular Millipedes don’t qualify as long-living bug pets, their relatives, Giant Millipedes, live quite long lives. There are over 12,000 Millipede species in the world, with some being quite popular as pets, believe it or not! Since they’re relatively easy to care for and pretty docile, this is understandable.
Giant Millipedes are detritivores, meaning they eat decaying wood, leaves, and plant matter. This is why they’re commonly spotted under rotting logs, in piles of leaves, and other moist areas of the outdoors. Millipedes don’t bite or sting, but rather will curl up to protect themselves if they feel they’re in danger. There are, however, some species that will “musk” when they feel threatened — meaning they’ll secrete a nasty-smelling fluid to deter predators from eating them. While this isn’t harmful in anyway, it’s definitely not a fun experience!
Giant Millipedes can live up to 10 years, giving you a nice long time to spend with them. They’re easy going, don’t ask for much, and can’t really harm you (except for that smell I mentioned). On top of that, they can help around the house by disposing of your old wood, leaves, and plant matter! Sounds like a symbiotic partnership worth entertaining if you ask me!
11. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
Ok, I’ll be honest: I left this one for last on purpose, because Cockroaches creep me out. However, I know there are plenty of people out there that love Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, and I’m not judging! They’ve been said to make great pets, and the fact that they’re a gentle species (despite their intimidating looks) is an attribute that many people love about them.
There are over 4,500 species of Cockroach in the world, and these guys have been around since prehistoric times. The fact that they’re so hard to kill probably has a lot to do with that!
As far as pets go, Madagascar Hissing Roaches are a pretty safe bet: they don’t bite, only eat plant matter, and don’t tend to carry any harmful diseases.
However, you should wash your hands after handling them — they have a wax-like coating that’s not safe to eat. The hissing sound that these guys make is actually them rubbing their legs together and is usually done to attract mates (females) or defend territory (males). They’re also commonly used as feeder insects for animals like larger reptiles or amphibians.
Their home island of Madagascar has as many as 20 types of hissing cockroach, though these guys are the most popular pets for all the above-mentioned reasons. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches live quite a long time for an insect: their lifespan ranges from 2-5 years in captivity — provided they’re not purchased for feeding, that is!