The above katydid is the first one of its species posted to iNaturalist, and it was found not by a professional naturalist or wildlife biologist, but by Heather, an infectious diseases epidemiologist!
This spring, Heather deployed to Guinea in response to a flare-up of the Ebola virus, working with the Council for State and Territorial Epidemiologists, who was helping the CDC staff the response. The flare-up happened in the forest and response time was critical, so the UN and WHO cleared some forest next a village and set up a camp for the responders.
When she visited the camp for the first time, Heather noticed a dead moth and some other insects. “As I was taking photos, I realized that what I thought was a twig hanging off the tent was actually a moth, so then I went looking for more,” she says. “I then realized that there were ‘bugs’ seemingly everywhere (at that time, my knowledge of insect taxonomy was pretty much just “butterfly, moth, ant, roach, praying mantis, and ‘bug’”). All that to say that, I didn’t know what I was looking at but I knew enough that it was special, even if just to me.” Heather continued to take photos in her spare time: “I’m a giant nerd and really enjoy adventuring. So, what that means is that on my adventures, I end up taking a lot of photos and working backwards.” After struggling with various identification resources, Heather heard the NPR story about iNaturalist, “so I figured I’d give these IDs another shot. That changed everything.”
Not much information is available about the Gelotopoia bicolor katydid, but katydids (Tettigoniidae, also known as “bush crickets”) are a large and incredibly diverse family of the order Orthoptera (the grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and more). You can distinguish a katydid from its releatives by looking at its antennae - it has long, thin antennae, whereas grasshoppers have antennae which are shorter and more thick. Many katydids are actually predatory, with some species even predating snakes and lizards! Members of this family, like the one Heather found, have also evolved incredible camouflage.
Heather will continue to add observations from the places she travels to. “I’ve only been an INaturalist member for a couple of weeks now but now I know... there’s a place for my observations other than my ever expanding photos folder,” she says. “It has really helped me see how I fit into a larger community and appreciate the warmth of veteran naturalists who are willing to act as a resource for a newbie like myself.”
- by Tony Iwane
- Check out Heather’s other observations from Guinea here. Please help ID them if you’re knowledgeable about the region!
- Noted entomologist, author and photographer Piotr Naskrecki has written quite a few blog posts about katydids, showcasing their diversity. Here are some of them.
- Katydid nymphs are usually really cool looking. Bugguide has a collection of nymph photos.