Walking Stick Bug: All You Need to Know Explained Concisely

The walking stick bug is a fascinating insect that mimics its natural background to blend in seamlessly with its surroundings. These slender creatures, also known as walking sticks or stick insects, boast six spindly legs and two long, thin antennae, making them easily recognizable even though they’re masters of camouflage. You may not come across … Read more

Walking Stick Life Cycle: A Fascinating Journey Explained

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects, belong to the insect order Phasmatodea, which consists of around 3,000 species. These fascinating creatures are known for their impressive camouflage capabilities, as they closely resemble twigs or branches found in their natural habitat. The life cycle of walking sticks is a captivating aspect of their existence, showcasing … Read more

What Do Walking Sticks Eat? A Quick Guide for Curious Minds

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects or stick bugs, are fascinating insects that have evolved to resemble twigs or branches in order to evade predators. There are over 3,000 species of walking stick insects, with males, females, and nymphs displaying diverse appearances and behaviors. As a walking stick enthusiast, you might be curious about … Read more

What Eats Walking Sticks: Meet Their Surprising Predators

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects or walking stick insects, are fascinating creatures that blend seamlessly into their environments. These insects often resemble the branches and leaves of the plants they inhabit, making them masters of camouflage. In nature, walking sticks have a variety of predators, despite their remarkable ability to stay hidden. Animals … Read more

Do Walking Sticks Bite? Debunking the Myth and Learning the Facts

Walking sticks are fascinating creatures, known for their unique appearance and impressive ability to blend in with their surroundings. These insects are slow-moving and stick-like, with long, slender legs and thread-like antennae. Their color, form, and behavior allow them to hide from predators, making them quite intriguing to observe in the wild.

Many people encounter walking sticks while hiking or exploring natural areas, and wonder if these unusual insects may bite or pose any danger. In general, walking sticks are not known for aggressive behavior and do not possess strong jaws or venomous bites. While they may be curious about the insects, it’s important to remember that walking sticks are primarily herbivores, feeding on leaves and vegetation.

Walking Stick Insects: Overview

Species and Size

Walking stick insects belong to the order Phasmatodea and come in various species. The northern walkingstick (Diapheromera femorata) is a common species in North America, with a length of 3 ½ to 4 inches1. Another species is the twostriped walkingstick (Anisomorpha buprestoides), with females averaging 67.7 mm in length and males being smaller at an average of 41.7 mm2.

Appearance and Habitat

These insects are slow-moving, wingless, and stick-like, featuring long, slender legs and long thread-like antennae3. Their color ranges from green to brown, which allows them to blend in with their surroundings for camouflage4. Walking sticks are commonly found in forests and grasslands5.

Range and Distribution

Walking stick insects can be found in various regions, with the northern walkingstick being common in North America1, and the twostriped walkingstick being prevalent in the southeastern United States2. They’re typically found in forest or grassland environments5.

Comparison Table of Species

Species Size (Average Length) Habitat
Northern Walkingstick 3 ½ to 4 inches Forests, grasslands
Twostriped Walkingstick 67.7 mm (females); 41.7 mm (males) Forests, grasslands

Behavior and Adaptations

Camouflage and Mimicry

Walking sticks are masters of camouflage. Their appearance closely resembles:

  • Leaves: Their body shape and color mimic leaves, making them blend easily with foliage.
  • Twig/twigs: To resemble small branches, walking sticks have elongated bodies and legs.

These adaptations allow walking sticks to hide from predators in trees.

Swaying and Playing Dead

Two common behaviors of walking sticks are swaying and playing dead.

Swaying: These insects often sway back and forth when stationary, giving the illusion of a twig or branch blowing in the wind. This clever trick further enhances their camouflage.

Playing dead: When threatened, walking sticks may drop to the ground and remain motionless. This defense behavior decreases their chances of being detected by predators.

Behavior Purpose Example
Swaying Enhance camouflage in trees Resembling a twig blowing in wind
Playing dead Escape detection by predators Dropping to the ground

In summary, walking sticks’ behavior and adaptations enhance their ability to blend into their environment and avoid predators.

Diet and Predators

Herbivorous Nature

Walking sticks are herbivorous insects, meaning they feed primarily on plants. Their diet consists mainly of leaves, making them harmless to humans, as they do not bite. Examples of plants they commonly consume include:

  • Oak trees
  • Cherry trees
  • Hazelnut trees

Common Predators

Despite their harmless nature, walking sticks face various predators in their environment. Some common predators include:

  • Birds: Various bird species, such as songbirds and shrikes, are known to prey on walking sticks.
  • Reptiles: Lizards and small snakes are among the reptiles that prey on these insects.
  • Spiders: Web-building spiders, like orb-weavers, often capture walking sticks in their webs.
  • Bats: Insectivorous bats have been observed hunting walking sticks during the night.

Here’s a comparison table highlighting the common predators:

Predator Hunting Method
Birds Sight-based hunting from the trees
Reptiles Active ground hunting
Spiders Trapping in webs
Bats Catching insects in mid-flight

In conclusion, walking sticks are herbivorous insects that don’t pose any risk to humans, as they do not bite. They are part of the ecosystem’s food chain, where they have their own predators, including various species of birds, reptiles, spiders, and bats.

Reproduction and Mating

Mating Rituals

Walking sticks reproduce through a process involving mating rituals. Males search for females and engage in courtship behaviors to attract a mate. During mating, internal fertilization occurs by inserting the male intromittent organ into the female genital tract to deposit sperm1.

Here are some features of mating in walking sticks:

  • Internal fertilization
  • Courtship behaviors by males
  • Males typically smaller than females5

Parthenogenesis in Females

An interesting aspect of walking stick reproduction is parthenogenesis, wherein females can reproduce asexually without the need for a male partner. In this case, the eggs produced are parthenogenetic, and the offspring emerge as nymphs that are genetically identical to the mother3.

