bunch of legs
That makes it a bug, right?
That makes it a bug, right?
I say, "I don't do bugs" but the long, tall green one that clung to the Adirondack chair on my porch in May was just too interesting. I'd never seen an insect like this, so maybe it was one of those freaky larval stages that mimic the colors or markings of the adult insect but all the parts are twisted around to do something else. Like the transformer toys I would find wedged in the back seat of the Jeep after long trips with the boys. Alien yet disturbingly familiar. The god in charge of metamorphosis must be a boy.
|A greater anglewing katydid climbs the barn.|
The appendage at the back of its abdomen makes this a female.
When I returned to the farmyard intent on ID, the insect had barely made it past the barn door handle. A brief glance at Kaufman's leaf hopper page - no origami insects there. Checking the grasshopper section - nope. I moved the origami insect to the bottom of the barn door to give me more time, after all, there's an awful lot of insect species in North America if your approach to ID is flipping through all the pages. Just as it restarted its climb, I found two glorious pages of katydid illustrations. Yes, this was a katydid so cooperatively approaching knee level where I could compare it to colorful plates and descriptions. Was it the fancifully named "slightly musical cone head" or "rattler round-winged katydid"? No, it had a practical name - the greater anglewing katydid.
|Grandmother Grundy [a nursery rhyme]|
Oh Grandmother Grundy,
Now what would you say
If the katydids carried
Your glasses away?
Carried them off
To the top of the sky
And used them to watch
the eclipses go by?
Could the mysterious green thing on the Dipper Ranch porch be a juvenile form of a katydid? Not only were both the small and large insects the same bright green, but they also shared a pattern of many white dots and a few white lines. A search of the Bug Guide website, however, showed otherwise. Katydids undergo simple metamorphosis so their nymphs are just small versions of the adult form - katyminididdies. Neither young or old katydids were constructed like the long, tall green thing on my porch.
Not being a bug expert (see, I call them "bugs"), I didn't bother counting legs, measuring antenna length or noting the shape of the leg segments, I just started flipping through the pages of Kaufman's guide again. Page after page of interesting distractions but not the brilliantly green and fortunately still porch insect. Suddenly, there was a perfect match, the only green photo on the stick insect page - a Timema. Never heard of them.
|Timemas are usually the same color as their host vegetation and their long body shape with longitudinal stripes may further camouflage them especially on long narrow needles such as on Douglas fir or chamise.|
|Female Timema - the paired 'terminalia' is long and symmetrical.|
The discovery of Timemas occurred only over the last 100 years, so there are no nursery rhymes for this insect. But we could make one up.
at rest on my porch.
You've sent me researching
your life like a dork.
- simple and complete -
I'd forgotten the details,
an amazing insect feat.
The next time I see a new insect
I will ask
"Can I see your baby photo?"
to make identification an easier task.
Greater anglewing, Microcentrum rhombifolium
California timema, Timema californicum
Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America, Eric R. Eaton & Kenn Kaufman, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.
Bug Guide website Genus Timema page
Law, Jennifer H and Bernard J. Crespi, The evolution of geographic parthenogenesis in Timema walking-sticks, Molecular Ecology (2002) 11, 1471-1489.