Katy Did It

There I was minding my own business when suddenly my eyes fell on a huge—well, at least a large—bug snuggled into a dim corner of the living room ceiling.

Bugs were not something that were taken lightly when I was growing up. To this day I can lose my mother during a phone conversation if she spots a wayward cricket or spider invading her turf. I never shrieked like other girls did when I saw a bug, and I tried to act cool when I spotted an insect, mouse, or snake; but I certainly didn’t qualify as a nature girl. Inwardly I knew my bravado was false.

I still do not know much about bugs and am not inclined to cohabit with them on my side of the screen where they so cleverly hold me hostage. So when I saw it, I knew this bug had to go. I got closer.¬† It wasn’t a huge spider like I had originally thought. It was something I had never seen before. Would it jump? Would it fly? What was my next move?

I am here to tell you that I’ve come a long ways. I went to the kitchen and found a jar with a good screw on lid, got a small ladder, and climbed up close enough to take a pretty good look. The longish brown creature looked so interesting that I felt compelled to find out what I was dealing with. I swiftly popped the open jar over it, and it obligingly fell in. I capped the jar in a hurry, and a good thing too. The creature appeared to be a mighty good jumper.

Close inspection revealed a brown insect with long hair-like antennae and a backward jointed leg as long as the body. Leg, rather than legs, because it had lost one of them. A Field Guide to the Insects resides on my bookshelf. It is a good picture book with a lot of scientific words I haven’t learned yet. In the section of pictures of grasshoppers, crickets, and cockroaches, a Bush Katydid came pretty close, but it was green, not brown. And it had wings. Where wings would normally be my creature had a blocky triangular piece of body.

I would need help finding out what I had stumbled on. Fortunately I work with a group of immensely talented and knowledgeable people who more than make up for my deficiencies. A call to Pat Kucker, YSI’s Sanborn manager, a talented biologist who has taken care of YSI’s insect zoo for more than a decade, led me to believe I indeed had a katydid. She promised it a starring role in the Habitat Hunt and Bugology summer camps the next day.

But what should I do in the meantime? I didn’t want my insect to die! I read on a bit. This group of insects eats plants. I would feed it lettuce. I dropped part of a leaf into the jar. It fell on the katydid who eventually found its way out. I put the jar on the mantle and waited. I checked back in two hours. It was eating its lettuce. So here I was, with an insect in a jar on my mantle that I was sharing my dinner with.

I drove my bug to summer camp the next day. When I walked in with it, a young camp instructor recently graduated from high school and headed to Harvard in the fall to start a biology degree calmly said, “Oh, a Shield-back Katydid.”

Wait until my mother hears about this.