Home | Frank's Creatures | Beyond Tarantulas – The Amazing Diversity of Insects in the Pet Trade

Beyond Tarantulas – The Amazing Diversity of Insects in the Pet Trade

Tarantulas and scorpions have long been invertebrate pet staples, with over 150 species being captive bred in large numbers.  However, insect keeping, always popular in Japan but much less so elsewhere, is now coming into its own in the USA.  I recently found that over 50 stick and leaf insect, 30 mantid, 25 cockroach and 25 beetle species, along with numerous grasshoppers, katydids, butterflies and moths, are now regularly bred in captivity.

Velvet Ants, Tarantula Wasps, Giant Water Bugs and innumerable others are also kept in smaller numbers, and are growing in popularity.  An aquatic insect exhibit I recently designed for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, featuring the usually ignored Water Scorpions and Whirligig, diving and water scavenger beetles, is a big hit with visitors.

Grand Possibilities

The potential diversity of insects that may be kept in captivity is limitless, and many exhibit their entire life cycles and full range ofHercules Beetle behaviors in a relatively limited space and time span.  Those who keep insects are offered the real possibility of discovering new information.

Conservation Value

Much of what has been learned by those keeping insects in private and public collections has conservation value.  Captive breeding and reintroduction programs for endangered species ranging from Sphinx Moths in Arizona to Burying Beetles in Rhode Island have yielded promising results.

Other Invertebrates

An astonishing array of other terrestrial invertebrates are also being kept and bred in captivity, including Banana Slugs, trapdoor, orb-weaver, wolf and crab spiders, centipedes, millipedes, Vinegaroons and Sun Scorpions, to name just a few.  

Further Reading

Japan’s Tama Zoo boasts 2 giant insect houses…be forewarned, insect aficionados who visit will emerge in shock, as did I!

Phasmids (walking sticks and walking leaves) have long been popular as captives in Europe. Photos of many of the nearly 3,000 described species, along with natural history notes, are posted here.

Founded in 1892, and with roots dating to 1872, the NY Entomological Society is an invaluable resource for insect enthusiasts. To learn more about this well-respected group and its publications, please visit their website.




  1. avatar

    Where do you get tarantula wasps?

    • avatar

      Hello John, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Yours is an original request, and an interesting one – I was once fortunate enough to collect tarantula hawks in California, and often watch the related “cicada killers” here in NY, they really are amazing creatures.

      The only dealer who carries tarantula hawks and related wasps is Hatari Invertebrates (http://www.insecthobbyist.com/hatari/). Availability varies with the season, but Hemipepsis and several other species appear from time to time…they also stock a wide variety of other difficult-to-locate North American and exotic invertebrates.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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