What are walking sticks and what do they look like?

This post contains affiliate links.

Walking sticks, also known as stick insects, stick bugs, or phasmids, are fascinating creatures that are known for their incredible ability to camouflage themselves as twigs or branches, blending seamlessly into their surrounding.

As a whole, walking sticks are a herbivorous group of insects that belong to the order Phasmatodea. Most species are green or brown and have long and slender bodies and legs that help them camouflage perfectly in trees and bushes.

In the following, you will find information about walking sticks in general, their appearance, and their behavior.

What are Walking Sticks?

Walking sticks are classified as insects that belong to the order “Phasmatodea” or “Phasmida”. They are also known as stick insects, stick-bug, stick animals, bug sticks, or ghost insects.

Walking sticks are herbivorous, which means that they only feed on plants.

Stick insects can be found in many parts of the world but they are most abundant in tropical and subtropical areas, especially in Southeast Asia, South America, Australia, Central America, and Southern US.

A very interesting fact about walking sticks is, that many species can reproduce through parthenogenesis. That means that the species does not need a male individual to reproduce. There is even one species where only females are known, and no male individual was found yet. The species that reproduce without mating can also reproduce sexually, but without a male, the offspring is only female.

Walking sticks go through three different life stages. The first stage is the egg, then comes the nymph stage in which they molt several times until they reach the adult stage in which they are able to reproduce.

What do Walking Sticks look like?

Depending on the species, they can be anything between 0.6 in and 25 in (approx. 1.5 cm – 63 cm) in size. Most walking stick species have long and thin bodies and legs, as well as long antennae. Some species have functioning wings, some have reduced wings, and some are wingless.

Stick insects can come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes.

The typical appearance is a slender thorax and abdomen, resembling the shape of a stick or twig. Some have a smooth and straight bodies, while others have bumpy or spiky textures that further enhance their mimicry. The legs are also long and thin and often come with sharp spines that allow them to grip branches. One species that is very spiky is the Aretaon Asperrimus, also known as Thorny Stick Insect. It is often kept as a pet because of its special appearance.

Another walking stick species that looks rather untypical is the Extatosoma Tiaratum, commonly referred to as Giant Prickly Stick Insect. It looks more like a spiky leaf and is also a very popular pet insect.

Most stick insects are brown or green, but some are very colorful with vibrant patterns, such as the Sipyloidea Sipylus, also known as the Pink Winged Stick Insect. This species has pinkish wings that will be revealed after the very last molt.

The heaviest walking stick species of them all is the female Heteropteryx Dilitata, also known as Jungle Nymph. The females of this species are bright green, rather big and heavy, and can grow up to 6.7 inches. The abdomen is exceptionally large for a walking stick and even though they look rather dangerous, they are completely harmless and non-aggressive.

One of my personal favorites is the Peruphasma Schultei, when it comes to crazy looks. This species is also referred to as “Black Beauty Stick Insect” which makes total sense looking at this gorgeous creature. This species is completely black and has yellow eyes, bright red lips, and tiny red wind wings. The front wings of the Peruphasma Schultei are black with a white pattern.

If you want to know more about this species, check out the care sheet for the Peruphasma Schultei here: https://animal-knowledge.com/peruphasma-schultei-black-beauty-stick-insect-care-sheet/

Walking Sticks as Pets

Stick insects have become more and more popular among insect lovers and are often kept as pets as they are (depending on the species) rather low maintenance, very educational, and just easy to care for. They don’t need a lot of space, can be handled easily, and are calm, and non-aggressive. Depending on the species walking sticks have a lifespan of 9 to 12 months in captivity.

If you want to know more about the life cycle of walking sticks, check out this article: https://animal-knowledge.com/how-long-do-pet-walking-sticks-live/

There are more than 3000 different walking stick species that were discovered so far, but only around 300 of them can be kept as pets. Some species are better and easier to keep than others. Here is a full list of the best pet stick insects for beginners: https://animal-knowledge.com/best-pet-stick-insects-for-beginners-a-full-list/

If you are thinking about getting a walking stick as a pet, you should definitely have a look at this article: https://animal-knowledge.com/how-to-take-care-of-stick-bugs-a-comprehensive-guide/

Walking Stick versus Praying Mantis

Stick insects are often mistaken for praying mantis, because both insects camouflage perfectly in nature and do have some similarities. But other than the herbivorous stick insects, praying mantis are carnivorous. There are several other differences between these two insect types. If you want to know more about the differences, you can look into this article:

Leave a Comment