Friday, August 21, 2015

Handsome Meadow Katydid

An aptly named male Handsome Meadow Katydid calls from the low vegetation by a wetland. 

     I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite Orthopterans (the grasshopper, cricket, and katydid family).  The Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) is about one inch long and has some beautiful translucent colors with bluish eyes. It sings in low vegetation and is usually associated with water, calling mostly during the day but also at occasionally at night. The Genus name is Greek for "I dance in the meadow" which I think is quite fetching. The species name simply means "pretty." Again, all the very appropriate. 

A female Handsome Meadow Katydid shows the large ovipositor used for egg laying. 

     As in most Orthopterans, the males do the "singing" which is actually called stridulation and is achieved by rubbing of their wings. Other Orthopetrans use their legs or combination with wings, while some like the Camel Crickets we find in out basements are wingless and do not call at all . The call of the Handsome Meadow Katydid sounds a bit like a water sprinkler to me. Females choose the best singers and then use their long ovipositors to lay eggs in grass stems. 
     A look at male versus female, as well as a grasshopper for comparison here:


     In general, grasshoppers differ from katydids in having short antennae while katydids have long antennae. Crickets tend to have flat backs and are also normally brownish in color. They also have long antennae. These insects together make up the order of insects called Orthopetra. 

     Despite the colorful nature of Handsome Meadow Katydids, they are extremely difficult to see. They can be singing inches from you and still be well concealed. Several times I've been listening to one which had to be right in front of me, only to fail in finding him. When disturbed they will quickly go silent (and those nearby will take the cue and do the same). They have an interesting habit, like many other katydids and grasshoppers, of using the stalk they're sitting on for cover. They will flip to the back side of the stem or stalk and use it for both a physical and visual shield. They can play this game of flipping to the opposite side for quite a while until finally jumping away.
     To hear one calling and learn a bit more about them, check out this short video from the Capital Naturalist YouTube Channel:


A female Handsome Meadow Katydid ovipositing eggs into a stem.

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