Posted by: Ross Gardner | August 25, 2019

Hop in, hop out

Now, I’m all for getting out and about and into the thick of our wild places.  It is, after all, the only true way to begin unravelling the real depths of the lives being lived in a place, even in the most seemingly impinged upon of circumstances.  Sometimes however, those same little treasures of the natural world can reveal themselves to you, often at the least expected of times and apparently, at least in the following instances, often involving Orthoptera – the grasshoppers and crickets.

Cue a walk back home after a long hike among the open, wildlife-rich landscape that persists in a swathe of many hundreds of hectares along the northern back of the Thames Estuary, somewhere that has thankfully resisted the ever-looming threat of development.  I encountered much, yet it was heading homeward along a busy stretch of the A13 that I would find one of the giants among UK invertebrates.  I had heard them on my walk, but had not been able to home in on the source of the penetrating, so-called ‘sewing machine’ song of the Great Green Bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima), such is its vertriloquism to the human ear.  It seemed slightly incongruous then, that I should track it down on a field edge beside the rumble of rush-hour traffic.  They are our largest Orthopteran and never fail to impress.

Great Green Bush-cricket 4 (scaled)

A beast amongst bush-crickets – the Great Green Bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima).

Then a couple of days later and a stroll along a suburban street brought two more chance encounters.  Firstly a biege blur of wings speeding past me at waist height showed themselves to belong to a Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus).  This is a common enough insect of dry, sunny grasslands, but nevertheless a pleasant surprise for all its unexpectedness.  But a few hundred metres further on I was to meet another, altogether scarcer insect.

Usually when one finds an emerald green insect hopping about on the ground it proves to be an Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema thalassium) that has somehow been disturbed from its more usual and more preferred leafy habitat.  This time though, it turned out to be a Southern Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema meridionale).  These are recent UK colonisers recorded for the first time in 2001 and which appear to be continuing a recent European expansion by finding themselves scattered across the south-east of England.  How a wingless bush-cricket gets across the English Channel does pose certain pertinent questions.  One theory is that they managed to hitch lifts on vehicles.  However they have managed it they are here and seemed to be enjoying it.  Fortunately I had my camera with me.

Southern Oak Bush-cricket (scaled)

Southern Oak Bush-cricket (Meconema meridionale)

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