Masters of disguise

There is no doubt that among the greatest masters of disguise in the invertebrate world are stick-insects. In the normal course of events, one will not casually spot them just walking through the fynbos. However, I was fortunate to find this one crawling up my leg after such a walk. Put back in its natural habitat and it soon blends in so naturally with the vegetation around it. I am showing this photograph as large as I can so that you can hunt the stick-insect for yourself. If you cannot spot it, then below is another of the stick-insect when it came out onto a single leaf. Have a look at that one and then go back and see if you can find it in the first photograph.

Phalces brevis - Cape stick-insect (Phasmatodea)

Phalces brevis – Cape stick-insect

The second photograph makes it look as though the creature has only 4 legs, but when trying to be camouflaged, the stick-insect stretches its front two legs out directly in line with its body, thereby extending its stick-like appearance.

Phalces brevis - Cape stick-insect (Phasmatodea)

Phalces brevis – Cape stick-insect

The Cape stick-insect (Phalces brevis) is the most widespread of the stick-insects in South Africa. It is found in a wide range of habitats, including gardens. They are not particularly fussy about food plants, and will even eat non-native plants in gardens. Their eggs are just dropped on the ground, but they have a small projection on the egg known as a capitulum. This is attractive to ants that then take the egg away, eat the capitulum but thereafter the egg is protected by the ants.

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