I noticed some odd movement in a window frame earlier this afternoon. Actually outside the window proper, in the channel or grove for an insect screen, I removed to be better able to snap pictures of wildlife through a stealthily opened window slit. The movement I had perceived out of the corner of my eye, was a fairly large katydid, or a nymph thereof, which was wiggling around out there. Or were there two of them?
Mating? No, emerging!
It took me a while to figure out who was what and where, but eventually I sorted out the different body components. From left to right, we have a katydid, also of the Tettigoniidae family, just like my Spiny above. However, this one appears to be a member of the Tettigoninae subfamily, the shield-backed katydids. I noticed the molting action too late, thus completely missing the initial emergence. Judging by the position and posture of the new instar, I’m assuming that it used it’s shield to break through the weakened armor of its former self. The way it looks here, with horsey face tucked under, long antennae, so typical for katydids, running ventrally parallel along the whole length of the animal, while their tips are still trapped inside the shell, the shield could’ve been used much like a hatching bird uses it’s beak to split the eggshell. It’s quite apparent that the new exoskeleton is still soft and pliable. Did you notice the kink in the femur? And how the lower leg curves back into the old chitin case? That is a severe bend, almost painful to watch if you realize that the darker shadow inside the former ‘thigh’ portion of the old shell, is actually the heart-shaped arrangement of tarsals, the katydid’s toesies. Looking at this picture as a whole, it is absolutely amazing to me, how this large new instar could’ve possibly fit into the old shell.
As I watched this katydid work very hard to molt, it first freed the jumping legs, then it flipped the long antennae forward, after which it finally dislodged it’s rear end, using those drum-stick legs to push away from the old exoskeleton. All in all, these three pictures represent an observation period of about forty minutes.