My Bellhop is a Katydid

Please tell me a bellhop does something with doors because if not then this nickname makes no sense. Except that katydids hop. And apparently sit in the proximity of doorbells a lot. Eh, it works.

I was never super enthusiastic about katydids. Some people really love ‘em, but they’ve always just been kind of a “meh” insect to me. Until this year, that is.

On move-in day back in August, I climbed the stairs to my new college suite and was surprised to find a big, green katydid resting on the keypad to the front door. He hung out there all day, greeting me after every luggage-burdened trip up that staircase (I miss my dorm from last year – it had an elevator), and the final climb after my parents and brother left. Saying goodbye to my family is always hard, but this year when I made the lonely trek up to my new residence I had a cute little arthropod buddy waiting for me.

And so began a beautiful friendship between me and the many, many katydids that live around my suite building. Because they like to hang out around doorknobs for some reason, and katydids hop, I decided to call them “bellhops.” I know, I’m super creative. I won’t tell you what school I go to because if I do, they’ll probably revoke my creative writing minor.

The katydids that live around my building are broad-tipped coneheads, and they are absolutely adorable. Usually seagrass green or acorn brown, these big insects are beautiful to observe and love to pose for the camera, which is super convenient because most of the arthropods I try to take pictures of for this blog hate to sit still. Most of the time seeing the coneheads brightens my day, but there was one afternoon in particular when a bellhop just flat-out broke my heart.

I had already been having a pretty rough day as it was, but the salt in the wound was rounding the final set of stairs on my way up to the suite and seeing a mortally wounded bellhop lying on the steps. I dropped to my knees beside it (hush, I’m allowed to be dramatic, I was sad) and sighed, examining its battered body to see if it could perhaps be saved.

The worst part of it was, I had kind of seen the bellhop’s death coming. I had been noticing some disturbing sights lately on the stair landings, such as moths and even a cockroach wound up in spiderweb but still moving weakly with no spider in sight. They weren’t completely mummified, but rather had a few bands of spiderweb wrapped around themselves as if the lazy spider wanted to hold them just still enough to briefly feast and then go along its merry way without finishing the job. That appeared to be the fate of this unfortunate bellhop: a few of its legs were strapped to its body with spiderweb, and there was even some webbing wound through its mandibles. To make matters worse, several oval-ish, yellow organs were protruding from its side where the spider had apparently attacked it.

I really wanted to save the little guy, so I ran into my suite and grabbed anything I thought could help cut the spiderweb, which ended up being a thumbtack, tweezers and a pair of scissors. I tried using the tweezers and other tools to remove the spiderweb, but to no avail. By this time my suite mate, Abbie, arrived on the scene and went to collect some grass, as I was planning to move the bellhop into a tissue box for his recovery and wanted him to have a food supply.

It was only after Abbie returned with the grass that we realized those yellow ovals were definitely part of the bellhop and should have been on his inside rather than his outside. We briefly considered giving him the shoe treatment, but neither of us had the heart to finish him off. Instead, we tried to make him as comfortable as possible by gently sliding him into the tissue box, which I had left some tissues in for padding. I placed the grass beside his mouth in case he became hungry and was unable to move towards it himself.

Our poor little bellhop passed shortly after relocating to the tissue box, and Abbie and I gave him a proper burial at the beach with some of our friends that weekend. At least we knew he was comfortable in his final moments. Fortunately, those cruel spider attacks stopped after a few weeks, and I only saw this happen to a bellhop once. If I’d ever run across that spider, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

Well. That was a sad story. Let’s end on a happy note with some fun facts about bellhops, because they really are cute, happy creatures and I don’t want your impression of them to be tainted by this tragedy:

  • It’s actually bellhops rather than ostriches that bury their heads when they get scared. It makes more sense this way too, because when a bellhop shoves its face in the ground the rest of its body sticks up like a blade of grass, whereas an ostrich with its face in the ground would just look like… an ostrich… with its face in the ground.
  • Broad-tipped coneheads undergo seven instars, or molts, before reaching maturity. You can identify the younger coneheads by the white stripe running down their backs. Interestingly, both green and brown coneheads are born green, but some turn brown over time.
  • Some bellhops carry out their lifespan in the summer, while others must survive through the winter. Most of the wintertime males are brown rather than green, perhaps because they need to blend in with leaf litter rather than lush grass (although let’s be honest – Southern summertime grass is anything but lush). Additionally, the warm-weather and cold-weather bellhops have different mating songs, even though they’re still the same species.
  • This isn’t a very wild fact, but bellhops’ mouths are on the underside of their heads. I don’t know why but that just really amuses me. I thought they had tiny little mouths up near where their antennae extend from their cones, but they actually have big ol’ mandibles hidden down near their first set of legs. Who would’ve thought.

Well, thank you all for tuning in to my tale of katydids and woe. Next time you see a broad-tipped conehead, or really any katydid for that matter, give it a little nod hello – and check the area for spiders. Most spiders are pretty cool, but if you spot any particularly shifty ones nearby, feel free to scoop up your new green buddy and make a run for it. Just in case.

2 Comments on “My Bellhop is a Katydid

  1. Pingback: The Hornless Triceratops – The ArthroBlogger

  2. Pingback: Moth Appreciation Post – The ArthroBlogger

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