Unexpectedly agile

IMG_9909.JPG

The lovely Orchelimum agile, most fleet-footed of katydids (Mason, OH).

I am always on the lookout for interesting orthopteran range expansions. Not only is it fun to hear new species calling in unfamiliar places, it also increases our knowledge of the spread of these animals and how this may be related to climate change and other human-influenced causes. I have written about the remarkable Orocharis saltator before, and now it’s time to note another traveler.

While driving down to Mississippi from Ithaca, NY, I kept track of what was singing in the vicinity of gas stations and rest areas where we stopped. Mostly it was the usual cast of characters – the trills of ground crickets, the short buzzes of short-winged meadow katydids, and indeed, the cheery calls of Orocharis as well. At one spot, a Dairy Queen in southern Ohio, I heard something different – a loud buzz preceded by a series of ticks. I recognized it as a greater meadow katydid in the genus Orchelimum. I don’t encounter species in this genus often so I was unsure of which species it could be at first. Tracking one individual in an ornamental yew in the parking lot, I spotted a large katydid with a pale face and a light green body. As I leaned in to get a better look, I accidentally jostled the bush and he bolted. I turned my attention to a second singer, again in a yew next to the Dairy Queen drive-in. This one stopped calling when I was a few feet from the bush, and standing in the middle of the drive-in, with cars maneuvering all around me, was clearly not an option. A third singer, calling from an ornamental juniper, was situated higher in the plant and was less shy. I caught him, but wrangling him into a vial was a difficult process as he was incredibly acrobatic, springing everywhere as soon as he was not restrained. Once I was able to get a good look at him, I recognized an old friend. This was Orchelimum agile, the Agile Meadow Katydid, an animal I had seen back in 2012 in central Florida. One of the most aptly named insects in my opinion, this is one of the most hyperactive species I have ever had the opportunity to encounter.

Range maps at Singing Insects of North America showed Ohio as being way far out of range for agile, but coincidentally I came across a very recent blog post that details their movements into southern Ohio. So turns out I was not the first one to see agile in Ohio, but this lithe creature was a significant record in any case.

IMG_0264.JPG

Orchelimum agile at Archbold Biological Station in FL in 2012.

Advertisements

The Woodland Katydid

IMG_0168.JPG

Conocephalus nemoralis, the woodland meadow katydid (Starkville, MS). 

A few weeks ago I journeyed to Starkville, Mississippi, from Ithaca, New York with Jason Dombroskie of the CUIC. The purpose of our visit was, for Jason, to gather tortricid data from the Mississippi Entomological Museum at Mississippi State University; for me, it was a chance to chat about potential research projects with JoVonn Hill, an orthopterist based in Mississippi. Of course, being entomologists, we made time to collect along the way. While Jason set light traps and carefully pinned the moths harvested from said traps, I listened for unfamiliar songs and tracked down their creators. The trip yielded many orthopteran species I had only encountered once or twice before, as well as several species that I had never seen at all. One such species was Conocephalus nemoralis, the woodland meadow katydid. This was a species I was hoping to find, and find it I did; in fact I encountered them in almost every area we stopped to collect.

c. nemoralis collage.jpg

Conocephalus nemoralis from Hoosier National Forest in Indiana. 

My first encounter with this pretty animal came in southern Indiana, in the Clover Lick Barrens of Hoosier National Forest. We arrived at dusk and hurried to set out light traps. Among the hundreds of singing insects, one call stood out. It sounded very much like the call of my shieldbacks that I had reared up earlier in the year (incidentally, the female and one male are still hanging in there), and I immediately thought that must be what was calling. Once I got around to tracking the song, I quickly found the singer and knew immediately what it was. There was no mistaking this little dark, wood-brown katydid and its short quiet buzzes. Over the course of the next hour I managed to capture two males and a female. The woodland meadow katydid is notable because it is intermediate in character between the closely related katydid genera Conocephalus and Orchelimum. The robust habitus and ovipositor shape are more typical of Orchelimum, but other characters place it as a Conocephalus.

IMG_9741.JPG

A female of Conocephalus nemoralis. Note the short, upcurved ovipositor that is more typical of Orchelimum katydids (Derby, IN). 

I was excited to have found nemoralis and suspected that I wouldn’t run across them again. Given the paucity of photos at BugGuide and other sources, I imagined that it wasn’t an especially common animal. However, this was certainly not the case, as I later picked up singing males at gas stations in Tennessee, university-owned properties in Mississippi, and even a rest stop in southern Pennsylvania on our way back to Ithaca. These varied localities had one thing in common – they were all edge habitats at the periphery of forests, which seems to be the preferred habitat of these little katydids. Most did not survive the trip back but one made it and is housed in my room, calling every day alongside native New York katydids.

IMG_20161008_074010_604.jpg

Habitat in Indiana where I found nemoralis – the Clover Lick Barrens.