Skip Navigation and Section Links - Go To Content Your online down home newspaper


Gardening: Two-striped Walkingstick Image

Walkingsticks are among the longest insects in the world. The two-striped walkingstick is often found in mating pairs and on occasion may become an unwelcome guest in the home.

Photo Credit: William M. Johnson

Unusual insect may become unwelcome guest in the home

By Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

June 28, 2007

Snake image by Marilyn Clark

Seminar on Snake Sense

Mr. Tom Wilks will present a seminar on Snake Sense on Saturday, June 30, from 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. at the Galveston County Extension Office located at 5115 Highway 3 in Dickinson.

Topics to be discussed include identification of area snakes; snakebite prevention and first aid; snake handling techniques and equipment; snake conservation; venom research and medical advances; and snakes as pets.

Attendance by youth is encouraged; an adult must accompany children under 18 years.

Pre-registration is required due to space limitations (phone 281-534-3413, ext 1-2 or e-mail

Mr. Wilks has been collecting, studying, and photographing reptiles for over 50 years. He has worked as a zookeeper in the Reptile Department at the San Antonio Zoo and as a wildlife guide at the Bayou Wildlife Park in Dickinson.

Mr. Wilks is a certified Texas Animal Control Officer and is a member of the East Texas Herpetological Society and also serves on the City of Webster Animal Control Board.

No fee, but pre-registration is required as seating is limited (281-534-3413, ext. 1-2 or

Question: I uncovered an entire nest of eight of these two-striped walkingsticks in my driveway. I have never, ever seen them before. My dog was barking for 20 minutes while it watched one crawl across our sidewalk. This morning I woke up and found one in my kitchen on the blinds. It scared me so I sprayed it with roach poison and saw a little one fall off its back. I thought I had killed the baby! So I got online and found out it wasn’t a baby after all—it was a male and female. I also saw that they can spray you with a poison and it can really hurt your eyes. Have you ever heard of these things being around here before? They scare me! Suzi G-R, La Marque

Answer: This was a very recent inquiry by e-mail. The homeowner had correctly identified the insect but was uncertain as to its range of occurrence. Indeed, the most common stick insect in Galveston County is the two-striped walkingstick (Anisomorpha buprestoides).

The two-striped walkingstick is also known as American walkingstick and musk mare. The latter common name is particularly apt as this species is capable of squirting a strong-smelling defensive spray that can be painfully irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes. This insect is periodically submitted to the Galveston County Extension Office for identification during this time of year.

The two-striped walkingstick is an impressively large and stout insect. Females average about 2½ inches in length, while the males are smaller and more slender, averaging 1½ inches. These insects are typically dark brown with two yellowish stripes running along the length of their back.

Like all stick insects, the two-striped walkingstick is a plant feeder. Females have been reported to feed on a variety of landscape plants including crepe myrtle, roses, oaks, rosemary, and ligustrum. I have also seen them feeding on cigar plants—make that cigar plants in my backyard! I know of no reports of this species causing serious defoliation of plants in the landscape and control by insecticides is generally not recommended nor warranted.

Interestingly, two-striped walkingstick males (whether coupled to a female or free-roaming) have not been observed to feed when fully grown. I have also seen reports in the literature that the two-striped walkingstick can regenerate lost legs, which is fairly unusual among insects. Several mating pairs may occasionally be found in one location as evidenced in the e-mail of the concerned homeowner.

A few species of walkingsticks are capable of secreting a substance from glands located on the “shoulder” area (known as the meta-thorax). This secretion can cause an intense burning irritation of the eyes (and in some cases temporary blindness) and mouth of potential predators such as birds and mice.

There have been reports on the Internet containing wildly exaggerated claims that the two-striped walkingstick can spray impressively long distances. In reality they can force a stream from their body as far as a foot to 15 inches in distance. While several species of walkingsticks are kept as pets, the best thing to do if you encounter a walkingstick you’re not familiar with is to leave it alone. Be sure to alert young children who are curious to leave this insect alone.

I am not aware of any local residents having negative encounters with the two-striped walkingstick other than being a bit taken aback at first glance. Pets are likely to be at greater risk of being targeted. While most adult dogs are likely to be “wise” enough to just bark (as the homeowner’s dog did), puppies are less likely to exercise prudent restraint upon a first encounter with these insects.

In the unlikely event of an encounter with the defensive spray, the recommended treatment is to wash the eye with large amounts of water. For severe symptoms, a trip to the eye doctor or the vet may be necessary.

