We already know that stick insects are great at camouflage. They are able to trick prey and predators into believing they are simply twigs. Well, it turns out their unborn babies may be just as clever. The Journal of Chemical Ecology recently published a study, in which the researchers found that the eggs of the stick insects have “knobs” coated in a special fatty acid, called capitula, that is irresistible to ants. These knobs are meant to look like seeds that are coated in this fatty acid that draws ants to them. The ants then end up dragging the knob back to their nest, where it rests until it is ready to hatch.
Previously, scientists were confused as to why ants were attracted to the eggs of stick insects. To find the answer, scientists tested stick insect eggs, those with and without capitula, by scattering the batch around ant nests. The ants ignored the eggs without capitula and collected around 40 percent of the eggs with capitula. The scientists performed the same test with regular plastic balls, and the same thing happened. This research could reveal that fatty acids may play a large part in the interactions between plants and insects. There is also a growing body of evidence linking fatty acids to plant and animal communication.
Do you ever run into the expertly camouflaged stick insect? What are your thoughts on it?