Characteristics of parthenogenetic reproduction in walking sticks:

  • Asexual reproduction
  • Offspring are genetically identical to the mother
  • Females can lay eggs without mating

Comparison Table:

Mating Method Pros Cons
Sexual Reproduction Increased genetic diversity in offspring Requires finding a mate
Parthenogenesis Females can reproduce without a male partner Lack of genetic diversity4

In summary, walking sticks have specific mating rituals involving courtship behaviors and internal fertilization. However, females are also capable of parthenogenesis, allowing them to reproduce without a mate. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the availability of suitable mates and the need for genetic diversity in offspring.

Do Walking Sticks Bite?

Biting and Stinging Abilities

Walking stick bugs, known for their stick-like appearance, are generally considered harmless creatures. Although they don’t possess stinging or venomous abilities, the Anisomorpha buprestoides species can deliver a defensive spray that may cause irritation. They rarely employ biting as a defense mechanism, but if it does happen, the damage is incredibly minimal.

For readers’ convenience, here’s a comparison table summarizing their abilities:

Feature Walking Stick Bug
Bite Rarely
Sting Not Present
Venom No
Defense Mechanism Defensive Spray

Threat to Humans

Since walking sticks lack venom and stinging abilities, they pose virtually no threat to humans. The bites, if they do occur, are not harmful and barely noticeable. However, if you encounter an Anisomorpha buprestoides, avoid provoking it as its defensive spray may cause eye or skin irritation. Here are some of their key characteristics:

  • Mostly harmless to humans
  • Stick-like appearance with long legs and antennae
  • Effective camouflage to blend in with their surroundings
  • Defensive spray as their primary defense mechanism (Anisomorpha buprestoides)

In conclusion, walking stick bugs are not known for biting or causing harm to humans, making them interesting and relatively safe insects to observe in nature.

Defense Mechanisms

Chemical Sprays

Walking sticks, when threatened, may protect themselves by releasing a chemical spray. This spray is a combination of foul-smelling chemicals used to deter predators. Examples of such substances include:

  • Poisonous defensive venom
  • Acidic compounds

These sprays are typically released from glands located near the walking stick’s head, adding an extra layer of defense.

Threat Poses

Another way walking sticks defend themselves is through their unique threat poses. Some species spread their wings wide as a warning to predators, while others arch their bodies to show off their spines. These poses make them appear larger and more intimidating, thus discouraging predators from attacking.


Walking sticks also use their antennae for defense. They can move these elongated appendages in various directions to confuse or distract potential threats. By doing so, they create the illusion of being a more significant or dangerous creature, giving predators second thoughts about attacking them.

Defense Mechanism Example Pros Cons
Chemical Sprays Poisonous venom Effective deterrent against predators May harm the user
Threat Poses Spreading wings No chemicals involved, less chance of self-harm Less effective
Antennae Waving Non-aggressive, easy to perform, versatile defense Limited effect
  • Features of walking stick defense mechanisms:

    • Chemical sprays
    • Threat poses
    • Antennae movements
  • Characteristics of walking stick defense mechanisms:

    • Protective
    • Intimidating
    • Distracting

Remember, various species of walking sticks have different combinations of these defense mechanisms in their survival toolkit, but all aim to effectively protect themselves from potential threats with their unique adaptations.

Walking Sticks as Pets

Caring for Pet Walking Sticks

Walking sticks, also known as phasmids or leaf insects, are fascinating creatures that can make unique and low-maintenance pets. Their needs in captivity are simple, but proper care is essential for their health and comfort.

  • Housing: A well-ventilated enclosure, such as a mesh cage, is crucial for your pet walking stick to thrive.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature of 70-80°F for their optimum growth.
  • Humidity: Maintain humidity by misting their enclosure regularly.
  • Food: Feed them with suitable plant leaves, such as bramble, eucalyptus, or oak.

Walking sticks are generally observing pets, using their exceptional sight and holding their body still, camouflaged among plant leaves. They are rarely handled, as their fragile bodies can be easily damaged.

Possible Dangers for Pets

While walking sticks are relatively harmless creatures, they may still pose some dangers to other pets or humans in certain situations.

  • Mandibles: Walking sticks have small but strong mandibles that could potentially bite if they feel threatened. However, this is rare and poses little risk for pet owners.
  • Chemical spray: Some species can release an irritating chemical spray when threatened. This spray can burn or cause temporary blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes.
  • Pet trade: In the pet trade, phasmids are seen as low-maintenance and may sometimes be caught in the wild for sale, potentially harming their natural populations.

Phasmids are more suitable pets for people who appreciate observing natural behavior, rather than those looking for constant interaction, such as with a dog. They are fascinating alternatives to pets like praying mantises and are more delicate than other insect pets.

Comparison Table: Walking Stick vs. Praying Mantis

Feature Walking Stick Praying Mantis
Appearance Resembles a twig or leaf, camouflaging among foliage Unique, triangular head with large eyes
Handling Rarely handled due to fragility Can be handled with caution
Diet Herbivorous, feeding on plant leaves Carnivorous, feeding on live insects
Maintenance Low-maintenance; requires proper humidity Moderate maintenance; needs live food
Lifespan Typically 1-2 years 6-12 months
Interaction with humans Mostly observing; unlikely to bite May bite if threatened

Remember, it’s essential to research and provide adequate care for walking sticks as pets, ensuring their proper diet, temperature, and humidity while remaining mindful of potential risks they may pose to other pets or humans.


