10 Fascinating Facts About Stick Insects

10 Fascinating Facts About Stick Insects

From Camouflage to Playing Dead, Walking Sticks are Full of Tricks

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Stick insects are part of the order Phasmatodea (also known as phasmids and walking sticks) and are most often found in subtropical tropical habitats—when you can find them, that is. These amazing bugs are hard to spot because they look so much like twigs—until those twigs get up and walk away, that is.

1. Stick Insects Can Regenerate Limbs

Should a bird or other predator grab hold of its leg, a stick insect can still make an easy escape. Using a special muscle to break it off at a weak joint, the imperiled insect simply sheds the leg in a defensive strategy is known as autotomy. Juvenile stick insects regenerate the missing limb the next time they molt. In some cases, adult stick insects can even force themselves to molt in order to regain a lost leg.

2. Stick Insects Can Reproduce Without Males

Stick insects are a nation of Amazonians, able to reproduce almost entirely without males, using a process known as parthenogenesis. Unmated females produce eggs that when mature, become female stick insects. When a male does manage to mate with a female, there’s only a 50/50 chance that the offspring of that union will be male. A captive female stick insect can produce hundreds of all-female offspring without ever mating. In fact, there are species of stick insects for which scientists have never found any males.

3. Stick Insects Even Act Like Sticks

Stick insects are so named for their effective camouflage among the woody plants where they feed. They’re typically brown, black, or green, with thin, stick-shaped bodies that help them blend in as they perch on twigs and branches. Some stick insects exhibit lichen-like markings to make their camouflage more authentic but to make the disguise complete, stick insects imitate twigs swaying in the wind by rocking back and forth as they move.

4. Their Eggs Resemble Seeds

Stick insect mothers aren’t the most maternal. While some stick insects females actually make an effort to hide their eggs—sticking them to leaves or bark or placing them in the soil—they typically drop eggs randomly on the forest floor, leaving the youngsters to whatever fate befalls them. Don’t be so quick to judge mama stick insect, though. By spreading her eggs out, she lessens the chance of predators finding and eating all of her offspring at once. It’s also helpful that the eggs resemble seeds, so carnivorous predators are less likely to take a closer look.

5. Nymphs Eat Their Molted Skin

After a nymph has molted, it’s vulnerable to predators until its new cuticle darkens and hardens. The castoff skin nearby is a dead giveaway to enemies so the nymph quickly consumes the shriveled exoskeleton to get rid of the evidence, simultaneously recycling the protein it took to create the discarded layer at the same time.

6. Stick Insects Aren’t Defenseless

Stick insects aren’t venomous but if threatened, one will use whatever means necessary to thwart its attacker. Some will regurgitate a nasty substance to put a bad taste in a hungry predator’s mouth. Others reflex bleed, oozing a foul-smelling hemolymph from joints in their body. Some of the large, tropical stick insects may use their leg spines, which help them climb, to inflict some pain on an enemy. Stick insects may even direct a chemical spray, much like tear gas, at the offender.

7. Their Eggs May Attract Ants

Stick insect eggs that resemble hard seeds have a special, fatty capsule called a capitulum at one end. Ants enjoy the nutritional boost provided by the capitulum and carry the stick insect eggs back to their nests for a meal. After the ants feed on the fats and nutrients, they toss the eggs onto their garbage heap, where the eggs continue to incubate, safe from predators. As the nymphs hatch, they make their way out of the ant nest.

8. Not All Stick Insects Stay Brown

Some stick insects can change color, like a chameleon, depending on the background where they’re at rest. Stick insects may also wear bright colors on their wings but keep these flamboyant features tucked away. When a bird or other predator approaches, the stick insect flashes its vibrant wings, then hides them again, leaving the predator confused and unable to relocate its target.

9. Stick Insects Can Play Dead

When all else fails, play dead, right? A threatened stick insect will abruptly drop from wherever it’s perched, fall to the ground, and stay very still. This behavior, called thanatosis, can successfully discourage predators. A bird or mouse may be unable to find the immobile insect on the ground or prefer living prey and move on.

