Stick In­sects

Galston, Glenorie and Hills Rural News - - News - By Jutta Hamil­ton

There are about 200 species of stick in­sects or phas­mids found in Aus­tralia and more are dis­cov­ered on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. They usu­ally live high up in gum trees but af­ter a stormy day you can find them try­ing to look in­con­spic­u­ous in un­likely places. Peo­ple have found stick in­sects hang­ing off their laun­dry dry­ing in the sun, cling­ing to win­dows or on plants in your gar­den and more un­for­tu­nate ones, drowned in swim­ming pools. Stick in­sects have truly amaz­ing cam­ou­flage and can be eas­ily over­looked as they of­ten stay un­mov­ing for long pe­ri­ods. Aus­tralian stick in­sects range in size from a few cen­time­ters to the long­est species; the Ti­tan Stick In­sect, Acro­phylla ti­tan, which can grow up to 30cm from head to tail.

Once a phas­mid be­lieves that it has been seen there are a few tac­tics that they em­ploy to avoid be­ing eaten. Males can fly away when stressed, but fe­males can’t es­cape preda­tors so eas­ily and will at­tempt to try to blend into the back­ground of twigs and leaves, It will of­ten, sway in a reg­u­lar mo­tion to help it blend in with its sur­round­ings.

All phas­mids be­gin life as an egg which is dropped from the end of the fe­male’s ab­domen and falls to the ground at the base of the tree or shrub. Thou­sands of eggs are laid dur­ing the fe­males’ life. The Spiny Leaf In­sect, Ex­tato­soma tiara­tum eggs have a knob, called a ca­pit­u­lum, which is at­trac­tive to ants. Ants will carry the eggs back to their un­der­ground nests, eat only the knob, and leave the rest of the egg safe in their nest, pro­tected from other an­i­mals that might eat it. To avoid be­ing de­tected af­ter they hatch, the young spiny leaf phas­mids (also known as nymphs) re­sem­ble, smell and be­have like red-headed black ants. They emerge from the ant nest and climb rapidly up­wards, look­ing for soft green leaves.

Many fe­male phas­mids do not need to mate in or­der to pro­duce fer­tile egg, but the eggs pro­duced will hatch into fe­males. If the fe­males do mate with a male be­fore pro­duc­ing eggs, the nymphs (ba­bies) may be male or fe­male . Most fe­males live for about 18 months, while the males are only short-lived, sur­viv­ing for around 6-8 months. They are just one of the fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures that make up the wildlife in our lo­cal bush land. If you see any, take a photo and share it with us on our face­book page. Con­tacts: www.still­creekland­ email Still­creekland­[email protected], Nick Char­torisky 9653 2056 or face­book Still- Creek-Land­care The Land­care Group for Gal­ston, Ar­ca­dia, Ber­rilee and sur­round­ing areas.

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