What Does a Stick Bug Look Like?
“Stick bug” is a common name for insects that belong to the order Phasmida or Phasmatodea. Also referred to as walking sticks, stick insects, or walking stick bugs, this type of bug looks just like its name suggests: a stick.
Known for its camouflage abilities, the walking stick bug is a clever master of disguise as it seamlessly blends into its natural surroundings resembling the sticks or twigs it lives amongst. With over 3,000 species of walking stick bugs, these pests can be found practically everywhere except Antarctica, and yet, they can be difficult to spot—until you see a “stick” get up and walk away.
When it comes to correctly identifying unwanted pests hanging out in or around your home, we can help. But, remember, you don’t have to identify any bug specifically before calling our experts for assistance. Our Moxie experts can help you identify intruding pests and get rid of them in pet- and family-friendly ways.
WHAT IS A STICK BUG?
Walking stick bugs are a group of insects that are unique in appearance and possess the ability to camouflage or mimic the appearance of sticks, twigs, branches, and even leaves in their natural habitat. They are primarily herbivorous (meaning that they eat plants) and enjoy feeding on leaves, especially from oak trees, strawberry plants, and blueberry plants.
While there are several varieties of stick bugs, there are two common types:
- Diapheromera femorata: This common walking stick has a small square head with long antennae and six slender legs. Females typically measure about 95 mm (3.74 inches) while males measure on average about 75 mm (2.95 inches). These stick bugs are either brown or brownish-green in color.
- Megaphasma denticrus: Otherwise known as the “giant walking stick”, this type of stick bug is known to be practically unnoticeable from its environment when they stop moving. Measuring up to almost 110 mm (4.33 inches), these wingless insects have truly mastered the resemblance of twigs on a plant. They have different color variations ranging from green to reddish-brown.
These aren’t the only kinds of stick bugs in the United States, but they are the most common. If you find an insect that looks like a stick bug but doesn’t quite match these descriptions, give our team a call.
|Stick Bug Distribution: The Carausius morosus is an escaped stick bug species native to India that has taken up residence in San Diego, California, and the Diapheromera femorata has shown preference to the eastern half of the United States.|
HOW TO IDENTIFY A WALKING STICK BUG
If walking stick bugs are well-known for their camouflage abilities, you may be wondering how to correctly identify them. Since walking stick bugs can be so tricky to spot, they are often referred to as a “ghost insect.” While there are multiple variations among the different species of stick bugs, there are also some common ways you can identify them.
WALKING STICK INSECT ANATOMY
To identify a walking stick insect, first look at the anatomical structure of the insect. Walking stick bugs have six legs, antennae at the top of their heads, and a body that is divided into three different parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax is typically longer in the winged species of walking stick insects because the thorax contains flight muscles, whereas the thorax is shorter in the species without wings.
Similar to other insects, a walking stick bug’s antennae help them navigate their surroundings and detect environmental cues. It acts as a dedicated sensory limb that continuously moves as the stick bug walks, detecting any potential obstacles in its path. The antennae are made up of three functional parts: the scape, pedicel, and flagellum.
One of the most distinguishable features of a walking stick bug is its legs. With elongated legs used to mimic the shape of a stick or twig, these insects often have multiple projections on their legs that look like mini leaves or prickly thorns, making their camouflage game all the more impressive. The front and hind legs resemble the rest of the body, which aids in their ability to hide their true identity.
WHAT COLOR ARE WALKING STICK BUGS?
Walking sticks and leaf insects belong to the same order: Phasmida. Since walking stick bugs live in temperate and tropical temperatures surrounded by trees and bushes, they often resemble the twigs, leaves, and bushes found in their natural habitat. Therefore, walking stick bugs typically take on a brown, gray, or green color.
HOW BIG ARE WALKING STICK INSECTS?
Walking stick insects can average anywhere from as small as half an inch, like the Timema cristinae native to the coast of southern California, to the 13-inch-long (not including the legs) or 21.5-inch-long (including legs) Phobaeticus kirbyi native to Borneo in southeast Asia.
|World Record Holder: The world’s longest insect, lovingly referred to as the “giant Chinese stick insect” (Phryganistria chinensis) was discovered in Chengdu, Sichuan, China by entomologist Zhao Li. As confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2017, this giant insect measures 640 mm or 25.1969 inches long with legs fully outstretched.|
SIGNS OF STICK BUG ACTIVITY
While stick bugs often go unnoticed, they can be problematic if too many are in or around your home. If you begin to notice skeletonized leaves on your trees where the majority of the greenery has been eaten, there is a strong possibility you may have a stick bug problem.
Walking stick bugs prefer broad-leaf foliage. If you live near oak trees, wild cherry trees, ivy, or hibiscus, your chances of having a stick bug infestation become greater as these sources of food are favored over others.
If any insects are bothering your house, inside or out, contact the pest control experts at Moxie for help. We’re familiar with the pests local to our area and are ready to help you regain your peace of mind through reliable, friendly service for your whole property.
Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!