This week I have the privilege of introducing you to a little known Upper Rogue insect who is quite adept at avoiding the paparazzi. She is the Noisy Shieldback Katydid (Steiroxys strepens). Just how camera shy is this katydid? There are three photos of live examples (and four of dead ones, ick) on the internet. There are four recorded sightings on the internet. Take it from one who Googles a lot of insects…that’s camera shy!
How do I know it’s a Steiroxys strepens if it’s so rare? Excellent question! First; I must admit, I almost never knew. I stumbled across two of them in the Rogue River/Siskiyou National Forest while looking for a different crawly altogether and managed to snap exactly four photos. I spent well over an hour trying to ID this elusive shieldback with no luck. In defeat I decided it was “some type” of green cricket and called it done; no “Crawly Feature” for this cricket. Meanwhile, I’d emailed one of the photos to my friend, Aaron Reneker. He generally defers to me on matters of bug ID, but this time insisted “It looks like a Katydid.” This…well, it bugged me. Reneker is one who tends to be correct. Still, this bug had no wings, and to my mind katydids have wings.
Still, Reneker’s comment kept echoing in my head, and after a few days I hit Google again, this time looking for katydids. Nothing quite fit my photo though. Oregon species do not have the grand ovipositor of the female in my picture (ovipositor = how this little lady lays her eggs – in the ground!) There was a similar katydid, the straight lanced katydid; but they are east of the Rockies. This led me to BugGuide.net where I found entomologist Eric R. Eaton, sort of. I found a link to his website, wherein, I was advised if I wanted to contact him I had to go through AllExperts.com. So, off to AllExperts, where I submitted two photos, my query, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long; Eaton replied quickly and enthusiastically saying in part, “Outstanding images of a rarely-imaged species…Steiroxys strepens… Please consider posting your own images to the Bugguide link, as there are few other images for the species.”
Naturally, I had to post the images in the Independent first! It is “our” Upper Rogue bug after all. First I had to go back up to the meadow for better photos. Even knowing what I was after, I found very few shieldbacks. In ‘only’ 2.5 hours I got some good shots of both a male and a female (they are only about 1.5 inches in length and well camouflaged).
By Christy Pitto
For The Independent