Katydids and Katerpillars


[ Katydid with one leg too few ]

December 7 – A few weeks ago, as we were walking the trails, we stopped at the iris bed where just one plant was trying its best to give a last bit of beauty to the area before winter came along. As I bent over to get a better look, I found that one stem had some pretty dilapidated blooms, two of them. Each one looked as if it had given up for this year. When I bent down and looked a little more closely, I found that a katydid was making itself at home on one flower. It didn’t even move when I looked at it more closely. “Know what,” I said to Dale, “I’m going to pick this iris and take it up to the house to let it get warmed up a bit, and maybe it will try to bloom! And I’m going to make sure I don’t disturb the katydid! See, it has only one back leg, but it’s still alive. I want to see if I can take a picture of the poor thing.”

Since we were a bit far from the house, I carried Iris and Friend about half a mile till we got back to the garage. As we walked, I kept on wondering if that little creature would wake up a bit and scoot away. No, it didn’t move at all! When I went to get my camera, Dale held the iris and the katydid. However, just as I was ready to snap its picture, the katydid finally hopped right off the stem and onto the driveway.

Fortunately, it couldn’t hop away very fast, so Dale reached down and picked it up, put it back on the iris, and I managed to take a couple pics before the little insect crawled off the stem right onto my arm!


[ Iris on display ]

Well, I decided that Dale had better use the camera while the friendly katydid moved around. After two pics, it had had enough and scooted up my arm all the way up to my shoulder and started walking across the back of my neck. Dale picked it off and deposited it on the maple tree. We never saw it again, but the poor down-and-out iris enjoyed their week’s stay in a glass of water by the sink, paying us back for the good treatment by opening up and showing their yellowish white blooms.

While Dale was on his way to the pond, the other day, he saw something that I have never seen. A yellow-billed cuckoo! What was that bird doing? Something he enjoyed immensely, but just about turns my stomach when I think of it. He was gobbling up what was left of the tent caterpillars’ nest. Those nests are scattered all over the ground near the trees where they first appeared, thanks to the strong winds we have been having lately.

So what made the nests in the first place? Some “gray, non-descript moth” (Dale’s words) wants to lay her eggs, hundreds of them, so goes to various trees like the black walnut, and does what she came to do. No nest or anything, but here comes the strange part. When the eggs hatch in the spring, the caterpillars immediately start building their own nest!


[ Web worms – yuck ]

The nests fall to the ground after a time, especially when the strong winds blow, and we find them all around the trails where they have landed or even blown some distance away. Those gray and silvery nests, about a foot long, housed the caterpillars until they were ready to be on their own. It seems that this year we have found many, many more nests, and it’s easy to see how the caterpillars have eaten so many of the leaves on the tree.

Now back to the cuckoo; I sure hope that this one and lots more of them, are going to take care of those tent caterpillars because there are just too many of them! They were really a plague this year. Never have I seen so many of their tents in the trees or those fallen to the ground. But, I try to dwell on the beauty of nature in so many areas and just forget about what’s really not very pretty. But, on the other hand, I’ll bet the male moths are pretty proud of themselves for making sure there will still be more of their families next year!


[ Snapping turtle passin’ through ]

So many interesting items in nature, and so glad that we have the chance to live out in the country where we can see a lot more along that line that we would if we were living in the city. Sure, we do our weekly shopping at a couple stores six miles away, we have to drive more miles to visit with the doctor for our yearly check-ups, and we probably drive along unpaved roads many more miles than do those who live in the city, but we have seen many interesting birds and animals along the way as well. Big flocks of turkeys, some foxes and raccoons, gaggles of geese and other creatures which enjoy the many farm ponds in the area, and crows, vultures, and hawks add to the view. All of this is really neat, and we continue to be thankful for our home and land. – CHRIS


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