An ornate creature from our Rio Zuñac Reserve

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Click on any of these to enlarge. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Katydid: Moncheca sp. (M. elegans or new species). Those jaws bit me many times during my photo shoots. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

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Different species of insects are primarily distinguished by their male genitalia. We found both a female (with sword-shaped ovipositor) and a male individual of this species. I include the genitalia here in case there is some expert who can help decide whether this is a new species. It is similar to Moncheca elegans but the colors are not right. Photo: Lou Jost/EcoMinga

My friends Tom Walla and Johanna Varner, professors at Colorado Mesa University, came to visit our Rio Zunac and Cerro Candelaria Reserves last month. They set up a light to attract night insects. They were especially interested in moths, and I’ll write more about that later. But along with many amazing moths we attracted two feisty individuals of this spectacular katydid. They were very active and often did a raised-wing display to try to scare me. They also really enjoyed biting me with their giant bright yellow mandibles. I became fascinated by them. They stayed alive for two weeks, allowing me to observe and photograph them (I found that they like to eat flowers), and when they died I mounted them and photographed them even more.

They belong to the genus Moncheca, which contains some of the world’s fanciest katydids, like M. pretiosa. Our individuals are most like M. elegans, but the colors don’t match an expert-certified photo on the internet. The male genitalia are the definitive way to tell them apart, so I provide a photo of the genitalia above in case an expert looks at this post. This exact form has been seen and photographed by my friend Andreas Kay, and also by someone named Moira who submitted her picture of it (from Sumaco, in eastern Ecuador, not far from our reserve) to an internet bug ID site, to no avail.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation