Down the Rabbit Hole in Indy

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

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.

The pale face and eyes reminded me of a recent find by Lisa Rainsong in Ohio.

Oblique ventral view of the male’s cerci.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

Singing Insects on TV

by Carl Strang

Last September, several of the participants in St. Joseph County’s Bendix Woods Bioblitz were interviewed for that park district’s series of nature-related television programs. Evie Kirkwood, a national leader in the heritage interpretation field, was the interviewer. I was one of the interviewees. My segment recently was televised, in a program that included another on pollination, and one featuring the Field Museum’s Jim Louderman, who also will be participating in our Centennial Bioblitz in DuPage County in June. The program can be viewed HERE. The segments can be selected individually.

The first stop of my segment had both fall field crickets and Japanese burrowing crickets singing, but the latter’s song is more prominent in the audio pickup. I did not mention the Japanese burrowing cricket because I did not confirm its identity until the next day.

Japanese burrowing cricket at Bendix Woods

Japanese burrowing cricket at Bendix Woods

Sound Ideas: Japanese Burrowing Cricket

by Carl Strang

One of the unexpected findings from the field season just past was the discovery of Japanese burrowing crickets at Bendix Woods in St. Joseph County, Indiana.

Japanese burrowing cricket

Japanese burrowing cricket

As described earlier, there is a well-established population of this exotic species in the gravel-filled medians dividing parking lots and drives in the central part of the park. They are well buried, and it was only their distinctive songs that gave them away.

The chirps are distinctly buzzier than those of the fall field crickets that were singing nearby. Here is a fall field cricket recording from 2006 for comparison.

Listening to it, I’m getting a warm reminder of summer. Common true katydids, a striped ground cricket, and wall-of-sound tree crickets and other ground crickets are in the background.

 

Japanese Burrowing Cricket

by Carl Strang

Between the roads and parking lots at the east end of Bendix Woods are divides containing layers of 1- to 2-inch gravel stones, in a layer several inches deep.

The rounded stones probably came from a glacial outwash quarry not too far away.

The rounded stones probably came from a glacial outwash quarry not too far away.

On the Friday afternoon of the Bendix Woods bioblitz I heard sounds coming from those divides that were definitely crickety, and definitely not belonging to any species I had yet heard in the 22-county region I am surveying for singing insects. The calling songs did ring a bell, though, and on Saturday morning I began to dig where a few of the singers were located. I caught one of the crickets, a female, and my suspicion was confirmed.

A Japanese burrowing cricket!

A Japanese burrowing cricket!

These insects are as big as fall field crickets, but instead of being black, are colored in shades of cream and brown.

The face has a beautiful mottled pattern.

The face has a beautiful mottled pattern.

They were not even on my hypothetical list of singing insects in the region, as they never had been documented here and range maps place them in southern Indiana, but not in the northern half of the state. I have to question how they came to be in this place. While it is true that this introduced Asian species is expanding its range outward from Alabama (probably the port of Mobile), the population at Bendix Woods appears to be isolated by habitats inappropriate for the species. It is, perhaps tellingly, adjacent to the park’s maintenance area.

Note the chain-link fence and earth moving machine in the background.

Note the chain-link fence and earth moving machine in the background.

The founders of this cricket population may have been brought in with landscaping materials or plants transported from farther south. There are, however, so many of them, spread over several of those gravel divides, that they almost certainly have been building their numbers over at least a couple years, demonstrating their ability to survive our winters. That tells me that it is only a matter of time before they become widespread in our region. For recordings of the songs and more photos, check out this species’ page at the Singing Insects of North America website: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/buzz/551a.htm

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