Stick insects (Phasmatodea) belong to a larger group of insects known as Phasmids (which comes from a Greek word meaning 'apparition' or 'ghost'). Their name probably comes from the fact that they're so difficult to see, and often seem to “disappear” into the twigs and leaves around them. There are currently over 3,000 known species of stick and leaf insects, and they are found all over the world, most often in warm- & moist-climate areas. This fascinating group of insects includes the world's longest insect, the Chan's Megastick (Phobaeticus chani), which can grow almost two feet long!
These amazing creatures indisputably win the most-camouflaged award, with an outstanding variety of patterns, shapes, and colors uniquely designed to fit their environment. While most simply blend in by looking (and acting) exactly like the sticks or leaves around them, some can even change color, making them virtually impossible to see! Chances are, if you've ever spent time in a warm-climate part of the world, you have walked right by stick insects without ever knowing they were there!
Though very similar in looks and behavior to the Praying Mantis, stick insects are actually an entirely different species. Unlike the Mantis, which feeds on other insects, stick insects are mostly herbivores (they eat mostly leaves ). They often look and act poisonous, but don't be fooled by the show! Some have a sort of 'pincer' which they will use to inflict pain on a potential predator, and others can spray a chemical compound which can sting the eyes, nose, and mouth of a threat. Overall, however, these harmless insects rely completely on camouflage and trickery to stay alive. In fact, stick insects often make great pets, and are easy to keep alive when given the right foods.
Stick insects, in typical insect fashion, reproduce by laying eggs. Unlike many insects, however, they scatter their eggs, which resemble seeds, all over the forest floor. In this way, the young cannot all be eaten at once when they hatch! Many stick insects (like earthworms) are parthonegenic, which means the female can lay eggs that will hatch entirely without the help of a male. In fact, there are some species of phasmids in which scientists have still not found a male!
Stick insects are one more example of God's incredible creativity. Learning the variety and complexities of this insect species alone could keep many scientists busy for lifetimes! While God could have simply created a few types of insects, He instead gave us such a breathtaking variety that we will probably never even discover every type. Stick insects could not have simply evolved to blend so perfectly with their environments. Such detail and perfection in camouflage is evidence of a creative Mind so infinite that we can barely scratch the surface in our quest to comprehend the variety. True science observes Creation and learns from it, for there is much to be learned!
FUN FACT: Scientists have recently discovered that the defensive chemicals emitted by certain species of stick insects actually contain antibacterial properties, confirming the practices of tribes in Papua New Guinea who have used the liquid for centuries to treat skin infections!