This is a female giant prickly walkingstick. The males are a lot smaller. It is really hard to see because it blends in with the bark on the tree. It lives in the rain forests of Australia and are herbivores. That means they are vegetarians. In Australia they eat eucalyptus trees. It is also called a giant prickly stick insect or Macleay’s spectre. They look a lot like praying mantises, but they are not. Their babies look like ants or spiders. I’ve seen a picture of the nymph, and to me the body looks like a twisted bendaroo.
When a female lays eggs in a tree, she flicks them with her tail onto the ground. The eggs have an outer shell that ants think is food. The ants pick up the eggs and carry them to their nest. Once the eggs are in the ant nest, the ants eat the outer shell of the eggs and dump the rest of the egg onto their waste piles. The baby walkingstick doesn’t need this outer shell, so eventually the eggs hatch. The new baby walkingsticks look a lot like the ants, so the ants don’t bother them and they can leave the nest and climb into the trees.
Here you can see how big the female is compared to the male. Females grow to be about 8 inches long, and males only get about 4 inches long. You can even see what their eggs look like.
We took these pictures at Milwaukee Public Museum last October.