September 28, 2016 at 6:21 am (singing insects)
Tags: agile meadow katydid, Chortophaga viridifasciata, dusky-faced meadow katydid, green-striped grasshopper, Indianapolis, Japanese burrowing cricket, Orchelimum agile, Orchelimum campestre, Velarifictorus micado
by Carl Strang
Most bioblitzes occur in the spring, ahead of the main singing insects season. When one was announced for mid-September in Indianapolis, I was quick to sign on. Bioblitzes are good opportunities to go beyond one’s familiar region and gain wider experience, but this one brought enough strange observations that it was somewhat disorienting. The dominant singers everywhere were Japanese burrowing crickets.
Japanese burrowing cricket
That Asian species has been spreading from Mobile, Alabama, where it was introduced to North America in the 1950’s. I expect it eventually to become common in the Chicago region.
Walking a streamside trail at dusk on the first evening, I heard a meadow katydid that did not quite match other species of my acquaintance.
The pale face and eyes reminded me of a recent find by Lisa Rainsong in Ohio.
Oblique ventral view of the male’s cerci.
Another angle on the cerci. The tips are round rather than blade-like, and the teeth are not unusually long.
The song also was distinct, with very brief buzzes rather than ticks between the major buzzes, and significant pauses between. All of this points to the agile meadow katydid (suggested as a possibility by Wil Hershberger), a southern species not previously documented any closer than Tennessee or Virginia, according to the map in the Singing Insects of North America website.
If that weren’t enough, there were the strange finds in a little wetland area surrounded by a mowed Frisbee golf course at one of the parks.
Two little patches of cattails, grasses and sedges, with wet soil between.
There I found a female green-striped grasshopper.
This is a spring species in the Chicago area, totally unexpected in mid-September.
They are known to have two annual generations in the South, and apparently such is the case as far north as Indy.
The bigger surprise was that these little habitat islands held a dense population of dusky-faced meadow katydids.
I caught and photographed males and females to be sure. There was only a little of the red facial spotting and network, but the cerci and ovipositors were definitive.
Also, the song was exactly the same as in the Chicago region. Perhaps this species is more abundant downstate, where invasive wetland plants reportedly are not as thoroughly established as they are farther north.
All in all, it was a horizon-expanding weekend.
September 15, 2016 at 6:04 am (singing insects)
Tags: delicate meadow katydid, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Houghton Lake, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum delicatum
by Carl Strang
This has been a good year for finding additional populations of dusky-faced meadow katydids, a wetland species that has caused me some concern. Once regarded as a ubiquitous marsh insect, they have proven hard to find. In the Chicago region they occur only in remnant marshes and wet prairies with significant amounts of native grasses (though Lisa Rainsong recently reported an Ohio population living in arrowheads), and little or no invasive wetland vegetation. They apparently don’t care for sedges. Such places have become few and far between. So far I have found no evidence of dispersal into restored wetlands.
Dusky-faced meadow katydid, from a newly discovered population at Houghton Lake, a Nature Conservancy site in Marshall County, Indiana.
That said, I have been pleased to find several more populations hanging on in the region. In addition to Houghton Lake, I have found them in two locations in Lake County, Indiana, and have found that they occupy a much larger area at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie than I realized.
For a time I thought I also had re-found delicate meadow katydids at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Back in 2012 I got a fuzzy photo of what I thought was that species:
She was gone before I could get anything clearer. The grass-green face seemed to point to delicate meadow katydid.
When Lisa, Wendy, Wil and I returned to that site in August, we found more green-faced individuals. I also started seeing them elsewhere.
I labeled this photo as a delicate meadow katydid; the green face seemed unambiguous.
There were problems, however.
Though some tiny speckles reportedly can occur on the faces of delicate meadow katydids, the green-faced ones often showed the reddish networks typical of dusky-faced.
This green-faced male has especially heavy reddish markings.
Also, the ovipositors were too short. They seemed relatively straight, but clearly were less than half the length of the femur.
The songs of some of the males had relatively short intervals of ticks between relatively short buzzes. The ticks all were single, however.
