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Old 06-13-2012, 01:39 PM   #1 
SpookyTooth
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Extatosoma tiaratum

I've taken a huge interest in insects lately and have decided to bring into my home a new creature - the Extatosoma tiaratum, also known as the Giant Spiny Leaf Insect or Macleay's Spectre stick insect. This critter is absolutely gorgeous and is fascinating to watch!

The animal I purchased is a nymph (the life stage of stick insects, leaf insects and mantids goes egg>nymph>sub-adult>adult), I'm not one-hundred per cent certain of her age but judging by size she is still very young. These animals go through various moults throughout their life (where they shed their old skin and emerge larger and more robust). I'd estimate she is around five to seven centimetres from head to tail at this moment in time, she may reach upwards and beyond twenty centimetres when fully grown. You can tell she is female by her large abdomen which also sports various spines.

The Extatosoma tiaratum's diet in captivity mostly consists of bramble and oak leaves whereas in the wild they will dine on eucalyptus. I've ordered a pesticide free eucalyptus gunnii tree that will be grown in our garden as a food plant as well as being a medicinal "herb" (a little large for a herb, but hey).

When threatened these animals have a habit of swaying from side to side to mimic a dead leaf blowing in the breeze; I witnessed this behaviour earlier when I swapped out my little one's food plant and I couldn't stop laughing, with all due respect it looked like she was dancing to some crappy 90's funk music and looked far from intimidating. As well as dancing to scare off their predators the Extatosoma tiaratum has been known to mimic scorpions; they'll raise their abdomen above their head in the "about to strike" position, this behaviour is also known to be an attempt the insect makes at looking like a dead, dried leaf and they sit this way when they are resting. The males can secrete a fluid that apparently smells a lot like toffee but this is completely harmless to humans though is probably disgusting to other animals.

As of yet she doesn't have a name, I'm considering calling her "Spectre" and so far that name seems favourite. This is my first attempt using the macro setting on my father's camera to please excuse the quality of the photos, I don't think they're too bad though.


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Old 06-13-2012, 02:52 PM   #2 
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I love these critters.. kept stick insects collected from the yard all over the house when I was a child, until Mum got cross and made me let most of them go, lol.

I think 'Spectre' is a lovely name for her. :)
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Old 06-13-2012, 03:32 PM   #3 
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Neat, I like most insects. But I like the seven year locusts (actually they're cicadas) and the praying mantis (which I've always considered lucky omens)
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But stick bugs are cool!
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Old 06-13-2012, 03:54 PM   #4 
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The only bugs I have ever seen that haven't creeped me out are stick bugs or daddy long legs O.o I didn't know this species existed! That is so neat!!
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Old 06-13-2012, 04:17 PM   #5 
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and the praying mantis (which I've always considered lucky omens)
Me too! I have no idea why.. but I always get a good feeling when I find them in the house.
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Old 06-13-2012, 04:28 PM   #6 
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i found like 50 itty bitty teensy weensy teeny tiny baby praying mantis' outside my house on the wall, they were so cute, but i actually dislike praying mantises .... i hate arachnids also... but i'm fine with any other bug that doesn't sting or bite!
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Old 06-13-2012, 04:45 PM   #7 
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Me too! I have no idea why.. but I always get a good feeling when I find them in the house.
If they build a nest on your house it means your house has been blessed.

It's why I never kill them, that and they eat pests. XD
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Old 06-14-2012, 02:31 AM   #8 
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Haha, I'm glad you all like her. I did decide on "Spectre" in the end, she's gorgeous and is doing well so far. I can't wait to watch her grow and develop!

I've never been overly grossed out by insects - though I don't like it when the gangly legged ones fly at my face. I'm not sure what my mother makes of Spectre yet... she gave me permission to bring the animal into our home but she went a little pale faced when I stuffed my hands into the enclosure (carefully of course) and emerged with a wobbly insect flailing around on me.

The flailing of the front arms is apparently a defence thing, it's also what they do when they want to climb. I'm not going to handle Spectre much at the moment but will do what I can to help her adjust to me. When fully grown the females of this species can draw blood if they're really annoyed so it's good to get her used to me as soon as possible.

Hopefully it all goes well...
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Old 07-20-2012, 10:17 AM   #9 
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This is a very cool little critter - I've never seen one before! I'm a huge bug fan, too - just neat things, most of them. . . just for the record? ANY creature that smells of toffee is more than welcome in my house!!!
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Old 07-27-2012, 12:19 PM   #10 
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All photographs have been taken using my six year old mobile phone so please excuse the quality.

I'm sorry it's been so long since I updated this topic, I've been preoccupied.

Spectre unfortunately didn't survive. As with many species that lay hundreds of eggs there is a very high mortality rate and Spectre was just one of the unfortunate ones that didn't make it. It hit me pretty hard as I was exceptionally attached to her...

I was graciously gifted a male before Spectre passed so I could breed the two later on in their lives, he arrived the day after Spectre's passing after we buried her under the eucalyptus tree that we had been using to feed her.

This is Creeper, he is a sub-adult male extatosoma tiaratum and arrived on the 17th July 2012, a day after Spectre's passing.





Unlike female extatosoma tiaratum the males have wings that actually allow them to fly. Creeper's will fill in during his next moult (when he grows into a full adult) and will hopefully have plenty of opportunity to fly in his enclosure. He also does not have the spines running down his back and is much smaller and delicate looking compared to the females of the species. Despite being older than Spectre was he is much much lighter, I imagine this comes in handy as in the wild males have to go "out on the town" looking for females.

Speaking of females... I decided I didn't want to halt my breeding plans. I made a few enquiries about acquiring a sub-adult female to be Creeper's companion and an opportunity arose to not acquire just one but two very large, very healthy sub-adult females. I accepted said offer and welcomed into my home Gaia and Terra.

Gaia


Terra


These ladies are remarkable and are very heavy. When being handled they grip onto your arm and you can feel their claws gripping into your skin, it doesn't hurt so much but it does feel incredibly odd. They only stayed in this orange cube while I arranged their large enclosure and ensured it had enough bramble for them (they... are ravenous). These new girls (who I have owned for approximately a week now) are remarkable and beautiful, I look forward to seeing how they and Creeper get along when adults.

This is their enclosure before it was moved and furnished further:


It's two feet tall and one foot wide and completely made of mesh. Inside is a large oak branch attached to a stainless steel tray via a screw, this offers the ladies somewhere to climb without their bulk and weight causing the branches of their bramble to bow and snap (though I don't think that'll happen it's just as a safety measure, it also looks lovely).

I sewed the artificial orchids and leaves onto the outside in the hope of making the giant structure a little more appealing to me, it also appears to be beneficial to the insects as it blocks out some of the light from the nearby fish tank (which is rather bright, I must say).

It'll be at least a couple of months before I start seeing eggs as the females need to moult. I look forward to seeing how things progress.

That's pretty much it for now, I do have other photos of Spectre but I don't really feel up to uploading them right now. I'm hoping to get more photos of Creeper and the ladies later on, preferably together but that is a bit difficult holding three 10cm insects all at once and trying to make sure I don't drop my phone!
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