Leaf insects belong to the family Phylliidae and are also referred to as walking leaf, leaf insects, or leaf bugs. Leaf insects are true masters of camouflaging and are known for their leaf-like appearance. They do not only look like leaves but also mimick leaves that move in the wind. Their fascinating appearance and the fact that they can be easily be kept as pets at home, make them very popular for insect lovers all around the world.
As a whole, leaf insects are great pets. They come with low maintenance, are calm, non-aggressive, and can be kept in enclosures without a lot of equipment. They need regular misting with water, and always fresh leaves. Walking leaves make easy and fascinating pets.
In this article, you will find all the information you need to keep leaf insects as pets. You will learn how to equip the enclosure and how to care for them, as well as many other facts that will make it easier for you to start with this new hobby.
Can I Keep a Leaf Insect as a Pet?
Leaf insects are magnificent creatures. They are calm, come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, and have a funny way to move around, mimicking leaves in a light breeze. No wonder, they have become popular pets.
As a whole, leaf insects can be kept as pets. They come with low maintenance, low costs, and are easy to care for. Some walking leaf species are widely available online but make sure to check out your local regulations on keeping non-endemic insects before acquiring one.
Some people might think that keeping a walking leaf as a pet might be a little odd, but in fact, it is a great, and even educational hobby.
How Do You Care for a Leaf Insect?
Leaf insects make calm and undemanding pets. They do not need a lot of attention or maintenance. Several leaf bugs of the same species can be kept in the same enclosure together.
Is it Hard to Take Care of a Walking Leaf?
As a whole, taking care of a walking leaf is not very challenging. Leaf insects do not need a lot of maintenance. They need fresh leaves all the time and regular misting of the enclosure to keep the humidity up. But other than that, they can be left unattended and minding their own business.
How to Set Up an Enclosure for Leaf Insects?
Walking leaves do not need a lot of equipment in their enclosure. Several leaf insects of the same species can be kept together as long as the enclosure is big enough for every individual to molt and move around without keeping in the way of each other. They are not aggressive towards each other and don’t move around a log.
As a whole, leaf insects need a high enclosure with a temperature around 77° F – 86° F and rather high humidity of 60-80%. The enclosure should have two walls that allow air to circulate and the floor should be covered with paper towels. Food plants should always be inside the enclosure.
Enclosure Size for Leaf Insects
The enclosure should be higher than wide because leaf insects tend to go up. The height should be at least three times the size of the insect so that it can molt without touching anything. Otherwise, they might get stuck in the exoskeleton during the molt.
An enclosure with 10-20 inches in height is great for leaf bugs, depending on their size and the number of insects you own.
In order to prevent mold in the enclosure, you need enough ventilation. At least two sides of the enclosure and the lid should be made of a material that allows air to circulate.
The floor of the enclosure should be covered with something that can retain and slowly release humidity and thereby help to keep the humidity up.
The floor is not very important for leaf insects because they will not interact with the floor anyways. They will always hang around somewhere higher on the ceiling or on the food plant.
You can either use paper towels to cover the floor or some kind of soil.
If you use a paper towel, this will make it easier for you to clean, detect mold quickly, and see eggs. You should change the paper towels once a week because leaf insects poop a lot.
If you choose to use the soil you can use a mixture of sand and humus, or vermiculite, Spagna moss, or simply soil from outside. But make sure that no pesticides were used on the soil. If you are unsure, you should rather choose vermiculite from the local pet store.
With soil, it is harder to see dirt or mold, therefore you might want to introduce springtails to keep the floor clean. Springtails can be acquired at the local pet store, as well, and they eat all food leftovers and fungus that grows on damp soil.
A walking leaf is an insect that is native to rainforests, where the humidity is higher than the humidity in normal homes. Therefore it is important to increase the humidity in the enclosure. This can be done by regularly misting the enclosure with water. Spray a fine mist of water into the enclosure twice a day.
Try to keep the humidity at 60% – 80%. In order to prevent mold, at least two walls and the ceiling should be made of a material that allows air to circulate.
Leaf insects can be kept at a temperature between 68° F (20° C) during the night and 77° F to 86° F (25°C – 30°C ) during the day. The temperature should not drop lower than 68° F, and most species prefer a temperature above 77° F at all times. Some species are sturdier than others.
