Tettigoniidic Growing Pains

One of the most entertaining insects to watch is a Red-eyed Devil. Devils are also known as greater arid-land katydids, which is a terribly boring name and these guys look anything but boring! They’re spiny and spiky, agile, quite large and decidedly aggressive, they’re very green, beautifully patterned and they glare at you with their red devil eyes.
This cute devil came visiting a couple of years ago.
Neobarrettia spinosa, Caudell 1907, Tettigoniidae, Red-eyed Devil                               



Today’s critter, however, is neither as cute nor as colorful as my old friend Spiny – but he’s just as hungry as your average devil.

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.

And while our newly molted tettigoniidic nymph (still no wings, I believe), which could be a member of the genus Pediodectes or any other of the 123 genera of North American shield-backed katydids, sits quietly to pump hemolymph through its hardening body, I will have to say:
To Be Continued.
Google is blocking further picture uploads, which cramps my style – no my blogging until the flow of images works again. ¡Hasta la vista, espero!

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