Macleays Spectre - a real Australian giant
The Macleay's Spectre or Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Exatosoma tiaratum) is a huge stick insect or phasmid species from Australia. Females grow to as much as 8" (20cm) long and have very bulky bodies. Both sexes curl up their bodies like very big scorpions and look the sort of insect you don't want to touch though they are actually harmless.
This massive walking stick comes from Queensland but has become a very popular species for pet-keepers, stick insect breeders and for insect collections in zoos worldwide. The smaller male Macleay's Spectre which only reaches 11cm can fly and both males and females come in a range of colours and have spines on them as protection, although the males only have a couple of spines on their heads and legs. They are very weird and spectacular insects so it is not surprising they are so popular and so often seen.
More about the Macleay's Spectre
The Macleay's Spectre, which is known to the Phasmid Study Group as species PSG 9, can be greenish brown, a red-brown, or a cream-yellow. Like many other walking sticks they will rock their bodies back and forth if disturbed while resting.
Male Macleay's Spectres can fly well and do so when in search of mates. However, this is one of very many phasmids that do not need males in order to reproduce. The females can do so by parthenogenesis but the eggs they lay only hatch into daughters and take longer, and as much as nine months to hatch.
This species produces very large eggs that it drops and also deliberately flicks away from itself. When the young hatch out they look very like wood-ants and are indeed and 'ant-mimic' and derive protection from looking so much like these insects which can bite.
Macleay's Spectre needs a large cage or tank if kept and plenty of fresh food. It eats bramble, raspberry, rose, bayberry, oak and eucalyptus, which is the tree it is found on in the wild.
When nervous or attacked this large stick insect species will stand on its front and middle legs and rear its back parts up to look like a scorpion and make it look more threatening. When it is hanging amongst foliage it is well camouflaged and can easily look like a bunch of dead leaves.
When walking the Macleay's Spectre will wave its front legs about. It looks like it is waving but is more likely looking for something to grab onto.