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Diapheromera femorata

  • Live collection
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal, René Limoges

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Description

These very slender walkingsticks resemble tree branches. They range in colour from green to grey and brown. Their colouring acts as highly effective camouflage. They have very fine antennae and no wings. Males are 68 to 84 mm long and females, 70 to 101 mm. There is slight sexual dimorphism in this species, in that males are more slender and more colourful than females.

Country of origin

Canada
French name
Bâtonnet ordinaire
Scientific name
Diapheromera femorata
English name
Common walking-stick
Class
Insecta
Order
Phasmatodea
Family
Heteronemiidae
Living environment

Diet

In captivity they eat bramble and oak leaves. In the wild, they feed on a wide variety of plants and trees, primarily oak.

Habitat

Walkingsticks live mainly in trees.

Geographic distribution

This species is found in eastern North America, from southern Canada (Ontario, Quebec) to the United States.

Ecological role

By eating leaves, walkingsticks help prevent some species of trees from spreading. They are also part of the food chain, helping to maintain a balance in their natural habitat.

Special behaviour

This species of walkingsticks eats at very specific times, from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., but for a shorter period when temperatures are warmer.

Interesting facts

Status

This is a very common species. It can even be harmful in some parts of the United States, seriously defoliating some trees.

Popular beliefs

Some legends tell of the devil bringing twigs to life. This is why most walkingsticks are also called “spiny devils,” “devil riders” or “devil’s clubs.”

Interesting facts and curiosities

Walkingsticks belong to the order Phasmida, named for the Greek word “phasma,” which means apparition or ghost.

Walkingsticks are capable of autotomy, which means that they can regenerate lost legs. If a walkingstick is grabbed by the leg by a predator, for instance, the leg will come off, allowing the insect to escape. Through successive moults, a whole new leg, albeit slightly shorter than the original one, will grow back. This phenomenon is called regeneration.

In addition to reproducing sexually, walkingsticks are able to reproduce by means of parthenogenesis: females can lay fertile eggs without being fertilized by a male. Such eggs produce only females.

In the 1800s, a naturalist predicted that by the year 2000 people would be raising walkingsticks as household pets.

At the Insectarium

In captivity, walkingsticks do not eat their usual host plant. At the Insectarium, the common walkingsticks are fed Rubus idaeus, a wild raspberry plant.

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