10. Stick Insects Are the World’s Longest

In 2008, a newly discovered stick insect species from Borneo broke the record for longest insect (which had previously been held by another stick insect, Pharnacia serratipes). The Chan’s Megastick, Phobaeticus chani, measures an incredible 22 inches with legs extended, with a body length of 14 inches.  

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Dryut cradle: favorite habitats and features of dragonfly behavior

Check out our awesome range of animal facts for kids and learn some fun trivia about our friends in the animal kingdom.

Fun Spider Facts for Kids

Check out our range of fun spider facts for kids. Learn about spider webs, tarantulas, spider bites and much more.

Read on and enjoy a variety of interesting information about spiders.

Spiders are arachnids, not insects.

Other members of the arachnid family include scorpions, mites, ticks and harvestmen.

Spiders have 8 legs while insects have 6.

Spiders don’t have antennae while insects do.

Spiders are found on every continent of the world except Antarctica.

There are around 40000 different species of spider.

Most spiders make silk which they use to create spider webs and capture prey.

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Abandoned spider webs are called cobwebs.

Most spiders are harmless to humans but a few spider species, such as the black widow, can bite humans and inject venom. Deaths from spider bites are rare however.

An abnormal fear of spiders is called ‘arachnophobia’.

Tarantulas are large and often hairy spiders, the biggest species have been known to kill mice, lizards and birds.

Most tarantula species pose no threat to humans.

The largest specie of tarantula is the Goliath Birdeater.

Giant Huntsman spiders have leg-spans of around 30cm (12 in).

www.sciencekids.co.nz

Garden Snail

Helix aspersa

The garden snail (Helix aspersa) is a terrestrial gastropod mollusk and one of the best-known species in the world. It is so common that it is one of the most proliferated terrestrial mollusks.

The helix aspersa is also known as “European Brown Garden Snail,” but its scientific is under discussion. Some scientists think this snail is “Cornu aspersum,” “Cantareus aspersus” or “Cryptomphalus aspersus.”

This species is native to Europe but now lives in several parts of the world where it has become a pest of crops and gardens.

Class: Gastropoda
Superfamily: Helicoidea
Family: Helicidae

Description

The Helix aspersa is an air-breathing snail, which has a single lung. They have a brownish soft body, covered with slimy mucus and yellow or cream-colored shells with brown spiral stripes. The shell of this species has a height of about 0-9-1.3 Inches, and a width of 0.9-1.5 inches and a lip appears at its edge when an individual is old.

It is a small mollusk, with a shell that has a sphere shape and a slightly rough surface, with about 4 or 5 spirals. Not all individuals have the shell of the same color; some have it dark brown, but the majority has it light brown or with a golden hue; also, it shows several brown or yellow stripes. This shell has a large opening whose edges are white.

This mollusk has a soft body protected by the shell, but when it is not feeding or when it feels danger, it retracts to its shell.

The garden snail has a flat “muscular foot” that helps it move with a gliding motion aided by the release of mucus to reduce the friction with the surface. This mucus is the reason of the trace that snails leave when they move around.

Garden Snail or Helix aspersa

Distribution and habitat

It is a snail native to the Mediterranean region but now is in many more areas of the world, which makes it a species of wide distribution and presence on all continents, except Antarctica. Individuals of Helix aspersa dwell in the lowlands of Great Britain, in the Mediterranean, in Western Europe, in North Africa including Egypt, in the Iberian Peninsula and the Middle East, including Turkey.

However, these snails now dwell in several places where they are agricultural pests. Taken to the United States long ago, it has prospered in some regions. It also inhabits after being introduced in Australia, New Zealand, Haiti, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and some islands in the Atlantic Ocean. This species arrived at these places either accidentally hidden in plants or vegetable shipments or intentionally introduced for some purpose.

It dwells peacefully in places of temperate climate, either inhabited or not by humans. It usually lives in forests, meadows, hedges, farmland, gardens and parks.

Feeding

The species is herbivorous and consumes many types of plant matter. It finds its food in fruit trees, herbs, cereals, flowers and bark of trees, but occasionally it adds to its diet organic matter in decomposition, either vegetable or animal.

Because it frequents crops for food, it is often considered an undesirable pest.

