Life cycle of the stick insect

Updated February 21, 2017

Phasmatodea, commonly known as the stick insect, typically live between 12 and 16 months. An otherwise unique species, its life cycle closely resembles other insects. After hatching, they undergo several stages of moulting until reaching adulthood. Moulting is the process through which insects grow by shedding their entire skin.


Female stick insects lay between 1 and 1,000 eggs at a time in one of three ways: hidden in leaf litter, buried underground or dropped individually from tall trees. Phasmatodea are so numerous in certain tropical areas that the sounds of their eggs dropping resemble rainfall.

Gestation and Molting

Eggs of the stick insect hatch after being dormant between one and three seasons, depending on the species of phasmatodea and the habitat it in which it lives. The insect climbs up a tree after hatching, and will moult at least five times before adulthood, completely shedding old skin repeatedly until fully grown.


Male stick insects are extremely rare, perhaps 1 in every 1,000. The fully grown male is smaller than the female, and measures between 2 and 2.5 inches in length. The males generally have wings that enable them to fly around and find a mate.


Most female phasmatodea grow to be about 3 inches long, although in parts of the tropics there are stick insects that measure a foot in length.The females are wingless or have a reduced wingspan.


Because of the rarity of male phasmatodea, most reproduction occurs by parthenogenesis, the process through which the females lay viable eggs unfertilised by male sperm. When they do couple, male and female stick insects may stay together anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.

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About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.