The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect has been called the world's rarest insect. It was thought to be extinct in 1930 before being re-discovered in 2001 on Balls Pyramid- a precipitous rocky island off the coast of lord Howe Island.
They became extinct on Lord Howe island when a ship ran aground in 1918 releasing introduced black rats to the island. These rats found the large resident stick insects very tasty and wiped them out quickly. By 1930 the species was declared extinct
Researchers removed a male and female from Balls Pyramid and brought them to Melbourne Zoo. Thanks to the determined efforts of the invertebrate keepers this pair was successfully bred and in 10 years over 9,000 stick insects have been born that descend from this single pair.
- These insects can measure up to 15 cm long with females being slightly larger.
- They have been called the 'Land Lobster' due to their unusual appearance
- They are mostly nocturnal in nature
- Females are able to breed without the need for males. This is known as 'Parthenogenesis' and is fairly common with stick insects. When this occurs the offspring will all be female and effectively a clone of their mum.
- In 2012 Melbourne Zoo are giving 20 schools the opportunity to breed this species in the classroom.
- Efforts are underway to remove the introduced Black Rats from Lord Howe
Island so the captive-bred stick insects can one day soon be re-introduced.
The one remaining wild population of 24 insects on Balls Pyramid is under threat due to:
- Any random event (e.g. a rock slide) could wipe out the entire population
- Illegal collection: access to Balls Pyramid is currently restricted to prevent poaching
- Invasive weeds: Morning Glory is encroaching on the few shrubs that provide habitat to the population on Balls Pyramid
- Balls Pyramid is very vulnerable to disturbance. Access to the site is tightly restricted to protect the environment
As for Lord Howe Island once rats are removed the conditions should be OK to re-introduce the insects. Recently introduced owls could pose a problem though.
At our Zoos...
In the Wild...
- Balls Pyramid off Lord Howe Island