Katydid Facts: Managing Katydids In The Garden

Katydid Facts: Managing Katydids In The Garden

By: Teo Spengler

Katydids look like grasshoppers but you can tell them apart by their antennas, which are as long as their bright green bodies. You’ll normally find these insects in shrubs or trees in the garden, since they are leaf eaters. Generally, katydids in the garden nibble leaves but do not do serious garden damage. You’ll need to get a few more katydids facts to determine whether to try to get rid of them. Read on for more information about katydids.

Katydid Facts

Katydids are known for the sounds the males make to attract mates. By rubbing their wings together rapidly, they produce a noise that sounds like “katydid.” It can be, and often is, repeated over and over for hours, night after night.

Although katydids can be found resting on herbaceous plants, they rarely damage them seriously. While some gardeners appreciate their “song,” others consider katydid garden pests and ask how to get rid of katydid bugs.

Katydid Garden Pests

It is important to learn information about katydids that can harm plants. One of the potentially harmful species of katydid is the broad-winged katydid. It is longer than other types of katydids in the garden, at 2 ½ inches (6.4 cm.), with the same bright green body. The leaves of the broad-winged katydid are veined and look like citrus leaves. This serves them well since it is citrus leaves that they like to eat.

The broad-winged katydid feeds on the leaves of citrus trees generally in the morning. If they eat the foliage of a mature tree, no significant damage is done. However, they become katydid garden pests when they defoliate young citrus trees.

These katydid garden pests may also eat the peel of young oranges growing on the trees. Their nibbling leaves smooth, sunken areas in the peel as the fruit continues to develop. While some fruit falls, others continue to hang on the tree but cannot be sold commercially because of the blemishes on the skin, termed “katydid damage.” Despite this name, the peel damage can just as easily be caused by other insects, like grasshoppers or crickets.

How to Get Rid of Katydid Bugs

In many cases, your best bet is to simply wait out the kaydid garden pests. Practical control is difficult. However, if you find many katydid nymphs in your citrus tree while fruit is still small, you can apply spinosad. This pesticide is only mildly toxic, and works best if ingested by the insects.

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If you listen to the sounds of nature in a field at night, you can expect to hear the chirping of crickets and cicadas, as well as the sound of katydids. These less popular green insects usually resemble grasshoppers, with extremely long and skinny legs, although they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Katydids are very gentle creatures if you find a katydid outside, put together the right habitat for it, and feed it every day, you can easily keep it as a pet!

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Hi Estelle,
We have several kinds of katydids here in the N.E. I don't think they are really bad or good. Most eat foliage, but we have one (brownish?)that eats flowers and another kind that eats grass. If you have the green kind that says "katy-DiD", it eats foliage. Anyway, I never heard of them causing serious damage. I'd leave it alone and enjoy it!


P.S. Please excuse my very scientific terminology!


They're bad bad bad in my garden! They chow through my citrus leaves, rose buds, rose leaves. They were much worse last year than this year.


Well I have never had anything chew on my azaleas leaves, and I noticed a huge katydid on the Azalea. That Katydon't anymore (-)


We were searching for our first house through the spring and summer, and finally in August settled on this one in a wooded setting near a bay. We were amazed at how many katydids we could hear at night. 30 years later, they're still going strong, but have never been a problem in the garden. As a matter of fact, as much as we hear them, we rarely see them . it sounds like they're up in the tall oaks and other trees. Our daughter's name is Katie, so, of course my husband used to tease her when she was little, about the bugs debating whether she did or didn't. The sound always brings back happy memories and I'm glad to share my space with them.


I have one eating daylilies. I was wondering if I should let it stay there when I took this photo a few days ago, but I figured the flower was only going to last a day, anyway. Now, this evening, I saw either it or another munching on another daylily from the same plant. Does anyone know if this will hurt the plant?



Well, I just saw 2 katydids on two different daylilies, and Googled, "should I be letting katydids eat my daylilies" and guess what link came up first, this one! I clicked on the link Edna put in again, and it doesn't say whether they are destructive enough that you should take them off when you see them. I wonder what they will eat when the daylilies are finished? Any further advice?


We've had katydids ever since I've been here (33 years!) and I've never known them to do any significant damage. I took a picture of a katydid nymph on a rosebud earlier this month. The damage you see was done by a Japanese Beetle. I observed the nymph for quite a while, and though he seemed curious about the rose, he didn't consume any of it.

We enjoy hearing them "counting" at night. Gotta love those mating calls!


I had a Barnes and Noble 15% off on top of my member discount. Last night, I went and got a book I've seen before and wanted. It's called, "Garden Insects of North America" by Whitney Cranshaw. In it, I found the answer to our questions.

