During my visit to Gloss Mountain State Park (Woodward Co., Oklahoma) this past June, I found an area of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia phaecantha) on the west flats below the main mesa. A few days earlier I had seen cactus beetles in the genus Moneilema (family Cerambycidae) associated with these plants at another nearby location, so I began checking the plants to look for any sign of these beetles. Sadly I did not find any, but the plants were in full bloom and were being visited by flower longhorns in the genus Typocerus (mostly just T. octonotatus). After having collected a small series, I approached one particular cactus plant and found this enormous katydid sitting inside the flower. Katydids normally secrete themselves in a more cryptic manner, using foliage backdrops with which they can blend owing to their green coloration. This particular katydid, however, not only lacked the leaf-like wings that many species possess but also exhibited rather strikingly contrasting dark red markings over its body that made it quite conspicuous as it sat in the yellow flower. I approached carefully so as not to spook it and took a few photographs, but as I did so it became apparent to me that it did not find my actions alarming and would allow me to take whatever photographs I wished.
Almost whatever photographs, that is. I really wanted to get a super-close, full-frontal shot of the face, but it sat unbudgingly in the flower with its face buried in the stamens and masked by the inner petals of the flower. I could have tried peeling away the petal, but I was sure that fiddling my fingers that close to its face would spook it, and even if I did manage to peel back the petal then I would still have stamens blocking the view that I wanted. In the end, I decided that this slightly more distant shot of the whole body was a pleasing enough composition.
I presume this individual represents Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani) in the family Tettigoniidae. This is not surprising, since the type locality of the species (Barber Co., Kansas) is just a few miles to the north and right smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains distribution of the species. BugGuide mentions that species identification from photos alone can be difficult in the genus Pediodectes, as color patterns vary individually and with age, and also since adults are wingless it can be difficult to tell if an individual is a nymph or adult. Nevertheless, distribution maps in Singing Insects of North America show three species that can potentially occur in this part of Oklahoma, and the photos shown here are a dead ringer for P. haldemani. I am also apparently not the first person to photograph this species at Gloss Mountain State Park.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013