Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Walking Stick


Stick Bugs in the family Pseudophasmatidae (what a mouth full that is to say) are very common in Missouri, and in spite of this fact I had never been able to find one to photograph. Or when I did see one I did not have my camera with me. I was beginning to get quite frustrated at this situation and was bemoaning the fact to a friend of mine. Stating that I had not seen one all year, much less photographed one. Later that same day he taunted me with the news that he had found one on his car!!!! He photographed it and further tormented me. This simply was not fair.

Three days later I was out geocaching with my kids when I thought I saw a blade of grass move. I must have been hallucinating. Then it moved again....and there is was.....a lovely green walking stick. I could have cried I was so excited. I know that sounds silly to get so excited over such a mundane and common insect, but to me they are such unique, and odd creatures that I find them incredibly fascinating. I took numerous pictures of it before finally releasing it back to where I found it.

These insects are the subject of many myths, including the belief that they are the devil come to earth. In many parts of the Ozarks they are chopped in half because of this superstition. I can assure you there is no demonic connection between Satan and walking sticks. These are truly one of God's magnificent creations. Their camouflage is unsurpassed, and their ability to blend in with their environment borders on magic. One minute they are there, the next they are not....look closer.....ahhh there it is again.

My husbands grandfather used to tell him as a child that these insects were poisonous and would bite, making him very sick. My husband fully believed this little falsehood until I finally convinced him it simply was not true. These insects are only dangerous if you happen to be a leaf. They will not and can not bite humans....and even if they could they possess no venom. Perhaps somewhere in the World there is a species with this ability, but certainly not here in the United States.

A few years ago we took a vacation to the Ozarks and stayed in a lovely cabin in the Mark Twain National Forest. We were sitting outside soaking up the sun and enjoying just being in such a beautiful place when out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement. I looked again and there was a LARGE walking stick crawling its way up the leg of my husbands chair. This was too good to be true. I sat quietly not wanting to give anything away. I could'nt wait to see the show when this HUGE insect climbed onto my husbands leg. Knowing his long held belief that these were dangerous insects, this was going to be great. After about 5 minutes this little insect began tickling hubby's leg. He swatted absently at it, convinced it was a fly most likely. Once again, this stick bug tickled his leg, and in one fluid movement was crawling up the side of hubby's leg. He jumped straight up out of his chair, complete with stick bug attached to his leg. He shook his leg...to no avail, this little fellow was not letting go. I was laughing quite hard by now, thoroughly enjoying his situation. He started yelling at me to "Get it!!!" Get it off me!" I finally took pity on him and gently coaxed the poor stick bug onto my hand and placed it on a nearby tree. Hubby was not nearly as amused as I was. I only wished I would have had my camera with me. Fortunately I was forgiven for laughing at his plight.


There are several stick insect species in Missouri, and the largest is the Giant Walking Stick.These stick insects may reach lengths up to 7 inches. They are by far the most beautiful of all the stick insects in Missouri. With colors of yellow, green, reddish brown and pale flesh colored legs. The one pictured here we always called a Common Walking Stick. They can be green or brown and reach lengths up to 4 or 5 inches. This one was about 4 inches in length. Walking sticks are associated with woodlands and areas with trees where they can hide among the branches. Occasionally I have seen them attached to the sides of houses, garages and other buildings. On a recent trip to Truman State Park in Warsaw Missouri I found one clinging to the bath house. I captured it and gave it to the children in the campsite next to ours. They made a lovely home for it in a large container and fed it oak leaves. They were quite intrigued by their new pet. They ended up taking it home with them when they left the following day.

Once the females have mated they will lay eggs randomly, one at a time in the timber. The eggs overwinter and hatch the following spring. The baby walking sticks will be very tiny and begin feeding on leaves immediately. By summers end they will be full grown, once the first freeze hits they will die. There is only one generation per year here in NW Missouri.

 When warm weather returns next year, be on the lookout for these unique insects and....
 Forget your superstitions if you dare!

17 comments:

  1. Great share and this is a good find. Congrats on blog of the week at Nature Center Magazine.

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  2. Thanks Steve, I was very shocked to see I had been chosen for this weeks feature blog.

