Bug looks like leaf

Katydid (Microcentrum rhombifolium)

The sprightly Katydid looks like a walking green leaf and has a chirp like no other.

Katydids get their name from the sound they make. Their repetitive clicks and calls sounded like someone saying, “Ka-ty-did”, so that phrase became the common name. Both genders are capable of producing the sound. Katydids are related to crickets and grasshoppers, with large back legs for jumping. Unlike grasshoppers, Katydids have extremely long, thin antennae. Unlike crickets, their bodies are more rhomboidal, like a kite with four equal lengths. They have wings and will fly away from danger. Most sightings occur when they land on an object and linger. Some have even gone on car rides, clinging to the hood of the vehicle.
Adults are remarkably well-camouflaged for sitting on trees. Their body resembles a green leaf well, even down to leaf-like veins. Katydids will remain very still when on alert, but will quickly fly away when threatened, scared or disturbed. Nymphs (juveniles) look more like crickets or grasshoppers. They have vivid colors and dark spots or speckles on them. This appearance all changes as they mature.
Katydids lay their eggs on twigs in a single row, one slightly overlapping the egg before it. The eggs are flat, almost like small pumpkin seeds, and they may might not all be the same color.
Katydids eat the leaves from the tops of trees and bushes, where there may be fewer predators and less competition. They can be found in parks, gardens, fields and woods. Adults are most active in summer and autumn, but in Florida, the warm weather allows them to remain active all year long.

Katydid Facts: Managing Katydids In The Garden

Katydids look like grasshoppers but you can tell them apart by their antennas, which are as long as their bright green bodies. You’ll normally find these insects in shrubs or trees in the garden, since they are leaf eaters. Generally, katydids in the garden nibble leaves but do not do serious garden damage. You’ll need to get a few more katydids facts to determine whether to try to get rid of them. Read on for more information about katydids.

Katydid Facts

Katydids are known for the sounds the males make to attract mates. By rubbing their wings together rapidly, they produce a noise that sounds like “katydid.” It can be, and often is, repeated over and over for hours, night after night.

Although katydids can be found resting on herbaceous plants, they rarely damage them seriously. While some gardeners appreciate their “song,” others consider katydid garden pests and ask how to get rid of katydid bugs.

Katydid Garden Pests

It is important to learn information about katydids that can harm plants. One of the potentially harmful species of katydid is the broad-winged katydid. It is longer than other types of katydids in the garden, at 2 ½ inches, with the same bright green body. The leaves of the broad-winged katydid are veined and look like citrus leaves. This serves them well since it is citrus leaves that they like to eat.

The broad-winged katydid feeds on the leaves of citrus trees generally in the morning. If they eat the foliage of a mature tree, no significant damage is done. However, they become katydid garden pests when they defoliate young citrus trees.

These katydid garden pests may also eat the peel of young oranges growing on the trees. Their nibbling leaves smooth, sunken areas in the peel as the fruit continues to develop. While some fruit falls, others continue to hang on the tree but cannot be sold commercially because of the blemishes on the skin, termed “katydid damage.” Despite this name, the peel damage can just as easily be caused by other insects, like grasshoppers or crickets.

How to Get Rid of Katydid Bugs

In many cases, your best bet is to simply wait out the kaydid garden pests. Practical control is difficult. However, if you find many katydid nymphs in your citrus tree while fruit is still small, you can apply spinosad. This pesticide is only mildly toxic, and works best if ingested by the insects.

The greater angle-wing (Microcentrum rhombifolium) is a leaf mimic katydid.

Katydids are a large group of insects in the order Orthoptera, related to the grasshoppers and crickets. Some katydids have been called long-horned grasshoppers because of their long and slender shape, but actually katydids are more closely related to crickets than to any type of grasshopper. There are about 6,400 species worldwide, with the greatest diversity in the tropics. Their classification is not well established, with taxonomists differing in their classification schemes. Most North American species are placed in the family Tettigoniidae and divided among seven to ten subfamilies. The main groups of commonly encountered katydids include the true katydids (Pseudophyllinae), false katydids (Phaneropterinae), shield-backed katydids (Tettigoniinae – but sometimes divided into three subfamilies), meadow katydids (Conocephalinae) and coneheaded katydids (Copiphorinae, but sometimes these are included with the meadow katydids). There are about 255 species in North American and 20 species in the Midwest.