I found out that grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids are in the order called, "Orthoptera". Cranshaw says that katydids are usually large grasshoppers with long antennae and thin jumping hind legs. There are different kinds. Here's a quote from the book, "Both the nymhs and adults chew leaves, rarely causing noticeable injuries." I'm still keeping an eye out, because today, a whole section of a flower was gone from the flower the katydid was in. Maybe that wasn't the culprit, though.

Happy gardening and nature watching,


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Description and lifecycle
    • 2.1 Description
    • 2.2 Lifecycle
  • 3 Distribution
  • 4 Classification
    • 4.1 Extinct taxa
  • 5 Ecology
    • 5.1 Communication
    • 5.2 Predation
    • 5.3 Defense mechanisms
  • 6 Reproductive behavior
    • 6.1 Polygamy
    • 6.2 Competition
    • 6.3 Stress response
  • 7 References
  • 8 External links

The family name Tettigoniidae is derived from the genus Tettigonia, first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. In Latin tettigonia means a kind of small cicada, leafhopper [5] it is from the Greek τεττιγόνιον tettigonion, the diminutive of the imitative (onomatopoeic) τέττιξ, tettix, cicada. [6] [7] All of these names such as tettix with repeated sounds are onomatopoeic, imitating the stridulation of these insects. [8] The common name katydid is also onomatopoeic and comes from the particularly loud, three-pulsed song, often rendered "ka-ty-did", of the nominate subspecies of the North American Pterophylla camellifolia, whose most common English name is the common true katydid. [9] [10]

Description Edit

Tettigoniids range in size from as small as 5 mm (0.20 in) to as large as 130 mm (5.1 in). [11] The smaller species typically live in drier or more stressful habitats which may lead to their small size. The small size is associated with greater agility, faster development, and lower nutritional needs. Tettigoniids are tree-living insects that are most commonly heard at night during summer and early fall. [12] Tettigoniids may be distinguished from the grasshopper by the length of their filamentous antennae, which may exceed their own body length, while grasshoppers' antennae are always relatively short and thickened.

Lifecycle Edit

The lifespan of a katydid is about a year, with full adulthood usually developing very late. Females most typically lay their eggs at the end of summer beneath the soil or in plant stem holes. The eggs are typically oval and laid in rows on the host plant. The way their ovipositor is formed relates to its function where it lays eggs. It consists of up to three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to make a place for it, and place it properly. Tettigoniids have either sickle-shaped ovipositors which typically lay eggs in dead or living plant matter, or uniform long ovipositors which lay eggs in grass stems. When tettigoniids hatch, the nymphs often look like smaller versions of the adults, but in some species, the nymphs look nothing at all like the adult and rather mimic other species such as spiders and assassin bugs, or flowers, to prevent predation. The nymphs remain in a mimic state only until they are large enough to escape predation. Once they complete their last molt, they are then prepared to mate. [12]

Tettigoniids are found on every continent except Antarctica. [13] The vast majority of katydid species live in the tropical regions of the world. [4] For example, the Amazon basin rain forest is home to over 2000 species of katydids. [4] However, katydids are found in the cool, dry temperate regions, as well, with about 255 species in North America.

The Tettigoniidae are a large family and have been divided into a number of subfamilies: [1]

  • Austrosaginae (Australia)
  • Bradyporinae (southeast Europe, west & central Asia)
  • Conocephalinae (global)
  • Hetrodinae (Africa)
  • Hexacentrinae (pantropical, especially Asia)
  • Lipotactinae (Asia)
  • Listroscelidinae (Americas, Madagascar, Australia)
  • Meconematinae (global)
  • Mecopodinae (South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Oceania)
  • Microtettigoniinae (Australia)
  • Phaneropterinae (global)
  • Phasmodinae (Australia)
  • Phyllophorinae (Asia, Australia)
  • Pseudophyllinae (global)
  • Pterochrozinae (Central and South America)
  • Saginae (North America, Africa, Europe)
  • Tettigoniinae (global)
  • Tympanophorinae (Australia)
  • Zaprochilinae (Australia)

The Copiphorinae were previously considered a subfamily, but are now placed as tribe Copiphorini in the subfamily Conocephalinae. [14] The genus Acridoxena is now placed in the tribe Acridoxenini of the Mecopodinae (previously its own subfamily, Acridoxeninae).

