Lifestyle and Lifespan
The Black beauty walking stick is large and compact, with a velvety-black coloration on its legs and body. In the wild morph, the eyes appear a golden-yellow, the mouthparts are red, and the antenna are black at the base but fade to a brown toward the tip, which is white. It has two pairs of wings: the forewings and hindwings. The forewings are small, leathery, and mostly black with yellow veins, and the hindwings are bright red. There exists a pink morph, known only in captivity, which has the same overall black velvety body, but with yellow mouthparts and pink hindwings. Males are smaller and slenderer than females, and nymphs look like small versions of the adults without any wings.
The black beauty walking stick can be differentiated from similar species by its small fore- and hindwings. The black beauty walking stick has a couple of synonymous common names: Peruvian black beauty walking stick and the golden-eyed stick insect. These names all refer to Peruphasma schultei.
The black beauty walking stick has a liquid irritant it can spray at predators. It is corrosive and has a strong odor.
It is found in small patches of dwarf tropical forest where an unidentified pepper tree species lives.
Though not enough information is known on this relatively new species to determine home range size, population number or density, the entire known range is restricted to the Cordillera del Condor in northern Peru, which is only five hectares in size.
In the wild, the black beauty walking stick eats exclusively from an as-yet unidentified species of pepper tree from the Schinus genus, but in captivity will eat lilac and privet.
This stick insect is known to feed only on plants.
During the day, it hides among bromeliads that grow on cliffs. It is only at dusk and during the night that these insects are active.
Defensive position is exhibited by erecting the hind wings (which are bright red). It does this right before spraying the irritant.
Black beauty walking sticks may be found together since they feed on only one species of plant in the wild. Additionally, in captivity they are kept in groups and do not fight.
The species can reproduce sexually and asexually through parthenogenesis. Not much else is known on the reproductive behavior of this species.
Females are capable of both sexual and asexual reproduction, thus if a female reproduces through parthenogenesis, the offspring are clones of the female and will also be female. Eggs are pale brown with black mottling and about 4 millimeters long. In the wild morph, the egg yolk is red, but in the pink morph (so far only seen in captivity), the egg yolk is yellow. Nymphs are fast moving and look like adults without wings. They reach maturity between 4 and 5 months of age.
The black beauty walking stick has no special status on the IUCN redlist or the CITES appendices. However, its range, the Cordillera del Condor in northern Peru, is protected by two Wildlife Refuge and Rescue plots, which were originally established in 2004 and 2005 to protect the poison frog Dendrobates mysteriosus, which is endemic to Peru. These plots are funded by the Purchase of Nature initiative, run by IUCN’s National Committee of the Netherlands. The wild population is managed by local conservation chiefs, and money raised by selling them goes to ensuring the protection of its habitat.
This species was collected in 2004 and formally described and introduced as a new species in 2005, by Rainer Schulte. It has since become one of the most popular and widespread stick insects in captivity.
Exhibit and educate
There are two color morphs of the black beauty walking stick—the wild, or red wing morph, seen in the wild, and the pink morph, with pink wings and yellow mouthparts. It is thought that coloration is a sex-linked trait and the pink morph is a recessive trait. Most of the pink morphs found in captivity are likely to be males.
The scientific name, Peruphasma schultei, was named after Rainer Schulte, a German wildlife rescue and management specialist who collected the original specimens.
The body is covered in tiny bristles known as setae. While setae in other organisms have functions ranging from sensory organs to locomotion and adhesion, it is unknown as of yet what purpose they serve for the black beauty walking stick.