Three Missing Meadow Katydids

by Carl Strang

The final three species of singing insects that are reported to occur in northeast Illinois and northwest Indiana but that I have not yet found are meadow katydids in genus Orchelimum. These three are placed in the region in the 20th Century mainly from three published sources, Hebard (1934; Illinois Orthoptera), McCafferty and Stein (1976; crickets and katydids of Indiana), and Thomas and Alexander (1962; a paper that focused on these three species). The most abundant of these reportedly is the dusky-faced meadow katydid. Here is the map for that species in the Singing Insects of North America (SINA) website.

Thomas and Alexander write that the dusky-faced meadow katydid originally was described from northern Indiana in 1893, and their paper is the source for most records of that species in our region in the SINA database (in Indiana: Starke, Kosciusko, Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Marshall, and Fulton Counties; in Illinois: Lake, McHenry, Cook, Will, and DuPage Counties). Its face is said to be amber, with a red tinge. One early author described its northern Indiana habitat as upland pastures and dryer prairies, and seldom associated with lakes. Thomas and Alexander found it to be common, especially as compared to the stripe-faced and delicate meadow katydids, occurring in a wide range of marshes, “usually in vegetation over standing water,” and especially associated with grasses. The song is high pitched; I may need the SongFinder to hear it. Some sing during the day, but most singing is done from dusk into the night. Sometimes the song resembles those of the following two species, but usually it is different in having longer buzzes (more than 1-3 seconds), or longer strings of ticks (more than 5), or in eliminating ticks altogether (meadow katydid songs for the most part are variations on the pattern of several discrete, rapid ticks followed by a buzz). I am inclined to include this species in the broad range of wetlands I will continue to visit in my surveys.

Early descriptions placed the stripe-faced meadow katydid in dense grasses and sedges near ponds and streams. One account associated it with grasses and sedges around tamarack swamps and lakes. Here is its map from SINA.

Hebard gave swamps and bogs as habitat for the stripe-faced meadow katydid in Illinois. In the northeast part of the state he listed Glen Ellyn and the tamarack zone at Volo Bog as locations. Thomas and Alexander found it to be very limited in its distribution, occurring in “a few northern relict marl bogs and other alkaline situations.” The adult’s face is marked by a prominent stripe down its center, which Hebard says appears only after the final instar has matured. The song is high pitched; I may need the SongFinder to hear it. Some sing during the day, but most singing is done dusk into the night. To the ear the songs of this and the following species are nearly identical, having tick and buzz elements. Ticks are single rather than doubled, however. Indiana counties for which there are records are Lake, Starke, Fulton, Marshall, Kosciusko, and Porter. Illinois records are from Lake and Cook Counties. The old fish hatchery in Marshall County at Culver is a marl site worth exploring for this species.

Hebard found only females of the final species, the delicate meadow katydid, and his only northeast Illinois locations were Beach (at Lake Michigan in Lake County) and Algonquin (McHenry County). According to Thomas and Alexander, early authors stated that this species occurred in low meadows near large lakes in the Indiana counties of Marshall and Starke. These records are included in the species’ SINA map:

Thomas and Alexander say from their own experience that it is “largely restricted to swales adjacent to sand dunes or sand beaches, where it is often associated with …[the grass] Calamagrostis canadensis.” Its face is green. The song is high pitched; I may need the SongFinder to hear it. Some sing during the day, but most singing is done dusk into the night. To the ear the songs of the delicate and stripe-faced meadow katydids are nearly identical, having tick and buzz elements. Ticks may be doubled in this species, however. Places to seek it are Indiana Dunes State Park, Illinois Beach State Park, and marshes and lakes in Marshall and Starke Counties, Indiana.

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