Aschiphasma annulipes "Tapah Hills"    Westwood, 1834


It seems that more and more Aschiphasma annulipes eggs are entering the "market". Therefore I would like to offer here my preliminary notes on my breeding attempt of this interesting species

Over the years there have been several attempts to breed Aschiphasma annulipes from Malaysia in captivity. But none of these attempts have been successful. Even experienced people in south-east Asia could find out how to breed them - so that made an interesting challenge for me  :)

Aschiphasma annulipes is a nice species from Malaysia, found in Peninsular Malaysia as well as on Borneo

I got eggs from Sharon Cheong (highly recommended insect dealer) which I incubated with the HH-method. They started to hatch after about 6 - 8 weeks. Yet some nymphs also hatched after 3 - 4 months, although all eggs were from the same batch and thus laid around the same time

None of the common food plants were accepted by these nymphs - too bad

After some days, when they did not accept anything then I started to offer them freshly cut, thin apple slices - which I pinned to the cage ceiling with needles. I am using the apple cultivar "Golden Delicious", a rather sweet apple. I use this apple-slice-method sometimes for nymphs of other species too, when they do not start to feed on anything. This can provide the nymphs with moisture, but more importantly with some nutrients (e.g. sugar). This might jump-start their digestive system and maybe making them "hungry" for more. And the energy supply may allow them to go on for some additional days looking out for the right food plant(s). Just as a sidenote, this apple-slice-method does not work for all species. For example Achrioptera nymphs do not accept it. And a disadvantage is that one has to change the slices regularely at least every two days. Otherwise they dry up or get mould quickly

But for A. annulipes nymphs is works like a charm. They eagerly suckle and nibble on the apple slices. I had no other food for them exept these slices, and they actually started to fed quite well on these slices. So at first I wondered if they could survive on just apple slices ? They did actually well ... at least for some time. But after about 2 -3 weeks they started to die anyway, even though a few made it into 2nd instar. So it was obvious that apple does not provide enough nutrients for them to survive. Therefore I tried out some more plants - and I could find some on which they fed:

  • beech (Fagus sylvatica)
    was accepted, but the nymphs did not really thrive on this plant
  • birch (Betula spp.)
    was also accepted, but nymphs did not thrive on it neither
  • willow (Salix spp.)
    this was the solution ! They accepted it (as Calvisia does). Of course one has to cut away the leaf edges for the small nymphs. Just so far I could not find out which willow species it is (see pics on the right)

On that particular willow species, the remaining nymphs thrived very well and 2 males and 3 females matured. These are the first ever captive bred specimens of A. annulipes

But then winter approached. So I put a good number of willow twigs in water and they rooted within 1 - 2 weeks. Thus I had some more food to keep them going for some time. And 2 - 3 weeks later the females started to lay eggs. One half of the eggs I incubated with the HH-method. The other half I have put in the fridge at around 10°C to prolong incubation, hoping that some nymphs might hatch in spring when the willow has leaves again

When I ran of willow for the adults, then I have found that they also feed (reluctantly) on Leatherleaf Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) - quite a common and evergreen garden plant. Just they do not like it too much. So I used my coating method and smeared apple and willow juice on the leaves and let it dry. These coated Viburnum leaves where then a bit better accepted by the adults. But still most of them died within a few weeks. Only one thin female remained, feeding a little bit - just enough to prevent her from starving

Then, a short while ago, it became obvious that one of the natural food plants are Jackfruit leaves (Artocarpus heterophyllus). This was first suggested to me by Sharon Cheong (Malaysia) in 2012, but I could not try it out. Jackfruit is not really common around here  ;) Then two other persons actually had living specimens feeding on this plant - David Hagget (Malaysia) and Yamai Huang (Taiwan). But Jackfruit is not really an option for phasmid breeders in Europe - at least not in places with cold winters. So what to do when the second generation will hatch ?

