Tuesday, October 22, 2013

hiding in plain sight

Giant Walkingstick (Megaphasma dentricus)

And speaking of phantoms at Halloween. We were talking about phantoms weren't we? 

Few things thrill me like finding walkingsticks, insects in the order Phasmatodea, derived from the Greek "phasm" meaning phantom.


They indeed are phantoms, because they are darn hard to find. Their number one line of defense is blending in, camouflage by mimicking branches. On a tree or shrub they are impossibly impossible to see. But if you happen to find one splayed out on one of your car's tires. 

Viola! There it is!

Walkingsticks, and there are hundreds of species worldwide, are known for effectively replicating the forms of sticks and leaves. Some species have the ability to change color as their surroundings shift. A number of species perform a rocking motion where the body is swayed from side to side; this is thought to mimic the movement of leaves or twigs swaying in the breeze. Another method by which stick insects avoid predation and resemble twigs is by feigning death, where the insect enters a motionless state that can be maintained for a long period. 

The one motionless on my tire was there for hours until I had to move it.

Walkingsticks are herbivores. They do not eat other insects. Most captive-reared species eat bramble leaves, privet, oak, ivy and rose.

In 1987, I spent one night on the island of Barbados in the Caribbean. (Why only one night in paradise? Long story.)

There walkingsticks are called God-Horses by the locals because it is believed that God often rides around the island hidden on the back of one, making him next to invisible.

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