Friday, June 27, 2008

Bug Guide – A Very Useful Tool for the Naturalist

A Grasshopper of Unusual Coloration


Recently I was invited to go on a field trip, as a consulting Naturalist, with my brother (Jimmy) and sister-in-law (Twalla) who are owners of Happy Time Day Care. This was to answer questions posed by sixteen of their 4th and 5th grade Day-Care Kids. We spent the morning at the Ft. Worth Nature Refuge. It was fun, but it kept me busy. It was…. Troy, come look at this spider…. Troy, what kind of flower is this? Troy, come look at my bug…. Troy, I found a wasp nest…. Troy, there is a really big snake in the water!!! etc. etc. etc. It was really fun with this group of kids. I am looking forward to next year’s outing.

I was walking down a trail through some of the tall Prairie Grass, when I came across an interesting grasshopper that I had never seen before. From a distance it looked like a large “bird dropping” on a blade of grass. I thought it was pretty cool, so I photographed it for ID later that night.

This was the first one that I had ever seen with this color pattern. It was really puzzling. After looking at the photo that night and going through all of our field guides, I was stumped. I was not able to identify it, so I went back the next day and spent an hour looking for this individual or a similar specimen.

Like many other things in life, you only get one chance at some things. I should know better, shoot lots of photos! Since I was running back and forth, helping the kids, it slipped my mind to open a wing and photograph it. I will say it again. Shoot lots of photos.

I thought it might be a possible Conozoa of the Band-winged Grasshoppers, so I put the photo on Bug Guide. In a few days, Eric R. Eaton (author of Kaufman - Field Guide to Insects of North America) suggested that it might be Arphia. In fact, it is pictured on pp. 72-73 of that excellent book minus the white coloring.

In just a couple of weeks, its identity was confirmed by David J. Ferguson, an entomologist of New Mexico. What threw me off in identification was the large amount of white coloration on this particular specimen.




Sulphur-winged Grasshopper (Arphia sulphurea)
(Click on the photo to see her beautiful eye)



Ft. Worth Nature Center and Refuge,
Tarrant County, Texas, USA
June 3, 2008
Size: 1.25 inches



Full classification:
Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Insects (Insecta) » Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids (Orthoptera) » Grasshoppers (Caelifera) » Short-horned Grasshoppers (Acrididae) » Band-winged Grasshoppers (Oedipodinae) » Arphia » Sulfurwinged Grasshopper (Arphia sulphurea)


I highly recommend Bug Guide for tough ID’s. If you have an Agricultural College in your state, ‘Google up’ an entomologist from that University. They are usually a good source of information and help.

To see the Specimen on Bug Guide, Click here.

Leave a comment if you have had any experience with Bug Guide or use Kaufman’s Field Guide to the Insects of N.A. or if you just like the photo.




Troy and Martha

25 comments:

Ted C. MacRae said...

Very striking, I've never seen a hopper with quite that amount of contrast.

Of course, I rarely notice hoppers anyway since I'm so busy looking for beetles ;-)

Doug Taron said...

Great shot. Arphia sulphurea is pretty common around here. The hindwings are an attractive yellow, but unlike yours the exterior is a pretty uniform brown. Will definitely add to COTS.

kjpweb said...

Never seen one of those either. And yeah - Bug Guide is a great site with a lot of people at hand, eager to help out. And once you found your way around, it's pretty helpful to get bugs identified. Good tip!
Cheers, Klaus

The Texican said...

I thought everyone would recognize a Sulphur winged grasshopper when they saw one.:)

fishing guy said...

Troy: That guy looks like they used paste and paper to put him together.

Christy said...

It's Hopper from Disney's "A Bugs Life". Very cool most of the one's I notice are green. Cool capture.

Tammy said...

What a cool looking grasshopper!

ratmammy said...

insects actually scare me, but this grasshopper did look interesting!

Me & my puppies said...

I don't know how many photos you took but this one is great!

Crafty Gardener said...

Amazing close up of the grasshopper. Thanks for stopping by
The Gardener Side

lingovise said...

Awesome capture!! I've tried to catch a few... just not fast enough on the shutter release. Nicely done :)

Kahshe Cottager said...

What a great closeup! I don't think I have ever seen one like this.

My Camera Critter is here

Doug Taron said...

By the way, I'm not at all surprised that David Ferguson showed up to comment. He's a great guy and comments frequently and helpfully regarding band-winged grasshoppers (he's a significant expert with that group). He's been very helpful with some of my images. I've never met him in person, in contrast to Eric, who also is a great guy.

mon@rch said...

I love Kaufmans guide . . . will have to check out that link you have!

Carletta said...

Great photo! That face reminds me of a character from Star Wars :)

babooshka said...

This is an excellent post both text and image.

Rayne said...

That is a neat looking grasshopper. I have a grasshopper for my camera critter today, too.

Rhea said...

You are brave to venture on a field trip with so many kids! I bet you were busy. And, I totally agree on the motto of taking LOTS of photos. One is bound to turn out great out of every 100 or so. hehe

LOVE the unique grasshobber. Very, very cool! I've never seen one like that before. I could see how it wouuld resemble bird poop from a distance. lol

Gretchen said...

What an awesome photo!

Daryl said...

LOL .. Troy ..thanks again for helping me learn what sort of flying critter I captured .. Widow Skimmer... I posted it today along with my thanks to you and Martha for helping me solve the mystery

:-Daryl

i beati said...

quite unique

B. Roan said...

Great eye. Yours too.

Marvin said...

Nice shot, Troy. Some of these critters really complicate matters when they don't conform to the typical coloration and/or pattern.

I use BugGuide a lot, and Eric has come up with by far the most IDs for me. The breath of his knowledge is astounding.

Kathiesbirds said...

Troy, while you are entranced with her "beautiful eye" I am amazed by the fine "hairs" running along the edge of that blade of grass! Quite a story and photo!

Ashrunner said...

Very cool grasshopper photo. I used Bugguide.net a lot to ID some of the critters I post on my Flickr account. It's a great resource.