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Walkingsticks in Your Garden

Walkingsticks in Your Garden

By: David Wall

Walkingsticks are a group of insects that are masters of camouflage. Resembling a small twig, they’re almost impossible to see in a forest unless you’re very observant, specifically looking for them, or they happen to be moving.  If, however, you’re able to observe one you’re in for a treat.

First of all, they’re masters of camouflage, resembling a small twig. In your garden, they’re about the length of your hand.  In forests, they can be larger. The largest (not in the U.S.) one ever found measured 22” long, making them the longest insect worldwide by far!

Walkingsticks grow by molting.  Interestingly, if a leg has been lost due to predators, the limb will rejuvenate during molting!

Generally considered harmless, walkingsticks prefer deciduous or hardwood leaves.  After that, it’s almost as if the sky’s the limit!  Grass, weeds, rose, and many other leafy treats are consumed.  An overpopulation can do forest damage by eating tree leaves, the portion between the leaf veins.  Outbreaks requiring spraying treatment, while seldom occurring, have been known in the SE Oklahoma forests.  It Texas, outbreaks have occurred further south which is not unusual since walkingsticks are considered a tropical insect.

In your garden, walkingsticks are a little easier to spot, but you still need to be paying attention. They prefer feeding at night but can feed at any time. The literature says little about which garden vegetables a walkingstick likes, but their preference for cabbage is well known. Being a somewhat picky eater, they eat only the green portion!

Female walkingsticks contain self-fertilized eggs.  If the female doesn’t mate, offspring will be females.  If she does mate, offspring will be males!

Should you be seriously concerned about walkingsticks in your vegetable garden?  In urban areas, the answer is no.  In rural forested areas, it’s more likely.

Walkingstick insect
Walkingstick insect

Author: Matt Janson

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