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…
July 4, 2016 at 11:09 am (singing insects)
Tags: Arphia sulfurea, Atlanticus testaceus, Bluff Spring Fen, Chortophaga viridifasciata, coneheaded katydids, Goose Pond, green-striped grasshopper, Gryllus veletis, Illinois Beach State Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Neoconocephalus, Okanagana balli, prairie cicada, protean shieldback, spring field cricket, sulfur-winged grasshopper, Vermont Cemetery
by Carl Strang
Though my main research focus is singing insects, I don’t end up photographing them much, as I am listening for them rather than looking for them. Sulfur-winged grasshoppers continued to be an early-season focus.
Though I added several more county records for the species, there was not additional range in their color variation. This female was at Cook County’s Bluff Spring Fen.
Here is a typical dark male, Illinois Beach State Park.
Not much different, this male was around the corner of Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Only 8 species of singing insects could be found at Goose Pond. There will be many more there later in the season.
Green-striped grasshoppers still were displaying, but their days are numbered.
Spring field crickets seldom come into view. This female was a challenge to photograph as she crawled among the grasses.
This katydid nymph climbed up onto the sheet illuminated by the UV light. I am reluctant to say which conehead species she might be.
The season seems barely begun, but already I am closing the book on two species.
The Vermont Cemetery Prairie Preserve in Will County reportedly is one of the few places in the Chicago region which still harbors prairie cicadas. They were done, however, by the time I got there on June 26.
I have just 3 sites to check next year as good candidates for persisting prairie cicada populations. Protean shieldbacks also apparently are done. I added only 3 county records for them in their brief 2016 season. This was a wakeup call, and I will need to get on my horse right away when they start next year.
June 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm (dragonflies and damselflies, invertebrates (other), reptiles and amphibians, singing insects)
Tags: four-spotted skimmer, Gomphus externus, Goose Pond, Gryllus vernalis, Illinois Beach State Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Libellula quadrimaculata, Marquette Trail, midland painted turtle, northern wood cricket, plains clubtail, Turkey Run State Park
by Carl Strang
I have fallen behind on blog posts. The season is heating up, and I have kept busy doing various surveys in various places. Today’s start on catching up will focus on some scenes and miscellaneous photos taken along the way.
The Marquette Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore passes beautiful marsh and sand savanna habitats.
I found northern wood crickets singing along the trail. They bury themselves in leaf litter like this.
Another example of a wood cricket song site. I tried to get a look at one, but they choose deeply stacked litter areas with plenty of hidey holes and escape routes.
Painted turtles wandered the savanna seeking good places to lay their eggs.
Another good sand area is Illinois Beach State Park. Here a trail goes through the zone behind the fore dunes.
Farther back from the edge of Lake Michigan, black oak savanna lines the trail.
Though my main interest was singing insects, there were many four-spotted skimmers to enjoy at IBSP.
I also have spent some time in Kendall County. This plains clubtail was at Hoover Forest Preserve.
This year’s Indiana Academy of Sciences bioblitz was at Goose Pond in southern Indiana. I stopped on the way down for a walk at Turkey Run State Park. Ravines there provide many scenes like this.
I didn’t end up taking any scenery shots at Goose Pond. As I was setting up the UV light, I found this mama spider crossing the road, her back covered with babies. All their eyes glittered like jewels in the headlamp.
October 2, 2014 at 5:49 am (singing insects)
Tags: Carolina grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, Hoosier grasshopper, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana swamp grasshopper, longhorn band-winged grasshopper, mottled sand grasshopper, Paroxya hoosieri, Psinidia fenestralis, seaside grasshopper, showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, Spharagemon collare, Trimerotropis maritima
by Carl Strang
A couple weeks ago I went back to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, as usual seeking to add to the regional inventory of singing insects. I spent most of my time in the West Beach area.
Behind the beach is a beautiful sand prairie with plenty of blazing stars and showy goldenrods.
The prairie hosted the same three species of band-winged grasshoppers as at the Memorial Forest in Marshall County, but their relative numbers were different. Carolina grasshoppers were present in small numbers, as at the Memorial Forest, but the other two species were reversed. The dominant one was the longhorn band-winged grasshopper.
