Participants in last weekend's Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalists workshop gather at twilight on Saturday night. We were out for whatever we could find, especially singing insects, or Orthopterans.
I LOVE nighttime excursions. A whole new world emerges after nightfall, and not nearly enough people get out to see the strange creatures of the blackness. Especially prominent from mid-July on through fall are the various insects that make sound: katydids, crickets, coneheads and their ilk. Insect songs can be learned just as those of birds, and knowing the nighttime singers adds an entirely new dimension to one's appreciation of natural history.
There are not an abundance of opportunities to get out with people who know these things, but attendees at the Midwest Native Plant Conference certainly will. The conference venue is the Marianist Environmental Education Center, 150 or so acres of plant diversity. We'll have night walks both Friday and Saturday night, and the numbers and diversity of singing insects should be spectacular. More conference info HERE.
We heard scads of Gladiator Meadow Katytdids, their songs resembling the shuffling of salt being roughly shaken in a shaker. It wasn't long before Nina of Nature Remains found one of the little singers doing its thing. These are showy little animals, somewhat resembling lime-green grasshoppers with lemon-yellow cerci and orangish eyes.
I use my I-pod Touch to play the songs of these bugs for people, so they can better learn to pick the targeted song from the cacophony of night sounds. When I played the Gladiator Meadow Katydid's song, a few of the insects clearly responded, just as birds will do.
It seems as if the males like to ascend tall plants to sing, perhaps the better to project their voice. If you know their song, it isn't too tough to find the singer.
To learn more about singing insects, visit Wil Hershberger and Lang Elliot's outstanding Songs of Insects website. You can even play the songs of our Orthopterans there. Wil has a sensational talk filled with brilliant imagery and sounds, and he is keynote speaker at the aforementioned Midwest Native Plant Conference. And I'm sure he'll come along for our Friday evening foray into the dark.