The Insectarium at the St. Louis Zoo rang in the New Year with numerous hatchings on January 1. The hatchlings are being cared for behind the scenes, but many of the adults can be seen on exhibit.
A total of 39 walking sticks of varying species came into the world, starting with eight giant spiny walking sticks, whose natural habitat is the forests of Papua New Guinea. The babies are not so giant though -- they measure only about one inch (2.54 cm) compared to 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) for adults, which can be easily seen when the baby catches a ride on the back of an adult. Males have huge spines on their back legs which are like built-in weapons to help defend themselves if attacked by other males or potential predators. The total hatchlings that day also included 30 Northern walking stick babies, a species native to forests and woodlands across the U.S., and one lone Vietnamese walking stick, native to tropical forests of Vietnam.
In addition, there were 67 baby white-spotted assassin bugs, 3 of which are pictured above, whose natural habitat is forests of Africa. When hatched, this venomous bug is a tiny yellow, red and brown carnivore -- an opportunistic feeder that eats crickets but has been known to eat small lizards! As an adult, the assassin has two white or two red spots on its back and lives from 18 months to two years.
Also hatched: Three greater angle-winged katydids, one of whom is pictured above, whose natural habitat is Missouri. Their light green color easily helps them hide among leafy environments.