The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.
This description is from Nancy, the museum’s director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center and curator of entomology. She’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the rarest and most interesting insects in the Museum’s collections,that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org– throughout the year.
Katydids are related to crickets and grasshoppers, but unlike these relatives, katydids’ wings are folded tent-like over their back. The extremely long antennae are very sensitive to touch. Katydids are among the most camouflaged of all insects; their wings look almost exactly like leaves, sometimes bearing spots or even holes. Most katydids are green, but in the tropics some occur in shades of brown or gray, or even yellow and pink!
This species, Macrolyristes corporalis, one of our insect zoo inhabitants but native to the rainforests of Malaysia, is the largest katydid in the world. The leaf-like wings are at first entire, but as the katydid ages the back edge becomes discolored and eroded, looking like an old or damaged leaf rather than a young fresh one. Despite its long legs, this species cannot jump well, and it rarely flies. It is also one of the very loudest insects. Katydids rub their wings together to “sing” – when this one sings, it sounds like a major machinery malfunction! Notice the “ears” just below the “knees” on the front pair of legs.
Female katydids have a long sword-like ovipositor (egg-laying organ). This species inserts its long, narrow eggs (each over ½ inch long) into rotten wood. We are now rearing our second set of babies!
Learn more about katydids and their relatives in a visit to the new Brown Hall of Entomology, a part of the Cockrell Butterfly Center– a living, walk-through rainforest at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.