During the fall or late summer months, it is not uncommon to see an odd looking stick-like insect lying on the sunny side of a building, mailbox or windowsill. This insect is called a walking stick. Walking sticks belong to the family Phylliidae, derived from the Greek word Phasma, meaning ghost or phantom.
The walking stick’s elongated body parts and ability to change colors provides natural camouflage, making them difficult to spot in their natural environment on trees or shrubs. Walking sticks are herbivores, feeding mostly on leaves, rarely damaging the host plant.
There are nearly 3,000 species of walking sticks found throughout the world. Some varieties are kept as pets in India.
Some species produce a toxic substance as a defense mechanism that can irritate the skin like a burn. Females lay their eggs in the fall, usually on branches or bark crevices in trees. The young nymphs hatch the following spring, resembling the adults in every detail except size.