Bug of the month

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by Patrick
Publish date
1 June 2011
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Welcome to the first instalment of Museum Victoria’s Bug of the Month. At any time, more than 100 species of invertebrates are resident at Melbourne Museum, under the care of the Live Exhibits Unit. These creatures can be seen in Bugs Alive! and the Forest Gallery, and they pop up in other places such as the Children’s Museum and even Amazing Backyard Adventures, currently showing at Scienceworks.

Small Hooded Katydid Face to face with the Small Hooded Katydid.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This month’s bug is the Small Hooded Katydid, also known as Phyllophorella. The name doesn’t adequately describe the large size of this species, which can grow up to 8cm long. Although this katydid has been around for millennia, it was only described by scientists and given an official scientific name two years ago.

Small Hooded Katydid Adult Small Hooded Katydid.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Small Hooded Katydids are found in North Queensland, from around Cairns all the way to rainforest near the tip of Cape York. They are one of the biggest katydids in Australia, but their closest relatives, the Giant Katydids (Siliquofera grandis) are easily the largest, measuring up to 13cm in length.

katydid feeding on broad beans
A katydid feeding on broad bean leaves. If you look closely you can see the katydid’s ear, a small opening located on its foreleg at the left of the photo.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Small Hooded Katydids are vegetarians, feeding on a range of rainforest plants amongst which they are remarkably well camouflaged. Some specimens even have irregular white or brown patches on their wings, which are identical to the spots found on leaves. The veins on the wings also mimic the vein pattern of leaves, so adults can be very difficult to find in the wild. For this reason, they were thought for a long time to be rare, but are actually quite common.

katydid’s wing Close-up of a katydid’s wing, showing the leaf-like pattern of veins and brown spots.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Unlike most other katydids, males of this species don’t call to attract females, so no-one knows how they find each other in the rainforest at night. However, both adults and nymphs can produce a rasping sound when disturbed, by rubbing the bases of the back legs against the body.

Katydid nymph A young nymph living behind the scenes at Melbourne Museum
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The ‘hood’ of these katydids, after which they are named, is most obvious in juveniles such as these two below. The pointed spine on each side of the hood is also most prominent at this stage.

juvenile female katydid A juvenile female already bears the sabre-like ovipositor at the end of the body with which she will later lay eggs.
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Juvenile katydid feeding A juvenile feeding on organic matter, photographed in rainforest north of Cape Tribulation
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Small Hooded Katydids are currently on show in the ‘Enormous Numbers’ display in Bugs Alive! at Melbourne Museum.

Small Hooded Katydid display Small Hooded Katydids in Bugs Alive!
Image: Patrick Honan
Source: Museum Victoria
 

References:

Rentz, D.C.F., Su, Y.N. & Ueshima, N., 2009, Studies in Australian Tettigonidae: The Phyllophorinae (Orthoptera: Tettigonidae: Phyllophorinae), Zootaxa, 2075:55-68

Rentz, D., 2010, A Guide to the Katydids of Australia, CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne, 214pp.

Comments (3)

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Emma C. 1 June, 2011 16:43
why are they called Katy Dids? Makese think of the books, what Katy did, what Laty did Next....
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Kate C 2 June, 2011 12:46

Hi Emma, good question!

The long-horned grasshoppers (family Tettigoniidae) are called katydids because some members of the group that make a shrill call that sounds like katy-did, katy-did. Even though this particular species doesn't make a call to attract mates, it's still called a katydid.

We featured another katydid on the blog recently - the Mountain Katydid.

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liz buckley 2 June, 2011 19:58
We have katydids in Victoria, of course, but I didn't realise until recently that this was their common name. I remember reading the American book, 'What Katy Did' as a child and feeling that the insects by the same name included in the story were very similar , by sound, to insects I knew as a child. It has only taken 50 years for me to understand that the katydids in the story have been hanging around in my gardens all the time. Can't comment on the name, except to say that the book gave prominence to their voice and, i expect, I've been hearing that voice through many summers - the up-down intonation (katy) and the down intonation(did). A mnemonic?
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