Fauna: Phyllium Philippinicum

(Phyllium Philippinicum)

AKA: Leaf Insect

Native to: Philippines

Environment: Tropical rainforest

Eats: Various plant leaves.  In captivity, they are often fed Oak, Rose, Guava, and  Raspberry/Blackberry bramble.   Lettuces can also be offered if food is scarce, but with limited success.

Sexing:  Nymphs can be sexed by their third molt, and are very easily sexed as adults.  Males are smaller, with a more slender body.  Females are both longer and wider, with adult females developing large wings that lay flat on their backs.

Life Cycle:  Eggs hatch in approximately 4 months, in ideal conditions.  The leaf insects will molt approximately once per month, reaching adulthood in 5-6 months.  In captivity, adults could live for an additional 6-9 months.  Upon reaching adulthood, and subsequently sexual maturity shortly thereafter, mating will occur.  Eggs are dropped by the female at a rate of 1-3 eggs per day.

Eggs:  After mating, eggs are dropped to the ground at a rate of 1-3 eggs per day.  Eggs typically hatch in 4 months.  Eggs are slightly oval shaped, with hairs or fibers throughout, which are thought to assist in distributing the eggs (the fibers may allow the eggs to be picked up by the fur of an animal passing by).  There is conflicting information as to whether Phyllicum Philippinicum is able to produce asexually, or if a male is required.

Nutritional Information:  Nutritional information is not available.

leaf insects

Care Recommendations: Phyllium Philippinicum is an arboreal insect, native to the tropical rainforests of the Philippines (hence the name).  These leaf insects are sensitive to humidity, and as such, their enclosure should be able to retain a mild level of humidity, but also provide excellent ventilation.  Too much moisture or humidity can lead to fungal growth, disease, and drowning.  Too little, and the insects will not be able to successfully hydrate and molt.  I maintain 40-50% humidity by lightly spraying their screen enclosure every 1 – 2 days.  In drier climates, misting daily, or utilizing a partially solid walled enclosure, such as an Exo-terra vivarium, may help in maintaining humidity levels.  I use a 24″ tall screen enclosure that has a single, solid vinyl side.

A proper enclosure should be large enough to house adult insects with enough room to spread out and molt.  The insects typically hang from the top of the enclosure, or from a branch, as they dangle and pull themselves out of their exoskeletons.  As previously mentioned, humidity plays an important role in a successful molt.  Another requirement is vertical space, as well as horizontal surfaces to hang from.  I’ve found that having branches that are within 8-10″ of the bottom of the enclosure can encourage mismolts, deformities, and death, as the insects who molt from these branches may not have adequate vertical space to hang.  On the other hand, insects who hang from the top of the enclosure to molt risk falling and injury to their not-yet-hardened exoskeletons.  A good compromise is to offer a branch or two around 12″ high.  Clippings from an Oak tree can provide both food and molting branches, just ensure that your clippings are tall enough to provide 12″ of clearance for adults.

Room temperature is typically acceptable for these insects, although they may prefer to be kept slightly warmer than room temperature.  The insects that I have kept typically experienced temperatures around 75 degrees during the day, and 67 degrees overnight.

Phyllium Philippinicum will eat a variety of leaves.  I have had good success with feeding Oak tree cuttings.  The Oak cuttings increase the available surface area for larger insects to eat, as the tiny branches and stems tend to spread the leaves out and create a canopy.  The insects will also use these branches to hang from for molting.  Be sure to place your cuttings into a small vase or bottle of water, which will help keep the cuttings fresh for up to 1 week.  I use a plastic soda or tea bottle, where I have drilled a small hold in the lid.  This allows me to use the lid to minimize spills, as well as to keep nymphs from falling into the water and drowning.  I’ve also added a magnet to the side of the bottle and then wrapped it with tape.  I use a magnet or piece of metal outside of the cage, to mate up with the magnet taped to the bottle, to keep the bottle upright and prevent spills.  Failing to provide adequate food, as well adequate space to eat, can result in insects chewing on each other.  In the image below, the leaf insect lost its front limbs, either as a result of a mismolt or another hungry leaf insect!

leaf insect1

I replace my cuttings every weekend, although the leaf insects seem to enjoy munching on drier leaves, as well.  Nymphs will not be able to eat dry leaves, or leaves that have not been damaged by other leaf insects.  If adults are not present, tear the edges of the leaves so that nymphs are able to eat.  Their mandibles are not strong enough to bite through an undamaged leaf.

I have found Phyllium Philippinicum to be easy to raise when basic needs are met.  Breeding is a challenge, as males mature, and subsequently die faster than females.  You will need to have a colony of mixed ages in order to have sexually mature males and females at the same time.

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