#1144 - Extatosoma tiaratum - Macleay's Spectre

AKA Spiny Stick Insect,  giant prickly stick insect, spiny leaf insect, or Australian walking stick

A very large and placid Australian species, that has also found a role as a pet and exhibit worldwide. In the wild it eats eucalypts, but in captivity overseas they’ll eat bayberry, bramble, hawthorn, oak, photinia, raspberry, rose, and salmon berry. I don’t know that have it on in the photo - it’s certainly not a eucalypt.

The eggs are flung away from the parent with some speed, and are coated in fats and oils that make them irresistible to ants. The ants carry the seed-like eggs back into their nests, eat the fats and oils, and dump the egg on their refuse pile, where the stick insect can develop in peace, away from the heat, parasites, and predators.

The infant stick insect strongly resemble a spider ant (Leptomyrmex) including in colour, and holding their abdomens up over their body. This protects them as they run for the nearest eucalypt.

Photos by @purrdence, at the O. Orkin Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian.