Stick insect: Distribution, Life History, Ecology, Characteristics, and Life Cycle

Stick insect: Distribution, Life History, Ecology, Characteristics and Life Cycle


The Phasmatodea, often known as the Phasmida or walkingstick insects, are leaf insects. All the species are stick-shaped, while several tropical species resemble leaves (Family Timemidae). The Phasmatodea are also known as walking sticks, stick animals, bug sticks, stick insects, and stick bugs. Other names for them include Devil’s darning needles.


Phasmatodeans are mostly nocturnal creatures that mimic various plant parts, such as twigs, bark, and living or dead leaves, in extreme cases of masquerade crypsis. The vast majority of surviving phasmatodeans have long, slender legs and an extended tubular body, giving them a stick-like appearance. Less frequently, taxa display a more robust body with expansions in the shape of leaves, yet, as recently published fossils imply, mimicry of leaves may have developed before that of twigs (Wang et al. 2014). Through specific behaviours like catalepsy (adapted stillness) and imitating a leaf swinging in the breeze during the day, several types of plant mimicry are brought to perfection (Bedford 1978, Bian et al. 2016). Phasmatodeans can deceive visually seeking predators with this astonishing sort of mimicry, and even their eggs exhibit it. The remarkably hard-shelled and intricately sculpted capsules closely resemble plant seeds (Bedford 1978, Sellick 1997, Goldberg et al. 2015).


There are more than 2500 species in the world, they are particularly prevalent in the Orient. In the United States, most species are distributed in the south, and all of our species lack wings (one species in the southern U.S. has wings).

 Life History & Ecology

The Orthoptera are divided into families or suborders, and these groups include the leaf and stick insects. All species are herbivores. The majority of phasmids are thin, cylindrical, and cryptically coloured to mimic the twigs and branches on which they reside, as suggested by the name “walking stick.” The broad, flat abdomens, massive lateral extensions, and generally brown, green, or yellow colours of members of the Timemidae (=Phyllidae) family strongly resemble those of leaves. The majority of walkingsticks are slow-moving insects, which is congruent with their enigmatic way of life. The adults of a few tropical species have well-developed wings, while the majority of phasmids are brachypterous (with shortened wings) or partially wingless. In the tropics, where some species can grow up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length, stick insects are most prevalent. The majority of other Orthoptera can deposit their eggs into host plant tissue, but females cannot because they lack a fully developed ovipositor. Instead, the eggs are dropped one at a time, sometimes from very high altitudes, onto the ground.


1. Phasmatodeans frequently have larger bodies than the largest members of other insect groups. Globally, tropical rainforests are home to giant-sized species that live in the canopy and have body lengths of at least 30 cm.

2. The Bornean Phobaeticus chani female is thought to be the longest insect still alive, reaching 35.7 cm without legs (Hennemann and Conle 2008).

3. Stick insects typically range in size from 6 to 10 cm, with only a few species measuring less than 4 cm.

4. Mandibulate mouth parts are present. The cerci are short and unisegmented.

5. Walkingsticks have legs designed for walking only, their legs are neither enlarged or altered for jumping. Usually, they have 5 segments in the tarsus. In comparison to the mesothorax, the prothorax is short. Tympana and stridulatory organs are absent in these insects.

6. Many organisms can release an offensive-smelling material as a kind of defence; these are typically aposematically coloured. Some species have autotomy, the capacity to lose all or a portion of a leg, as well as the capacity to regrow lost limbs (at least to some extent).

7. The male genitalia is asymmetrical, and the males are frequently noticeably smaller than the females. When disturbed, some will pretend to be dead. They consume plant leaves as food. Normally, they do not harm the economy, but occasionally they can be numerous enough to seriously harm trees.

8. Leaving the eggs to fall to the ground is how eggs are laid. The sound of eggs falling can make it seem like it is raining when the population is high. It is more common for the eggs to hatch the second year after being laid than the following year. The population may be heavier every other year as a result.

9. Adult females produce between fewer than 100 to more than 2000 eggs per female over several months at a rate of one (or less) to several each day (Bedford 1978). Most species’ females remain in the foliage during oviposition and flick or drop individual eggs from their ovipositor to the ground.

10. Some species penetrate the plants and insert the eggs within, while others attach the eggs to food plants and other surfaces (Sellick 1997).

11. The Amiseginae and Loboscelidiinae, two subgroups of the Chrysididae (cuckoo wasps), are necessary parasitoids of stick insect eggs (Krombein 1983, Windsor et al. 1996).

12. Stick insects have developed complex dispersal methods involving myrmecochory to avoid being parasitized by these density-responsive egg parasitoids (Compton and Ware 1991, Hughes and Westoby 1992, Windsor et al. 1996).

13. Additionally, stick insects are often protected by a variety of toxic substances that are secreted from a pair of prothoracic defensive glands that had already evolved in the last common ancestor of current Phasmatodea (Eisner 1965; Eisner et al. 1997; Dossey et al. 2007, 2009). (Kristensen 1975, Tilgner et al. 1999, Bradler 2009). Only a small number of species have acquired aposematic colouring, frequently in conjunction with diurnal activity, despite the widespread presence of these repulsive glands (Eisner et al. 1997, Bradler 2009).

14. A high degree of sexual dimorphism in size (which is heavily biased toward females), colouring, and unique physical qualities like the existence of wings or ocelli are other characteristics of stick and leaf insects (Bradler 2009).

15. According to Whiting et al. (2003), the majority of stick insects are flightless, often with apterous females (Leprocaulinus, Macrophasma, and Phobaeticus) and conspecific males having wings. Only those with the ability to fly have ocelli, while many winged species lack them (Beier 1968).

Spiny Leaf Stick Insect life cycle

A single female Spiny Leaf Stick insect can produce Over 500 ova (eggs), which are dumped on the forest floor. With their spotted brown to spotted white colours, the eggs resemble little plant seeds. Hatching of eggs can take four to nineteen months. An individual nymph will hatch from each egg. In comparison to skinny males, females have larger bodies. An adult female might weigh anything between 20 and 30 gms. Each new nymph starts by rushing upward toward the peak of an appropriate feeding plant as soon as it hatches. The stick insect will begin feeding on the leaves in this location. The insect keeps eating after its initial moult. Before reaching adulthood, there will be a total of five more times of moulting. Mating occurs now, both during the day and at night. fascinating facts Phasmids moult to grow, a process known as incomplete metamorphosis. Spiny leaf stick insects can grow new legs to replace lost ones. If an insect loses a leg during the nymph stage, it will grow a new leg. The smaller of all the legs will always be this one. The Spiny Leaf is the biggest stick insect in the world, with an adult female weighing as much as 32 grammes according to records.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Does stick insect bite?

Ans: No, stick insects are mostly nocturnal creatures that mimic various plant parts, such as twigs, bark, and living or dead leaves, in extreme cases of masquerade crypsis.

Question: How long does a stick insect live?

Ans: They consume plant leaves as food. Normally, they do not harm the economy, but occasionally they can be numerous enough to seriously harm trees. They live for about a year.

Question: What do stick insects eat?

Ans: leaves of plants. All species are herbivores

Question: Do stick bugs need water?

Ans: Yes they drink water from leaf droplets

Question: How long can stick insects go without food?

Ans: For 5 days

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