Monday, September 13, 2010

An anorexic grasshopper?

On Saturday I had the great serendipity of finding a "Northern Walking Stick" insect while checking leaves for interesting caterpillars. Lately I have been taking quite an interest in insects (especially as birds are generally very difficult photographic subjects!).

I was so thrilled to see this little guy! First I couldn't believe my luck and then I began to suspect it was wishful thinking. I could only see four legs (if indeed they were legs) and I know insects have six. So what was going on? I very gently prodded it with a small fallen leaf and it recoiled so I knew it was alive. So the solution for me was to photograph it and then examine it more closely on the computer.

Here are the photos. The second one shows it after it had moved to another leaf (and to that leaf's underside where I would never have noticed it if it had been there when I first passed by). Upon examination one can see that it has extended its front legs (green) to be parallel to its very long attennae (brownish). This further enhances the "stick" look and made me think it only had four legs.

From the Internet and books, I have learned that Walking Sticks are strict vegetarians who use their camouflage to escape notice by predators. They are preyed upon by birds mainly but also mice and chipmunks of all things! Some species can even change their colouring to match their surroundings like chameleons! They also have the amazing ability to regenerate severed limbs which is almost unheard of insects.
Not only that but some species reproduce by parthenogenesis (without a male partner) and seem content living on their own. Hmmm - a vegetarian, likes to live alone, has no sexual partner - sounds familiar! ... but I digress. :-)
Another interesting fact is that they produce eggs singly and drop them from leaves to the ground below where they lie dormant over the winter and hatch in the spring as nymphs. After six moults the nymphs resemble the adults and their development is complete.
I hope all these facts fascinated you as much as they did me. What an amazing world we live in!
Oh, as to the title of this post? Well - this was a friend's description of the creature. I liked it.
And for a little bit of trivia, David Hyde Pierce ("Niles" on the TV show "Frasier") was the voice of the Walking Stick named "Slim" in Pixar's wonderful animated film "A Bug's Life".


  1. Good old Niles: great character on a great show. He was a skinny little guy too. Do try to drop by on my Tuesday blog: some cottage photos that I kind of like, some more than others of course. The first two are kind of in honour of you (as in what would Doris do), but I can't seem to get as close as you do.

  2. What a fascinating post and photos!
    By the way have a look at yesterday's post on Vision and Verb (link on my blog) titled Chasing Dreams all about dragonflies which I think you'll find of interest. Flighty xx

  3. Anvilcloud: As you probably know I left a comment on your blog. I am honoured by the wwdd ("what would Doris do") and I think I only get closer by virtue of the 70mm-300mm zoom lens.
    Flighty: I just read your comment tonight and went to see "Chasing Dreams". Thanks for directing me there. It was a great post and I loved the dragonfly picture!