Insect identification > Orthoptera > Walkingsticks


WalkingsticksFamily Phasmidae (the walkingsticks). - The phasmids are generally called "walkingsticks." Their bodies are usually long and stick-like, owing largely to their very long and slender meso- and metathoracic segments.

Their legs and antennae are also generally long, and the 15 to 20 kinds found in the United States are wingless, or with only wing stubs, which adds to their stick-like appearance. They are brown or green in color and thus much resemble the twigs on which they rest.

Only one species (Diapheromera femorata Say) is abundant except in the more southern states, but this is quite generally present.

Walkingsticks feed on foliage and when abundant may entirely strip many acres of forest trees of their leaves, though this does not often happen. Their eggs are laid in the fall, being usually dropped singly wherever the insects happen to be, and falling to the ground remain there until the following spring, or in some cases until the second spring, before hatching.

Where forest areas are attacked, no entirely satisfactory method of control is known.

This group is mainly a tropical one, over six hundred kinds being known, very variable in size and appearance. One species has a body nine inches or more in length, and with its front legs extended forward and its hinder ones backward - a position it often assumes - may measure sixteen inches or even more, while its body has a diameter of less than one-quarter of an inch. In the tropical forms wings are often present, and in some cases colored and marked to resemble leaves. This resemblance is increased in Pulchriphyllium bioculatum Gray, found in the East Indies, by leaf-like expansions of the femora and tibiae and of the body itself.

The insects belonging to the three families of this order, treated thus far, are all walkers or runners (Cursoria). Those now to be considered are leaping forms (Saltatoria), the hind legs being longer than the others and provided with powerful muscles. Their heads are generally strongly hypognathous, the mouth being directed downward and in some cases even a little backward. Sounds sometimes called musical are produced by most members of these families.