Tai chi with stick insect

I don’t practise tai chi, but it sure felt like it this morning when I was handling a stick insect a friend brought for me to see. She’s often out maintaining her plantings, and sees a lot of interesting insects. It’s likely to be the titan stick insect (Acrophylla titan).

The insect kept climbing up, and I had to keep moving around to prevent it climbing onto my shoulder or head. This resulted in a kind of dance that would have reminded tai chi exponents of how not to do tai chi.

Stick insect mudra

Titan stick insect

Stick insect

Stick insect auditioning for Cirque du Soleil

The titan stick insect has been measured as the second-longest insect in Australia. I measured this one as 150 mm from top of head to tail fork.

It moved in a fairly slow but determined manner. You can read about the species of Australian stick insects here.

This photo shows the serrations on the legs …

Serrations are visible on the forelegs

This one just wanted to keep walking up. When it got to the end of my fingers, it paused with its front legs stretched out in the air. If I let those legs touch something, it moved forward again. Otherwise, it just stayed in that position.

Head of the stick insect

Head of the stick insect

Tail of stick insect

Tail view

The Lord Howe Island phasmid, which I wrote about here, is related.

Preparing to hide under a leaf

I hid it under some foliage. Stick insects feed on leaves at night, and this one went into ‘stick’ camouflage position, presumably because it was still daytime – front legs stretched out together and back legs together, doing a credible imitation of a long thin brown twig.

I’ve seen bigger titans on my property, but never had a chance to take a photo before. Many thanks to Jan for bringing it around.