Stick Bug Sighting: The Incredible Walking Stick Insect!
The stick insect, also known as a walking stick or Phasmatodea, is the most bizarre creature we've ever seen up close. Tottering on thin, stem-like legs, its movements seemed mechanical, more like a robotic stick than a real animal.
This Catskill Mountain critter seems to be a female stick insect. We know this because our favorite animal photographer, Joel Sartore has included a pair of mating stick bugs in his Photo Ark, with a note that the larger, brown bug is the female. If you aren't familiar, the Photo Ark is Sartore's amazing project that involves photographing every species of animal in the world before they go extinct. His PBS series, Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark offers a look into his process and it's a must-watch for any animal-lover. I thought about how Sartore sets up his shots as I tried to capture this stick bug's entire body in the frame.
We didn't see any male stick bugs around, but that's okay because a female stick bug doesn't need a male stick bug to have babies. What! According to the San Diego Zoo's website, "One of the most interesting things about stick insects is their ability to reproduce parthenogenetically. This is a form of asexual reproduction where the unfertilized females produce eggs that hatch into females. If a male fertilizes the egg, it has a fifty-fifty chance of turning out male. If no males are around, the line continues with females only."
This long, thin bug has a pretty great disguise. It didn't blend in so well on our plastic table, but it would be really hard to spot among branches or twigs. According to National Geographic Kids, if a predator does see a stick insect "and grabs the bug by the leg, it's no big deal. The insect can detach the leg and scuttle away. It will later regenerate, or grow back, the lost limb."
If creepy-crawly critters freak you out, do NOT watch this YouTube video of another stick insect spotted in the Hudson Valley. It's movements are either fascinating or the stuff of nightmares, depending on how you feel about bugs.