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Genus Neoconocephalus in North America north of Mexico
Common coneheads (Neoconocephalus) have wings that extend beyond the abdomen; the cone is separated from the face by a prominent gap and never ends in a sharp point. Length 37-74 mm.
Identification of species
Most species in this genus have distinctive cones. By comparing the ventral view of the cone of the specimen you wish to identify with illustrations for all the species north of Mexico, you should be able to eliminate all but a few species from further consideration.
Seasonal life histories
All species of Neoconocephalus except N. triops and N. payhayokee have one generation per year. All except N. triops overwinter as eggs. N. triops overwinter as adults and have a single generation in the northern extremes of the range and two and perhaps three generations each year farther south. N. payhayokee has spring and fall generations of adults.
Adults feed nearly exclusively on the seeds of grasses; juveniles apparently feed on grass flowers and developing seeds. Other foods--such as sedge fruits, grass leaves, and living insects--have been noted occasionally.
Calling is chiefly at night. Only N. retusus commonly sings in the afternoon as well. Some species sing within tangles of dense vegetation near the ground; many climb to near the top of the ground cover. N. triops frequently sings from the tops of tall trees. When disturbed, singing males fly, run, or drop.
When males of common coneheads are captured and held in cages, they frequently prove to be parasitized internally by maggots of tachinid flies known to locate their hosts by their calling songs (Burk 1982). The fly larvae emerge from the conehead within a few days after capture, and the conehead dies. The larvae make hard, brown puparia that yield yellowish adult flies in about two weeks. In keeping with how the flies find their hosts, mainly males are parasitized.
Common coneheads and their Old World counterparts (formerly Homorocoryphus, now Ruspolia) have been used as experimental animals by biologists investigating mechanisms of hearing, mechanisms of sound production, species specificity of phonotaxis, muscle physiology, body temperature, and effects of temperature on wingstroke rate.