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