  1. Northern Walkingstick (Family Diapheromeridae) – Field Station 2 3

  2. twostriped walkingstick – Anisomorpha buprestoides (Stoll) 2

  3. Walking sticks – Texas A&M University 2

  4. Walking Stick | Horticulture and Home Pest News 2

  5. Walkingsticks (Stick Insects) | Missouri Department of Conservation 2 3

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Handle with Care!!!: Northern Two-Striped Walkingstick


Which Walkingstick?
June 27, 2010
The first two photos were taken last August. When we saw the first walking stick on the wall of our patio, we assumed it was a male. Then a week later I saw two of them mating (second photo, Bug Love) and realized the one on the patio had been the female.
I was weed eating in the garden yesterday and noticed movement ahead of me and then saw a walking stick climbing out of the way. I stopped what I was doing and bent to pick it up and move it so it wouldn’t get hurt, but noticed it was already missing some legs (see third photo). I’m pretty sure I *didn’t* do that with the weed eater (at least I hope I didn’t), but wonder how it could have happened and what are her chances now? Also, what kind of walking stick is it? I kept reading about striped, spitting walking sticks, but these don’t have stripes.
Jayne Wilson
Houston area, Texas

Mating Northern Two-Striped Walkingsticks

Hi Jayne,
You Walkingsticks are in the genus Anisomorpha, most likely the Northern Two-Striped Walkingstick based on photos posted to BugGuide.  You should handle with care.  BugGuide provided the following critical information:  “
Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.”  You can get additional information on the Texas Walkingstick website.

Handle with Care: Walkingstick

Letter 2 – Maria Palito or Stick Mary from Dominican Republic


Subject: Only curiosity…
Location: Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic
April 15, 2014 7:24 am
Many warm greetings from the Dominican Republic. I saw this beautiful insect resting over the ceiling at the country house of a friend. All the time we spent on the terrace, this curious insect remained in that position. If it’s possible, can Whatsthatbug can give me any information on this peculiar insect.
Thanks in advance
Signature: Alejandro


Hi Alejandro,
Your file name was correct.  This is a Stick Insect or Walkingstick in the order Phasmida.  It appears a Stick Insect appeared on a Dominican Republic stamp in 1999 according to Asahi-net.  We will continue to attempt to identify the species of Stick Insect you submitted.

Daniel, many thanks for your information and your support.

Letter 3 – Goliath Stick Insect from Australia


Australian Bug
Sun, Jan 4, 2009 at 4:25 PM
Hi There Bugman!!
I found your email address on a site and wondered if you could help with the identification of the attached bug he is 6 – 7″ long and very calm and happy to be on my porch – not sure if I like him there though!!!
Qld Australia

Goliath Stick Insect
Goliath Stick Insect

Hi Angie,
With not too much effort, we identified your Stick Insect as the Goliath Stick Insect, Eurycnemma goliath which feeds on the leaves of eucalyptus trees. We first located it on the Brisbane Insect Web Site, which incidates “Goliath Stick Insects are the master of camouflage. We notice that they have at least the following methods to hide themselves from predators;
1. Their bodies, colour and shape made them look like part of the plant.
2. When staying motionless, they always put their front legs in front of their head, to made themselves look more like part of the plant.
3. They usually feed at night, during the day time they just hang motionless on the plants.
4. They eat the whole leaf, usually they do not leave part of the leaf uneaten, like most grasshoppers do.
5. Even when they move, they simulate the swaying motion, like the movement caused by the wind blowing.
6. Their eggs, called ova, look like seeds, so the predators do not notice the insect by the seeds.
7. They discard their dropping, called frass, very far away so that the predators do not notice the insect.”
Then we found more information on raising it in captivity on the Microcosmos Website.  Also, we believe he is a she.

Letter 4 – Giant Stick Mantis and Wandering Violin Mantis from India


Is this a wasp nest? I found these stick insects too.
March 25, 2010
Dear Bugman,
This nest was built in a shaded nook outdoors at our house in Hyderabad, India.
These stick insects were found in our garden in Hyderabad.
Hyderabad, India

Giant Stick Mantis

Dear Kobita,
We are splitting your letter into two different postings.  We are excited about your two Preying Mantis photos.  One is a Giant Stick Mantis or Indian Grass Mantis, Schizocephala bicornis, and you can read about it on the USA Mantis website.  Your second mantis appears to be a Wandering Violin Mantis, or Indian Rose Mantis, and you can read more about it on Mantis Photos website.

Wandering Violin Mantis

Letter 5 – Mating Mayer’s Walkingsticks: Rare species from the Florida Keys


Subject: Phasmid Halopus meyeri
Location: Florida Keys
May 5, 2014 12:09 pm
I’ve found some Phasmids in the keys and it was suggested I put pics of them up on BugGuide.net but couldn’t seem to find a real person to help so I thought I’d share here…
Here is Haplopus meyeri…I don’t think they have been posted here before.
Signature: Tim Borski

Mating Walkingsticks
Mating Mayer’s Walkingsticks

Dear Tim,
BugGuide is a far more egalitarian website than our own as anyone can post images to BugGuide, while here at What’s That Bug?, we are control freaks that individually select which images and letters to post.
  Your submission has us very curious, but it brings up many more questions than we can answer.  First, the name in your subject differs from the name in the body of your message where there is an additional “p”.  Furthermore, we cannot locate any information on the web regarding either spelling except a Facebook posting on the Invertebrate Studies Institute’s Facebook Page, and the entry cites you as the donor who provided a mating pair.  The information provided there, which includes yet a different name spelling with an “a” replacing one “e” in the species name, is:  “RARE phasmid species from the Florida Keys – CUTE baby one! Haplopus mayeri ! We just had 2 hatch from eggs today! Earlier in 2013 we were generously sent 1 adult mating pair by Tim Borski! You can see one of them feeding on the only foodplant that they are reported to eat: a semi-rare plant called “Bay Cedar” (Suriana maritima). We are hoping to find other plants that it can eat and breed them. Eventually we would like to do a population survey to see if this species is actually endangered or threatened. The species lives in areas near the Florida coast in places like Biscayne National Park and the keys – prime real estate!”  Where did you get your Phasmid or Walkingstick identified?  We are guessing that Haplopus mayeri is the proper spelling.
Armed with that information, we returned to internet research and we located your images on FieldHerpForum and one of your comments contains the identification 
Haplopus (Aplopus) mayeri, however, there is no source cited.  Phasmida has images of mounted specimens, including holotype and paratype images.  Taxonomy and other information including the common name Mayer’s Walkingstick can be located at Encyclopedia of Life, ITIS, Animal Diversity Web  and Global Species.  There are very few images of living specimens online, and we feel very lucky that you are allowing us to post your images. 

