Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the June 15, 2007 Newsletter issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

These days with the whole landscape aching for rain, Silviano spends almost all his time watering plants. Therefore, this week not only did his waterings lead to my learning about Pápaloquelite, but also one morning he brought me a walkingstick he'd just plucked from a bougainvillea he was watering. You can see it below:


It's surprising how many people confuse walkingsticks with praying mantises. Mantises have roundish heads that move back and forth atop narrow necks, while you can see in the picture that walkingstick heads aren't at all mobile. Also, mantises have specially adapted front legs that they hold folded before them, always ready to dart out and catch prey, but walkingstick front legs are very similar to the back and middle legs. To firm up the differences between them in your mind, compare the walkingstick with the mantis at http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/praying-mantis.html.

When I was a kid in Kentucky I was sure that mantises were wonderful little critters but walkingsticks were like poisonous needles that were deadly if they stabbed you. That was wrong. Walkingsticks are as kind and innocent as anyone, depending on their camouflage to protect them. Around my hermit trailer in Mississippi I had Two-lined Walkingsticks who would indeed spew a nasty, toxic chemical when handled, but typical walkingsticks like the one in my hand don't seem to spew anything.

Silviano agreed that walkinsticks around here aren't dangerous, but he still didn't like to hold it except in a folded leaf, and he told me that if a horse or cow accidentally eats one it's an awfully bad deal.