One of the pleasures of visiting tropical America is the discovery of its impressive number of grasshoppers, walking sticks and katydids. Some of these insects reach enormous proportions. A number of years ago while hiking with my friend Mark into the back-country of Honduras (around Mount Botaderos) I nearly smashed a walking stick that was nearly the size of a baton. It was so perfectly camouflaged on a tree that I failed to notice it just inches from my hand. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me.
It's not at all uncommon to come upon grasshoppers that are twice the size of the big ones we see in the states. But that said, it is the katydids that really outdo themselves. Earlier this year (in May) I took a trip to Costa Rica with my friend Steve and son Michael. We spent one night at the Wilson Botanical Gardens (southwest of San Vito, near the Panamanian border) and had the privileged of exploring the many trails that wind through various elevations of native forest. Among the many fascinating creatures we saw, this dead-leaf katydid was one of the most impressive. It belongs to the genus Typophyllum and may be the recognized species T. mortuifolium (literally the dead-leaf Typophyllum) but since our knowledge of this group in Central America is so limited, I have no way to confirm this.
The katydid is about two inches long (excluding the antennae) and the mimicry is truly remarkable - even down to the necrotic spots on the wings that look like areas of fungal growth. I found it at night not long after the sun went down near the visitor lodge. The picture of the tropical sunset is from the back porch right after a chestnut-mandibled toucan went squawking through the upper canopy of the Cecropia trees. If you ever make it to Costa Rica, this is a great place to see - but you'll want to spend at least a couple of days there. The facilities are nice and the staff are very accommodating.