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Phyllium sp.

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Photo: Insectarium de Montréal, René Limoges

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Description

Leaf insects in this species resemble leaves in colour and shape. These phenomena are referred to as homochromatism (same colour) and homotype (same shape). Males are about 5 cm long, and females are 8 cm long and wider than males. The wings make it easy to distinguish the sexes. The first pair of wings on males is quite small, while the second pair is long and developed for flight. The opposite is true for females: the second pair is smaller and the first pair covers the entire body; they are unable to fly. Females also have shorter antennae, whereas males’ antennae are long and thin.

Country of origin

Philippines
French name
Phyllie, insecte feuille, feuille ambulante
Scientific name
Phyllium sp.
English name
Leaf insect, walking leaf
Class
Insecta
Order
Phasmatodea
Family
Phyllidae
Living environment

Diet

In captivity, leaf insects eat mainly bramble leaves. In the wild, however, they feed on the leaves of Camelia sinensis, tea plants.

Habitat

They live in tropical forests.

Geographic distribution

This species of leaf insects is found in the Philippines.

Ecological role

As part of the food chain, these insects help to maintain a balance in their natural habitat.

Special behaviour

Leaf insects shift their abdomens from side to side, imitating leaves moving in the wind.

The young are very active, unlike the adults.

Females are able to stridulate with their antennae. This is thought to serve as an additional defence against predators.

These insects are nocturnal.

Interesting facts

Status

This is a common species in the wild, and is reared around the globe.

Interesting facts and curiosities

They are able to reproduce by parthenogenesis: females can lay fertile eggs without being fertilized by a male. Such eggs produce only females. The eggs resemble the seeds of the trees on which stick insects live, providing camouflage and protecting them from predators.

The eggs can change colour and become covered in hairs if humidity levels rise. These changes are irreversible, however.

Males have much shorter lifespans than females: about three months for males, and six months for females. Young leaf insects are often a reddish-brown, imitating the colour of young tree shoots and offering ideal camouflage.

At the Insectarium

Leaf insects belong to the genus Phyllium, which includes a number of species some of which have not yet been officially described by taxonomists. Phyllium sp. is one of these “undescribed” species.

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