Can Stick Insects Fly?

Many new stick insect keepers wonder whether stick insects can fly or not. This is important to know because it could make handling the insects difficult. You don’t want your bug to fly away and hide somewhere where you can’t find it anymore. Still, other people prefer to watch their bugs flying around freely during playtime.

Luckily, there are some species of walking sticks to fit everyone’s preference. Some stick insects can fly quite well, while others can’t take off at all. If you’re interested and want to learn more about flying or flightless stick insect species, keep reading! In this article, we’re going to cover it all. Wings, wing size, wingless species, and more!

Do Stick Insects Have Wings?

Maybe! It depends on the species. While some of the most commonly kept species appear wingless, other stick insects may have full-grown wings. Some might have little more than some wing-like stumps. There is great variety when it comes to wing size.

But plenty of stick insects do indeed sport impressive sets of wings. Males typically have larger wings than females. In fact, females of the same species might sometimes lack wings completely. Wings don’t fully develop until stick insects reach the teneral stage.

Even when the wings are finally developed, they aren’t always completely functional. Some insects can use their wings to fly and glide. For others, the wings are quite literally just for show. Even small-winged stick insects can use their wings in a deimatic display to scare off predators.

How Far Can Stick Insects Fly?

In general, stick insects don’t fly. Only the males of certain stick insect species can fly. Their main reason for flying is finding a mate. As a result, they can cover quite impressive distances. It’s worth noting that of the over 3000 stick insect species in the world, only around 40% are fully winged. And of those 40%, only half of the members can fly.

Fully-winged stick insects have pretty good flight endurance. Insects with smaller wings can also fly, but they’ll cover very short distances. Short-winged species can get around far enough to evade predators and search for food.

Female stick insects can’t fly, even if they have well-developed wings. That’s because their bodies are too large and heavy. So, you won’t see winged female stick insects flying around.

How Many Wings Do Stick Insects Have?

If the wings are present at all, a stick insect’s going to have two pairs of them. That’s four wings in total. The first pair are called the “forewings”. These are either see-through or opaque. They’re small and have a harder and shinier texture, somewhat similar to leather.

The second pair are called the “hindwings”. They’re made up of a pre-anal part that covers and protects the hindwing at rest. This part is very similar in texture and appearance to the forewings. Then, there’s the hindwing proper.

This part is much wider than the forewing. It’s usually see-through or at least semi-opaque. Hindwings are typically covered in vibrant patterns that help to attract mates or threaten predators.

Both sets of wings have numerous veins traveling and intersecting across them, creating a web of cell-like striations. When at rest, the forewings fold over the hindwings, tucking them away like the folds in a hand fan. This perfectly camouflages the wings into the insect’s body.

Can Stick Insects Regrow Their Wings?

Stick insects go through a complete metamorphosis and they’re known to regenerate lost limbs. However, they can’t regrow broken wings. Once they’re gone, they’re gone! That’s mainly because stick insects don’t get their wings until the late growth stages or into adulthood.

Young nymphs might resemble adults in all other ways, but they lack wings. So, wings only kick in after the last few molts, when the insect has almost finished growing. From this point on, the stick insect won’t be able to repair further body damage, because it’s almost finished growing.

The same happens with missing limbs. Once the insect reaches adulthood and can’t molt any further, missing limbs aren’t coming back. But wait, it gets worse! If a stick insect loses a limb, it requires three consecutive molts to grow it back to its full size. And according to some studies, repairing missing limbs while molting usually results in less wing growth (for winged species).

If a stick insect has to regenerate serious wounds, all the energy used to grow big, functional wings gets diverted to growing lost tissue. So, there’s a trade-off, and the wings always get the shorter end of the stick. In the end, these insects might end up with smaller wings, because they couldn’t reach their full genetic potential.

– Stick Insects with Wings

There are plenty of stick insects with wings, but I’m just going to give you a list of the most common ones. You can find most of these species for sale in specialized shops. Note that I have included any winged species on this list, whether they have functional wings or not. Not all of these bugs on this list can fly. But here they are:

  • Jungle Nymph (Heteropteryx dilatata)
  • Pink Wing Stick Insect (Sipyloidea sipylus)
  • Yellow Flying Stick Insect (Necroscia annulipes)
  • Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)
  • Black Beauty Stick Insect (Peruphasma schultei)
  • Giant Lime Green Stick Insect (Diapherodes gigantea)
  • Goliath Stick Insect (Eurycnema goliath)
  • Children’s Stick Insect (Tropidoderus childrenii)
  • Javanese Lichen Stick Insect (Pseudodiacantha macklottii)
  • Macleays Spectre Stick Insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)

– Stick Insects Without Wings

If flying bugs aren’t your thing, there are also lots of species without wings. Some of these species are extremely popular, so you might have already seen them at least once. Without further ado, here are some of the most common wingless stick insects:

  • Sunny Stick Insects (Sungaya inexpectata)
  • Annam Stick Insect (Medauroidea extradentata)
  • New Guinea Spiny Stick Insect / Giant Spiny Stick Insect (Eurycantha calcarata)
  • Chocolate Log Stick Insect (Dares philippinensis)
  • Dwarf Chinese Stick Insect (Orestes guangxiensis)
  • Guadeloupe Stick Insect (Lamponius guerini)
  • Peleng Stick Insect (Myronides sp.)
  • Thorny Stick Insect (Aretaon asperrimus)
  • Zompros Stick Insect (Parapachymorpha zomproi)
  • Indian Stick Insect (Carausius morosus)

Conclusion

Of all the 3000 species identified to date, roughly 60% of them are unable to fly. There’s a huge variety of wing sizes among stick insects. Some wings are very short and used mostly for startle displays. Only 40% of all walking stick species are fully winged and able to fly.

And remember, even fully winged females are usually unable to fly! But whether you prefer to keep flying or wingless species, there are plenty of popular stick insects to choose from! From the common Indian Stick Insect, all the way to the exotic Peruphasma schultei, there’s a perfect pet bug out there waiting for you!

Stick Insects   Updated: January 5, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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