A Stick That Isn’t a Stick

“A Stick That Isn’t a Stick,” Friend, Feb. 1990, 20


A Stick That Isn’t a Stick

Every creature of God is good (1 Tim. 4:4).

Can you imagine how you would feel if a stick that you were looking at suddenly walked away? Well, there is an insect that looks like a stick. It’s called a walkingstick, and it looks and feels so much like a twig that a person could actually pick one up and still not know that it was alive.

Its body is usually thin, and the markings on it are much like the bark rings that you might find on a twig. Even its legs look like small twigs joined to larger ones. Its forelegs usually stick out in front near the antennae; its middle and back legs look stiff against the insect’s sides. Some varieties have wings.

There are hundreds of kinds of walkingsticks throughout the world, ranging in size from 1″ (2.5 cm) to 15″ (38 cm). Most of them live in warm and tropical areas. These fascinating creatures live in trees and shrubs where they eat the surrounding leaves. Sometimes there are so many walkingsticks feeding on the foliage in a forest that it is seriously damaged.

When cool weather approaches, some female walkingsticks drop their eggs from the tree branches onto the ground. Females of some other varieties lay about a hundred eggs in trenches that the females have dug in the ground.

When frost comes in temperate climates, adult walkingsticks die. Throughout the winter, the eggs lie beneath the leaves. They may be kicked about and blown. Yet in the spring many of the tiny insects that have been hibernating inside make their way out. Some eggs may even lie on the ground another year before hatching.

A young walkingstick is usually light green and matches the leaves in spring. As the season progresses, the insect’s body becomes darker green, just as the leaves do. By fall it is a dull brown. During this time something else is happening: The walkingstick is getting larger. As it gets larger, it molts and outgrows its skin, and a new one replaces it. It is necessary for the skin to be shed several times over a period of about six weeks before the insect becomes an adult.

Walkingsticks are phasmids, which means that they can change their body color to match their surroundings. This helps to protect them from enemies. Certain types can give off a bad odor, which discourages enemies that might have discovered them.

Regardless of where it lives, this shy and mostly nocturnal creature takes its time when moving about. That way hardly anybody or any other creature knows that it’s there!

Photos by Larry Jernigan