Least Shieldback in Geauga County. Photo by Linda Gilbert
Least Shieldback (Atlanticus monticola)
I have only found adults in Geauga County to date, and Geauga Park District naturalists have found nymphs there as well. There are records of this shieldback in other counties in our region.
Shieldbacks look significantly different from other katydids. They typically are shades of rich brown in color (though Wil Hershberger has photographed a green form of the Least Shieldback). They have plump bodies, short wings, and what looks like a substantial shield over the thorax. The Least Shieldback also has extremely short wings.
Imagine short but steady shakes of a soft rattle repeated over and over with brief pauses between. The song is not easy to hear because it is so high. They typically sing in the evening and at night.
I have found them in July, but I don't know the extent of their adult season because they are not very common.
General description and context
Look and carefully listen along shrubby edges of woods or meadow tree lines. Watch for nymphs on the forest floor in open woods as well. They may be on the ground but can also climb up into a shrub to sing. However, they do not fly.
Both Least Shieldbacks and Protean Shieldbacks are carnivorous and will eat other insects.
“Least” does not indicate that this shieldback is small and delicate. Both the Least and the Protean are round, stocky, substantial individuals. Although they don’t appear to be delicate whatsoever, keep them just above ground level if you should find one and pick it up in case it falls or is accidentally dropped. Serious injury can result.
The Protean Shieldback’s song sounds similar except that it is much more continuous. The Least’s pattern of short rhythmic phrases sets it apart. Their appearance is also similar, but the Least Shieldback's wings are even shorter than those of the Protean Shieldback.
Although these are nocturnal katydids, I heard and then located one singing in the afternoon at the base of goldenrod in the sun at Frohring Meadows in the Geauga Park District. Perhaps this was a very unusual individual, but this might be a possibility to keep in mind.
Songs of Insects
Singing Insects of North America: