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 their dietary preferences. These insects are primarily herbivorous, feeding on the foliage of trees and shrubs. Their choice of plants can vary depending on the species of walking stick and their habitat. Some species are known to have a more specific preference, while others may munch on a variety of leaves.
Understanding the diet of walking sticks can help you better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and could be particularly useful if you’re considering keeping them as pets or studying them for any reason. It’s always good to learn more about the fascinating world of these unique creatures.
Types of Plants Consumed
Walking sticks, also known as leaf insects, primarily consume leaves. They prefer a variety of plants such as oak, rose, hazel, bramble, privet, and ivy[^1^]. Some species even enjoy eucalyptus and lettuce[^2^]. It’s important to provide them with the appropriate plant material to ensure a balanced diet.
Leaf insects have a simple feeding schedule. You can offer them fresh leaves daily or every few days[^3^]. They tend to eat more during the night, as they are nocturnal creatures[^4^]. Observe your walking stick’s eating habits, and adjust the feeding schedule accordingly.
Walking sticks inhabit a range of environments, from temperate regions to tropical forests[^5^]. They thrive in wooded areas with plenty of oak leaves, ivy leaves, and hawthorn[^6^]. Here’s a comparison of their preferred habitats:
|Habitat Type||Plant Coverage||Region|
|Woodlands||Oak, hazel, bramble, ivy, hawthorn||Temperate|
|Tropical Forests||Eucalyptus, rose leaves, blackberries||Tropical|
It’s essential to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible when keeping them in captivity.
Caring for Leaf Consumption
To ensure the health of your leaf insect, follow these guidelines[^7^]:
- Provide pesticide-free leaves.
- Maintain proper humidity levels.
- Offer fresh leaves regularly.
- Mimic their wild habitat with a mix of plants.
By understanding and catering to the dietary needs and habitat requirements of walking sticks, you can support their well-being and enjoy observing these fascinating creatures.
Walking sticks possess natural defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. One such strategy is their incredible ability to camouflage. They blend seamlessly with their surroundings, often mimicking the color, texture, and pattern of branches and leaves. This helps them remain undetected to predators.
They also employ chemical defenses. When threatened, some walking sticks can release a foul-smelling substance that deters predators such as birds, bats, and spiders. This pungent chemical provides an effective layer of protection to help them escape harm.
Fending Off Predators
Walking sticks have evolved various physical attributes and behaviors to fend off predators. Here are some of their remarkable features:
Spines: Some walking stick species have spines on their bodies. These can deter predators like rodents and reptiles from attacking them.
Wings: Though not all walking sticks have wings, those that do can use them to escape from danger, making it difficult for predators to catch them.
Mandibles: These insects have strong mandibles that can be used to effectively bite predators.
Size and antennae: Walking sticks can grow up to impressive sizes, with long antennae that help them navigate their environment and detect predators around them.
|Size||Larger walking sticks can deter smaller predators who may be scared away by their size|
|Brown color||Helps with camouflage, allowing them to blend into their surroundings|
|Long antennae||Aids in detecting nearby threats, sensing vibrations, and navigating|
|Strong mandibles||Used for self-defense and eating food, like leaves|
In addition to these adaptations, walking sticks have developed a fascinating relationship with ants. They avoid becoming ant food by shedding parts of their body, leaving a luscious treat for the ants while they make a quick getaway. These incredible insects prove that nature has no shortage of ways for creatures to adapt and survive in their environments.
Walking sticks, also known as stick insects, have diverse mating habits. Some species require a mate to reproduce, while others can produce offspring through parthenogenesis.
In species that mate, males locate females using scent and visual cues. Mating can last for hours, sometimes even days. In parthenogenetic species, females can produce offspring without males, laying unfertilized eggs that develop into new individuals.
Raising walking sticks as pets can be rewarding, but it’s essential to understand their needs and provide the right environment for their survival. Here are some key aspects to consider:
- Habitat: A well-ventilated enclosure with proper substrate and climbing surfaces.
