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Northern Walkingstick , (Diapheromera fermorata) is our most common â€śstick insect,â€ť which camouflages itself to look like a stick. Northern Walkingsticks grow over 3 1/2 inches long, with males being smaller than females. Walkingsticks have long, skinny bodies which closely resembles twigs or stems of plants. Males are brown, females are greenish-brown. These insects have very long antennae, about 2/3 the length of their bodies.
Northern Walkingsticks live in forests where their host plants are found. Most species are wingless. Since insect legs (and wings) are attached to the middle section, or thorax, itâ€™s apparent that a walkingstickâ€™s thorax comprises an impressive portion of its body. A walkingstick that loses one of those spectacular legs is able to regenerate it, completely or partially.
Northern Walkingsticks feed on the leaves of many deciduous trees, including oaks, Sassafras, Black Cherry, and Black Locust. They also eat clovers.
Life Cycle: Adult walkingsticks mate in the fall. Females drop eggs, one at a time, from the treetops. Eggs overwinter in leaf litter, and nymphs hatch the following Spring. Walkingstick nymphs look like tiny adults and are only a few millimeters long when they are born. The nymphs wait until nightfall, then crawl up onto small plants. They continue to eat and grow, staying amongst leaves and twigs where they are well hidden. As they get bigger, they climb higher, until they are in the tops of tall trees.
Nymphs molt shed their exoskeletons as they grow. Each time they molt, they look more and more like an adult. In late Summer and early Fall, when they are full grown, walkingsticks mate and lay eggs. Northern Walkingstick eggs are small and look like black and white beans. One species of ant carries eggs underground and eats a small part of the egg. The eggs still hatches normally, and is actually protected by the ants.
Food Habits: Northern Walkingsticks feeds on the foliage of trees and shrubbery. They are particularly fond of oak and hazelnut trees. They are herbivorous and have mandibles to cut pieces of the leaves, stems or flowers. Newly hatched nymphs tend to feed mainly on hazel and black cherry, but in environments where these plants are not in high abundance they tend to eat white oak. They have also been noted to consume sweetfern, various strawberry and blueberry plants, and beaked hazel, from the time frame of May to mid-June.
The nymphs eat by consuming all but the major veins of a leaf. Adults tend to feed primarily on black oak at all times of the day, but peak feeding activity was found to occur at 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. and their feeding habits tend to include feeding on a single leaf for quite some time, stop, move about, and then begin feeding on another leaf. They are leaf skeletonizers.
Damage: High levels of damage to plants from walkingsticks in alternate years. Shy and nocturnal, they graze on leaves of forest trees and, during a population boom, can damage them. There are two reasons for camouflage to hide and to hunt. Along with their physical appearance, walkingsticks practice behavioral camouflage. During the day they extend their front and rear legs to the fore and aft of their body and remain motionless or sway slightly in the breeze. Walkingsticks eat leaves. Young walkingstick nymphs feed on the leaves of low, shrubby plants such as blueberry, hazelnut and wild rose
A common nuisance produced by the elm leaf beetle is its habit of seeking overwintering shelter in homes during the fall. These beetles wonâ€™t reproduce indoors, bite or feed on food or clothing. They can be physically removed using a vacuum cleaner if populations are heavy.
Controls: Crows robins and other birds have been seen to concentrate in heavily infested areas to feed the insects and probably have effectively controlled. Much mortality occurs during the hatching period if the local weather conditions are dry.
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