Sticky: A film about the amazing stick insect of Lord Howe

March 13, 2015 • 3:20 pm

I’ve written twice before about Drycoceocelus australis, the giant stick insect of Lord Howe, an isolated volcanic island in the South Pacific (see here and here). The beast was once thought to be extinct, but climbers found 24 on Ball’s Pyramid, a jutting vertical spire of rock about 8 km from Lord Howe. They’re “youge,” as Philomena would say, weighing up to nearly an ounce, and look like this:

The Lord Howe stick insect. Photo by Rod Morris/

Over the past few years, thousands of these insects have been reared en masse at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia, and are starting to be reintroduced on Lord Howe, where the predatory population of human-introduced rats has now been extinguished. Let’s hope the introduction is successful, for this is truly a remarkable creature.

There’s an animated 20-minute video of the rediscovery and rescue of the species, “Sticky,” narrated by one of the climbers who found this insect, and it’s well worth watching. In fact, if your kids like nature, watch this with them and show them pictures of the insect (be sure to look at my two earlier posts as well). I think this will be one of the great successes of conservation. But remember, people went to all this effort because this is a giant and charismatic insect. Nobody would ever try to save a 3-mm-long beetle this way, and that’s just sad, for what this insect has going for it is sheer size, but how many other biological marvels hide in smaller creatures?

h/t: Sarah

26 thoughts on “Sticky: A film about the amazing stick insect of Lord Howe

        1. OK, Vicar of Dibley sticks in mind because the Vicar told it to Alice and Alice, typically and famously, totally failed to ‘get’ it and tried to deconstruct it. As she did with every single joke told to her.

          1. Someone won a poetry competition with a verse defending the wētā, that ended

            “Treat a weta better
            set a

            My sister had the clipping on her fridge for years, but no longer. G**gle doesn’t help. Does anyone have a copy?

  1. I have heard of this, and it is great to see a lovely animation about it. Here is another video with live footage of the Lazarus insect and their rescuer. It includes footage of how they hatch from eggs, and it is quite a birth.

  2. Be careful, my internet search for the movie Sticky kept turning up a movie with the same title but about masturbation.

    Here’s a link for the insect movie:

    1. I bet those looking for that sort of porn would be confused if their search linked them to the documentary! ‘Hey, these giant bugs really don’t do it for me… hmmm… waitaminute…’

  3. Very nicely done, and captivating. Such a wonderful story.

    I was a little unsure about the yellow…essences?…rising out of the dying organisms, though.

  4. Doesn’t look much like a stick insect.

    From Wikipedia (Balls Pyramid page): “they discovered a population of the Lord Howe Island stick insect living in an area of 6 by 30 metres (20 by 98 ft), at a height of 100 metres (330 ft) above the shoreline, under a single Melaleuca howeana shrub.” That brings home how rare they were. What if the shrub had died?

    Wow. How did they find a shrub with enough room ‘under’ it not to fall off?

    A bit like the Oglaroonians in Doug Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide, the entire population of which lived in one small nut tree.

  5. Enjoyed the video. This brings to mind our (meaning just in general the human population) collective short memory about recently extinct biota. The world in our own life spans can seem like the status quo, we don’t sense the loss of things we never knew. The Great Auk is not in any of my field guides to birds, but maybe it should be there.

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