Tuesday, February 25, 2014
A Bug with a Chastity Belt? Costa Rica's Walking Stick Insect!!
Found predominantly in the tropics and subtropics, stick insects thrive in forests and grasslands, where they feed on mostly leaves. Mainly nocturnal creatures, they spend much of their day motionless, hiding under plant leaves from the hot sun or the strong rains that can come suddenly in the Tropics.
Local Walking Sticks can be as small as 1" and reach lengths of 4”s, with males generally smaller than the females. The largest
Nocturnal and a bit on the shy side, the Walking Stick grazes on leaves of forest trees and if an area is invaded by a plague of
Not known for a particularly impressive Mother instinct, the female Walking Sticks will drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor with little care as to where the eggs end up. Before you think this to be too callous, the truth is this actually works to their
Formerly classified along with the Mantises genre and listed in the grasshopper Order (Orthoptera), Walking Sticks are now in their own Order, the Stick Insects or "Phasmatodea".
So if you've read this far, and are still curious about where is the bug with a chastity belt?......another interesting factoid
In the end, little is actually known about stick insects, making it difficult to establish the vulnerability of their status in the
Some interesting additional Walking Stick facts:
1. Stick insects can shed and regenerate their limbs to escape attacks by predators.
Should a bird or other predator grab a stick insect's leg, the stick insect simply gives up the leg, using a special muscle to break it off at the weaker joint. Juvenile stick insects will regenerate the missing limb at the next molt. In some cases, adult stick insects can even force themselves to molt again to regenerate a lost leg.
2. Stick insects can reproduce "parthenogenetically", meaning without the need for males.
Stick insects are able to reproduce almost entirely without males. Unmated females produce eggs that will become more females. When a male actually does manage to mate with a female, there's a 50/50 chance the offspring will be male. A female stick insect can produce hundreds of all-female offspring without ever mating and there are species for which scientists have never found any males.
3. Stick insects not only look like sticks, they act like them, too.
Stick insects are named for their highly effective camouflage among the varied plants where they feed. They're typically brown, black, or green, with stick-shaped bodies that help them blend in as they perch on forest twigs and branches. Some even bear lichen-like markings to make their disguise even more effective. Stick insects often choose to imitate twigs by swaying in the wind and rocking back and forth to look more genuine.
4. Stick insect eggs resemble seeds scattered about the forest floor.
Stick insect mothers aren't known for their maternal instincts. They typically drop their eggs randomly on the forest floor, leaving the youngsters to whatever fate awaits them. However, by spreading the eggs out, the female lessens the chance that a predator will find all of her offspring and eat them. Some stick insects will actually hide their eggs sticking them to leaves or bark, or placing them in the soil in an effort to thwart the predators.
5. Nymphs usually eat their molted skin.
Once a nymph (or juvenile walking stick) has molted, it's even more vulnerable to predators until its new cuticle darkens and hardens. The castoff skin nearby is a blatant giveaway to their enemies, so the nymph will quickly consume the dried exoskeleton to remove the evidence. The stick insect nymph also gets the benefit of the protein by eating its molted skin.
6. Stick insects don't bite, but they aren't defenseless.
If threatened, a stick insect will use whatever means necessary to repel its attacker. Some will regurgitate a nasty substance that will put a bad taste in a hungry enemies mouth. Others have a reflex bleed, oozing a foul-smelling hemolymph from joints in their body. Some of the large, tropical stick insects can use their leg spines to repel the enemies, and others may even direct a chemical spray, much like tear gas, at repel the offender.
7. Stick insect eggs may attract ants, which then collect and store the eggs in their nests.
Stick insect eggs that resemble hard seeds have a special, fatty capsule called a capitulum at one end. Ants enjoy the nutritional boost provided by the capitulum, and carry the stick insect eggs back to their nests to enjoy as a meal. Once the ants finish feeding on the proteins and nutrients, they leave the eggs to one side where they continue to incubate safely away from potential predators. As the nymphs hatch, they then make their way out of the ant nest to begin their life.
8. Not all stick insects are boring brown.
Some stick insects can change color, like a chameleon, depending on the background where they reside. Stick insects may also wear bright colors on their wings, but keep these flamboyant features tucked away until needed. When a bird or other predator approaches, the stick insect will flash the vibrant wings, which serves to confuse the predator which then has trouble locating its target.
9. Stick insects can play dead.
When all else fails, why not play dead? A threatened stick insect will sometimes abruptly drop to the ground, and stay very still. This behavior, called thanatosis, can successfully discourage predators who prefer live prey. A bird or mouse may be unable to find the immobile insect that matches quite effectively into the ground, or other predators prefer living prey and will move on if they think the insect is already dead.
10. Stick insects hold the record for longest insects in the world.
In 2008, a newly discovered stick insect species from Borneo broke the record for longest insect (which had previously been held by another stick insect, Pharnacia serratipes). The Chan's megastick, Phobaeticus chain, measures an incredible 22 inches when the legs are extended, with a body length of an average 14 inches. Ew!!!
Kimberly Barron, originally from Malibu, California has lived in Parismina and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for 20 years. Starting as a certified tour guide, she spent 15 years managing fishing lodges on the Caribbean Coast and later 4* & 5* Hotels on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. Currently semi-retired, Kimberly still works as the Marketing Director for Byblos Resort & Casino and owns and manages her own Costa Rica Vacation Rental Home business Manuel Antonio Rental Homes.