The principal paper published on this species group is by Edward S. Thomas and Richard Alexander (1962. Systematic and behavioral studies on the meadow grasshoppers of the Orchelimum concinnum group (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan No. 626:1-31). After studying it closely I have to conclude that all these green-faced individuals are dusky-faced meadow katydids. Thomas and Alexander mention that dusky-faceds can have green faces occasionally (apparently more often around the southern end of Lake Michigan than in the species as a whole). The ovipositor length in females, and the lack of doubled ticks in the males’ songs, seem conclusively to rule out delicate meadow katydids in the individuals I have found. That’s a shame, because it may mean that the species has gone extinct in the region. But I’ll keep looking…
September 26, 2015 at 6:03 am (singing insects)
Tags: clouded grasshopper, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Encoptolophus sordidus, Midewin, Orchelimum campestre
by Carl Strang
On Tuesday I drove down to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Will County to continue surveying its singing insects. The trip produced one of the season highlights, the first dusky-faced meadow katydids I have found in Illinois.
One of several male dusky-faceds I found in an extensive marsh at Midewin.
This once was a common species, and there are old records for many counties in my survey area. As of Tuesday, in the 10th year of my study, I have one present-day county record for Illinois, and two for Indiana, out of the 22 counties I am searching.
The marsh where I found them. Note the lack of invasive wetland plant species.
Phragmites, reed canary grass, hybrid cattails and purple loosestrife are the major threat to wetland ecosystem integrity. So far no one has found a sure way to hold them back, and the first two in particular are spreading rapidly.
Elsewhere at Midewin, in a dry restored prairie, I found several clouded grasshoppers.
This is a member of the band-winged grasshopper subfamily.
They were displaying on this warm afternoon, their buzzing flights sounding just like those of green-striped grasshoppers, a spring species.
September 9, 2015 at 6:30 am (singing insects)
Tags: Allonemobius tinnulus, Conocephalus nemoralis, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Indiana dunes, Jasper-Pulaski, Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area, Lisa Rainsong, long-spurred meadow katydid, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum silvaticum, Scudderia texensis, Texas bush katydid, tinkling ground cricket, Wendy Partridge, woodland meadow katydid
by Carl Strang
Lisa Rainsong and Wendy Partridge are two admirable women from the Cleveland area. For years I have been corresponding with Lisa about our parallel explorations of singing insects in our respective regions. They honored me with a visit over the Labor Day weekend. We spent two full days site-hopping in northwest Indiana.
Wendy and Lisa stalk a long-spurred meadow katydid at Indiana Dunes State Park.
This was a three-way learning exchange. I provided local knowledge of species with which Lisa and Wendy needed more experience. Dr. Rainsong, who teaches university courses in music theory, models slow and deliberate observation that gives her more of an in-depth understanding of each species than I have been able to acquire so far. She also demonstrates the value of making a lot of sound recordings. Her Listening in Nature blog shares her observations, and I realize how I need to do more of this kind of work myself.
Wendy is a fine artist and art restoration specialist whose love and knowledge of nature frequently draws her into the field with her partner. She keeps her eyes open and notices many beautiful scenes, plants and animals that remind me not to be so narrowly focused. She also took the time to sit and create a couple watercolor sketches that were simply amazing. Wendy has the best ears of us three for the higher-pitched insect songs.
One of our sites was Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area.
A population of woodland meadow katydids provided good exposure to that dry-soil species.
This tinkling ground cricket had a darker brown head than most, but he was very cooperative, giving us many photo ops as he slowly moved across the parking lot.
Another highlight was a levee at Kingsbury Fish & Wildlife Area.
The dusky-faced meadow katydid was a priority species. We were able to observe two males.
This Texas bush katydid, my first for LaPorte County, displayed the engaging personality of his kind.
I benefited not only from observing Lisa’s and Wendy’s methods, but also picked up a total of 8 county records along the way for my study. We look forward to more exchange visits over the next few years.
