Timema: All You Need to Know – Quick & Friendly Guide

Timema are fascinating creatures that you may not have heard much about, but they’re definitely worth learning about. These insect-like animals belong to the order Phasmatodea and are often mistaken for walking sticks or katydids due to their elongated bodies and camouflage abilities. They can be found in select areas of North and Central America, primarily in western parts of the United States and Mexico.

As a curious explorer, you might be interested to know that there are around 20 known species of timema. They are unique in the sense that they have no wings and rely solely on their camouflage to protect themselves from predators. Their green or brownish coloring helps them blend into their surroundings, typically amongst the foliage of the plants they feed on.

In their natural habitat, timema feed on a variety of plants, including oak, manzanita, and ceanothus. One example is how Timema californicum has developed a preference for eating the foliage of Artemisia californica, commonly known as California sagebrush. They are also known for having a relatively slow rate of reproduction, which makes them all the more fascinating to study and understand.

An Overview of the Timema

Timema is a fascinating genus of insects that belong to the order Phasmatodea, which is part of the Animalia kingdom and the Arthropoda phylum. These insects are commonly found in the United States. To help you better understand Timema, let’s break it down into smaller parts.

Timema is a small genus of stick-like insects that have the following characteristics:

  • Species belonging to the genus Timema are wingless
  • They have a unique cylindrical body shape

Timema insects are closely related to other insects within the Phasmatodea order, which is mainly characterized by their stick-like or leaf-like appearance. Some common examples of insects within this order are walking sticks, leaf insects, and ghost insects.

Even though Timema might seem similar to other insects within the Phasmatodea order, there are some differences that set them apart. Here’s a comparison table to highlight the main distinctions:

Feature Timema Other Phasmatodea Insects
Wings Wingless Usually have wings
Body Shape Cylindrical Stick-like or leaf-like
Distribution United States Worldwide

Being familiar with these distinctive characteristics can help you better identify Timema species in their natural habitat, as well as understand their role in the broader insect world. Remember to always observe these incredible creatures with care and respect, as they play an essential part in maintaining our ecosystem.

Timema’s Scientific Classification

Timema is a fascinating insect belonging to the family Timematidae. These unique creatures are part of the larger classification system, which includes their kingdom, Animalia; phylum, Arthropoda; class, Insecta; and family, Timematidae.

As members of the animal kingdom, Timema insects represent some of the most basal species. This means they have retained many primitive features that differentiate them from more advanced insects.

Some interesting characteristics of Timema include:

  • They are wingless.
  • They exhibit a cryptic camouflage, making them hard to spot.
  • They are herbivores, mainly feeding on the leaves of plants.

Timema insects come in various species, each boasting unique adaptions to their specific environments. For instance, some species have developed impressive camouflage, such as the ability to resemble sticks in their habitat.

When comparing Timema to other insects, it’s important to keep their scientific classification in mind:

Classification Level Timema Other Insects
Kingdom Animalia Animalia
Phylum Arthropoda Arthropoda
Class Insecta Insecta
Family Timematidae Various (e.g. Lepidoptera)

By understanding Timema’s scientific classification and characteristics, you can better appreciate how these insects function in their unique ecological niche and contribute to the broader biodiversity of our planet.

History and Discovery

In the 1920s, a scientist named Samuel Hubbard Scudder made a remarkable discovery. He found a unique group of insects called Timema, which caught the attention of the scientific community and the public alike.

These unusual stick insects have interesting features, such as:

  • Camouflage abilities
  • Flightlessness
  • Being found mainly in North America

To give you a better idea of their characteristics, here’s a quick comparison of Timema with common stick insects:

Insect Body Shape Flight Capabilities Habitat
Timema Short and stout Flightless North America
Common Stick Insect Long and thin In some species Worldwide

Over the years, researchers have continued to study Timema and published numerous news articles about their findings. Their evolution, behavior, and genetics continue to intrigue both the scientific world and curious minds like yours.

So next time you come across a peculiar tiny insect hiding in plain sight, you’ll remember the history and discovery of the fascinating Timema.

A Detailed Look into the Different Timema Species

There are several species of Timema in existence; they are endemic, meaning they only exist in specific locations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the notable species, such as Timema californicum, Timema cristinae, Timema scudder, and Timema chumash.

Timema californicum is most commonly found in California. This wingless species loves to live on trees and shrubs, where they camouflage themselves to stay hidden from predators.

Timema cristinae also resides in California. You’ll find them primarily on chamise and ceanothus plants, blending in with their coloration. These insects are known for their speciation due to host plant adaptation.

Timema scudder is an elusive species that proves difficult for experts to study. They inhabit California as well, primarily residing in forests and shrublands. Their unique morphology and colors help them blend into their surroundings.

Timema chumash is native to California too, specifically Ventura County. They are found on oaks, where they mimic stems and twigs. This species is exclusive to that location.

Now, you might be thinking if these species interbreed. Genetic isolation prevents the majority of these species from interbreeding. Exceptions occasionally occur, such as between Timema cristinae and Timema chumash, but it’s quite rare.

To help you distinguish these species, here’s a comparison table:

Species Habitat Host Plant Distinctive Features
Timema californicum California Trees/Shrubs Wingless, camouflage
Timema cristinae California Chamise/Ceanothus Host plant adaptation
Timema scudder California Forests/Shrublands Elusive, unique morphology
Timema chumash Ventura County Oaks Mimic stems/twigs, endemic

In conclusion, the Timema species are fascinating insects, each with their unique characteristics and adaptations to their environments, making them a captivating subject for study.

The Biology and Life Cycle of the Timema

Timemas are fascinating creatures with unique reproductive abilities. They can reproduce through both sexual and asexual methods. In fact, some species are known to be parthenogenetic, meaning females can reproduce without males.

These little critters are highly adaptive and have a strong association with their host plants. They have evolved remarkable adaptations to blend in with their environment. For example, species like the Timema genevievae rely on the Adenostoma fasciculatum as their primary food source and habitat.

The biology of Timemas includes females and males, though asexual reproduction involves only females. Their life cycle consists of a nymph stage before reaching adulthood.

Here’s a brief comparison of sexual and asexual reproduction in Timemas:

Sexual Reproduction Asexual Reproduction
Involves both males and females Involves only females
Greater genetic variation Genetic clones of parent
Slower population growth Rapid population growth

To sum it up, Timemas exhibit fascinating biological features:

  • Parthenogenetic capabilities
  • Strong association with host plants
  • Adaptations for camouflage
  • Life cycle involving a nymph stage

So, next time you encounter these intriguing creatures, remember how versatile and adaptive they are in their biology and life cycle.

The Timema’s Adaptation and Camouflage

Timema, a group of stick insects, have developed remarkable camouflage techniques to blend into their surroundings. They exhibit different colors, including green, gray, and brown to adapt to their environment.

Some Timema species showcase patterns such as stripes and dots. These patterns, also called cryptic coloration, further enhance their natural camouflage. For example, dorsal stripes help break up the insect’s body outline, making them difficult to spot by predators.

The coloration and patterns of Timema can be found in various combinations, which you can see in the table below:

Color Pattern Example
Green No pattern Timema greenii
Gray Dots Timema poppensis
Brown Dorsal Stripes Timema californicum

These camouflaged features not only keep Timema hidden from predators but also allow them to sneak up on their own prey. So, when you take a walk in nature, keep an eye out for these masters of camouflage; their impressive adaptations may make it difficult for you to spot them, but it’s definitely worthwhile if you can!

Evolution and Speciation

The fascinating Timema insect has been a subject of interest for scientists studying evolution and speciation. They are part of the Eukaryota domain and have a basal position in the phylogenetic tree.

Timema exhibit a mode of reproduction known as parthenogenesis, which is a form of asexual reproduction. This allows them to reproduce without a male partner. During the asexual period, their offspring are genetic clones of the parent.

Geographic parthenogenesis plays a significant role in the speciation of Timema. Their distribution across different locations leads to the formation of genetically and morphologically distinct populations. These differences arise due to varying selection pressures, mutations, and genetic drift, ultimately leading to new species.

To make it clearer, let’s compare Timema with another species in a table:

Timema Another species
Reproduction Parthenogenesis Sexual
Speciation Geographic Allopatric
Position in Tree Basal Advanced
Domain Eukaryota Eukaryota

Remember that studying Timema sheds light on various aspects of evolution and speciation. Their unique reproduction mode and position in the phylogenetic tree provide valuable insights into the complex mechanisms of biological diversity creation. So, as you continue exploring the world of Timema, keep in mind their significance in understanding the broader picture of evolution and speciation.

