Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the July 28, 2008 Newsletter, issued from near Natchez, Mississippi:

If your computer can handle WAV audio files and you live in the eastern US south of Chicago and New York, but not in southern Florida, the sound you can hear at http://buzz.ifas.ufl.edu/641ss.wav may be very familiar. It's one of the most typical insect calls emanating from unsprayed bushes and trees during the summer. However, if you try sneaking up on the caller it's almost guaranteed that it'll grow silent before you see anything, though other calls like it will continue, as persistent as the sounds of waves crashing at the beach.

Above you can see what's making the sound. It's a bush cricket, PHYLLOPALPUS PULCHELLUS, sometimes known as the Red-headed Bush Cricket, Handsome Trig and other names. This one I spotted by chance, which is usually the way you see them, as I was scanning dense hedgerow vegetation next to my trailer looking for something else.

Though many web pages provide breakdowns of this insect's classification, it's hard to find such basic information on the species' life cycle, what it eats, when it starts singing, etc. This should encourage us all to put onto the web our nature observations, especially about lesser known species, so that anyone using a search engine well can eventually find it.

For my part, here and now I contribute to the body of knowledge about Phyllopalpus pulchellus that in southwestern Mississippi in late July you can find the critter in bushes, but I don't hear them singing just yet. Maybe it's a bit early for them, or maybe my growing deafness is worse than I imagine.