September 25, 2013 at 6:19 am (ecology, restoration, singing insects)
Tags: black-legged meadow katydid, Bluff Creek, Carolina ground cricket, common cattail, common reed, Conocephalus attenuatus, Conocephalus brevipennis, delicate meadow katydid, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Eunemobius carolinus, Eunemobius melodius, fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Lake Maxinkuckee, long-tailed meadow katydid, Lythrum salicaria, melodious ground cricket, Miller Woods, Neocurtilla hexadactyla, nimble meadow katydid, northern mole cricket, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum delicatum, Orchelimum nigripes, Orchelimum volantum, Phalaris arundinacea, Phragmites communis, purple loosestrife, reed canary grass, Richard Young Forest Preserve, short-winged meadow katydid, swale, Typha latifolia, Waterfall Glen
by Carl Strang
A continuing theme in my regional survey of singing insects is the paucity of wetland species. The only one that is present in good numbers in many wetlands is the black-legged meadow katydid. Other species common in wetlands are habitat generalists such as the Carolina ground cricket and short-winged meadow katydid, which don’t truly count as wetland insects. One clear cause of this problem is the loss of high quality habitat to four invasive plant species (purple loosestrife, reed canary grass, common reed, and cattails). All four are capable of completely taking over a wetland, and examples of this can be found for all four. Small numbers of the singing insects mentioned above can be found in such places, but not the other wetland insect species.
This female long-tailed meadow katydid was a rare wetland species holdout in a small pocket of surviving diverse wetland plants surrounded by cattails, reed canary grass and common reed at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in DuPage County, Illinois.
On the other hand, there are some good wetlands out there. Many are small, and this along with their isolation may limit them.
This beautiful little fen at Richard Young Forest Preserve in Kendall County is completely surrounded by woodland.
Many of the interdune swales at Miller Woods in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore have been taken over by the common reed. This one was an exception, but I found only black-legs there.
This fen-like wetland at Bluff Creek in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest looks very good. I will want to check it earlier in the season next year.
Still, I have not given up hope. I found a third good population of mole crickets this year, in a swale at Miller Woods.
Mole cricket tunnels look like miniature mole tunnels. They occur around wetland edges, and occasionally have holes to let out the males’ deep chirping calls, and to provide access for attracted females.
I also found melodious ground crickets at two new sites in Berrien County, Michigan. Though I did not find dusky-faced or delicate meadow katydids at the Indiana Dunes’ Great Marsh this year, I felt curiously encouraged by this.
Both species were there last year, but with the water level higher in 2013, the vegetation was arranged differently and I did not find them in the same place.
Maybe the populations of many wetland species took a hit in last year’s drought, and were thinly dispersed in the expanded wet areas of 2013. This is, after all, the first year in which I have surveyed many of these sites. If they need a couple years to recover from the drought, maybe I will find the missing species in the future. Still, how to account for the lack of nimble meadow katydids? This species I have yet to find, anywhere. In the heart of the singing insect season I took my sea kayak into an area where they historically were known.
The channels at the south end of Lake Maxinkuckee in Marshall County, Indiana, have become heavily invaded by purple loosestrife.
Even the patches of emergent water-dwelling knotweeds, a habitat specifically mentioned in some sources as good for nimble meadow katydids, had none as far as I could tell.
So the bottom line is a disappointing season for wetland species, with a few positive points and hope in the possibility that populations are at a low point from which they will recover.
April 4, 2013 at 6:07 am (singing insects)
Tags: black-legged meadow katydid, common meadow katydid, dusky-faced meadow katydid, gladiator meadow katydid, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum gladiator, Orchelimum nigripes, Orchelimum vulgare, territorial behavior
by Carl Strang
Last week I made reference to Darryl T. Gwynne’s book on katydid mating system evolution. That book led me to other references, including a Ph.D. thesis by Marianne Feaver, who studied the behavioral ecology of three species of large meadow katydids (genus Orchelimum) under the direction of Richard Alexander at the University of Michigan in the 1970’s. I ordered a copy of Feaver’s thesis, and enjoyed reading it over the weekend. There was much richness of detail that will benefit my observations in the coming months and years. Here I’ll just share a few gleanings.
Male black-legged meadow katydid
Feaver studied black-legged, common and gladiator meadow katydids. Maturation in the three species required 2 months from hatching to adulthood. In northeast Illinois the earliest species, O. gladiator, matures in late June, implying a late April hatch from eggs laid in the stems of plants.
Female gladiator meadow katydid
Oviposition plants, food and cover are the three most important habitat features in these species. Upon reaching maturity, females move from nymphal areas that emphasize food and cover to places offering the best mix of food, cover and oviposition sites, and the males follow them there. The males then set up circular territories that space them out. These are defended mainly through song, though in high density populations physical combat often can take place. Defensive songs are characterized by increased number and rapidity of the tick portion of the song, the buzz portion apparently not important here. The territorial male reacts to the singing intruder, who may retreat or approach. In the latter case, after repeated warnings, the territory holder is likely to attack. The heavier male generally wins. Territory holding males tolerate silent males, which apparently are waiting for the territorial males either to be removed by predators or parasites, or to mate, after which they must retreat to gain back their weight.
