Northwestern Red-winged Grasshopper

by Carl Strang

One final note to share from the Bendix Woods bioblitz focuses on a beautiful grasshopper I had not met before, but which has a population living in the large mowed lawn between the Studebaker pine groves and strips of prairie gardens. It’s a relatively large, dark hopper.

The shapes that form this grasshopper are beautiful, sculpted-looking as is often the case with the members of the band-winged grasshopper subfamily.

The shapes that form this grasshopper are beautiful, sculpted-looking as is often the case with the members of the band-winged grasshopper subfamily.

When flushed into flight, or when launching into display flights that include the crackling sounds that qualify them as singing insects, these grasshoppers flash brilliant red hind wings.

The color is washed by the sun into more of an orange in this photo, but it is in fact a true red.

The color is washed by the sun into more of an orange in this photo, but it is in fact a true red.

This is the northwestern red-winged grasshopper, Arphia pseudonietana, one of five county records I turned up during the bioblitz. References indicate that this location is at or near the southern edge of this species’ range.

Japanese Burrowing Cricket

by Carl Strang

Between the roads and parking lots at the east end of Bendix Woods are divides containing layers of 1- to 2-inch gravel stones, in a layer several inches deep.

The rounded stones probably came from a glacial outwash quarry not too far away.

The rounded stones probably came from a glacial outwash quarry not too far away.

On the Friday afternoon of the Bendix Woods bioblitz I heard sounds coming from those divides that were definitely crickety, and definitely not belonging to any species I had yet heard in the 22-county region I am surveying for singing insects. The calling songs did ring a bell, though, and on Saturday morning I began to dig where a few of the singers were located. I caught one of the crickets, a female, and my suspicion was confirmed.

A Japanese burrowing cricket!

A Japanese burrowing cricket!

These insects are as big as fall field crickets, but instead of being black, are colored in shades of cream and brown.

The face has a beautiful mottled pattern.

The face has a beautiful mottled pattern.

They were not even on my hypothetical list of singing insects in the region, as they never had been documented here and range maps place them in southern Indiana, but not in the northern half of the state. I have to question how they came to be in this place. While it is true that this introduced Asian species is expanding its range outward from Alabama (probably the port of Mobile), the population at Bendix Woods appears to be isolated by habitats inappropriate for the species. It is, perhaps tellingly, adjacent to the park’s maintenance area.

Note the chain-link fence and earth moving machine in the background.

Note the chain-link fence and earth moving machine in the background.

The founders of this cricket population may have been brought in with landscaping materials or plants transported from farther south. There are, however, so many of them, spread over several of those gravel divides, that they almost certainly have been building their numbers over at least a couple years, demonstrating their ability to survive our winters. That tells me that it is only a matter of time before they become widespread in our region. For recordings of the songs and more photos, check out this species’ page at the Singing Insects of North America website: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/buzz/551a.htm

Bendix Woods Bioblitz

by Carl Strang

It’s been an unusually busy September, and there has been no time for writing in recent days. Much of that time has been occupied by field work, however, so I have a backlog of observations to share through a number of posts. Last weekend there was a bioblitz at Bendix Woods, a St. Joseph County Park in Indiana. Many of the scientists who participated in this species count could do it as a day trip. A few of us camped overnight. It was well worth it, and three posts will be needed to tell the full story.

I was there for singing insects, of course, and so needed to do survey work after dark as well as during the day. The nighttime drive along the park’s roads revealed a healthy population of oblong-winged katydids.

This one took a break from singing to seek out a new perch, his long legs moving slowly in the cooling night air.

This one took a break from singing to seek out a new perch, his long legs moving slowly in the cooling night air.

While trying to locate the katydid I ran across a couple other members of the Bendix fauna.

Gray treefrogs are abundant at Bendix Woods. I saw at least 8 individuals during the 24-hour event.

Gray treefrogs are abundant at Bendix Woods. I saw at least 8 individuals during the 24-hour event.

This female walking stick, Diapheromera femorata, was nearly 4 inches long.

This female walking stick, Diapheromera femorata, was nearly 4 inches long.

Lights set up by a Field Museum of Natural History team drew in a variety of moths, caddis flies and others.

