Berrien Explorations

by Carl Strang

The end of August found me in Berrien County, Michigan. The first stop was the Butternut Creek Fen preserve, where I met tree cricket specialist Nancy Collins. We spent an afternoon and evening seeking tamarack tree crickets, which had been found there years ago. There are abundant tamarack trees, but we were puzzled by the crickets’ no-show. None sang, and hours of arm-tiring sweeping of foliage with long-handled nets, as well as visual scanning of branches, were fruitless. We found other species, though, and provided the site owners with a list of what we observed.

When Nancy found this fork-tailed bush katydid I was hopeful that it would prove to be a rarer cousin, the treetop bush katydid, but no dice.

Oblong-winged katydids also are at the site. My new white chamber setup worked well in the back of the car.

The next day I wandered in Berrien, St. Joseph and LaPorte Counties. The best find was a new site for me, Glassman Park in Berrien County. I bypassed some nice-looking forest, then was captured by a mundane looking grassy area adjacent to the I-94 right-of-way. It proved to have some interesting grasshoppers.

Most of these proved to be pasture grasshoppers, only the second population of this locally distributed species I have found in my study region.

A second species had a much different look.

The handsome grasshopper has an even more slant-faced profile.

With a color pattern like this, the handsome grasshopper is well named.

The day was my final in Berrien County for 2018, but there is more singing insect work to be done there in coming years. That is bound to include at least one more listening stop at Butternut Creek.



  1. wilson said,

    October 10, 2018 at 12:00 am

    A little off topic – but was this an extraordinarily good year for grasshoppers? I’ve never paid particular attention prior to this year. Certainly reading your blog has made me more attuned. But I’ve wandered in grassy habitats much of my life, and don’t remember ever feeling like I was setting off grasshoppers at every step, as I have several times in different places this year.

    I recognize that some species may be happier than others in the weather we’ve had. But overall, I feel like I’ve seen more individuals and more species than I’ve ever noticed before (with a good enough eye to differentiate some of different sizes and colors, though not nearly skilled or familiar enough to identify any of them)

    I had already started to wonder after seeing a lot more in August and September. Yesterday, I circumambulated the tiny Centennial Prairie in Wilmette, and it was as if my footsteps were setting off cannon batteries in the grass, every step triggering a new burst of artillery. So many grasshoppers that there were even loads of them in the lawn grass surrounding the prairie.

    I’m also curious – what bird species make the biggest dent in the populations of grasshoppers and crickets in a prairie setting? Or maybe that’s wrong, and I should really be asking what parasites make the biggest dent in these populations? If you had the time and inclination, I’d love to see a post or two dealing with that sort of thing – the place of your singing insects in the larger web of life.

    • natureinquiries said,

      October 10, 2018 at 5:59 am

      Many insect species fluctuate from year to year, but it seems to me that red-legged grasshoppers and other non-singing species, which make up the majority of the grasshoppers we kick up when moving through a grassy area, generally have high abundance. It could be that they are up this year in the areas you frequent. There may be several species, but nymphs and even adults can be variable in their colors, which confuses the issue. I haven’t studied predation, but anecdotally it seems that any of the grassland dwelling birds are chowing down on this abundant prey. Meadow katydids get hit hard by parasites; I don’t know about grasshoppers.

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