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Vietnamese Walking Stick
Fast Facts
What do they look like?
Vietnamese walking sticks are masters of camouflage. Their long bodies are brown
and greatly resemble the sticks and twigs on which they live. Their exoskeleton is
even patterned to resemble bark! The nymphs (newly-hatched young) are green to
better camouflage with small green stems of the trees. Fully grown adults are 4-5
inches long and are typically tan or brown. They have two compound eyes, two short
antennae, three body segments, and tiny claws at the end of each limb to help them
climb. Females of this species are wingless, although males have wings and are
capable of flight.
How do they behave?
Common Name: Vietnamese
Walking Stick, Annam Walking
Stick, Walking Sticks, Stick Insects
When threatened, stick insects usually freeze still and align their spindly legs
alongside their body to look more stick-like. They may even “sway with the breeze,”
rocking back and forth. They may also play dead, dropping from their perch to the
ground to hide amongst the leaf litter.
What’s on the menu?
All stick insects eat leaves. Different species prefer different leaves, and often
choose to live in the tree or bush of their dietary preference. At the Zoo, the walking
sticks eat a range of different plant leaves, including oak and rose bushes.
Family: Diapheromeridae
How are they born?
Scientific Name: Medauroidea
Order: Phasmatodea
Class: Insecta
Range: Originally from Vietnam
Nearly all walking sticks are female. They do not need to mate in order to reproduce;
instead, females lay hundreds of eggs, each of which matures into a clone of their
mother. This process is called parthenogenesis. Eggs of some walking sticks are
often laid on the forest floor and have a have a capitulum attached to them, a fatty
deposit which attracts ants to carry the egg back to their nests. The ants eat the
capitulum, leaving the still-viable egg in the safety of the nest where it will hatch in
three to four months. The stick insect nymph mimics an ant nymph until leaving the
nest and finding the closest tree to live in.
How do they grow?
As they grow, young walking sticks molt, shedding their hard exoskeleton. After the
final molt, they have reached their full size and stop growing. If the young walking
stick loses a limb, it is able to regenerate the leg during its next molt. At maturity,
this ability is lost as the insect no longer molts upon reaching adult size.
Habitat: Tropical forests
Lifespan: 6-12 months
Conservation Status: Stable
What should you know?
While Vietnamese walking sticks are illegal to keep as pets in California, other species
of walking sticks can make interesting and low-maintenance pets. However, you
must ensure that you do not accidentally introduce your captive specimens to the
wild. They can easily become an invasive pest species, especially considering that
they do not need a mate to reproduce. Invasive walking sticks pose a problem for
native walking sticks, other native animals that already fill the niche of eating similar
plants, and can even cause problems to garden plants!