Spiny Leaf Phasmids : Secret Life of Pets (DIY Enclosure Steps!)

Few of you might wonder to know that an insect is a pet of my family. Yes, we are four of us, my two little school going daughters less than 10 years old, my techy husband and a busy homemaker, running around all through the day, taking care of kids, playing with them, ambitious to make them understand science concepts at the young age, etc. Hmm, that’s all about me.

Yes, I love keeping myself busy as a bee and more than that desire to make my kids learn things with practical experience. This is how we started developing love towards the pets and we have the usual pet animals the dog and cat at home. But that did not stop and I had a chance to get Spiny leaf phasmid from one of my friends and these insects have become so close to my kids.

I know it’s enough for an intro about our pet loving family. Now, let me tell you about what is this spiny leaf insect, why it is called so, how it becomes a great pet, and why kids love them more, as well finally will let you know how to make an enclosure to grow this insect at home.

Feeling excited? I am very much as I am going to share great inputs about the insect and the enclosure I did.


What is Spiny Leaf Phasmid?

secret life of spiny leaf phasmidsImage Credit: Wikipedia

These are tiny insects that feed on leaves and have the ability to camouflage. They are present in Australia and they resemble an ant or a Scorpio. But don’t worry as they don’t bite or sting. They are absolutely harmless. They hatch from the female egg and become a nymph and then an adult insect.

You may want to ask why they are called phasmids. I am coming to that now. Insects that have irregular metamorphosis and have phytophagous habit then we call them phasmid. Again I get your thoughts, too many technically words on a kid’s science experiment blog. No, don’t think like that this is an age when you can teach those new words and explanation for they will remember forever. I am a proud mom who is doing this since the birth of my first daughter and both my daughters can spell any word and remembers the synonyms too.

Coming back to the explanation, metamorphosis is the process that takes place from birth of an insect until it grows big in stages. Spiny leaf phasmid has irregular by this I means that they hatch from the egg, then become a tiny insect within 3 hours resembling ant and called a nymph. Within the next few days develops to a mature spiny leaf phasmid. That’s very quick indeed and they don’t go through the entire insect growth lifecycle.

One more hard word here is phytophagous which means insects that feed on leaves and survive. This is all about this tiny little insect. Let’s explore more in the coming sections.


Why are they called great pets?

spiny leaf phasmids great pets for kids
Image Credit: Wikipedia

They are harmless and that is the primary reason they become the best friend for people. They can grow only with leaves as their food and a few drops of water. This way it is easy to maintain them. They look like dried leaves and become a great decorative ornament when grown in house. Above all kids love to play with them and thus I call it a great pet.


Some exciting facts about this little phasmids


There is not one but many fascinating facts about this insect. Let me tell you one by one and feel glad that you can use these inputs to let your kids understand the science behind insects.


  1. Parthenogenesis


The female insects do not require male for reproduction. They lay eggs and those eggs can be male or female spiny leaf phasmids. Which means these insects will clone the mother or their siblings. But there is no role for a male insect in reproduction.


  1. Given birth by Spiny Leaf but hatched with the help of Ant


The egg that falls down from the mother insect will fall on the ground and ant will misinterpret that as its food and carry them below the soil. However, it helps the egg to be protected and also ants eat their shells as food while the egg hatches into a nymph.


  1. Nymphs look like an ant


Then they crawl like an ant and also look like ant hence protecting them from insect-eating birds. There are few birds that eat insects but not an ant. So these tiny little nymphs are safe to travel on the tree and start eating leaves for food to grow. They consume water from the droplets of the leaf to quench their thirst.


  1. Camouflage


They can change color to match the living environment and hence stay without being harmed by other creatures. It looks like a dry leaf and hence called a spiny leaf insect.


  1. Giant spiny or prickly stick insect


It is also called a giant spiny or prickly stick insect as sometimes it resembles a stick.


Why do kids like to pet spiny leaf insect

spiny leaf phasmids australian walking stick petImage Credit: Wikipedia

Kids love these insects because they are small and do not harm. They feel good when they move on the kid’s hands or dress. They provide great time pass to kids and also allow kids to watch them eat and grow.


However, I like this insect very much and can you guess why? Yes, because I can grow this at home teach kids about the entire lifecycle. My daughters love the way I tell them because there is no theory and everything is practical. My kindergartener and preschool going kid both know the entire lifecycle of not this insect but all insects. Thanks to Spiny Leaf Phasmid that helped me teach my kids these lessons easily. Trust me you can try this too!


I got you now and you are wondering how to grow a spiny leaf phasmid at home?


Don’t worry let me explain you in the coming section and at the end, you will feel glad to follow me making a DIY enclosure for the spiny leaf insect to grow them at home and make kids learn science.

Here is an interesting video: 


Step by step method to create an enclosure at home for Spiny Leaf Phasmids


There are two aspects to grow these pets. First one is buying them and the next is to make an enclosure to grow them. You can choose to buy the egg or insect from the bug shops and even online from Australian insect selling shops. For instance, you can check www.terrificscientific.com for purchasing. Let me tell you how to grow them and also will tell you how to preserve the eggs laid by the female insects and allow them to hatch.


  1. Get a basket ready – This can be a mesh type dustbin or you can make one by arranging the wooden frames with mosquito mesh. However, it must be of a minimum size of 40 X 30 X 30 cm in dimension. The female insect will of 110mm long and you need to make your enclosure thrice longer than this to allow them to move freely. If using a mesh type bin, then close the top with a mesh using a rubber band. In case you make a wooden cage then you can refer a fly screen cage and make one like that.
  2. Prepare food – Then get a bottle or a flower vase and fill water into that. Place that into the cage and make sure they have a lid. But the lid must contain a hole to insert the eucalyptus leaves with the stem. Yes, this is the food to your insects. You can place the insect in the cage and it is free to move around and you can also enjoy with your kids seeing them from outside.
  3. Grow the eggs – Arrange for a plastic box filled with mud or tissue paper. Close the box with its cover. But they must have small openings all through the lid to give room for air circulation. Take the egg from the cage soon after it is laid and place it in the sand or tissue paper and water them regularly. Close it with the lid but they won’t suffocate due to the presence of the holes. Wait for up to 2 years to see the insect hatching from the egg. Few eggs hatch quickly but others might take time.


It is this simple to make an enclosure for the spiny leaf insect. Before I forget let me tell you a few points to remember.


  • Ensure there are no chemicals or pesticides on the eucalyptus or the bramble leaves which are the food for the insects. These chemicals might turn out to be poison to those small creatures.
  • Make it a point to spray water often on the leaves and that will help insects to douse their thirst. Do not place any water glass inside the cage to save your time spraying as the insects might fall into the water and die. You must spray water.
  • Let the mesh be closely knit otherwise the insects will easily escape from the cage.
  • Make a separate cage for nymphs till they grow as an adult insect with a much smaller net because they can come out easily.
  • Change the leaves periodically once in 3 days and a maximum of 5 days as the nourishment is required for the insects to survive. Remember to the fill water in the vase or the jar where the leaves are placed.


Final thoughts

I am happy to share my experience with you and want you to grow Spiny Leaf Phasmids to teach entomology (the study of insects) to your kids and have fun too with these tiny little pets.

Did I miss this information? I am not sure and my apology if it is a repeat. Female insects cannot fly and only make spiny leaf phasmids can fly.

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