Oblong-winged katydids come in an array of colors
Pink katydid at the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium

First described in 1874, pink katydids have inspired more than a century of discussion over the hows and whys of this incredible hue.

At the turn of the 20th century, Harvard entomologist, Hubbard Scudder, suggested that the pink colouring could be seasonal, so the green insects would change their colours with the autumn leaves as the temperature drops.

But having found bright pink katydid nymphs in the prairies of Wisconsin and Illinois during July in 1907, American entomologist and myrmecologist, William Morton Wheeler, rejected this theory, suggesting instead that the condition was genetic.

For the first time, pink katydids were recognised as genetic 'mutants' in the scientific literature, and Wheeler compared the condition to albinism. "They have, in fact, every appearance of belonging to a category of colour forms similar to that of the albino mammals and birds and certain kinds of white-flowering plants," he observed in The American Naturalist that year.

Fast-forward to present-day thought on pink katydids and it looks like Wheeler nailed it.

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, New Orleans, Louisiana, North America
photograph by Jayme Necaise / text by Becky Crew
This item is shared by Philip M Shearer with the Community and the World.
Created on 2017-05-31 at 05:40 and last updated on 2018-08-20 at 05:40.