Question: Do you recommend use of fertilizer spikes around landscape trees? Mark B., Friendswood

Answer: While fertilizer spikes will not harm landscape trees, I do not recommend their use. Fertilizer spikes provide nutrients in a limited area while not providing any nutrients in the remaining area. The roots of most trees extend out as far as the limbs (known as the dip line) and in many cases, extend out much farther than the limbs.

Tree roots that absorb water and nutrients are also distributed fairly uniformly under a tree’s drip line. I recommend use of a complete fertilizer (such as 15-5-10) that is spread uniformly around the tree at the drip line.

Gardening: Scale insects and pampas grass - July 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Bananas - August 1, 2004 article

Gardening: August Gardening Calendar - August 16, 2004 article

Gardening: Trio Of Extension Programs Includes Pear Tasting, Master Naturalist Class & Rose Seminar - August 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Prepare Now For Fall Gardens - August 26, 2004 article

Gardening: September's Garden Calendar Includes Fall Pecan Field Day - September 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Ornamental Grasses - September 8, 2004 article

Gardening: Don't Let Landscape Become A High-Maintenance Nightmare - September 22, 2004 article

Gardening: Oct. 10 Plant Sale & Seminar To Feature Butterfly Gardening - Butterflies Bring Color, Motion to Garden - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Plant It And They Will Come: Getting the Butterflies of Galveston County to Grace Your Yard - October 2, 2004 article

Gardening: Rose Propagation & Seasonal Decorating Workshops To Be Held - October 13, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29, Seasonal Decorations and Onion and Garlic Workshops - October 20, 2004 article

Gardening: Extension Office To Sponsor Open House On October 29 and County Pecan Show - October 27, 2004 article

Gardening: November Is Pansy Time - November 6, 2004 article

Gardening: County Pecan Growers Display Their Successes - November 11, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Questions On Fall Crops - November 17, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As For November - November 28, 2004 article

Gardening: Gardeners' December Checklist Includes Citrus Show On Dec. 9 - December 3, 2004 article

Gardening: Citrus Show A Huge Success With 185 Entries - December 19, 2004 article

Gardening: Trees and Shrubs - December 23, 2004 article

Gardening: Cold Weather Impact - January 4, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Checklist For January Includes Several Educational Programs - January 7, 2005 article

Gardening:Announcing the 2005 Galveston County Master Gardener Training - January 13, 2005 article

Gardening:Peach & Plum Growers' Workshop To Be Held Saturday, January 29 - January 19, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardening for Texas Wildlife - January 28, 2005 article

Gardening: Wide Variety of Citrus to Be Available at February 5 Fruit Tree Sale and Home Citrus Production - January 31, 2005 article

Gardening: Fruit Trees Of The Gods Featured In February 5 Master Gardener Plant Sale - February 2, 2005 article

Gardening: "If I Were A Tomato, I Would Want To Be Grown In Texas . . . Galveston County, That Is!" Workshop to be held February 12 - February 9, 2005 article

Gardening: February Is Rose Pruning Time...Attend Rose Care Seminar to Learn How - February 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Activities At The Home & Garden Show On Feb. 26-27 - February 23, 2005 article

Gardening: March Gardening Calendar Includes Seminar On Butterfly Gardening - March 2, 2005 article

Gardening: Gardeners' Q&As From The Galveston Home & Garden Show - March 10, 2005 article

Gardening: Extension Offers Program On "Living To Be 100 . . . A Commonsense Approach." - March 16, 2005 article

Gardening: Program On Plumeria Offered On March 26- March 29, 2005 article

Gardening: Garden Checklist For April Includes Pecan Field Day - April 6, 2005 article

Gardening: Hints On Harvesting Vegetables For Peak Flavor - April 15, 2005 article

Gardening: Fresh Blueberries From Your Home Garden Seminar On Saturday, April 23 - April 22, 2005 article

Gardening: Learn About Weed Control - April 27, 2005 article

Gardening: Home Gardening Chores and May 14 Home Fruit Growers’ Tour - May 5, 2005 article

© 2004-2006
League City Area News Online.
All rights reserved.
The opinions expressed in this or any other column are those of the author, not the League City Area News Online or its staff or any of its affiliates. Any and all responses to any of the columnists are welcome.
Web design by Webmaster
Marilyn Clark.
Send comments and Letters to the Editor to:
League City Area News Online, P. O. Box 1693, League City, Texas 77574-1693

Please include your address and phone number for verification purposes.
Send e-mail to the Webmaster if there are problems with the web site.