Edge of Appalachia preserve in Adams County. This class was one of a series of Advanced Naturalist Workshops organized by the Cincinnati Museum and taught at the Eulett Center.
Topflight experts are brought in to teach these weekend long courses, and this weekend the instructor was Wil Hershberger. Wil is an authority on the Orthoptera, our "singing" insects and that was the focus of this seminar. I really appreciate Chris Bedel and Mark Zloba of the Cinci Museum allowing me to attend for one day; that's all that time would permit. So, off I went to Adams County yesterday to learn from Wil and as expected it was a great experience.
Songs of Insects is now in its third printing and has served as the vehicle by which many thousands of people have taken a greater interest in the sounds that are created by the singing insects. If you are curious about the ever-present sounds that are now at a crescendo and surround you each time you go outside, this is the book to have. Wil collaborated with recordist extraordinaire Lang Elliott, and the men spent six years conducting field work for the project.
I've known Wil for five or six years, and time spent in the field with him is worth its weight in gold, even at today's prices. He can recognize all of the insect singers by voice and is a master at locating them in the grass and thickets. We saw and heard a great many species, as the workshop was split between indoor lectures and outdoor excursions. As a personal bonus, Wil solved a three year mystery for me. For the last trio of summers, I have had a cricket in the flower beds that delivers a series of deep forceful chirps in series of a dozen notes or so. My attempts to learn its ID were fruitless. Until this workshop, when we heard the same bug in a weedy lawn. Japanese burrowing cricket, Velarifictorus micado! That one wasn't on my radar screen and apparently Columbus, where I live, is near the northern limits for this nonnative insect.
To make the photo above, we brought the animal indoors and placed it in a white box. Every species in Wil's book is photographed in this way; the white background really causes the insect's intricate details to stand out.
A personal favorite are the coneheads, which are big torpedo-shaped katydids. They'll not win any awards for melodious song. The one above is a slender conehead, Neoconocephalus lyristes. They deliver an incredibly loud dry crackling trill that can be heard from hundreds of feet. You've probably heard them or other coneheads as you've driven country lanes in the evening. So much energy is created by this singing that the conehead's internal temperature can elevate as much as 21 degrees F!
CLICK HERE to listen to one of these songsters.
Thanks to Wil for a wonderful day, and kudos to the staff of the Cincinnati Museum for orchestrating this excellent workshop series.