The Stick Insect

Dear Reader,

A strange creature has been recently brought to my attention.
A few days ago a friend of mine posted a curious photo on his Facebook wall.
Something that looked like a peculiar tree branch was in fact the strangest little creature I have lately heard of. The Phasmatidae!


Stanito: “Wow, it looks like a fortunate branch stick, where do you find these?”
Alain: “In Nayarit!”

Oh goodness, I go there all the time and I’ve never seen one…

This bizarre-looking walking stick is an intriguing insects that uses camouflage, mimicry and defence as a veritable art form. So interesting that it blends in perfectly with its natural habitat that it often goes completely undetected by would-be predators or walking-by Stanitos.
Its names comes from Greek and it says it all: Phasmatidae comes from ‘phasma’ which means ghost, apparition.
If you ever travel to the Pacific coast of Mexico there might be a few things you need to know in case you ever encounter one of these little phantoms:

  • The stick insect has an evolution that goes way back… Its roots reach back more than 200 million years, to the Triassic geologic period
  • Stick insects have suction cups and claws on their feet which enables them to wall up vertical surfaces and upside down
  • Approximately 1 in 1000 stick insects is male
  • The stick insect is the longest of all the modern insects and sometimes they measure more than 45 cm in length.
  • They remain perfectly motionless, especially during the day, with its forward and back legs outstretched, as if it were a twig of its host plant, making it very difficult to detect them. In fact, I’ve never seen one in spite of walking often into the jungle.
  • The Stick insect flexes its legs, swaying its body randomly from side to side, mimicking a lightly blowing twig. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too. They play dead, stiffening their body, and fall to the ground to deceive predators and people.
  • Feed nocturnally, when the risk of detection by a predator is lower
  • Regurgitate an evil-tasting liquid through its mouth which makes it very unpleasant for people. Even though they are not harmful or dangerous to humans, their bites cause a very unpleasant and long-lasting itchy-painful sensation.

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