Tropical katydids in Costa Rica (L and LC, lichen katydid, Markia hysterix, in Costa Rica (C), and katydids in Peruvian Amazon (RC and R).

Black-legged meadow katydid (Orchelimum nigripes).

Katydids are usually green and camouflaged to blend in with foliage, more commonly heard than seen. They have a body taller than it is wide and thin and hind legs that are longer than the other pairs of legs. Some characteristics that distinguish katydids from other orthopterans include having the wings held vertically over body (like a roof of a house), hearing organs on the front tibia, all tarsi with 4 segments (crickets have 3), a typically flattened and sword-like ovipositor, and very long, thin antennae as long as or longer than the body (in grasshoppers the antennae are always relatively short and thickened).

Katydids have thin antennae that are as long or longer than the body, often much longer as in this brown Costa Rican katydid.

The antennae are covered with sensory receptors that help them find their way around in the dark, since they are primarily nocturnal. Depending on the species, they can be from ½ to 4 inches long. Females tend to be larger than males and have a noticeable ovipositor at the end of the abdomen for laying eggs in plant stems or into the ground.

Curve-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia curvicauda) on an opening hibiscus flower.

Many species are leaf-shaped to blend in even better with their environment to prevent predation. During the day they rest in a specific diurnal roosting posture to make them look even more like just a leaf on the plant. Wing form varies widely, with most having long wings that cover the body, but some species have short wings or are nearly wingless. They tend to be poor flyers, and some only flutter their wings during leaps.

Pink katydid nymph.
Photo from https://www.whatsthatbug.com/2008/05/05/pink-katydid-nymph/

Every so often a pink katydid shows up. It’s been estimated that pink coloration occurs in one of about 500 individuals, a condition called erythrism. It is caused by recessive genes, similar to the situation for albino animals. The New Orleans Audubon Insectarium acquired a pink male and a pink female katydid to produce a brood of pink katydids which are now on display there. These individuals would really stand out in their normal green environment and therefore would not be likely to survive as predators could find them too easily. But in the protected insectarium they grow and live just like regular green katydids.

Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata) on a leaf.

In our area katydids overwinter as eggs. Females deposit eggs in soil, plant stems or tree bark in late summer or fall. The adults die off, and the following spring the eggs hatch into nymphs. These generally resemble the adults except they are smaller and lack fully developed wings and reproductive organs. A few will look different than the adults. As the insects go through incomplete metamorphosis the wings gradually appear through generally five successive molts. Depending on the species, the female’s ovipositor may be short and curved like a sickle or long and saber-like. Those species with sickle-shaped ovipositors typically lay eggs in plant stems while those with elongate ovipositors generally lay eggs in grass stems.

A Costa Rican katydid shedding its skin at night (L). A bush katydid (Scudderia sp.) molting (C) and leaving the shed skin behind (R).

Katydids are an important food of many birds, including this black-headed trogon in Costa Rica.

Like other Orthoptera, katydids have chewing mouthparts, and most are herbaceous but rarely cause significant plant damage to crops or ornamental plants. You may find some feeding on leaves and flowers in your garden or on your potted plants, especially in late summer. Some, especially in the tropics, are predaceous, feeding on other insects or eggs. Many are nocturnal, but some are active during the day. They tend to be found in grasslands, open woods and along edges of plantings in suburban or rural areas, with many species in the treetops. They an important food for many animals, including birds, bats, rodents, tree frogs, spiders, and praying mantids.

The rasping sounds created by the common true katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia), native to much of the eastern US and into southern Wisconsin, is said to resemble the sound of the words “Katy Did! Katy Didn’t! Katy Did! Katy Didn’t!”, hence the common name for these insects – but not all katydids make this classic sound. Each species has its own songs, with reproductive, territorial, aggressive, or defensive purposes. Males are mainly responsible for these songs, but in some groups the sexes form duets. Sounds produced by other species include continuous songs known as trills and a variety of clicks and buzzes created by stridulation (friction), all produced by special structures on the front wings. There is a rigid “scraper” on one forewing that they rub against a comb-like “file” on the other. The size of the insect, the spacing of the ridges and the width of the scraper determine what sound is made. Some kinds of katydids have an ultrasonic call, while a few produce vibrations by thumping on twigs that are detected by other katydids. In order to detect these sounds, katydids have a tympanum, a slit-like or flat patch on each front leg, which functions as an “ear” to detect these sounds (plural = tympana). They raise a leg to help pick up the sound. Calls can be heard both day and night, but in our area katydids generally start late at night and continue into the early morning hours in late summer, with quick bursts of two, three or four zitzing notes. Males nearby often alternate their songs in a back and forth melody. As temperatures decrease in the fall, the songs grow slower and usually end by October.