The garden snail mouth is beneath its tentacles, and it has a toothed ribbon called the radula, which is used to fragment its food. This structure is exclusive of mollusks, and most of them have one.

Behavior

The garden snail is a terrestrial species with nocturnal habits; it does most of its day-to-day activities at night or very early in the morning, but if it rains during the day, it usually goes out.

In hot or drought periods, Helix aspersa retracts in its shell and covers the opening with a layer of mucus called epiphragm, which helps to keep the moisture inside and avoid the attack of animals that can kill it, like some ants. After doing this, it enters a state of inactivity that compares to hibernation. But not all snails hibernate. For example, in Southern California, young individuals are often active throughout the year.

Some of these snails hibernate during winter months, especially when they are mature, but they return to activity with the spring.

They are extremely slow as their fastest speed is only 1.3 centimeters per second.

Close up to garden snail on green background

Reproduction

Like other gastropod mollusks, the Helix aspersa is hermaphrodite, since a single snail has male and female reproductive organs and therefore, can produce reproductive cells of both genders. However, they usually mate with another snail for fertilization; even tough self-fertilization is possible for this species.

A garden snail reaches sexual maturity between its first and second year of life and the breeding season is at the beginning of summer. In the short process of courtship, male and female touch each other and then each inserts the other a mucus-covered calcium structure, known as the “love dart,” which could help to survive spermatozoa. Then both insert their penis into their partner, and the sperm is transferred and stored until the eggs are mature and ready to be fertilized. The entire mating process requires 4 to 12 hours.

During the mating process, they fertilize each other, and they both will lay around 80-86 eggs about 3 to 6 days after the copulation. Each snail will create a nest digging a hole in the soil with its foot to deliver its eggs. After excavating about 1 to 1.5 inches, they drop the eggs in the nest. Hatching occurs two weeks later if it is summer.

Gardens snails can produce up to six batches of eggs in a single year, and each newborn will take one to two years to mature.

Predators

Garden snails are a food source for some animals like lizards, frogs, and worms. Predatory insects and other species of snails will also eat garden snails.

Some birds, especially ducks will feed on these snails.

Relation with humans

This species is edible, and it is sometimes used for cooking, although it should not be confused with the helix pomatia, the “Escargot.”

Although it is considered a pest in most places, it has acquired popularity in the cosmetic industry because of the regenerative properties of their mucus.

Threats and conservation

The garden snail is not threatened, but given that it is considered a pest, humans try to kill them to avoid losses in crops. In contrast, this snail is edible, and in some countries like France and Spain, they catch them for food.

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www.snail-world.com

Dryut cradle: favorite habitats and features of dragonfly behavior

If you’ve ever seen this nighttime animal before, you know that the owl has big, curious eyes and makes a unique “hoot” sound.

Owls are almost famous for their wise appearance, because their intelligent eyes glow and they stare so intensely.

Let’s explore some owl facts!

You may be surprised to learn that owls are very interesting creatures, and there is a lot to learn about their mysterious ways.

They do a lot more than just hoot all night long!

Where do owls live?

Owls can be found in all different types of habitats, and every continent except Antarctica contains species of owls.

You can find owls in many places, from forests and deserts to mountains and prairies.

It all depends on which species of owl you’re talking about, and there are a staggering 150 documented species of owls (possibly even more, depending on how you classify the different species).

19 species of owls are found in North America, including the following: barn owl, burrowing owl, eastern screech owl, great grey owl, spotted owl, and the long-eared owl, among many others.

No matter where the owl lives, one thing is certain – they are most active at night.

Unlike us humans, owls are nocturnal and prefer to stay awake and be active at night.

This is why a person who enjoys staying up late at night is often jokingly called a night owl!

Most owls do not go through the trouble of making their own nest – they just use an old tree cavity or another’s bird’s old nest.

What do owls eat?

Although their diet largely depends on the species of owl, most owls like to eat insects, small mammals (like hares and rabbits), and other smaller birds.

It is also common for owls to eat rodents, squirrels, bats, weasels, woodchucks, and even the random domestic cat as well.

Aren’t you happy that your diet isn’t like an owl’s diet?

Some owls, such as the Asian Fish Owl and the African Fishing Owl, can catch fish and eat them.

