Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Last conehead of 2010

On a recent excursion, our party encountered this gorgeous female Round-tipped Conehead, Neoconocephalus retusus. Look at that huge swordlike ovipositor she's packin'! All the better to inject eggs into those hard to reach crannies of plants. They also use that formidable ovipositor in defense, often flying from cover, bushwhacking and spearing unsuspecting humans, deer and groundhogs in major arteries and bleeding them out (just kidding on this last bit - really!)

Coneheads, which are a type of katydid, have a comical, whimsical look to them, and generally please all who get the pleasure of seeing one up close and personal. Their charisma compensates for the song of the males, which is a loud - very loud! - buzz-saw of a crackling trill. It is not a tune that most would describe as pleasing to the ear.

Most coneheads are quite receptive to photo ops. Just gently put forth a finger, and they'll usually climb right aboard. That's because we exude salt and other chemicals that coneheads apparently find appealing. That's my finger, thank you very much, and our conehead is contentedly rasping away at my flesh. Every now and then, they'll apply more than normal pressure and you can really feel it. Coneheads snack on plant material, normally, including hard seeds, and have very powerful mandibles.

This Round-tipped Conehead is one of the many voices of the symphony of singing insects, and their performance is pretty much over for the year. Cold nights and the first frosts have put the kabosh on them, and we're going to have to wait until mid-summer of next year for most of their tunes. They'll be back; the melodies of singing insects is one of the world's oldest songs, having been part of Mother Earth's soundtrack for some 200 million years.



Randy Kreager said...

I must admit that I never heard of this insect before. Thanks for the enlightenment!

Jim McCormac said...

You are welcome, randy. These coneheads, they are quite the charmers!