Macleays Spectre - a weird Australian phasmid or giant stick insect

Macleay's Spectre is a real giant

The Macleay's Spectre or Giant Prickly Stick Insect (Exatosoma tiaratum) is a huge stick insect or phasmid species from Australia. Females grow to as much as 8" (20cm) long and have very bulky bodies. Both sexes curl up their bodies like very big scorpions and look the sort of insect you don't want to touch though they are actually harmless.

This massive walking stick comes from Queensland but has become a very popular species for pet-keepers, stick insect breeders and for insect collections in zoos worldwide. The smaller male Macleay's Spectre which only reaches 11cm can fly and both males and females come in a range of colours and have spines on them as protection, although the males only have a couple of spines on their heads and legs. They are very weird and spectacular insects so it is not surprising they are so popular and so often seen.

Macleay's Spectre

Macleay's Spectre at Franfurt Zoo. Photo by Frank C. Müller
Macleay's Spectre at Frankfurt Zoo. Photo by Frank C. Müller | Source

More about the Macleay's Spectre

The Macleay's Spectre, which is known to the Phasmid Study Group as species PSG 9, can be greenish brown, a red-brown, or a cream-yellow. Like many other walking sticks they will rock their bodies back and forth if disturbed while resting.

Male Macleay's Spectres can fly well and do so when in search of mates. However, this is one of very many phasmids that do not need males in order to reproduce. The females can do so by parthenogenesis but the eggs they lay only hatch into daughters and take longer, and as much as nine months to hatch.

This species produces very large eggs that it drops and also deliberately flicks away from itself. When the young hatch out they look very like wood-ants and are indeed and 'ant-mimic' and derive protection from looking so much like these insects which can bite.

Macleay's Spectre needs a large cage or tank if kept and plenty of fresh food. It eats bramble, raspberry, rose, bayberry, oak and eucalyptus, which is the tree it is found on in the wild.

When nervous or attacked this large stick insect species will stand on its front and middle legs and rear its back parts up to look like a scorpion and make it look more threatening. When it is hanging amongst foliage it is well camouflaged and can easily look like a bunch of dead leaves.

When walking the Macleay's Spectre will wave its front legs about. It looks like it is waving but is more likely looking for something to grab onto.

Adult male and female Extatosoma tiaratum (Macleays Spectre)

Phasmid Study Group

The Phasmid Study Group is an organisation in which members pay a subscription that entitles them to receiving the detailed journals and newsletters and also to trade and apply for species of insect advertised by fellow members.

I used to belong to the Phasmid Study Group for many years when I was living in Ely in Cardiff and kept many species for several generations. I even had a Phasmid Study Group t-shirt.

I once appeared in a story in the South Wales Echo local newspaper with a big photo of me holding a Macleay's Spectre and the title "Bug-man Steve Andrews."

Link for The Phasmid Study Group

© 2011 Steve Andrews

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Comments 14 comments

homesteadbound profile image

homesteadbound 4 years ago from Texas

Now that is a BUG! It looks like a cross between a walking stick, a stink bug, and a scorpion. And it was huge! The video did an excellent job of showing just how large it is!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, yes they are huge!


davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

Bard of Ely: These are beautiful insects. thank you so much for writing this hub and sharing it. I was lucky enough to happen on three different species of mantis this year but as of yet... no walking sticks.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

There are mantises here where I live though not seen any for some years. I love insects! Thanks for posting!


davenmidtown profile image

davenmidtown 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

Insects ROCK!


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast

Wow -- amazing information and pics. I'm fascinated by how insects camouflage themselves and adapt to their environments. I saw a stick insect on my glass door last week here in California. It was a skinny tan one, only 2 inches long. I had no idea there are such large stick insects.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for posting, HikeGuy! There are actually even longer ones!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Fascinating and awesome insect! The colours are fabulous but I still couldn't keep one as a pet - I'll stick with my beautiful cuddly dogs!!! Great hub + voted up awesome!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Seeker7!


d.william profile image

d.william 4 years ago from Somewhere in the south

Another fascinating and awesome hub. Can't say as i have ever heard of this particular bug before. The little stick bugs in Florida pale in comparison. Very enjoyable article.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for commenting, d.william!


HikeGuy profile image

HikeGuy 4 years ago from Northern California Coast

Wow. I thought these were huge -- turns out these are the junior ones. Amazing. What an ecosystem you have over there.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 4 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Yes, there are longer stick insects but not many any broader than the females of this species.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 15 months ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Glad to hear you keep these amazing insects so thanks for commenting!

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