Oh, What a Fashionable Dresser! Meet Widget the Walking Stick …
Meet Widget the Walking Stick. And isn’t he the most fashionable fella? While installing a new garden for a client last week —design post forthcoming— I happened to notice what appeared to be a colorful stick, stuck to my boot. As I bent down to get a closer look, I met the curious gaze of a rather large and beautiful Walking Stick (I later learned this friendly guy is a well-known, local resident; dubbed ‘Widget’ by his human friends). Luckily my camera was nearby, and when I sat down to snap a photo, the dapper little gentleman decided to march up my leg to have his portrait taken. How thoughtful! Turns out he was as interested in me and my moving camera lens as I was in him and his colorful costume …
According to Whitney Cranshaw’s Garden Insects of North America (a great book for gardeners and backyard entomologists, by the way), Walkingsticks or Stickbugs (Diapheromera femorata) can be found throughout North America —more frequently east of the Great Plains— and are most common in the northern and mid-Atlantic regions of the continent; particularly surrounding the Great Lakes. Although they rarely cause significant damage, all walkingsticks are leaf chewers. The diet of these curious insects includes the leaves of black locust, black cherry, oak, basswood elm, birch and hickory trees. Females lay eggs in soil throughout the latter part of the summer and fall, which will generally hatch in spring. However in colder climates, eggs can remain dormant for up to two years.*
During my brief encounter with Widget the Walking Stick, I observed a naturally curious —dare I say “intelligent looking”?— and very friendly insect. Amazing what you can find in the garden, when you slow down and open your eyes! One of the greatest rewards of organic gardening is the opportunity to meet such fantastic creatures. To help protect fascinating insects like Widget, remember to limit or altogether eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Keep in mind that even organic insect controls should be applied in a carefully considered and targeted manner, and only when absolutely necessary. Widget thanks you, and so do I!
*Entomological Information Source: Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw, is available by clicking here, from amazon.com
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