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A Tale of Two Sticks

Actually two sets of two sticks. 

Every year recently when the first cold weather hits in fall I have seen Walking Stick insects near the cold concrete back entrance to my workplace. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, imagine a master of camouflage, which is expert at appearing to be a branch and twigs. It’s likely you’ve seen them and not known it, in fact.

I suppose the creatures appear at our back door because they are seeking some warmth, but after a few days they end up squashed or caught in a spiderweb, or otherwise demised. I had often thought of rescuing one (up until this year I think I’ve usually seen one each year) by removing it to nicer surroundings, but only in 2009 did I find out that some people do actually keep these as pets. They do not live a long time – usually one year or less. Enough time to grow, mate, leave eggs for next spring, and die. They are insects. That’s what they do.

So I read up on how people take care of the little critters (vertical cage/tank, sticks to climb upon, leaves to eat - bramble, rose, raspberry, blackberry, sassafras, oak – romaine lettuce in a pinch but only if you soak and rinse it thoroughly to remove residual pesticides). There are quite a few WebPages where I was able to learn how to do this. Apparently some elementary school teachers raise sticks in order to teach kids about insects. I even found an email discussion list (Sticktalk !). Of course I joined it! You knew I would!

SO when one showed up this last September after our first chilly weekend, I was ready – I used a “sawed-off” plastic gallon water jug and a clear plastic bag to capture and hold it through the workday, then on my way home I bought a small fish-tank with a screen top, turned it on its side and filled it with wild rose branches in a cup of water. All was good. My specimen was a classic 5-inch long twig-looking thing but was missing some legs – not uncommon I read when the bird bites, a leg gets let go. 

I used the most excellent site bugguide.net to figure out that I had adopted a male Diapheromera femorata: The Northern Walkingstick. Most of the thousands of species of stick- and leaf-imitating insects are tropical but we have a couple of species in North America and D. femorata is by far the most common. Here is a load of images from bugguide.net :  http://bugguide.net/node/view/34736/bgimage

That week I had all of my Audit Team members up in NJ for a meeting and so they all got to see me get all excited over a bug. I decided this critter would be our audit mascot and named him …. “Audie.” About a week later another male showed up at work – a little smaller – also missing a leg. A little less-inspired, I named him “Junior” and home he came.   A few days later, Audie passed away – no connection I think – they are not aggressive towards one another and have no equipment (like teeth) to bite each other – they are strictly herbivores with mouth-parts something like grasshoppers. But not too many days after that Junior passed away also. And so I was stickless. But it had been fun, they had died in comfortable environs with plenty to eat, and I had everything I needed, and had learned all I needed to know, ….  so I cleaned up the tank to be ready for next year. Then …. two weeks later … the next thing you know……

On Nov 2 a female showed up at work. The females are a much lighter and greener color and they have fatter bodies than their twiggy brethren. This one had all three legs on her right side, but on the left, only two-thirds of her front leg and no middle or back leg. But she still seemed to get around pretty well - pretty sturdy and resilient, in fact. The name “Hermione” popped into my brain for no clear reason – some assumed it was from Harry Potter, but actually the image in my mind had more connection to the elderly actress Hermione Gingold. ( http://media.linkara.com/_images_/verticales/8/0/9/7/imagen_hermione_gingold_0102_0.jpg

Then another week later there was a fourth find: named Luna (yes, this time after Harry Potter!), but she seemed quite weak from the moment I found her and did not survive 24 hours.

But Hermione lived with us for a full month and, wonder of wonders, soon began dropping eggs at the rate of 3 to 5 eggs per day.  I now have 140 of her potential offspring.  These eggs are cute tiny little two-toned footballs, and the pictures I’ve seen of hatchlings are even cuter. Here are some great images of eggs and hatchings I’ve robbed from the net… http://westjersey.org/sticks/

And now, the home movie….. This video was taken Nov 29, 2009, one week before Hermione died. http://vimeo.com/8152108 … Usually Hermione stayed motionless during the day, (as sticks are wont to do), and then rambled and fed at night, but this time I caught her in motion with enough light to video.

