Phasmid is the other common name for the group of insects in the order Phasmidae (the most well known being stick insects). There are about 3000 species in the order, and can be found on five of the six continents (they are pandemic). They are all obligate herbivores, and have relatively long life cycles for insects (more than a year).

The etymology of the scientific name is interesting and instructive as to their behaviour. The root of the word comes from the Greek phasme, which translates into phantom. Despite the large size of these insects (they can reach sizes of 30 centimeters or more), they can be nearly invisible when in their natural habitat (the lower or upper canopy of a deciduous or tropical forest). They have an elongate body plan, and adopt cryptic colours in order to blend in with the trees and leaves around them. They even go so far as to sway back and forth with the wind, in order to render their disguise more realistic. The biological term for this characteristic is cryptic mimicry.

This is also one of the few insect species kept in captivity by amateur enthusiasts. They are hardy creatures and, given their long life span, can bring a great deal of pleasure to their keepers.

Phas"mid (?), n. [See Phasm. Probably so called from its mimicking, or appearing like, inanimate objects.] Zool.

Any orthopterous insect of the family Phasmidae, as a leaf insect or a stick insect.

 

© Webster 1913.

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