14 September 2009

I Do Say, That Is One Handsome Trig!

What the heck is a trig? That's a question that I would have had until my recent obsession with trying to learn as much as possible about the singing insects. The trigs (short for Trigoniidae, the subfamily of this group of insects) are small crickets that are sometimes also called bush crickets. Female trigs have a long, sword-shaped ovipositer (seen easily in the second photograph below), which has led to the group also being called sword-tailed crickets.

The photographs immediately above and below were taken on our property in northern Indiana, and depict a Say's Trig (Anaxipha exigua), which was named for early American entomologist and naturalist Thomas Say. Say's Trigs can often be found in large numbers on woody vegetation in grassy areas. An identifying characteristic of this species is the dark stripe on the light-colored face. Although they are small (approximately 1/4 inch long), Say's Trigs are extremely loud and can be heard from over 100 feet away.

One of my favorite singing insects so far is the Handsome Trig (Phyllopalpus pulchellus). As you can see below, it sure is a handsome insect... just look at those contrasting colors! For an excellent description of this species, just translate the Latin name. Pulchellus is translated as "beautiful," and Phyllopalpus means "leaf-feeler." The Handsome Trig, also known as the Red-headed Bush Cricket, uses its palps (the fingerlike appendages near the mouth) to investigate its surroundings. These palps also vibrate rapidly when the insect is threatened. This species is another tiny insect (1/4 - 1/3 inch) that produces an enormous sound. I photographed this Handsome Trig near Logansport, Indiana.

Most of the information from this (and all of my singing insect posts) is from The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger.


Justin Thomas said...

I, as a field botanist, am also a Phyllopalpus.

And for the record, Trig is not an insect he is an adorable little boy and future president. He has all the qualifications to be a great republican.

Scott said...

I always knew you were a phyllopalpus, Justin. At least I don't consider you a Helianthus.

Ah, yes, Trig. You wouldn't believe how difficult it is to find information online about trigs (the insect) these days, with all of the press on little Palin.