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 such as birds, reptiles, and even mammals are always on the lookout for these stick insects as a source of sustenance.

Curious about who eats walking sticks? Let’s dive into the world of stick insect predators and explore the interactions that take place in the wild. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the complex ecosystem these well-disguised insects call home.

What Are Walking Sticks

Description

Walking stick insects, also known as stick insects, closely resemble thin twigs or branches. Their appearance helps them blend into their surroundings and avoid predators. They vary in size, with some reaching lengths of over six inches, like the giant walking stick. These insects have elongated limbs and antennae, which add to their stick-like appearance.

Features of walking sticks include:

  • Stick-like appearance
  • Elongated limbs
  • Long antennae

Habitat

Walking sticks inhabit a range of environments, from woodlands to tropical forests. They are commonly found on trees and bushes, where they camouflage with the surrounding vegetation. Their range spans from the United States, like the twostriped walkingstick in Florida, to various world continents.

Habitats of walking sticks:

  • Woodlands
  • Tropical forests

Considering their appearance, size, and habitat, you can see that walking sticks have adapted well to their environment. Their ability to blend into their surroundings makes them interesting and unique insects.

Diet of Walking Sticks

Food Sources

Walking sticks mainly consume leaves and plants as part of their diet. They enjoy eating various types of leaves, such as:

  • Oak leaves
  • Bramble
  • Privet
  • Ivy
  • Rose
  • Hazel
  • Eucalyptus
  • Hawthorn

These insects tend to prefer fresh, green leaves, but they can also feed on other parts of the plants.

Feeding Behavior

When it comes to feeding, walking sticks are quite adaptable. They usually feed at night to avoid predators. You might find them munching on the leaves of:

  • Oak trees
  • Eucalyptus trees
  • Hazel bushes
  • Rose bushes

During the day, they remain motionless, camouflaging themselves to blend into their environment. This way, they can safely consume their preferred leaves and plants without being detected by predators.

To help you understand the most common food sources for walking sticks, here’s a comparison table:

Leaf Type Commonly Eaten By
Oak Walking Sticks
Bramble Walking Sticks
Privet Walking Sticks
Ivy Walking Sticks
Rose Walking Sticks
Hazel Walking Sticks
Eucalyptus Walking Sticks
Hawthorn Walking Sticks

By having a friendly understanding of the diet and feeding behavior of walking sticks, you can better appreciate these fascinating insects and their role in the ecosystem.

What Preys on Walking Sticks

Animals That Eat Walking Sticks

Walking sticks are preyed upon by various predators in the wild, such as:

  • Reptiles: Some lizards and snakes find walking sticks to be an easy meal.
  • Birds: Certain birds, particularly those with keen eyesight, can spot and consume these insects.
  • Bats: These nocturnal predators use echolocation to locate walking sticks.
  • Rodents: Mice, rats, and other rodents occasionally feast on walking sticks.
  • Spiders: Certain species of spiders capture and consume these insects.

Methods of Predation

Various predators have different strategies for hunting walking sticks:

  • Birds: They rely on their excellent vision to spot and swoop down on walking sticks camouflaged in foliage.
  • Bats: Using echolocation, they can detect walking sticks even in the dark of night and snatch them out of the air.
  • Spiders: They build webs or use their strong mandibles to capture unsuspecting walking sticks.

Defense Mechanisms

To avoid predation, walking sticks employ various defense mechanisms:

  • Camouflage: Their natural coloration and shape help them blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for many predators to spot them.
  • Chemicals: Some species produce noxious chemicals or foul odors that deter predators from eating them.

Walking Sticks as Pets

Care and Maintenance

Caring for your pet walking sticks is quite simple. To create a suitable environment, you’ll need a tank with proper water, humidity, and temperature conditions. Walking sticks prefer a warm and humid environment, so it’s important to maintain the temperature in the range of 70-80°F and the humidity around 60-70%.

Here are some essential features for your walking stick’s tank:

  • Adequate ventilation
  • Space for climbing
  • Access to fresh leaves for food

What to Feed Pet Walking Sticks

When it comes to feeding your pet walking sticks, their diet mainly consists of fresh leaves. Examples of suitable leaves include:

  • Bramble
  • Raspberry
  • Oak
  • Eucalyptus

Be sure to provide clean, pesticide-free leaves for your walking sticks to ensure their health and well-being.

Life Span of Pet Walking Sticks

On average, a pet walking stick’s lifespan is about 12-18 months, but this can vary depending on the species. During this time, they will go through several molting stages as they grow. To ensure a long, healthy life for your pet walking sticks, maintain their environment and provide fresh leaves regularly.

Conclusion

In this article, you’ve learned about the various predators that eat walking sticks, or stick insects. These fascinating insects use their camouflage to blend in with their surroundings, mostly on leaves because that’s their primary diet.

Despite their excellent camouflage, stick insects can fall prey to various predators. Some examples of these predators include:

  • Birds
  • Reptiles
  • Small mammals

Walking sticks have a wide range of species, each with its unique characteristics. However, one thing is common among them: their incredible ability to mimic the appearance of plant stems and leaves, making them challenging targets for predators.

Since stick insects have a diverse diet of leaves from various plants, they can be found in a range of habitats, increasing their chances for survival. This adaptability enables them to thrive despite being a part of the food chain. To summarize, walking sticks are fascinating insects with a wide range of species, an adaptable diet, and an impressive method of camouflage. While they are faced with multiple predators, their unique survival tactics help them maintain their presence in the ecosystem.

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 – Walking Leaf from Singapore

 

Leaf Insect
Location: Singapore
November 4, 2011 11:01 pm
I found this insect on an offshore Island called Pulau Bukom in Singapore. It was as big as my palm. Does it bite? It sure does look scary.
Signature: Freakedbybugs

Walking Leaf

Dear Freakedbybugs,
We believe we have correctly identified your Phasmid as a Walking Leaf,
Phyllium giganteum, a species native to Malaysia and vicinity.  We first found a matching photo on Galerie Photos du Mond des Phasmes.  We then crosschecked that identification with verification on Phasmids In Cyberspace which has some excellent photos of the life cycle of the Walking Leaf.  The photos we found online are all of green specimens.  We don’t know if this is an aberration, or a color variation, or perhaps a different species.  At any rate, this yellow coloration does not camouflage this individual against the green leaves as well as it would be hidden were it green.  

A Query
Subject: question about a Phyllium photo from Singapore
Website: www.phasmatodea.com
September 30, 2013 2:16 pm
Hello
Would it be possible that you bring me in contact with the person who has submitted this photo:
2011/11/06/walking-leaf-from-singapore/
It could indeed be a Phyllium giganteum. But so far this Phyllium species has not yet been recorded from Singapore.  And the location on that tiny island makes me all the more curious to find out more…
You can send the person also my email adress, so that he / she can get in contact with me directly:
phasmatodea108@bluewin.ch
Thank you and all the best
Bruno Kneubuehler     PhD (Switzerland)
www.phasmatodea.com
Signature: Bruno Kneubuehler 

Hi Bruno,
We will most likely not be able to locate the original email return address for Freakedbybugs who sent the identification request.  We can post your contact information as an addition to the posting and anyone from the vicinity who discovers a Walking Leaf in Singapore can contact you directly.

Dear Daniel
thanks for your kind reply.
Maybe this person has an account under this name on your site, which might be linked to an email adress. Or you can send a PM?
thanks a lot
Bruno

We will contact our webmaster to see what he can find out.

Letter 2 – Unknown Mating Walkingsticks from Vietnam: Neohirasea maerens

 

Mating stick insects from Vietnam 😀 But what kind..?
Location:  Jungle, Island, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
July 31, 2010 7:53 am
We were trekking through the jungle on one of the islands of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, with me constantly lagging behind the rest of the group. But thank goodness I did because I managed to spot this lovely little pair having a go at it on a leaf. If I remember correctly (I spotted them a month ago at the beginning of July) she was about 4-5 inches in length. I loved the almost scale-like patterns of yellow and black on the female. The male wasn’t quite as distinctive. They both had a few ”thorns” poking out of their abdomens. I’ve tried searching for what these guys are called, but I am clueless. Thanks!
Rixie

Unidentified Mating Walkingsticks are Neohirasea maerens

Hi Rixie,
We agree that this is an attractive pair of Walkingsticks.  We will need to research their identity, but we are posting them prior to research since one of our readers might be able to assist in the identification.

Update from Karl
August 3, 2010
Hi Daniel and Rixie:
It looks like a pair of Neohirasea maerens (Phasmatidae: Lonchodinae). This native of Vietnam and neighboring countries is apparently quite popular among Walkingstick breeders so there is quite a lot of information available on the internet. Regards.
Karl

I see that Karl was able to identify them. Thank you so much for you help! You all do fantastic work and I love your site 🙂
Rixie

Letter 3 – Unknown Leaf Insect from Australia is Spiny Leaf Insect, AKA Macleays Spectre

 

Cool Bug
If you know anything about bugs in Australia we would love to learn what type of critter we have here. At first I thought it was a dead leaf which had blown off of a clump of eucalyptus branches I had just cut for my possums…. until I saw it crawling up the spare possum box on the front verandah! NO idea what it is but I kept a safe distance as the scorpion-style tail looked somewhat threatening! Thanks
Tom

Hi Tom,
This is some species of Phasmid, commonly called Walkingsticks, Stick Insects, or in the case of your specimen, probably a Leaf Insect. We have not had any luck identifying the species. Perhaps our loyal reader Grev, who often comes to our rescue with unknown Australian specimens, will have better luck scouring the internet than we have had. Leaf Insects do not have stingers, and the posture of the tail end is display only.

Update: (04/28/2008) Unknown stick insect from Australia
Hi Daniel,
Extatosoma tiaratum, Spiny Leaf Insect, is a member of the Phasmid family. See: http://miller.emu.id.au/pmiller/books/stick-insects/phasmatodea/phasmatidae/tropidoderinae/extatosoma/index.html … Kind regards,
Grev

Update: (04/28/2008) That Unknown Australian Leaf Insect
Hi Guys,
most likely your stick/leaf insect is Macleays Spectre, Extatosoma tiaratum Here is a reference link with pic http://miller.emu.id.au/pmiller/books/stick-insects/phasmatodea/phasmatidae/tropidoderinae/extatosoma/tiaratum/index.html regards,
Trevor Jinks
Queensland

Edibility Update: (04/29/2008) Australian phasmid: edible!
Hi Daniel,
Hope your semester is wrapping up well. Extatosoma tiaratum is among the walkingsticks and leaf-insects consumed in Papua New Guinea. They’re also a popular display species in the Insectarium world, and among amateur invertebrate-keepers. Best,
Dave
www.slshrimp.com

Letter 4 – Walking Stick from Ecuador

 

walking stick
February 6, 2010
hallo! I saw this walking stick at night in the primary rainforrest in ecuador in the yasuni national park
janosch
ecuador

Walkingstick:  Pseudophasma species

Hi there Janosch,
We will try to identify this interesting species of Walkingstick, and we are enlisting the assistance of our readership as well.  It has some unusual distinguishing features, like the red head and joints, and the bulbous tip of the abdomen.

There are many wonderful images on the Biodiversity Photography Phasmida Western Ecuador website, but alas, none of them match your interesting specimen.  We believe we found your species, Orephoetes peruana, on the Insects of Ecuador website.  We verified that on the Phasmids in Cyberspace website.

Update: January 4, 2011
In trying to identify another Ecuadorean Walkingstick, we stumbled upon Insects.Org which identifies this Walkingstick as
Pseudophasma spp.


Letter 5 – Unknown Walkingstick from Brazil is Prisopus species

 

Subject: Mystery
Location: Manaus-Amazonas- Brazil
July 24, 2012 9:44 am
Hello,
Yesterday night appeared this strange creature of 7-8 cm long, probably coming from the forest. It had a big ant riding it like a horse, which didn´t fall down nor left it even going up and down on the wall. It seems to have wings, but didn´t use it. Do you konw what it is ?
Thank you,
Signature: Isabelle

Walkingstick

Hi Isabelle,
This is a Walkingstick or Stick Insect in the order Phasmida.  They are masters of camouflage when they rest motionless on shrubbery.

Ed. Note:  Thanks to a comment from Bruno, this Phasmid has been identified as being in the genus Prisopus, and interestingly, we confirmed that with a photo of a Phasmid from Mexico in  our own archive that was identified by Piotr Naskrecki.

Letter 6 – Unknown Walkingstick identified as Indian Walkingstick

 

Walking Stick
Hi there,
I was just wondering about a walking stick that I found this morning in my front yard. I live in El Cerrito, Ca. Is it common around my area? Do you know the name of the species? Also It’s about 3" long. Thank you for your time.
Gavin Lee

Hi Gavin,
Are you Gavin Lee the photographic artist who is a friend of Nechelle Wong? Sadly, we don’t recognize your species of Walkinstick as it does not match the two species Charles Hogue identifies from Los Angeles. Perhaps it is an escaped exotic. We will see if our favorite expert Eric Eaton has an opinion. Here is Eric’s response: “Oh, and the walkingstick….reminds me most of the western short-horned walkingstick, Parabacillus hesperus, but could easily be something else. Walkingstick diversity in the southwest is surprisingly high.” Eric later retracted his possible identification. Seems the antennae are too long. Here is what Eric wrote: “Gee, I don’t think I correctly identified that walkingstick from El-whatever, Califiornia. It could well be something exotic. Any chance he captured the thing? If so, I would suggest he make haste to his closest state agriculture person. You might even want to e-mail the image yourself to someone in the state ag department, or Doug Yanega at UC Riversice (dyanega@ucr.edu). I’ll watch the site for updates on that one. Eric”

Hey Daniel,
The unknown walkingstick is an Indian Walkingstick, Carausius morosus. It’s from India and it’s eggs can be purchased on eBay as fish food.

Letter 7 – Unknown Walkingsticks from the Philippines

 

Subject: Phasmids for ID (2 species)
Location: Patyay, Mayoyao, Ifugao Province, Philippines
December 7, 2014 10:24 pm
Greetings in peace!
During my last two travels to the remotes of Ifugao Province, north of Luzon, Philippines, I encountered these phasmid creatures which fascinates me, My recollection of past encounters were all shades of brown and gentle creatures. As to these new finds, these were of bright colored that defies the common characteristic of a camouflaged stick and seems more aggressive as it spew out some kind of a pungent odor to deter invaders unlike the tame brown.
Last October 6, 2014, I managed to capture these creatures by few frames. the red winged somehow secretes the foul smell but the greenish haven’t observe the same for I didn’t handled it closely to me. Furthermore, the red winged were considered by the local folks as pest in their ricefields as they masticate the young leaves of rice.
I hope we can ID these stick for proper recognition.
Thank you!
Signature: Kdon

Walkingstick
Walkingstick:  Orthomeria species

Dear Kdon,
The black Walkingstick with the red wings appears to be the same species of Walkingsticks we posted in 2011 when there was a major outbreak.  That species has still not been identified.  We are posting your images and we will attempt to do some research later today when we have more time.

Walkingstick
Walkingstick:  Ophicrania species
Walkingstick
Walkingstick:  Ophicrania species

Dear Daniel,
I highly appreciate your prompt response. last week, i had a ID suggestion from Project Noah
for the black and red stick :
as Genus name Orthomeria sp.. Adult female confirmed by Bruno Kneubühler. Bruno,
&
For the greenish with multi color abdomen:
Ophicrania sp. is confirmed by Bruno Kneubühler. But it might be another species than viridinervis. So, I suggest we go either with Ophicrania sp. or Ophocrania cf. viridinervis.
These were their suggestions, we might as well utilize it as starting point to pin the proper Id.
Thanks,
Kdon

Thanks for the update Kdon.  We found Orthomeria pictured on Phasmatodea.com where it states:  ” This is a totally NEW species i found 3 weeks ago in the north west of luzon and this eggs offer is the very first time ever.”  Other images can be found on Strasilky-Phasmatodea.  A member of the genus Ophicrania is pictured on Phasma Werkgroep.

Letter 8 – Walking Stick from Costa Rica

 

Costa Rican Walking Stick
August 15. 2009Hi Bugman:
I traveled to Costa Rica this past winter with few expectations but with a clear objective to finally find a walking stick (family Phasmatidae). Our weather was pretty awful and despite two weeks of considerable searching I had no luck until the very last day when I spotted this Metriophasma diocles clinging to the underside of a leaf in Carara National Park. Even turning the leaf over for a closer look did not convince some of the people with me that it was actually a living creature. So I tapped it gently with my finger and was immediately rewarded with a spectacular startle display. It relaxed after a short while and resumed a more cryptic posture along the stem, but by this time a small crowd was gathering and it decided it had had enough. It flew away, very slowly but with surprising grace, and took cover on a higher branch. Regards.
Karl

Walking Stick from Costa Rica
Walking Stick from Costa Rica: Metriophasma diocles

Hi Karl,
Thanks for this wonderful contribution to the website.  We found some other photos online for a link.

Walking Stick from Costa Rica:  Metriophasma diocles
Walking Stick from Costa Rica: Metriophasma diocles

Letter 9 – Walkingstick

 

Megaphasma dentricus
found on Schlefflera trunk San Diego May 25 2007 – image has ruler. (Also have extreme macro showing camo details if you want it.) (ever notice how stickbug images tend to be vertical?) There are suddenly a lot of species (common stickbug, others) of these guys around the area – drought stress? Incidentally, we propagate bamboo here but couldn’t spin it into cloth so bought a shirt from Shirts of Bamboo – soft supple hand to the cloth – feels smoother and denser than cotton. Good service, nice people.
Mark Robertson – Ocean Beach CA

Hi Mark,
We post all of our Walkingstick images as verticals since they fit nicely into our site’s format. We do not believe this is the Giant Walkingstick, Megaphasma dentricus. We aren’t entirely convinced it is native since in Los Angeles, many exotic, like the progeny of pets, can exist in our mild climate. As for the population explosion you note, perhaps there was a great escape from the insectarium of one of your neighbors. Perhaps one of our readers will properly identify your species. Glad you enjoyed the shirt you got from our generous bandwidth sponsors, Lisa and Daniel, who coincidentally share names with the staff of What’s That Bug? Here is Eric’s response: “Daniel: Saw the walkingstick already identified, so I figured I was off the hook! Ha! I would not venture a guess. Females (which that specimen is) are much harder to identify than males. I’d definitely contact someone at UC Riverside, or the ARS of the USDA, to make sure this is not something exotic. Does the person still have the specimen? Eric”

Letter 10 – Walkingstick

 

Walking Stick? ….or just a stick!
Hi. Wow! I love your site! First one that I’ve found that shows a variety of pictures of each type of insect/bug. Is this a walking stick….or my imagination? It only has two pair of legs.
Thanks! Linda Denny

Hi Linda,
It is not your imagination, but a for real Walking Stick. The third pair of legs is being carried foreward near the head which adds to the camouflage.

Letter 11 – Walkingstick

 

Bug questions
Hello.
Could you please tell me what this bug is. I think it may be called a stick bug, but I’m not sure. This one was about seven inches long and hanging out on my
sliding glass door. Very creepy. Do they bite or sting?
Thanks much.
Dianne

Beautiful Walking Stick photo Dianne,
They do not bite, but some Florida species are known to spray a noxious fluid when disturbed. Your specimen is benign.

Letter 12 – Walkingstick

 

Subject: Stick insect?
Location: Berkeley, California
May 20, 2015 9:53 am
I found this on the kitchen floor. It must have come in on a bouquet of alstromeria which were grown in an organic garden in another county because I see fras on the table under the vase. I’d like to know what it is, what it eats and if I could release it outside. I have it in a jar with some greens but it’s not happy. Thanks!
Signature: Carla

Walkingstick
Walkingstick

Dear Carla,
You are correct that this is a Walkingstick or Stick Insect in the order Phasmida, but we are unable to provide you with any information on its specific identification.  We cannot say for certain if it is native or introduced as many exotic Phasmids are kept as pets and sold in pet stores.  We cannot say for certain if it is the same as any individuals pictured on CalPhotos many of which are not identified. We would urge you to take it to your local natural history museum to get a quicker identification, but our readership may weigh in with information.

Walkingstick
Walkingstick

Letter 13 – Walkingstick

 

Subject: Beautiful walkingstick
Location: San Antonio, Texas
August 6, 2016 6:54 pm
My son and I found this beauty on the siding in our back yard at the end of July. They are digging up the open land directly behind our house to further our housing development, which has resulted in several unwanted and potentially dangerous house guests. This was one I was very excited to see, as I have never found one prior to seeing this one! It was full on sun, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and we have not had much recent rain, but had a wet spring. I do not know much about these wonderful insects, and my son and I spent a while watching it off and on before it wandered off. Can you tell me a little about it please?
Signature: Mother of a curious boy

Walkingstick
Walkingstick

Dear Mother of a curious boy,
We are relatively certain your Walkingstick is in the genus Diapheromera, and there are several species reported from Texas according to BugGuide, but alas, we lack the necessary skills to provide you with an exact species identification.  Our best guesses are that this might be either a Creosote Bush Walkingstick, 
Diapheromera covilleae, which BugGuide lists from Texas, Diapheromera persimilis, a species with no common name listed from Texas on BugGuide, or a Prairie Walkingstick, Diapheromera velii , which BugGuide lists from Texas.  What we can state for certain is that this individual is a male who can be identified by his narrow physique and the claspers at the end of his abdomen which are used in mating.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide a comment with a more specific identification. 

Thank you so much!  This gives me something to research!

Letter 14 – Walkingstick

 

Subject:  Taking a Walk
Geographic location of the bug:  Vernon, NJ
Date: 07/01/2019
Time: 05:32 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  A very exciting day as this is my first sighting of a Walkingstick!  I am thinking it may be a Slender-bodied walkingstick (M. blatchleyi), rather than the more commonly seen Northern Walkingstick?  The size was approximately 2 inches and it was found on some brushy vegetation in a clearing off the Appalachian Trail.  It appeared to have some minor injury to one of the forelegs.
Thanks in advance!
How you want your letter signed:  Deborah E Bifulco

Immature Walkingstick

Hi Deborah,
Immature Walkingsticks, like many insects, can be much more challenging to identify than adult Walkingsticks.  According to BugGuide, of
Manomera blatchleyi: “Long slender head (noticeably longer than wide) and lack of spines under the hind femora will separate this species from Diapheromera spp.”  That description seems to match the head on your individual.  As always, your images are wondrous.

Immature Walkingstick

Letter 15 – Walkingstick

 

Subject:  Id
Geographic location of the bug:  MO
Date: 08/19/2019
Time: 11:28 AM EDT:  Your letter to the bugman —
This “thing” was on one of my out door potted plants. Is it going to due damage to my plant?
How you want your letter signed:  SG

Walkingstick

Dear SG,
You submitted images of two different “things” but we are only posting one image.  The Walkingstick or Phasmid is a leaf eater, but we suspect it would much rather be in the trees than in your potted plants, so we would urge you to relocate it.  The winged Mayfly will not damage your plants.

Thank you very much.  As of last night the stick was still in my plant.  If still present i will move to tree.  [ Hope they don’t bite].
Thanks again.
SG

Authors

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  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

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5 thoughts on “What Eats Walking Sticks: Meet Their Surprising Predators”

  1. no, this is certainly not Oreophoetes peruana. From what it visible from the photos, it could be Oreophoetes topoense – which we have just described recently (see lastest issue of Journal of Orthoptera Research). On our site you can find more photos of this species:
    http://www.phasmatodea.com (see photo section)
    Bruno (Switzerland)

    Reply
  2. I have found one of this insect at Serra da Cantareira, a forest very close to São Paulo City! Congrats for your explanation!

    Reply

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