Can Walking Stick Insects Fly?

Can walking stick insects fly? Sick insects are not usually known as a flying insect, but certain species do have the ability to fly. They do it for extremely specific reasons, and it is not common for them to use their wings.

If you are thinking about getting a stick insect, or you have noticed that some of them appear to be flying around their enclosure, this is the guide for you. Let’s take a look at which stick insects can fly and why they would fly in the first place.

 

brown stick insect on ground

Can Walking Stick Insects Fly and Which Insects Can? 

There are about 3,000 different species of stick insects in the world today, and the majority of the ones you’ll see will not be able to fly. This is why it is widely assumed that stick insects in general cannot fly. But the truth is that many species of stick insect can fly; however, only the males have the ability to fly. The reasons for this we’ll get into later, but if your stick insect does fly, know that this always going to be a male.

The majority of stick insect species aren’t able to fly though, which is all to do with their environment.

Why Do Stick Insects Fly? 

Stick insects fly for two reasons: to breed and to evade predators.

The main reason, naturally, is that males have to find a female to breed with. They will often need to travel large distances in order to do this.

As anyone who owns a stick insect knows, they do not move especially fast. If the males didn’t have wings, the species would likely die out because the majority wouldn’t find a female. Males live only half as long as females do as well, so their time is somewhat limited.

Flying is not necessary for some species as they have no need to travel large distances to find females, so they never developed wings.

The other reason that stick insects fly is that they need to get away when predators are about.

How Some Stick Insects Defend Themselves 

Stick insects may look vulnerable to all manner of predators, but they have multiple ways in which they can defend themselves in the event a predator comes calling.

The first and most obvious way is that they camouflage themselves. You’ll notice that your stick insect changes how it looks according to the environment it is living in. When there are a lot of leaves in the vicinity, it might turn a certain shade of green.

If they’re resting on a branch they will turn a shade of brown.

Many of their most common predators, such as birds, don’t have the sight to distinguish between a leaf and a resting stick insect. In most cases, this protects the insects from harm. It’s also why they only move at night so as to not ruin their camouflage.

The second way in which they defend themselves is through spikes on their back legs. Take note that only some stick insects, such as the giant spiny stick insect, have evolved to develop spikes. But even they can only fight back against relatively small predators.

A third and final defensive mechanism held by some stick insects is the ability to fly.

They can fly surprisingly large distances, but typically it will not be constant flight. They’ll regularly stop to rest or to land on certain things. As with all stick insects, they much prefer to camouflage themselves than to actively fly away. Flying causes them to use a lot of energy, which is why they only do it when they really have to.

 

giant prickly stick insect on branch

Giant Prickly Stick Insect

Why Don’t Females Have Wings? 

The answer to this is simple. They have never needed to evolve wings for the purposes of finding a mate.

Evolution follows the principle that a species must focus on either finding food or finding a mate. Since stick insects developed such good camouflage, females haven’t needed to develop wings. And the males come to them, so they have no need to go out and find a mate themselves.

Will My Stick Insects Fly at Home? 

This is difficult to answer because it depends on a variety of factors. For this example, we are going to assume that you do not have a massively large enclosure and that you’re trying to actively breed stick insects.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever see your males fly as they have no need to. Their food is always close, and they do not have to look to find females.

Furthermore, there are no predators in sight. If they do occasionally fly then it will be because they have been startled. For example, if you try to pick them up and they don’t notice you they may mistake your hand for a predator and attempt to fly away.

Do Wings Differ in Male Stick Insects? 

Absolutely! Some are little more than stumps, whereas others have beautiful wings. One example of this is the red winged stick insect, which has wings ranging from red to pink to orange.

You’ll notice that in the case of this species, the wings are much smaller than the rest of the body. The evolution of wings in stick insects are a curious thing because scientists are not exactly sure why specific stick insects appear to have wings, lose their wings, and then gain them back.

This is one of the mysteries of evolution and one that has baffled scientists. It’s clear why some species have them and some don’t, but there’s evidence to show that within the same species all stick insects once had wings.

We can see this as some stick insects only have little stubs for wings, whereas others have fully formed wings.

Last Word – What You Need to Know About Stick Insects and their Wings 

Stick insects kept as pets have little to no reason to fly because all their needs are catered for in a relatively small area. But if you look on the back of your stick insect you’ll be able to see their wings.

You will always know that if your stick insect does have wings then it is definitely a male. Furthermore, these wings can be of many colours or nothing more than little stubs.

Now that you know about stick insects and their wings, which stick insect species do you own, and do they have wings?

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