Horlock Hill

by Carl Strang

Horlock Hill Prairie is regarded as one of the highest quality bits of dry prairie in northern Illinois. It is located right at the start of the Great Western Trail in Les Arends Forest Preserve in Kane County, and I have zipped right past it on my bike many a time without realizing its significance.

The designated natural area itself is small, at 2-3 acres, but I was impressed by the floral diversity.

Adjacent meadows and prairie restoration projects enlarge the effective area in prairie or prairie-like vegetation. In one of these I spotted a small meadow katydid which appeared at first to be a short-winged, but lacked the orange abdomen tip. He allowed me to get some photos, and when I looked at them later I was pleased to see the distinctive cerci of a straight-lanced meadow katydid.

The cerci are the little pincer-like structures at the tip of the abdomen. They are long, straight, abruptly flattened in the tips, and the small, inward-pointing tooth is near the base of each.

I found a female of this species at Mayslake Forest Preserve last year, but this is the first male I have seen. The only congeners I heard around Horlock Hill through the SongFinder were abundant short-winged meadow katydids. It was a cool, cloudy day, however, and the song of the straight-lanced is a steady uninterrupted faint buzz that may have been too faint to hear under those conditions. Certainly the short-wings were slowed quite a bit.

Otherwise the singing insects there were all of common species, except that I heard a couple probable broad-winged tree crickets. All of this points to a return to that site under warmer conditions.

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Long-spurred Meadow Katydid

by Carl Strang

Recently I spent a day at the Brookfield Zoo, which remains to this point the only place where I have found long-spurred meadow katydids in northeast Illinois.

Long-spurred 5b

The above photo is inverted; the insect was clinging to the underside of a cedar twig. This is the first individual I found two years ago. I’d noticed its song as that of a meadow katydid, but unlike other species I’d encountered. The buzz has a loose rattling quality, and the ticks that precede the buzz sound like elements of the buzz rather than the sharper ticks produced by other meadow katydids. The overall effect is that the song sounds like an accelerating buzz. I spent some time with that first individual, and managed to get some photos of his cerci.

Long-spurred 1b

The cerci are the yellow structures at the tip of his abdomen. The long inward-projecting forks of the cerci give the species its name. References indicate that long-spurred meadow katydids like cedars, but so far I have not found them in DuPage County. On my recent zoo visit I found a couple individuals singing not from cedars but from herbaceous flowerbeds. I haven’t given up on them, and continue to seek them wherever there are cedars.

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