Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The diversity of active insects at Blue Jay Barrens continues to decline as we proceed into autumn.  Fortunately, one of my favorite insect groups is still well represented by active adult individuals.  I’m referring to representatives of the order Orthoptera, which I generally think of as Hoppers, because of their specially adapted hind legs capable of sending the creatures bouncing across the landscape.  The most conspicuous of this order are the grasshoppers, such as this Two-Striped Grasshopper, so named for the twin lines that run backwards from the eyes and onto the wings where they merge to form a “V”.

The Two-Striped Grasshopper is part of a group known as spurthroated grasshoppers, so named because of the protruding spike found between the front legs.  The wounds on the underside of the thorax, along with the cream colored object that appears to be an egg, suggest that this individual is infested with parasites.

In large numbers, this species is sometimes an agricultural pest.  At Blue Jay Barrens the population seems to remain in check, making this just one of many species feeding on the diversity of prairie vegetation.

Many grasshoppers employ camouflage to help avoid predation.  This Kiowa Rangeland Grasshopper illustrates how easily it can avoid detection.

Removed from its rocky background, the grasshopper displays a bright and colorful pattern.

This is a quite variable species.  A diagnostic characteristic is a double hump located atop a structure known as the pronotum, which sits like a collar directly behind the head.

The grasshopper quickly blends into its surroundings once placed back on the ground.

Displaying the art of camouflage as a leaf mimic does this Lesser Anglewing little good when it sits on the tree trunk.  Anglewings are distinguished from other similar looking insects by the bend in the upper margins of the wing along the insect’s back.

The Lesser Anglewing can be separated from its close relative the Greater Anglewing by the presence of a dark patch on its back directly behind the pronotum.

Well concealed among the Indian Grass is a Fork-Tailed Bush Katydid.  I believe I interrupted some courtship activity in my discovery of this female.  I had actually been following the sound of a singing male of the species.  The vegetation was quite thick and as I pushed aside some grass stalks in an effort to catch a glimpse of the singer, I scared him from his perch.  The female, who was positioned about six inches further up the grass blade than the male, remained long enough for me to get a couple of shots before she too left the scene.

As a youngster, I always believed that the pale looking Broad Winged Tree Cricket was suffering some illness.  I never took any home to raise in captivity, because I believed that whatever ailment they suffered, might be transferred to the healthy insects in my collection.  It was years later that I found out that this was the normal appearance of this species. 

The red coloration on the head and antenna bases is distinctive.  The transparent forewings contain an intricate veined pattern that reminds me of fine crystal.

I’m a fan of insects that are so distinctively patterned that identification is unmistakable. Unfortunately, this specimen doesn’t fall into that category.  It is one of those that is part of a group of closely related species that share common physical traits.  This is most likely a Black-Horned Tree Cricket, but I am unable to make that identification with 100 percent assurance.

This handsome young lady is a Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid.  The long sword-like appendage trailing from the end of the abdomen is the egg laying apparatus, the ovipositor. 

I’ve been seeing a lot of these Woodland Meadow Katydids this year.  In general they all seem little disturbed by my intrusion.

After only one photograph, this inquisitive lady went from corn stalk, to camera, to my hand, where it didn’t want to leave.

It migrated to my thumb where it began nibbling away at the skin.  I wasn’t sure if it was after salt or dead skin cells or the residue of ornamental corn sap that gave my thumb that purple blush.

When it moved around to my knuckle, which had not been corn contaminated, I decided that it was most likely grazing on dead skin cells.  I had to remove it from my thumb, however, because I didn’t have time for the full manicure.

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