Reminder: You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it. Click again for a full-screen image.
Does anyone know what species of insect this is? I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.
I know this: it is a species of katydid. In appearance, it resembles a Mormon Cricket, a katydid species that is common in parts of the western United States. But, I’m very dubious that it is, in fact, a Mormon Cricket, and I’ve been unable to find out anything more about it.
Last week, René Clark and I made a night hike at Sabino Canyon. It was pitch dark when this insect showed up in our flashlight beams, along a roadside in open desert. René was absolutely convinced that we’d happened upon a Mormon Cricket and, for a while, I agreed with her. But, there are problems with that thesis and they may be insurmountable.
First, the habitat is all wrong. Mormon Crickets are a grassland species. They appear in great numbers in some years in parts of the West. They figure prominently in Mormon history (hence their name). The original Mormon settlers were plagued one year by a great swarm of these insects, which proceeded to devour the settlers’ crops. The settlers were saved by flocks of gulls, which gobbled up the insects. The Mormons attributed their good fortune to divine intervention. The state bird of Utah, by the way, is a gull.
Sabino Canyon is definitely not grasslands. There are grasslands higher up the slopes of Mt. Lemmon, close to the canyon, but not in the canyon itself. I find it improbable that a Mormon Cricket would travel downhill to make a desert visit. These insects are capable of traveling up to a mile a day — remarkable in that they are flightless, as is this insect — but one would have no reason to make a journey from grassland to the canyon’s desert. Moreover, I’ve been unable to find any reference to Mormon Crickets even living in the Tucson area.
Furthermore, although this insect looks very much like a Mormon Cricket, its color is all wrong. Mormon Crickets are a solid maroon or brown in color. This insect sports a splendid dark and light camouflage.
So, I remain stumped. It’s a katydid but not a Mormon Cricket. That’s as far as I can go with this insect. It’s kind of cool to look at, however and I’m glad that René and I found it, whatever it is.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600Ex-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 125, f13 @ 1/160.