Habitat and Distribution

Timema are small, wingless insects that live on various host plants in North America, particularly in the chaparral habitats of the western United States. They are endemic to this region, which means that they are not found anywhere else in the world. Their preferred habitats provide them with the necessary resources to thrive, including specific plant species that they feed on and sheltered areas for mating and laying eggs.

These tiny creatures are often found on the leaves and branches of their host plants, typically shrubs and trees, where they can blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. Some examples of host plants include the evergreen oak, chamise, and ceanothus.

As a unique insect group in their habitat, Timema can be found in various areas of the chaparral ecosystem. These areas may include:

  • Slopes and valleys
  • Dense shrublands
  • Open woodlands
  • Coastal regions with mild and moist climates

While Timema are relatively small creatures with limited mobility, their distribution across the chaparral ecosystem helps maintain the balance of plant life and contributes to overall ecological health.

It’s essential to protect these unique populations and the habitats they rely on to preserve the biodiversity of the chaparral ecosystem in North America. By understanding the habitat and distribution of Timema, we can better appreciate their role in maintaining a balanced environment and learn more about our natural world.

Current Research and Further Reading

In recent years, various studies focused on Timema, providing valuable insights into the biology and evolution of these unique insects. One study examining Gma3, a gene found in Timema, offers a deeper understanding of their genetic makeup. You can explore this research to learn about the important role of Gma3 in these fascinating creatures.

Current findings published in the Molecular Ecology journal frequently discuss Timema’s evolutionary history and ecological aspects. Stay abreast by subscribing to this journal for the latest insights. Additionally, consider diving into research published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, which is presented by Blackwell Science Ltd and John Wiley & Sons. This journal sometimes features studies on Timema.

The Phasmida Species File Online, an online database, is an incredible wealth of information about Timema taxonomy, nomenclature, and morphology. It is an essential tool for any enthusiast or researcher in the field.

Keeping up with Entomological News is another excellent way to stay updated on new discoveries and findings related to Timema. By subscribing to this outlet, you will receive timely information on the latest research and interesting news in the entomology world.

To sum up, exploring the mentioned resources should give you a comprehensive understanding of Timema research, enabling you to delve deeper into the captivating world of these insects. Happy learning!

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 Timemas

 

Mating green embiopterans/ earwigs??
June 8, 2009
Work in a park in Berkeley, CA. Riparian, bay-oak-eucalyptus-pine woodland habitat. These two found together June 8, ’09 around Noon. Wingless (yes, wingless), they were the same green color as katydids, white stripe along abdomen (like a tomato hornworm stripe).
Pinchers on abdomen. Female’s (? larger bottom bug- I assume is female) pinchers were open when found, closed after disturbed. Male’s (smaller bug on top?) pinchers open whole time of observation.
Male’s legs and antennae a reddish-brownish-purple; no similar color found on female. Antennae thin, segmented, not clubbed. Chewing mouthparts like a grasshopper’s.
No “swollen” front legs– therefore not embiopterans? No platelike/ scalelike/shiny anything on their bodies (as would be expected from an earwig.) They were pretty squishy -bodied.
Also, 3 darker green thin stripes running along the body, evenly spaced, mesio-dorsal, and 2 lateral darker stripes. Also seemed like thorax was divided into 2 sub-segments.
I love these cute lil guys. Any thoughts? I got nuttin. Thanks for your time.
PS- I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE!!! Hooray curiosity!
Mega-curious Meg
Berkeley, CA

Timemas Mating
Timemas Mating

Dear Mega-curious Meg,
This is one of our favorite letters ever, for numerous reasons.  First, your enthusiasm is positively contagious.  We just got a new computer and we are trying to catch up on old mail.  Your letter arrived during a week long absence, and our sloooowwwwwww old computer did not allow us to post as much mail as we would have liked.  The minute we saw your subject line, we were intrigued.  Imagine our glee when we opened your letter and saw photos of a genus of insects whose range is pretty much confined to California and Mexico.  These are Timemas.  They are the only genus in the family Timematidae and they are classified in the order Phasmatodea which includes Walkingsticks.  BugGuide has some photos, including a mating image.  We are thrilled that your letter also includes a mating image of Timemas.  Here is what Charles Hogue has to say about this fascinating insect in his book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:  “Timemas are not typical walkingsticks.  They are only 1/2 to 1 inch (13 to 25 mm) long and are considerably shorter and stouter than the other local species.  Although usually mottled green in color, brown or pinkish individuals frequently occur.  There are several local species; Timema californica seems to be dominant.  It lives on chaparral shrubs and oaks in our surrounding mountains, especially the Santa Monicas and San Gabriels.  Individuals may be common in the spring on Scrub Oak (Quercus dumosa) and wild lilac (Ceanothus).  When disturbed this insect can produce a disagreeable odor.”  Again Meg, thanks so much for your wonderful contribution, and we hope our letter hasn’t arrived too late to be of benefit.

