Every once in a while I get a report of a miniature “walking stick”. We do have a few different species of walking sticks in Wisconsin, but the adults are typically 2″ – 3″ long. We do, however, have some tiny insects called stilt bugs that pop up from time to time during the warmer months. They’re often seen on flowers but can also be found at porch lights. I usually find a few each year, although they can often be overlooked due to their small size.
At a quick glance, these insects can resemble small walking sticks but some key differences exist. First of all, stilt bugs tend to be quite small: usually around 1/2″ long. Their antennae are also very long with relation to their body and have swollen tips; the antennae of our walking sticks lack these swollen tips. A final difference is in the mouthparts of these insects. Our walking stick species chew on the leaves of oak trees and other plants using mouthparts that function like scissors or pliers. Stilt bugs consume a liquid diet of plant fluids and have a specialized “straw-like” mouthpart to suck up fluids. In the image below, the straw-like mouthparts can be seen curling backwards under the body from the head.