Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect

Lord Howe Island Stick Insects were once very common – their large size and unusual appearance prompted the name ‘land lobster’.

But these insects and 15 bird species were defenseless against rats that invaded their native island when the ship Mokambo ran aground in 1918.

In 2001 the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change surveyed the precipitous sea stack and found three insects living on a small group of Melaleucas on the side of a cliff.
With almost no soil and no water, the bushes were growing on top of the only known water soak, where a severe storm could have blown the entire world’s population off the cliff into the sea.

In February 2003 Lord Howe Island Rangers revisited Balls Pyramid and found 17 individuals. (A later survey estimated the total population there as no more than 40 individuals.)
Patrick Honan brought two adults back to Melbourne Zoo in February 2003 and the breeding program has been so wildly successful that there are now more than 700 insects and 15,000 eggs! The plan is to reintroduce them back to their natural habitat one they have eradicated the rats.

There was very little knowledge of the species: their age at breeding, their lifespan, the incubation period for their eggs, or their habits. Over the past five years, the Zoo’s invertebrate team has discovered many unusual features of this species:

· unlike other species, these stick insects move around actively and are very aware of their surroundings,
· young stick insects are green and feed openly on plants during daylight,
· the large, black adults hide in tree hollows during daylight and are active only at night,
· adults mate up to three times a night and form pairs, with the male sitting protectively over the female when at rest during the day,
· females of this species lay about 250 eggs during their lifetime, in batches of 9 or 10, and they bury the eggs underground, which is unusual for stick insects,
· eggs take between six and nine months to hatch,
· they live for up to 18 months, compared to a 12 to 14-month average for other stick insect species

Click here to here the interview with keeper Patrick Honan from Melbourne Zoo.
For more information about Melbourne Zoo see

1 comment:

Dav DiDi said...

Hhmmm.... it looks scary to me ..