What the heck is that?

Many of you are still out looking at woody plants during your daily activities and you may have come across some interesting things clinging to the bark of trees and shrubs now that the leaves aren’t in the way.  Some of you submit photos and I thought it would be fun to share a few photos.  It’s time to play my favorite game: “What the heck is that?”

Photo #1 is from a commercial nursery.  They were consolidating some container grown dogwood shrubs for overwintering and the grower sent this photo:

KatydidEggs

Photo by Janice Carmichael.

See how perfectly the “scales” line up along the stem, almost like they were placed there (hint)?  These are insect eggs and lots of insects will lay their eggs either singularly or in bunches ALONG the stem.  Sometimes they will embed them into the stem tissue but they will usually do this in multiple bunches ALONG the stem.  In this case, it was a female Katydid who laid these eggs.  Katydids do feed a bit on foliage but they are not pests of landscape or nursery ornamentals.  Katydids are a really interesting insects that bring a lot of textured songs to our landscapes (See this clip from an earlier summer post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ncq1HoFdvMg).  Katydids aren’t very common and I’m impressed that she even noticed them.  This nursery is very lucky to have such an attentive employee.

OblongWingedKatydid

Oblong Winged Katydid (by Jen Llewellyn)

Photo #2 is from a nursery that grows uncommon species of trees.  The grower noticed these funny growths clinging to the bark of a blue ash and some spruce.  He said there were a few on the trees in his field.  But again, not very common:

PrayingMantidVPalmer

Photo by Vic Palmer.

It almost looks as though it was made out of spray foam insulation or sponge doesn’t it?  It’s quite tough and rigid to the touch and looks fairly weather resistant.  It does have some very distinct layers to it, which make it look quite different than the pupal case of a moth or butterfly.  It is the overwintering egg mass from a Mantid.

We know them as “Preying”Mantids, named after their ability to prey on other insects because of their well-muscled forelegs.  Not a pest of ornamental plants,  but a beneficial.

European Mantis (Mantis Religiosa)

European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) (Photo credit: Reini68)

The eggs inside the mass will hatch into
dozens of nymphs next spring that spend much of the growing season feeding on other insects. They are common predators in meadows.

To quote Dr. Steve Marshall, University of Guelph
“Despite their large eyes, female mantids seem
unable to distinguish males from meals.”  It’s true that the male mantids often “lose their heads” in the act of mating.  Decapitation of the male mantid is actually necessary to complete the process
of copulation.  When the female eats the male’s head, it severs a nerve that would otherwise inhibit the completion of fertilization.  Although some scientists postulate that female mantids may have other reasons 🙂

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2 Responses to What the heck is that?

  1. Faith Paquette says:

    Hey Jen,
    Love the photos you post! Love the patterns of nature ie>Katydid eggs. I always look forward to the next insect or disease that you share in your reports. Thanks for all you do for the nursery industry and for keeping our job fun.

  2. Glen Gordon says:

    Fun game Jen. Can I have scales for $400?

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