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  3. Wow. I read every word. I've always loved those bugs and never lived where they did. Delightful. Thanks so much for sharing! =)

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  4. Have I mentioned that I love the biology lessons you include? My high school biology teacher would give you a B (he was TOUGH)but I see A+ every time.

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  5. Good Morning Shelly! I love Walking Sticks and we had a bunch this late summer/early Fall. Not as many as a couple of years ago but a bunch. I wait for them all summer and can't wait till I spy the first one. They love walking all over CH's workshop and the rock front of our home. I am always sad when they are gone and I hate to see one struggling. Same with the butterflies. I walked yesterday and I am still seeing butterflies out in our west pasture. It is such a delight to walk out there with the butterflies! Saw my last walking stick over the weekend on our porch screen. Sad. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, had no idea about the negative myths associated with this wonderful bug.

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  6. Bio I love these insects too. I don't see them very often. I know they are around here and some people I talk to say they see them all the time. I see one every other year or so. I have never seen a giant walking stick in NW MO where I live, I've only seen these larger ones in the southern half of the state. I have yet to photograph one of them. You are very welcome, and I am very glad you enjoyed it

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  7. Thanks Emma for your compliment, A+ how could I ask for anything more? :o)

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  8. Rural I envy you "your bunch" of walking sticks. I seriously love these insects and wish I could find them more often. I am hoping to acquire some exotic species from the Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo. I've made friends with one of the directors there. I have applied for a USDA permit and if it goes through I will be getting some Thorny Stick Insects to use for education. They are incredible species, very large and gentle. The kids I do programs with will love them.

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  9. This was a joy to read. My 7 year old daughter is doing a unit in her class on insects & the class was told they could bring in insects they find. We just bought a lovely home in the Missouri woods & I told her how wonderful it would be if we found one of those neat stick bugs for her to take to school. She & her older sissy looked & looked & never found one. The next morning however, I was awakened to a squealing, twirling, very frantic 7 year old tugging on my husband & I to get up & capture the Walking stick hanging out on her window. She was so excited that she had run outside & tried to get it first, before waking her Dad & I up, but the window was far too high off the ground for her to reach, so her little jamma bottoms were wet from the dewy grass. Well, with no effort, dear hubby captured that perfect walking stick & we made a sweet little home for it in a large mason jar so my daughter could show her class. My daughter believes that the walking stick knew she was looking for it, so he came to her & waited on the window knowing she always looks out the window when she awakes....perhaps they are a bit magical...

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  10. Im doing a project on this insect and many can release a putrid spray! Maybe not in North America but it isnt uncommon

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  11. Just took a photo of a walking stick on a planter on the back deck of my home in MO Ozarks. It was 10 inches long.

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    1. 10 inches would be huge for one of these waling sticks. I am impressed that you found one that size. We don't see those giant ones up here, we mostly have the small green or brown variety.

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  12. what is it about these that we LOVE them? I, too wait each year to see a walking stick. I live in central NY - the largest one I have seen is about 5 ". This morning when I came in from taking the dogs out, I felt what I thought was a leaf in my hair, but it was a walking stick.I knew there were myths associated with the bug which is what brought me to this site. Startled to learn of the negative connotation.Can't scare me, though, they are too docile and beautiful to worry!

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  13. My husband found two making out under a green tomato in our garden.

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  14. i love this bug are they piousnes or not

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    1. I love them too. They are truly a unique and fascinating insect. To answer your question....no they are not poisonous (or venomous). They are completely harmless.

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  15. Sitting out on my deck in the early morning hours, a tan/brown walking stick decided to approach my sleeping pup who was fast asleep. It startled him and so he began sniffing away. The stick froze and didn't move. I took Gizmo inside so that he would not harm one of God's creatures. Two days ago, a tan colored walking stick was adhered to the siding underneath one of my outdoor lights. These little ones are seen almost daily around my home in the Mark Twain Forrest. Since I frequently sit on my deck with bare feet, it is always a unique sensation when one decides to traverse across them.

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