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Fall Fund Drive

Thrill-seeking Katydid

I was sitting in my car in a park after a long, rewarding day in the field. I set my clipboard down having finished my paperwork, started the car and slowly pulled out of the parking area. It was then I noticed a very good-looking katydid peering at me through the bottom of the driver side window. I was driving but our eyes met and there was an infinitesimal — from a human perspective — yet profound and penetrating connection which mostly bypassed my consciousness at the time. Clearly this was a Jedi katydid.

I’m the kind of person who, concerned for the safety of the katydid, would ordinarily stop, take the tettigoniid off the car and try to place it in a secure and cool-looking place. The Jedi katydid, however, had infused me with a transcendent sense of abandon. I “communicated” that the park was a nicer place than where we were going and that I would rather stay at the park (if I was the katydid). The Universe, flowing flawlessly though the katydid, “communicated” that I was a fool and that I couldn’t possibly discern the Universe’s designs. So I abandoned everything but the simplicity of my travel but with the residual notion that leaving the park would give the katydid plenty of time and experience to bail-out before I reached maximum velocities.

Long ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I had a speedometer on my bicycle. I knew that 35 miles-per-hour was really fast. After leaving the park and sitting at a stoplight (last chance to bail), the Jedi Katydid and I entered the fastest posted speed limit of our trip together: we started-off with 45mph! (Thank goodness for cruise control!) The longest stretch of our trip was at 40mph! At stoplights, this wafer of an insect would casually put tarsal tip to mouth; the better to hold onto the glass at 40 miles-per-hour! We eventually decelerated to 35mph, the Jedi’s antennae quivering in our speed.

We arrived at my first stop but I remained in the car listening to the radio and watching my green companion groom, pulling its antennae through its mouth. I photographed. The Jedi Knight, who I thought was more of a thrill-seeking adolescent at the time, slowly climbed up. By the time the radio segment was over and I was ready to get out, it had conveniently left the door and was on the roof. That was the last I saw of that traveler. Perhaps we will meet again.

rides not even required...
Fascinating accounts. Methinks Katydids are phenomenal. I had a Mary Lou Retton Katydid the other day (she being the last famous gymnast I can remember)..,
After a long day in the field, upon entering my vehicle, I just about sat down on it, having noticed the mini green triangle on my seat. It zipped out the door, landing an amazing distance away in one front legspring and tuck.
I truly don't think they even need rides anywhere, single leaps cover the equivalent of humans leaping 18 houses per jump.
David Moll's diagnostic test could be added to, as follows:

Species A leaps at t @ x feet x vehicle seat coefficient s, with any results exceeding y means a ride isn't needed.

 
Beautiful!
I don't watch Olympics, far too many commercials, but, Mary Lou, yes, but, Simone Biles (even though she took methylphenidate), Shannon Miller and the persevering Kerri Strug.

Panorpa
Today a scorpionfly clung to my windshield for a number of miles while my speed ranged from 35 to 50 mph. Its wings were flapping about wildly at 45+ mph, but they seemed to still be working when it finally decided to let go as I slowed down to pass through a village. Unfortunately I wasn't on a highway so didn't get to find out what its maximum speed might be.

 
Thanks for Adding This
50 mph is very respectable.

random reply to a 4 1/2 year old post...
I was traveling with my fiancé and father through the Smokey Mountains on Friday. We stopped at an antique shop and when we came out there was a katydid on our car. Figuring it would fly off once the car started moving, we proceeded right back onto the highway through the mountains down into North Carolina. Every time we stopped, the Katydid was still there. For 200+ miles at top speeds of 90mph and a huge elevation change... The Katydid stayed on. Moving around our vehicle (hood, windshield, roof, door, mirror) during stops and holding on when we started up again. Alive and well when we pulled into the hotel for the night, the next morning he/she was gone.

fyi

 
And another...

