I was talking with some friends this weekend and I don’t know if it really came up in conversation or if I just forced it there, but I launched into a good five minute monologue about how cool stick bugs are. A few people snuck out while I was talking, but I’d like to think that the brave souls who stayed with me learned A LOT about stick bugs.
The first great thing about stick bugs: when they get to the edge of whatever they’re walking on, they kind of wave their front legs around like they’re cheerleaders trying to rally the crowd.
Case in point:
The other awesome thing about them is the layers upon layers of camouflage strategies they have. The first one is obvious. They look exactly like sticks. Not to be outdone by chameleons, they change color, too. If they’re on a green leaf, they’ll gradually go green; if they’re on a branch they’ll change back to that woody brown.
Somewhere along the evolutionary line, stick bugs figured out that it’s easier to blend in to a stationary branch than one that’s waving in the wind, so they came up with a strategy to compensate.
[A] walkingstick that remained still on a shaking plant would be much more conspicuous than one that moved in concert with the plant. So when a stick insect is disturbed, perhaps by a bird alighting nearby or a slight breeze causing the plant to tremble, it flexes its legs randomly, making its body quiver. This subtle behavior, called quaking, produces small, irregular movements not likely to be noticed by birds and other predators, which are programmed to detect the purposeful, highly coordinated movements of prey.
When we mist the stick bug tank in the morning to give them something to drink, the whole group sways back and forth. It’s awesome. Here’s one:
And if ever those camouflage strategies weren’t enough, stick bugs can call in some sweet secondary defense behaviors. They go completely rigid when pecked, sometimes falling to the ground and lying motionless for hours at a time. They can secrete noxious chemicals from their leg joints when seriously threatened, and if a predator pulls a leg or two off, yep, they can grow them back.
Can you see why I can go on and on about these guys?