A male black-legged meadow katydid (Orchelimum nigripes) calls atop Canada goldenrod in a prairie.

Males call to attract females. There is a lot of competition between males, and females try to select healthier males, judging their fitness by the sound of their trill (louder and more fluent is better). When the insects mate, the male passes a sperm packet (spermatophore) to the female. The males increase their chance of reproductive success by providing additional protein (a spermatophylax, which may require as much as 40% of his body weight to produce) attached to the spermatophore for the female to eat to help her develop her eggs. In species that produce large food gifts, the female is the one that seeks a mate. Males that produce large food gifts mate one or two times in their lifetime, while males that produce smaller gifts can mate more times, but are less likely to be selected by females.

– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison


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Rearing katydids from eggs

Can anyone tell me when katydid eggs typically hatch? They are from captive specimens of two different species.
I have Greater Anglewing eggs from two different females, which were laid two months apart. The second female just laid hers yesterday (Nov. 21).
I also have Black-legged Meadow Katydid eggs laid by two different females, about a month apart. I was able to film both the Black-legged Meadow Katydids females laying their eggs. Unfortunately, I missed the greater anglewing yesterday by just minutes. She was cleaning off her ovipositor when I found her, and the eggs weren’t there when I left the house a few hours before.
I need some idea of what month to expect them to hatch next year so that I can collect appropriate food in advance. Suggestions as to what is “appropriate” food would also be welcomed. I will release most of the babies, but want to rear a few of each species and document their growth.
Can anyone provide any help?
I live in northern Illinois if that makes a difference as to when they will hatch. For now, the eggs are on branches in very tall ventilated jars on my screened porch so that they will go through a normal winter. But I have no idea, not even a vague one, as to what month katydids are typically born. I never find them until they are adults or just prior to their last molt.
I’m actually surprised that my Greater Anglewing female and Prairie Meadow Katydid male are still hanging on in late November. I’ve never had any katydid species live into late November before. There’s no natural food to bring inside for them now. The anglewing is living on a sedum plant that I potted for her, but it is almost gone. She’s also got romaine lettuce and gel cricket food. The prairie meadow katydid has only romaine lettuce and gel cricket food. Both seem to be doing okay so far. Any suggestions as to what else to feed them? I want them to have as long and healthy life as possible, although I realize both are at the end of their lives.

Katydids

The Common Garden Katydid is a quite common backyard buddy and garden visitor. It’s a cousin to the grasshopper and cricket, about 4 to 6 cm in length with extremely long, thin antennae, and powerful back legs for jumping.

There are about 1000 species in Australia and they are part of the orthopteran group of insects, which means ‘straight wings’.

Like crickets, male Katydids play songs to attract females by rubbing their wings together.

The call is supposed to sound like ‘Katy-did’. Some Katydid songs, however, are at too high a frequency for human ears to hear.

You may not know much about Katydids, probably because they are masters of camouflage. Their green colouring and leaf-like shape helps them blend into leafy surroundings, and they are most active at night. They may be tough to spot, but may be a lot more common than you think. They can be found all over Australia wherever there are leafy plants.

There are around 1000 described species in the Tettigoniidae family to which Katydids and crickets belong, though there may be many, many more species as yet undiscovered.

Katydids are great to have around the garden as they feed on insects, and they also help pollinate some flowers. The Common Garden Katydid loves to eat young leaves, seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, insects and the odd flower. The Gum Leaf Katydid feeds only on gum leaves.

The Female Katydid lays and glues seed-like eggs along the edges of leaves or on stems, before flying to another location to lay another batch. The eggs usually hatch in early summer, though not always.

When Katydids hatch, they look like large, black ants, which many predators will avoid because of their ability to fight back. This is a great disguise for the baby Katydid that helps keep it safe.

Katydids go through a number of stages of development and moulting before they turn into adults. You may see juvenile Katydids, called ‘nymphs’, of many different stages around at any time of year. It can take four months or more for a Katydid to turn from a hatchling into an adult.

The nymphs are a bit easier to spot than adult Katydids. At around 1 to 3 cm long, nymphs can be brown, green, greeny-brown or even pink. Their colouring is adaptable to where they live. The new shoots of some plants are pink in colour, so being pink can actually be a great camouflage method.

