Food Plants

Food Plants for Phasmids

General information

  • if possible offer phasmids more than one food plant - they will be healthier. The food plants we are offering them are a mere substitute for their natural food plants. Thus they might not really cover all the nutritional needs. This might be compensated by offering them a wider range of food plants........of course this will be difficult for many breeders in winter
  • try out new food plants for your phasmids
  • change the food plants once a week - or more often if you have the time to do so
  • the assumption that phasmids will not eat what is not good for them should be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, I had Agathemera sp. "Capilla del Monte" feeding very well on Hypericum, but they were all dead after only two days. And the Hypericum was definitely not poisoned
  • why don't they feed on all plants? It seems that phasmids are guided by taste - like we are too. Certain substances in a plant attract them to feed. And different species have a different taste, easy as that

... when food plants wither too quickly

  • many food plants stay fresh for at least one week, if not much longer
  • suggestions on how to extend the duration food plants stay reasonably fresh
    • clean the container for the food plants regularly, at least every time you add fresh food plants. Plants keep fresh longer in freshwater
    • use tall containers for the food plants, so that a larger part of the stem is submerged in water
    • use an old florist trick - cut the stem of the food plants with a sharp knife diagonally to the direction of growth
  • fresh shoots of bramble (Rubus spp.) in springtime wither often rather quickly, as these new shoots are usually quite delicate. This happens especially to new shoots on old, last-year stems. Better to use stems which come from the forest floor, these are often much hardier
  • nevertheless one might have to add fresh food plants more often than just once a week during springtime
  • if it is very cold outside for a prolonged time in winter (with temperatures constantly below 0°C), then bramble leaves start to wither. This happens because the water from the leaves is not replaced by from the frozen stems, and we can not do much about this. During such times one can find reasonably fresh bramble leaves under the snow
  • keep your stock of food plants in a bucket with water and cover them with a transparent plastic sac. This way, they will keep fresh for some time

Food plants from flower shops

  • pesticides are very commonly used when growing plants for tree nurseries, garden centres and flower shops
  • therefore, it is likely that plants available in such places have been treated with pesticides, and thus poisonous for phasmids
  • furthermore, modern pesticides are often so-called "systemic" poisons. Plants treated with systemic pesticides will absorbed or assimilate the poison via their roots or even leaves and integrated the poison into the plant tissue itself. Therefore systemic pesticides are very persistent and thus active for a very long time. Basically, such pesticides are active (and thus poisonous) for as long as the plant tissue is alive! Thus washing the leaves or replacing the soil does not help, the plant will remain poisonous. The only solution would be to replace all soil from the pot and then cut the plant back as much as possible and wait for new shoots
  • for example, I bought a Pandanus from a flower shop. Then about 1,5 years later I thought that the Pandanus must be poison-free. So I fed a leaf of it to my new Megacrania phleaus "Kwara'ae" generation - and the next day almost all nymphs laid dead on the cage floor with the typical sign of poisoning
  • fortunately there are also a few exceptions of plants from the flower shop which are not poisonous
    • Eucalyptus - many breeders use Eucalyptus from the flower shop and have good success
    • Salal (Gaultheria shallon) is being used since many years successfully (see some more notes on Salal below)
    • when you wanna try out a new plant from the flower shop, then first feed it to one tester specimen only. If that one will survive for at least a week then the plant should be OK to be used

Salal (Gaultheria shallon)

  • Salal has successfully been used as a food plant for a number of phasmid species since 2008. Actually, some species could hardly be bred in Europe without this plant (e.g. Damasippus sp. "Monteverde"), cause their food plants would not be available during winter
  • Salal is used in flower shops as greenery for flower bouquets
  • Salal, which is used in flower shops, originates from natural forests native to the west coast of (northern USA) and Canada. To my knowledge, no case of poisoning with such Salal has been reported
  • in the UK this plant is called "flower dressing leaves" in flower shops
  • important - do not use Salal plants with roots from the garden centre. These plants are grown in greenhouses and are most probably treated with pesticides. A breeder from Denmark reported that Salal with roots was poisonous indeed


Food Plants

here we present a selection of the most important food plants for breeding phasmids, especially for breeders in Europe. When trying to get a new species in culture, without knowing its original host plant or a successful substitute food plant, then try some of the potential food plants listed below: