Walking Stick

by Carl Strang

As the singing insect field season winds down, I am pursuing the last of this year’s goals. One of these was to seek out tinkling ground crickets in southern Will County. I was successful in that, as described earlier. With that experience in mind, I went to one of the places in DuPage County most likely to have that species, the bluff woodlands of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. I rode my bike slowly around the 9-mile trail that runs through the preserve, taking several side trips onto service drives, with ears open. I did hear one probable tinkling ground cricket, and since have heard another in another location, but given the possible distortions of the cooler weather and the late season I will consider these tentative and try to confirm them next year.

Aside from that, and from adding a few singing insects to my species list for that preserve, the highlight came when I spotted a walking stick crossing the trail.

This is a male Diapheromera femorata, North America’s most common walking stick species.

I have seen only a few of these in DuPage County. Usually they are well up in the tree canopies. I would have missed this one if I had been riding at my normal workout speed. Impressively camouflaged, this insect not only has a stick-shaped body and legs, but the brown body and mottled femora contrast with green tibia. Quite the striking critter. I was reminded of one of my few other DuPage sightings.

The bird is a red-eyed vireo, which has caught a walking stick and is trying to figure out how to eat it.

This was a few years ago at Fullersburg Woods. The proportions and size of the prey are comparable to the one I found at Waterfall. Walking sticks are leaf-eating relatives of the katydids, crickets and grasshoppers though they have been removed to a separate, closely allied order, the Phasmida.

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