Meet the masters of disguise

Meet the masters of disguise

#Taronga Zoo Sydney

Posted on 05th March 2014 by Media Relations

We’ve been breeding a number of baby Spiny Leaf Insects at Backyard to Bush. Interestingly, these little creatures are not classified as true leaf insects; they are a species of stick insect, otherwise known as phasmids.

Female phasmids can lay fertile eggs without the help of a male. The process is called parthenogenesis and it’s almost a type of cloning, all the young will be female.

If she does come across a male to fertilise her eggs then her young will be a mix of males and females. She constantly flicks eggs all around her using the end of her body so they don’t all land in a pile because in the wild this would give away her location to predators such as lizards and birds.

The eggs are very special and have their own clever form of protection. They have a little knob of a sugar-like substance on the end which attracts ants.

The ants will carry the eggs back to their nest so that they can eat the sugary treat in peace. The eggs can stay dormant for up to 2 years!

When the egg finally hatches, a tiny Spiny Leaf Insect that looks just like a big ant will emerge. The ants don’t recognise the phasmid as an intruder and it can find its way out of the ants’ nest and climb up a tree to safety!

As you can see, they are very clever and sneaky and have exceptional camouflage. This is why they are named phasmids, which derives from the word phantom or ghost!

- Backyard to Bush Keeper, Bec Noad