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Heteropteryx dilatata

  • Live collection
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal, René Limoges

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Description

These large, spiny insects with their long antennae are very impressive! The males and females look quite different. The females, which can reach 16 cm in length and weigh up to 50 g, are armed with several spines of different lengths. While the females are generally leaf green, the males are brownish. The males are about 9 cm long and have large purple wings enabling them to fly short distances.

Their name comes from the fact that the females’ brachypterous wings make them look like nymphs.

Theme

We live everywhere

Sub-theme

Tropical forests

Section

Elegant … and fearsome!

Country of origin

Malaysia
French name
Phasme dilaté
Scientific name
Heteropteryx dilatata
English name
Jungle nymph
Class
Insecta
Order
Phasmatodea
Family
Phasmatidae
Living environment

Diet

They eat the leaves of a variety of tropical plants, including guava

Habitat

Jungle nymphs live in tropical forests.

Geographic distribution

The species is common in western Malaysia.

Ecological role

They are phytophagous (plant-eating) insects that help maintain the balance of nature in their habitat.

Special behaviour

Jungle nymphs are true camouflage artists. They are nocturnal insects, and generally spend their days hidden in the plants on which they feed.

This species, particularly the female, has a number of defence strategies. The female makes a hissing sound with her wings and can bend her abdomen over her back to seize a would-be predator with her spiny hind legs. She can also emit an irritating substance to repel enemies. If all else fails, she can bite her adversary with her powerful jaws.

The males have similar defences, but their first tactic is often to lie motionless, feigning death. If the predator persists, the male will attempt to frighten it off by spreading its brightly coloured wings.

Interesting facts

Status

Trade in this species (to Europe) is a serious threat.

Popular beliefs

Malaysians do not harm these insects, as they believe it would bring bad luck.

Interesting facts and curiosities

These stick insects can spend a lot of time cleaning their antennae.

At the Insectarium

In captivity they are fed bramble, oak and other plant leaves.

Jungle nymphs are relatively long lived. The females can live for over one year, and the males for 6 to 9 months.

Breeders have to be patient, for the eggs can often take 12 to 16 months to hatch, and the nymphs just as long to become adults.

A gynandromorphous specimen, i.e. part male and part female, was hatched at the Montréal Insectarium. This is a rare phenomenon, but not unknown, in this species.

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