Had this one hop up last year,
but didn't think to reference it here then. It was great fun for the Kids, and perhaps for the Grasshopper as well.

 
The Need for Speed
Like the katydid, this grasshopper seemed to know where it was going.

Wasp & spider
Today a braconid wasp clung to my driver's side window for a few minutes while I was going 40 mph. Unfortunately I didn't get an opportunity to go faster and see what the limit was.

Also, last year there was a big orbweaver that lived behind the driver's side mirror of my car for a few days. It would spin a beautiful web across the window every night/morning, then the web would be reduced to a few threads once I got up to a certain speed. It tended to hide behind the mirror at this point, but one time I was going 65 mph on the highway and looked over to see it clinging to one of the remaining strands, whipping in the wind. Eventually it made it down to the relative shelter of the base of the window and stayed there for another hour till I reached my destination. The next morning it had spun its web from the wheel well instead of from the mirror, which probably gave it better shelter once the car started moving again.

 
W&S
Ooo, braconid, nice. They seem so delicate.

That's one determined orbweaver!

German Autobahn
Howdy,

One flightless southern European species (Meconema meridionale) has rapidly spread to the north of Europe over the past decades and it is generally assumed it managed to do so by hitching rides. As a symptom new "populations" would typically be established on/around rest areas along highways. In the process reports have come in from specimen hanging on to cars at well over 100 Mph on the German Autobahn (the only place where these speeds are allowed). Fairness requires me to state however that I'm not informed properly on the exact combinations of location on the vehicle vs. velocity, but there were some rumors of "windshield" at those speeds I believe. Makes you wonder what stories those tell their grand-children about "the big voyage" :o)

Cheers for the neat topic!
Arp

 
Fascinating
Thanks for the European roadside human-bug ecology story.

Yesterday...
A flea beetle clung to my windshield until I got above 60 mph!

 
Very Impressive
You know they have those extra muscular legs.

I wonder
if there would be any value (beyond learning) to comparing the top speed at which various species can hold on to car windows, and perhaps keeping note of the angle of the glass relative to the direction of the vehicle, and so on.

I live in an area of desert grassland, and grasshoppers are frequent hitchikers. Some can cling much better than others (especially the smaller Slant-faced species), and some seem to enjoy the ride, while others definitely have no interest in hanging around to see where we're going. I haven't really clocked them, but I don't think the top speed was anywhere near 45 mph - impressive! Never had a Katydid hitchhiker (to my knowledge). My number one rider this year was Aulocora femoratum (there were millions of them around), and they just sort of ice skate around until they slide to the edge.

(o;

 
Seriously Though
The adaptation is intriguing. Glass isn't found naturally in nature -- at least not as an ordinary substrate for katydids.

If a katydid, for example, can hold onto its substrate more than a predator can hold onto the katydid or more than a competitor holds to its substrate, therein lies the advantage and the mechanism for selection. (In windy conditions, the katydid just gets out of the wind...in most cases.)

 
Diagnostic Test
For those hard to identify species.

Species A falls off at t @ x kph x window coefficient w.

Species B falls off at t @ x kph x window coefficient w'.

And so forth.

More humane than the disecting microscope but perhaps not very practical.

 
I once had
an adult female deer tick hang onto a side window of my car up to at least 50 mph. Not nearly as impressive as a katydid, which is much less aerodynamic. I'm frankly impressed that either of them is able to hang onto a perfectly smooth, vertical glass surface, whether or not it's in motion.

A well told tale!
Thanks for posting this, David. I (and I'm sure many others) have also had experiences with insects that go beyond simply photographing and documenting them objectively. Sometimes a definite "personal connection" can occur when they seem to convey some secret, show us some facet of themselves beyond what one can find in the scientific literature. These moments are worth contemplating and sharing.

Thanks
Nice photo, nice story. In the thumbnail it looks like a giant katydid painted on the side of that car, a very realistic one. So, I concluded that it must be Nancy's car.

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