They were colored a little differently at this site, but had the small size, bright red hind wings, and protruding head characteristic of the species.
The larger, yellow-winged species, the mottled sand grasshopper, was present in much smaller numbers.
Its colors were perhaps a little more smudged than at the Memorial Forest.
Down on the beach beyond the vegetation, as is typical of the Lake Michigan shore in the Chicago region, the seaside grasshopper was common.
The camouflage of this species is truly impressive.
A final stop was the marsh where I have found rare meadow katydids in the past. I thought I heard a couple dusky-faced meadow katydids, but was unable to confirm them visually. I did find a grasshopper that, if my identification is correct, is a relatively uncommon one, living in marshes in a limited portion of northern Indiana, southern Michigan and northwestern Ohio.
Paroxya hoosieri, variously known as the Hoosier grasshopper or the Indiana swamp grasshopper, does not belong to either of the singing grasshopper subfamilies.
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.
September 23, 2013 at 6:04 am (singing insects)
Tags: Allonemobius tinnulus, Amblycorypha oblongifolia, Bong Recreation Area, common meadow katydid, common true katydid, confused ground cricket, Eunemobius confusus, Eunemobius melodius, four-spotted tree cricket, Fulton County, handsome trig, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes State Park, melodious ground cricket, oblong-winged katydid, Oecanthus quadripunctatus, Orchelimum vulgare, Phyllopalpus pulchellus, Pterophylla camellifolia, Scudderia texensis, Texas bush katydid, tinkling ground cricket, Waterfall Glen
by Carl Strang
As another season of field research into the region’s singing insects winds down, I am starting to look back at the highlights. Some of these were chance encounters that provided new photo opportunities. For example, there was a weakened common true katydid I found on a trail at Waterfall Glen in broad daylight. I didn’t have a good photo of the species, and posed him after removing him from the hazardous trail.
Unfortunately I neglected to place his hind legs in a natural position.
Another species for which I want a better photo is the handsome trig. Some were singing on a cloudy day down in Fulton County, Indiana, and one came out in the open, but the low light resulted in a less than sharp image.
Tiny but colorful, the handsome trig lives in the southern part of the region I am surveying.
The Indiana Dunes area provided several photographs.
This oblong-winged katydid female was emitting single clicks in response to the more complex songs of nearby males.
A four-spotted tree cricket had escaped from my grasp before I could photograph it. While looking for it on the ground where it seemed to have gone, my headlamp revealed something better.
A female tinkling ground cricket, only the second member of the species I have seen (despite hearing hundreds).
A similar encounter came when I was trying to get a better photo of a melodious ground cricket at Indiana Dunes State Park. Digging through the leaf litter in the area from which a male’s song seemed to be coming, I turned up a female ground cricket.
When I examined the photos, though, I saw that the palps were white. This was a female confused ground cricket, another species that was singing in the area, and the first female confused I have seen.
One of the last places I visited this year was the Bong Recreation Area in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The prairie area there is extensive, and has a good population of common meadow katydids.
Despite its name, the common meadow katydid is much less frequently encountered than two of its congeners, the gladiator and black-legged meadow katydids.
There were a few broad-winged bush katydids in the prairie, but I wasn’t successful in stalking one. This Texas bush katydid had to substitute.
Such encounters, sprinkled through the field season, make for good memories.
September 16, 2013 at 6:15 am (botany, ecology, insects (other), reptiles and amphibians)
Tags: Bluff Creek, Bong Recreation Area, Chinese mantis, fringed gentian, Gentiana crinita, gray treefrog, Houghton Lake, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Kettle Moraine State Forest, Miller Woods, Sanders Park, Tenodera sinensis, Warren Dunes State Park
by Carl Strang
It has been a memorable few weeks. This year I took the bulk of my vacation time in the heart of the singing insect season, mid-August to mid-September, and spent most of it traveling around the 22-county area, from southwest Michigan to southeast Wisconsin, where I am seeking the 100 species of cicadas, crickets, katydids and singing grasshoppers that occur (at least potentially) there. This travel took me to many memorable places.
High quality forests are scattered around the region. Sanders Park, Racine County, Wisconsin.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in the forests, however, much as I love them. Most singing insects live in more open habitats.