Male common meadow katydid
They spend the night buried down in low, dense cover, then males begin spacing themselves out in mid-morning, and are singing by late morning. After territories stabilize, singing continues through the afternoon. Females assess and compare males, with mating taking place in the late afternoon. Females may take several days to choose a mate, however, and only mate once. In the early evening they break off to feed, then climb down into cover to spend the night.
This pattern provides a basis of comparison to other species, which will vary in detail. For instance, though I found a freshly mated female dusky-faced meadow katydid in the mid- to late afternoon, as I mentioned last week, that species reportedly does most of its singing at night.
March 27, 2013 at 5:55 am (singing insects)
Tags: dusky-faced meadow katydid, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Orchelimum campestre, spermatophore, spermatophylax
by Carl Strang
For such tiny creatures, insects have complex lives and biology. They have been shaped by natural selection in more ways than we know, but we know enough to be amazed. Recently I began expanding my readings on singing insects, and gained several insights on things I had noticed but hadn’t fully appreciated. Let’s begin with a photo from last summer.
This is the female dusky-faced meadow katydid I caught and photographed last summer at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Note the white gelatinous substance in her jaws. I cropped it out of the photos I shared in the blog then, but fortunately I was not so fastidious as to clean her up. This was a very important meal she was in the midst of consuming, according to Darryl T. Gwynne in his 2001 book, Katydids and Bush-crickets: Reproductive Behavior and Evolution of the Tettigoniidae (Cornell University Press). Another photo tells more of the story.
The female’s abdomen. I was focused on recording the shape of the ovipositor, but notice that more of the white substance is here, as well.
It turns out that this female had mated within the previous hour or two, her one and only time (this was surprising, but Gwynne says it is true of all Orchelimum meadow katydids). The male had inserted a spermatophore into her reproductive tract, with this gelatinous structure, called a spermatophylax, as an added extension. The female slowly eats the spermatophylax, which contains valuable nutrients, while fertilization is taking place. This is a significant investment by the male, about 10% of his body mass, and though he may mate again, it will take some time to build a new spermatophore.
Eventually she will eat the protein-rich sperm casing, as well, but by then her eggs will be fertilized. Gwynne studies the evolution of this system, and reviewed it across the worldwide spectrum of katydids in his book. There is some consensus among researchers that the spermatophylax originated as a distraction, preventing the female from immediately consuming the spermatophore and preventing fertilization (she could go on to mate as many times as she wished, building her nutrient reserves at the expense of the males whose sperm did not fertilize her eggs). The question remains, though, as to the degree to which the continued evolution of the spermatophore and its spermatophylax component improves the quality of the offspring by feeding the female. In the Orchelimum meadow katydids it seems that this issue is resolved. The female mates only once, and the male contributes a substantial nutrient gift that increases the size of her eggs. This is why it is really good that I released her without removing the spermatophylax material. It also may be why she was the one I caught, as her focus on her meal probably slowed her down.
September 13, 2012 at 6:30 am (ecology, singing insects)
Tags: black-legged meadow katydid, bog, Conocephalus attenuatus, Conocephalus fasciatus, delicate meadow katydid, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, long-tailed meadow katydid, marsh, marsh conehead, Neoconocephalus palustris, Neonemobius palustris, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum delicatum, Orchelimum nigripes, Pinhook Bog, slender meadow katydid, sphagnum ground cricket, wetlands
by Carl Strang
After catching the melodious ground cricket I drove to Pinhook Bog, a part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore that is open to the public only on rare occasions. I hoped to find stripe-faced meadow katydids, but the bog’s public access boardwalk was bordered by little in the way of grasses and sedges. I was gratified, however, by the presence of sphagnum ground crickets.
These were the first I have found in Indiana. I have seen them only at Volo Bog in Illinois.
After lunch I returned to the place where Gideon, Nathan and I caught the marsh coneheads in early August. Gideon had relayed the news that some of the meadow katydids Nathan also had caught there were dusky-faced, one of the conservative species I had yet to find. The lead paid off.
