As promised in my last post, ‘Wildlife Afternoon on the Reserve’ this post focuses on the amazing water stick insect that we found last Sunday. The Water Stick Insect looks remarkably like its terrestrial namesake but they are not closely related. In fact that are closely related to another fascinating pond inhabitant the water scorpion. In fact it looks like a Water Scorpion that has been stretched.
The specimen I found on Sunday was an adult and about 7cm long. At the end of its long body it a breathing tube which it uses like a snorkel. So although it resembles a sting, this insect is harmless. Amazingly this insect can remain underwater for around 30 minutes before needing to return to the surface. However, the water stick insect often hunts in vegetation near the surface where it can regularly make contact with the surface with its snorkel.
Water stick insects are predators staying motionless in the vegetation waiting for prey to come within striking distance of its two long front legs. These jaw-like legs have become especially adapted for catching prey ranging from mayfly nymphs to small fish and tadpoles. The water stick insect uses its beak to pierce the body of it’s prey injecting a secretion that firstly sedates the prey, and then digest its insides, before sucking out the resulting fluids.
Like many pond insects, the water stick insect has wings and is known to fly on warm days, allowing it to escape from ponds that are drying up or to colonize new pond. They lay eggs in the pond vegetation and the newly hatch nymphs are miniature replicas of the adults.