Nemesis Bug

by Carl Strang

Today’s title is borrowed from a birding term. Someone’s “nemesis bird” is a species he or she has never observed despite repeated efforts, has become the bird at the top of that person’s wish list, and there is the sense that it is only bad luck that has prevented that first observation. My nemesis bug has been the jumping bush cricket. I first heard them singing in Culver, Indiana, on August 31, 2007. Later that same year I heard them at Channahon in northern Illinois, and in mid-October was surprised to encounter a little group of them in my own town of Warrenville. Since then they have been expanding both in range and in numbers in DuPage County, and in places are very common (I’ll share a map later).

They have proved to be very difficult to see. Their songs are loud and distinctive, but hard to locate. Last year I tried using the shotgun microphone, and learned that they are higher in the trees than they seem. The foliage reflects the sound in many directions. During this year’s driving surveys I found that jumping bush crickets are abundant at Pioneer Park, a forest preserve in south Naperville. On Thursday evening I went there to make yet another attempt to see one.

After several failed attempts, and using the headlamp in the darkness as preserve closing time approached, I moved to yet another tree and turned the light up along the trunk. There! A flake of bark had wings which it elevated slightly and vibrated in synchrony with the song I was trying to locate. I tried using the telemacro lens on the digital SLR, but it needed too slow a shutter speed. I dug out the little Olympus point-and-shoot, and extended the lens to its maximum. Now where was that cricket? OK, there, crawling up higher. I took a couple photos, but knew that from such a distance they would not be great.

Here it climbs up a vine.

I had with me a long-handled insect net, and I used it to dislodge the cricket. It fell right past my face, and landed on the leaf of a nearby Amur honeysuckle. After so many years of trying, I was nervous, and frustrated in trying to keep the headlamp on the cricket while simultaneously aiming the camera so its autofocus would function.

Fortunately she kept still and allowed me to snap away despite the headlamp and camera flash. She?

Indeed this was a female. I was sure the cricket had been singing when I first spotted it, but apparently this female was approaching the singing male when I came along. I was impressed by the cricket’s flat back, and by her size. She was a little bigger than a field cricket, so the only larger cricket in our region is the northern mole cricket.

The mottled gray-brown pattern is excellent camouflage against bark, and I now suspect they fit themselves into crevices and flakes of bark so as to be very difficult to see.

After checking to make sure the photos were usable (what did we do before digital cameras?), I got the cricket back onto the tree so she could resume her approach when the male started singing again. Then I returned through the darkness to my car, too elated to worry about what my next nemesis bug might be.

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1 Comment

  1. October 19, 2012 at 5:40 am

    […] Ohio, and the southern third of Illinois. Since then they have expanded north, as I mentioned in my post earlier in the week which included photos of the species. The front of their northern extent now is in DuPage County. […]


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