The genus Acanthoxyla is very unusual in that it contains only females and reproduces via asexual reproduction or parthenogenesis. Most of these species are common, and they thrive on garden plants such as roses and ornamental conifers. In native forest and scrub throughout the North Island and large areas of the South Island these species can be found on trees such as rimu, totara and on climbing rata.
There are 8 currently recognised species in the genus:
- Acanthoxyla prasina (Westwood 1859)
- Acanthoxyla geisovii (Kaup 1866)
- Acanthoxyla fasciata (Hutton 1899)
- Acanthoxyla suteri (Hutton 1899)
- Acanthoxyla intermedia Salmon 1955
- Acanthoxyla inermis Salmon 1955
- Acanthoxyla speciosa Salmon 1955
- Acanthoxyla huttoni Salmon 1955
They are large insects from 8 to 11 cm long and are usually green or brown. Most species have black tipped spines although these are absent in A. inermis and highly reduced in some other Acanthoxyla species. Currently available species descriptions do not allow reliable identification of many of the different species and should be used with caution. Genetic studies show that Acanthoxyla species have most likely arisen via hybridization (Morgan-Richards and Trewick 2005; Buckley et al. 2008).