Soapberry bug eggs in a Petri dish that is 5 cm across
Soapberry bug eggs in a Petri dish that is 5 cm across

Many animals hatch from eggs, including most insects. As you might expect, the size of the eggs an animal lays depends on who big the adults are. (For example, the extinct giant elephant bird laid really big eggs!)

Most insects’ eggs are tiny. So it’s hard to catch and film the moment when one hatches. However, some insects can get relatively big. Dryococelus australis is a species of stick insect endemic to the Lord Howe Islands, a small group of islands between Australia and New Zealand. “Endemic” means it lives no where else, and these stick insects have actually become critically endangered. They evolved on the islands with no mammal predators. Rats were accidentally introduced by European ships, and they nearly ate all of the giant stick insects.

Fortunately, biologists at the Melbourne Zoo have begun raising  Dryococelus australis. They’ve even produced a remarkable video of these insects hatching.

Watching this video, it seems clear that for giant stick insects, hatching is a difficult process. Having watched smaller bugs hatch under a microscope, I can tell you that they also have to contort themselves seriously to get out of their eggs. Hatching and later molting are generally recognized as very dangerous events in the life of an insect– but of course they are essential to their growth and reproduction.

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