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Picture of How to keep a pet spiny leaf insect
How to look after your very own spiny leaf insect (extatosoma tiaratum), a unique species of stick insect from Australia! These are commonly found in pet stores all over the world, and are quite popular as pets.
 
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Step 1: Things you will need

1: An enclosure of some sort- preferably a fly screen cage. If it is rectangular as most cages are, it should be placed vertically due to the insect's instinct to climb. As a general rule, the cage should be at least 3 times as long as the adult insect- Adult females grow to about 110mm long so I would recommend a 40 cm by 30 cm by 30 cm cage.
Stick insects are accomplished escape artists- so you must be careful not to leave any gaps and make sure there are no tears in the fly screen. (I didn't completely close the cage lid once, and all of my young insects escaped into the house- they took hours to locate)

2: A source of eucalyptus leaves- you must be able to access young foliage as well as older leaves. When collecting the leaves, make sure that nobody has sprayed any chemicals on the tree you cut branches from.
The leaves will be the insect's food. If you don't live in Australia, you can feed them on bramble leaves- although these will be hazardous to collect.
If you feed your insect on eucalyptus leaves, they will turn a shade of tan to camouflage against dry, curled eucalyptus leaves, but if you feed it on brambles it will turn green in order to better blend in to their environment.

3: A plant sprayer- an empty windex sprayer will do- as long as you wash it out VERY carefully (nothing kills a pet stick insect faster than cleaning chemicals)

4: A vase of some sort- to hold water and eucalyptus leaves. Doesn't need to be fancy- I use an old milk jug.

5: Newspaper- you will need 1 or two sheets of this every few weeks (the newspaper is to protect the floor of the cage from stains if it is made of wood and/or the need for cleaning)

6: A small tupperware that you are willing to wreck

7: A spiny leaf insect (quite obviously). You can often acquire one from your local pet store- if not, there are websites that will ship eggs or young insects to your house (I purchased mine from www.terrificscientific.com, a business in Sydney, Australia) I would recommend getting a female- the males have fully functional wings and can escape- although they are clumsy fliers that tend to crash into the nearest object when flying.
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PerfectM19 days ago

Hi jugglebug, we have over 300 eggs, all female, their mother has passed on now. Some weeks ago they started to hatch. Each one has died despite having very young leaves available. We have probably lost about 8 now, no survivors. We have 2 at the moment which are several days old. I don't want them to keep dying., we're at a loss of what else to try. We have access to all sorts of gum trees on our property. We have tried putting river sand on the bottom of the cage with a bark layer to help minimise injury when they fall. They just don't seem to ever eat the leaves and just want to hang out at the top of the cage. Most die before that hanging stage. Can you help ?

francesca0599 months ago

Hi Jugglebug,
Two days ago my spiny leaf insect fell to the ground of her cage. She is approximately one year old and has laid almost 100 eggs or so. I thought she was dead however I went to check on her and noticed she moved slightly. Then, last night she got up and moved to the other side of the cage along the ground and fell down again. I put a leaf with a few droplets of water on it incase she was able to drink but she hasn't touched it. Is there anything I can do for her (e.g. feed her sugar solution?) or is she just deteriorating and about to die as it getting close to the end of her life span? She recently stopped laying as many eggs as she has been significantly, she went from 2-3 eggs per day to one egg per couple of days and now none.
Thanks!
I have been so worried about her :-/

My adult female insect did this several times at about 1 year old., we gently lifted her back up onto a low leaf using another leaf or stick and sprayed her gently a couple of times a day, she made a full recovery each time and went on to live for 18 months. Each time we thought she was dying, her breathing appeared laboured, it was very sad to watch and each time we were so surprised she recovered.

Hi Jugglebug,

Last night my daughter found her spiny leaf insect laying on the table where it had fallen from its branches. It was very lifeless and we didn't expect it to live through the night, but it did. She was so upset. The insect has been showing the same signs as yours...falling off her leaves lately and not being as active as usual. I just wanted to ask you if your is still alive (I hope so) and if so what did you do to help it?

Thanks!

Jugglebug (author)  kcollins237778 months ago
Hi kcollins,

Thank you for your message. It sounds as if your insect may simply be at the end of its natural life, but if the illness is due to a disease, there could be a chance of recovery - make sure the insect has water twice a day, and see if you can make the leaves as low to the ground as possible to allow the insect to easily climb back up and to reduce the chance of injury from falling.

