Fact Check

Walking Stick

Texas dog has unfortunate encounter with a walkingstick from Belize?

Published Sept. 11, 2003


Claim:   Texas dog has unfortunate encounter with a walkingstick from Belize.

Status:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

Safety Notice — Nasty Walkingstick Bug

Be on the lookout for this bug...

Here is a safety related tid bit that I discovered because of my dog. This could be useful for those of us and our families outside. On Monday night my dog sniffed at a rather large bug (about 3 inches long) that was on our garage wall and immediately reeled back. I checked her over and saw nothing wrong — she was just pawing at her nose a little then seemed normal. Tuesday morning when I woke up she had an eye swollen shut. I irrigated it with saline and took her to the vet — she had a chemical burn on her cornea. She is getting treatment and making good progress to, hopefully, complete recovery. I photographed the bug and sent pictures to Texas A & M Entomology department — the bug is Anisomorpha monstrosa, a breed of walking stick insect imported from Belize and becoming common on the Gulf coast. This is not the normal walking stick most people are familiar with (if you are familiar with them). The female is from two to four inches long and heavy bodied. It ranges from weathered gray to shiny black in color with a distinctive pattern on its back in yellow or dull orange. This insect has a pair of meta-thoracic defense glands which can spray an irritating secretion towards "attacking" objects. Temporary blindness has been recorded when the secretion contacts eyes. If washed out promptly with sterile saline this poses no real hazard. If not promptly removed a chemical burn of the cornea can occur.

Here is a quote from a commercial fruit grower in Florida sent to me by the entomologist: "I went out to pick blueberries yesterday and found the bushes loaded with walking stick insects. As I picked I took to having sneezing fits. I then noticed that an unusual scent as the sneezing fit came over me. I wondered what the source of the substance could be, as I continued picking I glimpsed wisps of a yellowish color appearing in the air as the scent occurred. Then a walking stick jumped onto my hat just above my right eye, it let me have a face full of it's defense secretion & I thought that I had been sprayed with mace!"

Another reported in the gulf coast is Anisomorpha buprestoides — same capabilities. They can actually spray this chemical defense spray about 10 to 12 inches! It is recommended that you rinse any sprayed area with water as the chemical is water soluble. Again, these are not the normal thin green or brown walking sticks you are familiar with — here are photos. The first two are the harmful imports (the one labeled nasty is what got my dog) the last is the not so bad Texas native.

After checking my yard I found three more of these and killed them they are an undesirable import and the A & M guy said if you see them kill them — he actually recommended dropping them in boiling hot water to kill the eggs the female carries inside as well. These are getting more and more common on the gulf coast — watch out for these and don't let your kids near them.

Just when you thought killer bees were bad enough.

Origins:   There are a couple of issues to tackle here:

1.   Does the above message describe an encounter with Anisomorpha monstrosa, a species of walkingstick native to


According to the Entomology department at Texas A & M University, Dr. John Jackman, an Extension Entomology Specialist, says that a native species of walking stick, Anisomorpha buprestoides, has likely been mistaken for a foreign species, as there "are no confirmed instances of any foreign species of walkingstick in Texas."

2.   Do walkingsticks spray a compound that can be harmful to one's eyes?

Either species of walkingstick mentioned here (Anisomorpha monstrosa or Anisomorpha buprestoides) can spray an acidic compound from glands on the back of its thorax which is capable of causing extreme discomfort should it land in the eyes of a person or other animal, although we have not located any cases where such an occurrence resulted in permanent blindness.

As with most bugs that do not pose an immediate threat, the best advice is generally to just leave them alone — if you don't bother them, they won't bother you. Pets are another matter, of course, because they aren't so easily taught what to avoid. Just about any pet allowed to roam outside freely will encounter a variety of bugs (e.g., bees, wasps, ants, spiders) that could potentially cause them discomfort or injury through biting, stinging, or other defensive means, and even the most dedicated of pet owners can't kill off every bug that might harm their animals. About the best pet owners can do is to hope their pets learn through experience which bugs to leave alone, and try to be alert to the first signs of discomfort in their pets so that any serious bites or stings are treated as quickly as possible.

Last updated:   17 March 2008

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.