01 September 2009

Hooked on Orthoptera

Well, it sure didn't take long for me to become hooked on Orthoptera! For those of you who know me, I'm sure that this comes as no surprise. These insects are so darn cool. I challenge any aspiring naturalist to spend just 30 minutes looking at photos of singing insects or just listening to their calls, as I am sure that you, too, will become fascinated by them. I said it before, but I can't believe I haven't noticed them prior to this fall. Now, I can't get enough. I'm sure that I will make plenty of rookie mistakes while becoming acquainted with these insects, so if you notice one, please let me know.

I started this post last night, and tonight, while checking other blogs that I routinely visit, I saw that Jim McCormac of Ohio Birds and Biodiversity posted about singing insects today as well. It must be that time of the year. Be sure to check out his post by clicking here.

I've noticed that my photos don't look so great until they are enlarged, so please be sure to click on them to expand them and see these amazing creatures up close.

First, here is another photo of the tree cricket (Oecanthus sp.) that I posted a few days ago. In this photo, you can see the reddish cap that seems to be characteristic of the Narrow-winged Tree Cricket (Oecanthus niveus).

Below is one of the craziest-looking creatures I've ever seen. This is a conehead katydid(Neoconocephalus sp.), but I'm not yet sure which species. Don't you love it when a genus or species has such a nice, descriptive common name? Coneheads usually have wings that are as long as or longer than the body, but according to entomologist/naturalist Jim Bess, this is an immature female, as you can see that the wings are much shorter than the body. You can tell that this is a female by the long ovipositor (the organ used to lay eggs) protruding from the posterior end of the abdomen.

Here is another view, showing the underside of the cone. Many of the species in the genus Neoconocephalus have black coloring on the underside of the cone. This individual does not have this coloring, indicating that it may be a Robust Conehead (Neoconocephalus robustus), though I haven't ruled out Round-tipped Conehead (Neoconocephalus retusus), which should have a thin black line across the front of the cone. I observed this individual in Porter County, Indiana, near shrubby vegetation along Salt Creek. This area was surrounded by degraded sedge meadow.

As I was walking our trails yesterday in North Liberty, Indiana, I noticed a dark spot on a leaf of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). I stopped to look closer and saw that the spot was actually a Black-horned Tree Cricket (Oecanthus nigricornis). This species can have varying amounts of black coloring on the body and legs, but should always have black antennae (that can vary to pale black).

Also while walking our trails, I heard the tick-buzz call combination characteristic of several meadow katydids (Orchelimum spp.). I left the trail and was able to track down the source of the call, a Black-legged Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum nigripes), pictured below. You will notice that the pale face and reddish eye contrast sharply with the green body, and that portions of the legs are black.

A bit later, I heard the call of another meadow katydid (Orchelimum sp.) coming from a colony of Sandbar Willow (Salix interior). It blended in with its surroundings so well that I had my ear within a few inches of it trying to tell where the call was coming from, before I turned my head and saw an antenna. A moment later, I spotted the second antenna. I was able to follow both of these back to their origin, where I finally noticed the meadow katydid right in front of my nose.

This is a Long-spurred Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum silvaticum), a species with a green face and body, orange eyes, and reddish-brown color on the top of the abdomen. Meadow katydid species can be best distinguished from one another by the shape of their cerci (the paired appendages on the rear-most segment of the abdomen). Those of the Long-spurred Meadow Katydid have, as the name implies, a long, curved spur and are fairly sharp pointed, as shown below.

The Long-spurred Meadow Katydid is most similar to the Lesser Pine Katydid (Orchelimum minor), a species that occurs south and east of here. It is also similar in appearance to the Common Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum vulgare) and the Gladiator Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum gladiator). Gladiator Meadow Katydids are said to call earlier in the year, and to most often be found in wetlands. The cerci of the Common Meadow Katydid are blunt at the tip and have a much shorter spur. Also, the ventro-lateral hind femur of the Long-spurred Meadow Katydid has a few distal spines, while the ventro-lateral hind femur of the Common Meadow Katydid does not have these spines. I was able to see these spines when I zoomed in on my photos. Below is a video that shows the Long-spurred Meadow Katydid calling from Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata).

So there's a start. More to come, I'm sure. I saw several species new to me today in northwest Indiana, but I didn't have my camera with me at the time. Unacceptable, I know.


Justin Thomas said...

Sweet post, Scott! Delving into the insect world sounds like great fun. With posts like yours, Jim McCormac's and Ted McRae's, I am learning a lot vicariously. As I've certainly mentioned, I have been wanting to get into Leafhoppers. Through your reporting, readers like myself are bound to be better naturalists.

Scott said...

Thanks, Justin. Glad you've enjoyed these posts. I've certainly enjoyed writing them, as doing so has helped me to learn more about the insects.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Scott,
Great info/photos!
I had seen the conehead fellas several years ago, but did not know/or recall it was a Kadydid. Thanks! Can't wait for your next 'chapter'
What fun would it be if one could get sound bites too!

Scott said...

Thanks Anonymous. I've been accumulating more photos of Orthoptera that I will post at some point. I've also tried to video some of these, so I can post the videos as well. You can hear the calls of all of the insects I've posted about at http://www.musicofnature.com/songsofinsects/index.html.