Best wishes,
Jugglebug
antikrist81 month ago

Hi, I recently acquired 5 spiny leaves and after about two days I noticed one of the younger ones was not eating. The next few days we found him on the bottom of the container and thought he was dead, however when I picked him up he still moves. His skin looks like he was beginning to molt, so I left him on a leave slightly above the ground to see if that would change anything - however it did not. He is still laying in the same position almost lifeless unless I touch him, and slightly responds to stimuli. He has what looks like a bite on his tail and I am wondering if another one of my insects could have attacked him? and if that is the case is he just paralyzed and slowly dying? If so, I would like to put him out of his misery instead of watching him starve via a slow death. Any recommendation as to what I should do? thanks

IMG_3012.JPG
bigmammabow3 months ago
I have some black berry leaves in my cage but they don't offer much height for my female to climb or hang. Can I add other types if branches from the wild or would it make her sick? Maybe some sticks? I do bit have access to eucalyptus. What do you suggest? And thanks for the informative guide!
Jugglebug (author)  bigmammabow3 months ago
Hi there,
Sorry for taking so long to respond, and thanks for the question! Adding other types of branches would work (especially if they were bare) - I imagine the insect would still seek out the black berry leaves by scent when it was hungry. What might be ideal is to string up the blackberry branches closer to the roof of the enclosure.

All the best,
-Jugglebug
swifty492 years ago
can it get to hot for leafy stick insect as we have had a few days consecutive of heat into the 40`s and today I lost my adult female aged about 13mths and two babies about 2 moths old had plenty of air and leaves
Jugglebug (author)  swifty492 years ago
Hi Swifty - it's possible that this is the reason for your loss, but remembering that these insects live in very hot parts of Australia it doesn't seem like a dangerous condition. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.

yeah I'm wondering about this. here in south australia where we live, it gets up to 50oC, with 40oC nights. I'm only looking after the spiny leaf insect for my daughters preschool class during the school holidays. it goes back in January. If it gets this hot, should i keep it in the air conditioned rooms, where the air con is set to 22oC? thanks :)

Hi, thanks for all of the great info! We have 9 females. I was wondering how big/old will they have to be in order to start laying eggs? Thanks in advance for you help... I haven't been able to find an answer for this yet!

Jugglebug (author)  crystal.maillet.54 months ago
Hi there Crystal - thanks for the question! In my experience, it takes maybe 3 months for the females to reach sexual maturity - you can tell when they have reached the final stage of molting when they have wing stubs that are about a centimetre or so long :)

hi Jugglebug,

I am making a leaf insect cage, and am wondering what the measurements are for your insect enclousure.

Thankyou for all your help and info a bout these interesting animals ?

Many thanks Kaitlyn

Jugglebug (author)  kaitlyn.lewis.3534 months ago
Hey, Kaitlyn - thanks for the comment!

I don't have the exact dimensions I'm afraid, but here are some estimates:

50 centimeters (cm) tall, 30 cm wide on each side.

Best of luck with your endeavors :)

Hey Jugglebug

I am not sure if my stick insect egg is dead.Can you please have a look. iF you need a better look just click on the photo

Thanks XxGaming729xX

image.jpg
vikkib35 months ago

Hi,

I bought a Spiny leaf Insect last month. I don't know much about them, only what I have read on the internet. I know the female just lay eggs on their own but what I want to know is, at what age will she start lying eggs. She had her first shed (molt) with me last week. I was shocked to see how much she had grown just over night. I have orchid bark in the bottom of her enclosure, is this ok or should I change it for something else?.....

Vikki

Damn... You got balls... I hate bugs!!
Hello,

I am thinking of breeding some stick insects. How much do they usually cost? and does it always take 9 months to hatch if you have only a female.

