Stick Insects – General and Interesting Facts

As its name suggests, the stick insect resembles the twigs among which it lives, providing it with one of the most efficient natural camouflages on Earth. It and the equally inconspicuous leaf insect comprise the Phasmida order, of which there are approximately 3,000 species.

Stick insect species, often called walking sticks, range in size from the tiny, half-inch-long (11.6-millimeter-long) Timema cristinae of North America, to the formidable 13-inch-long (328-millimeter-long) Phobaeticus kirbyi of Borneo. This giant measures over 21 inches (55 centimeters) with its legs outstretched, making it one of the world’s longest insects. Females are normally larger than males.

Phasmids generally mimic their surroundings in color, normally green or brown, although some species are brilliantly colored and others conspicuously striped. Many stick insects have wings, some spectacularly beautiful, while others resemble little more than a stump. A number of species have spines and tubercles on their bodies.

Found predominantly in the tropics and subtropics—although several species live in temperate regions—stick insects thrive in forests and grasslands, where they feed on leaves. Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hidden under plants.

Many stick insects feign death to thwart predators, and some will shed the occasional limb to escape an enemy’s grasp. Others swipe at predators with their spine-covered legs, while one North American species, Anisomorpha buprestoides, emits a putrid-smelling fluid.

Little is known about stick insects, making it difficult to declare the vulnerability of their status in the wild. The pet trade presents a potential threat, along with the popular practice of framing their carcasses, like butterflies.


Fast Facts

Type: Bug
Diet: Herbivore
Average life span in the wild: Up to 3 years
Size: 0.46 to 12.9 in (11.6 to 328 mm)
Did you know? Stick insects are part of the Phasmida order, the name of which is derived from a Greek word meaning “apparition.”

For more information about Stick Insects, please visit the National Geographic website.


Ten Interesting Facts About Stick Insects

1 There are over 2,500 species of stick insect in the World. Indian Stick Insects are just one variety. Their Latin name is Carausius morosus. They come from the Shambaganur region of Southern India.
2 Stick insect egg are round and brown with a yellow nodule. They look like tiny seeds. One female can lay several hundred eggs during an average life of around a year.
3 Inconveniently for anyone keeping stick insects as pets, stick insect droppings or waste can easily be mistaken for eggs and vice versa. Makes it hard to know what to throw away when you clean out the cage!
To avoid making too many mistakes, place a piece of white kitchen roll as the bottom of the cage. The droppings are a slightly darker colour of brown than the eggs, squarer in shape (instead of round), have no yellow nodule and are rougher.
4 When they hatch out Indian stick insects are tiny – around 10mm but grow to around 10 cm in six months.
5 Being insects, Carausius morosus (to back to Fact 1 if you need to check the meaning of this Latin term) have no internal skeleton. They rely on a hard outer body for rigidity. To allow for rapid growth, they shed their outer skin several times. After shedding a skin, they will hang from a twig to harden their new outer layer. During this period they are weaker – try not to disturb them!
6 Ivy, hawthorn, brambles and privet make great food for your pets. Help to retain the moisture in the stems by sticking them in green florists’ oasis. Don’t put the stems into a bowl of water – your pets may drown.
7 Only one in one thousand Indian stick insects are male. This species is parthenogenetic, which means the females are able to lay fertile eggs on their own.
8 Stick insects are very good at hiding. At night they can become slightly darker to make them harder to spot occasionally you will see them swaying. This is their way of trying to look like a stick swinging in the breeze. If you hold your pet, it may fold up its legs into itself so that it really looks like a twig.
9 These creatures breathe through a series of holes called spiracles which are located along the side of the body.
10 If a young stick insect loses a leg it is sometimes able to grow a new one in a process called regeneration. The new leg will, however, be smaller and not as useful to be careful when handling your pets.


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