Many species of bugs take on a stick-like appearance. Believed to be an evolutionary trait, this shape allows many bugs to remain undetected.
Couple with the right camouflaging colors and with reduced daytime activity, the stick-like shape of these bugs makes them almost indistinguishable from their predators.
While they have a thin stick shape, most of these bugs are predators. They eat other small insects and may even use their camouflaging appearance to ambush prey.
Other types of stick-like bugs only feed on plants or fungi. Many of the following species can be found across North America where a thin body sometimes makes them easy to overlook.
Some of the following species are also pests in your garden or on crops, which means management techniques are needed to control outbreaks.
1. Peppered Moth Caterpillar
Pepper Moth Caterpillars (Biston betularia) are among the common types of bugs that look like sticks. They have an elongated round body which even has the color of their host plant.
This species only feeds on willow, birch, and other types of leaves from trees. Over time, it has adapted to look like a stick to avoid predation.
It takes on the color of the twig it lives on, often gray or brown. Green Pepper Moth Caterpillars are also common on willows.
The species keeps on growing up on trees before dropping to the ground. It goes underground before emerging as a gray moth.
Its appearance is known among other species of moth caterpillars as twig mimicry. The shape and color of the species keep birds and wasps away.
2. Small Engrailed Caterpillar
Another highly common species of bug that look like sticks include the Small Engrailed Caterpillar (Ectropis crepuscularia).
This is a species that comes in numerous colors, including black, yellow, and brown.
Unlike Pepper Moth Caterpillars, Small Engrailed Caterpillars grow both on trees such as ash and plants such as honeysuckle.
High adaptability when it comes to hosting plants as well as its stick shape makes this caterpillar difficult for its predators to spot.
Slow movements make the species one of the most camouflaging caterpillars.
Its stick-like appearance is also a menace to farmers as the species can be a mild pest if left unmanaged.
Small Engrailed Caterpillars also feed on soy and walnut and they need to be removed. Manual removal is one of the ways this stick-like caterpillar can be removed from the garden.
Apple trees are some of the most common types of trees where you can spot this caterpillar around the house.
3. Horned Spanworm Moth Caterpillar
This species of caterpillars (Nematocampa resistaria) have an atypical stick-like appearance. It has an irregular shape which means it increases its camouflaging appearance further, together with color mimicry.
It takes on the color of its host plant to steer predators away. A combination of various shades of brown makes the bulk colors of the Horned Spanworm Moth Caterpillar.
You may be able to see this species at high altitudes among conifers.
Fir and hemlock are some of the preferred hosts of the species. They feed on the trees until they’re ready to pupate and emerge as moths.
On occasion, this caterpillar may also be found in the garden where it feeds on plants such as strawberries.
Mimicry techniques are prevalent in this species even as an adult. The emerged moth has dead leaf-like coloring to keep predators away.
4. Northern Walkingstick
This species of bug (Diapheromera femorata) gets its name from its stick-like appearance. A thin elongated body and thinner longer legs are specific to this species.
A native North American, the Northern Walkingstick is a species that moves slowly, despite its long legs.
Without wings, this species is mostly tied to its host tree as it takes a long time for the bug to move hosts.
Still, this means larger numbers of Northern Walkingsticks are seen in clusters on one tree.
Northern woodlands of North America are the hosts of these bugs. Oak trees are among their preferred habitats together with hazelnut trees.
Damages to these host trees are considerable. They eat all the leaves they can, except the thicker veins of the leaves.
Mid-summer marks the period when the highest activity is noted for the species as this is their breeding period.
5. Southern Two-striped Walkingstick
This type of stick-like bug (Anisomorpha buprestoides) comes in a couple of common colors. A black-and-brown morph is more common while a black-and-white alternative is seen as less common.
An elongated body with a rectangular shape is specific to this bug. Black is its base color with contrasting brown dorsal stripes. The other morph of the bug has contrasting white stripes.
Long black antennae are specific to these stick-like bugs.
A common species in the Northern and Western territories of North America, this bug is found on tall grasses and shrubs. Its elongated form helps it stay safe.
Furthermore, this species can also release some of the most potent defensive chemicals to keep predators away with a pungent smell.
6. Giant Walkingstick
Giant Walkingsticks (Megaphasma denticrus) are the largest insects in North America. The species grows larger than a human hand with females even reaching sizes of more than 7 inches.
These bugs have a thin elongated body that takes the color of their host plant. It can be gray, brown, or green.
3 pairs of long legs help these bugs move, albeit at low speed.
Most of these bugs are found in Southern states such as Texas. They first appear in April and they can be seen around different plant hosts.
Tall grasses are among their favorites. However, this species has also migrated to vines.
In some states, this species has also been seen on oak trees in its gray morph.
7. Indian Walking Stick
Indian Walking Sticks (Carausius morosus) have widespread distribution around the world.
This is a species similar to Giant Walkingsticks, but smaller. They reach a maximum size of 4 inches in the case of females, which are larger than males.
