Common Name: Leaf Insect, Leafy
Scientific Name: Phyllium Philippinicum
Native to: Philippines
Life Span: Males 6mths – 9mths & Females 6mths – 1yr
Size: Males Slim, up to 60mm long & Females wide, up to 90mm long
Temperament: Docile, Males fly especially when startled, Females don’t fly
Appearance: Commonly Green but can also be Yellow, Orange or Brown as adult
Enclosure type: Ventilated mesh type enclosures or pop ups
Enclosure size: 25cm x 15cm x 15cm is adequate for 1 however bigger is better
Temperature: Day 22°C – 28°C & Night 18°C to 20°C
Humidity: 75% with daily misting and substrate
Leaf Insect, Leafy
Males 6mths – 9mths
Females 6mths – 1yr
Males Slim, up to 60mm long
Females wide, up to 90mm long
Males fly especially when startled
Females don’t fly
Commonly Green but can also be:
Yellow, Orange or Brown as adult
Ventilated mesh type enclosures or pop ups
25cm x 15cm x 15cm is adequate for 1 however bigger is better
Day 22°C – 28°C & Night 18°C to 20°C
75% with daily misting and substrate
Leaf insects such as the Phyllium phyllipinicum are a stunning Phasmid that has grown increasingly popular in the hobbyist and pet world. They are commonly seen as a beautiful green colour but can also, as adults, moult to a beautiful yellow or orange/brown colour. Females of this species are quite a bit wider than the male and more heavy set, they also live a bit longer and are unable to fly unlike the slimmer lighter bodied males. Originating from the Philippine rain forest these leafys enjoy a branch to climb and a daily misting of water, these Phasmids do well in captivity if they are provided with fresh leaves to eat and a warm but ventilated enclosure. Leafys are easy to handle and are very docile as adults however the young nymphs are very fast and fragile, they hatch looking like small black ant like insects, this is a coping strategy and is to protect them as youngsters as it camouflages them. It is said that this is so they can blend in with ant colonies, here they are protected until they leave in search of trees and leaves to eat, they soon start to turn green and after their first moult already start to look much different, more leaf like. After a few moults, leafys look more like their adult shape, moults are known as instars these are the stages between invertabrate moults however its common to see people using L stages (L1.L2.L3) this actually stands for larval stage and used incorrectly, albeit in the same way as instar (i1.i2.i3). It takes about 5-6 moults to reach adult size at which point they stop moulting, usually its around once a month up to that point, with males reaching maturity faster than females.
Although this species makes a fantastic addition to your collection or even as a starter insect, are very docile and unable to actually bite you, don’t mistake this for affection and the need to be handle, they will tolerate handling if you are very gentle and patient, males often freak and fly when startled, or even fall on their backs, trying to pull a leaf insect from a leaf can be harmful and often results in loss of limbs, these can grow back if the leafy is still growing and moulting but it wont in a mature insect, over handling can cause stress to these somewhat fragile Phasmids and often results in premature death. Nymphs more so than adults will stress easily and stop eating or thriving, a good method of moving nymphs for cleaning for example is to use a small clean pain brush.
Keepers have used many different enclosures for this species, I myself have used a few different types but have found the mesh style enclosures to be perfect for meeting the needs and looking nice in my home, these can be bought as solid, front door opening wire mesh enclosures and come in all different sizes, they also can come as an inexpensive pop up mesh enclosure with zip door, either work well and have large sizes perfect for groups. Other enclosure types include plastic terrariums these are limited size wise but can be effective in raising young nymphs or a single leafy as they hold humidity a bit better then fully ventilated enclosures. The general rule of thumb for enclosure size is at least 2 body lengths wide and 3 high, I would always go a bit bigger then that to allow for a good amount of room for food branches and moulting, even my nymph enclosures are at least 40cm high.
Decoration & Substrate:
Decoration in a leafy enclosure is more of a hinderance in my opinion, young insects need all the help they can get to find the food source and moult without problems, I keep my enclosures bare with nothing but a large bunch of fresh bramble in there. I don’t use substrate as it is hard to scout for eggs or fatalities, so I use paper towel that I spray daily and change weekly however, substrate such as coco coir/fibre is great for holding humidity especially in younger nymph enclosures and is often used as alternative to paper towel.
