A Surprise in the Salvia

A katydid prepares to jump from the salvia branch it is clinging to

I normally like to photograph the insects and flowers in our garden the same way I shoot animals and plants when I’m hiking, which is to photograph them how I find them. In this case though the water drops on this katydid came not from rain but from me. It’s been a brutal summer here in Portland so even though our plants our drought tolerant to deal with the normally dry Northwest summers, I’ve been giving them an occasional drink of water since they missed out on the rains that usually last through June.

While watering the wildflower garden I saw something jump from the plant I was watering into our bee balm. I dropped the hose and ran over to see what it was, expecting a moth, and was delighted to instead find my favorite insect to photograph, a katydid. I had the chance to photograph them from 2006 to 2009 but hadn’t seen one since, so I put aside the watering and ran inside to grab my camera and tripod and macro lens and try for some pictures, even though the breeze was going to make things difficult.

I was a bit crushed when I got back to the bee balm and discovered the katydid was gone. But it hadn’t gone far, as I saw it moving on the nearby salvia and settled in for some pictures. In the top picture it is about to jump from one branch to another, its two front legs in open space balancing in the wind while the back four maintain purchase on the salvia. In the bottom two pictures it is using its mandibles to cut off pieces of the flower to eat. It was hard to get any pictures as the breeze was blowing the flowers around, I did my best to manually focus whenever the katydid came back into view and hoped for the best.

I planted the salvia for the hummingbirds, and the bees and butterflies like them too, so I was delighted to see the katydid enjoy them too. The katydid’s enjoyment is more destructive than the others, but no worries, there are plenty of blossoms to choose from. I hope it can forgive the disturbance of my watering, as the same water that upset it nurtures the flowers it loves to eat.

A katydid pulls on a salvia blossom as it prepares to cut it with its mandibles to eat it

A katydid cuts a salvia blossom with its mandibles as it prepares to eat it

Hot Lips

The red-and-white flowers of salvia Hot Lips

I first learned of salvia from Ciscoe Morris, host of my favorite gardening show, and I quickly came to love them almost as much as our local hummingbirds. As Ciscoe would say, oh la la! We have several varieties now, this one is known as “Hot Lips” and has lovely red-and-white flowers from spring until late fall.