Leaf insects as the name implies look like real leaves and actually make a sound like rustling leaves. They use this camouflage as protection against hungry predators like birds, reptiles or other insects. Leaf insects may be green or brown or a combination of both. The females attain an average length of approximately 4 in (10 cm) and the males attain an average length of approximately 2.75 in (7 cm). Both sexes have wings but only the male can fly. Males also have longer antennae. These leaf insects come from Malaysia so you are not going to see these in your garden if you live in the United States unless it’s a feral population. Leaf insects are nocturnal so they are active at night.
Leaf insects are harmless and do not bite. You can handle them as long as you are gentle. The life span of these insects is about a year and they cost nothing to maintain. You can obtain or grow their food right in your backyard or local park. Another nice thing is you can keep several leaf insects together even if they are different sizes.
Handling My Leaf Insects (Phyllium Siccifolium)
Leaf insects are hardy insects and can be kept in simple cages. Leaf insects do best when the temperature is around 75 F mine have been doing great at around 70 F. They need higher humidity then stick insects or praying mantids and the recommendation is between 70%-90% which is easily obtained by keeping moss or a substrate that retains moisture on the bottom of the cage. I would recommend you buy hygrometer/temperature gauge that can be kept in the cage so you can monitor the conditions.
Depending on how many or the size of your leaf insects you can keep them in any container that is at least three times as high and at least twice the width of the leaf insect. I started my three in a medium plastic critter cage. One thing about leaf insects that you have to keep in mind is they also need ventilation. It can be tricky trying to provide high humidity plus ventilation. I have since moved mine into a mesh cage that provides better ventilation but also provides a lot more space for the insect to crawl around because they can climb on the mesh. I keep moss as a substrate on the bottom and keep it moist but not soaking wet. I also mist the sides twice a day with warm water but don’t spray the leaf insect directly. The high humidity makes shedding easy for your pet bug.
Leaf insects eat Guava in the wild which is a fruit tree from Central America. In captivity Leaf insects do well on Oak leaves and blackberry or raspberry leaves. Make sure the leaves were not sprayed with any pesticides. I use a clothes pin which is attached to the side of the cage and it works great for holding the leafs. The leaves dry out after a day or two so it’s important to replace them so your Leaf insect can get it’s moisture.
I use a pickle jar half filled with water and place branches of blackberry or raspberry and they will keep for almost a week.