If you knew how strikingly similar katydids look to leaves, you’d be utterly dumbfounded! After learning about some of the most common species, we’re still amazed at how nature designed their bodies!
While some katydid species don’t look like leaves, others literally look like a leaf is covering their bodies! This stunning appearance serves as great camouflage in the wild!
If you want to learn more about katydids, keep reading! We promise it’s totally worth the time.
What Are Katydids?
Katydids are also called bush crickets. They’re part of the Tettigoniidae family and are so diverse that more than 8,000 katydid species have been discovered! Because they have very long antennae, people also call them long-horned grasshoppers. However, their most distinctive characteristic is their leaf-like appearance! Nevertheless, not all katydid species are green; some are brown, yellow, or even pink. Another thing that can help you distinguish katydids from other insects is the position of their wings, which lay over their bodies in a roof-like shape.
These insects are found worldwide except in Antarctica. Most species inhabit the world’s tropical regions, while others have settled in cool, dry, temperate climates. One of the biggest katydid populations is found in the Amazon basin rainforest, where over 2,000 species live. North America, on the other hand, hosts around 255 katydid species.
Since we cannot present all species, let’s discuss some of the most common ones.
The common true katydid, or the Pterophyla camellifolia, is a green insect measuring up to 2 inches in length. Common true katydids are nearly flightless and spend their time running, walking, or hopping. They live in the canopy of deciduous trees and feed on their foliage.
Tettigonia viridissima katydids are commonly called great green bush-crickets. They are a small species, measuring, on average, 1.1 – 1.7 inches long. Most great green bush-crickets are green, but some are yellow. Their long antennae can sometimes be thrice as long as their bodies! These insects are most common in Europe, where they inhabit grasslands, meadows, and prairies. They are carnivorous and feed on caterpillars, flies, and larvae, hunting both during the day and night.
This species is probably the one that resembles a leaf the most! This katydid is even called the “false leaf” bush-cricket! It has a dark green body with light green vertical veins – exactly like leaves! The front legs are green, while the hind legs are yellow. False leaf bush-crickets live in Mainland Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The Microcentrum rhombifolium is another katydid that you can easily mistake for a leaf! It has a light green body with lighter veins running along it. If it weren’t for the katydid’s long distinctive hind legs, you’d certainly mistake it for a leaf! This insect lives in North America and is also called the greater angle-wing katydid or the broad-winged katydid.
The oblong-winged katydids can be green, tan, pink, dark, or orange. Their rasping organs are dark or blackish. However, most specimens are green. The top of their heads are rounded, and the hind legs are very long.
The crepitating coneheads are famous for their song, which has a volume of 116 decibels! Their call can be heard from 1,640 feet away! It’s so strong that listening to it at close range becomes unbearable. These insects have green, cone-shaped heads and white sides along the cone. While most are green, some can have a brownish color.
The orchelimum nigripes katydids are unique due to the color of their legs, which can be black or yellow. They have bluish bodies, mottled white faces, and bright yellow cerci. They are even called black-legged meadow katydids. Most black-legged meadow katydids are found near water.
What Do Katydids Eat, and What Eats Them?
Some katydid species, the Segested gracilis, and the Segestidea montana specifically, are pests of karuka trees, representing an important food crop in New Guinea. They eat the leaves and may even kill the trees.
While their appearance is an excellent camouflage that helps them avoid predators, other creatures occasionally prey on katydids. These include spiders, ants, wasps, tree frogs, bats, and birds.
How Long Do Katydids Live?
A katydid’s lifespan depends on where it lives. Species in tropical regions can live for several years, while those in colder climates rarely live longer than a year. It is said that usually, only the eggs can survive the winter. Once the nymph, which looks almost like an adult but with no wings, hatches and completes its development by shedding its exoskeleton and getting wings, it cannot survive the winter.
How Do Katydids Communicate?
Male katydids are capable of stridulation, meaning they produce sounds by rubbing two parts of their bodies. The sound-producing organs are located on the hind angles of their front wings. They use these sounds to attract females or claim territory. Some females are capable of stridulation, too.
Some katydid species have developed their singing skills so much that they can aggressively mimic other insect songs. A study focused on Chlorobalius leucoviridis katydids shows that they have learned to imitate the wing-flick sounds female cicadas use as sexual replies. This way, katydids foul the male cicadas and lure them for predation. Scientists state that these katydids can imitate the sounds of many other insects, even those of insects they’ve never even interacted with!
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- Missouri Department of Conservation, Available here: https://education.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/katydids
- PLOS ONE, Available here: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0004185
- Springer Link, Available here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00359-014-0976-1