Female Mayer's Walkingstick
Female Mayer’s Walkingstick

I apologize for the inconsistencies but I was frustrated with BugGuide and typing fast…just trying to salvage my efforts in futility there. Here’s a pic of a mating pair.
Btw, it was my pic on FHF.
Sorry for the confusion,

Thanks Tim,
You already sent us this image.  Where did you get the proper identification?

Dr Aaron T.  Dossey at Invertebrate  Studies Institute. I have many pics of them, including the eggs. I sent them to Aaron and he hatched some. I was told they fed on Bay cedar but Aaron told me they were eating Black berry leaves(?)  Tthe last one I found (a week or so ago) was on a Sea grape tree. I was hunting snakes after dark and one of my boys encountered it. I brought it home and it fed off those leaves until I sent her to Aaron. She was a sub adult.  Btw, thank you for following up and being helpful.


Letter 6 – Giant Stick Mantis or India Grass Mantis from India


Subject: Indian Mantis species
Location: Gujarat, India
July 15, 2016 11:27 pm
This mantis looks like a blade of grass. Antenna are aligned straight with the body to look like a blade of dry/dead grass. What species is it? Not sure if it is Indian Stick Mantis.
Signature: Nitin Solanki

India Grass Mantis
India Grass Mantis

Dear Nitin,
In a previous posting of this species, we identified it as a Giant Stick Mantis or Indian Grass Mantis,
Schizocephala bicornis.  According to Project Noah, both common names are used.  Bug Nation has some very nice images of the species.

India Grass Mantis
India Grass Mantis
India Grass Mantis
India Grass Mantis

Letter 7 – Giant Walking Stick


BIG Texas Phasmid – Megaphasma?
July 3, 2010
I submitted some blurry pictures the other day, but she is still in the neighborhood, and she’s so pretty, I just had to take some better snaps to share her. She is 6 inches from head to tail, closer to 12 with the legs. Her coloration doesn’t match the Megaphasmae on BugGuide, she’s much more drab than the red and green monsters I’ve seen before. But her antenna arrangement does look like one of the Diapheromeridae, and at that size and heft, what else could she be in Central Texas? She really is gorgeous and very tolerant of me sticking my camera in her face. I hope you enjoy the sharper photos!
Melvis & Laugh
San Antonio, TX

Giant Walking Stick

Dear Melvis & Laugh,
We are happy to post your photo of a Giant Walking Stick, Megaphasma dentricrus.  We decided to link to BugGuide, and we found you had already posted your photo there.  Linking to BugGuide does bring up one interesting question for us.  This species is classified in the order Phasmida, the Walkingsticks, yet the common name for the species uses a noun and modifier rather than the compound word.  We are curious why this species is commonly called a Walking Stick rather than a Walkingstick.

Letter 8 – Giant Walkingstick


stick bug
This is the most unusual stick bug I have seen to date; it is about 9 inches long and the color is really green.

Hi Wayne,
Our sources list the Giant Walkingstick, Megaphasma dentricus, as reaching 5 7/8 inches, so your specimen is a trophey for sure.

Letter 9 – Giant Walkingstick


Barton Creek Bug
May 28, 2010
We saw this bug on the side of Barton Creek in Austin, Texas. Five minutes after we took the photograph he was eaten alive by a great tailed grackle.
Austin, Texas

Giant Walkingstick

Hi Gary,
Congratulations on your sighting of a Giant Walkingstick, which is the “Longest North American insect, females to 180 mm (7 inches)
” according to BugGuide.

Letter 10 – Giant Walkingstick


walking stick species?
Location: southern indiana
September 10, 2011 8:38 pm
Is this a ordinary walking stick ? I have never seen one look like this with so much color & for some reason it loves my Sycamore tree as you can see. thxs
Signature: brian

Giant Walkingstick

Hi Brian,
Your insect is a Giant Walkingstick,
Megaphasma denticrus, and we quickly identified it on BugGuide which notes:  “Color is variable, greenish to reddish-brown, sometimes with white on legs.”  The claspers on the end of the abdomen indicate that this is a male.

Giant Walkingstick

Letter 11 – Giant Walkingstick


Subject: Giant walking stick-huge female I believe
Location: New Braunfels, Texas
July 16, 2013 6:20 pm
Hi bugman, I thought you might like these photos of a very large giant walking stick I encountered a few weeks ago. She was easily probably 7 inches or so long without the front legs stretched out. She was quite tame and did not seem to mind having her picture taken. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoy your website!
Signature: Michael

Giant Walkingstick
Giant Walkingstick

Dear Michael,
Thank you for sending us your images of a Giant Walkingstick,
Megaphasma denticrus, which according to BugGuide, is the:  “Longest North American insect, females to 180 mm (7 inches). Helfer (1962)(1) gives range of 76-150 mm.  Per study conducted by Maginnis et al. (2008), females ranged from 105-135 mm and males ranged from 90-125 mm.”  The person is great to give our readers an idea of the scale of a Giant Walkingstick.

Giant Walkingstick
Giant Walkingstick

Thank you so much for posting my photos. The person is me by the way. I forgot to mention that in the original message.

Letter 12 – Giant Walkingstick


Subject: Walking branch ha!
Location: San Antonio, Texas
July 30, 2013 12:36 am
I found this big,scary, strong I think female walking stick. From what I can tell I think its female. What I want to know is what species is it exactly and what is its diet? I think it might be the mighty giant walking stick. The one they call the largest insect in the U.S.. Please help me figure this out experts.
Signature: RomeDogg

Giant Walkingstick
Giant Walkingstick

Dear RomeDogg,
You are absolutely correct that this is a female Giant Walkingstick,
Megaphasma dentricrus.  According to the Animal Diversity Web Information Sheet:  “In this species, males are extremely rare, sometimes with as few as one male per 1,000 females.”  The eating habits are described as:  “This species tends to feed on foliage of grasses and woody plants, especially on grapevines and oaks. It will also feed on leaves of trees and can occasionally cause deforestation. After hatching from their eggs in the springtime, young nymphs feed mainly on understory shrubs. Among the adults, several host plants are primarily fed upon such as the basswood, the birch, dogwood, hackberry, hickory, oak, pecan, and wild cherry. (Drees and Jackman, 1998)”

Giant Walkingstick
Giant Walkingstick

Letter 13 – Giant Walkingsticks Mating


Walking sticks
I went to let the dog out and discovered these two on my door handle…I have been around walking sticks my whole life but have never seen any this brilliant. Is there a reason for their brilliant color or are they a different variety than the plain brown ones? You probably can’t tell by the picture but the female was huge. We don’t see them that big here very often. Thanks

Hi Melody,
You didn’t tell us where “here” is, so we are guessing Texas. We are thrilled to get your highly detailed photo of Giant Walkingsticks, Megaphasma dentricus, mating. You can even make out the spiny ridge along the lower surface of the femora. This is the largest North American Walkingstick.

Letter 14 – Goliath Stick Insect found dead in Australia


Large ‘Alien’ looking Insect
April 18, 2010
Hi, the attached ‘insect’ was found dead in 2005 in Brisbane’s Western Suburbs. I thought I had lost the photos until now. Having never seen anything that so closely resembles the main character of the film Alien, and I am not talking about Sigourney Weaver here, I was wondering if you could id this insect as something natural rather than as a hungry visitor from another planet. The closest match I have been able to find is the ‘Goliath Stick Insect’ – really lame name by the way – but I have not seen any photo’s that match the hideous head and plus the doco states it grows to 7 inches not 9. It was reasonably weighty and as you can see, when straitened out, it was around 9 inches long. We found it on our driveway. There are a lot of Gum trees nearby. It’s abdomen was full of what looked like maggots and it was certainly putting out a strong ‘rotting meat’ odour so I assume it was fly-blown and not full of offspring. If it was offspring – you will find them at the city dump or wherever it is that the wheelie bins are emptied.
Brisbane Western Suburbs

Goliath Stick Insect

Read more

Praying Mantis vs Walking Stick: Unveiling the Insect Battle Royale

Praying mantises and walking sticks are two fascinating types of insects that often grab the attention of nature enthusiasts. Both are known for their unique body shapes and camouflage abilities that enable them to blend into their surroundings. Despite these similarities, they are quite different in many ways, including behavior and habitat preferences.

For example, praying mantises are predators that actively search for prey, including other insects. They have raptorial front legs that help in hunting and capturing their targets. On the other hand, walking sticks are herbivores that feed on plant material and do not possess any hunting adaptations. Their long and thin body shape helps them blend in with foliage to avoid predators.

The main distinction between these insects lies in their feeding habits and physical features: praying mantises are hunters with raptorial front legs, while walking sticks are plant-eating insects that rely on their resemblance to twigs. As intriguing as they are, understanding the differences between them is vital for appreciating their distinct roles in the ecosystem.

Praying Mantis and Walking Stick Basics

Praying mantises are predators known for their characteristic praying posture. They come in various colors like gray, green, or brown, depending on the species. Walking sticks are herbivores who resemble real sticks, camouflaging among branches and foliage for protection from predators.

For example, the Mantis religiosa is green or tan with a round black dot on the underside of its forelegs. In comparison, the Indian stick insect is a common species of walking stick that is brown and elongated.

Some key features of praying mantises and walking sticks include:

  • Praying mantises:

    • Raptorial forelegs
    • Ambush predators
    • Chewing mouthparts
  • Walking sticks:

    • Stick-like bodies
    • Herbivorous
    • Excellent camouflage

Comparing these insects in detail:

Feature Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Diet Predators (insects, arachnids, small animals) Herbivores (primarily leaves)
Legs 6 legs (2 raptorial forelegs for capturing prey) 6 legs (long and slender to match stick mimicry)
Body shape Like grasshoppers or crickets, somewhat elongated Extremely elongated, stick-like
Common colors Gray, green, brown Brown, green
Reproduction Female lays eggs in an ootheca Female lays eggs individually or in small groups
Natural enemies Birds, spiders, ants Birds, spiders, small mammals
Defense mechanisms Ambush predators, blending in with surroundings Camouflage, immobility, autotomy (shedding legs)
Economic and ecological Biological control agents against pests Important role in plant consumption and nutrient cycling for ecosystems for the ecosystem

As seen in the table, praying mantises and walking sticks have distinct differences in terms of diet, body shape, and ecological roles. While both insects have unique characteristics, they have adapted different strategies for survival within their respective environments.

Physical Appearance and Camouflage

Praying mantises and walking sticks are both insects known for their unique appearances and ability to blend in with their surroundings. They use camouflage to stay hidden from predators and, in the case of the mantis, to ambush prey.

Praying mantises have a distinct triangular head with large, compound eyes, which gives them a wide field of vision. Their front legs are raptorial, designed for capturing prey. These legs resemble a praying position, hence their name. Common mantis colors include green and brown, allowing them to mimic leaves and twigs.

Walking sticks, on the other hand, are known for their slender exoskeleton and elongated body, which imitates the appearance of sticks. They lack the triangular head and raptorial front legs seen in mantises. Their coloration typically consists of browns and greens, similar to bark and plant material.

Some similarities between these two creatures include:

  • Camouflaged appearance
  • Plant-like colors
  • Similar habitats, such as leaves and branches

Despite these similarities, unique features set them apart:

  • Praying mantises have a triangular head and raptorial front legs
  • Walking sticks have a slender exoskeleton and elongated body

Here’s a comparison table highlighting their differences:

Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Triangular head Slender
Raptorial front legs Exoskeleton
Wide field of vision Elongated body
Ambushes prey Mimics sticks

In conclusion, both praying mantises and walking sticks use camouflage to their advantage by blending in with their environments. Their differences lie in their body structures and hunting behaviors, with mantises being predatory insects and walking sticks focusing on mimicry.

Habitat and Distribution

Praying mantises and walking sticks both have unique appearances and inhabit various environments. Here, we’ll explore their habitats and distribution.

Praying Mantis:

  • Praying mantises inhabit tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions.
  • They can thrive in grasslands, trees, and bushes.
  • Some common species, like the Chinese mantis, are native to China, while the Carolina mantis is native to the southern United States.

Walking Stick:

  • These insects are more commonly found in warmer climates, such as tropical and subtropical regions.
  • Walking sticks reside in trees and bushes, having great camouflage abilities.
  • They are also found in various countries, from Central and South America to some parts of Asia and Africa.

Below is a comparison table detailing their habitat and distribution features:

Feature Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Habitat Tropical, subtropical, temperate Tropical, subtropical
Biomes Grasslands, trees, bushes Trees, bushes
Distribution China, United States, worldwide Central/South America, Asia, Africa

In conclusion, praying mantises and walking sticks have distinct habitat preferences and can be found in diverse locations worldwide. Their unique appearances help them adapt and thrive in different environments.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Praying Mantis:
Praying mantises are carnivorous insects. They primarily feed on other small insects.

  • Examples of prey: flies, crickets, moths
  • Predators: birds, frogs, spiders

Walking Stick:
Walking sticks are herbivorous insects. They consume plant matter for nutrition.

  • Examples of plant life: leaves, stems, flowers
  • Predators: birds, reptiles, small mammals

Comparison Table:

Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Diet Carnivore Herbivore
Prey Small Insects Plant matter
Predators Birds, Frogs, Spiders Birds, Reptiles, Small Mammals

Pros and Cons:

  • Praying Mantis:

    • Pros: Efficient hunters, natural pest control
    • Cons: May eat beneficial insects
  • Walking Stick:

    • Pros: Camouflage, low environmental impact
    • Cons: Vulnerable to deforestation, limited diet

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Praying Mantis

Praying mantises undergo incomplete metamorphosis, with three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Females lay eggs in a foamy structure, called an ootheca, which hardens and contains 200 or more eggs.

Nymphs hatch in the spring and resemble smaller wingless adults. As they grow, nymphs molt several times before reaching adulthood.

Walking Stick

Walking stick insects also have three life stages, but some species are oviparous (laying eggs that develop outside the female’s body) while others reproduce through parthenogenesis (type of asexual reproduction).

During the nymph stage, walking sticks molt several times before reaching adulthood, similar to praying mantises.

Now let’s compare the two insects:

Feature Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Reproduction Sexual Sexual and Parthenogenetic
Egg Structure Ootheca Individual Eggs
Number of Eggs 200 or more Varies by species
Life Stages Egg, Nymph, Adult Egg, Nymph, Adult
Metamorphosis Type Incomplete Incomplete
Molting Process Present in Nymph Stage Present in Nymph Stage
Unique attributes – Highly predaceous
– Females may engage in sexual cannibalism
– Some species exhibit parthenogenesis
– Well-camouflaged as foliage

Both praying mantises and walking stick insects share similarities in their life cycles, such as incomplete metamorphosis and nymph molting. However, key differences include the types of egg structures and methods of reproduction. Praying mantises are known for their predaceous nature and potential for sexual cannibalism, while walking stick insects possess remarkable camouflage abilities and, in some species, reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis.

Behavior and Human Interaction

Praying mantises are known for their distinctive posture with modified front legs for grasping prey. They have compound eyes, making them great hunters of insects and even some small vertebrates.

Walking sticks are primarily herbivores, using their spines for protection while they feed on leaves. They are masters of camouflage and usually remain motionless to blend with their environment.

Humans often interact with these insects in different ways:

  • As pets: both praying mantises and walking sticks can be kept as pets in captivity. They’re low-maintenance, requiring only a suitable enclosure, food, and moderate temperatures.

  • As pest control: praying mantises, in particular, can help reduce the population of unwanted insects in gardens, but they don’t discriminate and may also consume beneficial insects.

When it comes to danger to humans, neither insect poses a significant threat:

  • Bite: Neither praying mantises nor walking sticks typically bite humans. In rare cases, a praying mantis might bite if it feels threatened, but its bite is not harmful.

  • Spines: Walking sticks have spines for defense, but they pose no harm to humans.

  • Flight: Some species of walking stick can fly, but they pose no threat during flight.

Here’s a comparison table to highlight the differences in behavior and human interactions:

Feature Praying Mantis Walking Stick
Diet Primarily carnivorous Herbivorous
Posture Distinctive prey-grasping stance Camouflaged, motionless
Human Benefit Pest control, interesting pets Unique, low-maintenance pets
Potential Harm Rarely bites, no harm No significant harm from spines or flight

In conclusion, both praying mantises and walking sticks exhibit unique behaviors that make them interesting subjects for human observation and interaction. While posing no significant danger, they can be appreciated for their fascinating characteristics and benefit to the ecosystem.