Extinct taxa Edit

The Orthoptera species file [1] lists:

  • †Pseudotettigoniinae (North America, Europe)
  • †Rammeinae (Europe)
  • †Tettigoidinae (Australia)
Genera incertae sedis
  • Locustites Heer, 1849: 3 spp.
  • Locustophanes Handlirsch, 1939: †L. rhipidophorus Handlirsch, 1939
  • Prophasgonura Piton, 1940: †P. lineatocollis Piton, 1940
  • Protempusa Piton, 1940: †P. incerta Piton, 1940
  • Prototettix Giebel, 1856: †P. lithanthraca (Goldenberg, 1854)

The genus †Triassophyllum is extinct and may be placed here or in the Archaeorthoptera. [15]

The diet of most tettigoniids includes leaves, flowers, bark, and seeds, but many species are exclusively predatory, feeding on other insects, snails, or even small vertebrates such as snakes and lizards. Some are also considered pests by commercial crop growers and are sprayed to limit growth, but population densities are usually low, so a large economic impact is rare. [16]

Tettigoniids are serious insect pests of karuka (Pandanus julianettii). [17] The species Segestes gracilis and Segestidea montana eat the leaves and can sometimes kill trees. [17] Growers will stuff leaves and grass in between the leaves of the crown to keep insects out. [17]

By observing the head and mouthparts, where differences can be seen in relation to function, it is possible to determine what type of food the tettigoniids consume. Large tettigoniids can inflict a painful bite or pinch if handled, but seldom break the skin.

Some species of bush crickets are consumed by people, such as the nsenene (Ruspolia baileyi) in Uganda and neighbouring areas.

Communication Edit

The males of tettigoniids have sound-producing organs located on the hind angles of their front wings. In some species, females are also capable of stridulation. Females chirp in response to the shrill of the males. The males use this sound for courtship, which occurs late in the summer. [18] The sound is produced by rubbing two parts of their bodies together, called stridulation. One is the file or comb that has tough ridges the other is the plectrum is used to produce the vibration. [19] For tettigoniids, the fore wings are used to sing. Tettigoniids produce continuous songs known as trills. The size of the insect, the spacing of the ridges, and the width of the scraper all influence what sound is made. [20]

Many katydids stridulate at a tempo which is governed by ambient temperature, so that the number of chirps in a defined period of time can produce a fairly accurate temperature reading. For American katydids, the formula is generally given as the number of chirps in 15 seconds plus 37 to give the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. [21]

Predation Edit

Some tettigoniids have spines on different parts of their bodies that work in different ways. The Listroscelinae have limb spines on the ventral surfaces of their bodies. This works in a way to confine their prey to make a temporary cage above their mouthparts. The spines are articulated and comparatively flexible, but relatively blunt. Due to this, they are used to cage and not penetrate the prey's body. Spines on the tibiae and the femora are usually more sharp and nonarticulated. They are designed more for penetration or help in the defensive mechanism they might have. This usually works with their diurnal roosting posture to maximize defense and prevent predators from going for their head. [22]

Defense mechanisms Edit

When tettigoniids go to rest during the day, they enter a diurnal roosting posture to maximize their cryptic qualities. This position fools predators into thinking the katydid is either dead or just a leaf on the plant. Various tettigoniids have bright coloration and black apical spots on the inner surfaces of the tegmina, and brightly colored hind wings. By flicking their wings open when disturbed, they use the coloration to fool predators into thinking the spots are eyes. This, in combination with their coloration mimicking leaves, allows them to blend in with their surroundings, but also makes predators unsure which side is the front and which side is the back. [23] Most species can also deliver a fairly powerful bite, but no species are known to be venomous.

The males provide a nuptial gift for the females in the form of a spermatophylax, a body attached to the males' spermatophore and consumed by the female, to distract her from eating the male's spermatophore and thereby increase his paternity. [24]

Polygamy Edit

The Tettigoniidae have polygamous relationships. The first male to mate is guaranteed an extremely high confidence of paternity when a second male couples at the termination of female sexual refractoriness. The nutrients that the offspring ultimately receive will increase their fitness. The second male to mate with the female at the termination of her refractory period is usually cuckolded. [25]

Competition Edit

The polygamous relationships of the Tettigoniidae lead to high levels of male-male competition. Male competition is caused by the decreased availability of males able to supply nutritious spermaphylanges to the females. Females produce more eggs on a high-quality diet thus, the female looks for healthier males with a more nutritious spermatophylax. Females use the sound created by the male to judge his fitness. The louder and more fluent the trill, the higher the fitness of the male. [26]

Stress response Edit

Oftentimes in species which produce larger food gifts, the female seeks out the males to copulate. This, however, is a cost to females as they risk predation while searching for males. Also, a cost-benefit tradeoff exists in the size of the spermatophore which the male tettigoniids produce. When males possess a large spermatophore, they benefit by being more highly selected for by females, but they are only able to mate one to two times during their lifetimes. Inversely, male Tettigoniidae with smaller spermatophores have the benefit of being able to mate two to three times per night, but have lower chances of being selected by females. Even in times of nutritional stress, male Tettigoniidae continue to invest nutrients within their spermatophores. In some species, the cost of creating the spermatophore is low, but even in those which it is not low, it is still not beneficial to reduce the quality of the spermatophore, as it would lead to lower reproductive selection and success. This low reproductive success is attributed to some Tettigoniidae species in which the spermatophylax that the female receives as a food gift from the male during copulation increases the reproductive output of the reproduction attempt. However, in other cases, the female receives few, if any, benefits. [27]

The reproductive behavior of bush crickets has been studied in great depth. Studies found that the tuberous bush cricket (Platycleis affinis) has the largest testes in proportion to body mass of any animal recorded. They account for 14% of the insect's body mass and are thought to enable a fast remating rate. [28]


Summary: The katydid has a pleasant and familiar song, but a large population of these grasshopper-like insects could have you pleading for peace and quiet.

