West Chicago Prairie

by Carl Strang

I had high hopes going into West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve in my search for new singing insects. It is our largest prairie area in the county with a history of minimal disturbance, and has plenty of low, wet areas that would seem good places for meadow katydids. This late in the season, however, much of the ground is dry, and I was finding few species.

It’s always an interesting place, though. The above scene was highlighted by beautiful flowers of smooth blue aster.

The highlight came as I went through one of the persistent wet spots.

Up jumped a brown meadow katydid, and it paused in the open long enough for me to take a couple photos.

It was not a black-sided meadow katydid, as it was a mature male with an all-brown abdomen. According to my references, habitat and color rule out all but the long-tailed meadow katydid. I wanted to catch him to double-check by taking a look at his cerci, but he got away, and despite much searching he was the only one I saw. According to one published study, black-sided and long-tailed meadow katydids have never been found together. This is puzzling, as their habitat needs on the surface are identical. I must check out areas at Waterfall Glen, where I took this photo a few years ago.

This tiny nymph has an ovipositor mid-way in structure between the two species, and as far as I know could have developed into either one.

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