When we think of walking sticks hardly anyone imagines a 6 inch black with yellow striped monster that almost always has a pint sized replica on its back. From Florida to Texas and as far north as South Carolina people want to know. What’s that bug?
Other names it is known by are devil’s riding horse, prairie alligator, stick bug, witch’s horse, devil’s darning needle, scorpion, spitting devils and musk mare. That’s a lot of names for just one bug and I can only imagine what prompted so many. Its true name is rather boring but descriptive and that is the two striped walking stick. Once you’ve seen one your curiosity is peeked and walking stick is the farthest thing from your mind. Search engines aren’t much help unless you put” walking stick” in the search bar and some of the other names might bring you to some pretty risqué web sites. Not good for the 8th grader trying to do a report for school.
Spitting devils are black and have two stripes that go the length of their bodies. They get this nick name from their ability to ‘spit’ a white irritating substance at any creature that gets to close. Their aim is excellent up to a foot away and it has been observed to ward off attacking ants, birds or kids with sticks who are poking at them. The spray can be excruciatingly painful if it gets in your eyes and it may take several days for the effects to wear off. On the skin however the reaction is much milder but just as long as she gets her point across its mission accomplished.
Almost every time you see one you will see the much smaller male who ‘piggybacks’ on the female at all times. If they should fall and get separated the male will quickly scurry to find his place again. The hardy pair seems oblivious to liquid insect sprays but products such as Raid or insecticidal aerosols can knock them down pretty quickly.
Contrary to common beliefs the walking stick is a plant eater and the two stripped walking stick is no different. The main defense of the traditional walking stick is its disguise; it looks like a stick when still. The ugly spitting devil however doesn’t resemble any stick and perhaps that’s why Mother Nature equipped her with the irritating ooze.
Spitting devils are not considered a pest per se (that is unless you get squirted in the eye by her) so no real pest control treatments are necessary. There are times when you may find several of them hanging out on an exterior wall of your home and a simple relocation of the bug using a broom or shovel will do. If you do need to move one or spray for some reason, don’t get to close, you’re liable to irritate it and get sprayed at. This may cause you to invent a new name for this bug and do we really need that?