Woodland Meadow Katydid

by Carl Strang

Sometimes the solution to a puzzle comes through a tiny clue, accidentally discovered. Why couldn’t I find woodland meadow katydids? For years I had listened for them and looked for them in habitats where they are supposed to occur. References suggested I should be able to hear their distinctive song around woodland edges, but also indicated they are more a southern species with only scattered populations as far north as the 22-county region I am surveying for singing insects.

On Wednesday I traveled to Jasper County, Indiana, and stopped at the western end of the Jasper-Pulaski state wildlife area. I put on the SongFinder, wanting to find short-winged meadow katydids to add to the Jasper County list, but almost immediately heard something odd. It sounded like a striped ground cricket, but perhaps lower in pitch.

The song was coming from the tall herbaceous vegetation around two white oak trees.

The song was coming from the tall herbaceous vegetation around two white oak trees.

I took off the headphones of the pitch-lowering device, and could no longer hear the song. As I continued to listen, I noticed that once in a while one of the quick short buzzes was preceded by a brief stuttering burst of ticks. Thanks to the stereophonic design of the SongFinder, I soon found the singer.

A male woodland meadow katydid!

A male woodland meadow katydid!

It’s the only dry-habitat meadow katydid in our area that is brown rather than green. Once I knew that I needed the SongFinder, and what to listen for, I found them in Pulaski County and, the next day, in Starke. At the Round Lake state conservation area I heard males singing, and spotted a female.

Though the ovipositor is slightly curved, the small size as well as the brown color separates this female from all the Orchelimum meadow katydids. Long-tailed meadow katydids can be brown, but have very long straight ovipositors and live in wetlands.

Though the ovipositor is slightly curved, the small size as well as the brown color separates this female from all the Orchelimum meadow katydids. Long-tailed meadow katydids can be brown, but have very long straight ovipositors and live in wetlands.

I had held out hope that this would prove to be the one Conocephalus meadow katydid that I could hear unaided, but such is not the case. That was the tiny clue I needed to solve the woodland meadow katydid puzzle.

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4 Comments

  1. Lisa Rainsong said,

    August 26, 2014 at 12:33 am

    I have yet to hear or see one and have wondered how much farther south in Ohio I’d need to go. However, I think it’s more about “dry habitat,” which is not so common here and not where I typically would go. I’ll have to look for more appropriate areas. I don’t think anything is a dry habitat this year, though!

    • natureinquiries said,

      August 26, 2014 at 5:47 am

      The three counties where I found them all are sand soil areas.

  2. Nathan said,

    August 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Awesome find, Carl.

    We have these abundantly in mid-Missouri. I found some just last night right next to a pond, pretty far from trees, though normally woods are a good bet I am not sure they are aptly named.

    If you ever find one ovipositing (or really *any* meadow katydid ovipositing) I’d be really interested in knowing what they were ovipositing into!!

    About what date was it that you found those little guys?

    • natureinquiries said,

      September 9, 2014 at 6:00 am

      Hi, Nathan, good to hear from you. So far the range of dates has been 20-31 August, though other demands have kept me from field work since that period. Lisa Rainsong has some interesting oviposition observations for black-sided and perhaps other mk species in NE Ohio. Her blog: http://listeninginnature.blogspot.com/


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