Recent Indiana Excursions

by Carl Strang

In recent weeks I have visited a few spots in Lake and Newton Counties, Indiana, for the first time. One site in Gary is a state nature preserve with several interdune swales.

Though there are some patches of invasive wetland plants, more than 95% of the area is in native vegetation.

Though there are some patches of invasive wetland plants, more than 95% of the area is in native vegetation.

I had high hopes for this site, which I thought might have stripe-faced meadow katydids and slender coneheads. On an evening excursion and an afternoon one I built a rather mundane species list. In this rainy year it is possible that the target species are present but widely scattered. I want to get in there again in a year when drier conditions might concentrate the species of interest, and also make a larger portion of the site easily navigable.

Willow Slough Wildlife Area in Newton County is a large and diverse area that I barely have begun to explore for singing insects. One target for this year was a roadside ditch lined with native sedges and grasses.

The ditch proved to have only common singing insects, but there was a remarkable concentration of clipped-wing grasshoppers, a non-singing species I have seen in only one other location. This is a nymph; most were adults at this late point in the season.

The ditch proved to have only common singing insects, but there was a remarkable concentration of clipped-wing grasshoppers, a non-singing species I have seen in only one other location. This is a nymph; most were adults at this late point in the season.

I also checked out some narrow drainage swales along an access road closely bordered by forest.

One non-singing species there was the graceful grasshopper.

One non-singing species there was the graceful grasshopper.

Short-winged meadow katydids were abundant, but the population was unusual in that nearly half the individuals were the long-winged variant.

Short-winged meadow katydids were abundant, but the population was unusual in that nearly half the individuals were the long-winged variant.

I wonder if the narrow, constrained habitat has something to do with the oddity of that population.

 

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Some Hoosier Grasshoppers

by Carl Strang

As I mentioned in the last post, grasshoppers pose problems different from other groups of singing insects. First, most of them don’t qualify as singing insects. Second, those that sing seldom do. Surveying them therefore must be on a visual rather than a hearing basis. Finally, even the visual approach isn’t simple. There are a lot of grasshopper species, sometimes distinguished by tiny structural features. A complete series of photos may be needed to assure an identification. You need every view, above, below, from the side, being sure to get good dorsal and lateral views of the end of the abdomen. Band-winged grasshoppers need to be captured and the wings spread. Also, the color of the hind tibia often is important. All of this was the lesson from grasshopper photos I took in Jasper, Pulaski and Starke Counties, Indiana, last week.

Some grasshoppers are relatively large and spectacular. The bird grasshoppers are the largest I have found to date in the region.

This appears to be the obscure bird grasshopper, common in places at the Jasper-Pulaski wildlife area but at or near the north end of its range.

This appears to be the obscure bird grasshopper, common in places at the Jasper-Pulaski wildlife area but at or near the north end of its range.

This is a different bird grasshopper from Round Lake conservation area, my best sorting of characters pointing to the spotted or prairie bird grasshopper, Schistocerca emarginata (S. lineata in older references). Note the different colors of the head and tibia, compared to the preceding species.

This is a different bird grasshopper from Round Lake conservation area, my best sorting of characters pointing to the spotted or prairie bird grasshopper, Schistocerca emarginata (S. lineata in older references). Note the different colors of the head and tibia, compared to the preceding species.

The remaining grasshoppers I photographed apparently are all in the enormous spur-throated grasshopper group. Their identifications I think are correct, but a few more photos of certain parts of them would have helped.

The graceful grasshopper, Melanoplus gracilis, is the one of these I most likely have right. It lives in moist grassy areas.

The graceful grasshopper, Melanoplus gracilis, is the one of these I most likely have right. It lives in moist grassy areas.

This may be a post oak grasshopper, Dendrotettix quercus. I found it in a dry oak savanna. Superficially it resembles the previous, but note the different wings.

This may be a post oak grasshopper, Dendrotettix quercus. I found it in a dry oak savanna. Superficially it resembles the previous, but note the different wings.

After poring through many reference photos, I had to conclude that this was a two-striped grasshopper. If I had looked at its back, I wouldn’t have needed to go to the trouble.

After poring through many reference photos, I had to conclude that this was a two-striped grasshopper. If I had looked at its back, I wouldn’t have needed to go to the trouble.

This grasshopper, like the previous one, didn’t give me a dorsal view, but I’m pretty sure it’s another two-striped.

This grasshopper, like the previous one, didn’t give me a dorsal view, but I’m pretty sure it’s another two-striped.

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