If you tend to have lower temperatures in your home and you have trouble, keeping the temperature above 77° F, you can use a light bulb outside of the enclosure in order to raise the temperature without risking your leaf insects burning themselves.
Do not put the enclosure directly into the sunlight in order to heat it up. The temperature in a closed container can rise very quickly and you do not want to grill your pets.
Keep the enclosure in a room with natural light, but not directly in sunlight. You can use some kind of light inside of the enclosure to improve the durability of the food plants, but make sure that your pet leaf insects can not burn themselves on the lamp.
Walking leaves do not need a lot of decoration in their enclosure. They tend to hide in their food plants all day long or hang from the ceiling during their molts.
They need space to molt, instead of a lot of decoration. Decoration can rather be an obstacle if a walking leaf wants to molt, but hits some kind of artificial plant or something similar while crawling out of the exoskeleton. If the molt does not go properly, it can get stuck and die.
What Do Leaf Insects Need to Survive?
Leaf insects make great, educational pets that are fun to watch due to their fascinating appearance. They do not need a lot to survive in a suitable enclosure.
As a whole, leaf Insects do not need much care or maintenance to survive. They need rather high humidity in their ventilated enclosure, which is high enough for them to molt properly. They also need fresh leaves to eat. Leaf insects have to be handled with care because they are very fragile.
What Do Leaf Bugs Eat?
Leaf insects are herbivores and can be fed with a variety of different leaves. Some species are limited to only one or a few food sources, while others can be fed with many different leaves. The popular pet species are polyphagous and will eat many different leaves.
As a whole, leaf bugs can be fed with leaves of these plants: Bramble, raspberry, oak, rose, and some more. Always make sure that no pesticides were used on the leaves, and that the leaves were not collected close to a high traffic road. The leaves should always be rinsed off before they are being fed.
You can cut off twigs with leaves on them and put them in a jar with water before feeding them to your leaf insects. Make sure that the jar is completely closed with leaves or some kind of mesh so that the leaf bugs cannot fall into the water and drown.
If leaves are dry or you detect mold on them, they have to be replaced.
Leaf bugs also tend to eat their own exoskeleton after a molt.
What Can I Feed My Leaf Insect in the Winter?
Leaf insects can be fed the same things in summer and winter.
Bramble leaves and raspberry leaves are evergreen and can be found in winter, too. If you cannot find any bramble or raspberry in your area, you can cut off twigs with leaves of the plants you usually feed in autumn and keep them in a water jar to be able to feed these leaves in winter, as well.
Do Leaf Insects Need Water?
Leaf insects to not need a separate jar for water. They will not drink from a jar because they get all the water they need from their diet. This is why it is important that they always have access to fresh leaves. You can mist the leaves in the evening so that the leaf insects can drink the tiny drops of water from the leaves. Since leaf bugs are nocturnal, it is better to mist in the evening, right before walking leaves will start eating.
How to Clean a Walking Leaf Enclosure
The enclosure of leaf insects should be cleaned once a week. If you use paper towels on the ground, you should replace them with new paper towels and clean the floor.
If you have a substrate with springtails on the ground, you can regularly check for mold, but other than that you don’t have to exchange the substrate often because the springtails will do most of the cleaning for you.
The food plants should be replaced if they are dry, grow mold, or if all the green parts are gone.
If you detect any mold, you should quickly remove it.
How to Keep the Humidity High in the Enclosure
Humidity can be increased by using damp paper towels on the ground. The paper towels can retain and slowly release humidity into the air.
A jar with water for the food plants will also help to keep the humidity up, as well as plants that release some water into the air.
You should spray a fine mist of water twice a day into the enclosure and on the food plants to guarantee high humidity for your leaf insects.
What is the Best Walking Leaf Species for Beginners?
Most leaf insects live in tropical rainforests in Asia. They require rather high humidity and some need special diets. There are not many popular leaf bug species that are kept as pets. If insect lovers are looking for a Phasmid for beginners, they tend to acquire a walking stick instead of a walking leaf, as walking sticks are more hardy insects that require even less maintenance than leaf insects.
The most popular pet leaf insect is the Phyllium Philippinicum. This species is widely available online by many different breeders.
Some other popular species are the Phyllium Giganteum, the Phyllium Westwoodii, and the Phyllium Bioculatum.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