Submitted by admin on April 22, 2009 - 22:34
Phasmids or stick insects are a feature of the New Zealand insect fauna because of their size, fearsome appearance, and perfect camouflage. There are probably more than 20 species present in New Zealand and many have not yet been discovered or described. They are common throughout both Islands, range from sea level to high altitudes, and occur most frequently on manuka, bush lawyer, astelias, and other endemic bush trees and shrubs. Some species are green and merge well with foliage; others are brown and drab-coloured and resemble twigs or small branches. Spines and irregularities of the integument add to the general twig-like appearance. They are vegetarian, eating leaves of the trees they inhabit and are harmless to man. All New Zealand species are wingless and they range in size from about 1 ½ in. to about 6 in. in body length, with legs correspondingly long. Eggs are remarkably camouflaged to appear like small pieces of bark or broken twig and they are almost impossible to see in the plant litter on the forest floor.
by Roy Alexander Harrison, D.SC., Senior Lecturer in Agricultural Zoology, Lincoln Agricultural College.