100 Years – 100 Objects: Giant Long-legged Katydid

May 18, 2009

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! 

blog-115This 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.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

Authored By Nancy Greig

Dr. Nancy Greig is the founding director of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, which she oversaw from 1994 to 2016. As emeritus director she continues to work with the museum doing outreach and education. Her academic training is in botany and entomology, with a specialty in the interaction between insects, especially butterflies, and plants. In addition to cultivating backyard butterflies, she grows vegetables and bees

3 responses to “100 Years – 100 Objects: Giant Long-legged Katydid”

  1. Cathy Hart says:

    my Dtr captured one in a sm jar to show to me. we both noticed he was very unhappy abt being capturd. body language, I don’t know- but he was commubicating his stress & anxiety abt it. then he turned & stared at me & I really got what he wanted me to know. my Dtr took him home & let him go. but that was quite amazing & I feel i’ve had a bug encounter. I was not aware they could posess a consciousness like that before. an interesting bug-being! I’ve since learned they’re very gentle & not preditors like the praying mantis. my Dtr showed it to a friend of hers & he is now looking them up on internet & talking about it. Seems like he had an Ecounter also. so I’m not alone in my perceptions! hope you enjoyed my adventure. he should be a bug Emissary!

  2. Cathy Hart says:

    Has anyone else had similar experiences with this bug? I’ve seen them years ago as a child, but didn’t percieve that consciousness or feeling of being in the presence of a little being. I’m seeing life a little differently now, due to the bug encounter. I know all life is one & God is in everything alive even plants. it’s still quite mystical when you come face to face with it. hope to hear of others experience/encounter with the giant green long legged Katydid!

  3. Cathy Hart says:

    also this giant katydid species is very friendly & does not hesitate to hop up on a hand held out and perch on your hand or arm trustingly. looking right into your face. they would be great in a kids classroom, just letting the kids enjoy being exposed to them. it dosen’t do anything defensive, just attempted to play dead when first aware it was spotted. appears to like contact with people as long as they are respectfull, and enjoys being gently petted. i hope more people will become aquainted with them. sorry i didn’t give enough info before. i’m done now.

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