Also known as long-horned grasshoppers, because of the length of their antennae, Katydids are actually more closely related to crickets. With around 255 species in North America, all of them nocturnal, and most pretty well camouflaged, you're more likely to hear the Katydid than to see it.

Like crickets and grasshoppers, male katydids serenade the females and in many species the females reply by chirping, too. So if you're being kept awake at night by what you think are grasshoppers, the chances are you're actually listening to Katydids.

The diet of Katydids includes leaves, flowers, bark and seeds, many species will supplement their diet with insects, snails and even small snakes and lizards. Unfortunately, while many species may eat aphids and other insects that may infest your plants, they're quite indiscriminate and will happily munch on the very plants you want to protect. In fact, some are treated as pests by commercial crop growers who use sprays to limit their growth.

If you want to get rid of katydids, think in terms of a three step program. Habitat, deterrents and removal. First, reduce the number of attractive habitats for katydids, crickets and grasshoppers in your garden. Clean out gutters where damp collected debris offers a welcome haven. Trim any long grass areas down to a low level since they love long grass, and sweep the cuttings away from the house. If you have a compost heap, keep it a good distance from the home, and if you bin it, keep the bin a good distance away and ensure the lid is held down securely.

Next, use deterrents to discourage them from feeding on your plants. There are two ways to do this. You can plant "barrier plants" that these insects are repelled by such as horehound, cilantro, calendula or alliums. These crops will repel a wide range of insects long term, but if you don't have time to grow them, a short term solution is to use a repellent spray.

Try solutions of garlic oil, neem oil or Tabasco mixed with water and spray the plants. While the garlic and Tabasco will repel the katydids, neem oil acts not only as a repellent, but also as an anti-feed and growth regulator, and even sterilizes some species. If using insecticides such as Talstar Pro , read the instructions carefully and follow the manufacturers instructions.

If using barrier crops and sprays to protect your treasured plants is not enough for you and you don't want to listen to the "Katy did, Katdy didn't," argument all night, you can reduce their numbers by trapping and removing Katydids in home made traps. Mix a solution of black strap molasses diluted in water in an old jar or can, and bury these up to the neck in the ground. The katydids will be attracted by the sweetness and crawl in attempting to feed, only to drown in the solution. They will also be attracted to ultraviolet bug killers left in the garden overnight. Be warned, if handling larger species, they are capable of pinching the skin painfully.

With these simple measures you should be able to keep katydids off your plants and enjoy the night song without being driven to distraction.

For more cricket articles please click here .

Organically Get Rid Of Garden Pests – Where to Start

If you want to improve the health of your plants to the point where insect and disease predators go away, I have three starting points for you. If you're growing food, this can also drastically increase your yield and storage time, and improve the taste and nutrient-density of your harvests.

1. Compost. I know you already know about this one, but sometimes the old methods stick around for a reason. Compost supplies nutrients, organic matter and just as important, beneficial microorganisms to improve the health of your soil and plants.

2. Microbial Inoculants. When there's not enough compost to go around, liquid inoculants such as compost tea and effective microorganisms can be used very sustainably for much less cost and time than compost, and can be applied to plant leaves where we really need these beneficial microorganisms, too.

3. Organic Fertilizers. I'm not really into most of the organic fertilizers on the market, but there are a few such as sea minerals that can be very useful while we're transitioning to a healthier ecosystem. In the long run, it's best to not use too many outside inputs, but in the first couple of years in a new garden, they're a great help to speed up the process.

Methods such as these – and other simple steps like proper watering and appropriate plant placement – will help ensure your plants are fit for human consumption, not insect and disease consumption.

While pesticides, including organic ones, only get rid of plant predators in the short term, creating health in your garden keeps them at bay forever. (Laurie's note – I am working on these methods in my garden, but if you need a short term fix while you work on improving soil/plant health, you can check check out my Ultimate Guide to Natural Pest Control in the Garden.)

Feel free to ask any questions below!

This is a guest post from Phil Nauta, author of the book Building Soils Naturally, published by Acres U.S.A. He also runs an online organic gardening course called The Smiling Gardener Academy. He has taught for Gaia College, was an organic landscaper and ran an organic fertilizer business before starting to teach practical organic gardening tips to home gardeners.

You can read a review of Phil's book here.

Watch the video: Katydid Leaf BUG!