Step 4: Breeding spiny leaf insects

Picture of Breeding spiny leaf insects
If you have a male and female stick insect, they will probably mate and the female will begin laying eggs within a few weeks. When changing the newspaper on the floor of the cage, take a minute to collect any eggs that lie among the excrement. The excrement is dry, and smells like eucalyptus so you don't need to worry about it smelling bad. the eggs are oval, with a small orange lump on one end. they are easily discernible from the droppings which are cylindrical.

Note that parthenogenesis is possible in spiny leaf insects- the female can lay eggs without a male but they will be genetically uniform and identical to their mother and siblings.

Store the eggs in a tupperware lined with tissue paper (make sure that the paper has no harmful chemicals added). Once a day, remove the lid of the tupperware and lightly spray the eggs with your plant mister. drill several very small holes in the lid so that the moisture can escape, otherwise the humidity will result in fungal growth which can be harmful to the eggs.  

If you can get it, coco-peat is also a good substrate for the eggs, and I would recommend it over tissue paper because it holds its moisture for longer.  You can buy it in bricks from gardening stores which expand to form 5 or so litres of the stuff quite cheaply

The eggs will eventually hatch, although it can sometimes take more than a year for them to do so. check the tupperware every day when you spray the eggs for newborns- they will look like ant/scorpion hybrids, small black insects with curly tails.

You can house the baby stick insects the same way you house the adults, but add some young leaf growth to the cage as the babies wont eat the older growth until they are more mature. Make ABSOLUTELY sure that the cage you house them in is completely escape proof- you wouldn't believe how small a gap a baby spiny leaf insect can escape through. I keep my spiny leaf insect babies (known as nymphs) in a whole separate container which is more escape-proof than a fly screen cage.
After the nymphs' first molt they will turn brown and begin looking like miniature adults. This will take about 2-3 weeks. once they have had their first molt, they will be much larger, and they will no longer "run". At this stage you can introduce them to the main cage.

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.59 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 :)

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

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
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:

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.
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!
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.
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!
spannerss3 years ago
help please hi i had 30 nymphs hatch changed the leaves and all but 2 died that was 3 weeks ago hav had two more hatch but keep dieing still hav two and the adult female so i dont think it can b the leaves thank
isharard3 years ago
hey I have two adult stick insects and the female is laying eggs. My friend, (who also has stick insects) told me to bury the eggs in about 1cm of sand. Is this okay too?
I put my stick insect eggs out side in the sun and humidity there was a slight breeze and it was 35 to grease and I bought them in and noticed that there of the eggs shell was coming off inside of it was red ball from what I could see from the cracked shell and now I put the three eggs on a damp make up pad and put in a tup aware container with a cloth called chax with holes in it help I don't no what else to do they are around 6 months old there not moving so there ovisly went hatching need advice please comment any tips to keep the eggs alive despret
Jugglebug (author)  Sarah mccormack3 years ago
If the shell is cracked and the insect is not fully developed, I'm afraid your eggs are dead. It's not a good idea to expose the insects to excessive heat, although as long as they are not in sunlight 35 degrees should be fine. it is normal for some eggs to not survive long enough to hatch, although you should not leave them outside in the sun. Leave them in a damp, dark environment - in nature the eggs are found on the rainforest floor.
this is another thing i was just cleaning my cage and found eggs i think there from my another ones and i dont no how long they been in there and a bit of them have the white thng of is that ok and will they hacth
Jugglebug (author)  spiny347283 years ago
If you're referring to the white projection on some of the eggs, it's perfectly fine for this to be missing - it's actually intended as bait to have rain-forest ants carry the eggs into their nests where it will be safe.

They will quite possibly hatch, keep them in cool and camp conditions.
i just bought a 5 month spiny leaf insect female she about 20cm and i bought a male 3 months ago he was a baby no he about 13cm big how long do you think before they will breed
Jugglebug (author)  spiny347283 years ago
They are very likely to mate as soon as they are both adults, I have found that this happens invariably. The female will begin laying eggs a few weeks or months after copulation.

However, after a period of three months or so, an adult female with no males present begins to reproduce asexually- producing eggs from only her own genes. This is known as parthenogenesis. It is not known whether she can switch from asexual to sexual reproduction after this time.
thanks mate
maddern3 years ago
is a 35 watt reptile lite ok for eggs to try and regulate the heat. this is a first try at hatching them and the weather can get very cold were we are.
Jugglebug (author)  maddern3 years ago
The type of light does not matter, but I would recommend keeping the environment close to room temperature. Colder weather is fine, (maybe 10 celcius or above as a rule) but it may slow the metabolism of the embyro, lengthening the period before the eggs will hatch.

My apologies for the lateness of the reply - i've been moving countries these past few weeks.
I have an adult spiny leaf insect female and she has laid over 300 eggs in the past 3 months but none have hatched even though we have been following instructions we have found on the internet word for word but none have hatched.

could you piont me in the right direction.

Also i heard that you can buy insect egg incubaters do you know where i can buy some?
Jugglebug (author)  Mystickinsect3 years ago
I sincerely apologise for my recent absence- problems with my email which notifies me of comments.

