As we head into the fall season, my favorite insects will slowly become less and less available for me to enjoy on hikes. While I know those days are coming, if I am intentionally observant, I can still see neat bugs including butterflies, moths and dragonflies.
Recently, my family and I went for a hike at Limestone Park after waking up and being motivated by the Chicago Marathon runners on TV. On that walk, and most others, my eyes dart back and forth scanning the leaves of plants near the trail. As we rounded one curve I stopped as my eyes caught something, I knew was different.
Most of my nature observations start this way, looking for patterns in nature and disruptions that cause me to further investigate. Finding a pattern disruption is exactly what happened this time when I noticed this northern walkingstick ( Diapheromera femorata).
The way it was situated on the leaf gave it away as not normal to my eyes. This was the first walkingstick I had seen this year, so it was a real treat, and I called the family over to see it.
Northern walkingsticks can be common but are rarely seen. The obvious reason is because they have incredible camouflage and most people, including myself, just walk past them.
Secondly, they are mostly active at night. During the day they are usually stationary doing what they do best, mimicking sticks. What an incredible creature.
Late summer to early fall is a good time to see them as they have matured into adults and are more active for breeding and egg laying. The females drop their eggs into the leaf litter where they will over winter until the spring.
While doing research for this article I was also enlightened to the fact that the of the eggs of the northern walkingstick are also a form of mimicry. The eggs are dark and tan and would fool me as a seed of some unknown plant had I found some in the wild.
If you enjoy nature like me, get outside now and make it a game to see what small creatures you can find along the trail.