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Giant Prickly Stick Insect

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Other common names: Macleay's Spectre Stick; Macleay's Spectre; Spiny Leaf Insect

Scientific name: Extatosoma tiaratum

The basics:
The Giant Prickly Stick Insect is native to Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, and is also found in New Guinea. Like other members of the Phasmatodea order of insects, the Giant Prickly Stick lives in trees and shrubbery where it is very highly camouflaged with the leaves and branches.

Appearance / health:
Females of this species usually reach up to 8 inches whereas males only reach up to 4 inches. This stick insect’s size and coloration is important, since that’s what makes it look like dried leaves. Usually the body color is a mixed pattern of browns, darker browns, pale tan, and tans. The only way to describe what they look like - leaves! True to their common name, Giant Prickly Sticks have tiny spines along their entire body along with the leaf-like appendages.

Behavior / temperament:
Giant Prickly Stick insects are harmless to humans and most other animals. Their tiny spines all over the body helps detour predators away from them. These spines may also make handling difficult. Overall, these stick insects are easy to care for and will make a great addition to anyone’s collection.

Housing:
A fully screened, fully ventilated enclosure works the best. Enclosure size should be twice the length of the stick insect. This could be any fully ventilated enclosure that resembles a 10 or 20 gallon tank. Younger, smaller Prickly Sticks may live in smaller enclosures until they are ready for their permanent home.

Temperatures for the Giant Prickly Stick are pretty easy to achieve. They need to be kept at room temperature or just above room temperature around 75-80F. Humidity levels should be 70-80%. Misting the tank once every 3 or more days is fine. Substrate should be potting soil, coco fiber, or other soil like substrates. Tank décor should be lots of branches, some fake (or live) plants, vines, and other items resembling living in tree tops.

Diet:
These stick insects only eat certain types of plants. Bramble (blackberry), Eucalyptus, Oak leaves, Rose leaves, and other plants. The most common is bramble, eucalyptus, and rose. Eucalyptus will make your female grow larger and more colorful. If you pick these yourself, pick small branches that have the leaves. The branches should be placed in a container that has a top with a small hole punched through it. This will keep the branch watered, and will last longer for the stick insects to eat. If the hole isn’t filled up by the branches, pack it completely with cotton, to prevent drowning.

Breeding:
If captive conditions are correct, Giant Prickly Sticks will mate in captivity. Once the male and female both molt to their final adult stage, they are ready to breed. Introduce the male into the females enclosure placing him near the female. He will begin trying to entice her to mate. They will stand face to face and move their arms together, as if they were flirting. If she’s receptive she will allow the male to position himself for mating. This copulation can last from an hour up to a full day. Once the male is finished, he will try to make a hasty retreat, or will be dinner. Even if the female is not mated, she will produce eggs. Giant Prickly sticks are parthenogenic. This means that unfertilized females can lay eggs, but all offspring will be females.

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