A different thorn on the roses

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!

Macleay's spectre or giant spiny stick insect

Macleay’s spectre or giant spiny stick insect

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).



Spectre_4Spectre_6The 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.

This entry was posted in Animals on land, Insects and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to A different thorn on the roses

  1. janebeau says:

    Amazing – and big! Most of ours are more sticklike than leaflike.

    Pruning has its hazards. I was once cutting back some rampant honeysuckle when I was bitten by a chameleon. Being fairly new to the country [South Africa] I knew nothing about them and phoned the poison control centre to check. They fell about laughing but reassured me that I was not going to die!

    • Joy Window says:

      There’s nothing like being bitten by an unknown animal to make you nervous! I just looked up chameleon teeth on the web, and it seems they are quite small and not that pointy, but still used for defence as well as eating. They are called “acrodont” teeth, meaning that the teeth are attached to the top surface of the jawbone, without sockets or roots. They aren’t very strong and break off easily.

  2. Love that humans simply hovering and ‘being’ beside a rose bush results in such an informative post revealing the complexities of nature. xx

  3. Pingback: Another stick insect | A-roving I will go

  4. Cath Clark says:

    Those were beaut stick insects

  5. Kath says:

    Love the chit chat. Makes the world more accessible through vicarious exchanges – thanks!

  6. Pingback: Romance among the roses | A-roving I will go

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s