What Do Katydids Eat? Their Diet Explained

What Do Katydids Eat?
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Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: October 16, 2023

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Katydids, which are often called ‘bush crickets’ or ‘long-horned grasshoppers’ are related to both crickets and grasshoppers, though they are neither. There are more than 6,000 distinct species of katydid throughout the world, they live on every continent except Antarctica. Even if you can’t picture a katydid (they look like leaves with legs), you’ve probably heard the unique ‘ka-ty-did, ka-ty-didn’t’ sound of their song at night. But just what does the katydid eat? And how do they get their food?

Here, we’ll explore what katydids eat, their preferred foods, and their less favored foods. We’ll examine their behavior and hunting strategies, as well as their life cycles. Then, we’ll learn the difference between what wild and pet katydids eat, and we’ll cover what baby katydids eat. Every single species of katydid makes a unique sound, and we’ll discover just what fuels their song.

What Do Katydids Eat?

What Do Katydids Eat?

Katydids eat a variety of plants and insects. They are omnivores

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As omnivores, katydids eat a variety of plants and insects. These include the leaves and stems of many plants, as well as slow moving aphids. katydids are not picky, and will eat many leafy plants. Their diet is also dependent on where they live, whether that be in a tropical or a desert setting, and what species they are. Some katydid species, particularly in the tropics, make up a much larger part of their diet through other insects. Most katydid species that you might see in your backyard eat leaves, stems, and aphids.

Let’s take a look at a complete list of what katydids eat:

  • Leaves: by far the katydid’s favorite food. A few of their favorite types include: eucalyptus, angophora, bursaria, acacia, alpinia, flax lilies, citrus, oak, bramble, hazel, hypericum, and butterfly bush
  • Stems: when they can’t get a good leaf, Katydids will turn to munching on stems
  • Roots: only when exposed, katydids don’t dig
  • Fruit: rinds and exposed pulp, particularly apricots, plums, pears, and citrus fruits
  • Insects: aphids and dead insects

Though their preferred food is definitely leaves and aphids, katydids will eat a wider variety if they need to. In the absence of leafy greens, they’ll turn to stems and even roots. One thing katydids like, though they don’t do much damage, is fruit. They chew a tiny hole through the rind of the fruit, then eat a tiny amount of the pulp below. It doesn’t take much to fill a katydid up, so they are not generally considered harmful to fruit trees.

How Do Katydids Hunt?

What Do Katydids Eat?

Katydids hunt aphids, and some tropical species use spikes on their legs to catch insects

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Katydids don’t just eat leaves. They’re omnivores, which means that they eat a combination of plants and animals. One of the katydid’s favorite foods is the aphid. Aphids are tiny, sap-sucking insects that frequently plague gardens. They are very slow moving, making them easy prey for the katydid. 

Tropical species of katydid take insect hunting one step further. These katydids actually have spikes on their legs that they use to spear other, smaller insects. Female katydids have an upwards pointing ‘ovipositor’ on the back of their thorax that can sometimes look like a stinger. But, no reason to fear. This isn’t a stinger at all; it’s an appendage used for depositing eggs into the ground, not for hunting.  

What Do Wild Katydids Eat?

Wild katydids eat leaves, aphids, and fruit mostly. They are omnivores that spend the spring, summer, and fall feeding on whatever leaves and insects they can find. Most gardeners consider them welcome guests because they eat the aphids that would otherwise do harm to flowering plants and vegetables. 

Katydids have actually evolved to resemble the leaves they snack on. Most are bright green in color, though some varieties are dull brown and look more like dead leaves than live ones. Katydids range in size from 0.5 inches to almost 3 inches. They have long, powerful back legs that they use both to reach their food, and create their nightly song. Katydids can fly, and find their food and avoid predators using long antennae. 

What Do Pet Katydids Eat?

What Do Katydids Eat?

Captive katydids eat a variety of fresh leaves, fruit, and insects

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Many people keep katydids as pets. They’re easy to take care of; the most important part of their care is that they have a clean environment and that their food is changed daily. Captive katydids love leaves from citrus trees, oak, butterfly bush, and eucalyptus. They will also happily eat slices of fruit, and aphids, though owners have to be careful to remove any uneaten matter after about 24 hours.

What Do Baby Katydids Eat?

Katydids come together in late summer to early fall to mate. The males produce their unique song with their back legs to attract females. The female lays her eggs, using her ovipositor, either in the ground or on a stem, and the new katydids spend the winter in their protective cocoons, hatching in the spring. Katydids only live for about a year, so when the babies hatch in the spring, they have few competitors. They eat the same thing the adults eat; leaves, stems, aphids, and fruit.

Bonus: Predatory Katydids Are Carnivores

The average katydid eats tiny insects to supplement its diet while relying on plants for nourishment. Predatory katydids of the species Saginae hunt and eat other insects – including other katydids. Along with the praying mantis – Saginae are fierce hunters of insects that they catch with their powerful, spiny legs. These giant insects also sport a spiny thorax to aid in holding and disemboweling their prey.

There are 45 subspecies of Saginae – with the largest being the Middle Eastern Saga ephippigera and the black-winged clonia taking second place. The black-winged clonia grows up to 9 inches (22 cm) and is one of the largest insects in southern Africa. It is also one of the loudest – a single male can be heard from about a mile away.


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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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