Meadow Katydids

The meadow katydids (long-horned grasshoppers) are a familiar group. They are the little green grasshoppers with long filamentous antennae that frequent open, grassy areas. There are thirty-nine species in North America, and nearly all of them fall into two groups: the small-to-medium meadow katydids (genus Conocephalus) and the large meadow katydids (genus Orchelimum). In this guide, we introduce thirteen common and widespread species, with examples from both genera. The meadow katydid clan includes some of our most colorful katydids, with bright green bodies complemented by shades of blue, yellow, red, and orange that cover the legs, eyes, or wings. Some species, such as the Handsome Meadow Katydid, are particularly stunning in appearance, with rich translucent colors of surprising intensity.

Abundant in grassy meadows and other open areas, meadow katydids sound off with vigor when it’s sunny and warm, but the high-pitched songs of the males are unmusical and quite unlike the pretty chirps and trills of crickets. Composed of soft ticks accompanied by swishy buzzes, rattles, shuffles, or purrs, meadow katydid songs are reminiscent of the ryhthmic sounds made by a shaker full of rice or sand, or the high swishing of a drummer’s brush against a cymbal. Some even sound like a lawn-sprinkler ratcheting away on a sunny day. Though their songs are unmusical, a meadow full of katydids fiddling their tunes on a warm summer’s afternoon can be quite pleasing to the ear, as if the grasses and weeds have joined together in a whispering chorus of pastoral tranquility and joy.

With practice, the different species can be recognized by their songs. Each has a unique pattern, but confusion can arise because song tempo responds to the ambient temperature, just as it does in crickets and other katydids — when the temperature drops, everything slows down. Thus, a hot male of a species with a slow-tempo song might sound similar to a cold male of a species with a more rapid-tempo song. Males of each species can also be differentiated by their reproductive organs, in this case the cerci that extend from the rear of their abdomens. The diagram at the bottom of this page presents drawings of cerci of the species included in this guide.

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Grasshoppers (Locusts)