Subject: Need ID of Insect ASAP
Location: Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, Colorado
July 1, 2014 12:54 pm
Hello! I’m a professional photojournalist. I recently photographed an owl eating an insect I have not been able to identify. I’d greatly appreciate your help in determining the identity of this interesting bug. See the attached image. The location was Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Colorado, and the date was June 21. Thanks in advance for your help!
Signature: Jenny E. Ross
Do you know what species of owl this is? We believe the insect is an Orthopteran, and we will search BugGuide to try to determine its identity. We have also cropped, enhanced and sharpened an enlargement of just the Orthopteran which resulted in a degradation of image quality, so we would prefer a higher resolution of the closeup as we have cropped it to assist in the identification. It appears to have the long antennae of the suborder Ensifera.
The owl is an adult female western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypugaea). I have attached another cropped version of the same photograph per your instructions, as well as several additional cropped photographs of the same insect being held in different positions by the owl. I’m unsure how large you need me to make the image files, so if these aren’t large enough just let me know. (My original raw files are quite large, but – having just returned from my trip – I haven’t post-processed them yet. To save time I made these files for you directly from the unprocessed jpegs I shot simultaneously with the raw files.)
Thanks very much for your help!
Hi again Jenny,
These new images are very helpful. We thought at first in the original image this might be a Mormon Cricket, but that is not correct. We believe it is a Camel Cricket, perhaps in the subfamily Ceuthophilinae. Some likely candidates are New Mexico Camel Cricket, Styracosceles neomexicanus, which is pictured on BugGuide, or some member of the genus Ceuthophilus, which is also well represented on BugGuide. We will try to contact Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki as well as Eric Eaton to get their input.
P.S. We got an autoreply that Piotr is in Mozambique through the end of July and we will most likely not be getting a response from him soon.
I really appreciate your efforts on this.
In case you’re not familiar with the size of an adult female burrowing owl to use for scale, this insect was quite large. I believe it was at least 3 inches long. (The apparent size in some of the photographs is a bit deceptive, because the bug was being crushed by the owl.) I will contact the owl experts I’m working with to see if they can narrow down the size estimate based on my photos and their detailed knowledge of burrowing owl proportions. The insect’s body was very robust. Overall, it did not present the much more delicate, leggy, spider-like appearance of a typical camel cricket. Also FYI, this owl and her mate caught several of these insects over a period of a few days (unfortunately, the other captures were too far away to photograph), and all of the bugs were the same large size and very red like this one.
We are going to await a response from Piotr or Eric Eaton. We are going to stand by the Camel Cricket as the closest ID for the moment. We do not believe this is a Shieldback Katydid, which was our first guess.
To help us with the insect ID, last night my scientific colleagues kindly took a moment to get a couple of measurements of two adult female burrowing owls while they were in the field attaching transmitters to them. (The two owls were measured by two different people in separate locations.) The measurements appear to confirm my estimate that the insect was at least 3 inches long:
· Straight-line distance from the front edge of the cere to the tip on the upper beak: first owl was 13.59 mm, and second owl was 13 mm
· The distance between the center of the pupils in the left and right eyes: first owl was 25 mm, and second owl was 27 mm
I hope this is useful information.