Sunday, December 8, 2019

HumBug: Preserved for Posterity

Posted By on Sun, Dec 8, 2019 at 11:06 AM

I recently did something I haven't done in a long time. I went looking for glow worms in my backyard. Locally I've found them to be amazingly common in the leaf litter beneath our local redwoods but lately they had been absent from our usual haunts. This time though, I was greeted by at least half a dozen in my little area. (For a more detailed introduction to our local luminaries check out my previous post "Glow Worm vs. Snail," Dec. 11, 2016.)
click to enlarge A glow worm (Pterotus integrippinis) was photographed and returned to the wild unscathed. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • A glow worm (Pterotus integrippinis) was photographed and returned to the wild unscathed.



I was bemoaning the cold, wet weather and short days signaling the annual lull in insect activity when I noticed a large critter walking across a camera case in my house. I collected it in a jar and found it dead the next day. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, I set about setting it to dry for my collection of local insects.
click to enlarge Closeup portrait of the shield backed katydid. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Closeup portrait of the shield backed katydid.
I no longer actively hunt them but when one dies in my possession, or I find a particularly well preserved specimen, I will add it to the little box I keep for display when I give talks about bugs.
click to enlarge Shield backed katydid on a pin. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Shield backed katydid on a pin.
The animal in question is a female shield backed katydid. A relative of grassshoppers and crickets, the sex of a specimen is something you can tell fairly easily. The females have an ovipositor (egg laying structure) shaped like a serrated scimitar. It is used for sawing into a substrate where she will lay her eggs.
click to enlarge The ovipositor of the shield backed katydid. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • The ovipositor of the shield backed katydid.
Another bug that showed up dead at my house was a plant bug of the genus Largus. I grew up calling these striking orange margined black bugs “squash bugs,” and I've frequently found them in my garden on members of the squash and cucumber family of plants.
click to enlarge Margined plant bug. - PHOTO BY ANTHONY WESTKAMPER
  • Photo by Anthony Westkamper
  • Margined plant bug.
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