I must return to saving the toilet population

Heroic_Toilet out
lewi3421 year ago
Hi, I got 3 spiny leaf insects for Christmas last year. One has died after injuring her leg when she had her shed, I still have 2. One fell from her twig the other day and since then has not been eating for about a day now. We moved her from the proper glass tank and put her into a tupperware container with artificial grass. I put a few twigs of her favourite specimen in the tank and some rose-bush leaves because we heard that they like to eat them too, and they also change colour when eaten. I understand it takes about a whole night to get through a few leaves, but even though, she still hasn't been nibbling at any leaves. I also accidentally damaged her tail when moving an office lamp from above her. I had the lamp above her to create some humidity after I sprayed the leaves and made them moist, as I've been told they like a nice, humid environment. The glass fell from beneath the globe and crushed her tail, however she is fine and still laying eggs. We are afraid she might die if she does not eat soon. I would appreciate some answers on what to do pretty soon, thanks :)
gorg_w1 year ago
Hi,
I have a full grown female spiny leaf stick insect and it's been about 2 months since her last shed, but she still hasnt laid any eggs. Is there anything I can do? I dont have a heat lamp in her enclosure and it is cold in my apartment. Could that be why?
I'm a bit worried. Thanks.
Debmar691 year ago
I have a female spiny leaf insect who is about the length of my hand,and have been told that I'm not likely to have her for much longer,I got her from pet store start of the year with a male but they both looked the same then.how long do they live for?
kateh11322 years ago
Hey Jugglebug,
The weak nymph ended up dying a few days ago. I didn't do anything because didn't want to kill him because of handling him. Another nymph died aswell im not sure if it was because he had only 5 legs when i got him but im not sure why. I still have 3 healthy nymphs that are going good. Thanks for the help anyway and i will ask you for help if i need it.

Thanks Kate
p.s these are only two of the three but i know the brown ones (i have another one too) are spiny leafs but i just was wondering what the green ones species was?
thanks again
download.jpg
Jugglebug (author)  kateh11322 years ago
Hi Kate, I'm sorry to hear of your loss.
It's difficult to tell from this picture, but if you are in Australia it is most likely a goliath stick insect. Here is a picture of the species I mean:
http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2167/2180833766_90a9f53799.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.flickriver.com/photos/centralaustralia/2180833766/&h=333&w=500&sz=59&tbnid=xKYxJ3Ztl3EVnM:&tbnh=91&tbnw=136&zoom=1&usg=__LmaxA_jHbHUNJy9Nfk5NPs3TLTM=&docid=YJLczYI0iRi2cM&sa=X&ei=eoBwUcP1MqmZiQL_5IC4CQ&ved=0CDsQ9QEwAQ&dur=2576

Long link, sorry
kateh11322 years ago
Hello Jugglebug,
I got 5 nymphs of 3 different species yesterday and one of them seem to be not doing too good. It seems quite weak and it cant grip on the leaves very well. I just wanted to know if i should separate it into a smaller container so it can recover in a smaller space so it wont fall from the high leaves etc. or should i just leave it and just expect that it will die? I have provided my nymphs with the appropriate supplies (correct leaves, humidity, temperature, housing etc.) so i am not sure what i should do.
Thankyou,
Kate
Jugglebug (author)  kateh11322 years ago
Hi Kate, thanks for the message.
It might be a good idea to move the weakened nymph into a smaller container to reduce potential fall damage.

Its a possibility that the weakness is due to malnutrition (insects can become weak enough that they cannot eat). If you think this is the case, you can try syringe feeding him/her a small amount of sugar solution; this can give the insect enough energy to eat and regain some of the things it needs.

Best of luck!
sunshiine2 years ago
He is so cute! This is such an interesting instructable. Thanks so much for sharing and do have a splendorous day!
sunshiine
Hey Jugglebug,
I was Just wondering, are regular tissues ok to use to raise the eggs on, or to they hold to much moisture? (resulting in fungal growth)
I just wanted to know because my female spiny stick insect has just recently laid 3 eggs.
Thanks,
Leon
Jugglebug (author)  Leon The Bug Boy2 years ago
I would say paper towel is probably preferable to tissues; I don't know what the effect of the aloe vera or whatever else might be in them would be. Holding moisture is good, however - they need some moisture to stay alive. If mold becomes a problem, consider introducing some woodlice to the enclosure- they literally polish the mold off of the eggs!
mijy2 years ago
Hi There, we've had Spiny Leaf insects for a couple of years. Our female laid eggs, the eggs hatched and grew into adults, well not all of them but there was a consistent group (herd... what is the collective noun?) of 10 to 20 insects. We returned from a few days away to find them all dead or dying after being cared for by friends. A few more hatched but also perished within a day or two.
The only thing I could think of was that it was due to insecticide. So I thoroughly rinsed out the enclosure with clean water. A few weeks have passed without any hatching (the eggs are left on the floor amongst tan bark, leaves, etc) we used to have them hatching daily.
We also have another type of stick insect, not sure which. They're very thin, green as nymphs, brown once older and grow to 20+ cm's. The strange thing is that 3 of these guys are doing well (in the same enclosure).
Do you have any idea why this could be?
Jugglebug (author)  mijy2 years ago
Insecticide or some other chemical would seem likely - depending on the strength of the chemical it may have invalidated the eggs. I'm sorry I can't be more helpful, and I apologize for taking so long to reply.
gnapier2 years ago
We've had a baby spiny female for a few months now. Due to unforseen circumstances, she had to live with a friend of ours for 3 months who didn't take fantastic care of her. When we got her back, she was still very small and very hungry. Over the last two weeks, she's almost doubled her size, but the last few days she's been very inactive and has started to become very pale, almost white in some areas. Tonight, she also suddenly became very active, doing several laps around her enclosure. I've scoured the internet and haven't found very much on this issue, can anyone help?
Jugglebug (author)  gnapier2 years ago
Hi there - sorry about the long reply time! I've been very busy.

I hate to be unhelpful, but I haven't heard of anything like this! It might be the continued effects of malnutrition, although it sounds like she could be recovering nicely if that's the case. Is she alright now?
Ninerism2 years ago
@gnapier

It doesn't sound like there is an issue. They are generally very white after shedding, which is where they almost double in size. If she has shed, then she is fine.

Spinys are generally inactive and just hang in one spot all day.

I'm not sure what kind of set up you have her in, but make sure it's not too hot.
Get her some fresh leaves you have washed first and mist her tank lightly every day.
Maybe get her a friend too. Spineys do better when they are not alone.
Ninerism2 years ago
Part of keeping Spinys is misting their tank every day. They need the moisture, especially when shedding.

Sun will prevent them from shedding when they need to, as it dries out the skin before they can start to get it off, and this alone can lead to death. They don't lose limbs to shedding, although they can sometimes come out deformed due to drying out before it's shed.

They will regenerate limbs on their next shed, starting out with tiny limbs that get larger on further sheds.

The soap too may have done it. They absorb what's on their skin.

(Spiny breeder)
hannapiza2 years ago
I bought a spiny for my 8 year old son. She lost one leg on shedding her skin. How long does it take to grow back? We began sunning her for 10min a day, because I thought that would help her skin shed better next time (without losing more legs!). Now she has suddenly died. Just wondering whether it could be too much sun, or the other possibility, the soap that my son put her on! He got a soap making kit from a friend, with moulds, so we made a finger out of the soap - he thought it'd be OK to put the insect on the finger soap... I suspect that it had harmed her - but before I tell him, would you be able to advise? Thanks!
Jugglebug (author)  hannapiza2 years ago
Hi there - it's hard to know whether the soap harmed your insect, although it doesn't sound like there was much exposure. I doubt that the soap caused the insect's death. The light should not have been a problem (although personally I haven't heard anything of the benefits of this practice). Other possible causes include disease, and unintended pesticide exposure - maybe on the leaves?
I'm sorry for the death of your pet. It doesn't sound like its your fault or your son's.
mtorry2 years ago
I have four spineys, three females and a male. This evening I opened their cage to spritz them with water and didn't realise that one of the girls had shed her skin earlier in the evening and was hanging partly on to the door. She lost her grib on where she was hang and went in to a bit of a panic and I tried to stop her falling on the ground. When she ended up in my hand she lost both her back legs! Is she likely to be okay? She had fully shed her skin and moved a bit away from it by the time this happened, but I am worried she may not survive. I have read that they will sometimes lose a lef when attacked by predators and can regrow them later, is this correct?
Jugglebug (author)  mtorry2 years ago
I'm sorry to hear that, but it's definitely true that they regrow their legs when molting! Unless this is her last stage of development (is she now an adult?) then she will regrow the legs during the next two instars. If she is an adult, she may be able to survive with four of her legs - They are fine with five certainly, although they move very slowly and hang upside down for most of the day anyway so it may be just fine.
Jugglebug (author) 2 years ago
I'm considering re-writing parts of this instructable.

If anyone has any suggestions for areas that need cleaning up, I would appreciate your input! Comment below or send me a private message if you would like to contribute.

I am amazed at the activity on this page, and I'm proud that people come to me for information on these insects :)

Thank you all.
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