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Monday, August 2, 2010

Screaming Katydids

with Sue Weaver, Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

Photo by Sue Weaver
Uzzi and Tank and I can’t sleep because the screaming katydids are keeping us awake. There are thousands on our farm. It sounds like a jungle at night!

Wikipedia says there are 6,400 species of katydids in the world and 255 in North America.

Ours are called True Katydids. They’re 2 inches long and bright leaf green, with two sets of wings, and long, long antennae up front.

Both sexes “sing” in the summer but the males scream all night (they do it to attract mates, by rubbing their forewings together).

Females respond with a call that sounds like “Katy did, Katy didn’t”; that’s how these bugs got their name.

Katydids eat leaves and their favorite is oak, so they live in the oaks on our ridge.

Males and females look alike except females have a hook-shaped structure called an ovipositor on their abdomens. They use it to glue eggs to the underside of leaves. Eggs hatch in 2 or 3 months. New baby katydids (called nymphs) look like big katydids but smaller, and they have no wings.

County folk say katydids foretell the first frost of autumn, that frost comes 3 months after katydids start singing at night.

If just one katydid is calling (fat chance that happening here!), you can tell the temperature by counting his calls per minute, adding 161 and dividing that total by 3.

Another thing to know about katydids: if you handle them roughly—they bite!

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Screaming Katydids

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Reader Comments
Hey Cathy, I went out just before dusk last night and noticed only three katydid's calling. I could tell their "voices" apart and it was easy to count them. The one I counted was right in the ballpark, temperature-wise, so apparently the trick is going out before the evening din begins!
Martok's mom, Mammoth Spring, AR
Posted: 8/8/2010 4:41:54 AM
Cathy, Mom says when she was a little girl in Indiana, she'd often hear just one katydid. Here, there must be hundreds--or thousands--singing at the same time. She enjoys listening to night sounds like mockingbird songs and tree frog singing but during katydid time, all she can ear is that one loud scream. She's glad when they finally knock it off for the year.
~ Martok
Martok, Mammoth Spring, AR
Posted: 8/6/2010 12:35:52 PM
My husband wanted to know how to count just ONE katydid's call...here must be thousands in our woods and they are all good and loud here in TN too. I like it when they do a kind of "crescendo" altogether. I wonder why that happens, or what it means...
Cathy, Thompsons Station, TN
Posted: 8/5/2010 1:24:37 PM
Wow thats cool. I didn't know you could find out the temperature by listening to katydids. Thanks Martok!
Ariel, Mokelumne Hill, CA
Posted: 8/4/2010 10:24:05 AM
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