I am never pruning my rose bush again! I am an indifferent gardener, anyway – I see my garden as “habitat” rather than a garden, so don’t do much with it. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂
While attempting to smell my very overgrown tea roses a couple of nights ago (they have a faint but pleasant smell), a sharp-eyed friend spotted not one but two jaw-dropping creatures: Macleay’s spectre stick insects (Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum), also known as giant spiny stick insects. I don’t personally believe in ghosts, but I rather like the idea of having spectres in my garden!
According to Brock and Hasenpush’s The Complete Guide to Stick and Leaf Insects of Australia (CSIRO Publishing, 2009), there are roughly 100 species of stick insects in Australia. The spectres were first described in 1826 by Macleay (he of the Macleay Natural History Museum at Sydney University).
The other one is browner and both are females (the males are much thinner). The females are green and the males brown so the browner one could, I suppose, be a later instar female. (Instars are stages of growth; the insect splits out of its skin to grow larger, like crabs and spiders do.) Or it could be just a colour variation. They are both about the same size.
Brock and Hasenpusch have a whole page of such fascinating information that I am going to break copyright (yes, I should know better) and reproduce that page here.
I’m fascinated that the eggs are tended by ants and the tiny nymphs, able to scurry around, unlike the very slow-moving adults, resemble the ants that are tending them. According to Wikipedia:
The outside material of E. tiaratum eggs consists of lipids and other organic compounds that ants identify as food. They carry these eggs to their colony, consume the edible outer portion, and dump the intact eggs into their waste piles. Luckily for captive breeding, the ants eating the edible outer layer is not crucial to development, so they will hatch just as healthy without the need for any removal of the outer layer, which is not easily visible.
I love evolution!
Spectres grow up to 13 cm (about 5″) long. Stick insects are generally nocturnal and these have been on the rose bush (they eat the leaves) for the last few days. Who knows how long they have been there without me noticing? Thanks to Susie for bothering to stop and smell the roses.