Timema
Timema

Letter 2 – Mating Timemas

 

Subject:  What are these two insects?
Geographic location of the bug:  Ben Lomond, CA. Santa Cruz County, CA. Redwood forest.
Date: 06/20/2019
Time: 02:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Crowd sourcing all entomologists! I found these two creatures on my backdoor yesterday. I am guessing they are either grasshopper or katydid nymphs. If they are the same species, they show sexual dimorphism. The bottom one was about 2-2.5 inches long (minus antennae). I also assume that nymphs do not mate . . . so are these two just hanging out together? Any clarifications welcome.
How you want your letter signed:  Carla

Mating Timemas

Dear Carla,
What an exciting submission to our site you have submitted.  These are not nymphs, and though there is no actual coupling happening, your images document a male (smaller and on top) and female Timema engaging in pre- or post-mating activity.  Timemas are related to Walkingsticks, not Orthopterans, and according to BugGuide the habitat is:  “
On foliage, twigs, or branches of host shrubs or trees…or on the ground near base of host or other plants, where they may retreat during the day or drop upon disturbance. Sometimes also found sheltering under stones. Host plants mostly associated with chaparral; some with woodlands or forest (e.g. douglas fir, redwood).  Green morphs tend to rest on leaves; brown to gray morphs on stems, branches or ground.  Unstriped morphs are usually associated with broad-leaved host plants (e.g. oaks, ceanothus, manzanita, etc.). Striped morphs are usually associated with host plants having needle-like leaves (e.g. chamise, douglas fir, redwood, etc.).  Coloration, stripes, and other markings serve as camouflage, and are adaptations driven by selection pressure due to predation by visually-oriented birds and lizards.”  BugGuide also has a map showing the ranges of some of the 21 recognized species, but BugGuide also notes:  “dependable species ID requires study of the shape of externally visible structures of the terminalia, especially of the male (for non-parthenogenetic spp.)…in conjunction with location, host plant, color and markings” but that is beyond our area of expertise.  Based on the map, our best guess is that your species is Timema californicum, and BugGuide does indicate:  “T. californicum has records north of San Francisco Bay in Marin Co.”  Of that species, BugGuide notes:  “Recorded host plants: manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), ceanothus (Ceanothus spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), mountain mahogony (Cercocarpus spp.), toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).”  If we miscalculated your location, please let us know.  In closing, BugGuide also notes:  “NEWS ITEM! (3/29/18): The Timema Discovery Project is an important new initiative aiming to harness as many people as possible to collect much needed data for advancing our understanding of Timema…please visit the web site, spread the word, and participate!”  Thanks again for submitting this exciting posting.

Mating Timemas
Hi Daniel,
Thank you so much for responding and sending the information! I am excited to discover a family of bugs I’ve been unfamiliar with. I know regular walking sticks but did not know about these short-bodied relatives. Wonderful!

Letter 3 – Timema

 

MYSTERY DESERT INSECT
Mystery Insect
I found this insect while camping in the desert in southeastern California. Its colored exactly like the rock formations in that area. I caught it on a fence post in April of 2004 but it died on the way home. I’ve been collecting insects since I was 5 but I can’t figure out what this is. I thought it might be an immature cricket (without jumping legs!?). The specimen in the pic is 1/2 an inch long and had antennae that were about as long as the body and similar to a cricket’s. Please help. Thanx for any info.
Myke Miazio
San Diego,CA

Hi Myke,
This is a relative of Walkingsticks known as a Timema. They are found in the west and feed on oaks, ceanothus and firs.

