The Great Pretender
I was sitting out on the veranda this week enjoying the sunshine and the peace and quiet when I noticed this:
“That’s a weird looking stick,” I thought, “and how did it get there?”
I decided to take a closer look…
…and suddenly the stick moved!!! It was alive.
I got such a fright, I nearly jumped out of my lederhosen.
When I had regained my composure I introduced myself to this strange creature. He told me that he was a stick insect. No wonder I mistook him for a stick. Then he explained that he was trying to hide from hungry birds and I was very sympathetic. I know how that feels. I told him about my unpleasant experiences with birds and he offered to help. He said that he spends most of his time hiding from birds and other predators and he had some very useful tips for avoiding them.
1. Play dead: Stick insects can drop to the ground and and stay very still if they are threatened. This behaviour is called thanatosis. I thought this could be easily done. I am renowned for my acting skills.
2. Act like a stick: Stick insects camouflage themselves by rocking their stick shaped bodies back and forth like twigs blowing in the wind. My body is shaped more like a log than a stick, but I can rock back and forth.
3. Match the background: Another camouflage trick that stick insects like to use is blending in with their surroundings. I can do that, as long as my surroundings are brown.
4. Break a leg: If all the above advice fails and an attack occurs, stick insects are able to drop off a leg to escape. This isn’t a long term problem because they are able to regrow a new one the next time they shed their skin. I don’t think I will be taking this piece of advice. I have never heard of a beaver who was able to regenerate a limb and I have no intention of being the test case.
For a while I practised my newly learned skills under the watchful eye of the stick insect. He seemed to be pleased with my progress, but he did warn me to stay away from birds until I had done some more work.
He doesn’t need to tell me that twice!!