Thursday, July 02, 2020

Camo Bug! Good Trick, Walking Stick! by Sheri Mabry Bestor

Lots of insects use color camouflage to conceal themselves, but one, the walking stick insect, doesn't sport the usual mottled camo colors to fool those that feed on juicy insects. Since she lives on leaves up in the trees, she uses her shape to look like a twig.

Walking stick insects are masters of illusion. Even their eggs, plop-dropping to the ground in the fall, look like seeds, duping diligent ants into taking them underground, safe from winter's chill, to incubate until spring.


Then, with a wiggle and a pop, little walking twiggy stick insects hatch and head for the nearest tree.

[They look just like adult walking stick insects. Although they begin tiny, some walking stick insects grow to be among the largest insects in the world!]

Outgrowing their body cases as they munch their way up the trees, they simply jettison their shells, and keep on growing as they keep on going up their tree, blending in with the twigs and leaves of the foliage, aided by the suction cups on their feet. Of course, once in a while a sharp-eyed bird spots movement and picks one off the branch for dinner. But the walking stick insect has a trick to fix that! She squirts out some foul-smelling juice.

Of course, sometimes the hungry bird makes off with a leg or so, but who cares!  This insect can easily grow a new leg!

[That trick is called autotomy!]

And if the birds are too many in her tree, the walking stick is so light that she can drop from the tree to the ground and make like a fallen twig.

[And if all that fails, walking stick insects can change color, growing pale in the sun and dark as night comes on to make them invisible. Oh, and some walking stick insects have colorful wings that they can flash to frighten predators on the ground.]


And there are still more tricks in the walking stick insect's bag of behaviors (including parthenogenesis), in Sheri Mabry Bestor's Good Trick Walking Stick (Sleeping Bear Press), a fascinating collection of tricks for that versatile insect illusionist. And aided by the lovely illustrations of artist Johnny Lambert, Bestor's book has a little trick up its stylistic sleeve: along with large, engaging illustrations that flow through the pages, the author uses an engagingly simple text, punctuated by the catch phrase "Good trick, walking stick," which young kids in a reading circle will quickly begin to chant, but the narration also features additional entomological information in a different font on each page, making this non-fiction book function as both a read-aloud book for younger students or as a source of information for older student's science reports. Says School Library Journal, "A fun, informative offering about a little-known insect that is sure to delight readers. Recommended for most collections."

For more easy-going entomological education, pair this one with Bestor's and Lambert's companion book, Fly High Butterfly.

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