Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Stick insects (Phasmatodea)

A male and female of <em>Pseudoclitarchus sentus</em>, Great Island, Three Kings Islands. Image - T. Buckley

Stick insects are large insects famous for their close resemblance to the foliage on which they feed. Stick insects are surprisingly common in New Zealand and can be found from coastal vegetation to the high-alpine zone, although many species are poorly known because of their cryptic appearance and nocturnal habits.

Predation by wasps and possums is a threat in some areas of the country.

The New Zealand stick insect fauna contains 21 valid species in eight genera, but much taxonomic work remains to be done. Recent fieldwork and data analyses have revealed the presence of undescribed species, particularly in the South Island. Furthermore, several described species are of dubious validity. Current taxonomic research includes a large amount of collecting throughout New Zealand and all major offshore islands. Generic and species boundaries are being determined using both morphological and molecular genetic characters.

New Zealand insects and other invertebrates offer ideal case studies for testing a wide variety of evolutionary scenarios and hypotheses. Molecular systematic methods are being used to determine species boundaries in taxonomically problematic invertebrate groups, study the impact of environmental change on species radiations, and determine the origins and evolution of the New Zealand terrestrial invertebrate biota.


  • Bradler S, Buckley TR 2011. Stick insect on unsafe ground: does a fossil from the early Eocene of France really link Mesozoic taxa with the extant crown group of Phasmatodea? Systematic entomology 36(2): 218-222.
  • Buckley TR, Bradler S 2010. Tepakiphasma ngatikuri, a new genus and species of stick insect (Phasmatodea) from the Far North of New Zealand. New Zealand entomologist 33: 118-126.
  • Buckley TR, Attanayake D, Nylander JAA, Bradler S 2010. The phylogenetic placement and biogeographical origins of the New Zealand stick insects (Phasmatodea). Systematic entomology 35(2): 207-225.
  • Buckley TR, Attanayake D, Bradler S 2009. Extreme convergence in stick insect evolution: phylogenetic placement of the Lord Howe Island tree lobster. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 276(1659): 1055-1062.
  • O'Neill SB, Buckley TR, Jewell TR, Ritchie PA 2009. Phylogeographic history of the New Zealand stick insect Niveaphasma annulata (Phasmatodea) estimated from mitochondrial and nuclear loci. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 53(2): 523-536.
  • Yeates GW, Buckley TR 2009. First records of mermithid nematodes (Nematoda: Mermithidae) parasitising stick insects (Insecta: Phasmatodea). New Zealand journal of zoology 36(1): 35-39.
  • Buckley TR, Attanayake D, Park D, Ravindran S, Jewell TR, Normark BB 2008. Investigating hybridization in the parthenogenetic New Zealand stick insect Acanthoxyla (Phasmatodea) using single-copy nuclear loci. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48(1): 335-349.
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