Introduction: Taking Care of Australian Spiny Leaf Insects

Picture of Taking Care of Australian Spiny Leaf Insects

Spiny Leaf Insects are low care pets great for the whole family. Here is how to look after their needs

Step 1: Getting a Good Home

Picture of Getting a Good Home

Stick insect aren't fussy with space but a big enviroment is ideal for a good home. I reccomend buying a plastic or glass terrarium from your local pet store (Pen Pals is a great brand) If you cannot do so, Creating a home is sutaible, it should be at least 40x15 and have a large amount of ventilation, fly screen is a good idea for the lid.

Step 2: Decorating

Picture of Decorating

Stick Insects will require a properly decorated home. It will need to have the correct host plant as a food source, this can be gum leaves, acacia or wattles, if cannot find a supply of any of those, rose bush, bramble or rasberry leaves is still sutiable. There will need to be plenty of areas to climb, adding some sticks of the host plant will also work as a climbing object, there should be plenty of leaves to help the insect feel protected and safe from predators. There should also be a material on the bottom to collect poop or keep out to much moisture. Paper towel or cocoa peat is sutiable.

Step 3: Placing Your Stick Insects

Stick Insects are quite easy to get, you can get them from a breeder or even from a pet store, if you are unsure where to get them you can ring up your local pet store and ask if they stock them. Exotic pet stores are more likely to sell them. When buying your stick insects, it is good idea to bring your terrarium with you so that you don't end up carrying them in a plastic bag which could harm them. Make sure you have some leaves in the terrarium. If you are buying your cage and stick insects at the same time, it will be okay for the time being since they won't starve to death.

Step 4: Maintaining Your Insects.

Stick insects have pretty low needs, making them good pets. However there are some steps to follow. To help matain the terraium's tempature you will need to lightly mist it with a household spray bottle, but do not use a spray bottle that has been recently had a cleaning chemical inside, even if you have washed it out it is still very dangerous. When it comes to changing the leaves I reccomend changing the leaves every four days or at least when it looks dry and pale, because stick insects will not eat dry leaves. If you want to keep them fresh for longer you can put them in a jar filled with water, but you need to cover it with cling wrap and then poke the sticks through. You can get your leaves from a local park, but make sure there are no other insects homes inside or a pest killing chemical on the leaves. Many people say that stick insects don't need water, but I tend to take them out a put some water on a leaf and direct them to it, they seem to enjoy it.

Step 5: Handling Your Stick Insects

Stick insects can be handled, but in a specific way. When trying to place the stick insect on your hand, it is best to place your finger infront of them and slowly slide under their stomach, they should cling onto your finger and then they may crawl around. You should never pick up your stick insect by grabbing them, this can damage their inside which can lead to death. When placing your stick insect back in it's cage, allow it to crawl to the end of your finger and place it in front of a leaf, you can gently tap them from behind to let them know to crawl on. Remember always to let the stick insect do the handling.

Step 6: Breeding

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When breeding your stick insects, you won't always require a male. Females are naturally parthenogenic, meaning they can produce their own fertilised eggs, and they basically make clones of them selves so they will all be female and nearly identical. To tell the differences of a male or female look at the top of their tail, females have small straight spikes coming off the top, whilst males don't.Males also have wings when they are mature and are more slender and smaller. When caring for their eggs, you can place them in a seperate container with soil, paper towel or cocoa peat on the bottom, but do not burry the eggs, for this means they will struggle to hatch. Lightly mist them at least three times daily and slightly more on warmer days, make sure their is no mould though. I have heard you can add woodlice to keep it off, but I hear they eat seeds, so they may mistake the eggs for one. The eggs will take about 4-10 months to hatch.

Step 7: Caring for the Young.

Picture of Caring for the Young.

Young stick insects are known as nymphs , when they hatch they are small and black with red heads and very long legs. They look like red headed ants, because in the wild they are taken down into ants nests, they then hatch and run out and climb up their host plant. Don't worry you won't need any ants though, as long as least they are kept at 25 degress Celsius the most, they should be fine. They pretty much require the same care as adults, although the eggs should be in a different cage and the nymphs shouldn't be placed in with the adults until they are more than an inch long. When feeding them, they will require younger eucalyptus leaves because their jaws aren't very strong. They shouldn't be handled until they look closer to mini adults (this is about after their second moult) As they get older they shouldn't run around as much and will climb more often. They will moult so having plently of sticks in the exhibit is ideal. I reccomend placing a thicker layer of tissue paper to cushion their fall when moulting. If they loose a leg this is okay because they can regrow it when nymphs. If you do not want any eggs, so that you aren't cruel you should place them near and area with plently of eucalyptus leaves. Although it is best to have eggs so that you can replace the olds insects if you want to continue keeping them.


JamiT2 (author)2017-01-17

These are the pictures. They don't really show how dark she is though.

