Female Meadow Katydid

2023 March 5

Another thing that we found at Lake Perrault on August 27, 2022 was this katydid. Sam had taken off her shoes to go wading in the lake, and when we came back it was sitting on the sole of her shoe.

Normally, a katydid like this wouldn’t let me get close enough for a picture, but if you look at her left jumping leg, you can see that most of the tibia is missing and so the leg doesn’t work for jumping. And, as we will see in some subsequent pictures, the right jumping leg is missing altogether, so she clearly wasn’t going anywhere unless it was at a slow crawl.

The dorsal view shows a black stripe running down the back of the head and thorax, and the next picture shows the fairly long, straight ovipositor which clearly identifies this as a female. The ovipositor is shaped so that she can chew a hole in a plant stem, then insert the ovipositor to lay her eggs inside the stem.

And, as I already mentioned, this picture of the right side shows the right jumping leg as being completely gone.

This looks to be one of the Meadow Katydids, and is most likely a Greater Meadow Katydid in the genus Orchelimum. The closest match is the Gladiator Meadow Katydid, Orchelimum gladiator, although the eyes aren’t quite right and the ovipositor is maybe a bit long. The habitat is right, though: BugGuide says that their primary habitat is “Damp meadows of tall grasses and sedges and wet edges of marshes”, which is a pretty good description of where we found her.

I expect she lost her jumping legs in some sort of altercation with a predator, most likely a bird. Although, she might have lost the legs in a fight. These katydids primarily eat plants, but they will eat other insects (including other katydids) given half a chance. It is possible one of her siblings got hold of her and chewed off her legs at some point. This does point out the two ways that the long jumping legs protect katydids and grasshoppers from predators:

  1. They allow her to jump a long distance and get away outright, and
  2. If the predator gets hold of one of the legs, she can autotomize it, shearing it off so that the predator only gets the leg while she escapes. This does impair her ability to escape again in the future, but if it buys enough time for her to mate and lay eggs before another predator shows up, it is worth it.

3 Responses
  1. March 20, 2023

    As a kid who enjoyed catching grasshoppers, I learned that they will easily autotomize (new word for me!) each leg separately, but almost never two legs together. So I learned to always hold them by two outstretched legs (or even better, by the wings).

  2. April 25, 2023

    If you had taken her in as a pet, would her legs grow back?

  3. April 25, 2023

    Nope. Adult insects can’t regenerate limbs. They have to molt to grow back a lost appendage, and by the time they are fully grown they are all done molting. Any injuries they get after their final molt are pretty much permanent until the end of their life (which generally isn’t that long after becoming an adult in any case).

    This is actually an important difference to keep in mind between insects and mammals: mammals spend the bulk of their lives as adults (Like humans, who take maybe 18 years to mature and then live another 50 years or so), while insects spend the bulk of their lives as their immature forms (like mayflies as an extreme case, where they may spend one or two years as a growing nymph, and then only exist as an adult for a couple of days). So the adult insects, even if they had the capacity to regrow limbs, generally wouldn’t have the time.

    If she had lost a leg as a very young nymph it would have been different.

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