So most people have written me off as a hopeless eccentric for keeping any kind of insect at all. But I have made an observation about what I am calling “yoga people.” As I have described needing to find homes for surplus hatchlings (should a large percentage of the 140 live and thrive), most people have thought such homes unlikely to be found. But one day after yoga I was telling my sticky story and TWO of the people there (not from the same household) VOLUNTEERED when I got to this point that: “oh maybe we could take some and raise them!” This could be my new litmus test to sniff out people open to expanding their hearts in unusual directions. Are they open to making room for 5-inch leggy insects? Are you?

UPDATE: 2011 April 17:   Only a handful of Hermione's eggs hatched in 2010 (Wenda, Egbert, Benita and Trisket), but only Wenda survived to adulthood.  Because she never had a chance to mate, I was curious to see if any of Wenda's eggs would hatch, which would prove that this species is capable of reproducing asexually (also known as parthenogenesis).  Wenda's eggs did not hatch, so while not a complete dis-proof, I am mostly convinced that Diapheromera femorata is only sexually reproducing. 

BUT!!!!  In Fall 2010, I brought home 2 female stick bugs (Alta and Swipe), and 5 males (Baba Looey, Snagglebutt, Wavy Gravy, Hoover, and Spot), from the Great Stick Bug Dying Grounds at work, and provided hospice care for them (and one male from a camp in Medford: Randy).  Alta and Swipe left me many eggs and the hatch and survival rate has been phenomenal.  Close to 80 or 90, and most have survived multiple moults. 

My population explosion started hatching in February and I did not have food for them, so one of the Sticktalk people who lives in Beverly, NJ shared some frozen oak leaves with me.  In return I've given him some of my over-supply.  This retired school science teacher raises two species that are not native to South Jersey: Indian Walking Sticks (Carausius morosus : Carausius morosus http://bugguide.net/node/view/267361/bgimage ), and Leaf Insects (genus Phylliidae : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylliidae).  He has had a population explosion of Indian Stick Insects, and offered me some, but I don't want to raise anything that is not native to this area.  I can always release individuals or eggs back to the environment here.  I still have many if anyone is interested in raising some.

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Rip VanChristmas

Have not used this blog in a loooooong time.  Most activity on Facebook now, but if there is a convenient blog on FB I have not found it.  LJ could be a place for lengthier or deeper meditations that could then be linked into FB status when appropriate.

Right now have at least 3 rings in my circus:

1) Work has dominated this year.  I won't be blogging about that here.

2) Dissertation went nowhere this year, tho some good thought and scribbles have come out of me from time to time.  I may do some preliminary blogging on this topic here, but "keepers" will be going to my Stevens Research Blog.

3) West Jersey History is probably the topic which would best be blogged here.  Again, not a lot of advancement for my website, and some serious degradation due to not keeping up with the expiring links.  I've made most of the WJH Roundtable meetings and that is one of the highlights of each month.  I've got tons I want to do with my site, but it should take a back seat to my dissertation, if I ever want that dissertation to be finished.  WJH will be occasional dessert, I guess.

Now - off all previous topics - does anybody know why Pandora leaves a log-in screen up after I have logged in?  To get the music started I have to click the default button on that subscreen, then hit "Back" - THEN I see my stations, and one of them starts playing etc....
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lots of loose ends

Well, I got quite a few things finished up enough to post this weekend.

For a long time I had been sitting on a study of indicators of attitudes toward slavery in South Jersey. Got some much-needed feedback from other people involved in SJ history and am ready to link it in with my site.