Mystickinsect, I wouldn't be worried about the eggs not hatching- the incubation period varies from three months to over a year- you probably just need to wait. An egg incubator is almost certainly not necessary- if the eggs are kept at near room temperature there shouldn't be any problems.
allison523 years ago
I have just hatched a baby Spiny Stick Insect that is approx 2-3 days old but doesnt seem to have been eating the leaves that i have given it they are young leaves what do i do?
Hamish114 years ago
It looks like our beautiful spiney leaf insect is going to die. We bought her about a month ago and she moulted last week. Before and after moulting she didn't eat and became weak (her body stopped curling over for example and became floppy). After moulting she passed lots of gooey redish/blackish stuff (and continues to). She stopped eating about 1 and a half weeks before moulting and hasn't eaten since - even though we've been giving her fresh eucalypt leaves (which she was happy to eat previously). Anyone with any advice? Thanks.
Jugglebug (author)  Hamish114 years ago
Hi- I'm sorry I haven't replied as i have been holidaying in Malaysia, and Ive even seen some stick insects in the wild!
As for your problem, unfortunately there isn't much you can do- it sounds like it might be a large infection or something. If she is still alive, you might try feeding her some younger leaves, or some from another tree - it's also possible that that one was sprayed with pesticide. Sorry to not be of more help.
seerboldly4 years ago
um, what did you put under your eggs
Jugglebug (author)  seerboldly4 years ago
In these pictures there is tissue paper under them, but i now use cocoa peat, which can be bought and re-hydrated in brick form from hardware/gardening stores. The important thing is to find something relatively chemical free that can hold moisture.
Hi, We have a pet leaf insect her name is Sticky, We have had her nearly a year in a medium plastic aquarium tank, with the plastic vented lid. Just recently I lost all my Fish in My beautiful 4ft Fishtank and I wanted to turn it into a new home for our family pet sticky. I was wondering if this is okay to do ? I was planning to make it all natural with dirt rocks leaves and tree logs hollowed out to stick some vases in, to put Gum leafs, wattle leaf's ..... Can I please get your advise on this. I would also like to breed Sticky for the kid's as they love her very much. I have a question on Babies though, when you introduce baby's back after eggs hatching, when you do a leaf change, how do you make sure you dont throw your baby's out ? because your changing them every couple of day's. Can you also please tell me how do i know if they are eggs and not sticky's poo ? Thanks hope to hear from you soon.
Jugglebug (author)  smurf75009564 years ago
The idea of refurbishing the fish tank for Sticky is a good idea, but beware of including too much (eg, leaf litter) which could become moldy- a health risk for the insect.

You may wish to consider that, depending on how many babies you end up with, the fact that stick insects don't need very much room, (three times the length of the insect for the shortest dimension is a good rule) they only require leaves to eat and climb on; the transition to a larger enclosure may not be strictly necessary.

One idea, if you do decide to rehouse, might be to just plant a strong eucalyptus sapling inside the cage, preferably potted for ease of cleaning and egg collection. This would save you from having to change the leaves, solving the problem of accidentally throwing out the babies.

If you wish to continue with vased leaves, i would suggest keeping the babies in a separate, smaller well ventilated container (a yogurt tub with fly-screen lid works fine). Since you only need a few small twiggy branches in this case, you will have fewer leaves to sift through to find the babies. It helps to know how many you have, so you can count them when you change the leaves.

For breeding, i would advise against having her reproduce parthenogenically - instead acquire a male insect. This is important, because as your population of insects grows, you will want to trade some off with other stick insect keepers to ensure a diverse gene pool. parthenogenic reproduction literally produces clones of the mother- clones which no informed stick insect keeper would accept in large numbers as it could lead to problems with their own gene pool.

Lastly, the eggs are easy to find amongst the frass, as they are round and shiny - standing out amongst the cylindrical brown droppings. Its a messy job separating them, but its worth it to avoid mold growth on the eggs.

dionne765 years ago
Hi Jugglebug. my daughter who is 5 years old has had her spiny stick insect now for about 3 months. We have 2 females & 1 male. they do not like privet hedge as we were told, they would rather eat blackberry bramble leave and raspberry leaves, which we have a huge helping of in a field behind our house, it is away from traffic. The 1 female has started laying eggs, we did not see them mating but she carried the male around for about 3 or 4 days..lol..
I have a brand new black fly screen and a simular tub just as i see in the 2nd pic above, is this ok to keep the eggs in untill they hatch and then move them on and will they crawl through the gaps of the fly if i don't notice they have hatched or will they be safe.... hopfully i will get this right, it will be great to see the life cycle with my daughter.... thank you for reading this. any advice would b greatfully recieved if any one thinks i need it....xxxxx
Spiny stick insect.. our female.bmpSpiny stick insect.jpg
Jugglebug (author)  dionne765 years ago
My advice is hold the eggs in a seperate container with peat or paper or soemthing to hold moisture, and open it up once a day to check for hatchlings. The hatchlings are about 2 cm long, and they wont be able to fit through flyscreen.

Bear in mind that they are black and antlike in their first stages of life, and may be difficult to see through black flyscreen or against peat.

Once they have hatched, my advice is to house them with caution- i once had to spend a weekend tracking down baby stick insects around the house after i left a tiny crack in the lid of the cage.

It may be best for the first few instars (molts) to house them in jam jars with 3 or 4 per jar- remove the lids and attach a pecie of flyscreen with a rubber band to replace it.

Ventilation is extremely important, as frass and wet leaves can quickly contaminate air and kill the insects. For this reason I would advice against jars with holes in the original lid.
Jugglebug (author) 5 years ago
I used to use tissue paper- you know, the thin fragile stuff that you might put in a gift bag or something. Nowadays i use coco-peat, but you need to make sure you have some slaters in the container or else the mold will kill your eggs! The main purpose of the substrate is to keep the eggs moist as long as possible after you spray them- so i guess anything absorbent that doesn't get moldy will do.
abcc5 years ago
What type of paper do i lilne the container with?