Backyard Bugs: Macleay’s Spectre Leaf Insect

Master of disguise… A Macleay’s Spectre Leaf Insect. Image: Damon Wilder/Natural Selection Media

Meet the master of disguise. Macleay’s Spectre Leaf Insects have remarkable camouflage that changes throughout their lifecycle.

The adult and larger nymphs blend perfectly into their background giving them the appearance of a bunch of dead gum leaves to the unobservant eye. The eggs of Macleay’s Spectre Leaf Insects resemble seeds and are often collected by ants and stored in their nests.

The ants eat a little knob on the end of the egg and then discard the rest of the egg, leaving the nymph inside unharmed. When they hatch out, the nymphs resemble ants in shape and colouring and even smell like the ants, which helps them avoid detection inside the nest.

They then make their way out of the nest, find a eucalyptus tree, shed their skins and spend the rest of their lives hiding in plain sight as they munch away on the foliage.

Scientific name: Extatosoma tiaratum
Common Names: Macleay’s Spectre Leaf Insect, Spiny Leaf Insect
Size: Up to 20cm
Distribution: QLD and northern NSW
Diet: Eucalyptus

Our Backyard Bugs photographic series celebrates the diverse and exciting range of of insects found around Australia. For more amazing images, visit Natural Selection Media.

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