Male Broad-Winged Bush Katydid

2013 February 6

Sam and Rosie caught this katydid for me on July 27, 2012. They found it in the garden on the south side of the house.

While I’ve had similar-looking katydids on a couple of occasions in the past, this is the first one that was a male.

And why does it matter that it was a male? Well, because the males are a lot easier to identify down to the exact species, by examining the genitalia at the tip of the abdomen.

Here’s a close look. This is pretty distinctive, with the straight prong on the top, the long curved clip on the bottom, and the two curved ball-tipped hooks on the sides [1]. It’s a Broad-Winged Bush Katydid, Scudderia pistillata

I’d hoped to get a recording of him singing, too, but he wouldn’t sing in captivity. I think our presence was making him nervous, even if we did ignore him.

After all, if you try creeping up on a singing katydid out in the yard, they almost always shut up as soon as you get within about a ten-foot radius. And then won’t start again unless you hold absolutely still for at least a couple of minutes.

It’s easy to see why they would be so nervous. They are big, juicy bugs, and the extent to which they go in for camouflage suggests that they don’t have any chemical defenses. In other words, they are probably pretty tasty. And in spite of those long legs and big wings, they don’t actually seem to be all that good at jumping and flying to get away from predators. So, stealth it is!

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[1] One of the reasons why the genitalia are a good feature to identify exact species in a lot of small arthropods, is that the genitalia shape is sometimes the only thing that keeps them from breeding with the wrong species. If tabs (A), (B), and (C) don’t fit into slots (x),(y), and (z), mating isn’t going to happen, and so the groups with incompatible genitalia aren’t going to be swapping genes anytime soon. Even if they would, in theory, be able to form cross-breeds if their sperm and eggs ever managed to get combined somehow.

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