Insect Art and Spiny Leaf Insects

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Don visited Jane Davenport at Wollongong Botanic Garden, where she is Artist-in-residence. Jane has a passion for insects and they are a recurring theme in her artwork. She introduced Don to one of her favourite subjects, a spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum) named Isabella. Jane used to photograph what she calls human stick insects (ie very slim models on the European fashion catwalks). She thinks that the real thing is just as beautiful, but just a little easier to work with!

Jane does not take scientific photographs. She manipulates the images on her computer, so that you find things in her world that don’t exist anywhere else. Jane’s approach is to put herself in the garden and in the picture with the creatures – when you’re looking at one of her pictures you are walking with the gargantuan ladybird, you’re dive bombing the daisies with the bees, or you’re duelling with a mantis at dusk.

Great pets

If you’re interested in Jane’s spiny leaf insect, the good news is that you actually can buy them. They are sold at many pet shops, including Kellyville Pets in Sydney where we filmed part of our segment. They sell small stick insects for around $19, or two for about $30.

It’s not difficult to keep pet stick insects happy. They can be kept in an aquarium with netting over the top, or a mesh enclosure (the one shown cost about $100). Most stick insects eat eucalypt or acacia (wattle) leaves. Just gather a few leafy twigs every few days and stand them in a jar of water to keep them fresh. Without water stick insects will die. In the wild, they get enough water from dew, but in captivity it is necessary to spray the insects and the leaves a few times every day, using a spray atomiser.

Further reading

Jane Davenport’s article on stick insects is in the November 2002 issue of the Burke’s Backyard Magazine, available at newsagents for $5.20.