“Guava” stick insect

Guava stick insect
Guava stick insect (© Nichols Locke)

Stick insects are enigmatic creatures, blending into the forest which often makes them hard to see but then surprisingly obliging in the hand. Their Portuguese name is bicho pau or branch bug, from its mimicry of brown twigs. They often waver from side to side, again mimicking the movement of the twigs around them.

The 3,000 species, found mainly in the tropics, are from the Phasmatodea order (they do look a little phantasmagoric) and the Phylliidae family (leaf insects) feeding mainly on leaves. They play an important role in the breakdown of organic matter.

They are not easily noticeable, but our nurseryman, Jailson, has a keen eye for something out of the ordinary and brought this example, which he found in the nursery, into the REGUA Conservation Centre. This particular species is referred to locally as ‘guava stick insect’, named after it’s preference for these fruit. As you can imagine this one foot long insect caused quite a stir with the students present on a course, and after climbing on a few human hands and being subjected to a number of photos, we returned it to a safe place, tucked away back in the nursery.