Just when I thought it was getting too cold for me to find anymore exciting insects, along comes this stick insect (who I fondly named Julia), to brighten my day.
Julia is a stick insect of the order Phasmatodea. She is an herbivore and her primary defense is her camouflage; she looks and acts just like a twig, which normally makes her almost impossible to see.
Stick insects are a favourite outreach animal because they are so calm and gentle, but also beautiful and interesting. Every year in my old job, I would work at the Insect Zoo, and cover myself in Australian walking sticks (which are very thorny and pretend to sway in the wind). Kids would stare at me with big, round eyes and shout, “There’s something on your head!!!” And I would feign ignorance, “What? Where!?” while another stick insect crawled up onto my shoulder. (Good times.)
Julia here is a member of the US’s most common stick insect species, Diapheromera femorata, or the Northern Walkingstick.
The preferred food sources of this species include oaks and hazelnuts and they are capable, when in extremely high densities, of completely defoliating those trees.