Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Last songs of summer
[female Convex shield-backed katydid, Magalia, California]
The wee minstrels of summer are checking out. The tree crickets have been gone for several weeks now, and I haven't heard any field crickets lately, though I suspect a few are clinging to life under woodpiles and in basements.
The convex shield-backed katydid (Neduba convexa) lasts into December. In the summer, their quiet wheezing song rides the night balm of the foothills. Now the nights are too cold for singing, and only a few stragglers remain.
I heard one male singing feebly on December 9th in the low rays of the afternoon sun. I believe his calls were unheard, and expect this last generation of Neduba will be gone by winter's solstice.
I kept several Nedubas in my office last year to see how long they could live if given warmth, food and water. One female died on December 29th, nearly 5 months after she was caught, and a male caught in November lasted until January 26th.
They continue to sing and court almost to the end, but become lethargic and absent-minded a few days before dying, often in their food dish of ground oatmeal. In the woods it's much the same. They sit in a comatose state until the warmth of mid afternoon arrives. Then they sing and wait. This goes on until it gets too cold. Finally they freeze or run out of gas.
I am tempted to say that in the end these lone minstrels would choose sex over food, but ever since I saw them dead in their food dishes, I just don't know.