The Walking Stick-Insects (Phasmida) (Phasmatoidea, Phasmatidae)
Stick Insects or Phasmids (Phasmatoidea, Phasmatidae) encompass about 2,700 known Insect species. With their long bodies that give them a twig-like appearance, Phasmids are almost invisible among the leaves of trees. When They are disturbed, Phasmids will lay motionless for hours pretending to be a stick. Sometimes, They will sway to mimic a twig blowing in the wind.
To avoid being eaten, Phasmids have many unique defenses. Although Most rely on passive camouflage to avoid predators, many large Phasmids have large spines on their hind legs for self-defense. Other Phasmids will discourage their attackers by regurgitating food at them or by squirting them with poison. American Walking Stick (Anisomorpha bupestiordes) sprays his intruder with a chemical spray that causes blindness.
Female Phasmids can reproduce without mating. Some populations consist entirely of mature Females and their Offspring. The Young are identical to their Mother. Sometimes Mother Phasmid will search for a rare Male to mate with. She will either find Him with his Friends or will attract Him by emitting a seductive scent.
Unlike other Insects, many people like to have Phasmids as pets. Usually all They require is blackberry leaves and water to thrive. However, They do prefer to have their leaves in their cages lightly misted.
Phasmids teach about having as many choices as possible. For example, people call Them by many names--Walking Stick, Stick Insect, or Stick Bug. Female Phasmids can reproduce with or without a mate. Phasmids defend Themselves in various ways. Some simply become still, while Others will squirt a poison. In life, it is important to have many options available to you.
Stick-Insect eggs come in 2 main forms depending on whether they are dropped on the ground or placed in some less accessible spot. Those that are just dropped to the ground have a relatively large 'capitulum' this generally contains lipids and other substances attractive to ants, the ants take the eggs back to their nests, cut off the capitulum and feed it to their brood, the rest of the egg is then thrown into a garbage dump. The Stick-Insect eggs gain protection from birds and many other predators by being in the ant nest, and hatch quite happily inside the nest or buried in the garbage. In some species of Stick-Insect the newly hatched nymphs are 'ant mimics' i.e. Extatosoma tiaratum. This whole process is a remarkable example of plant mimicry on behalf of the Stick-Insects as many plants in similar habitats attach food bodies called 'eliasomes' to their seeds in order that ants should take them back to their nests.
It is known that seeds that germinate inside ants nests tend to grow stronger and produce more seeds themselves than seeds of the same plant that germinate away from ants nests. Apart from protection from predators and parasites both eggs and seeds in ants nests are offered some degree of dispersal as well as some protection from fire. Other species of Stick-Insect lay their eggs in the soil (Aretaon Asperrimus), into hollow parts of plants (Graeffea crouanii), or glue them to parts of the plant such as leaves or the bark (Timema californica) and these tend to lack the capitulam or have it greatly reduced.
The eggs take anywhere from 3 months to over 18 months to hatch into miniature versions of the adult, accept that they have no wings. They are generally active and run around a lot, they climb to the top of, or to the end of a limb of the nearset vegetation. Most Stick-Insects have 5 larval instars in the male and 6 in the female, and take from about 3 months to over 12 months to reach maturity. The females are generally far larger than the males except in those species where the males actively compete for females as in Eurycantha calcarata where the males are nearly as big as the females, and Oncotophasma martini where they are slightly bigger. This is because the females produce the eggs which are relatively large and she needs a larger abdomen to make them in and a larger mouth to eat more food and a thus the rest of her body has to be larger too. The males in many species fly and have longer antennae to help them find the females. In a number of species of Stick-Insects the males guard the females after and some times before mating with them This is particularly evident in species such as, the American Walking Stick Anisomorpha bupestroides, Anisomorpha monstrosa and The Small Spiney Stick-Insect Aretaon Asperrimus, males of which will, in captivity at least, guard anything that looks remotely like a female of their species, such as a juvenile female of a different and larger species with which they can not possibly have mated. The life span of many species is about 1 year, however in many of the larger and slower growing species this may rise to more than two years after hatching.
Though most Stick-Insects rely on passive camouflage in order to avoid predators some of the larger species such as Eurycantha horrida have large spines on their hind legs which can serve as aggressive tools of self defence against predators, as well as in competition with other males. While the American Walking Stick Anisomorpha bupestroides and to a lesser extent Pink Wings Sipyloidea sipylus have a defensive chemical spray emitted from a special metathoracic gland, which in the case of American Walking Stick Anisomorpha bupestroides can cause temporary blindness and considerable pain to an adult.