Dead Stick Walking

Yesterday afternoon, my wife spotted a walking stick on the ceiling of our back porch, a special treat for our two grandsons.  Not always so easy to find (due to their excellent camouflage) stick insects are primarily nocturnal and are best observed at dawn or dusk.

Found across the globe, especially in tropical regions, stick insects are represented by more than 3000 species; some exceed one foot in length (almost two feet with legs extended), among the longest insects on Earth.  Females are always significantly larger than the males and are far more common; indeed, in many species, female walking sticks are capable of parthenogenesis, producing identical female offspring without mating.  When mating does occur,  physical coupling may persist for days or even weeks.  Eggs are most often laid in loose soil or leaf litter and temperate zone species generally overwinter in that form.  Herbivorous, stick insects may cause extensive defoliation of trees and shrubs in some regions, a seemingly strange achievement for such a sluggish appearing insect.

Natural enemies of the walking stick include bullfrogs, snakes, lizards, toads, birds and bats.  They may also fall victim to human insect collectors who place these fascinating insects in terrariums.