Has the InstantHawaii team discovered a species of insect new to the island? Unable to identify this species of Walkingstick, we contacted Dr. Carl Moxey,PhD who runs Phasmatodea.org a non-profit site devoted to Phasmatodea (all orders of stick insects) to see if he could identify our photographs. Dr. Moxey responded to us with the following interesting information:
Fascinating! There aren't supposed to be any stick insects on the Hawaiian Islands! (Nowhere in the systematic literature have I seen reference to such; the nearest being somewhere in Marshall Island group.) But there it is. What to make of it? My first suspicion would be an import. Could you collect a male and female and send them to me? That would make identification much easier.
A second EMail from Dr. Moxey went on to say:
I did a little more digging, and found that according the the Hawai'i Department of Agriculture there is supposed to be a Necrosia [sic!], but without further elaboration. It's possible it might be a Necroscia-like beast; if not an import and endemic, I would wager it's new to science.
So indeed, what to make of our find, for Walkingstick insects are certainly among nature's more amusing and unusual creatures. Belonging to the order Phasmtodea, nearly 3,000 species of stick insects exist - and exactly which species we have photographed here, we have no idea. (We have, however, provided Dr. Moxey with higher resolution images of the Walkingstick to see if further identification is possible. We will keep you informed via this page.)
It is fairly rare to see Walkingsticks in Hawai'i, not only because there are few of them, but because they are very well camouflaged and tend to be most active at night. These plant eaters not only consume the plants but also mimic the plants. Even the eggs of the Walkingstick mimic tiny brown seeds to keep them safe from other predators.
The Walkingstick pictured here we found while photographing Kona Coffee plants on Kaalaiki Road at about 2,000 feet above sea level. However, we have also seen them on our car and property in Hilo and in Lower Puna.
While these slow moving insects are easy to photograph, they are hard to find in the photos afterwards. In fact, we had a couple other photos of the insect but try as we can, we can't seem to see the insect in the pictures. So close does the coloring come to the grass and twigs on the ground that the Walkingstick is nearly invisible unless it moves.
Generally these insects are mild mannered and allow you to touch them. Even if picked up they tend to stay rigid but if you aggravate them too much some of the species can spray an offensive smelling mist.
We will keep this page updated to reflect any new information we receive concerning this species of Walkingstick in Hawai'i. If anyone in Hawai'i can capture a male & female, let us know.