Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stick Insects (Walking Sticks) PHASMATODEA

There are 2,800 species of stick insects in the world and all are nocturnal and plant eating. This insect is in the same order (Order Orthoptera) as grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, praying mantids, and cockroaches.

Most stick insects originate in the tropics, though there are three New Zealand species currently living in England and about 20 European species. Many species are capable of reproducing with out fertilization of eggs incase no males are present. In this method of reproduction all offspring are females. The males often have wings - females do not.

They can be up to 12 inches in length. Their plant mimicry allows them to appear just like a stick - they elongate their bodies and some are also able to change their shading lighter or darker. If attacked they also have the the ability to regenerate a limb.

Stick insects can live up to 18 months. They are a popular pet as they are easy to care for, don't have a bad odor and will eat lettuce.

They move slowly and are easy to catch if they happen to get loose. They keep relatively still during the day to prevent being eaten.

Here is some interesting information, which I lifted from this EarthLife site

"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..."

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