Katydid nymphs don’t have wings – they develop these in adulthood. Both nymphs and adults move quite slowly, but can jump if disturbed. Katydids move underneath leaves during wet weather, and then emerge once it stops to drink some water.

Did you know?

Katydids don’t have ears on their heads, but instead they have an ear called a ‘tympanum’ on each front leg, just below the knee. Up close, this looks like a hole in their leg.

Tip

To feed or attract Katydids, you can plant Eucalyptus, Angophora, Bursaria, Leptospermum, Lomandra, Gahnia, Lepidosperma, Dianella, Pteridium, Esculentum, Alpinia, Triodia, Pandanus, Terminalia, Banksia, Acacia, or Xanthorrhoea.

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A katydid makes itself at home (ours)

Insects occasionally invade our home, and our customary response is “Now you’ve gotten yourself just a little too close, Mister. Out you go!” But the pale spring-green katydid who mysteriously showed up in our kitchen last week has been cordially invited to stay. This relative of crickets and grasshoppers isn’t an invader. He’s a house guest!

He may have entered during that minute I left the screen door open last Monday. I went out to briefly water the chrysanthemums. But it’s possible he slipped in through the crack that has developed in our doorjamb. Anyway, he’s here, and we’ve been worrying about his meals.

What do katydids eat? Oh yes, leaves off bushes. But this hardly seems proper food for royalty, which he certainly is.

I phoned Vincent Lee, an esteemed entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. We fell into earnest conversation about “Bartholomew,” the affectionate name we gave our insect friend. “I’ve been known to give names to a few especially endearing insects,” Dr. Lee said, and chortled. (My kind of entomologist!)

My wife, Janislee, was the first to sight this handsome insect. Though in the garden he might be nearly invisible in his pastel-green camouflage, she easily found him inside the house. He was walking with deliberate steps across a framed picture of a castle on our dining-room wall.

A day later, Janislee called to me from the kitchen. “Quickly!” she said. “Bartholomew’s eating our lima beans!” I ran to see the cheeky fellow standing on the edge of a small bowl of leftovers. Firmly gripping the edge, he had tipped his body close to one bean and was dining on it.

I reported this to Dr. Lee. “Oh yes,” he said. “I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that he will seek nourishment from most anything you leave out, since he can’t find his usual food. What other enticing fare have you included on his menu?”

“Right now,” I answered, “he’s enjoying a banana. I left a small bit for him this morning. Last evening, Janislee found him nibbling a piece of raw carrot that she left on the drain board. He’s like a goat who might consume anything!”

The entomologist laughed. “Some creatures are more adaptable to the vicissitudes of life than most humans,” he said. “But this one of yours does seem to be less fussy about his food than most. I’m making some notes about your friend as we talk. Do you think you might call me back with a further description? I’d like to be certain it’s a katydid we’re discussing.”

“I’m just three inches from him now,” I said, “as he’s finishing up that banana morsel. What an appetite!”

“Ah!” said Lee, with increased enthusiasm. “Tell me about his appendages. How long would you say his antennae are? Do you have a magnifying glass nearby?” I had one on my desk, so I reached for it.

Oh my! Through the lens, Bartholomew suddenly appeared like a giant creature in a horror flick. No longer a gentle specimen from nature, he was “Vertog From the Swamps of Planet Mugwort!” His eyes were moon-yellow with black spots. His hopping legs were cantilevered machine parts, capable of launching him a thousand light years into space.

But I tried to sound like a responsible scientist. “I’d say his antennae are about an inch long. Compared with his legs, they’re as thin as filaments. I can barely make them out.” More poetically than scientifically, I added “They’re like tiny wands held by sylvan fairies in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ “

The real scientist on the phone gave this a half-second’s appreciation, “Nice,” he said, then pushed on. “But what about those legs? Their size and placement?”

Two very short ones in front, two slightly longer farther back, then the two high-jumping launchers. These extended up from his body, perhaps an inch and a half, then bent sharply down from their joints, stretching another inch and a half to the counter top. They had little feet at the tips that I announced to Lee seemed to be attached backwards!

“Yes,” he said, “that’s a fair way of describing those ingenious parts of a katydid. The feet – yes, let’s call them ‘feet’ – do point in a direction contrary to what we would think appropriate. If you will look very close, you’ll see diminutive claws on the feet. These serve him well to get a grip on surfaces. He used them to walk handily across your picture frame.”

