Thursday, October 17, 2013

Katydid...Katydidn't in the Great Smoky Mountains

Last week Rick, Matty and I, my parents, and my brother, sis-in-law and niece all headed down to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It was our annual fall trip, and we were looking for a little adventure. Unfortunately, the park was closed due to the government shutdown, but we still had fun and saw many beautiful sights in other locations. Our cabin was high on a mountain in the woods, and the view alone was worth the trip. One afternoon I was sitting on the deck reading, when I looked up and directly in front of me was a katydid. The sunlight was backlighting her, so I went in to grab my camera. She stuck around, and I was able to get a few photos...

Katydids have very long and thin antenna. It's one way to tell the difference between a grasshopper (which has a much shorter antenna) and a katydid. The katydid's long antenna size is why it's called a "long-horned grasshopper." Click here to see the shorter antennas of a grasshopper.
Before writing this post, I didn't know much about katydids. A green bug that looked like a leaf and had a song that sounded like its name was all that would come to mind. So after looking at my photos, I had to get out my favorite insect books to learn a little more. "The Songs of Insects" by Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger has fantastic photos that are great for ID. I've learned a lot from it, and it focuses on crickets, katydids and grasshoppers, so I took it out. The next book I grabbed is called "The Grasshopper Book" by Wilfrid S. Bronson. Published in 1943, Bronson wrote the book for children and did all of the illustrations himself. I love the older language, the detailed drawings, and the humor he inserted throughout the text. I also got out my favorite all-around insect book, the "Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America," by Eric R. Eaton and Kenn Kaufman. After going through these books, I quickly learned there's more to katydids than just their green leaf-like wings!

Katydids are chewers and have powerful mouth parts to eat leaves. They can even bite into little berries. Chewing insects use maxilla (located on each side of the face) to help manipulate food. When an insect lowers them and starts moving them around, they look like tiny robot arms gathering up food. It's very cool to watch. Additionally, because katydids have powerful mandibles and mouthparts, they can bite (Bronson, pg 79)! 


Katydid "chewing" on wood post from Kelly Riccetti on Vimeo. You can see her moving her maxilla around searching for food.

Female katydids have an ovipositor (or egg placer). The size and shape of the ovipositor is a good way to identify different species. Due to the curved shape and darker color of this female's ovipositor, I think this is a Fork-tailed Bush Katydid. This species is very common and found throughout the United States (Elliot and Hershberger, pg 159).
Ovipositors are specialized for each species of katydid, and different species use them in different ways. While reading "The Grasshopper Book," I learned female Fork-tailed Bush Katydids chew off a small part of the edge of a leaf, and then use their mouthparts to guide the ovipositor to the chewed-off edge to slice through the two layers of epidermis and deposit super-thin, flat eggs (Bronson, pg 85). What? How is that possible...leaves are so thin! I wondered if there was a photo of that on the web, so I did a quick search.  Sure enough, I found a photo...and even a video. Click here to go to "The Smaller Majority" blog and see how a female bush katydid deposits her eggs (ovipositing) between the two layers of epidermis in a leaf.

The little hole on each of the katydid's front legs is the katydid's ear (tympanum).
Where do you find a katydid's ears? Don't look on their heads, try their forelegs instead!  When I was looking at a few of the close-up photos I took of the katydid, I noticed a small hole or slit on each front leg. It looked like a tiny scar, and I wondered what it was. Once again, Bronson came to the rescue by mentioning that the "slit in each front shin" contains the katydid's hearing apparatus (Bronson, pg 79). If you want to learn more about the katydid's ear structure, which is very similar to mammals, click here.   

One more thing...katydids got their name because their song often sounds like "katydid...katydidn't," but not all species of katydids get to sing out their name. The Fork-tailed Bush Katydid in this post has a "tsip" song or a high-pitched tick (Elliot and Hershberger, 158). There is always something new to learn about nature. It seems every time I lift my camera and focus, Mother Nature sends me another surprise!

14 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

great shots of this notorious muncher.

Montanagirl said...

That's a great surprise! I didn't know much about Katydids until I read your post. Excellent information and terrific photos!

Montanagirl said...

P.S. Kelly, thanks for stopping by my blog! I know you're a busy girl!!

dinascitywildlife.com said...

Amazing detail! Beautiful shots of the katydid.

Laure Ferlita said...

Boo hiss on the government for shutting down the park! I was thinking about you this past weekend and wondering about you're trip. It never occurred to me the park would be closed. How were the leaves?

Thanks for sharing about the katydid. I've been around them most of my life, but never game them two thoughts.

Kat Griffin said...

wonderful post about the katydids
That is exactly what my dad used to call me when I was little Katy-did. Though He never called me Katy-didn't, because I usually was a good girl and quite the suck-up as my sister would say. I was always looking for praises of my parents. in a family of ten kids it was hard to come by sometimes. anyways great post and I love the color of the beautiful bug too. -Kat-

Janice K said...

Close-up photography is so awesome. Never would I have been able to see all that detail just by looking.

You always seem to take some creature we may commonly overlook and help us appreciate how magnificently they are made.

Thanks!

Peg Wiggins said...

What wonderful photos! I've never seen a katydid so up close and personal. I am in love with that beautiful shade of green. We had a couple in our yard this summer that I actually was able to locate and observe. They are so interesting. And thanks to your informative post I now know more about them.

Our photos said...

You have make beautiful photos!
Greetings, RW & SK

Elva Paulson said...

Great shots and wonderful information.

Elaine said...

Amazing photos, Kelly! Good information too. I've never lived where there are katydids, so I learned a lot.

Tammie Lee said...

wonderful post Kelly!
such interesting little critters and your photos are awesome.
I don't think i would enjoy my hearing apparatus near my feet crunching on the earth and pavement ;-) too loud for me. all the creatures on the planet are so interesting!

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! There is always so much to learn about insects. Every time I photograph one, something cool and unique seems to pop up. I never would have guessed those little slits on his shins were ears!

Michaela said...

Very interesting post! Thank you!