Katydids – Seen Rarely, Heard Nightly

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails nectar on Joe-Pye Weed that can be found in woodlands or on edges. This is under a Tulip Popular that is a larva host plant.
Watching Swallowtail Butterflies
August 19, 2020
This Pumpkin Spider's eyes are pointed down to her web while waiting for prey in her retreat.
Secretive Pumpkin Spiders
October 21, 2020
Show all

Katydids – Seen Rarely, Heard Nightly

Does this Scudderia Katydid nymph realize it's not camouflaged in this daylily?

Does this Scudderia Katydid nymph realize it's not camouflaged in this daylily?

Katydids are rarely seen, even though they’re part of the mesmerizing chorus of insects we hear every summer night.

It’s late summer. As the sun sets, the chorus of insects begins and continues throughout the night so intensely that I can hear it through closed windows. I love the sound. For me, it’s mesmerizing and calming. While most of the chorus blends together, there’s one song that stands out Ka-ty did! Ka-ty did! Ka-ty did!
The song is loud, incessant, and has a fascinating rhythmic cadence. It belongs to the Common True Katydid – its common name. Males synchronize their songs so they sing in unison (at least to our ear). So hearing Ka-ty did! could be dozens of insects all singing together. They also form into a second group that sings slightly off rhythm from the first. Listen for a while, and one set of songs will pass the other.
When I started photographing insects, I would occasional find a camouflaged katydid. Then, to my surprise, I learned I have many different subfamilies and species of katydids in my yard, not just the one that sings Ka-ty did! Katydids are the insect family Tettigoniidae with over 1200 species in the US, the majority located in southern states. Subfamilies in my Pennsylvania yard are True Katydids, Meadow Katydids, Conehead Katydids, Quiet-calling Katydids (drumming), and Phaneropterine (Round headed, Bush, Angle-wing).
Can you find the Hidden Katydid in each photo?
Click on an image to activate a slideshow with titles and captions.
Katydids are usually heard, not seen, so I feel lucky when I find one. I’d expect to see more since they’re big, but they’re active at night, they’re green or patterned to camouflage or mimic the vegetation they hide in, and they also spend much of their lives high in trees or shrubs. Some of these katydid species are so rarely seen that I have only photographed them a single time! A few of the katydid instars (juvenile phases) are less shy than the adults. During spring and early summer I find some of them in more conspicuous garden locations. The Scudderia katydid has a particularly striking nymph instar that also likes flowers - making for great photos. (Story continues below Gallery.)
Katydid Slideshow
Click on an image to activate a slideshow with titles and captions.
Back to the night chorus
The nocturnal chorus is composed of many species of Orthoptera including crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers. The males of each species are vying for females by rubbing one body part against another to create their songs. Katydids make their sound by rubbing their forewings together. Each species has a unique song – pitch, rhythm, length, and frequency. Some have overtones and harmonics outside human audible range. While a few have songs recognizable to humans, most just have fast oscillating sounds that blend into the chorus. Grasshoppers tend to do more of their singing in the day.
As the summer progresses to fall, different species of katydids (and crickets) join or leave the chorus. As temperatures start to cool, the songs get slower and are at a lower pitch. The Common True Katydid’s song will reduce to a slow “Ka-ty!” “Ka-ty!” when it gets colder out. Ultimately, frost kills off the adults. Eggs will hatch in the spring to start their life cycle again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *