Earlier this summer, a reader asked us “Is there a sub species of worm or insect that uses mimicry and stays for long periods in a grass-like form?” She explained that she thought she was holding a piece of grass and went to pull it apart. However, it was flexible and wouldn’t rip apart. Since this experience, she has come across two more of these grass-like organisms.
First, we want to explain mimicry just in case any of our readers are unfamiliar with the term. Mimicry is when when an animal or plant externally resembles another animal, plant, or inanimate object, often as a defense mechanism to avoid predation. In this case, a worm/insect is using mimicry to look like a blade of grass. There is no photo to evaluate just how much this creature looks like grass.
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We aren’t exactly sure what our reader has discovered, but we think she might have found an insect that belongs to the order Phasmatodea. The insects in this order are known as stick insects, stick-bugs, or walking sticks. They use their natural camouflage to hide in plain sight from predators. However, many also have a second line of defense such as a startling display, spines, or toxic secretions. There are about 3,000 species of phasmids.
Phasmids are usually on the larger side of insects, ranging from 1.5 cm to over 3o cm! Some have cylindrical bodies, while others are a more flattened leaf-like shape. These nocturnal creatures spend most of their day motionless, hidden underneath plants. Many phasmids also feign death to fool their predators. Maybe our reader picked up a phasmid thinking it was grass, and it was faking death in the hopes that it could escape. We hope that she simply put the creature down and did not continue to try to rip it apart!
To end, one of our readers believes she found a specimen that resembles a blade of grass. We believe she has found a phasmid, which is an insect that belongs to the order Phasmatodea. They are commonly known as stick insects.
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