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stick insect

Stick Insects

Phasmids (Leaf or Stick Insects) ~ Phasmids (say faz-mid) are insects that look like sticks or leaves. These insects have developed many unusual shapes so that their predators find it very difficult to find them.
Included in this group of insects are the longest insects in the world. There about 150 different phasmids in Australia.


Stick and leaf insects have developed the shape and colouring of the leaves and twigs of plants they live on. They can change colour to match changed surroundings. If disturbed, they may sway gently like leaves or twigs in the breeze. They may drop to the ground, pull their legs to their body and remain very still, perfectly camouflaged as a stick. If grabbed by a predator, they can drop a leg, and later grow a replacement.


Phasmids have a long body, either a cylinder shape or flattened. They are often quite large and can reach a length of over 20cm. A few kinds of phasmid are wingless, but most kinds have two pairs of wings. The front wings are short and hard and form a protection over the larger and more delicate back wings. They have antennae which may be long or short. Phasmids are usually green or brown, but some have bright colours on the underside of their wings. These colours are only seen when the insect flies.

There about 150 different phasmids in Australia.
Phasmids are generally nocturnal
Phasmids can change colour to match changed surroundings.
In Australia, stick insects are found in most places, but leaf insects are only found in north Queensland.


Male phasmids are usually smaller than the females and have larger wings. Depending on the species, females lay 100 - 1,000 eggs, flicking them one at a time onto the ground below. How soon the eggs hatch depends on conditions.
The young, called nymphs, look like adults but do not have wings. They climb up into a tree when they hatch. They shed their skin several times as they grow. Underneath is a new, bigger, skin. This is called moulting. They do this because their skin does not grow like a mammal's skin does. It can take weeks or months for nymphs to reach adulthood, depending on the species of phasmid.
A phasmid nymph shedding its skin.


Phasmids are generally nocturnal, that is, active at night. They feed on the leaves of trees and shrubs. A few species eat grass. The nymphs eat the soft young leaves but the adults are able to eat the tougher leaves.


Phasmids can be found in warm places all over the world. In Australia, they are often found in gum trees but sometimes in rose bushes or fruit trees. In Australia, stick insects are found in most places, but leaf insects are only found in north Queensland. The biggest phasmid found in Australia is the Titan Stick Insect, which grows to about 25 cm in length.

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