Saturday, October 29, 2011

Stick Time

Once again, we are having a year of abundant walkingsticks. I think they are especially noticeable because they made a home for themselves in a tree beside the barn and they’ve been falling from the tree on a regular basis for the past couple of weeks.

This Sugar Maple is the source of the walkingsticks. I’ve read that oaks are their preferred food, but there is also mention of them feeding on a variety of deciduous species. I assume they’ve been living and growing in this tree since spring. Now the leaves are disappearing and there’s nothing for the sticks to eat. I think it odd that the walkingsticks can live in the tree for an entire summer without falling out, but as mature insects they can’t seem to keep a hold. I don’t hang around the barn that often, but in a short time I’ve seen several walkingsticks fall and have even been struck by one of the falling creatures.

These guys have been quite shiny this year. They look like they’ve been buffed and given a new coat of wax.

Walkingsticks are harmless to humans, unless of course you’re careless enough to play with one and poke it in your eye. Their primary defense is camouflage. Every part of the body seems carefully designed not to resemble an insect. Many times, animal camouflage doesn’t work when viewed at close range. Even under magnification, it’s hard to believe that some parts of the stick insect are truly animal parts.

If any part of the walkingstick has a menacing look, it’s the tip of the abdomen with its hooked cerci.

They may look awkward, but walkingsticks can be quite speedy. I had to catch this guy three times and move him back down the tree trunk before I could get a shot. Hopefully, the females are busy sprinkling eggs about the base of the tree so there will be a new crop of sticks next year. I’ll be on alert early in the year to see if I can spot a few youngsters.

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