You might already know about stick insects and what these creatures are, but do you know that there is another type of insect that resembles leaves? The leaf insect is actually a type of stick insect that looks exactly life a leaf and is a bright green in color. Leaf insects even have brown edges to resemble a leaf that is beginning to discolor after falling from a tree. Nevertheless, would a leaf insect make for a good pet? In a word, yes – if insects are your thing, obviously.
About Leaf Insects
Leaf insects are native to specific regions in the Southern Hemisphere including South and Southeast Asia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and some of the islands in the Indian Ocean. However, they are regularly bred in captivity in the Northern Hemisphere as they are such popular insect pets.
As already mentioned, the leaf insect gets its name from the fact that it resembles a leaf. The resemblance is so good, in fact, that these insects are usually hidden to the naked eye as they are mistaken for the foliage in which they live.
Although there are a number of different species of leaf insect, they are all generally green in color with brown edges, although some will have different markings, spots, and different colorings such as pinks and browns.
A leaf insect will typically grow to around 7cm in length, but females tend to be larger and broader than the males. The females have large wings but cannot fly. The males, however, can fly upon reaching adulthood.
As nocturnal creatures, leaf insects are typically inactive during the daytime. This allows them to avoid predators, which are usually less active during the night. This could mean though that as pets, leaf insects can be slightly ‘boring’ for some in that they tend to stay quite still during the day. Nonetheless, there are those people that like to have them just to look at as they are so fascinating.
Leaf insects are remarkable creatures mainly due to their appearance. When they do walk about at night when looking for food, they will do so in a stop-start fashion. This is natural behavior and makes it appear they are leaves rustling about in the wind.
What Do You Need for a Leaf Insect Pet?
If you are considering a leaf insect as a pet, you will need some basic equipment such as a tank made from either plastic or glass in which they can comfortably live. Some people buy large plastic tubs from nearby homeware stores and poke holes in the lid for ventilation. Others will look for dedicated glass tanks from their local pet store or online. It is really up to you what you choose and what suits your budget. Here are some vivariums and enclosures on Amazon, if you’re interested (the link opens in a new tab).
In addition to the tank or plastic tub, you will need some substrate for the base of the tank. This could be bark or peat or anything similar to this. You will also need to provide leaves, twigs, and sticks for them to hide in. Leaf insects like to be warm, so it is important that the tank temperature is between 77F and 86F. You can use a heat pad to raise the temperature if necessary (here is a selection of heat pads on Amazon – opens in a new tab). It is okay for the temperature to drop slightly at night.
Leaf insects also like their environment to be humid, so it is a good idea to regularly mist their tank. However, do not allow the substrate to get too wet as this could result in mold or fungus growing in the tank.
What Do Leaf Insects Eat?
Leaf insects are herbivores, and their main source of food is leaves. They are particularly fond of bramble leaves but also enjoy eucalyptus and oak leaves. Try to avoid collecting leaves from the side of a road though as vehicle fumes could make the leaves toxic for the leaf insects. Any insecticides or pesticides sprayed on leaves can be deadly for the insect, so it is best to get into the habit of washing leaves before placing them in the tank.
As with other stick insects, leaf insects will only eat food that they like and that is safe for them. This means that you can experiment with different types of leaves to find something that they enjoy eating. If they do not like a particular leaf, or if it is toxic to them, they will not eat it.
Caring for Leaf Insects
The great thing about having a leaf insect as a pet is that they are really easy to care for. They are cheap to buy and inexpensive to look after. They are great for those with allergies who cannot have ‘traditional’ pets such as a cat or dog.
Leaf insects are particularly good as a starter pet for kids. Parents looking to teach their children about the responsibility of looking after an animal may start with something like a leaf insect.
Nevertheless, before heading out to buy a leaf insect, you need to be aware of a couple of things first. One is the fact that these creatures are extremely delicate and require great care when being handled as they can easily lose limbs (or worse). Another one is that leaf insects can and will breed. Unless you humanely dispose of eggs they lay, you could end up with many more of these insects than you bargained for!
- Featured Image (Phyllium giganteum): Drägüs – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.
- Phyllium westwoodii: Daniel Dittmar – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
- Phyllium jacobsoni: Drägüs – the copyright holder of this work released this work into the public domain.
- Phyllium bioculatum: Public domain.