Who’s eating the photinias?

Weeks of cloudy, humid weather.  Skies overcast and dark, leaving the world in constant shadow.  Rain and drizzle and fog rendering the earthen canvas in wet hues.

Yet I knew something was different, was amiss.  I heard it late one evening: a tic-tic-tic-tic-tic sounding from the bushes.  Too dark for me to see and being adverse to glaring artificial light, I grabbed the camera and used it to pull out details my eyes could not discern as anything more than one layer of dark against another.

A male lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) hanging upside-down on a wet photinia bush (2009_10_13_031557)

Clinging to a leaf dripping and half eaten, I saw him hanging with head down.  But it was too dark to discover his identity, though his clarion call announced his gender.  Nevertheless, I would have to wait for daylight to get a better look at my new visitor.

Early the next morning I stepped out to the patio with camera in hand.  Clouds heavy with moisture kept the world dim, light but a memory, and everything was wet.  Finding a well-camouflaged critter under such circumstances would not be easy.  And it seemed he wasn’t singing this time.  Still, it didn’t take long for me to find what I was looking for.

A female lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) perched atop wet leaves (2009_10_14_031577)

Wait!  This was not the same katydid I found the previous night.  Perhaps the same species, yes, but certainly not the same gender.  This was a female.

So the game was afoot.  Perhaps the photinias hosted a bit of katydid hanky-panky.  And certainly the shrubs hosted more than one of these large insects.

Finding the male proved impossible in the dim morning.  Though I knew we would see no sunshine during the rest of the day, I still had to wait for a bit more light before continuing my search for him.

Some time later I tried again.  Unfortunately, the female had moved—but she hadn’t moved far.

A female lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) standing atop a photinia leaf (2009_10_14_031584)

She sat atop a leaf on a branch not too distant from where I’d seen her earlier.  Beneath the canopy from a nearby branch, she stood motionless in shadows that cloaked her position and made her nothing more interesting than just another leaf.

A sudden bit of movement near the top of the bush caught my attention.

A male lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) climbing a leaf (2009_10_14_031641)

It was the male.

So the two were sharing a place.  I suspected this meant the female was pregnant…or soon would be.

A female lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) standing on a photinia leaf (2009_10_14_031670)

Now three days after I first discovered them, both remain in the same photinia bush.  Both also remain hidden to all but the astute observer.

A female lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve) perched on a photinia leaf (2009_10_14_031678)

Yesterday as landscapers worked about the area, I kindly asked them to make a wide detour around this section of the shrubbery.  They looked at me as though my head had split open and a UFO had flown out of it.  I smiled and accepted the unspoken title of “Crazy man!” even as I insisted they do no work in that area.

What possesses me so with wildlife such that I become so protective of it, even in cases with something as simple as a few katydids in the bushes?  Whatever the cause, I hope I never lose it.

Part of me feels certain I have witnessed the last waltz of this pair before they hand the dance floor over to the next generation.

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[1] All photos of lesser angle-winged katydids (a.k.a. angular-winged katydid; Microcentrum retinerve).

[2] Nearly identical to the greater angle-wing katydid (a.k.a. broad-winged katydid; Microcentrum rhombifolium), telling the difference relies mostly on one tiny clue hidden on the pronotum.  Size also helps, though that’s not really a good tool unless you have both of them side by side to compare.  Likewise, some color variation occurs between the two species, but as we all know, natural color variation within a single insect species can be vast, so relying on the absence or presence of a single hue to differentiate these two species is akin to relying on sunshine to always mean it’s warm outside.

[3] This species belongs to the “false katydid” group of katydids.  It’s a real katydid, though.  Confused?  “True katydids” get their title due to the sounds they make; likewise, false katydids get their title from the sounds they make.  With true katydids, both males and females can make noise, though males appear to have more robust and varied calls; with false katydids, only males seem to make noise, and the call is a variation of a tic-tic-tic-tic-tic sound.  To put it in simpler terms, true katydids are better singers than false katydids, though both are still real katydids.

13 thoughts on “Who’s eating the photinias?”

    1. You know, Rick, I haven’t seen a lot of katydids this year either–at least not until the last six weeks or so when I suddenly found a smorgasbord of them. During a recent walk I ran across six or seven different species in one field. Strange…

  1. “They looked at me as though my head had split open and a UFO had flown out of it.”

    After I laughed out loud (no, guffawed) I realized that would be me.

    Jason, the Katydid Story is fun. I’m glad I deleted my photos of a katydid who entered my garage last week. The only photo I was able to get was of the katydid sitting on top of a can of RAID.

  2. Strangely enough, I happened across this species of katydid perched upon a red pepper within the confines of our local supermarket. Long story short, I sprang into action (as I habitually do) — returning the misplaced grasshopper to the wilderness from whence he came.

    PS: Phenomenal captures, Jason!

    1. LOL! I had to laugh at that, Mature4evr, but only because I pictured myself doing the same thing: rescuing a wayward insect and giving it safe escort back to the wild…and all while assuming I would be thought insane by anyone watching me. I’ve done it before and have no doubt I’ll do it again–with a variety of wildlife.

      And thank you! I’m glad you like the photos.

  3. I am always so impressed with the natural camouflage of so many wild things. The katydids are amazing examples. I guess we humans lost cool adaptations like these to make way for our large brains.

    I too feel protective of just about every living animal, insect, or plant that I come into contact with. I moved one of “my” leopard frogs from the driveway to the garden just yesterday, as well as a tiny gecko. I’m going to have to tell the lawn service to steer clear of the emerging knees around my Bald Cypress tree.

    I have no problem with participants in the ecosystem surviving precisely as nature has intended – I found the remnants of one of “my” toads last week in my driveway. He had clearly been a meal for someone – probably the armadillo who comes out at night. As long as it is nature’s way, I’m fine – and think that people should do no harm. To wildlife or other humans!

  4. I’m not sure how the smilies translate, Jain. It looks happy if that counts!

    Yes, radical vegan, as in I don’t even wear leather or wool, don’t drink milk or eat eggs or cheese, and so on. Which is why I love the recipe ideas you have on your blog (the veggie lasagna looks especially enticing!).

    And thank you! I’m glad you like the photos. I found these katydids to be rather photogenic (disagreeable weather notwithstanding).

    1. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Dave! I’m glad you like the photos. I giggled a bit at you saying you’ve heard katydids countless times but never saw one before. They’re expertly camouflaged, so I suspect most people share that history.

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