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Nature Notebook – Northern walking sticks

An interesting visitor seemed intent upon entering the Butterfly House by hitching a ride on the door. Actually this Northern walking stick insect was likely enjoying the warm sunshine.

This native walking stick looks a bit different from the ones on display inside the nature center. Its body is longer and darker. It was dark brown without any green, so it is probably a male, unlike our cage full of beige females. The native is one of the few insect species that do not have wings. Our inside ladies, once they are adults, have fully functional wings…which can lead to some humorous sights when one makes a break for it.

Chances are good that this male has already mated. The female will be depositing her eggs throughout the fall. Unlike female butterflies that flit about looking for “just the right” plant, the walking stick just drops her eggs as she moves about the tree canopy. If the eggs land in enough insulating leaf litter, they will overwinter there and hatch in the spring.

The hatching period is timed to coincide with the full leafing out of their preferred food, black oak trees. It begins in mid-June and lasts through July. Sunlight and humidity are also important factors. Sunlight is needed to warm the insect. Humidity makes it easier for the insect to leave its egg.