JamiT2 (author)2017-01-17

Hey D2. How's it going?? I have another question. Is it normal for these bugs to turn color?? She seems to be a darker brown-brick-red, especially on her tail. I'll send pics

JamiT2 (author)2017-01-08

Here's a pic for ya D2. LOL

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-10

Oh wow! She has grown incredibly, and her color has changed so much too! Thankyou so much for the pic, it's been great going through Zombug's journey

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-10

Thanks so much for helping us through this journey. I know. Her color was almost a neon green and her legs were camo. Now she's this rich brown color. She's so plump, without being fat. No eggs yet though. But with the way she's eating, they should be coming anytime. :)

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-11

No prob! It's been great working with you and Zombug. Best wishes for the eggs!

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-10

Oh, and the years on the pictures are wrong. Oops. LOL

JamiT2 (author)2017-01-05

I was just going through pictures of Zombug on here, and thinking, "Awww, she was so little and adorable, (well, as adorable as a spiny stick bug can be) now she's ginormous!! I'll take a picture soon of her on my arm for size comparison. LOL

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-05

I can imagine! They get huge! Has she got her wings yet?

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-05

No. I'm just seeing little nubs.

JamiT2 (author)JamiT22017-01-05

These are her little wing nubbies. Or what are they??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-05

Those should be it, she'll be laying eggs in no time now.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-05

What should I do with the eggs, when they come?? How long do they take to hatch etc?? I'm kind of worried about that time since that was about the time my ex's died. What should I watch for with Zombug?? Do they lay eggs constantly from now until they get old and die??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-06

They will continually lay eggs pretty much until they die, so the best thing is to remove the ones in the cage and place them into a different terranium and spray them once or twice daily. They can take anywhere from one to four years to hatch by what I've heard. I ended up releasing mine to the wild so I am unaware of how long they took to hatch.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-06

I can't do that here, release them into the wild. We don't have them here and I don't want to be responsible for an invasive species running around eating all the blackberry bushes. Although I'm sure some people wouldn't mind it. After all, the blackberry bushes are an invasive species of their own. LOL. And if it takes them that long to hatch, I just as well see if I can sell them back to the seller I got her from. If I can't sell them, I'll donate them back. LOL

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-06

Sounds like a good idea, I will admit the eggs are quite a task.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22017-01-06

Yeah, it sounds like it. Btw, what do the eggs look like??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22017-01-06

I'll add a pic

JamiT2 (author)2017-01-01

The first picture was taken through the hard plastic of her cage, so you can't see it very well, but her head is towards the bottom of the cage with her tail at the top. That was in the early afternoon. She stayed like that until Very early in the morning, and she still hadn't come out of her tail. So I thought should help her out before I went to bed. I took off the lid and she slipped right out of it. The second picture is shortly after that.

JamiT2 (author)2016-12-31

She molted!! OMG!! She's HUGE!!!! I'll get pictures in the a.m. :D

JamiT2 (author)2016-12-30

These are the pictures. Hopefully you can tell me what this is. Could they be eggs?? Is she old enough to be laying eggs?? She's about 3-3 1/2 months old.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-30

Ah yes, this happened to my stick insect as well. I belive this happened before her very last molt, this will mean her next moult will be her final size and she will be laying eggs after. If she starts laying eggs without molting it shouldn't be an issue.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-12-30

Ok. You said if she starts laying eggs without molting, it shouldn't be an issue. Does that mean that she'll molt eventually, or would she have already had her last molt?? Also, does this mean they don't molt at all when they start laying eggs?? Do they still continue to grow without molting?? And yes, she's acting just like she does before a molt. Not eating, kind of lethargic, eyes are black when they're usually the same color she is, which is kind of (American) army olive drab with some brown mixed in, and her legs are camo. It's really cool!! I'm keeping a close eye on her.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-31

Ah yes, that should mean she'll be molting in no time at all! And yes after this final 'last molt' would mean she is in adulthood and will no longer grow. A good way to check if she is fully grown is look along her neck and back area, she should have very large wings, not alike the males and it has no actual wing material in which they can fly but it does look very similar to wings. She will probably start laying a few weeks after her last moult. Stick insects are a parthenogenic animal, which means they use their own cells to reproduce, meaning the offspring will be copies of herself. There should be no male required. Good luck with her last moult! ^_^

JamiT2 (author)2016-12-30

Hey D2!! I have another question. When I checked on Zombug this morning, I noticed she's got 2 bright red, moist looking spots at the very tip of her tail. I'll try to get a picture of it, but IDK if I can. What could it be?? Any idea??

