High up in the tree-tops of Eucalyptus forest, the male wasp-mimicking Black-footed Katydid (Metholce nigritarsis) emits it's extremely fast-paced call to attract a mate. It is part of the large insect diversity that breeds during the warming spring across southern and eastern Australia.
A Black-footed Katydid starts its life as a tiny red-bodied aphid-sized insect, presumably this colour to imitate ants or spiders. As it grows, its body colour changes from red to bright yellow or green, gaining wings with beautiful pink underneath.
Although so brightly coloured, the Black-footed Katydid is seldom seen because of its tendency to live in the forest canopy, usually at the top of the tallest trees.
Its vivid colouration does help it to blend into the colours of the tree-tops, but it is their movement that helps them avoid predation from other animals. The katydids moves very erratically with fast jerky antennae movements, similar to a wasp, in which most animals avoid because of their nasty sting!
The Katydid has a widespread distribution and is currently known from Central Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and south-west Western Australia. It is mainly found in eucalyptus-dominated woodlands but has also been recorded from shrubs in lower-canopy heathlands.
Sub-adult Black-footed Katydid (Metholce nigritarsis)
The Black-footed Katydid is part of the Gondwanan Katydid tribe, in where there is a two species from Australia, whilst New Guinea and Chile also have a couple of species. Its Australian counterpart is the Polka-dot Katydid, found in tree-tops of woodlands of Queensland. It displays the same frantic movement to imitate wasps and has a similar advertising call.
The Polka-dot Katydid (Veria colorata) is found in tropical and sub-tropical Australia. ©David Rentz