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Insects are known to be a lot more fragile than most animals. As covered in previous pages, they have an exoskeleton and shed to grow and develop. Every time an insect sheds, goes through that crucial development process, they face injury or death.

They have an incredibly short lifespan. Some have longer lifespans. Some range from six months to almost two years. Termites are known to live for a few years, and the Adonis Butterfly has a unique lifespan that takes longer than the average butterfly.  

However, most insects do not have an exceptionally long lifespan. For tiny organisms, they are considered to be hardy.  There are some incidents where insects can bounce back from bad sheds, but in most cases, they can't. I will discuss this and how to ensure insects have a good shed.  

Risks involving shedding and how to solve them. 

Insects shed in different ways. For example, when Beetle Larvae shed, their face peels off to reveal a new one, whereas more phasmids( leaf and stick insects) just shed their exoskeleton. 

Most insects shed from high above on branches or food plants, but grubs shed in the soil.  Let's take the example of Phasmids and Mantis shedding. Both these orders require plenty of room to shed.  There need to be loads of space, and the shed spot needs to be reasonably high up, but not too high. We will come to why later on. 

The chance of a healthy shed can be high or low, depending on certain factors. These factors are as follows...

1. Height: Phasmids and Mantids are commonly known to hang upside down on branches to shed. This gives them plenty of space to shed.  However, if an insect sheds too high or the branch it is on doesn't provide enough support, the Mantis or Phasmid could easily fall, leading to death. 

How to solve this: Place a vine or branch beneath the place where the insect is shedding. Use food plants( only for herbivore insects) for insects to fall on. Do not leave vast gaps of space between the glass and food plants or they can fall from the ceiling of the vivarium. 

2: Space: Often, insects chose the wrong places to shed, where it isn't so spacious and they end up crowded. Overcrowding a vivarium with insects( more related to Phasmids, mantis are housed alone!)  can cause insects to accidentally twist their abdomen as they shed. Sometimes fellow leaf insects can knock into each other and cause others to twist up in their exoskeleton. 

 

How to solve this:     Do not overpopulate a small Vivarium with more than 6 insects, unless they are nymphs.  Make sure food plants aren't too close together and branches aren't pressed too close to the glass. 

3. Humidity: Not all insects need a lot of humidity. For example, most stick insects( Giant Bean Insects) and Mantis( Giant Asian Mantis) can't be too humid. The enclosure still needs to be sprayed for hydration. However, all leaf insects and the majority of mantis( Giant Shield Mantis and Orchid Mantis) need high levels of humidity to have an easy, safe shed. If the enclosure is too dry then the exoskeleton will stick tightly to the insect.  If correct humidity is provided, the environment will be damp enough for the exoskeleton to be able to be slipped off easily, preventing injury and potential death.

How to solve this:  Ensure you know your species of insect's humidity needs. Spray twice a day and use a good substrate for an extra boost of humidity. For example, Sphagnum moss and Coco soil are great substance to boost and contain humidity. Only use glass Vivariums as they retain humidity best. Nets are useless when it comes to humidity and temperature! 

Insects with injuries that survive and how to help. 

 

 

Most insect injuries are due to shedding. This is our pages main focus but we will focus on some other ailments too. Below I will explain how you can work with an injured insect who has had a shedding accident.

One of my Phyllium Gigantea( Giant Leaf insects)  went through a bad shed. She  twisted the end of her abdomen and her exoskeleton  got stuck. I removed it with some cool water and kept a watchful eye on her. To my delight, she healed up well. Her abdomen was still twisted but she moved with ease. Though, when you assist the insect, you must understand that they will not have the same quality of life as others, and you will be responsible for helping it get through each shed. 

There is also a high probability that your insect will not grow the same as others. Mine did really well, and I never thought it would survive four entire sheds, but it did. It shows how strong insects really are.  In my head, I knew she wouldn't reach adulthood, or if she did she wouldn't look the same, but I gave her a chose to fight for her survival. However, on the last shed,  she could barely move and was in real pain. In a hard situation like that the only thing you can do, and this will sound sad,  is to put it out of it's misery.

 

Sometimes, whilst keeping insects you have to consider how much pain they are in, and it is a hard task to do. I found myself in tears as I had to end her pain.  The unfortunate thing is, insects can not be euthanized like animals and sometimes you need to be the one to do it. It's a horrid thing to have to do, or even consider, but I am just trying to be as real with you as possible 

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Phyllium Gigantea injured female. Twisted abodmen. 

Leaf Miners.

Leaf Miners can be larvae stages of either the Diptera order(Flies), Lepidoptera( Butterflies and Moths), Hymenoptera( bees, wasps, hornets), and sometimes Coleoptera( Beetles).

Leaf miners are known to leave whitish, brownish trails along with the leaf. Here, you see a bramble leaf. This marks typically where a leaf miner has been or still is situated.

It is paramount that you do not use leaves like this! Leaf miners have an annoying habit of snuggling down in a leaf, and when you go to put that food plant in the enclosure, they will be in there with your insect. 

I have had a terrible experience with one of these. I had rinsed bits of bramble like this, but still, one of the little leaf eaters was in the tank with my female Phyllium Gigantea, and thinking it was a leaf burrowed inside of it. I noticed a tiny brownish splodge at the end of the female insect's abdomen, and with horror, realised that it had chomped away the poor female abdomen!
 

I knew what I had to do, though I was cautious. I used gloves and, with some tweezers, extracted the little nibbling beast, which had made residence inside my insect, feeding and making the poor thing weak. 

At first, my Phyllium Gigantea was strong, and though it had most of its abdomen missing, it was living life normally. But, unluckily, one day, she died. 

This is why you will hear many insect keepers moaning about washing food plants properly. That and the fact, depending on where you gather them from, they could contain harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Always wash your food plants thoroughly no matter what type, a leaf miner or unwanted insect can be living within the leaves or on.  

Leaf miner trail.jpg
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