Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More gigs for the Pink Katydid

I finally had the opportunity to work with the now famous pink Amblycorypha katydid known as "Pinky", and get some respectable images. Scroll back to a few earlier posts that I made if you want to learn more about it. Above, our star poses on the leaf of a native agrimony, Agrimonia gryposepala, which provides a nice backdrop for her nearly preposterous pinkishness. Little did Jan Kennedy know, I suspect, what a sensation this bug would become when she found it in a meadow at Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area.

Wil Hershberger, world class authority on singing insects and the Orthoptera, and a heckuva nice guy should you ever get the opportunity to meet him. He and Lang Elliot produced the book The Songs of Insects, and it is sensational, as is the CD of sounds that is included. Look closely on his hand and you'll see our pink protagonist, hanging with the Man himself.

Despite many years of active field work and specific searches for all of eastern North America's singing insects, Wil had never seen one of these pink katydid forms. Until yesterday, that is, when he made the trip to Columbus from West Virginia to meet the pinkster. Wil is also an expert photographer and got images that are dazzling, as well as video footage.


A short video of the katydid, surrounded by fawning paparazzi.

As the little bubblegum-colored beast can't yet fly, we had few qualms about posing her outside in natural vegetation for photo ops. She's a tremendous jumper, though, and if provoked can outleap Superman. But, I learned a katydid herding technique from Wil. Should you wish to prod one into a new more photogenic pose, don't use your fingers. They react badly to the oils and salts in your skin, and will take a flying leap. Rather, just find a nice feather if one is handy, and push them around with that.

Her eyes are crazy, sort of a bluish-white marbled color that contrasts interestingly with the outrageous body coloration. Note the short wing buds, just aft of the armored plating known as a pronotum. Males have a file and scraper system on the forewings which they rub together to produce sound. Fossil evidence of Orthopterans with the the "singing" parts preserved dates back 360 million years, making these insects likely the first organisms to evolve the ability to intentionally create sound.

Today, Pinky began to show signs of molting, and I am curious to see what she looks like tomorrow morning. We are hopeful all goes well with her and she successfully molts out of this last instar stage and into her final adult form, replete with large wings.

A bit of potential bad news. Really bad news if you are the katydid. Wil noticed a slight mark that appears to be the incision wound caused by a parasitic wasp. You can see it by looking on her lower body, just in front of where the base of the curved swordlike ovipositor joins the body. The wound looks like a slight pinprick, and if it is indeed the handiwork of a wasp, it's curtains for Pinky, unfortunately.

A great many insects are attacked by parasitic wasps, which use stingerlike ovipositors to inject eggs into the victim's body. There, the eggs hatch into little grubs, which begin to eat the host alive. Finally, like something out of a horror movie, the grubs burst from the hapless host's body, and by that time it is nearly dead. Nature is full of these seemingly horrific relationships, but that's just how it goes.

Even if this is Pinky's fate, she will have been an extraordinary ambassador for insects and the natural world. Her next act is the Ohio State Fair, where she'll be displayed at the Natural Resources area. Should you find yourself down there, stop by and check her out.

One last short vid, showing the curious slow jerky gait that katydids move by; their walk resembles that of an American Woodcock.



donaldthebirder said...

You do have pet life insurance on Pinky, right? ;-)

Jain said...

I just heard the sad, but natural, news. RIP, Pinky.

Aries said...

First time I read this post I've really amazed with the color of the insects and I can't believe that there is a insects like that...