Taxonomy and Notable Species

Praying mantises and walking sticks are both fascinating insects belonging to different orders. The order Mantodea comprises the praying mantises, while the order Phasmatodea, also known as Phasmida, includes walking sticks and leaf insects.

Some key differences in taxonomy are:

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Both)
  • Phylum: Arthropoda (Both)
  • Class: Insecta (Both)
  • Subclass: Pterygota (Both)
  • Infraclass: Neoptera (Both)
  • Superorder: Dictyoptera (Mantodea) | Orthopterida (Phasmatodea)
  • Order: Mantodea (Praying Mantises) | Phasmatodea (Walking Sticks)

Notable species within each order include:

  • Mantodea:
    • Orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus)
    • Ghost mantis (Phyllocrania paradoxa)
    • Mantis religiosa (European mantis)
  • Phasmatodea:
    • Stick insects (Various genera)
    • Leaf insects (Phylliidae family)

Praying mantises and walking sticks vary in size. Mantises typically range from 2-5 inches long, whereas walking sticks can range from 1-12 inches long.

A comparison table of features for the orders Mantodea and Phasmatodea:

Feature Mantodea Phasmatodea
Size 2-5 inches 1-12 inches
Body Shape Elongate, often with folded wings Elongate, stick-like
Camouflage Can resemble leaves or flowers Resembles sticks or leaves
Legs Raptorial front legs for catching prey Six long legs evenly spaced
Diet Carnivorous, mainly feed on other insects Herbivorous, feed on leaves
Defense Mechanisms Ambush predators, camouflage Camouflage, mimicry, autotomy

Both praying mantises and walking sticks are interesting insects with unique features and adaptations. Mantises use their distinctive front legs to catch prey, while walking sticks rely on their incredible ability to blend in with their environment for defense.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Mating Walkingsticks


Walking stick species???
We saw this in our back yard today. It has a baby on its back. The bug is wingless and has 6 legs. It looks like some kind of small fat walking stick 🙂 It is certainly adapted for living in trees with its coloring. We live in Southern Ky. (East Bernstadt).’m sending in 2 pics to help you ID it…Can’t wait to find out!! Thanks…this is a really cool site by the way
Ed and daughter Scarlett
Souther, Ky

Mating Walkingsticks
Mating Walkingsticks

Hi Ed and Scarlett,
Your insects are mating Walkingsticks.  We thought they might be Muskmares, but we also thought you were too far north for this species.  We believe this is a closely related species in the same genus, Anisomorpha ferruginea, which we located on Bugguide.

Letter 2 – Moss Mimic Walkingstick from Costa Rica


Need insect id-Costa Rica
Location: Monteverde, Costa Rica
January 28, 2011 11:08 am
Hello. Photographed this very well camouflaged bug (insect, spider) in the Santa Elena Cloud Forest Reserve in Monteverde area Costa Rica.
Saw it walking across a leaf. when i got close it froze up, looking like a piece of moss. Got a pretty good pic. Brought a small twig close to it, and it jumped off the leaf, almost moved spider like.What could it be.
Signature: DC

Possibly a Phasmid

Wow DC,
That is one crazy insect.  Our first guess would be a Walkingstick or other Phasmid.  They are an order known for excellent camouflage.  Our second guess would be some species of Katydid, though the antennae don’t seem long enough.  We wish you had a better view of the head as the mouthparts might give us some clues.  We hope one of our readers will be able to assist in this identification.

Jacob’s Comment leads to a post in our archive
Thanks to Jacob who found the Moss Mimic Walkingstick,
Trychopeplus laciniatus,  which was identified by Dr. Bruno Kneubühler  (Switzerland) in our own archives:  2008/08/05/moss-mimic-walkingstick-from-costa-rica/.

Karl also cites our archives
Hi Daniel and DC:
I believe the same beast was posted previously on WTB?; by danielj on August 5th, 2008. It was subsequently identified by Dr. Bruno Kneubühler as a Phasmid, specifically “…a nymph (young one) of Trychopeplus sp. (most probably Trychopeplus laciniatus)”. I am quite envious of anyone that manages to find one of these; I keep searching but haven’t found one yet.  Regards. K

Letter 3 – Mating Stick Insects from Thailand is Trachythorax species


Subject: What is that bug?
Location: Thailan, Phuket
August 7, 2012 9:55 am
Found on my kitchen in Thailand
Signature: Alex

Mating Oleander Walkingsticks

Dear Alex,
How big is this thing?  It would be a really great Horror Movie monster.  This insect is a Phasmid, a member of the insect order Phasmida,  commonly called Stick Insects or Walkingsticks.  Can you provide any additional details?  We will do some additional research later today.

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for fast response.
It was around 13 cm. And actually there was a pair of such things. I don’t know if you received picture in good quality, here it is again 🙂
Alexander “Ma” Maltsev

Hi again Alex,
We are not having any luck matching your image to any particular species in Thailand.  We can tell you this individual has had some trauma in its life as it appears to be missing two legs.

Update:  September 15, 2012
Thanks to a comment from Bruno, he believes that these are mating Phasmids in the genus
Trachythorax.  According to the Siam Insect Zoo, they are commonly called Oleander Walkingsticks.


Letter 4 – Mating Northern Walkingsticks


Walking Sticks
I found these while hiking. I thought it interesting that the male and female looked so different! I was on a hike in the Hoosier National Forest, near Paoli, IN.

Hi Chad,
We believe these are mating Northern Walkingsticks, Diapheromera femorata. We are waiting for a confirmation on that identification from Eric Eaton.

