Walkingsticks belong to the insect order Phasmida which is a very appropriate name for an insect that is ghostlike as it blends in with its environment.
Texas has fourteen species of the Common Walkingstick of which the Texas Giant Walkingstick, Megaphasma denticrus, is the largest at seven inches. Two other species are also found in Texas. The Southern Two-striped Walkingstick, Anisomorpha buprestoide, also called the “Spitting Devil” can be found in the coastal plains of Texas and is the most common stick insect in Florida.
They are very well camouflaged resembling brown or green sticks and move very slow. Some species discharge a foul-smelling substance that deters predators. Other species drop a leg to fend off predators. The leg grows back with the next molt. They cannot fly although some have wings which are merely for display purposes to scare a predator.
Only one life cycle is produced each year. Walkingstick females are capable of parthenogenetic reproduction which means they can reproduce on their own without a male. They drop the black or brown colored eggs which resemble seeds to the ground in the leaf litter of the host plant in fall where they remain till spring. They go through incomplete metamorphosis which has three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Their life span varies between species and can be a few weeks or a few months. Females are usually larger than males.
Walkingsticks are herbivorous. They feed mostly on the leaves of hackberry, oak, mesquite, elm, wild cherry, and shrubs. Adults are mostly nocturnal although the nymphs do eat during the day. They rarely completely defoliate a tree or shrub. They don’t bite or sting and are a tasty treat for birds.