I mentioned that he had also spent an hour crawling on a pair of reading glasses left on my desk. And – would he believe this? -Bartholomew had spent two nights between the folds of a paper napkin that Janislee had (for fun) pinned to a wall of the kitchen. (The napkin had “Home Sweet Home” printed on it.)

Dr. Lee paused respectfully, then said “I think some things in life cannot necessarily be explained by entomologists.”

“One thing more,” he said. “Has he made any cricket sounds? If not, you may need to change his name from Bartholomew to Katy. The females don’t make those engaging sounds.”

Since our talk with the goodly scientist, my wife and I have watched with rising interest as our house guest settles in. We have heard a few cricket trills, so that settles that. He doesn’t do much jumping though, as grasshoppers do. Maybe a katydid is too dignified to leap around the house like an out-of-control child. Bartholomew is the picture of dignity as he moves about, inspecting his accommodations. He’s not one to offend with raucous behavior. He makes his way from room to room slyly, stealthily. Each step taken by one of his six legs is part of an exquisite orchestration, as in the slow movement of a symphony.

One time though, he did fly at me late at night as I worked at my computer. Yes, katydids fly with wings as well as leap with legs. They thus achieve more distance – up to 10 feet, I’d say. He propelled himself from the wall and bounced off my shoulder, then disappeared into the wastebasket. We were careful not to empty the basket for a couple of days.

He must have been attracted by my gaudy, flowered pajamas, a reminder, perhaps, of one of his ancestor’s jungle environments. So he leaped at me. It wasn’t overly shocking. We’re accustomed to his presence, and his abrupt appearances are no more surprising than seeing a hummingbird hovering at our window. Hopping is natural for him and should certainly be allowed. One doesn’t challenge the age-old habits of a valued guest.

Besides, Bartholomew is normally the epitome of grace, refinement, and a wonderful intelligence. We love him, and we hope that he will stay. Last night Janislee put out a fresh lettuce leaf for him.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

15 common bugs in your backyard that will freak you out

Most of us are aware of threatening creatures like ticks, bedbugs, mosquitoes and stinkbugs, and with the everyday critters like earthworms, houseflies and ladybugs. But have you seen the assassing bugs, spittlebugs and hornworms that also call your backyard home.

Here are 15 insects that most likely live in your backyard, possibly without you even seeing them, and could really change has you look at your landscape.

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Wheel bug

At 1.5 inches in length, the wheel bug is one of the largest terrestrial true bugs in North America. The most noticeable physical characteristic of the insect is the spikey, half-wheel of armor along its back.

The wheel bug is a predator on soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, cabbage worms and Mexican bear beetle. It is a beneficial insect in the garden.

Although the wheel bug is slow to defend itself, its bite is considered to be more painful than the sting of a wasp and brings on a localized numbness that can last for days.

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Katja Schully

Assassin bug

With elongated, triangular heads at the ends of narrow neck-like stalks that attach to their thoraxes and long, tubular mouthparts projecting from the head, assassin bugs are built to prey on smaller insects. They are ambush predators, waiting for opportunities to grab prey with their enlarged front legs and inject them with salivary excretions.

Assassin bugs can be as large as 1.5 inches in length.

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Cicada killer

The eastern cicada killer, which looks like an oversized, pale yellow jacket, is a predatory wasp. It can grow to 2 inches in length.

The female captures a cicada, stings it and injects venom and then carries it to a burrow, where she will lay an egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larva eats the cicada, spins a cocoon and changes into an adult.

The cicada killer is generally slow to sting humans.

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Cranefly

Often mistaken for a giant mosquito, craneflies are not monster blood-suckers. The insects, which can be 3 inches long, eat mostly rotting leaves, fungi, algae and moss.

Although we most often encounter then on our doors and windows, and at our porch lights, at night, craneflies are not harmful to humans.

There are more than 1,500 species of craneflies across North America and about 300 in Pennsylvania.

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Northern walkingstick

The aptly named walkingstick hides in plain sight by looking exactly like a brown stick (greenish brown in females) The three pairs of slender legs tend to add to the camouflage effect, and at rest the walkingstick extends its front legs forward to extend the stick appearance. Females, which are larger than males, can be nearly 4 inches long.

It feeds on leaves, which it skeletonizes by eating the softer tissue and leaving the veins in place.

The walkingstick is harmless to humans.