The dunes around the edge of Lake Michigan provided some of the most open habitats. Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan.
One of my favorite areas was Miller Woods at the western end of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
The trail leads through savanna and past wetlands. Here it crosses a former rail foundation.
The Miller Woods Trail eventually skirts a large pond at the edge of the dunes, and reaches the beach.
Wetlands included Bluff Creek in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Walworth County, Wisconsin.
The water was beautiful and clear, flowing over stones and gravel.
A fen-like wetland, bordering the creek, contained species such as the fringed gentian.
Sure, I was paying attention to species other than singing insects. At the Houghton Lake Nature Conservancy property in Marshall County, Indiana, I encountered a couple interesting ones.
A Chinese mantis nymph stalked through the wetland vegetation.
This gray treefrog snoozed in a leaf bed.
The most extensive prairie I encountered was in the Bong Recreation Area, Kenosha County, Wisconsin.
Its size alone speaks to the potential in this restoration project.
For now I will close with the sunset on my last evening at Bong.
The sunset was a beautiful prelude to a rainy evening in camp.
The singing insects of course were the focus of all this travel. I’ll share images of some of them in future posts.
September 9, 2013 at 5:50 am (singing insects)
Tags: Boll's grasshopper, Carolina grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, Illinois Beach State Park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes State Park, seaside grasshopper, Spharagemon bolli, Trimerotropis maritima, Warren Dunes State Park
by Carl Strang
Some singing grasshopper species mature late in the season, and I have begun to encounter a few. Their identification is based on fairly clear anatomical characteristics, but good views (photos or a specimen in hand) are needed of several body parts viewed from precise angles. The songs don’t help much. Members of the band-winged grasshopper subfamily rattle their wings in flight, and members of the stridulating grasshopper subfamily rub their hind legs over the folded wings to make sounds that are essentially identical. Through trial and error I now know that I especially need: clear dorsal and lateral views of the thorax; the color and patterning of the tibias and inside surfaces of the femurs; and, usually, the color and patterning of both the front and hind wings.
The femur and tibia colors appear to be significant to the grasshoppers themselves. When a seaside grasshopper lands close to a member of the opposite gender, the two begin a stereotyped leg-lifting display.
Two seaside grasshoppers flash their colors to one another. Warren Dunes State Park, Michigan.
The leg colors are hidden in the usual resting posture, which proves how well camouflaged these insects are. Seaside grasshopper, Indiana Dunes State Park.
The hind wing colors of the band-winged grasshoppers usually are folded out of sight. The yellow base of the seaside grasshopper’s wing looks brighter when the insect flies than it appears when fully expanded in the hand.
Seaside grasshoppers are strongly associated with the Lake Michigan beaches in our region. I found more members of this subfamily in a waste area in Cook County, Illinois.
Two or three band-winged grasshopper species were here, the Carolina grasshopper and one or two with yellow wing bases.
Some of them looked like this. Again, note the good camo.
This was part of my learning process. I caught one of the grasshoppers and took some photos in the hand, but failed to get a crucial piece of information.
I was going to call this one a mottled sand grasshopper, but without a clear profile of the thorax I couldn’t be sure. Now that I have had a chance to study these photos a little more, I think this was an inland population of the seaside grasshopper.
I need to go back to that site some time, not only to confirm the identity of this species, but also to check some individuals that had orange rather than yellow tibias, and may represent a different species.
Finally, there was a different-looking band-winged grasshopper at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Grasshopper colors can vary considerably with habitat, as they are strongly selected to match local background patterns. I can find no match for this color pattern in any of my references. This individual was on an old railroad bed in a savanna.
I will need to go back for this one, too, but again with further study, focusing mainly on the shape and proportion of the thorax, wings and head, I am tentatively identifying it as a Boll’s grasshopper. If I’m correct, this is a dramatic example of how a species can vary from place to place. Compare the above photo to the next one.
Here is a Boll’s grasshopper at Illinois Beach State Park. This one is separated from the previous individual by only two counties’ distance.
These grasshoppers are fun. I hope to find more, as many more species in the two singing subfamilies have been found in the region historically.
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.
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