Tying a Knot on 2020

by Carl Strang

I know of no one who is sad about putting the year 2020 in the rear-view mirror. I have posted my research highlights for the year already, but find some miscellaneous photos remain that will fill out the story. As I detailed in earlier posts, ditch hopping was an important activity through the summer.

Another view of a drainage ditch in Kankakee County

I paid a couple visits to the Chicago Park District’s Big Marsh for the first time this year. Of greater interest to me than the wetlands was an area of sparse vegetation in the eastern part of the park.

When I run across scenes like this I automatically want to check for unusual grasshopper species.

Indeed, I found my third population of pasture grasshoppers (Orphulella speciosa) for the region here, and a second population of Kiowa rangeland grasshoppers (Trachyrhachys kiowa) for Cook County.

A pasture grasshopper at Big Marsh Park
One of the Big Marsh Kiowas

There also was a strikingly marked nymph.

The white spots stand out. I don’t have a species ID.

I made a day trip to the Nachusa Grasslands, west of my study region. The area has a nice variety of singing insects.

One of the few Texas bush katydids (Scudderia texensis) I encountered in 2020. This Nachusa female provided a nice photo of her sharply bending ovipositor.

In my home county of DuPage, West Chicago Prairie Forest Preserve provided some highlights.

The prairie cicada (Okanagana balli) population at West Chicago Prairie continues to respond to the Forest Preserve District’s restoration efforts.
These small cicadas are active for only a brief time in the early summer.

Later in the season I made a slogging trudge to a remote corner of West Chicago Prairie, hoping to find rare wetland katydids.

There were no new species, but a separate location for long-tailed meadow katydids (Conocephalus attenuatus), including this male, within the preserve.
This West Chicago Prairie female’s ovipositor, fading out of focus in the dim light that day, illustrates how the species gets its common name.

Finally, I continued both monitoring and restoration efforts at St. James Farm Forest Preserve.

Typocerus velutinus is one of the more common longhorn beetles in DuPage County.
While gathering Joe-Pye weed seeds to spread in our cleared area, I found this mating pair of walking sticks (Diapheromera femorata).

Clearly 2020 had much to offer, after all, and I hope for plenty of new encounters in 2021. Happy New Year to you.

Ditch Hopping: Woodland Meadow Katydids

by Carl Strang

As I started seeking northern mole crickets in rural ditches at night, I realized that ditches and streams are oases of habitat winding through the biodiversity wastelands of corn and soybeans in large portions of the Chicago region. I started checking ditches during the daytime. The biggest hit came early on, when I discovered woodland meadow katydids beside a ditch in southeastern Kendall County, Illinois. I had dismissed expectations in that county for the species, so this was a big surprise.

Woodland meadow katydid (Conocephalus nemoralis)

The ditch seemed an unlikely location for that katydid, which I had found previously only at woodland edges. A single small tree was the only nearby woody plant.

One of the Kendall County locations for woodland meadow katydids

This proved to be a common pattern, however. As I added county after county to the list of those where I have found woodland meadow katydids, sometimes there were woodland edges adjacent to the ditches but sometimes there was little woody vegetation to be found.

Updated site map for woodland meadow katydids

I was frustrated in LaPorte County, Indiana, and Berrien County, Michigan. I later learned that woodland meadow katydids also can inhabit dune edge habitats along Lake Michigan, so I will seek them there in 2021.

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