A delivery of rare phasmid eggs has arrived in the UK. The phasmid eggs have been shipped from Melbourne to Bristol Zoo in a bid to ensure the future survival of the species, news that coincides well with the publication of CSIRO Publishing's new children's book Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect.

Thought to have been driven to extinction by the introduction of rats to the island after a shipwreck in 1918, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid, or Stick Insect, was rediscovered in 2001 on Ball’s Pyramid, a volcanic outcrop 23 kilometers off the coast of Lord Howe Island, Australia. Said to be one of the rarest insects on Earth, just one bush supported the whole population of between 24 and 40 individuals.

Phasmid

Adult Lord Howe Island stick insects can measure up to 15 centimetres.
Unlike most phasmida, the insects have no wings. Reproduction can happen without the presence of males (parthenogenesis) which has allowed the species to survive when they are low in numbers.

In 2003 a breeding pair was taken to Melbourne Zoo and after 12 generations of successful breeding, 300 eggs have been shipped to Bristol, with batches also being sent to Toronto and San Diego as insurance populations should anything happen to the group at Melbourne.

The long-term plan is for rodents to be eradicated from Lord Howe Island and the captive population of stick insects to be reintroduced, with a species of owl to keep their new population in check.

CSIRO Publishing’s new children’s book Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect, written by Rohan Cleave, invertebrate zookeeper at Melbourne Zoo, and illustrated by renowned artist Coral Tulloch, tells this incredible story about one species' survival in a time of worldwide species decline.


Please note: Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect is not for sale in Australasia.