Letter 4 – Timema

 

Unusual green insect
Location: Smith River, Calif.
July 6, 2011 8:54 pm
Hi, we found this interesting soft-bodied insect near the Smith River in California, 7/5/11. It was somewhat lethargic. Larvae? or perhaps some kind of rove beetle? The first photo is best, the other one is blurry but shows it’s size (a little over an inch long).
Signature: M & J Mello

Timema

Dear M & J Mello,
We are very thrilled to receive your image of a Timema, a genus of Walkinsticks that are found in California.  They are fascinating insects that are not seen too often as they blend so well with their food plants.  You can see more images on BugGuide.

Hi Daniel, wow… for some reason I didn’t think Calif. had walkingsticks… how cool! I hope I released him/her in a proper place (a garden area with lots of varied plants). The insect came inside our cabin, probably riding on some gear, so not sure where it was originally. Next time we’re there I’ll watch for more of them.
Thanks!  M. Mello
PS like many, I love your site!

Letter 5 – Timema

 

Subject: insect ID
Location: Willits, Mendocino County, CA
May 21, 2015 2:33 pm
I found this in the vegetable garden. I use no pesticides and wonder if this is a good guy or bad guy?
Signature: Donna

Timema
Timema

Dear Donna,
This Timema is related to Walkingsticks, and though they feed on leaves, they are not considered agricultural pests, so you should not be concerned.  Timema are rarely seen.
  You can read more about the Timema on BugGuide.

Thank you so much! I have never seen this kind of insect. I released him back into my garden but unfortunately, he immediately became a meal for a lizard!

Letter 6 – Timema

 

Subject: id conifer bug
Location: northen ca, mendocino county
January 3, 2016 11:42 am
Hi, we live in Northern CA in the conifers and tanbark oak trees. For years I have seen the adult insect of the enclosed picture of a baby. The adult is probably over 1 1/2″, same color. This year I found the little ones, probably 1/4″ in size. they crawl and hop. When I touch one it curls up. I can not seem to find this critter in any of my books or online. Can you help?
Signature: thank you Kathryn

Timema
Timema

Dear Kathryn,
You are quite observant to have spotted both adult and immature Timemas, an insect that is classified with the Walkingsticks.  According to BugGuide:  “Timema is a genus of small, stout, wingless walking sticks. It is so distinctive that it is the only genus in the entire suborder Timematodea, and it is an ancient group which is phylogenetically basal to the rest of the walking stick order Phasmida.”  BugGuide also states they are found:  “On foliage, twigs, or branches of host shrubs or trees…or on the ground, where they drop to upon disturbance. Host plants mostly associated with chaparral; some with woodlands or forest (e.g. douglas fir, redwood).  Green morphs tend to rest on leaves; brown to gray morphs on stems, branches or ground.   Unstriped morphs are usually associated with broad-leaved host plants (e.g. oaks, ceanothus, manzanita, etc.). Striped morphs are usually associated with host plants having needle-like leaves (e.g. chamise, douglas fir, redwood, etc.).   Coloration, stripes, and other markings serve as camouflage, and are adaptations driven by selection pressure due to predation by visually-oriented birds and lizards.”

Dear Daniel, thank you so much for your prompt reply.  You solved the mystery,   Sincerely,  Kathryn

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

3 thoughts on “Timema: All You Need to Know – Quick & Friendly Guide”

  1. Hi! I’m a new fan of the wonderfully peculiar TIMEMAS and have had the good fortune to have 2 of these special little creatures land practically in my lap on consecutive days, having fallen from the soaring heights of the redwood trees in my backyard in Mendocino County, CA. — My questions are: 1. I’ve read a lot about the asexuality these insects are known for, but how do I know if the 2 I’ve found are of that variety or are standard m/f breeders? I have many pics but wasn’t sure how to attach them. 2nd Question: I would like to keep these 2 for a period of time for observation purposes and am wondering what an ideal food to feed them would be? Thanks for any help and additional info anyone can offer! This site is a font of knowledge! Peace.

    Reply
    • We would love to see your Timema images which you can send using our standard form that is accessed by clicking the Ask What’s That Bug? link on our site. Please include all the information in this comment so we can create a posting.

      Reply
  2. I’ve wanted to see a timema in the wild for decades. So far no joy. The California dogface butterfly is the state insect of California, but I would have opted for T. californicum if it had been my choice, I’m aware that timemas also occur in Washington, Oregon, and Arizona, but I think of it as an honorary Californian endemic.

    Reply

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