Spitting devils are just a walking stick

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?

About The Bug Doctor

Jerry Schappert is a certified pest control operator and Associate Certified Entomologist with over two and a half decades of experience from birds to termites and everything in between. He started as a route technician and worked his way up to commercial/national accounts representative. Always learning in his craft he is familiar with rural pest services and big city control techniques. Jerry has owned and operated a successful pest control company since 1993 in Ocala,Florida. While his knowledge and practical application has benefitted his community Jerry wanted to impart his wisdom on a broader scale to help many more. Pestcemetery.com was born from that idea in 2007 and has been well received. It is the goal of this site to inform you with his keen insights and safely guide you through your pest control treatment needs.

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  • Funwes3

    One of my earliest childhood memories (age 2-3) was having this bug “spit” in my mouth.  No amount of popsicles could sooth the pain on my tongue.  I learned a very important lesson that day: keep your mouth closed no matter how amazed you are.

  • Awesome story, I can see where that would leave a lasting impression….. lol
    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  • sherie c

    Are they poisionious for animals?! My dog had a pair in his kennel & came out flipping & flopping from there … wasnt sure if they bite or if the ‘spit’ could make him sick?!

  • It might have shot some of its ‘goo’ if the dog reacted like that– but it is not posionous like a snake bite- more of a deterrent– albeit, a nasty one I’m sure.

  • Jill from Florida

    I’ve been seeing these around the outside of the house and porch for the past few months. I’ve seen the “regular” walking sticks plenty of times, but these were something new to me.

    About a month ago, I put my phone near one (I was coming home from work around 10 p.m. and wanted a closer look), and I saw this brown liquid suddenly splattered across the screen. Thankfully not my face.

    Today, my son (read: cat) approached one just outside of the back porch. As he was getting closer, he suddenly jerked back, did a backflip, and shot into the porch, one eye closed and looking like he had a bad taste in his mouth. Finally decided to look these guys up, because I was worried the stuff might be toxic.

    Good to know it isn’t, even if it probably burned my little furry son’s eye. I think his cheeks and lips got most of it.

  • Something he won’t forget I’m sure– Glad it wasn’t serious

  • Sara Smith

    My sister in law’l home has been invaded with ‘mating’ walking sticks. She had small children and pets. One has already spit in the 6 yr old’s eye. They seem to be every where. Any suggestions? (was hoping not to have to spray w Demon, some have reactions to the strong chemicals…)

  • Hard to spray effectively until you see them… Really tough to kill even then. A professional company could do a ‘power spray’ for you which both the volume and residual would be your best best…. but even then a week or so later you’d have those beyond the range of the treatment wandering in. Teach the kids to leave them be, although it sounds like at least one child has learned that lesson…. so sorry they got squirted