This was a crane fly that got hung up on a support rope, not a hangingfly, as some of us hoped at first glance. The hangingflies are a group of scorpion flies.

This was a crane fly that got hung up on a support rope, not a hangingfly, as some of us hoped at first glance. The hangingflies are a group of scorpion flies.

 

This pine tree spur-throated grasshopper came to the light, and I saved it to photograph the next day. The species proved to be common in the groves of white pines which have been planted in the park to spell out “STUDEBAKER” in very large block letters that can be read only from the sky.

This pine tree spur-throated grasshopper came to the light, and I saved it to photograph the next day. The species proved to be common in the groves of white pines which have been planted in the park to spell out “STUDEBAKER” in very large block letters that can be read only from the sky.

 

I’ll close out with another, more widespread species, the differential grasshopper.

I’ll close out with another, more widespread species, the differential grasshopper.

There were two singing insect species that I met for the first time at Bendix Woods, and each will get a post of its own.

Recent Mayslake Arthropods

by Carl Strang

Recent walks at Mayslake Forest Preserve have resulted in some photos to share, all involving Lepidoptera. The wild bergamot have been on the decline, but still were producing enough flowers to attract the attention of pollinators.

A hummingbird clearwing bellies up to the bar.

A hummingbird clearwing bellies up to the bar.

Another flower proved to be a fatal attraction to a cabbage white butterfly, which I saw curiously dangling beneath it.

The yellow flower head of the sow thistle had been a good hiding place for a crab spider. It and its prey dangled from the spider’s safety line until the butterfly was subdued.

The yellow flower head of the sow thistle had been a good hiding place for a crab spider. It and its prey dangled from the spider’s safety line until the butterfly was subdued.

Enough of the spider was hidden that I could not narrow its identity beyond being in one of two genera.

Wings may be in the future for today’s final subject.

This black swallowtail is maturing on a diet of water hemlock, a plant that is quite poisonous to humans.

This black swallowtail is maturing on a diet of water hemlock, a plant that is quite poisonous to humans.

 

Memorial Forest Clearing

by Carl Strang

The Memorial Forest is a public site, essentially an undeveloped county park, in my home county of Marshall, in Indiana. As I have spent much of my time in that county over the years, my list of its singing insects is nearly as complete as that for DuPage. I had never looked at the Memorial Forest, however. I went there recently. The forest itself, though of good quality, had nothing new to add, but there is a cleared power line right-of-way through the forest which produced 4 county records, including a species I had not encountered before.

What made the clearing unusual was its sand soil.

What made the clearing unusual was its sand soil.

The nearly pure sand hosted oddities including velvet ants and a tiger beetle much larger than most species of my acquaintance. Almost right away I found my new friend, the woodland meadow katydid, and after a while ran across a species that may prove to be a frequent associate, at least in this region, as Lisa Rainsong has suggested.

A male straight-lanced meadow katydid.

A male straight-lanced meadow katydid.

There were large numbers of band-winged grasshoppers (the subfamily of grasshoppers which have wing-rattling flight displays, and thus qualify as singing insects). These ultimately sorted out to three species. In addition to the ubiquitous, and large, Carolina grasshopper, there were a medium sized and a small species.

The medium sized one was the mottled sand grasshopper, which I mentioned in a recent post on Jasper County.

The medium sized one was the mottled sand grasshopper, which I mentioned in a recent post on Jasper County.

Mottled sand grasshoppers were the most abundant singing insects in the clearing, their yellow hind wings flashing all around me as I walked. Then I noticed smaller bursts of bright red, and they led me to a grasshopper which up to that moment had been on my hypothetical list for the region.

You can get a sense of the red colored wings, and the small size of this insect, in comparison to my thumbnail. As usual, I released it unharmed.

You can get a sense of the red colored wings, and the small size of this insect, in comparison to my thumbnail. As usual, I released it unharmed.

The head and pronotum are beautifully patterned.

The head and pronotum are beautifully patterned.

This is the longhorn band-winged grasshopper, Psinidia fenestralis.

This is the longhorn band-winged grasshopper, Psinidia fenestralis.

The unusually wide black zone of the hind wing, the long, flattened antennae, and the banded yellow and black tibias, are additional features of this species. Old records placed it in the dune areas around the edge of Lake Michigan, so this well-inland site is unusual.

 

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