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Freaking Phasmids, Batman

January 17, 2016

While cycling along a dirt road during the holidays we had to take evasive action to avoid running over what appeared to be a large green praying mantis crossing our path. Even though a post concerning a similar incident was published earlier last year, we decided to stop and get a photo, only to discover not a mantis but a stick insect – a Violet-winged Stick Insect (Didymuria violescens). I have seen fewer than half a dozen stick insects in my life, the last one more than four decades ago. So this was a rare treat.

phasmid DSCN6990

Stick insects come from the order known as Phasmids, from the Greek word phasma meaning phantom. This refers to their ability, because of their colour and shape, to blend into the background and not be seen. They have several other defensive weapons including spurs, chemical sprays and brightly coloured wings which they use to startle predators.

phasmid DSCN6995Stick insects are nocturnal, making them even harder to find. They feed on leaves and other vegetation – the Violet-winged Stick Insect eats mainly eucalyptus leaves. The female can produce viable eggs without mating and all such offspring will be identical females.

This specimen seemed in a hurry to get somewhere, flashing its pink underwings to warn us off. It finally found the one tuft of green grass in the brown landscape where it hung on and froze (another defensive behaviour), blending in beautifully … and its sitting so still is a photographer’s dream.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan permalink
    January 18, 2016 10:28 am

    amazing!

  2. Geoff Leslie permalink
    January 19, 2016 2:44 pm

    “its sitting so still is a photographer’s dream”. Had to think about the sense for a minute; this sentence gets a tick for a nice use of the gerund and the correct possessive pronoun.

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  1. Laying mantis | Focus On Fauna

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