On Oct. 30, a man stopped at our house, carrying a container with a bug inside that he wanted me to identify. He found the insect on the side of his house and was concerned that these insects (if there were more) would move inside the house, with cold weather approaching.
The insect was found to be a katydid. It surprised me to find a katydid that late in the season; however, a killing frost had not yet occurred.
To me, one of the true sounds of summer are the calls of the katydids. I often have stopped what I was doing just to listen to their calling.
The northern katydid is a relative of the cricket and grasshopper, with one difference being that both male and female northern katydids sing, while only the male crickets and grasshoppers sing.
The name katydid is derived from the repetitive call, which sounds like "katydid, katy-didn't."
There are many species of katydids, with each species having its own rasping song that is produced by rubbing the forewings (one of which is ridged) together. The katydid's tympana (hearing organs) are on their front legs
Here, in Pennsylvania, we have the northern katydid, which is considered the true katydid due to being the first species to have its call transcribed. The katydids sing in the evening and are most active at night.
The katydid eats leaves, flowers, stems and fruits of many plants. A few species of katydids are predators and will eat other insects.
The northern katydid is leaf-green in color; the fore wings are convex (crossed by many conspicuous veins); the head is pointed at the front, can be up to 3 inches long and has antennae that are two or three times the length of its body.
The katydid goes through three stages of development: egg, nymph and adult.
During the fall, the female lays her eggs on either bark or young stems, where they overwinter and then hatch in the spring.
Newly hatched katydids are known as nymphs. The nymphs, which seldom are seen, appear as adults except without wings.
A nymph sheds it skin (molts), which enables it to grow. By the time this insect reaches adulthood, it will have developed wings. The lifespan of a katydid is one year.
Since katydids spend most of their time in trees, in forested areas and fields, they are heard but seldom seen because of being green.
Katydids are able to fly short distances when threatened; however, this flight is more of a downward flutter. If a katydid lands on the ground, it seeks the nearest tree to climb.
Males alternate chirps when not more than 25 to 50 feet from one another. If two chirping males are close together (perhaps within 2 or 3 feet) they lengthen their chirps, which could be taken for aggressive sounds. Aggressive chirping stimulates the other males to either return the call in the same pattern or to cease stridulating and leave the area.
As twilight nears, the male katydid mounts the upper branches of the tree in which he lives and begins his noisy calls as evening approaches. These calls are quickly answered by rivaling males in neighboring trees.
Throughout the night, the calling of "katydid, She-didn't" is heard, with one having to use their imagination to hear the resemblance to the words katydid.
In most cases, the song is a regular repetition of a multi-pulse phrase occurring at about one-second intervals. Neighboring individuals often alternate their phrases with the combined tempo, being noticeably quicker than that of a solitary singer.
In northern populations, the pulse rate within each phrase is slower, and the most frequent numbers of pulses per phrase are three and two. This permits the song to be rendered "katydid, she-didn't, she-did."
Alternating individuals sound as though they are arguing about whether Katy did or didn't.
Well, the katydid females have laid their eggs, and I suspect that most have succumbed to the cold weather. It won't be until next summer that we once again hear the calling of the katydids.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.