Apart from looking like a stick, these bugs can also feel like a stick when handled. They play dead as a measure of avoiding predation.
A rigid body is specific to the period these bugs play dead in.
Indian Walking Sticks are yellow, green, or black. They live in many habitats and are soon to become pests on crops they’re accidentally introduced in.
8. Rufous Net-casting Spider
These types of spiders (Asianopis subrufa) are among the few spiders that look like sticks. A rectangular shape body is specific to the Rufous Net-casting Spider.
A brown or a red-brown uniform color is seen on these spiders.
You may find these types of spiders have similar colors on their legs which are also long and stick-like.
Rufous Net-casting Spiders live in Australia and New Zealand.
This is a species that builds spider webs to catch prey such as insects but also uses it for mating.
Smaller males get on the female’s spider web vibrating it as a sign of courtship.
Females may or may not respond to the male’s mating intentions. Once mated, the female can lay up to a few hundred leaves in nearby leaves.
These spiders mostly live in woodlands.
9. Ogre-faced Spider
This species of stick-like spider (Deinopis spinosa) lives in North and South America. It has an orange color or an orange-to-brown color in its natural woodlands habitat.
It features a stick-like body and long legs which also look like sticks.
The unique method of catching prey is what further differentiates the Ogre-faced Spiders from other species.
It uses a small mobile spider web attached to its legs to catch insects. Moving around with the net, it jumps on various small insects with the net, which increases its chances of actually catching the insects.
This spider uses its stick-like appearance as camouflage. A nocturnal predator, Ogre-faced Spiders rest and have stiff bodies during the day.
10. Water Stick Insects
Water Stick Insects are part of the Hemiptera family. These are a type of stick-like true bugs that can move and hunt on water.
The stick-like appearance of the species helps it stay away from all types of predators as it’s barely visible or distinguishable from a small stick on water.
This species has been associated with stinging true bugs in the past. Much of this false belief is based on the idea of its sharp abdomen tip.
In reality, this is a type of breathing mechanism. The tip of the abdomen stays above water while the bug draws air through it.
Working as a snorkel, this is the type of breathing adaptation that allows these bugs to breathe when slightly submerged.
11. Stick Grasshoppers
Stick Grasshoppers include multiple types of bugs with a stick-like appearance. These types of bugs come in different shapes and colors.
A straight-stick body or an irregular shape stick-like body is specific to these bugs.
Most types of Stick Grasshoppers also have thin stick-like legs.
Colors vary from yellow and mustard to green or olive and various shades of brown.
Eating leaves, these types of grasshoppers use their body as camouflage.
They remain immobile for hours at a time and without movement, they might be more difficult for predators to spot.
12. Stick Mantis
Stick Mantises or Twig Mantises are a species with a thin stick-like body and raptorial front legs, just like Praying Mantises.
These types of bugs live all around the world and they are some of the most efficient ambush predators.
Relying on their stick-like bodies, these mantises are known for their capacity to stay still for hours, waiting for the right chance to ambush bugs.
They come in different colors and often take the color of their environment.
African Stick Mantises are mostly brown, green, and even white. Brazilian Stick Mantises are mostly green.
These bugs look very similar to Praying Mantises but rely on their stick mimicry bodies to avoid a growing number of predators such as spiders and scorpions.
13. Morning-glory Plume Moth
Morning-glory Plume Moths (Emmelina monodactyla) are among the few stick-like moth species.
A thin body and stick-like resting position wings characterize this species. A gray-to-brown color is specific to its body and its wings.
While it can fly and open its wings, Morning-glory Plume Moths have thought almost stick-like wings when resting or when not flying.
This reduces their overall mass and may make predators overlook them.
In some cases, this moth can rest on gray surfaces such as birch or rocks where coloring further enhances its camouflaging look.
14. Plain Plume Moth
The Plain Plume Moth (Hellinsia homodactylus) is another species of bright moth that look like sticks.
This is a small to medium-sized moth that grows to a wingspan of up to 27mm. It features a bright brown body, white wings, and white antennae.
Its stick-like body helps it evade predation, as do its wings which also look thin and almost stick-like when resting.
This species even has uniform pearl-white hindwings which are only visible when it flies.
Its caterpillars are as atypical as the emerged adult moths. The Plain Plume Moth Caterpillar is one of the few carnivore moth caterpillars.
The larvae of Compsilura concinnata, a type of parasitoid fly are eaten by these caterpillars.
In turn, this type of fly is a known parasite of other moth species such as Spongy Moths.
15. Grape Plume Moth
Grape Plume Moths (Geina periscelidactylus) are named after grapes they feed on as caterpillars, together with Virginia Creeper host plants.
This is a species that has a thin body and thin stick-like legs that are longer than its body.
Its wings have a base white color with light brown bands, as does the body. Its spiny legs are also light brown and white.
Mostly limited to Eastern North American territories, the Grape Plume Moth is a species that can become a minor grapevine pest.
It only prefers cultivated grapevines which means this stick-like species can also be spotted on the vines in gardens.