Readers’ wildlife photos

Remember to send in your good photos!

Jacques Hausser in Switzerland has sent us some orthopterans. His notes are indented.

Here are some common European bushcrickets (in England) or katydids (in USA).  NB: I’m writing “bushcricket” in one word, to distinguish them (Tettigoniidea) from the crickets properly said (Gryllidea).  Not every blue berry is a blueberry !

The great green bushcricket, Tettigonia viridissima, a male. It is the larger flying bushcricket in Europe: up to 8 cm from front to the end of the elytra (forewings). Like most of the bushcrickets, Its stridulation or song is produced by rubbing the hardened inner margin of the basal part of left elytra, called the scraper, over a specialised array of tiny teeth (the file) on the upperside of the right one. This species is mostly carnivorous, eating various insects, but it likes also flowers.

Female of the same species,  a rare color variant. Looking at this impressive ovipositor, it becomes clear why the suborder is called Ensifera, meaning sword-bearers.

Platycleis albopunctata, the grey bushcricket, male. Contrary to the previous one, it is mostly granivorous.

Leptophyes punctatissima, the speckled bushcricket (also a male). Many bushcrickets are flightless – I suppose their jumping skill was sufficient to protect them from their predators, and their resources sufficiently abundant to make long moves unnecessary. Their rear wings have completely disappeared and the elytrae or front wings are reduced, only keeping the part used to produce their song.

Same species, a young larva (they go through 5 to 7 moults to grow and progressively develop their adult characteristics). Cute, no ?

If you propel yourself through the air with a powerful jump, without wings to control the trajectory, the landing can be hazardous. Here a male of Pholidoptera griseoaptera, the dark bushcricket, almost missed its blade of grass.

The same, its dignity recovered.

A tiny species (max 15 mm), difficult to see “in situ”, but frequently falling from the trees on the garden furnitures: Meconema meridionale, the southern oak bushcricket. The male bears huge cerci (paired appendages on the rear) used to hold the female during paring. They have very, very reduced wings, and don’t stridulate. Instead, they drum the leaves they are sitting on with their hind legs. Do they drum because they lost their wings ? No, on the contrary: they were allowed to completely reduce their wings because they switched to drumming: M. thalassinum, a sister species which keeps fully functional wings, also drums instead of stridulates.

A female of the same species with a broken antenna.

Conocephalus fuscus or discolor, depending on the book (sigh); a female. The very long and straight ovipositor is mostly hidden by the plant, but you can guess where the tip of it is—a bit over the hind foot. This species likes tall grasses and reeds, and lays their eggs in the blade sheath of various grass species. I tried to get the entire antenna… no way.

16 Comments

  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I love the name “bushcricket”

    Or maybe it could be a challenging game.

  2. Posted February 12, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    cool pics. I will show my kiddos. Even though they are girls, they love bugs.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Great pictures, Jacques! Really like the detailed commentary as well.
    Hard to realize that some bushcrickets are rather carnivorous, but I had learned that as a kiddo, bringing home a cone headed ‘katydid’ in a container with some other insects. What I found when I later looked inside was not a pretty sight.

  4. rickflick
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    “…without wings to control the trajectory, the landing can be hazardous.”

    It has always fascinated me that exoskeletons are quite excellent at protecting insects from impacts. They can drop from the sky, or fly headlong into a brick wall in a gust of wind, without the least damage.

    • Jacques Hausser
      Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Yes, “hazardous” was probably too strong – I was misguided by the french word “hazardeux” meaning rather “uncertain”, “unreliable”.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 12, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Of course on their scale the impact is pretty tolerable since in a fall they will reach terminal velocity very quickly.

  5. Liz
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    The young larva and the texture of the petal are balanced with the calming green and cream colors. It is beautiful picture.

  6. Posted February 12, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Earlier post has someone claiming brains are “antennas”. Well, no. But some of these wonderful animals have some!

  7. Posted February 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    “If you propel yourself through the air with a powerful jump, without wings to control the trajectory, the landing can be hazardous.” Even with wings, the landing can be a problem. As a kid, I kept tarantulas in a terrarium and caught grasshoppers to feed them. I found that I could catch them as follows: walk through a grassy field watching for a grasshopper to be startled and jump away, then run to the spot where it landed. They often were sprawled awkwardly at that spot and could be caught before able to recover and set for another leap. Nice photos, by the way.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 12, 2018 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      My dad used to pay me for catching grasshoppers for fishing…before we fly fished. I used a fly swatter to stun them, but I like your strategy as well.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    These were very cool…I like the word bushcricket better than katydid. My favorite was the larvae. I wonder what all the black dots are for.

  9. Posted February 12, 2018 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Great pictures!

  10. Posted February 12, 2018 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    I can see why human babies are supposed to be appealing to human adults. But why on earth are even baby insects cute to humans?

    • rickflick
      Posted February 13, 2018 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Walt Disney answered this question. His early versions of Mickey and other characters had adult proportions, more or less, but he learned to make them big headed and big eyed to make them cuter. As any juvenile animal developes, it grows first at the head before the proportions mature. Human babies have those same early proportions in common with just about every other growing animal. We are responding emotionally to the proportions. Our evolutionary urge as parents is to feed the young so their bodies catch up to their heads, kind of.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 13, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it religiously.

  11. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted February 13, 2018 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Great pictures Jacques.

    Meconema meridionale is a species which has extended its range rapidly north-westwards in Europe in recent years and is now established in the UK (some records as far north as Yorkshire). How can a wingless species spread so quickly? The answer it seems is by hitch-hiking on road vehicles! I had some experience of this when driving north from Huntingdon in Eastern England; I noticed a small bush-cricket (subsequently identified as M meridionale) clinging on to my wing-mirror (side mirror). Although I was travelling at around 70 mph it clung on for over ten miles before I was able to pull into a service area and release it into some vegetation.


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

%d bloggers like this: