Australian Wildlife

  Spiny Leaf Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)

Spiny Leaf Insect | Extatosoma tiaratum photo
Giant Prickly Stick Insect

Image by Frank C. Müller - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)

Spiny Leaf Insect | Extatosoma tiaratum photo
Extatosoma tiaratum, Insect, male after 4th molt

Image by Stephan M. Höhne - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)

Spiny Leaf Insect | Extatosoma tiaratum photo
These leaf insects appear to have the head back to front. The mouth parts are between the arms and the base of the antennae.

Image by B D - Some rights reserved.    (view image details)


The Spiny Leaf Insect is not a true Leaf Insect, but a species of Stick Insect. It is variable in colour and can be green, light brown or reddish brown. It is covered in sharp spines and the legs have flattened leaf-like projections. The head has an odd pointed cone shape and looks like it is on back to front. Males have much slimmer bodies, and two pairs of fully developed wings and can fly. Females have stout abdomens, a single pair of tiny wings and cannot fly. They rely on camouflage to avoid predators, looking like a stick with leaves. When disturbed they can strike out with their spiny legs. They often curl the end of their abdomen over their back like a scorpion. The Spiny Leaf Insect is a popular insect pet.

Other Names
Giant Prickly Stick Insect, Macleay's Spectre

body length: females to 20cm; males to 11cm

Spiny Leaf Insects feed mainly on Eucalyptus trees, but will also feed on other plants such as Hawthorn, Raspberry and Rose bushes.

The female Spiny Leaf Insect lays her eggs from a tree where they drop down into the leaf litter. The eggs are collected by ants and carried down into the ant nest and stored as food. The ants feed on the knob on the end of the stick insect egg. When the nymphs hatch from the egg they resemble ants and smell like ants. Before the ants realise the stick insect is an intruder it escapes from the nest and heads for a eucalypt tree where it climbs up to feed on the foliage.

found in coastal regions of Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Common Name:Spiny Leaf Insect