Though they are normally only active at night and spend much of the day hiding under plants, if you want to know all about stick bugs, there are some fun facts to learn. As its name implies, the stick bug looks like sticks or twigs which it uses to its advantage as a natural camouflage. These insects vary in size and belong to the Phasmida order, which includes some 3,000 species. Recently, stick bugs have become popular as terrarium pets. |
Identifying Stick Bugs
Stick bugs, also known as “Walking Sticks,” vary from North America’s half-inch Timema cristinae, to the 13-inch Phobaeticus kirbyi from Borneo and considered one of the world’s longest insects. Stick bugs have a natural ability to camouflage themselves by mimicking their immediate surroundings and appearing as a stick, grasses or twigs. Their color is typically brownish or green, though some may also be black, gray, or a brilliant blue. Normally the females are larger than the males and all stick bugs are herbivores, living off the plants they eat.
Where to Find Stick Bugs
Stick bugs are normally found in the tropics and subtropics, though some species live in forests and grasslands of temperate regions. Because stick bugs are an easy meal for birds, amphibians, spiders and even monkeys, they are mostly active at night. But being nocturnal, their camouflage doesn't keep them safe from bats that use echolocation to locate their prey.
Life of a Stick Bug
The average lifespan of a stick bug is twelve months, though those kept as pets can live longer. One interesting aspect of stick bugs is their ability to reproduce “parthenogenetically,” a form of asexual reproduction in which unfertilized females produce eggs that all hatch into females. If a male does manage to fertilize an egg, the offspring has a 50-percent chance of emerging as a male.
Some stick bug species release their eggs as they move through trees and let them fall to the ground where they become hidden among the ground cover, while other species will drop to the forest floor and lay their eggs one-by-one underground.
It can take from six months to a year for these eggs to actually hatch. When the nymphs do emerge, they look like small versions of the adults and undergo incomplete metamorphosis.
Stick bugs usually remain motionless, but even when they move they are capable of camouflaging their motion by walking with a swaying motion that resembles a twig being blown by the wind.
When threatened by predators, some stick bugs with pretend to be dead or even shed limbs to make their escape. More aggressive species will use their spiny legs to swipe at their enemies. Other species, including the American Walking Stick (Anisomorpha bupestroides) and Pink Winged Stick (Sipyloidea sipylus), have a putrid-smelling defensive spray which can be painful and even cause temporary blindness to people.
Stick bugs with brightly colored hind wings will open and flash their wings, then drop to the ground and hide. It is believed that this behavior confuses the predator into searching for a brightly colored insect rather than a brown Stick Bug.
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