How to Keep a Pet Spiny Leaf Insect




Introduction: 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.

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, 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.

Step 2: Preparing the Cage

To prepare the cage for your stick insect, lay two sheets of newspaper on the floor of the cage so that they cover the whole floor. Fill your vase with water, and stick several small eucalyptus branches in so that the cut-off ends are submerged in the water. Make sure that these branches have fresh leaves on them for the stick insect to eat. Then place the vase, leaves and all, on the floor of the cage. You are now ready to introduce your spiny leaf insect to its new home.

Step 3: Feeding and Watering Your Stick Insects

Spiny leaf insects are very low-maintenance pets. They will feed off the eucalyptus branches until they become too dry. When the leaves dry out, remove them, change the newspaper on the floor, and put some new leaves into the vase. You may also need to top up the water in the vase, due to evaporation and the branches absorbing the water. You will need to change the leaves every week or so.

Spiny leaf insects need fresh water every day, in the form of droplets sprayed on the leaves with your plant sprayer. Do NOT put a water dish in the cage, as the insects will not drink from it and might fall into it and drown.

Step 4: 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.

Step 5: Handling Spiny Leaf Insects

Stick insects cannot bite, sting, or otherwise harm you, but female spiny leaf insects have spines on their undersides and legs that they may brush against you if they are handled roughly. All stick insects are delicate creatures, and should be handled carefully in order to prevent them from getting hurt.
To pick one up, place your hand above the stick insect (they have an instinct to climb) and gently nudge it from behind and below. This technique may not work with adult females, as they tend to hang upside down in one place and lay eggs. As a general rule, adult females should be handled with extreme care if you handle them at all.
Spiny leaf insects can also be picked up by very gently holding them between your thumb and forefinger on the thorax. This is helpful when removing fungal infection, as we will discuss later.

Step 6: Stick Insect Health

A veterinarian cannot do anything for a sick insect, but there are effective ways of reducing the risk of sickness:

1: Keep the cage well aerated (this wont be a problem if you have a fly screen cage). This will help keep the air in the cage clean.

2: Keep the insects and the leaves away from any kind of chemical. Chemicals can poison the insect, which usually results in death.

3: Only spray the leaves lightly- don't soak them as the insects do not need very much water.
This will help prevent fungal growth on the leaves, which can spread to the exoskeleton of the insect. If you see fungal growth on the leaves, check the body of the stick insect for fungus as well. If you see any (it will usually grow on the underside of the thorax) gently wipe it off with a damp paper towel. This will prevent the fungus from spreading to the internal organs of the insect which can cause death.

Step 7: Keeping Other Types of Stick Insects

Nearly all other stick insects can be kept in much the same way as spiny leaf insects- although in most cases the type of foliage needed will differ. Other popular stick insect species include goliath stick insects and indian stick insects. Note that Spiny leaf insects are also known as giant spiny/prickly stick insects and Macleay's spectre.



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291 Discussions

I have a question because I'll be getting a spiny leaf insect soon and I want eggs but I think I'll only afford only a female one I found out that the female can produce eggs without the help of a male but will the eggs hatch without being fertilised by the male, because I would like to babies.

2 replies

i have 4 feamels that all produce eggs you do not need a male to have eggs


1 year ago

Hi there, I have crowned stick insects and spiny leaf insects. Both breeds of eggs have started to hatch but they have problems either getting out of their egg or eating. Both of them couldn't get out of their egg - I had to help them, and both wouldn't eat and therefore died. We chopped up the leaves so they could eat, and we put young and old leaves into their terrarium. What can I do to make the nymphs eat?

2 replies

There probably not eating because there stressed out from something... Normally they like to be in a crowed area where the are more then two other leaf insects with them so there more protected.

hi, had 3 insects but the male passed away just before christmas. now i only have a baby female(minni) and a female(megan) which is pregnant and about to lay eggs. orthough yesterday both females shedded thier scin last night and i didn't see. it went terribly rong, megan lost a arm and lost her proper scin of one of her feet but she can handle it. minni had her first molt and lost one arm, broke her tail, pulled all her claws of so she can hardly walk she looks like she's moon walking and she's not eating or drinking. I want to help but I don't know what to do, does anyone know what to do?


3 replies

she should start to eat and drik in a few days both my leaf insects lose a leg while sheding

unfortunately this happens sometimes but there is nothing you can do... Eventually the leg will grow back and hopefully in a few days she will start to eat and drink again... Wish your little bugs luck!

don't stress sometimes they do lose arms and legs and it dose hurt them but all you can do is wait because they grow back in at least a months time

Hi all, my younger sister got a female spiny leaf insect this year for Christmas who was apparently 5 months old, we've been changing the leafs every 3-4 days and been spraying water on the maybe every 2. But lately she's been hanging upside down on the roof of the container or around the pot of water we have in there for the leaves. A couple of days ago when we were cleaning out her container we noticed her poo being very very runny, I'm not sure if she's dying but when we brought her the breeder said she was very young and should live for another 10 months. We used to look after a female who was about 8 months old for a friend, and she was never like this and we're doing the same thing we did for that one. I don't know if it's because she's actually older then the breeder told us she was or she's ate something funny, but my sisters really worried that's she is going to die. Thanks for reading

4 replies

HI ... it is normal for them to hang upside down but they often slow down and hang on the top of the enclosure when they are preparing to shed their skin. Just keep the leaves fresh and moist...spray daily especially in warmer weather. Also she wont lay eggs until she has had her final molt which is around 10mths old. Hope that helps

yes mine hang from the top to shed my old ones lived for 2 years (very very rare) and they used to shed once a year

my leaf insects poo was runny and it's because she ate a bit of bat poo of a gumm leaf

i have had two spiny leaf insects, a male and female, for around 2-3 months now, they are both old enough to breed. i have had spiny leaf insects in the past and they have never produced any eggs. are there any specific requirements that need to be addressed or am i doing something wrong? i spay their leaves once a day and change their leaves once a week, i try to keep the humidity down and the temperature doesn't go below 21 degrees in summer. they both are shedding naturally and seem to be behaving appropriately. can anyone help me?

1 reply

normally they decide when they want to mate ... And don't worry you haven't done anything wrong!

I have 5 eggs that where due for birth 5 days ago and it's been 3 weeks and they still haven't hatched does that mean the eggs are dead or there just going to have a late bir

1 reply

my eggs took 4 months to hatch so it should be fine... Maybe give it some more time ... Also have you been spraying them every week ???

how long are spiny stick insect when they are adults