There is an old saying, “I can’t see for looking.” That could be very true when it comes to actually seeing a “walking stick.” The walking stick is a most interesting insect to study. Being from Ontario, where there are plenty of these insects, I had plenty of chances. It’s apparently not so common here in the Yukon and most people walking in the bush, or even in their own backyard, could be looking right at one of these insects, yet not actually seeing it.
The reason for this is its unique camouflage that makes it look just like a twig. Unless the walking stick sways in a side to side pattern, its unique camouflage makes it fit right into part of the tree bark. This one to three inch insect has some amazing features built into it. First and foremost, it will not hurt you and is a herbivorous insect – it eats plant life rather than other creatures, like the praying mantis does. Next is its amazing reproduction abilities. The female walking stick does not have to actually breed with a male species. It can reproduce by itself. The one catch here is that if it has not connected up with a male partner, all its eggs will turn out to be female. This is not the only insect that has these rather rare capabilities.
Another most interesting feature about the walking stick is its capability to regrow a lost limb. If a bird swoops down and grabs the walking stick by one of its legs, it can actually drop that leg off and then rebuild a replacement leg. Now things start to get more amazing. The female walking stick will lay about 150 small weed-like seed eggs. She drops them on the ground and the egg blends into its surroundings. Ants love these eggs and soon a bunch of walking stick eggs end up in the ant hill dining room.The ants will feed on the fats and nutrition part of the egg and then cast the rest off. The egg actually continues to develop. When the nymph hatches it simple works its way out the ant nest undisturbed.
There are about 3000 different species of walking sticks and they are spread out over every continent in the world, with one exception: Antarctica. One such species of walking sticks hold the world record of being the largest insect of all insects in the world and that is up to 12 inches long.
A closing thought to ponder: “The truth doesn’t hurt unless it ought to.”