Walking stick insects – masters of disguise – are fascinating
A reader’s recent letter, accompanied by a photo, took me back to my youth. Dave Lewis, of Brady’s Bend Township, Armstrong County, sent a photo of a walking stick he found on his hunting shanty.
I realized I have seen just two of the strange insects – that are the masters of disguise – in my life, both in my younger years. I found them fascinating. Still do.
Lewis wrote: “I live on a farm and I go to my hunting shanty in the evening to see deer and bears. This walkin stick was on the door, out of its element, and visible. They are probably more common than people realize, we just don’t ‘see’ them.”
Turns out I’m not the only one who thinks these strange creatures are pretty special.
“Living on a working dairy farm for more than five decades, you are in the elements on a daily basis, fixing fences, etc., and you run into most things that are indigenous to your area,” Lewis wrote.
“In 68 years of living, I feel fortunate to have seen 15-20 walking sticks, not because they are uncommon – they are just not commonly noticed due to their natural camouflage. I still get excited like a little kid when I see one.”
The evening after I got Lewis’ note, I met my daughter and fiance for dinner and told them about it. My daughter had never seen a walking stick and she was very interested. The next day, walking their dog on a rails to trails near Altoona, Pennsylvania, she saw her first one and sent me this photo. It was very different from Lewis’.
Depending on the species, walking sticks can grow from 1 to 12 inches long, with females usually growing bigger than the males. Stick insects are the biggest insects in the world — one species measures over 20 inches long with its legs outstretched. All walking sticks are herbivores. They use their strong mandibles to consume leaves, the main food in their diet.