Page images
PDF
EPUB

with the call of “katy-did, she-did,” the live-long night. Of this insect I have met with no scientific description except my own, which was published in 1831 in the eighth volume of the “ Encyclopædia Americana,” page 42. It is the Platyphyllum* concavum, and measures, from the head to the end of the wingcovers, rather more than one inch and a half, the body alone being one inch in length. The piercer is broad, laterally compressed, and curved like a cimeter; and there are, in both sexes, two little thorn-like projections from the middle of the breast between the fore legs. The katy-did is found in the perfect state during the months of September and October, at which time the female lays her eggs. These are slate-colored, and are rather more than one eighth of an inch in length. They resemble tiny oval bivalve shells in shape. The insect lays them in two contiguous rows along the surface of a twig, the bark of which is previously shaved off or made rough with her piercer. Each row consists of eight or nine eggs, placed somewhat obliquely, and overlapping each other a little, and they are fastened to the twig with a gummy substance. In hatching, the egg splits open at one end, and the young insect creeps through the cleft. I am indebted to Miss Morris for specimens of these eggs.

We have another broad-winged green grasshopper, differing from the katy-did, in having the wing-covers narrower, flat and not concave, and shorter than the wings, the thorax smooth, flat above, and abruptly bent downwards at a right angle on each side, and the breast without any projecting spines in the middle. The piercer has the same form as that of the katydid. The musical organ of the left wing-cover, which is the uppermost, is not transparent, but is green and opake, and is traversed by a strong curved vein; that of the right wing-cover is semi-transparent in the middle. This insect is the Phylloptera oblongifolia, I or oblong leaf-winged grasshopper. Its

Platyphyllum means broad-wing.
+ Can this be the Locusta perspicillata of Fabricius?

Locusta oblongifolia of De Geer, a different species from the laurifolia of Linnæus, with which it has been confounded by many naturalists.

body measures about an inch in length, and from the head to the tips of the wings, from an inch and three quarters to three inches. It is found in its perfect state, during the months of September and October, upon trees, and, when it flies, makes a whizzing noise somewhat like that of a weaver's shuttle. The notes of the male, though grating, are comparatively feeble. The females lay their eggs in the autumn on the twigs of trees and shrubs, in double rows, of seven or eight eggs in each row.

These eggs, in form, size, and color, and in their arrangement on the twig, strikingly resemble those of the katy. did. The Rev. Thomas Hill, of Waltham, had the kindness to procure some of them for me from Philadelphia.

A third species, also of a green color, with still narrower wing-covers, which are of almost equal width from one end to the other, but are rounded at the tips, and are shorter than the wings, has the head, thorax, musical organs, and breast, like those of the preceding species, but the piercer is much shorter, and very much more crooked, being bent vertically upwards from near its base. The male has a long tapering projection from the under side of the extremity of the body, curved upwards like the piercer of the female. This grasshopper belongs to the genus Phaneroptera, so named, probably, because the wings are visible beyond the tips of the wing-covers; and, as it does not appear to have been described before, I propose to call it angustifolia,* the narrow-leaved. It measures from the forehead to the end of the abdomen about three quarters of an inch, and to the tips of the wings from an inch and a half to an inch and three quarters. Its habits appear to be the same as those of the oblongifolia. It comes to maturity sometime in the latter part of August or the beginning of September.

From the middle till the end of summer, the grass in our meadows and moist fields is filled with myriads of little grasshoppers, of different ages, and of a light green color, with a brown stripe on the top of the head, extending to the tip of the little smooth and blunt projection between the antennæ, and a broader brown stripe bounded on each side by deeper brown on the top of the thorax. The antennæ, knees, and shanks are green, faintly tinted with brown, and the feet are dusky. When come to maturity, they measure three quarters of an inch or more, from the forehead to the end of the body, or one inch to the ends of the wing-covers. The latter are abruptly narrowed in the middle, and taper thence to the tip, which, however, is rounded and extends as far back as the wings. The color of the wing-covers is green, but they are faintly tinged with brown on the overlapping portion, and have the delicacy and semi-transparency of the skin of an onion. The shrilling organs in the males consist of a transparent glassy spot, bounded and traversed by strong veins, in the middle of the overlapping portion of each wing-cover, which part is proportionally much larger and longer than in the other grasshoppers; but the transparent spot is rather smaller on the left than on the right wing-cover. The male is furthermore distinguished by having two small black spots or short dashes, one behind the other, on each wing-cover, on the outside of the transparent spot. The wings are green on their front margins, transparent, and reflecting a faint pink color behind. The piercer of the female is cimeter-shaped, being curved, and pointed at the end, and is about three tenths of an inch long. The hindmost thighs, in both sexes, are smooth and not spinous beneath; there are two little spines in the middle of the breast; and the antennæ are very long and slender, and extend, when turned back, considerably beyond the end of the hind legs. During the evening, and even at other times in shady places, the males make a sharp clicking noise, somewhat like that produced by snapping the point of a pen against the thumbnail, but much louder. This kind of grasshopper very much resembles the Locusta agilis of De Geer, which is found in Pennsylvania and the Southern States, but does not inhabit Massachusetts, and is distinguished from our species by having the wings nearly one tenth of an inch longer than the wingcovers, the antennæ excessively long (two inches or more), and the piercer not quite so much curved as in our species, besides other differences which it is unnecessary to record here. As our species does not appear to have been named, or described by any previous writer, I propose to call it Orchelimum vulgare, the common meadow-grasshopper, the generical name signifying literally, I dance in the meadow.

