A smooth stick insect (Clitarchus hookeri) photographed at Auckland Zoo in New Zealand
A smooth stick insect (Clitarchus hookeri) photographed at Auckland Zoo in New Zealand
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Stick Insects

Common Name:
Stick Insects
Scientific Name:
Phasmatodea
Type:
Invertebrates
Diet:
Herbivore
Average Life Span In The Wild:
Up to 3 years
Size:
0.46 to 12.9 inches

As its name suggests, the stick insect resembles the twigs among which it lives, providing it with one of the most efficient natural camouflages on Earth. It and the equally inconspicuous leaf insect comprise the Phasmatodea order, of which there are approximately 3,000 species.

Size

Stick insect species, often called walking sticks, range in size from the tiny, half-inch-long Timema cristinae of North America, to the formidable 13-inch-long Phobaeticus kirbyi of Borneo. This giant measures over 21 inches with its legs outstretched, making it one of the world’s longest insects. Females are normally larger than males.

Characteristics

Phasmids generally mimic their surroundings in color, normally green or brown, although some species are brilliantly colored and others conspicuously striped. Many stick insects have wings, some spectacularly beautiful, while others resemble little more than a stump. A number of species have spines and tubercles on their bodies.

Habitat

Found predominantly in the tropics and subtropics—although several species live in temperate regions—stick insects thrive in forests and grasslands, where they feed on leaves. Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hidden under plants.

Defensive Adaptations

Many stick insects feign death to thwart predators, and some will shed the occasional limb to escape an enemy’s grasp. Others swipe at predators with their spine-covered legs, while one North American species, Anisomorpha buprestoides, emits a putrid-smelling fluid.

Threats to Survival

Little is known about stick insects, making it difficult to declare the vulnerability of their status in the wild. The pet trade presents a potential threat, along with the popular practice of framing their carcasses, like butterflies.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by Niek Klaassen, National Geographic Your Shot

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