Nature Notes: That twig just moved!

The first report of a UK stick insect comes from a garden in Paignton back in 1909

The first report of a UK stick insect comes from a garden in Paignton back in 1909 - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I was sitting in Morrisons car park the other evening and was thinking, where else can you go to the supermarket and hear the roar of lions and the evocative wailing of peacocks as you push your heavily laden trolley along?

However, those living in the Bay don't have to go our fabulous zoo to get close to exotic wildlife... it could actually be a lot closer to you than you think.

In fact, there could possibly be some rather exotic residents living in your very own back garden!

These 'escapees' - although not quite as spectacular as the escaped West Caucasian Tur, a species of goat-like antelope that escaped the zoo in 2018, or as terrifying as the leopard that escaped and terrorized Paignton residents back in 1939 - they might also have a link to the zoo.

These reclusive Torbay residents are stick insects - Prickly Stick Insects to be precise.

The first report of a UK stick insect actually comes from a garden in Paignton back in 1909. Their presence was attributed to a consignment of plants imported from New Zealand in 1903.

Interestingly, it is also said that Herbert Whitley, the founder of Paignton Zoo and something of a hero of mine, wouldn't use anything stronger than soap and water for spraying his plants so as not to risk his cherished stick insects. These wandered freely throughout his glasshouses.

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Whitley presented specimen plants to Torre Abbey, and I believe Goodrington, and it is quite likely that a number of these extremely hard-to-spot insects went along for the ride!

Unlike many naturalised species that often bring diseases and other detrimental effects for our indigenous wildlife, these harmless herbivores that live mainly on bramble, rose, oak, ivy and privet leaves have had no negative impact.

They do, however, rely on a mild climate - one of the reasons they thrived for so long in the Torbay area.

The freezing winter of early 2018 must have seriously dented their numbers so, next time you're trimming your leylandii or privet hedge, do keep a look out for these fascinating Antipodeans!

For more information and to report a UK sighting go to the Phasmidstudygroup.org