For the entomophobic among us, a project that aims to bring more ginormous stick insects into the world doesn't sound very appealing. But considering only three female Ctenomorpha gargantua insects have ever been seen in the wild, a captive-breeding project may be our only chance to better understand this incredible species.

Giant Stick Insect Ruler 2016 01 07
Image © Museum Victoria

In a world first, staff at Australia’s Museum Victoria have successfully reared a new generation of captive-bred Ctenomorpha gargantua stick insects – from tiny nymphs to nightmare-inducing fully grown adults as long as your forearm.

The captive-reared insects recently laid eggs of their own, making the museum the first and only institution in the world to have a breeding colony of this supersized species. It’s a vital step towards securing the insects' survival and bringing them into the public eye.

Although the unhatched nymphs don't know it, their grandmother – nicknamed "Lady Gaga-ntuan" by her keepers – is kind of a celebrity in stick insect circles. Measuring in at 50cm (20 inches) long, grandma set the record for the largest stick insect ever found in Australia in 2014. That feat has since been overshadowed by one of her daughters, who grew to 56,5cm (22 inches)! They grow up so fast.

But raising stick insects is no walk in the park. A dedicated team headed up by Maik Fiedel, the Coordinator of Live Exhibits at Museum Victoria, ensured that Lady Gaga’s eggs were carefully monitored, and once the little monsters emerged, they were shepherded through their troubled teenage years until they ultimately reached adulthood. At times it was a round-the-clock job.

“It’s great to see these incredible creatures finally mature to the point where they are laying their own eggs,” Maik says. “It’s been a tough journey over the last 18 months so we’re really excited to see what happens next.”

On the importance of the breeding program, Patrick Honan, Manager of Live Exhibits adds: “Gargantuan stick insects live high in the canopy, are very well camouflaged and highly sedentary so it’s no surprise so few have ever been found. For a species that’s so rarely seen, it’s wonderful to have even a few live specimens in captivity. Research into captive breeding is essential for the long-term security of many species, and having them on display enables everyone to appreciate the amazing creatures we have in our world.”

Giant Stick Insect 2 2016 01 07
Image © Museum Victoria