I saw this tweet a while back, and it made me awfully curious:

stick insects can have sex for 1400 hours

Is that true? Because that seems like not a very smart thing to do, if you are a large and tasty insect.  Or, in this case, two large leaf-eating insects belonging to a group that specializes in being invisible to predators by looking like a stick.  Two sticks having sex is the sort of thing I’d notice, anyway.

mating insectsThe risk of predation while you are making out–or more literally “hooking up” in the case of insects–is a major issue.  You can see from this photo that a fair amount of Kama Sutra-ish contortion is needed to successfully maneuver into place.  This does tend to inhibit one’s ability to run away!

Several different papers I read repeated that stick insects have remained paired for up to 79 days, but I was not able to see an actual reference with the original details.  Some of the references cited date back to 1910, so not surprising that I can’t get my hands on a digital copy.

From one paper describing mating behavior:

“The Indian stick insect Necroscia sparaxes may remain coupled for up to 79 days (a record for insects)”…Intromission may occur only initially or intermittently. In either case, a substantial proportion of male time-investment is not spent in ejaculate transfer. 

In captivity, Diapheromera veliei and D. covilleae pair for 3 to 136 hours and the penis may be inserted and removed up to 9 times. The genitalia are not in contact for ca. 40% of this period, and attachment is maintained by a male clasping organ.

It’s generally thought that the male hangs around in order to have repeated matings, but also to drive off other males that want to get lucky. I found several reports of stick insect menage a trois (or sept) in the literature, including this etching of kinky stick insect activity.  The male is–literally–cock-blocking a competitor.

So, it’s probably correct to say that stick insects can remain paired for up to 79 days, even though I can’t verify that directly. It is less correct to say that they “have sex” for 79 days, just as it would not be technically correct to say you mated for 8 hours if you had sex at 10pm and again at 6am.  Well, unless you are into that tantric stuff, anyway.

Snce 1400 hours = 58 days, the numbers don’t match up, and it is not correct that stick insects mate for 1400 hours.   It’s more like 1,896 hours!


Sivinski, J. (1978). Intrasexual Aggression in the Stick Insects Diapheromera Veliei and D. Covilleae and Sexual Dimorphism in the Phasmatodea, Psyche: A Journal of Entomology, 85 (4) 405. DOI: 10.1155/1978/35784

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. I’ve witnessed stick insect orgies before – actually I posted some photos here: http://rebeccainthewoods.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/insect-camo/. They would hang out on the same palmetto, paired up, for days.

  2. […] more specifically, 79 days, says pseudonymous entomologist–blogger Bug Girl. It’s generally thought that the male hangs around in order to have repeated matings, but also to […]

  3. We rarely see them NOT paired up. Fun post!

  4. […] Bug Girl is in top form as she asks whether stick insects can really mate for 1400 hours. […]

  5. […] a recent post over there at Bug Girl’s Blog commenting upon sex duration time in stick insects. As Bug Girl noted, […]

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