It is linked in as

"4) Discussion of persistence of cultural and attitudinal patterns in the Pre-War period (1790 - 1860)"

on the page: http://westjersey.org/ssn.htm

My daughter Chandra also tipped me off to a great project that solicits information from citizens on which major cities they most affiliate with. It was obvious from the map that the affiliation today is a virtual mirror of the old West Jersey/East Jersey line, so I had to get that pic and link up on my site. That spurred me to finalize and link in my page for maps, which I have been working on for months:


I even got the mystery poles page linked in: http://westjersey.org/wjh_expl.htm

Now, yet to do: some of the early writings about West Jersey:

1685: Thomas Budd's "Good Order Established in Pennsylvania and West Jersey"
1698: Gabriel Thomas' "An account of Pennsylvania and West New Jersey"

pieces of these are to be found on the net, so I will just be publishing the pieces that aren't out there now, and linking the parts that are....

then, I'm thinking about a page for George Keith......

SO much to do!!!!
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who isn't touched?

So my second cousins lost one of our ancestral homes in the hurricane:
And one of Meed's second-cousins is in that awful Convention Center.

It's amazing to me how many people I know who have family affected by this.

In the meantime, I am starting to plan a reunion of my high school friends - first step is tracking everyone down and updating my contact list. The web is making this much easier than last time I did this in 1996/7.

I'm remembering a line from that supposed commencement speech ("Use sunscreen") that was falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut (It was actually Mary Schmich and was quite good!). "...the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young."

Well, I've gotta ton of web-work to do.....
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give the devil his due

well, I'm still cleaning up. Yet another piece of Drexel junk mail. Open it to see the memorial to Professor Kaplan (d.1/26/05). I never had him for a class as I can recall, tho possibly - he was big in the department so i saw him frequently. But the times I remember seeing him best was when I had to get his approval for dropping a class. So *THE* time I remember him most vividly was when I was dropping two core courses I was doing poorly in....And he looked up at me from his desk and sneered..."*YOU'RE* never going to get out of here!" Well. That was pretty humiliating. And I formed a pretty bad opinion of him then. Sour old %^&*%*^. But that sting stayed with me and it colored a few later decisions. One of them was whether to transfer to Stevens ... I'd lose certain credits....might add another year to the process.....It was already a five year course, and it was clear I was already going to end up doing at least 6...... and so this would add yet another year ...... (cue the echo chamber: "YYOOUURREE NNEEVVERR GGOOIINNGG TTOO GGEETT OOUUTTT OOFF HHEEEEERRRRRRRRREEEE !!!!!!") ... I stayed, stuck it out...



thanks martin....

even more
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wasp tales


anyway, 2 nights later, there are two confused-looking wasps on the 'floor' of the newspaper box. I don't know what complex social unit I must have destroyed but it's sad.

The two I drove away probably never got back, the 2 or 3 left behind lost their half-built home that night....now two are just displaced persons at the bottom of my box... :-(

The Ghost Towns of Southern NJ list had its first flame war today. At least in my experience. I tried to lighten it up with a whimsical post about the time South Jersey was part of the Dominion of New England for a year or so. We shall wait and see the fruits of whimsy ....

Other than that I'm cleaning up for the return of my Meed tomorrow. Took her painting to the AC Art Center today. Got a call in the evening that she was well and about to go to the talent show at Camp Onas (the Quaker High school group).

Tired, but happy and about to go make more cleanliness. Offspring may appear at some point in the weekend, but no certainty on that....

fly the ocean in a silver plane.......see the jungle when it's wet with rain....just remember til you're home again......

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taking the plonge


For my first post I will announce that I have gotten an old article on the West Jersey Proprietors up on my site. Being from 1922, it is one year under the magic year of 1923 before which all published works are now Public Domain.

Go PD!

Somer is a'goin' out it seems..Nice nip in the morning. Fall is the best. Summer bites. And stings... Our newspaper box has a nascent wasp nest. I swung by on the way to work, grapped the Press and then as I proceeded down the road I found my car infested by wasps. Well. There were 2. But in a Civic, that's infested. Shrank down until I could pull over. At first I thought that they had nested in my A/C system - would have been a true problem. Then figured out the newspaperian origin. Not sure what to do. Hate to poison the little rascals. Might try to knock it loose. Then tip. Later. Much later...

there are the horse-whisperers
I am the wasp-tipper
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