How to Keep Leaf Insects as Pets?
Leaf insects are one of the most exotic insect species you can find. They are also called walking leaves thanks to their outstanding camouflaging abilities and will sometimes reach impressive proportions. The Giant Leaf insect, a subspecies of the Leaf insect, can measure up to 4 inches, making it massive compared to other insects you could keep as pets.
And this is exactly what we will be discussing today. Can you keep Leaf insects as pets, and what how should you set up their habitat?
Do Leaf Insects Make Good Pets?
Yes, they do. It generally depends on how you define ‘good pet,’ but so long as your definition includes notions like ‘It doesn’t pee on bed’ / ‘It doesn’t scratch the furniture’ / ‘It doesn’t make noise,’ it’s all good.
Leaf insects are great for pets since they require minimal maintenance, and they are very friendly and easygoing. You can hold them gently as they don’t bite or sting, and they’re not poisonous or venomous. They make great pets for children, allowing them to learn how to care for an animal, minus the chores coming with having a dog, for instance.
Where to Get Pet Leaf Insects?
You can get your pet Leaf insect from 3 potential sources:
- Pet Shops – This is obviously the handiest option. There are tons of pet shops delivering a variety of species of Leaf insects. The problems that may arise in this field, however, are numerous. First, you don’t really know what you’re getting. Maybe the Leaf insect is sick, too old, or poorly maintained with compromised immune systems. Then the packaging may be faulty (and many times it is), causing you to receive a dead insect. I would set this option as a last resort.
- Individual breeders – Many people breed Leaf insects for profit, along with other species of insects. These are individuals experienced in the field, having taken care of multiple generations of Leaf insects. They can, more or less, guarantee the insect’s pedigree, health, and age and will make sure to secure it during transportation. Their reputation depends on it. The Leaf insect may be slightly more expensive due to the additional benefits, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
- Straight from Mother Nature – You can get the insect straight from the nature, so long as you’re willing to travel to Asia or Australia. But I would also leave this option for last, even if you do live in those areas. That’s because you have no way of controlling the insect’s quality. You don’t know if the insect you found is sick, dying, or old, nearing the end of its life.
If I were to give you an advice, get your Leaf insect from an experienced breeder. If that’s not possible, buy it from pet shops. Just make sure that they have close-to-pristine reputations and have multiple positive reviews from past clients.
What Equipment and Supplies Do You Need for Leaf Insects?
Fortunately, Leaf insects don’t require much equipment to remain comfortable and healthy in the long run. Everything comes down to choosing and setting their enclosure carefully, making sure to provide them with optimal living conditions.
How to Setup a Leaf Insect Terrarium?
In this sense, you should:
- Ensure proper aeration – A closed environment may become stale fast. Keeping your Leaf insect in a covered jar or glass terrarium can lead to higher environmental temperatures, poorer oxygenation, and condensation. The latter can drown the Leaf insect in worst-case scenarios. I suggest using a netted cage to house your Leaf insect or, at a minimum, ensure optimal aeration and stable temperatures throughout the day.
- Provide plants and twigs – Your stick insect feels more comfortable when climbing on branches and plants. Provide them with a planted terrarium and several twigs to help the insect traverse its environment. This will keep it happy and calm, allowing it to accommodate to its environment a lot easier.
- Ensure a good substrate – The substrate is necessary not so much for the insect but for the plants. I suggest using a nourishing substrate that’s fitting for your plants, and it’s easy to clean. Coconut fiber, white sand (used for aquariums), compost, or potting soil are all great choices.
After you have set up the tank, you need to consider balancing the Ambiental parameters. This includes:
- Temperature – Generally speaking, most Leaf insects will do just fine in temperatures between 64 F to 77 F. Other species, however, may have different requirements, preferring temperatures between 75 F to 82 F. If you can’t balance the environmental temperature and you know that room temperature tends to fluctuate a lot, get a heating system in place. A 35W or 50W light bulb should do the job just fine. Just know that you will need to cut the light off during nighttime to provide your insects with a balanced day-night cycle. This can cause the terrarium’s temperatures to drop during nighttime.
- Humidity – Leaf insects prefer tropical environments, providing them with warmth and humidity. Their habitat needs to reflect these conditions, which means humidity also plays a major role in their system. You should spray the terrarium plants with water regularly to ensure proper humidity and substrate moisture.
- Light Cycle – A balanced light cycle is necessary since Leaf insects are nocturnal creatures. They are most active during nighttime, going out to eat, mate, and do Leaf insect stuff. You should provide your Leaf insect with at least 12 hours of darkness during nighttime, which will keep them healthy and happy long-term.
How to Feed Your Leaf Insects?
Leaf insects are Phasmids, and, like all Phasmids, they have an exclusively herbivorous diet. They will consume a variety of leaves, sometimes in impressive quantities. When it comes to feeding your Leaf insects properly, there are 3 core aspects to consider:
- The type of leaves – There are multiple species and subspecies of Leaf insects, and they all have slightly varying dietary preferences. Some will eat leaves which others will avoid. Figuring out what your Leaf prefers is key to providing it with a balanced meal. Leaf insects prefer rose, oak, bramble, eucalyptus, apple, and even sweet chestnut, among other things.
- Where you source the leaves – Leaf insects are susceptible to pollutants, chemicals, and insecticides (No, my name is not Captain Obvious). This aspect makes it very easy to poison your insects with poorly sourced food. Avoid getting the leaves from the side of the road or areas which may have been treated with insecticides. As an additional safety measure, always wash the leaves before placing them in your insect’s enclosure.
- Remove uneaten food regularly – Your Leaf insects won’t consume old or decaying leaves. They only eat fresh food. This requires you to change their leaves every several days if they haven’t consumed them.
How to Care for Your Pet Leaf Insects?
Fortunately, leaf insects are not high-maintenance creatures. They don’t ask for much, but there are essentials that you cannot skip. These include:
- Ensuring fresh and adequate food – Change their food every day and make sure you provide them with fresh leaves. As I’ve already mentioned, getting your leaves from clean and safe areas is essential to avoid pollutants and dangerous chemicals.
- Clean their habitat – Leaf insects don’t make too much mess, but you still need to clean their enclosure regularly. This implies removing dead plants and leaves, cleaning the substrate, and looking for since of mold due to moisture.
- Ensure optimal levels of humidity – Leaf insects live in tropical regions and prefer warmer temperatures and more humid habitats. Spraying their enclosure with water vapors is necessary to ensure their hydration and aid them in the molting process. Leaf insects grow via molting and if not enough humidity is present, they might not succeed. Lacking humidity will cause their inner skin to harden, preventing the insect from exiting its exoskeleton safely. This can lead to lost limbs and even death in the process.
How to Handle Leaf Insects?
Place your hand in front of the insect and let it climb on it gently. You can even push it from the back to make things easier. You can also hold it by its torso and lift it up with care. Don’t squeeze it, and don’t handle it too aggressively. It’s not that the insect will bite you because it won’t, but this is a sensitive creature.
Mishandling it can cause it to lose limbs which may or may not grow back, depending on the insect’s age. Other than that, the Leaf insect isn’t really fond of petting. If you want a pettable creature, get a dog, I would say.
Leaf insects are not demanding animals, but they do have specific environmental requirements regarding temperature, humidity, and diet. Provide them with the optimal living conditions, and you can even breed them to ensure the species’ continuity in captivity.