August 2, 2010

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.

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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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