Walking Sticks

Stick InsectsOrder Phasmida

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The walking stick is a common but often overlooked insect in the world of entomology because it does not pose a problem as a pest either to the farmer or the ordinary citizen. These docile insects are strictly vegetarians feeding on berry, cherry and a variety of other leaves. There are over 3000 varieties of walking sticks identified world wide. Walkingsticks are found primarily in the temperate and tropical regions. These creatures spend their days motionless hanging from leaves and branches waiting until dark to feed. This particular insect gets its name from its appearance, looking much like a twig or in some cases the leaves upon which it feeds. The walking stick has the unusual ability of partial regeneration. If a leg is lost or damaged it will grow back after several successive molts. By molting, or shedding its skin, the walking stick is able to grow to an astounding size in just a few months. Once the skin is shed the walking stick eats its own molt. Walking sticks lay eggs which are dropped to the ground and remain there until they hatch. In the event there are no males in the area a walking stick can lay viable eggs which hatch and result in females only.

Note: I no longer know of a source for walking sticks. Please consult your local pet store or community college entomology department.

Australian Giant Walking Stick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Photo Credit: Scott Camazine, Penn State University Entomology Dept. - Used by permission

This Australian species of walking stick makes a wonderful pet. This picture shows the insect measuring about 2 to 3 three inches. In a short time and with an adequate supply of fresh food it will grow to measure nearly 6 inches or more in length. If disturbed the walking stick will gently sway back and forth attempting to look much like a dead leaf swaying in the breeze

Credit: Ellis Nature Photography - Toledo Zoo
The Australian walking stick closely resembles the preying mantis but does not have clasping front claws. Note the leaf like body shape and coloring. This particular insect is voracious and is able to strip an Oregon blackberry plant of its leaves in a couple of days. Here in Oregon this could be a boon for those who would love to rid themselves of the wild berry problem but unfortunately the insect would not survive the cold winters.
 

Male of the common U.S. species Diapheromera femorata.

The more commonly known walking stick looks just like a stick or small twig. At first glance it appears to have only four legs but if you look closely you will see that what appears to be two antenna are really its fore legs and between them are the antenna. The fore legs are held out in front while resting and are only off to the side when the insect is feeding. Like all insects the walking stick has the three main body parts: head, thorax and abdomen, but here they are a little more difficult to distinguish.

This walking stick is not as hearty an eater as its larger cousin the Australian walking stick. It also eats the leaves of the blackberry and has been noted to enjoy snacking on the tender green layer of berry stalks. The common walking stick generally remains quite still and motionless even when its hiding place is disturbed. When either of these insects decides to move about they are capable of moving quite rapidly and with much grace.

 

The eggs of the Australian walking stick are small brown capsules measuring about 2-3 millimeters in diameter.

 

Photo credit: http://www.madmartian.com/

June 27, 2002 New nymphs emerge during summer break. Early in May and June we began to see a number of new nymphs. Within a month we have had a population explosion. So many nymphs emerged that they had to be divided into two cages. Keeping so many new critters fed became a full time job. Here are a few pictures of the new arrivals.

Microphotography by D. Zirschky

Good insect websites for research:

Bugs In Cyberspace - Outstanding source for food types, breeding and anatomy information.

 

Bug Bios - Good macrophotography and descriptions of insects including the walking stick.

 

Dennis Kunkel Microscopy -Interesting microscopic photos of insects.

 

 

 

See how the restoration of my 1965 VW is coming along.

Last updated: August 8, 2009

 

Copyright: This page is protected by copyright. Permission is granted for non-profit educational purposes only.

 

 

Contact: Mr. Zirschky - Email

This website was formerly hosted on Ewing Young Elementary School's web page. Due to changes in the District web server, it is easier to host and update my own work than it is to ask someone else to do it. The Trout and Robotics pages that were once linked through the school webpage are no longer available.

 

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Photo Credit: Scott Camazine, Penn State University Entomology Dept. - Used by permission

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Nymph just after hatching.

 

Nymph on a leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note this juveniles’ size in relationship to the penny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This juvenile has gone through a couple of molts.

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2001

Australians raised from stored eggs. To the left you see an adult male we hatched from eggs that had been stored for nearly two years. This adult male is about three months old and measures 4.5 inches long. The male is darker in color, long and slender and capable of flying. The female is a few months older and much larger but cannot fly.

 

 

 

 

 

Ever wondered how walking sticks are able to not only hang on to leaves and branches so well, but cling to your hand or a flat smooth surface such as a window?

Well they have two tiny claws on each foot with which they can grip soft or textured surfaces as well as a fleshy membranous flap called the empodium. This fleshy flap helps them to adhere to almost any smooth surface. The common house fly has the same type of flap enabling it to walk on the ceiling or anywhere else it chooses. Note the tiny hairs. These too help the foot cling to surfaces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Claw viewed from underside. 60x

Claw viewed from underside. 200x

Empodium viewed from top. 60x

Claw and empodium from side. 60x

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Thursday, June 16, 2005
Mrs. Stenbock and Mr. Zirschky win district awards!
Mrs. Stenbock and Mr. Zirschky were receipients of two big awards at the annual Newberg School District Breakfast and Awards Presentation this morning at Newberg High School. Mrs. Stenbock was presented with the Newberg School District Principal of the Year award, and Mr. Zirschky was presented with the Newberg School District Superintendent's Award. Congratulations to both EY staff members. We appreciate all their dedication to Ewing Young Elementary and the entire Newberg School District!

 

June 2006

Six educators were recognized for excellence in education at the school district's annual Crystal Apple Awards
From left are Bruce Sinkbeil (NHS), Dwight Zirschky (Ewing Young Elementary), Terry McElligott (Chehalem Valley Middle School), Florence Jones (district Special Programs), Rena Kosters (Chehalem Valley Middle School) and Cathy Patocka (Antonia Crater Elementary.)"

 

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