Phalces brevis (Cape Stick-insect)
[= Phalces longiscaphus, Phalces coccyx]
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> Phasmida (stick and leaf insects)
Phalces brevis male.
[photo by P.
Phalces brevis female, on Rhus
[photo by HG
Robertson, Iziko ©]
Male 50-55mm, female 70-80mm. Very stick-like, medium sized
wingless insects with short antennae. The male is greenish brown, with three
bluish green marks and white bands on the pronotum, hind part of the mesonotum
and metanotum (useful to distinguish it from the similar male of Macynia
labiata). The legs are green with a brown base and apical band on all
femora. The cerci are whitish. Females are usually brown or grey, perhaps
speckled; occasionally they are green. The abdomen ends in a boat-shaped
chute-like appendage, which varies in length. However, it is often around four
times the length of the anal (last abdominal) segment.
Life History and behaviour
Females drop their glossy eggs to the ground.
The resulting nymphs moult five times, taking about 4-6 months to mature; adults
live 4-6 months. Each female usually lays a few hundred eggs. Adults remain well
concealed in the daytime, often moving away from their foodplants, only to
return at night.
When disturbed, nymphs may sway from side to side. Bisexual reproduction is
by means of a spermatophore (sperm sac), although they can reproduce
parthenogenetically. Certain ants are attracted to eggs, which they carry to
their nest by the capitulum (knob on the lid of the egg). The capitulum is
removed and eaten without reducing egg viability.
Phalces brevis pair mating.
[photo by HG
Robertson, SA Museum ©]
In the Cape Town area on
Podocarpus sp., Rhus
spp., Passerina spp.,
Liparia splendens. They also accept a wide range of
plants in captivity.
Very widespread in the Cape Province, South Africa. Also
reported from Natal.
2000a. Studies of the genus Phalces Stål. Phasmid Studies
2000b. Stick-insects (Phasmida) from the Cape Town area, South
Africa. Bulletin of the Amateur Entomologists’ Society 59: 2-13, pl. 00A-D.
Compton, S.G. & Ware, A.B.
1991. Ants disperse the elaiosome-bearing eggs
of an African Stick Insect. Psyche 98(2-3): 207-213. [the species featured in
this paper Bacillus ?coccyx is now known as Phalces brevis].