What Do Leaf Insects Eat?
Leaf insects are low-maintenance insects that can thrive in captivity, given ideal living conditions. The good thing is that, once you’ve set their enclosure, they will only require minimal assistance from you in the long run. So long as you maintain their temperature and humidity to optimal parameters and clean their habitat occasionally, they won’t ask for much.
Leaf insects have several living requirements, including temperature (preferably around 75 °F) and humidity (70-90%, which is higher than both stick insects and most mantids). Another requirement relates to their food. Leaf insects are rather picky eaters. They will only consume fresh food; if it gets old, they might ignore it even by a couple of days.
Also, not all Leaf insects consume the same types of plants. Before acquiring it, you should inform yourself on your preferred Leaf insect’s diet. But let’s see what Leaf insects prefer to eat and how you should feed them.
List of Plants Leaf Insects Can Eat
While not all Leaf insect species consume the exact same plants, their preferences are similar for the most part. Some of the plants that most Leaf insects enjoy include:
- Bramble – If you’ve never heard of Bramble, you’ve most definitely heard of blackberry. Yes, they’re the same thing. Bramble is of critical importance in the wild since it’s a food source for a variety of creatures. Bees, bumblebees, and some wasps will feed on the flowers, caterpillars, stick insects, and Leaf insects will consume the leaves, and various mammals and birds will eat the fruits. Each leaf divides into 3-5 leaflets which are dark green on top and light green beneath.
- Ivy – Ivy is that leafy climbing plant that you see covering walls, poles, trees, and pretty much whatever it can hang on to. It belongs to the ginseng family, and it’s a woody vine that produces nectar-rich flowers and berries. The leaves are large and pointy, like half-stars, of varying colors, primarily dark green with brown shades.
- Privet – This is an adaptable plant that grows in almost any environmental conditions. You can recognize it by its bushy look, small and pointy leaves lacking any veins, and white flowers. This plant produces black, poisonous berries that are unfit for human consumption. As a side note, the plant is very resilient to pollution, which is why many people use it in hedging. The problem is that you can’t really tell the difference between a clean plant and one sustaining pollution for several months. Be careful where you’re getting it from.
- Oak – Big tree available in over 450 available species with a variety of uses. Oak is useful in construction, furniture, flooring, structural timbers, and many other fields. Oak leaves are easily identifiable by their trademark lobes. The shape of the lobes will vary depending on the oak species, being round or pointy, sometimes with serrations along the edges.
- Eucalyptus – We’re talking about the plant, not the tree. Eucalyptus plants have a lot of medicinal properties and play important environmental roles. The leaves differ in size and shape across the species but share similar patterns. Most of them are dark green and pointy, resembling a spearhead. As an interesting note, eucalyptus leaves contain eucalyptol or cineol which is poisonous to humans in high doses. Leaf insects don’t mind.
Leaf insects will also eat sweet chestnut, rose, apple leaves, rhododendron, and others. So long as they are fresh and from clean sources, your Leaf insect will enjoy them long-term.
How to Feed Adult Leaf Insects?
Leaf insects don’t require any special feeding tactics. You just place the leaves in their habitat, in their close proximity, and they will start eating shortly. However, there are a few pointers I should highlight here:
- Get the leaves from clean sources – Leaf insects are very sensitive to chemical pollutants and insecticide residues. Only collect the leaves from safe sources, far from main roadways, cities, or areas treated with insecticides. One slip can kill your Leaf insect.
- Wash the leaves first – Washing the leaves before placing them in your insect’s enclosure will remove some of the pollutants and chemical agents on the surface. Never skip this phase.
- Keep leaves attached – Don’t rip the leaves off of their branches. Cut the entire branch instead, provided it’s not too large. This will preserve the leaves in good condition for days, up to a week.
- Remove dying leaves – Leaf insects will stop consuming the leaves once they’ve started losing their fresh factor. If the leaves become soft, rusty, or straight musty, remove them and bring in fresher ones.
- Keep the leaves humid – Spray the insect’s food with water daily to keep the leaves fresh and clean. Doing so will also provide your insects with water since they prefer drinking the droplets from the vegetation around them.
How to Feed Baby Leaf Insects?
You might think that baby Leaf insects have similar requirements to adults, but you would be wrong. They are basically the same species, yet they show significant differences in their anatomy and overall functioning. More people tend to buy baby Leaf insects lately since they are cheaper than adults.
The problem is that juvenile Baby insects tend to die more often than adults in captivity. This is generally due to unfit environmental conditions and starvation. The former occurs because the younger the insect, the more sensitive it will be to fluctuating environmental parameters.
The latter may seem confusing, but it’s true nonetheless. Baby Leaf insects don’t die of starvation because their owners don’t feed them but because they can’t or don’t know how to eat. They have small mouths and may sometimes be unable to bite into thicker and harder leaves. Or they may straight up have no idea what to eat.
You may place the leaves in front of them, and they might ignore them, despite being hungry.
To avoid both issues, provide your baby Leaf insects with softer leaves and place them all around the insect. Eventually, the juvenile will become attracted to the food’s odor and will begin to feed. I suggest providing them with bramble at first. It’s one of the main food sources for Leaf insects, thanks to its availability in the wild.
Then you can try different other plants to see which your Leaf insect will prefer.
How Long Can Leaf Insects Go Without Food?
Leaf insects can go several days without food if necessary. They tend to fast when the molting process begins, at which point the insect will refuse food for several hours prior. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to feed the insect once every several days.
Your Leaf insect should always have fresh leaves available in its enclosure since it tends to eat pretty much the entire day. It’s also worth noting that larger adult insects can fast longer than the juveniles. That’s because the adult insect can eat more at once and live off of its reserves for longer.
Do Leaf Insects Need Water?
Yes, they do. Leaf insects will collect water off of the very leaves they’re eating. This is why it’s indicated to spray their enclosure with water regularly. This will increase their habitat’s humidity levels and allow them to drink water droplets hanging from the leaves.
They don’t need too much water, so don’t go overboard with spraying. Too much water may make the Leaf insects uncomfortable.
Do Leaf Insects Eat Each Other?
No. This is a legitimate concern for most insect lovers since a lot of insects may cannibalize one another if lacking proper nutrition. This isn’t the case with Leaf insects, since they are exclusively herbivorous, so they will only consume plant-derived nutrients. If they lack adequate food, they will simply starve.
That being said, there are instances when Leaf insects will bite one another, but it will mostly happen by mistake. It’s because, when starving, anything that looks like a leaf is a leaf, including one of their own.
To prevent such problems, always keep your insects well-nourished and hydrated.
Leaf insects aren’t pretentious animals, but they do require specific environmental conditions, including daily fresh food. Get the leaves from clean and safe sources, wash them before passing them to your insects, and make sure you replace any uneaten leaves every several days.
Other than that, Leaf insects only need peace and comfort.