A Sticky Situation

Stick insects, otherwise known as walking sticks, live in tropical and temperate forests all throughout the world. Related to grasshoppers, crickets, and mantises, these crawlers are usually brown, green, or black. They’re also the world’s longest insects. The largest one ever found stretched 22 inches with its legs extended. However, the average size is about 12 inches. This bug spends most of its time in trees chowing on leaves.

When a predator comes along, like a bird, the insect tries to remain perfectly still as if to blend in with its surroundings. If the bird somehow isn’t fooled and grabs the “stick” by the leg, it’s no problem. This unique insect can just detach the leg and scurry away. It will simply regrow another limb later to recover.

There are approximately 3,000 different species of stick insects exist. In fact, some are master mimics even before they hatch. As a general rule, male stick insects are smaller than females. The females are larger and heavier because their bodies are full of lots of eggs waiting to be laid. The females lay eggs that look like plant seeds. This prevents carnivorous insects from eating the eggs. This crawler really knows how to go undercover.

This stick-like organism is a bug that is a part of the Phasmatodea order, the name of which is derived from the Greek word meaning “apparition.” Phasmids typically mimic their surroundings through similar colors. These bugs are herbivores, which means that they only eat plants. The average life span in the wild is up to three years. Little is known about walking sticks, which makes it tough to determine the vulnerability of their status in the wild. The pet trade poses a potential threat, along with the popular practice of framing their carcasses, like butterflies.

Stick insects can reproduce parthenogenetically, or without the need for males. Walking sticks are a nation of Amazons, being able to reproduce almost entirely without males. Unmated females create eggs that are all female. However, when a female does mate, there is a 50% chance their offspring will be male. Therefore, there are more female stick bugs than males, but the males will never end up disappearing due to the fact that they can still mate with females.

If threatened by a predator, a stick insect will use any means necessary to escape its attacker. Some will spit out a nasty substance that will leave a bad taste in the predator’s mouth. Others secrete a foul-smelling hemolymph from the joints in their body. Also, stick insects may even spray a chemical at the offender, very similar to tear gas.

Furthermore, walking sticks are a very fascinating type of insects. Holding the record for longest insects in the world at 22 inches long, they blend in especially well for their size. Even when a predator seeks them out, these exceptional bugs have multiple ways to escape that many people do not even know about. So no matter in what type of situation they may find themselves, they can stick it to their enemies.


About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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