by Carl Strang
Recently I spent an enjoyable afternoon at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in Will County, Illinois. My main target was a swale in the northwestern portion of the property.
I added 3 county species records in and around the swale, but all are common in the region and so not the exciting rarities I’d hoped for.
As I returned to my car, wading through a nicely developing restored prairie, I spotted an unfamiliar grasshopper.
Unfortunately the hopper evaded me when I tried to catch it so as to check out the hind wing color. As I continued to walk out I saw a couple displaying grasshoppers with bright yellow hind wings, which I was unable to see up close. I made the assumption that they were the same as the photographed hopper, but this proved not to be the case. It turned out to have been a dusky grasshopper, Encoptolophus sordidus, which has an essentially colorless hind wing. It was the first of that species I have found, which always is exciting, but now I know there’s also a yellow-winged species I will have to go back and hunt down on a future visit.
While I was photographing the dusky grasshopper, a nearby movement caught my eye, and led me to a new experience. It was a ballooning spider, half an inch long. I had heard of this but never seen it, and did not expect that such a large individual could travel in that way. The spider sends out a strand of silk which grabs the wind and carries the spider through the air.
As I continued my walk to the car I noticed several strands of silk streaming from plant tops, and felt that I had learned something new about them.
I’ll close with a couple photos from other parts of Midewin.