Thursday, January 07, 2010

NZ Critters

I don’t often write about New Zealand wildlife. Actually, I don’t think I ever have, though I’m far too lazy to go prowling through the archives to find out. Plants, sure—both native and exotic, and even some noxious weeds imported from overseas. But wildlife just isn’t something I usually comment about.

Late yesterday afternoon I went outside to bring in the washing and saw the stick insect in the photo above. It was maybe eight centimetres long and clinging to the side of the house. I have no idea what species it is, even though I looked at Landcare Research’s The New Zealand Stick Insect Website (which until yesterday I never knew existed).

I learned that stick insects are plant-eating (a relief…), belong to the order Phasmatodea, and they’re related to, among other things, grasshoppers, weta and crickets. I think this particular one is pretty freaky looking, but not nearly as scary looking as its cousin the tree weta (and I haven’t seen one of those in many years). Interestingly, some New Zealand species can reproduce without males (which is called parthenogenesis, by the way—your word for the day).

The website says: “When disturbed, stick insects will often fall to the ground and 'play dead' for hours. Another bizarre behaviour is the 'dance', where the stick insect sways back and forwards for hours in a peculiar motion, the function of which is a mystery.” This last one surprised me; I’ve often seen them do this, and this specimen did it if I got too close. I always thought they were trying to imitate a twig swaying in the breeze, since that’s what it looks like, in an attempt to fool predators.

At any rate, there: That’s (probably) my first post on NZ wildlife.


d said...

I came home one day and found a stick insect on our (green) bedspread. Have no idea how he got into the house! I helped back outside. :)

Arthur Schenck said...

I never know how the critters get inside, but I help them back outside, too. Actually, all the stick insects I've seen before this have been green.

toujoursdan said...

I had National Radio's "Summer Report" on. (Being in NYC I record them and listen them on my iPod so am always a day or two behind), and they said that these stick-insects make good pets.

Arthur Schenck said...

I've read that they make good pets. Somehow, I can't imagine them jumping up and down and running around with gleeful excitement when I get home or cuddling up on a cold winter night. I'll stick with Jake… ;-)