Obscure Bird Grasshopper

1 Obscure Bird Grasshopper_9170

Despite its common name, this insect is anything but obscure – it is large, conspicuous and “showy.” Females can reach 2-1/2 inches in length. Males are smaller, sometimes remarkably so. The name “bird” comes from the Obscure Bird Grasshopper’s ability to fly rather long distances and often up into trees, if they are frightened.

02 Obscure Bird Grasshopper_9273

This insect is related to the famous Desert Locust, which appears in the news when it occurs in massive swarms in Africa. Obscure Bird Grasshoppers are capable of long distance seasonal migrations, though they are not populous enough to cause mass destruction.

3 Obscure Bird Grasshopper_10_08sr 221

While grasshoppers will generally eat almost anything green, the Obscure Bird Grasshopper seems to favor plants in the citrus family, such as wafer ash and lime trees.

4 Obscure Bird Grasshopper_10_08sr 219

This insect’s habitat is fields and woodlands across most of the eastern and southern United States and into Mexico. Adults are typically found in late Summer and early Fall.

5 Obscure Bird Grasshopper_10_08sr 220

I dig big bugs and it’s always neat to encounter this species when visiting southern Illinois, which so far has been the only place where I have seen them.

Third Eye Herp

Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid

01 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_9433

While visiting southern Illinois I came across this very cool creature. Like all other coneheads, it possess a sharply pointed feature (called a fastigium) at the tip of its head, giving it a very distinctive look.

02 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_3939 (1)

Adult Broad-tipped Conehead Katydids display either brown or green coloration, depending on their gender and season. This species also occurs throughout the southern United States, from Florida up to New Jersey, and extends westward to southern California.

03 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_1060

These insects have have oversized jaws and a relatively large body, with adult females generally being much larger than males. Their bodies are covered by long, narrow, leathery forewings. They are strong fliers and tend to be attracted to lights.

04 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_3939

When disturbed, adult Broad-tipped Conehead Katydids will fly off or dive down into the ground and bury their heads to make their body appear to look like grass.

05 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_1062

This creature feeds mostly on different types of grasses. It has the ability to overwinter, so its mating call can be heard in early spring, occurring at least a month before many other types of insects begin calling.

06 Broad-tipped Conehead Katydid_3943

This was a neat find while I was out and about looking for snakes.

Third Eye Herp

Mining Bee

01 Mining Bee_7248

We often think of bees as living in hives and cooperating with each other as “social insects.” But of the 20,000 species of bees in the world, 70% live underground and the large majority of those are small and solitary.

02 Mining Bee_7423

This Mining Bee that I recently saw in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is an example of such a bee. There are 100 over species of this type of insect found in Ohio. These native pollinators are typically 1/4 – 3/4″ long, depending on the species, and most have banded abdomens.

03 Mining Bee_7420

Females dig individual burrows several inches deep into the soil. They prefer to nest in well-drained soil that is lightly exposed to sunlight. Each excavation is about the diameter of a wooden pencil surrounded by a mound of loose soil particles.

04 Mining Bee_7422

Though solitary and having no social structure, large numbers of females often locate their burrows in close proximity to one another giving the appearance of an organized colony.

05 Mining Bee_7419

Mining Bees are not aggressive and their small stingers can’t penetrate far into the skin. More importantly, they are significant pollinators of spring-blooming food crops including apples, cherries and blueberries.

06 Mining Bee_7421

These fine creatures are also known as Chimney Bees and Mustached Mud Bees.

Third Eye Herp

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk_1389

While visiting Nevada, Arizona and California I have come across this awesome insect on occasion. This is the largest of the spider wasps, which use their sting to paralyze their prey before dragging it to a brood nest to serve as living food.

Tarantula Hawk_1426

These two-inch insects are not only distinctive because of their size, but they are also easily recognizable by their blue-black bodies and bright, rust-colored wings. Their vivid coloration is an advertisement to potential predators of the wasps’ ability to deliver a powerful sting.

