Modeling Appropriate Behavior

I’m a day camp counselor this week. I have a small group of 5 children. One of my duties is to “model appropriate behavior.” To that end, I like to gently handle critters we find in the field, and observe them carefully. Sometimes I end up learning things I never knew before!

For example, take this Katydid (a.k.a. Long-horned grasshopper).

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-45

(I apologize for the quality fo the pictures, but it’s hard to take your time when five kids are all calling, “Jennifer, Look at this!”)

If you look at that photo above, you will see that this katydid did what all grasshoppers are wont to do. As a defense, he has spit “tobacco juice” on my finger. Apparently when they do this inside the mouth of a would-be predator, the taste causes said creature to spit him out again.

I was quite surprised at what happened next:

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-46

The katydid drank the dark liquid back up again! Perhaps he decided I was not a threat after all and wanted to conserve the dark stuff for a real emergency?

And then, he proceeded to wash up. I wish I had video:

Grades 5-7 Day Camp Surprise-47

My finger was as clean as can be when I eventually released him back to the grasses.

Try it! Catch a grasshopper and hold it gently in your fingers. See if it regurgitates, then reingests the juice… Report back here. I’m curious how common a practice this might be…

11 thoughts on “Modeling Appropriate Behavior

  1. Oh I gotta try this! I will let you know what happens. I have lots of katydids and different grasshoppers and crickets in the yard and field right now. Do you net them, or just catch them by hand?

  2. Thank you for that report, Jennifer. However, I will take you at your word. I have observed our dog display this same behavior before, and that was education enough.
    Your husband

  3. I’ve been spat upon by many a grasshopper over the years, but never observed this behavior—though I expect I never gave the ‘hopper time to retract his defense spit. I’ll have to try this out and see…does he spit-and-run (well, hop) or make amends and clean up?

  4. Very interesting that he’d spit and then clean up after himself! (And Bob is funny…I know whereof he speaks only too well.)
    The most interesting grasshopper story I ever lived was when one sat on my finger and chewed off molecules of skin. I thought that was the neatest thing I’d ever experienced, and it still ranks up there in the top fifteen.

  5. Jennifer, this is an amazing story! I love your presentation, too. I think your husband is a hoot! Thanks so much for sharing, not only with all of us, but with children, too. This is a fine example of how we can always learn something new if we pay close enough attention~karen

  6. Hi, Jen,
    Nice katydid.
    I’ve never really observed the cleaning up of tobacco juice, but I can pass on this handy bit of info (told to me by a well-respected nature photographer) for those wishing to take photographs of the lovely green hoppers.
    Since their penchant for grooming is obvious, gently handling a katydid (touch him gently on the face, head, wings,…) and then opening your palm for a while, will often cause him to stay in that spot and spend the next several seconds cleaning the awful human oils off their bodies.
    I’ve tried it and it works.
    And next time I’ll see if the juice is also cleaned up!

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