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Blue-winged wasp

Although the blue-winged wasp grows no larger than an inch in length, its shimmering, blue-black wings are a real attention-getter. On closer inspection, the insect is a similar blue-black on its head, thorax and first two segments of its abdomen, but red with bright yellow spots on the third segment of its abdomen.

The adult blue-winged wasp is a nectar feeder, but the female digs into the ground in search of grubs – particularly June beetle grubs – which she stings to inject a paralytic before laying an egg on it. The larva that hatches from the egg will overwinter inside the body of its host.

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Brian Gratwicke

Katydid

Named for its repetitive “ka-ty-did” call, the katydid is a remarkably well-camouflaged insect. When a bright green leaf suddenly moves, you know you’ve encountered a katydid. Its flattened body that can be as large as 2.5 inches in length even has vein-markings like on a leaf.

Most active mid-summer into fall, the katydid spends most of its time in the tops of tree or bushes, eating leaves.

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Northern mole cricket

Although most of us won’t encounter the mostly subterranean mole cricket very often, each chance-meeting will be an almost other-worldly experience. The mole cricket looks like a brown version of any other crickets from the base of its head to the tip of its tail. However, from there forward it’s built for earth-moving, with a head right out of the Alien movies and an overdeveloped pair of front legs for digging.

The insect is three-quarters of an inch to an inch-and-a-half long.

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JmXing

The oversized pincer-like mandibles of the stag beetle – particularly the male – are an imposing bit of weaponry on a 1.5-inch-long, heavily armored beetle, but the insect uses them mostly in male-on-male territorial and mating battles.

The insect is a sap-eater and active mostly at night.

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Six-spotted tiger beetle

The six-spotted tiger beetle generally amazes more for the shimmering, metallic green or blue-green elytra, which are the hardened wing covers that form the upper shell over its abdomen. The half-inch to three-quarter-inch beetle is found mostly in and near forested areas, where it hunts for prey in sunny spots on the forest floor.

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Sanjay Acharya

Spittlebug

Inside those clusters of spittle clinging to the stems of your plants in late summer and fall lives an insect nymph smaller than a grain of wheat. It’s the nymph of the spittlebug, which produces protective foam by mixing air with a chemical it excretes to surround itself.

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Eastern eyed click beetle

You can’t miss the two large eyespots on the pronotum over the thorax of the eastern eyed clock beetle. For simple ovals of black circled by white, the eyespots really stand out on the otherwise black and white speckled beetle measuring 1-2 inches in length. Protecting the predacious beetle by giving it the appearance of a much larger critter looking right at them is their job.

Flip the beetle onto its back and you’ll experience the other characteristic expressed in its name. As it snaps its body to flip itself into the air, and thus righting itself or escaping a would-be predator, the beetle produces an audible click.

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Amanda Hill

Tomato hornworm

With a black, thorn-like horn arching out from its rear end, the tomato hornworm, which can be 3-4 inches in length in its final instar, presents an imposing sight in the garden. But it’s all show in the hummingbird moth’s caterpillar, which is reared and sold as food for herps in the pet trade.

For gardeners with gardens full of tomato plants, and other members of the nightshade family, the hornworm actually does present a threat, as it munches its way through leaves, small stems and even ripe fruit.

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Acorn weevil

Although the acorn weevil is less than a half-inch-long, under close inspection the insect’s elongated snout, which is longer in females, arches out between the eyes into a hook nearly as long as the body of the insect.

The female uses that long snout, known as a rostrum, to bore into an acorn to lay an egg. The egg will hatch, and the larva will grow inside the acorn, eating the acorn meat, before chewing its way out of the acorn in early winter and burrowing down into the soil.

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American pelecinid wasp

The long abdomen of the female American pelecinid wasp, curling up and back from the rest of the wasp’s body to lengths several times that of the body is a frighteningly imposing sight. But the insect has no stinger. That long, arching thing is an ovipositor, which the female uses to deposit eggs onto the backs of grubs living underground.

The insect, which might be 2 inches long in total, is a nectar-eater.

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More about bugs

  • Cricket cookies, carnivorous plants of Pennsylvania and more at Penn State’s Great Insect Fair
  • These are the insects invading your Pennsylvania home right now
  • 14 fascinating facts about fireflies ahead of their arrival in Pennsylvania
  • 15 common butterflies of Pennsylvania
  • Toxic caterpillars living in Pennsylvania will give you rash, blisters, and maybe kill you

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ST. GEORGE — Many residents of Southern Utah are being bugged by bugs lately, as several different types of pests have been proliferating in large numbers.