The legs were totally green, unlike those of the familiar black-legged meadow katydid.
I caught a couple individuals to hold for close-ups.
The head of the dusky-faced meadow katydid is amber colored, with fine dots and lines of red-brown.
While wading the tall grasses and sedges I also spotted a different large meadow katydid with green legs and a beautiful yellow-green face.
Unfortunately I only saw the one, and the auto-focus on the camera frustrated my attempts at a clear photo before she flew away. Though blurred, the image provided enough information for identification.
This was another species on my conservative wetland singing insects want list: the delicate meadow katydid. So, what was so special about this place?
View of the edge of the portion of the Great Marsh under discussion.
For one thing, invasive Phragmites was absent, and cattails were limited to a few scattered plants. Grasses and sedges were the dominant plants. Black-legged meadow katydids were very few, and limited to the dry-soil edges of the wetland. The plants and katydids were zoned. Just inland from the water and mud-flat edge was a zone of shorter, finer grasses in which the only singing insects I saw were abundant slender meadow katydids. Then came taller grasses of intermediate coarseness, where the dusky-faced and delicate meadow katydids were, along with a few marsh coneheads.
Female marsh conehead
The soil became progressively less water saturated as the vegetation rings went outward. Next came a zone of very coarse sedges. The only species I saw in there was, surprisingly, a long-tailed meadow katydid (a tiny species dwarfed by the big triangular sedge stems). Interspersed here were patches of taller grasses which contained more dusky-faced meadow katydids. This area gave me a strong image of good marsh habitat to carry as I continue to search for these insects in other places.
September 4, 2012 at 5:55 am (singing insects)
Tags: black-legged meadow katydid, Chain O'Lakes State Park, conservative species, delicate meadow katydid, dusky-faced meadow katydid, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, marsh conehead, Neoconocephalus lyristes, Neoconocephalus palustris, Neocurtilla hexadactyla, nimble meadow katydid, northern mole cricket, Orchelimum campestre, Orchelimum concinnum, Orchelimum delicatum, Orchelimum nigripes, Orchelimum volantum, slender conehead, stripe-faced meadow katydid
by Carl Strang
It should be obvious that this title is not a political reference. In this election year both political conservatives and liberals are easy to find as they loudly and shrilly make their cases against each other, trying to attract voters (hm, reminds me of singing insects for some reason). The conservatives I am concerned about here are some of the wetland species of singing insects, habitat specialists that are found only within narrow ranges of ecological parameters and are sensitive to invasive species and other disruptions. Much of my research this year is focused on finding conservative species from my hypothetical list for the region.
I haven’t had a lot of luck with wetland conservatives. The northern mole cricket was one, but I still have not found them anywhere but Houghton Lake. The marsh conehead was another. We thought we also found slender coneheads at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, but Gideon discovered when he returned to his lab that they all were marsh coneheads as well, misleading because they were outside the size range of that species he was familiar with in Missouri.
Gideon also learned that the underside of the cone should be black, not gray as it was on the marsh coneheads we found.
But what about the several species of wetland meadow katydids in genus Orchelimum? Regionally there should be four species I haven’t yet found: dusky-faced, stripe-faced, delicate and nimble meadow katydids all have been elusive. I should have found dusky-faced meadow katydids, at least, because they are described as being common in a wide range of marshes. Instead I am finding lots of black-legged meadow katydids, a marsh species that spills into drier areas adjacent to wetlands.
Black-legged meadow katydid
Black-legs sing so loudly, day and night, that I wonder how earlier researchers heard the other wetland species. I wonder if black-legs have become more abundant, conceivably pushing the others out. Have I not been looking in the right places or in the right way? Is the lack of success this year a consequence of the drought? Certainly it takes some effort this year to get wet feet in the marshes. I will continue to look. Last week at Chain O’Lakes State Park in Illinois I saw a number of Orchelimum nymphs that were relatively plain and green.
This female meadow katydid nymph is recognized as an Orchelimum by the curved ovipositor.
On the other hand, black-legs don’t get their full colors until after they mature.
This newly molted adult male black-legged meadow katydid still has not developed his full coloration.
I will continue to look this year, and hope for better conditions next year.
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