* I formerly mistook this insect for the Locusta curvicauda of De Geer, which is found in the Middle and Southern States, but not in Massachusetts, is a larger species, with wing-covers broadest in the middle, and different organs in the male, and belongs to the genus Phylloptera.

With this species another one is also found, bearing a considerable resemblance to it in color and form, but measuring only four or five tenths of an inch from the head to the end of the body, or from seven to eight tenths to the tips of the wings, which are a little longer than the wing-covers. The latter are narrow and taper to the end, which is rounded, but the overlapping portion is not so large as in the common species, and the male has not the two black spots on each wing-cover. The upper part of the abdomen is brown, with the edges of the segments greenish yellow, and the piercer, which is nearly three tenths of an inch long, is brown and nearly straight. This little insect comes very near to Locusta fasciata of De Geer, who, however, makes no mention of the broad brown stripe on the head and thorax. I therefore presume that our species is not the same, and propose to call it Orchelimum gracile, the slender meadow-grasshopper. M. Serville, by whom this genus was instituted, has described three species, two of which are stated to be North American, and the remaining one is probably also from this country; but his descriptions do not answer for either of our species. Both of these kinds of meadow-grasshoppers are eaten greedily by fowls of all kinds.

One more grasshopper remains to be described. It is distinguished from all the preceding species by having the head conical, and extending to a blunt point between the eyes. It belongs to the genus Conocephalus, a word expressive of the conical form of the head, and, in my Catalogue of the Insects of Massachusetts, bears the specific name of ensiger, the swordbearer, from the long, straight, sword-shaped piercer of the female. It measures an inch or more from the point of the head to the end of the body, and from one inch and three quarters to two inches, to the end of the wing-covers. It is pale green, with the head whitish, or only faintly tinted with green, and the legs and abdomen are pale brownish green. A little tooth projects downwards from the under side of the conical part of the head, which extends between the antennæ, and immediately before this little tooth is a black line bent backwards on each side like the letter U. The hindmost thighs have five or six exceedingly minute spines on the inner ridge of the under side. The shrilling organ of the male, on the left wing-cover, is green and opake, but that on the right has a space in the middle that is transparent like glass. The piercer of the female is above an inch long, very slightly bent near the body, and perfectly straight from thence to the tip, which ends in a point. The color of this grasshopper is very apt to change, after death, to a dirty brown. It comes very near to the dissimilis described by M. Serville, but appears to be a different species.

3. Locusts. (Locustada.) The various insects included under the name of locusts nearly all agree in having their wing-covers rather long and narrow, and placed obliquely along the sides of the body, meeting, and even overlapping for a short distance, at their upper edges, which together form a ridge on the back like a sloping roof. Their antennæ are much shorter than those of most grasshoppers, and do not taper towards the end, but are nearly of equal thickness at both extremities. Their feet have really only three joints; but as the under side of the first joint is marked by one or two cross lines, the feet, when seen only from below, seem to be four or five jointed. The females have not a long projecting piercer like the crickets and grasshoppers, but the extremity of their body is provided with four short, wedge-like pieces, placed in pairs above and below, and opening and shutting opposite to each other, thus forming an instrument like a pair of nippers, only with four short blades instead of two. When one of these insects is about to lay her eggs, she drives these little wedges into the earth; these, being then opened and withdrawn, enlarge the orifice; upon

« PreviousContinue »