JamiT2 (author)2016-12-26

Hi D2!!! I've read that leaf insects don't need water. You've said that yours seem to enjoy some water every once in awhile. I give Zombug water with a dropper about every other day or so. She loves her H2O!!! This picture was taken right after she got done drinking, as you can see the drop on the edge of her cage lid.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-28

Wow! She has really grown, and so quicky too! She seems to love her water though. It is so cute watching them sit there for ages! :D

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-12-28

I agreed!! She doesn't always want her water though, only every 2-3 days, but what's really cute is when she wants it, and sees/smells/feels the dropper, the little feelers on her mouth start twitching, then start going wild, almost like she's saying, "Gimme, gimme, gimme" then she opens her mouth really wide. It's just funny. When she's done, she turns away. Then usually wants to graze on leaves. Now she's stuffed and satisfied and has been in the same spot all day. I got up at 11am and now it's 3am, and she hasn't moved. She sways every now and then, so I know she's ok, but that's about it. Oh, and pooping A LOT!!! LOL

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-28

I totally agree! I remember when mine used to open there pinchers and look around for it. It was very funny! Mine used to stay on the lid 24/7 as well, it is really quite interesting how intelligent the bugs can be! Seems like she is having a great time. :D

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-12-28

You think she's having a great time?? I'd like to think so too. I try to take her out every day. She does pretty well with it, she seems to at least not mind being handled. I figure that insects need some enrichment in their lives too, instead of being trapped in a cage their entire short lives. Oh, speaking of which, I've read a lot of difference in their longevity. I've read anywhere between 6 months and 2-3 years. How long should I expect her to live??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-28

That sounds great. She'll be having a great life with all the special treatment she is gettingm she sure is a lucky bug! Regarding the age, mine lived to about a year and six months so I would say the maxium would be two years. Considering the care she gets I think she'll be around for a while! :D

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-12-28

Well, she's a pet, and take good care of my pets. Yes, she's a bug, but that doesn't mean I get to be lazy in her care, not that she needs much. Even though she doesn't need vaccines or even have a vet, she's still a special and unique, interesting critter. :)

JamiT2 (author)2016-12-06

Hey D2!! She finally molted!! Wooohooo!!! I was getting worried. As I sit here, drinking my coffee, I can hear her crunching on her skin. LOL.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-12-06

Oh wow she looks so big now! It's great to see she was all good.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-12-06


JamiT2 (author)2016-11-18

Hi DragonB2!! I asked you a ton of questions last year (early this year??) about my ex's dying stick bug. Yeah, she didn't make it :( But now I have my own. She's doing beautifully. The only question I have for now, IsHave a wondrous birthday Kirsten!!it normal for Australian leaf bugs to eat their own skin after a molt?? The first time she did, I thought it was a fluke and maybe her food wasn't fresh enough. But she did it again with her latest molt. Thereby earning her the name, Zombug!! LOL. Is this normal Spiny Leaf insect behavior?? If not, is it going to hurt her??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-18

Oh she looks wonderful, I absolutely love the name too! And yes this is very normal, stick insect eat their molts for not only nutrients, but to hide all evidence they were in the area. Very sorry to hear about the other stick insect, but it's great to hear from you again! :)

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-18

Thanks Dragon. I'm sure I'll be talking to you more and sharing pictures. I do have a quick question though. It's starting to get cold here. Can these stick insects take the cold fairly well, or should I get her a heat source for nighttime??

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-18

That's a good question. Since it's so hot here in Australia I am usually used to prevent the heat. But in the area I live it tends to get reasonably cold during the winter months, and when this happened I would usually have mine inside and they seemed to be perfectly fine. To keep them from getting to cold I would reduce the misting and sometimes I wouldn't have the water very cold, but very close to lukewarm or room temperature water when I'd mist them, I hope this helps but if you notice any unusual signs such as overly dulling color or slow molting (including the insect to struggle to molt) do feel free to contact me :)

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-28

Sorry to bother you again DB, but I have yet another question. Zombug has turned almost black on her under side. What's going on with her?? Do you know?? She was was eating earlier, so she still has an appetite. I was looking on the net for info about it, but didn't have any luck. I can't really get good look at her top side, as she's hanging upside down.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-28

Hmm that seems strange. I've noticed that Zombug is a more greenish color that my previous stick bugs so this might be normal. Have you ever seen her underside before and it's been black. My stick bugs were orange on the top and red underneath, so perhaps the black is normal? If you can send a picture that would be great.

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-29

Yes, I've seen her belly a lot, and it's always been a different shade of green/gray, but never this color. Still eating good though. She almost ate a full large blackberry leaf during the night.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-29

She may be preparing to molt, so the blood is circulating more, causing the darker color. It also may be the new skin developing, so the current skin is turning lighter. Hope she's all good :)

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-29

Oh, I hope you're right!! I've been waiting for her to molt. I have another question though. How big will she actually get?? The ones I've seen have been a little bigger than she is now, but found this HUGE one on my search engine. Wondering if she'll get this huge. Granted, I don't know how big the hand is, but this bug seems monstrous.

JamiT2 (author)JamiT22016-11-30

Loving her steam bath. Sorry it's kinda blurry.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-30

She sure does! She's so big lol

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-30

The second picture up isn't her, just wondering if she'll get that huge.

DragonB2 (author)JamiT22016-11-30

She probably will

JamiT2 (author)DragonB22016-11-29

Yes, I've seen her belly a lot, but it's never been quite this color before.

JamiT2 (author)JamiT22016-11-29

Her belly looks bit darker in person than it does on camera

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