- Diet: Provide fresh, pesticide-free leaves from their preferred food plants.
- Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature suitable for the species.
- Humidity: Provide adequate humidity to encourage proper molting and egg-laying.
The lifecycle of walking sticks consists of eggs, nymphs, and adults.
- Eggs: Females lay eggs on the ground or under bark, sometimes even hurling them into leaf litter. Eggs can take weeks to months to hatch, depending on the species and environmental conditions, such as temperature.
- Nymphs: After hatching, nymphs resemble miniature versions of the adults. They shed their exoskeletons and grow in size with each molt, eventually reaching maturity.
- Adults: Once mature, walking sticks focus on finding mates (in sexually reproducing species) or laying eggs (in parthenogenetic species). Their lifespan can vary from several months to over a year, depending on the species and environmental factors.
Walking sticks can have similar behaviors in captivity as in the wild, such as mating, laying eggs, and molting. Additionally, given proper care, they can have a similar lifecycle and survival rate as their wild counterparts.
Walking Stick Varieties
There are numerous varieties of walking stick insects found across the globe. These herbivores are aptly named for their resemblance to sticks, which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Here are some examples:
- Diapheromera femorata: Commonly found in North America.
- Carausius morosus: Known as the Indian stick insect, native to India.
Walking Sticks and Society
Walking stick insects are primarily herbivores and love to munch on various plants such as ferns and shrubs. In captivity, they require proper care, including a well-ventilated tank and specific food sources. An example of a suitable diet might include:
- Blackberry leaves
- Rose leaves
- Lettuce from the supermarket
It’s essential to maintain the appropriate humidity level inside the tank by gently misting it daily. These insects molt and shed their skin as they grow, so ensure your walking stick has a proper space to hang and shed its molted skin.
Current research findings have brought up some intriguing insights into the world of walking stick insects:
- They are capable of releasing chemicals as a defense mechanism against predators.
- Female walking sticks can reproduce without males through a process known as parthenogenesis.
- Some species exhibit a remarkable camouflage feature, like existent on paper or leaves.
Here’s a comparison table to show the difference between two common walking stick insects:
|Diapheromera femorata||North America||3-4 inches||Vegetation|
|Carausius morosus||India||2.5-4 inches||Leaves|
In conclusion, walking stick insects are fascinating creatures with various species found worldwide. Their herbivorous diet, unique defense mechanisms, and intriguing reproductive process make them a fantastic subject for research and appreciation in a captive environment. Just ensure proper care is taken to keep them healthy and happy.
In summary, walking sticks mainly feed on leaves from various plants. Their diet consists of foliage, which provides them with essential nutrients for growth and survival.
Some examples of plants that walking sticks enjoy include:
- Oak leaves
- Raspberry leaves
As a comparison, here’s a table of some commonly consumed leaves by walking sticks:
|Plant||Leaves Consumed||Common Habitat|
In conclusion, understanding the diet of walking sticks can help you appreciate these fascinating creatures better.
By knowing the type of plants they consume, you can ensure their well-being if you keep them as pets and contribute to their conservation in the wild. So, enjoy observing these unique insects and remember to support their natural habitats to keep them thriving.
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 – Sydney Stick Insect from Australia
Subject: Request for Identification of Mystery Australian Stick insect
Location: Mount Gambier, South Australia, Australia
March 3, 2017 1:46 am
I found recently found some mystery phasmids while out doing conservation and land management work, and i would love to try and get a positive ID on them. Ive tried finding information on the internet about the individuals i found, but most of the information is about the larger ‘pet’ Australian species.
The green one was the easiest to photograph, as it stayed still. The smaller brown individuals (who are a different gender judging by genitalia) were much more lively.
The images i included show the green individual, which has a bulkier body, and two thin protrusions at the end. On all the individuals i found, there was no evidence or wings or wing buds (found in nymph stages of other stick insects) so i assume they may be flightless.
