The Indonesian Rainforest at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is home to many creepy crawlies. Some of the bugs there are as big as your hand! Among them is heteropteryx dilatata, also known as the Malaysian Walking Leaf. When you spot these insects, they may not move much – they’re nocturnal. Oftentimes during the day, they’ll blend in with their surroundings and look like a leaf.
The Malaysian Walking Leaf is a record-holder. In fact, they are the heaviest stick insect and also have the largest egg laid by an insect. Females measure in at nearly 10 inches in length and lay an egg about half an inch long.
The female on exhibit at the zoo lays eggs, then the zookeepers incubate those. After about 6 months, the eggs will hatch. So, even though the zoo currently has only one female Malaysian Walking Leaf, there will be more on exhibit in the future!
The female Malaysian Walking Leaf is much bigger than the male. She’s also different-colored. The males are brown, while the female is more yellow and green. Both possess spikes that allow them to hold onto plants with a dead-grip for hours on end. In the wild, these insects eat any sort of nearby brows (leaves). Here at the zoo, they’re fed pyracantha, a specific plant species grown on zoo grounds.
Every 7 to 10 days, zookeepers clean out the heteropteryx cage – which is an involved process. Once all of the old brows and soil are removed, zookeepers have to double bag it. That bag is then put in a freezer before a company comes and picks it up to be incinerated. That’s all part of USDA regulations. Why? It prevents accidentally releasing these insects in the environment.
Your eyes will surely bug out when you see the Malaysian Walking Leaf and other creepy crawlies in the Indonesian Rainforest this summer!