So, what was your guess? Did you guess it was a katydid? When I first saw this strange creature, I thought (from afar) that it may be some type of weird rainforest spider. On closer inspection, I noticed the resemblance of its head to grasshoppers. So, although it looked nothing like a grasshopper otherwise, I assumed it must be related somehow and it was probably (fingers crossed) not deadly. So, imagine my surprise that it was indeed a katydid, a Mountain Katydid to be exact; an insect in the same order — Orthoptera, or straight wing — as grasshoppers.
Female Mountain Katydid
Next I’ll tell you that I misidentified this as the Colourful Gondwanan Katydid. For an amateur like me, to even find something that was so close was a huge feat. But my lack of expertise, unfortunately, doesn’t allow my eye to be as keen as a professional. So, right before I posted this huge error in identification, I realized the bodies of the two types of katydids were different. Had I found a male Mountain Katydid, I may have still gone ahead with the erroneous post.
Luckily, this is a female Mountain Katydid and has a much more robust body than their male counterpart. The females are flightless and although they do have small shell-like forewings, they do not have a second pair of wings functional for flight. When disturbed (usually when handled as I found out) they will lift the forewings and show their colourful bands of red and blue underneath. This female was very tolerant of me for quite a while before showing hers to me. I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of this but was able to locate one so that you may see how it looks.
photo credit: cdesign.com.au
Very impressive, although more beautiful than scary…even though I’m sure it’s effective when it needs to be.
The male of this type of katydid can fly and can look quite different. From the pictures I’ve seen and the one male that I found (although I didn’t know it at the time that it was a male mountain katydid) the body is more like that of your average katydid; more streamlined and leaf-like. They too have the colours underneath that can be seen along the sides of the body even when the wings are down. But the male that I found, I had mistaken for the Colourful Gondwanan Katydid and only after hearing back from the Entomology expert, did I realize what I had found. See pic below. You’ll have to look closely at the body to see a hint of the blue stripes.
Male Mountain Katydid
Since these are slow-moving insects, their physical attributes (like most creatures) serves as protection in a few different ways. First, they are usually lower down on plants where the leaves are dead and they can blend quite well. They are also known to be wherever kangaroos are common and it’s not a coincidence that, the female especially, resembles kangaroo droppings, that they will mimic as a defence. And as I mentioned previously, they will raise their wings, displaying their colourful stripes as a warning they could possibly be poisonous to a potential predator. And since they love the ragwort plant (which is poisonous and stinks) they in turn make themselves unpalatable to anyone who dares eat them.
This katydid has definitely proven to be one of my more interesting finds as well as a huge learning curve. And although I had to call in help again, I feel that I’m starting to get the knack of identification.
On to the next!