Only one species of phasmid is listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Australian Lord Howe Island stick insect, sometimes called the "land lobster," is listed as Critically Endangered, or facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. It was thought that they had been wiped out, pushed to extinction by introduction of insect-eating rats to the island in 1918. Fortunately, a living population of this spectacular insect was discovered in 2001 on Balls Pyramid, a rugged and bare volcanic rock formation. The Australian authorities are now trying to breed them in the laboratory for later release back into ratfree habitats.
Many species of insects mimic ants, and with good reason. Ants are well known for their defensive behaviors. Many predators avoid them because they will not hesitate to bite, sting, or spray stinging chemicals at their attackers. The young larvae of some stick insects are thought to mimic the movement of ants by running frantically over the ground.
Insect zoos and hobbyists rely mainly on phasmids reared from captive stock and not specimens caught in the wild. However, some large and showy species, such as the jungle nymph from the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, are sometimes collected in large numbers in the wild and exported around the world.
Was this article helpful?