Letter 5 – Mating Northern Walkingsticks


Subject: Mating Phasmids Of Unknown Species
Location: Near Crosslake, Crow Wing County, Minnesota, USA
August 5, 2012 4:51 am
I came across this connected and presumably mating pair of walking sticks by random chance. The smaller brown one (the male, I think?) was firmly connected to the larger green female(?) via the male’s rearmost part, which was wrapped around the corresponding part on the female.
They had their pictures taken on one of those clear plastic trays that small tomatoes on the vine are sold in at stores, if that gives any sense of scale. I would estimate that the female was about 2” long.
The location was north central Minnesota, USA (Crow Wing County).
What species are these? Are they common in this area?
Signature: Mike

Mating Northern Walkingsticks

Hi Mike,
We believe these are mating Northern Walkingsticks,
Diapheromera femorata, based on this photo posted to BugGuide and they also fit this verbal description from BugGuide:  “Very elongated, wingless. Male brown, female greenish brown. Antennae 2/3 length of body.   Cerci with one segment, often resembling palps at the tip of the abdomen.”  Regarding their population, BugGuideprovides this information:  “This species is native to the US and Canada. It is the most common species of Phasmid in North America.  When very numerous, they can severely defoliate trees.”

Mating Northern Walkingsticks

Letter 6 – Mating Striped Walkingsticks allegedly reported from California


Subject: ID. needed
Location: la California
August 11, 2015 6:14 pm
I’m not from the area that this was found so I have no idea what it is. This was found walking across a parking lot in Los Angeles California. Thanks
Signature: no tech

Mating Walkingsticks
Mating Walkingsticks

Dear no tech,
Is this a hoax?  Did you take this image while visiting Los Angeles?  You indicated you are not from the area where it was found and the WTB? form you submitted the image with contains the language:  “you swear that you either took the photo(s) yourself or have explicit permission from the photographer or copyright holder to use the image.”  The digital file you attached begins with the letters “fb” which leads us to believe they have been pilfered from FaceBook.  These are mating Walkingsticks and we believe they are Striped Walkingsticks or Muskmares in the family Pseudophasmatidae.  To the best of our knowledge, and according to BugGuide, the range of the family in North America is the Southeast, and the furthest western reports are from Texas.  With that said, we can come up with several explanations.  This might be a hoax, or it might be a mistake.  We suppose it is possible that Striped Walkingsticks may have been imported into California through individuals or through the exotic insect trade, and that they were either released or escaped.  If that is the case, and this mating pair is in the wild, Southern California may soon have another Invasive Exotic species with which to contend.  According to BugGuide:  “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.”  

Letter 7 – Mating Two-Striped Walkingsticks


Subject: Two insects
Location: Ravenel, SC
October 31, 2016 9:51 am
My husband found these guys in there work shop and was curious what they are.
Signature: Melissa

Two-Striped Walkingsticks Mating
Two-Striped Walkingsticks Mating

Dear Melissa,
These are mating Two-Striped Walkingsticks in the genus
Anisomorpha and they should be handled with caution because according to BugGuide:  “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.”  Mating pairs are sometimes called Muskmares, though theoretically, only the female is a Muskmare.  You might enjoy this image of a herd of mating Muskmares from our archives.

Letter 8 – MILKWEED MEADOW: Mating Walkingsticks and Mating Milkweed Beetles and Milkweed Tussock Caterpillars


Bug Love at Shenandoah
Location:  Shenandoah National Park, VA
August 17, 2010 9:43 pm
Hi, Daniel, My grandson and I just spent a long weekend camping at Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of west-central VA, a nice change from the heat and humidity of the VA Peninsula. We found tons of good bugs and are sending a sample. The first is of milkweed beetles mating on, what else?, milkweed growing right outside the visitor center at Big Meadow in the Park. The second is from the Meadow and was a great find – walking sticks!! We also found 2 rhinoceros beetles but couldn’t get in close enough for a good shot. Enjoy!
Kathy Haines

Mating Walkingsticks

Hi Kathy,
We just received your numerous emails with multiple attached photographs, and we want to post one image before hurrying out to work.  The Walkingsticks appear to be Northern Walkingsticks,
Diapheromera femorata, which can be verified on BugGuide.  Please in the future do not send multiple unrelated species in a single email because it complicates our system of archiving letters.

Daniel, thanks, and I’m so sorry – I’m so impressed with the work you do on what we send in that the last thing I’d want to do is mess it up.  My apologies, and thanks for letting me know.
Kathy Haines

PLease don’t take our comment the wrong way.  It will just be so difficult for us to choose from among your other great photos.  We may just try posting one email with multiple categories.  Your Large Milkweed Bug photo of
Oncopeltus fasciatus is a great continuation of the thriving ecosystem surrounding the Milkweed Meadow.  More information on the Large Milkweed Bug, which is not a beetle, may be located on BugGuide.

Mating Large Milkweed Bugs

Shenandoah, Part II
Location:  Shenandoah National Park, VA
August 17, 2010 9:47 pm
Here are a couple more from the Shenandoah NP camping trip. I think we have milkweed tussock caterpillars, maybe a type of armyworm caterpillar?, and a daddy longlegs. We’re bypassing the many monarchs, eastern tiger swallowtails (our state insect), and what we think is a hickory tussock moth but will send one more with a gorgeous green sphinx (we think).
Kathy Haines

Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars

Hi again Kathy,
This photo of the Milkweed Tussock Moth Caterpillars or Milkweed Tiger Moth Caterpillars,
Euchaetes egle, supports the description of the life cycle on BugGuide which states:  “Larvae feed on milkweed, Asclepias species. Adults sometimes found on hostplant during day (1). Females lay eggs in “rafts” and caterpillars are gregarious during instars 1-3, solitary in later instars, when marked with bright tufts. May defoliate patches of milkweed.”  We are adding this image to your previous letter and building the Milkweed Meadow feature.

Ethan (my grandson) and I are honored.  This is so cool!  I can’t wait for him to see the post – he’s going to love it.
Thanks, Daniel – I can’t stop smiling.
Kathy Haines

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