With front limbs straight out, the green one was about 11-12cm long total, with about 7cm of that being from head to end of abdomen.
I found these guys on a native grass possibly called “Tussock Grass” (Poa sieberiana or Poa labillardieri) – within close vivacity to Ficinia nodosa (Knotted Club Rush). So they were close to the ground. Others i were working with noticed them on their clothing as we worked in the area, and we assumed they climbed onto us from the grass. Acacia and Shea-oak were also very close by.
Some were observed mating but i didn’t get a chance to see the size of those adults.
I hope all the information i provided helps in identification. For now i will keep them in captivity until tomorrow, where i will probably release them back to the tussock grasses where i found them
I cant seem to attach all the images, so if you need additional images i have them (images of abdomen, close ups of heads, genetalia etc)
We are posting your image in the hopes that one of our readers might be able to assist with a species identification of this Phasmid. You can try attaching additional images and responding to us.
Here are some other images, but i was already given a positive ID by an australian stick insect breeder. The phasmid is the “Sydney stick insect” Candovia peridromes.
Letter 2 – Texas Walkingstick
Attached is also a picture of one of many walkingsticks roaming around.
Thank you for your help,
Darin, Melissa and Spencer
We just got this photo in.
(11/15/2003) Kind of like a Walkingstick
I would like to see if you can identify an insect for us. Sorry I have no picture, so I will try to describe it. As near as I can describe, it is like a fat walking stick. Usually about 2 inches long, 1/4 to 3/8" wide in the middle, brownish in color, and with a smaller version (1 inch long and skinny) riding piggy back. They were sighted climbing pine trees in central Arkansas.
thanks for your help,
Close relatives of the Walkingsticks are a group of insects known as Timemas, Family Timemidae. They differ from Walkingsticks in being smaller and more robust in form. There is a great deal of guessing and speculation concernin the habits of this insect and many have reported it as feeding on coniferous trees. All forms are arboreal, and while they may be found on all kinds of trees during the mating season in May and June, they apparently feed largely in not entirely on deciduous trees. Our California species are a bright leaf green with occasional decidedly pink specimens. It has been reported that other species are brownish in color. Here is an image I downloaded of specimens in a collection.
Letter 3 – Stick Insect from Costa Rica
Subject: Mystery bug in Costa Ruca
Location: La Fortuna, Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
December 29, 2014 6:45 pm
I photographed this beauty on an airconditioner drain pipe on the outside of our rental house in El Castillo, near La Fortuna, Costa Rica yesterday. It was about 5 inches long.
Signature: Peter Lewis
This critter seems to have characteristics of several different orders. Our best guesses are an Orthopteran or a Phasmid. We have solicited the opinions of several entomologists, including Piotr Naskrecki and Julian Donahue and we hope to have something more specific for you soon.
Piotr Naskrecki Responds
This is a phasmid Prisopus sp. There are several similar species in Costa Rica, hard to say from the photo which one this is. These phasmids have strong chemical defenses and are quite smelly.
Julian Donahue Responds
Interesting critter–I think I’ve actually seen and/or collected them in the tropics.
This appears to be another member of Prisopus in the phasmid family Prisopodidae, representatives of which you have already posted on What’s That Bug? (image showed up in a Google image search!).
See image at: http://entombase.com/entomology/taxa/phasmatodea/index.html
Thank, Daniel, for identifying my bug for me! Time to google phasmids…
Letter 4 – Stick Insect from Guatemala
Subject: Weird Walking Stick Scorpion
Geographic location of the bug: Guatemala City, Guatemala Zone 15
Time: 11:03 AM EDT
I have seen 3 of these in my garage lately. I would like to know what it is and if it is dangerous for my toddlers.
How you want your letter signed: Thank you so much!
We found what appears to be the same species of Walkingstick on Project Noah where it is identified as “Autolyca elena Gorochov & Berezin, 2008″ referred to as a Scorpion mimic: “This is a walking stick which is imitating a scorpion. It is shiny black and carries the tail end curled up over the abdomen. It is remarkably like a scorpion in general appearance and behavior. However, it is phytophagous and not a predator nor can it sting. It also has extremely long antennae which are banded orange and black and of course, only 3 pair of legs. This is a male.” There are also images on iNaturalist. Some Stick Insects can spray chemical defenses, but we do not know if this is one of those species.
Thank you so much! I am a bit more at ease with the fact that it does not sting!
Letter 5 – Titan Stick Insect from Australia
Subject: Titan Stick Insect
Location: Nth Burnett. Queensland Australia
June 23, 2012 6:16 pm
Hope you had a nice holiday. Opened my front door this morning and this Tian Walking Stick, Acrophylla titan, was hanging on the screen. Hope you like the shots.
Thanks for sending us such a wonderful image. According to the Brisbane Insect Website, this is the longest insect in Australia. You always seem to submit the most amazing insect photos. Tell us please, do you live in a more natural area of Australia than most folk? or are you a city dweller?
I live on 100 acres of dry sclerophyll forest 30 km’s from a town of 3000 people. All the other landholders around me are 100 acres and above, some in the thousands of acres so yes, I’m living somewhat closer to nature than most.
Glad you like the shots, had to hold the girl right out at arms length to fit her in the frame while shooting with the other hand.
Letter 6 – Stick Insect from Ecuador
Subject: Stick insect or true bug?
Location: Buenaventura southern Ecuador
March 12, 2016 8:06 am
I’m curious whether this is a stick insect or a hemipteran. It was from a wet disturbed forest ~500 meters ASL in Buenaventura southern Ecuador on February 14th.
Signature: Peter H
Letter 7 – Stick Insect from New Zealand
Subject: What’s that bug
Geographic location of the bug: Burwood Chrisfchurch5
Time: 05:28 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Found resting on wall of our house.
How you want your letter signed: BRM
This is a Stick Insect in the order Phasmatodea. According to Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research: “The New Zealand stick insect fauna contains 21 valid species in eight genera, but much taxonomic work remains to be done. Recent fieldwork and data analyses have revealed the presence of undescribed species, particularly in the South Island. Furthermore, several described species are of dubious validity. Current taxonomic research includes a large amount of collecting throughout New Zealand and all major offshore islands. Generic and species boundaries are being determined using both morphological and molecular genetic characters.”
Letter 8 – Stick Insect from Thailand
Subject: Stick insect in Thailand
Location: Koh Lipe, Thailand
January 20, 2013 10:46 am
Hello! Thank you so much for answering my last request about the palmking butterfly and the katydid so quickly. I have another one for you guys! Here’s a stick insect found in Thailand.
Thanks for providing this photo of a Stick Insect or Phasmid from Thailand, though we haven’t much confidence that we will be able to identify the species. We are posting your photo nonetheless.
Letter 9 – Stick Insect in The Netherlands
Subject: whats the name of this bug
Geographic location of the bug: amsterdam, netherlands
Time: 07:25 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: the bug was found in the Hortus Botanicus Leiden in the Netherlands
it was walking on an ant plant
How you want your letter signed: Rick
At first we were quite puzzled by your image, and then it dawned upon us that this must be an immature Stick Insect in the Order Phasmida. Beyond that, we are at a bit of a loss. We are uncertain of the species or even if it is a native or introduced species for you, though we are leaning toward the latter. Since you discovered this little critter in a botanical garden, the flora is likely from many locations on the planet, and if there is climate control, that flora might even include jungle species from the tropics. When importing plants, it is quite easy to accidentally introduce insects, especially immature individuals or eggs. Perhaps one of our readers who knows more about Phasmids will write in with a more specific identification.
Letter 10 – Stick Insect from New Guinea
Subject: What kind is it?
Geographic location of the bug: Paupa New Guinea ( western Highlands)
Time: 10:50 AM EDT
Worked up here for eight years never seen this one before
How you want your letter signed: Don know what you mean
This is a Stick Insect in the order Phasmida. Spineless Wonders has some nice images of New Guinea Stick Insects, but none resemble your individual. Perhaps one of our readers will recognize the species.
Update: Photoshop or not???
In trying to address a comment from SR that this is a photoshop creation, we maintain it is not, so we have cropped tighter to show more detail. The original image has very low resolution.
Letter 11 – Stick Insect from Peru
Subject: Stick insect from Peru
Geographic location of the bug: Amazon rainforest in Peru
Time: 01:29 AM EDT
This is another stick insect, but this time I think it’s a mature specimen.
It was on august 2009, in Peru amazonia.
Can you help me to identify the species?
How you want your letter signed: Ferran Lizana
Hello again Ferran,
We found an image on Alamy of mating Stick Insects from Peru that looks exactly like your male Stick Insect, but alas, it is not identified by species. Based on this Insetologia image, this FlickR image and this BioDiversidade image, we believe it might be in the genus Paraphasma.
Thanks one more time, Daniel.
I can see that stick insects are very difficult to identify, so my thanks to you are strong this time.
I’ll send you more insects soon. 😉
Letter 12 – Stick Insect from South Africa
Subject: Weird stick looking bug/spider?
Location: Daniekskuil, Northern Cape
October 26, 2016 11:49 pm
Found the weird looking spider/bug looking thing early morning on my stoep.
Signature: I dont know? Advise?
There is not much critical detail in your image, but this appears to be a Walkingstick or Stick Insect in the order Phasmida. You can browse iSpot for members of the order.
Please see attached close up photos I took this morning, if it should help.
Thanks for sending in more images Stephanie. We still believe this is a Phasmid, but we would not rule out that it might be a True Bug like a Thread-Legged Bug or Water Scorpion.
Letter 13 – Stick Insect from Tanzania
Subject: Stick insect in Tanzania
Geographic location of the bug: Tanzania, probably in Tarangire park.
Time: 04:11 PM EDT
I know nothing about stick insects, so for me it’s difficult to identify the species.
It was on may 2016.
I hope you can help me.
How you want your letter signed: Ferran Lizana
This appears to be an immature individual, and correct identification of mature specimens is often quite difficult. We are unable to provide you with a species identification at this time, but perhaps one of our readers will provide a comment.
Letter 14 – Striped Walkingstick
September 18, 2016 7:58 pm
what type of bug is this?
Dear Mrs. Fliehmann,
This is a female Striped Walkingstick in the genus Anisomorpha. There are two species in North America, and they look quite similar, and both are reported from Mississippi. According to BugGuide: “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.” These Walkingsticks are sometimes called Muskmares.
Letter 15 – Striped Walkingstick
Subject: Long and fat bug found hiding behind broom
Geographic location of the bug: Whitehouse, Texas
Time: 12:54 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: It’s about the same size as a walkibg stick but much fatter. Does not move vey fast or far when touched.
How you want your letter signed: Bob
This is a female Striped Walkingstick in the genus Anisomorpha, and you should handle with caution. According to BugGuide: “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage” so you should exercise caution when closely observing them. Because they are frequently observed as mating pairs with the diminutive male riding on the back of the female, they are sometimes called Muskmares.
Letter 16 – Two-lined Walkingstick, Anisomorpha buprestoides
Can you identify a black & white bug that ranges in size from 4" to1". They ride together piggy-back style (smaller one on top).We live in the Central FL region. This afternoon my husband’s facewas 6" away from a pair (they were on our gate when he was attempting to close it) and they shot outa stream of liquid into his eye. He said it felt like hot pepper in his eye.Any idea what this horrible insect is? We have seen hundreds of these around our house and in other peoples yards. BTW, he rinsed his eye and it seems to be okay, but we are very interested in this nasty bug.
Two things. Is it possible to send a photo? Also, are you saying the insects are from 4 to 1 inches in length? that is huge, four inches. Please clarify.
Yes, I am saying the bug on bottom is usually 4" long and they eitherhave a baby on top, or perhaps "a significant other". They are black with two white lines on top. After looking at all the pictures of bugs I canfind, I would say they are in the Mantis family (but what do I know?). We called our Fl Extension Office but the bug guy had left for the day.I am sure our local guy will know what this bug is, since we have seen many around our area. If you are interested, as soon as I find out the name, I’ll let you know. Unfortunately, I can’t send you a photo at this time. I just sorta of freaked when the nasty thing spewed something out into my husband’s eye, which burned. Your website was one of the first I cameupon. What state are you in?
Thanks and will let you know what we find out locally.
Please keep us informed, and we would love to have a photo. I have never heard of mantids spewing anything. Bombadier beetles will exude a substance from the anus, but they are tiny. Certain spiders can spit venom. The position you describe is the mating position, and in many insects the male is the smaller partner. This is true of mantids. Might it be a type ofwalking stick? Try doing a web search of that. Let us know whatever you find out.
Have a nice day.
I guess the nasty bug is a "walking stick" like you suggested. Here is a picture of one that "attacked" my husband. Most of the ones in our yard have mates on top (yes, the smaller one on top is the male we have learned). We contacted our County Extension Agent and she said they consider them to be "good" bugs. We do not since they really cause a nasty burning sensation when they spray people. I also contacted Univ of FL for more info. Will keep you informed if we learn anything else about them.
Editor’s Note: Jane continued to do research and just got the following email from the University of Florida which clarified the spraying:
Dr. Hoy forwarded your message to me. It’s the two-lined walkingstick, Anisomorpha buprestoides . In the case of the pairs, they are mating, and the smaller one on top is the male. It’s a common walkingstick in much of Florida, but you do have to be careful with them. As you already know, they will spray an acidic defensive chemical from the end of their abdomen. They often aim for the eyes, and the chemical can cause pain and temporary blindness. Pets often experience this. They feed on foliage, probably of various hardwood trees and shrubs. I’ve kept them in captivity for a while and fed them oak leaves. In the populations around the Ocala National Forest, the stripes are a much brighter shade of cream/white than in other parts of the state. If you have internet access, take a look at these websites for pictures and more info:
Insect Identification Laboratory
Department of Entomology & Nematology
University of Florida
Letter 17 – Two-Striped Walking Stick
bug ID, please…
We found this bug on the wall in a bathroom at the state park on Galveston Island, Texas. It is about 7mm long. It is very dark brown. It does not appear to have wings. We have taken some time to try to identify him and found several other insects for my son’s insect project on your site. We thought he was a Rove Beetle, but the size doesn’t match the descriptions we have seen. We are now stumped. Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciated! I enjoyed browsing your site.
We wrote to Eric Eaton to get an exact species on your Walking Stick. Here is his answer: “Yep, two-striped walkingstick, Anisomorpha buprestoides. You know they can spray an obnoxious liquid from glands in their "neck," right? People who encounter them should be careful. The spray can cause temporary blindness. They’re pretty accurate, too! Eric”
Letter 18 – Two Striped Walkingstick
what’s this bug?
My son found this stick like bug hiding behind the gutter. He coaxed it out and onto a stick. You can see how long it is. I would say it was about 5 inches in length from head to tail. When we poked with a stick or moved the stick it was on too much, the bug would emit a smoke from its back. It smelled bad. Can you identify it?
If the noxious spray secreted by the Two Striped Walkingstick gets in your eye, you might be in for a stinging surprise.
Letter 19 – Two Striped Walkingstick
Subject: Two Striped Walking Stick
Location: Daytona Beach, FL
December 23, 2013 9:49 am
Just thought this female was cool. She was hanging out on the side of the house and my grandpa scooped her up for me to see. We put her back after the photo and she went on her merry way.
Thanks for sending us your photo. We want to caution you that the Two Striped Walkingstick, also known as a Muskmare, is capable of expelling a noxious substance with amazing accuracy. They have a knack for aiming right at a perceived predator’s eyes.