Tarantula Hawk_7067

For humans and other vertebrates, the Tarantula Hawk has one of the most painful stings on the planet. American entomologist Justin Schmidt created the sting pain index and described the Tarantula Hawk’s sting as “instantaneous, electrifying and totally debilitating.”

Tarantula Hawk_1431

Female Tarantula Hawks battle tarantulas (which are bigger than themselves), sting them and then drag the paralyzed spider to a specially prepared burrow, where a single egg is laid on the spider’s abdomen and the burrow entrance is covered. When the Tarantula Hawk larva hatches, it feeds voraciously on the tarantula, avoiding vital organs for as long as possible to keep the spider alive.

Tarantula Hawk_5771

Adult Tarantula Hawks derive their energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly of the sugar-rich nectar produced by flowering plants. The consumption of fermented fruit sometimes intoxicates them to the point that flying becomes difficult.

Tarantula Hawk_1423

Despite their large size and fearsome lifestyle, Tarantula Hawks are relatively docile and rarely sting without provocation.

Third Eye Herp

Paper Wasp

paper wasp_3715

Each year I share my backyard deck during the warmer months with Paper Wasps. They have a fondness for the wooden rail overhand and sometimes two or three pairs of insects build nests there.

paper wasp_0540

Paper Wasps are beneficial, since they prey on soft-bodied insects, especially caterpillars. They are not at all bothersome, being uninterested in people or in scavenging for food, unlike some of their yellowjacket cousins.

Paper Wasp_10_08sr 153

I have also encountered this insect when visiting southern Illinois and Maryland. They come in a variety of colors and patterns. The photo above shows a nest in the limestone bluffs that border Snake Road in Illinois and the picture below shows one starting to build its nest on the eaves of a shed in Maryland.

Paper Wasp_8336

These insects make nests of cellulose fiber (paper) to brood their young. Paper wasp nests are typically small, attached by a stalk to an overhanging support, and have a single comb of cells.

Paper Wasp_3316

The larvae of wasps are grubs. To grow in the nest cell, the grub needs food – so the adult wasp paralyzes a caterpillar with its sting and stuffs it into the nest cell and lays an egg in the cell. The egg hatches and has ample food to grow to full grub size.

paper wasp_6556

After it eats, the grub enters the pupal, or resting stage, wherein its body is rearranged, and it emerges as an adult winged wasp. In the picture above, an adult has caught a caterpillar to feed its offspring.

brown paper wasp_08_27 048

Adult Paper Wasps eat nectar. Dill and fennel are especially favored, but parsley, parsnip or carrot gone to seed are also food sources for these insects.

Third Eye Herp

Orange-winged Grasshopper

Orange-winged Grasshopper_8496

While visiting a Pine Barrens habitat in Maryland this Summer, I came across this very cool creature.

Orange-winged Grasshopper_8519

Grasshoppers jump to get around and to escape from predators and several species enhance their leaps by having the ability to fly.

Orange-winged Grasshopper_8525

This species prefers old fields, meadows and open woodlands, where it is almost always grassy, sunny and near (but not usually under) trees. It is more often seen in upland areas than in valleys and prefers areas where there are patches of bare soil.

Orange-winged Grasshopper_8505

True to its name, my specimen had orange wings, but the inner wing color can also be yellow or pinkish. The Orange-winged Grasshopper belongs to a group of insects known as Band-winged Grasshoppers, as evidenced by its black wing borders.

Orange-winged Grasshopper_8511

These grass-eating insects are heavy-bodied and equipped with enlarged hind legs. Their head too, has an appearance of being over-sized. It’s bright, intricate, cryptic colors make for a neat looking invertebrate.

Third Eye Herp

Snowy Tree Cricket

Snowy Tree Cricket_7931

I often find this insect in the Autumn, not only when visiting southern Illinois, but also in my home state of Ohio.

snowy tree cricket_3110

This pale green species occurs over a wide distribution in the northern United States and parts of southern Canada.

Snowy Tree Cricket_1956

The Snowy Tree Cricket is known for having a chirping rate highly correlated with ambient temperature. This relationship is known as Dolbear’s Law and was published in 1897 in an article called “The Cricket as a Thermometer.”