Green stink bug | Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Pest Control, St. George News

Experts say the invasion of insects is attributable to a combination of factors, including a wetter than average spring.

“We’ve got a couple of things going on. One is the really wet winter and spring that we had,” Bill Heyborne, an associate biology professor at Southern Utah University who teaches entomology classes, told St. George News. “And then, we had kind of a slow summer warm-up, and so a lot of things just stayed dormant, eggs underground, that kind of thing, and then it warmed up really quickly. I think the combination of the two has led to a lot of the outbreaks that we’re seeing.”

Several different types of insects have been reported throughout the region in large numbers lately, including grasshoppers, gnats, false chinch bugs and green stink bugs. Outside of Southern Utah, large swarms of “Mormon crickets,” a type of katydid, were recently reported in Idaho.

“Insects are so tied to environmental conditions, temperature, moisture, food availability, all of those things,” Heyborne noted. “Sometimes, the stars just align and conditions end up being just perfect for a particular species of insect. And so you’ll get a very large outbreak one year and then you won’t see them for a decade. There may be a few here and there, but nothing much. And then the stars will align again you’ll see them again.”

See swarms of insects outside a business in St. George in the video at the top of this report, courtesy of TW Petersen.

As for what people can do about the various bugs, Heyborne said viable options tend to be limited.

“If insects are in people’s homes and causing problems, they really ought to call a professional exterminator and deal with that,” he said. “Outdoors, there’s not a whole lot we can do. I mean, people could use insecticides, but often insecticides come with their own risks and their own side effects. So my recommendation for people is if they’re outside, no, I’m sorry. You’re going to have to just deal with it.

Gnats flock to a light fixture at a residence in Southern Utah, July 2019 | Photo courtesy of Candice Sudweeks, St. George News

“If it’s gnats, you’re going to have to wear some insect repellent and cover up. If it’s grasshoppers and they’re eating your garden, you might need to spray. But if they’re just, you know, on the side of your house or whatever, maybe just leave them be. If they’re getting inside, you better call an exterminator.”

Danny Shakespeare of Shakespeare Pest Control in St. George said his business has received many calls about swarms of green stink bugs over the past few days.

“Thursday, Friday and Saturday we got hundreds of calls about them, and there’s just not much you can do about it,” he said. “You can kind of help alleviate it a little, but it’s not a fix.”

“It’s more of a band-aid,” Shakespeare explained. “We can spray and it’ll kill a bunch of them, but they’ll just keep coming.”

“We’ve been doing some of that (spraying pesticide) for some facilities, but it doesn’t really make a difference,” he said. “In some ways, it makes it worse because now they’re dealing with a bunch of dead ones and then the live ones are still flying in. And so now they’re having to sweep up tons of dead ones and deal with all the live ones that are coming in. Then they’ll die and a new wave will come in.”

To help alleviate the problem, Shakespeare recommends residents turn off their lights at night and make sure all exterior windows and doors are sealed with weather stripping.

Green stink bugs swarm outside a business in St. George, Utah, July 2019 | Photo courtesy of TW Petersen, St. George News

The green stink bugs are just one of several pests that Shakespeare and his employees have been dealing with, he added.

“The false chinch bugs have been really bad this year, too,” he said. “They were real bad in the spring, and then they popped back up again about this last week. Then, we’ve had grasshoppers and then the gnats have been terrible.”

Shakespeare says in most cases, the best thing to do is simply wait out the pests until their natural cycle runs its course.

“It’s going to have to dry out more and then they’ll just disappear,” he said.

The false cinch bugs mentioned by Shakespeare have been seen in large numbers in parts of Southern Utah lately. Formally known as Nysius raphanus, they are small, slender grayish brown insects between 1/8 inch and 1/6 inch long. They may aggregate in large numbers on or in buildings, especially if nearby host plants are harvested or managed with herbicide. They rarely do serious damage to plants and are harmless to humans. The prevailing recommendation is to simply tolerate them during their short life span.

Hordes of flying grasshoppers have also been reported in Las Vegas, Mesquite, Pahrump and other parts of Southern Nevada, Fox 13 reports. Many have also been seen in the St. George area.

Heyborne said evidence suggests that insect proliferation events are becoming more commonplace throughout the globe.