And they started to hatch just a few days ago, after about 8 weeks of incubation. A. annulipes nymphs are VERY quick and they can actually jump if they feel threatened ! The adults are quick too and fly very well. Therefore it is not really easy to handle them. Those of use who have ever bred an Orthomeria species have a faint idea what it is like  :)  You open up the cage - and some (if not all) start to run, but each one in a different direction. Quite easy to loose some.
Nymphs hatch during the day, in the early morning hours, and they are mainly day-active at first. Thus it is much easier to change the food plants during the night

I decided to work with a more "sophisticated" coating on Leatherleaf Viburnum leaves - that seems to be the only option I have for now.  As one of the natural plants is Jackfruit leaves and they are fruit (sugar?) lovers - maybe they are also eager for Jackfruit? So I got myself dried Jackfruit chips (without preservatives) from a Thai shop. Fresh Jackfruit might be better, but I could not find one so far. These chips were dissolved in some water, mixed with an apple and just a little pinch of additional sugar. Then I made that mixture (with the help of a good blender) into a very fine paste, which is now ready for being used as a coating

But at first one has to prepare the Leatherleaf Viburnum. These leaves have a thick hairy layer on their underside.  It is best to remove this layer. Wet the leaves and use a medium-soft brush to remove the hairy layer. Be careful when doing this, as otherwise you will rip the leaf apart. Then cut away the leaf edges and dry it again before applying the paste. Now one can easily apply the Jackfruit-Apple-paste onto both sides of the Leatherleaf Viburnum with a soft paint brush. Let the coating dry for one day in a warm place. One can even apply a second layer, which has to be left drying again. Otherwise the coating will get mould quickly ! Then put the coated leaves in the cage with the nymphs. Of course one can NOT spray the nymphs and the coated leaves and wet paper towel in the cage is a no-go ! Additionally offer the nymphs thin apple slices

If the coating is well dried and one does neither spray nor use wet paper towels in the cage, then the coated leaves can be left in the cage for two weeks, maybe even longer. Use an airy cage

I am doing this with the nymps for just a few days now, and they do actually feed on the coated Leatherleaf Viburnum leaves. But for the moment I have not idea whether they can thrive on this diet. Will keep you poste on this ...

And we shall also see whether the eggs kept in the fridge will actually hatch in spring ...

Already received some interesting suggestions  (thanks !!) :

  • Dr. Francis Seow-Choen (Singapore) suggested to use mulberry (Morus spp.) - which belongs to the same family Moraceae as Jackfruit. If you know a Bombys breeder then you might try this out
  • Tatiana Kompantsava (Russia) suggested Ficus spp. -  which also belongs to the same family Moraceae as Jackfruit. I might get Ficus this week, so I shall try this out
  • Rainer Piller (Gemany) suggested that the willow could be Salix triandra. As it seems to be difficult to accuratly identify willow species (they hybridize easily amongst each other), there might not be any conclusive identification anytime soon...

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Update  17.03. 2013

  • Leatherleaf Viburnum with Jackfruit-Apple-Coaging
    it is well accepted by freshly hatched nymphs. Almost no nymph died in L1. At the moment the first specimens also feed on Leatherleaf Viburnum without coating
  • Ficus
    I offer Ficus benjamin and Ficus lyrata - both are accepted quite well by freshly hatched nymphs. But despite they feed quite well on these plants, many nymphs died. First nymphs are now in L2. So for the moment Ficus could be a option - but let's see if they will thirve on it in the long run

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Update  18. 04. 2013

  • Leatherleaf Viburnum with Jackfruit-Apple-Coating
    this did not work out. Even though the nymphs started to feed nicely on this, they still died after about 2 weeks. When they died they looked well-fed. My guess is, that the coating might have been to rich
  • Ficus
    all Ficus species I have offered were well accepted (Ficus benjamina, Ficus lyrata, Ficus elastica). Nymphs are growing nicely on this diet, so Ficus might be a good food plant for Aschiphasma annulipes

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 Update  12.06. 2013

  • Ficus
    second generation matured very well on Ficus. For the past 2 - 3 instars they have been fed mainly on Ficus lyrata and Ficus elastica. Ficus benjamina has also been accepted. So if you have a good supply for Ficus, then you should be able to breed this very interesting and beautiful species

Bruno Kneubuehler

PS: if you have any additional notes, please let me know by email:
gopala@bluewin.ch
or you may wanna leave a comment on my Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/phasmatodea


References

  • Phasmida Species Files  (www.phasmida.orthoptera.org)

 

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