Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani)

During my visit to Gloss Mountain State Park (Woodward Co., Oklahoma) this past June, I found an area of prickly pear cactus (Opuntia phaecantha) on the west flats below the main mesa. A few days earlier I had seen cactus beetles in the genus Moneilema (family Cerambycidae) associated with these plants at another nearby location, so I began checking the plants to look for any sign of these beetles. Sadly I did not find any, but the plants were in full bloom and were being visited by flower longhorns in the genus Typocerus (mostly just T. octonotatus). After having collected a small series, I approached one particular cactus plant and found this enormous katydid sitting inside the flower. Katydids normally secrete themselves in a more cryptic manner, using foliage backdrops with which they can blend owing to their green coloration. This particular katydid, however, not only lacked the leaf-like wings that many species possess but also exhibited rather strikingly contrasting dark red markings over its body that made it quite conspicuous as it sat in the yellow flower. I approached carefully so as not to spook it and took a few photographs, but as I did so it became apparent to me that it did not find my actions alarming and would allow me to take whatever photographs I wished.

Pediodectes haldemani in flower of Opuntia phaecantha | Gloss Mountains State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Pediodectes haldemani on Opuntia phaecantha | Gloss Mountain State Park, Woodward Co., Oklahoma

Almost whatever photographs, that is. I really wanted to get a super-close, full-frontal shot of the face, but it sat unbudgingly in the flower with its face buried in the stamens and masked by the inner petals of the flower. I could have tried peeling away the petal, but I was sure that fiddling my fingers that close to its face would spook it, and even if I did manage to peel back the petal then I would still have stamens blocking the view that I wanted. In the end, I decided that this slightly more distant shot of the whole body was a pleasing enough composition.

Pediodectes haldemani


I presume this individual represents Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani) in the family Tettigoniidae. This is not surprising, since the type locality of the species (Barber Co., Kansas) is just a few miles to the north and right smack dab in the middle of the Great Plains distribution of the species. BugGuide mentions that species identification from photos alone can be difficult in the genus Pediodectes, as color patterns vary individually and with age, and also since adults are wingless it can be difficult to tell if an individual is a nymph or adult. Nevertheless, distribution maps in Singing Insects of North America show three species that can potentially occur in this part of Oklahoma, and the photos shown here are a dead ringer for P. haldemani. I am also apparently not the first person to photograph this species at Gloss Mountain State Park.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

14 thoughts on “Haldeman’s shieldback katydid (Pediodectes haldemani)

  1. Excellent photo, even if the pose wasn’t all you had hoped for. The yellow cactus flower background really sets it off.

  2. Nice! Trying out your new comments systems, too. If this goes through it was much easier than before.

    Harry Zirlin
    Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
    919 Third Ave
    New York, NY 10022
    Phone (212) 909 6575
    Fax (212) 909 6836

  3. I’ve looked at a bunch of your photos and they’re all really beautiful and crisp. If you won’t mind my asking, what kind of camera do you use to get these photos? Is it a DSLR with a macro lens or something as simple as a point and shoot (e.g. Powershot)? I’ve gotten great macro shots off my handheld Powershot (before I dropped it on the pavement). I want to replace it with a good camera for taking insect photos, so I’m trying to figure out what’s worth investing in.

    Thanks for the photos!

    • Thanks, Nathan. Yes, since May 2009 I have been using a Canon dSLR (50D) with dedicated macro lens and off camera flash (before then I was using a Panasonic Lumix). Here’s a description of my setup.

      Camera recommendations depend largely on what type of photography you want to do. Modern PNSs are better than ever, and for many people a PNS with macro mode is all they ever need. They do a lot of photos just fine but there are some types of photos they just will not take. Mid-range cameras that allow attachment of macro filters will get you further down the road but will still be limited to some degree. Full dSLR with dedicated lenses and flash is the only way to go if you don’t want to be limited by equipment choice.

  4. My cat used to act like a wild cat for a day or two and would reject cat food in preference for wild foods. One day I bumped into her in the backyard when she was in one of her feral moods, and I offered her some choice table scrap. She started heaving and barfed up a really large katydid that was completely intact. Then she acted tame and took the food out of my hand. It was like she transformed from wild to tame in an instant..

    A few days ago I spotted some kind of hunting wasp hovering over its nesting hole. It was over an inch long and had orange stripes. Any idea on what species it could be? I have never seen this species before, although there are lots of hunting wasps that nest in the ground here in Augusta, Georgia.

    • The wasp sounds like it could be Cerceris bicornuta, a large digger wasp with distinctive orange markings that occurs throughout most of North America but especially the southeast. They specialize on weevils in the genus Sphenophorus.

      • Thanks. I looked at photos of that species on google images.

        That may be it, but it seems like the orange stripes alternated with white. However, the wasp didn’t cooperate and stay still long enough for me to examine it. Maybe, if I have time and patience, I’ll stake out the hole.


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