Saga hellenica Kaltenbach, 1967
Saga pedo auct. (nec Pallas, 1771): Buresch, Peschev, 1958: 70; Saga serrata auct. (nec Fabricius, 1793): Buresch, Peschev, 1958: 70.
Order Grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera)
Family Tettigoniid bush-crickets (Tettigoniidae)
Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Extinct EX.
General distribution. A Balkan endemic species distributed in Albania, Macedonia, Greece (without Eastern Macedonia and Thrace) and in the past also in Western Bulgaria.
Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Found in Bulgaria only in Lyulin Mts., in the gorge of Vladaya River above Knyazhevo, where in 1938, 1939 and 1940 six females were collected , correctly identified as late as in 2003 . It was not found later in the same locality or elsewhere in Bulgaria. Because of its large size, the species cannot remain unobserved during the frequent visits to Lyulin by entomologists. The Lyulin population was the northernmost one in the species range. Most likely Saga hellenica occured there in few specimens only.
Habitats. In the past it inhabited low-mountainous dry meadows, sometimes used for pasture. In Vodno Mts. (Northern Macedonia) it occurs on shrubs and more rarely in the grass in open stony terrains and light xerophytic forests at altitudes between 500 and 1 000 m.
Biology. There is no information about the biology of the Lyulin population before its extinction (the species was correctly identified  only after its disappearance) but such data exist about the Macedonian and Greek populations. The nymphs hatch in March and the beginning of April. They moult six times. Duration of every nymphal instar: 8-10 days; of the whole nymphal stage: 50-60 days. The adult lives from the end of May to August. It lays eggs in the soil. Saga hellenica overwinters as an egg. The egg stage may lengthen up to several years (a hyperpause). A narrowly specialized predator with a stalking behaviour. Its food consists of large grasshoppers and praying mantids. It has no competitors in its food niche.
Similar species. It differs from Saga natoliae with its more slender habitus and smaller size, and from S. campbelli, S. rammei and S. pedo with the shape and colouring of the pronotum, the larger size and the more robust habitus.
Negative factors. The restricted distribution in Bulgaria and the changes of the habitat as a result of human activity are the most probable reasons for the regional extinction of the species.
Conservation measures taken. None.
References. 1. Buresch, Peschev, 1958; 2. Chobanov, 2003.
Authors: Alexi Popov, Dragan Chobanov