Snowy Tree Cricket_7664

As their name implies, these creatures live in trees and shrubs, for which they are well camouflaged. The bodies of tree crickets are long and skinny compared to the bodies of other types of familiar crickets.

Snowy Tree Cricket 016

Like other species of in their family, they feed on a wide range of items like plant parts, other insects and even fungi.

Snowy Tree Cricket_1949

The call of the Snowy Tree Cricket is commonly used as a background sound in movies and on television in order to depict a warm Summer evening.

Snowy Tree Cricket_1952

This is a neat, delicate-appearing invertebrate that I enjoy coming across, whether while doing yardwork or out herping.

Third Eye Herp

European Hornet

Snake Road_9975

While searching for snakes in southern Illinois this month, I flipped a rock and under it was this large (over an inch long) insect. This the only true hornet found in North America, having been introduced by European settlers in the 1800′s.

European Hornet_3938

Most examples I’ve seen have been in the Autumn and are probably females (mated queens) looking for a place to overwinter before starting a new colony the following Spring. Only overwintering queens survive in protected sites such as under loose bark, in tree cavities, under rocks and in buildings. All other colony members produced in the current year perish.

European Hornet 026

I have seen European Hornets in my home state of Ohio as well. They are mainly carnivorous and hunt insects such as beetles, caterpillars, moths, dragonflies and crickets. They also feed on fallen fruit and other sources of sugary food. I saw this one at a hummingbird feeder. These insects have been observed stealing prey from spiders, which can be classified as an example of kleptoparasitism.

European Hornet_5489

Though they probably have a painful sting, they usually aren’t particularly defensive when not protecting their nest. This woodland species constructs its large paper hive in natural cavities, especially in hollow trees. The nests typically have 200-400 workers.

European hornet_8460

It’s always a neat experience to observe one of these impressive invertebrates while out on a hike.

Third Eye Herp

Northern Walkingstick

Northern Walkingstick_6524

While walking on the Buckeye Trail, I came across this very cool insect. Adults are 3 to 3-1/2 inches long and remarkably well camouflaged. They are slender, elongated and resemble a twig.

walkingstick 078

Northern Walkingsticks have a wide range, extending down the Atlantic Coast from Alberta, Canada to Northern Florida.

Northern Walkingstick 064a

These creatures feed mainly on the leaves of trees. They are leaf skeletonizers, eating the tissues between the leaf veins before moving on to new leaves.

Northern Walkingstick 072

There favored habitat is deciduous woodland edges and forests where their preferred food sources (Oak and Hazelnut) are in good supply.

Northern Walkingstick_2512

Northern Walkingsticks have the extraordinary ability to regenerate legs that are lost by attacks from predators. When predators are present, they remain motionless with their legs close to their bodies, thus resembling a stick.

Northern Walkingstick 056

They tend to lay their eggs in September; they do so, usually from great heights, dropping them down to the leaf litter where they are left to overwinter. The eggs falling from the trees sound like of droplets of rain.

Northern Walkingstick 060

We often think of strange, exotic-looking insects as creatures inhabiting tropical rainforests, but the Northern Walkingstick graces us with its presence right here in Ohio.

Third Eye Herp

Moth Fly

Recently I found this strange creature in my basement. It is also commonly known as the Drain Fly, Filter Fly or Sewage Fly. Moth flies are frequently found indoors on windows, sinks and walls. The source of the fly infestation is generally from sinks and floor drains.


The adult insect is about one-fifth of an inch long. It has a dark gray body and lighter colored wings. It is densely covered with long hair, which gives the body a fuzzy appearance, hence the name “Moth Fly.”


Their eggs are deposited in moist, decomposing organic materials. These materials, which accumulate in drains, provide an ideal site for metamorphosis. Adults live about two weeks and feed on flower nectar and polluted water.


During the day adults rest in shaded areas or on walls near plumbing fixtures and on the sides of showers and tubs. Most of their activity occurs during the evening. It was neat to make an acquaintance with this unusual insect.

Third Eye Herp