Owls very rarely drink water – they get most of the hydration they need from the prey they feast on. It is quite rare to see an owl drinking water, but you might see them taking a bath.

Owls cannot actually chew their food because they do not have teeth. They use their beak to tear apart their food and eat it.

What do owls look like?

Most owls have notably large eyes, a flat face, and a large head. They also have a small, hooked beak that is downturned.

Owls generally have a rigid posture. Imagine trying to stand as straight as possible all of the time – the owl naturally has excellent posture!

Another bird of prey!

Owls are birds of prey, meaning they have to hunt for food to survive.

For this reason, they have very large, sharp talons used for catching their food.

There are four toes on these talons, and one is opposable (like the human thumb) aiding owls in grasping things like tree branches and prey.

The size of an owl may vary, but most owls are at the lower end of the size range, with lengths of about 13–70 cm (5–28 inches) and wingspans between 0.3–2.0 metres (1–6.6 feet).

Females and males often look very similar, but the females are usually about 25 percent larger.

Believe it or not – quick facts about owls

Believe it or not, although owls mostly vary in size and appearance, they have one interesting ability in common – they can turn their heads an astonishing 270 degrees!

This is thanks to their necks containing double the amount of vertebrae “normal” birds have in their necks. It makes for a very funny sight to see.

Believe it or not, despite having very large eyes, owls do not have eyeballs. They actually have something more like eye tubes.

Lengthened and held in place by sclerotic rings – a bony structure in the skull – this interesting feature means that owls can’t really move or roll their eyes.

Owls are very silent fliers. Seriously, they don’t make a peep when they fly.

This is due mainly to very broad wings and special flying feathers that limit noise when an owl flaps its wings.

Believe it or not, despite popular belief, not all owls make that infamous “hoot” sound.

Owls can actually make many different sounds – they can screech, hiss, and even growl!

Believe it or not, the female owl is more aggressive and bigger than the male owl.

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Spider Habitat

Spider Habitat and Distribution

When you think about where Spiders live, the better question to ask would be where don’t they live? Spiders are able to live just about anywhere and that is why there is such diversification out there. They are ranked at #7 when it comes to the most diversified living creatures in the world. That gives you a good idea of the spectrum of how they have branched out. The only place in the world where you won’t find spiders is in Antarctica.

You will be able to find Spiders living in very dry climates. Some of them have evolved to the point where they don’t need to be around any water at all. They can survive in some of the harshest conditions you could imagine. They get the water they need from their food sources.

The tropic regions are also home to many species of Spiders. Not only are they able to thrive in the climate, they are also able to find plenty of food resources for them to enjoy. These living creatures are known as terrestrial as they almost always live on land. They may be found in trees, on plants, and even living in the blades of grass in your yard.

Spiders are quite versatile and they do well in all types of habitat. They do have to find shelter though when the cooler temperatures settle in. Otherwise their body temperature can change too much and they will die. This is why there are times of the year when you may see them plenty and others that you don’t see them around at all.

It can be tough to fully identify any Spider habitat if you aren’t really looking for them. They blend in very well to their natural surroundings. They are able to chance colors too if they need to in order to blend in with what is all around them. Not everyone believes that the Spider can live in the wetlands but they do.

Some live along the edges of lakes and ponds too. They don’t need the water or the moisture there. Instead, this location offers them a prime area to be able to find lots of food and shelter. It is a winning location for them that helps them to be able to thrive.

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Spiders are even making their home in your home! It doesn’t matter how clean you are or how much you look for them. They may be in areas such as crawl spaces, the back of a closet, and even outside in a pile of bricks. If you have lots of clutter in your home though you are offering even more spaces that make an ideal Spider habitat.

Many Spiders live a much longer life in captivity than they do in the wild. However, it depends on how they are cared for. Some of the larger spiders don’t do well being trapped in a small area. They also become very aggressive if they are touched often due to their heightened senses.

Food supply has a great deal of influence in the Spider habitat. This is why you will see some of them in certain areas and not others. They need to be able to build their webs and have enough prey coming along for them to survive. Otherwise they have to look for a new location where those needs can be met.

As humans continue to disrupt the natural habitat of the Spider, they are also branching out in new locations. This is why even dangerous spiders are sometimes seen in places that they never were before. They can get into food shipments and other containers as well. This gives them the chance to find mates and to start to thrive in places that were once vacant of such species.

www.spidersworlds.com

Butterfly Habitat

Natural butterfly habitats have been destroyed or affected by construction of housing and shopping developments, as well as by the use of pesticides and other chemicals. You can provide a suitable butterfly habitat that will help fortify the butterfly population, and as an added bonus, the habitat will bring you enjoyment in watching beautiful butterflies in your yard.

The butterfly habitat should be relatively sunny (5-6 hours per day) and out of the wind. Butterflies can get their required nutrients and minerals from a mud puddle in a sunny area. A successful butterfly habitat will contain the plants favored by both caterpillars and butterflies.

This means that you should include plants like Queen Anne’s Lace, violets, marigolds, and maybe even milkweed for the caterpillars to eat, since they are able to chew their food. In particular, monarch caterpillars eat milkweed because it makes them an unpleasant-tasting meal to predators. For the butterflies, which are able to suck and are unable to chew, you should include nectar plants with different colors of flowers, such as zinnias, lilacs, and the butterfly bush.

The Butterfly Garden Guide Book

Our Butterfly Garden Guidebook will show you how to attract butterflies to your own lawn and garden. You can have a sample chapter emailed to you immediately.

Butterfly habitats should last all summer, meaning that you should select plants that bloom at different times so that something is always blooming. You might be able to take inspiration in your planting selections from a butterfly garden or inside a butterfly house if you are lucky to live close enough to one of these carefully planned attractions. Often, landscapers and nursery employees will be able to advise you as to what possible additions to your butterfly habitat will grow well in your area.

factsaboutbutterflies.net

Llama Facts: Lesson for Kids

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

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The Helpful and Stubborn Llama

What animal has a long neck, like a giraffe, stands as tall as a camel, wears a wool coat and has a stubborn attitude? If you guessed a llama, you’re correct.

Llamas help people in many ways. Their wool coats can be clipped and used to make fabric. Llamas are also used as pack animals because they can carry a couple of hundred pounds on their back through rough terrains, like mountains. But, llamas are stubborn! If a llama thinks you put too much weight on its back, it will refuse to move, and might even kick, stomp or spit until you lighten the load!

A typical llama

What Do They Look Like?

Llamas are related to camels. In fact, you might think they look like furry camels without humps. Adult llamas can weigh between 250 and 450 pounds. They stand about four feet tall at the shoulder, and about six feet tall if you measure them from the tops of their heads.

Their body is covered with wool that comes in different colors and different designs. A llama’s coat could be solid or spotted and can range in color from white to brown to black.

A llama’s long ears stick up in the air, and their long faces might remind you of a horse’s long face. But, a llama is different than a horse because a llama doesn’t have hooves; instead, it has leathery pads on the bottoms of its feet and two big toenails.

Where Do They Live?

Llamas can be found living all around the world, but they originally came from the mountain areas of South America. There are some wild llamas, but most have been domesticated, which means they have been tamed by people.

A Domesticated Llama

What Do They Eat?

If you were to take a llama to your favorite restaurant, it would order a salad, not a cheeseburger. Do you know why? Because llamas are herbivores, which means they only eat plants, not meat.

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Did you ever see a cow grazing in the pasture? Grazing on grass and hay is also something llamas like to do. Another thing llamas and cows have in common is chewing their cud. These animals can swallow grass, and then regurgitate. This means they bring the food back up into their mouth where they continue chewing it. This might sound a little gross, but llamas can stand in a pasture and chew their cud for hours, so they must like to do it!

How Long Do They Live?

A mother llama with her baby

A mother llama’s pregnancy lasts almost a year, about 11 ½ months. Even though the pregnancy is long, when the baby finally comes out, it’s ready to play. A baby llama can stand and run within the same day of its birth. The average llama will live to be 15 to 30 years old.

Lesson Summary

Llamas are related to camels and used as pack animals to move heavy loads through rough terrains. They are herbivores, which means they only eat plants, and they chew their cud like a cow. Most llamas have been domesticated, which means they have been tamed by people.

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