“Truth be told, if you talk to other entomologists around the world, they’re seeing more and more of these sorts of outbreaks,” he said. “And so, there is some conversation about, is this related to climate change or not? We don’t really know the answer to that. But I guess time will tell.”

Resources

  • For a listing of Utah State University Extension Office fact sheets about various insects and plant pests, click here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

Jeff Richards, a native of Salt Lake City with family roots in Panguitch, lived in Moab for 20 years before joining St. George News. He covered news, features, and sports as a part-time reporter for the Times-Independent, Moab’s weekly community newspaper, and has contributed stories and photos to various other media outlets. He also taught high school English, journalism, and computer classes for 12 years, and was the school’s yearbook and student newspaper adviser. He and his wife Penny are the parents of five daughters, and also have two young grandsons. Jeff and his family enjoy swimming, camping, sightseeing, reading, and taking pictures.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @[email protected]@stgnewssports

What Katydid

Nah, this isn’t about the fictitious tomboy from the 19th century children’s book ‘What Katy Did’. This is about some undoubtedly much more fascinating individuals belonging to the insect family Tettigoniidae. These insects are commonly known as katydids. Katydids are named for the phoneticised version of the stridulous sound they make when they rub their front wings together – “catedidist”. They are closely related to grasshoppers and crickets and share their basic body shape, see the picture of a katydid below.

Photo by Geoff Gallice, 2012

“What katydid!?” I hear you say. Take a closer look …

Katydids are masters of cryptic colouration and mimicry, in other words, they are masters of camouflage. Insects that can blend in with their environments are favoured by natural selection, they are less likely to be eaten and more likely to reproduce and pass on their genes (and their disguises) to future generations. Camouflage is most effective when the shape and outline of an animal completely merges with their background so they are no longer recognisable, for this to work the animal must stay in a single position for hours at a time. Katydids are very inactive during the day and as a result, relatively little is known about them despite their abundance and variety.

Katydids are mainly found in the tropics but some reside in North America. Most live in treetops or among the leaf litter on forest floors, they are thought to enhance their disguises by deliberately assuming positions that conform to adjacent vegetation. Whilst some species can resemble bark, rock or lichen, those that resemble leaves are by far the most common. As a side note, a study released this month concluded that leaf mimicry could date all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs!

Leaf katydids are probably more common than other types because hospitable leafy habitats are generally much more plentiful than rocky and lichen covered habitats. It’s beneficial if the background against which you camouflage yourself is widespread and homogeneous otherwise you might suddenly find that camouflage which rendered you invisible in one habitat makes you incredibly vulnerable in another. Another reason many katydids may mimic leaves is because katydids are primarily leaf eaters, there is an advantage in gaining both protection and a source of food from in one place. (Wouldn’t a leaf eating leaf make for a strange sight?).

Katydids themselves are central to the food webs of tropical forest ecosystems. They are a great source of protein for intelligent monkeys who systematically comb through vegetation looking for the camouflaged snacks. When katydids find their disguise has failed they quickly employ their secondary defences: they usually expose brightly coloured hindwings (often decorated with eyespots) to startle predators and some can secrete poisonous or distasteful chemicals to deter them.

Predation is a key driving force in the evolution of camouflage. There is often a self-perpetuating arms race between the perceptive abilities of a predator and the defensive and cryptic characteristics of the hiding prey. If all katydids imitated a leaf in the same way, monkeys would quickly learn how to identify a fake leaf. However, if the fake leaves are as irregular in appearance as real leaves, the monkey’s task becomes much more difficult. It is not surprising then, that katydids do not only mimic one type or form of leaf. Actually, no two individuals are exactly alike within a single species; some may look dead, some discoloured and some even look partially eaten!

Katydid variation may result from differential expression of pigment encoding alleles and other genes related to mimicry, possibly promoted by external stimuli or due to the inheritance of new combinations of alleles through genetic recombination. The variety of katydids is reflected in the fact that the same species have been discovered and described more than once under different names.

Photo by Jenny Miller, 2013

Of course katydids aren’t the only animals or indeed the only insects which successfully employ camouflage in their survival strategies – stick insects are perhaps the first example to come to mind. Nevertheless, for me the precision of the leaf katydid façade, as well as being visually extraordinary, is a spectacular representation of the effects of evolutionary adaptation. Even with some knowledge about the underlying mechanisms of their disguise they never fail to impress me and this is why katydids are some of my favourite insects.

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