Stick Insects

01/08/2010

Stick Insect FLICKR circulating Stick insects are some of the strangest and coolest animals out there.  Also known as walking sticks, these masters of camouflage have evolved to look just like the twigs of a tree or shrub, which is where they find their habitat.  It's almost impossible to spot them because their mimicry is so excellent.

Some other neat oddness about stick insects:

  • There are over 3,000 known species of stick insects, with new species discovered each year.  It's no wonder science hasn't found them all yet; they're hard to spot!
  • Some stick insects will even sway back and forth to add to the illusion. By swaying, they look like twigs blowing in the wind.
  • They don't need males to reproduce.  Female stick insects can reproduce through parthenogenesis, meaning they can lay eggs that will hatch into clones of themselves.  As a result, males are much less common than females in most populations.  Males are only produced when a female chooses to mate, resulting in eggs that have a 50/50 chance of being male.
  • Just like adult stick insects mimic plants, their eggs mimic plant seeds, protecting the eggs from carnivorous predators. 
  • Some species' eggs mimic seeds that are collected by ants.  Just like the plant seeds favored by the ants, the stick insect eggs have an edible, nutritious nodule that attracts the ants. The ants consume this nodule and then discard the egg where it finishes its development under the unwitting protection of the ants.
  • Some species of stick insect can spray an irritating fluid when threatened that can burn the mouth and eyes of potential predators.

Here's a video clip of my most recent appearance on the Today Show where I share some stick insects with Hoda and Piers Morgan.  Enjoy!


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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