These insects need a temperature of between 22°C – 28°C during the day, some keepers suggest even as warm as 30°C however please be aware that this can cause early maturity and therefore premature death, at night the temp can be lower at around 18°C to 20°C (typical UK house temps) these temps can be provided in various ways, heat bulbs or heat mats are commonly used. I have my enclosures in a warm room above my vivarium’s because of that i don’t need an extra heat source. What ever source you choose to use please always use a thermostat, this is incredibly important not just for your insects but your own safety, heat bulbs designed for reptiles are quiet powerful and not ideal for such enclosures, a normal house hold bulb is sufficient for providing a little extra heat, just remember that moulting generally occurs at the top of the enclosure so make sure this area isn’t over heated, keep the bulb at a distance, alternatively a heat mat can be used, just as the bulb can over heat the top of the enclosure a heat mat can over heat the bottom where eggs are left, heat mats are often used but are attached to the back or side of the enclosure and always used with a thermostat. This species is nocturnal and needs a day and night cycle with a tempereture drop at night time so if the temps are to low with out a bulb on you may need a alternate heat source such as a mat anyway.
Daytime and night time differentiation is important, due to this species being nocturnal, no extra lighting is required if they have indirect light during the day, direct sunlight can be fatal in confined enclosures and will ultimately cook your insects so best to avoid direct sun, if you are not using a bulb for a heat source then other lights like led strips can offer a better light for viewing etc but isn’t at all necessary in my opinion, unless the room is particularly dark in day hours.
In the UK most of us have access to blackberry Bramble all year round and it seems to be a fond favourite of this particular species other food sources include rose, oak and hawthorn, The bramble is an easy source for most leaf and stick insects with some exception, firstly never feed the very new young leaves, the older darker leaves on the wider stem is safest, don’t collect from anywhere that may have used pesticide/weedkiller, and avoid picking from high traffic areas if possible, always rinse well before feeding and you must trim or tear the leaves in order for the nymphs to be able to feed, only until they are bigger and well established, keeping nymphs in with older insects means you won’t have to do this as much due to the adults trimming leaves for them.
I collect all my bramble once a week, I soak it in cold water for an hour and then put it in spill proof paint pots or a wide low vase depending on the size of the insects and enclosure.
I mist down all the leaves daily, it helps to keep humidity up, leaves fresh and the leafys will drink the droplets.
Breeding this species is fairly straight forward, once a female reaches adult/her last moult, within a few weeks she will start to readily lay eggs/ova these look like brown/tan seeds, pale and smooth when first laid and then darker brown and almost hairy looking once hydrated (depending on species) on average she will lay about 3 a day but I have received up to 8 in a day before, she will lay these by flicking them as hard as she can across the enclosure, I often hear the tap of an egg on the sides of the enclosure in the evenings, this is to try and spread out the eggs and give them better chance of spreading out and hatching. Females will lay these eggs even without the presence of a male or even having seen one, they generally all hatch as well, this is called parthenogenesis, the eggs from an un mated female will be slightly weaker, and sometimes a little smaller and will also take a few months longer to hatch, 6-9 months even up to a year sometimes but they will hatch, they will also be replicas of the female that laid them and therefore all female, in my experience the nymphs from these eggs are somewhat weaker and have a higher death rate then fertilised eggs that generally hatch within 3 – 6months, fertilised eggs will be a mix of sexes. It is best to freeze any unwanted eggs if you do not wish to hatch them.
Incubating the eggs is also simple, they need a good amount of humidity and do well at the same temp as the insects themselves, around 25 °C you need to avoid mould at all cost as this is an egg and nymph killer, some keepers use sand or coco fibre, I haven’t had any problem with paper towel, I just change it out if it starts to discolour at all, I’ve had a 100% hatch rate on paper towel, I use the plastic tubs that live food comes in, it has tiny vent holes and is a perfect size for a good 100 eggs, I line it with paper towel and keep it warm and spray it when the condensation clears in the tub, this way it tends to dry out every 3 days which is ideal, (do not over water and cause large condensation droplets as this will and does drown nymphs) after about 3-4 months the nymphs will start to hatch, I found mine hatch the same time each day, about an hour after the lights and heating came on, about 2-4 hatching a day (depending on species), I leave them in the tub for about 24 hours to harden up after hatching then I move them into an enclosure that is full of bramble with trimmed leaves, using a clean soft paint brush.
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