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Katydids join summer cacophony as Ozarks’ loudest insect

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JEFFERSON CTY, Mo. – Joining in the July chorus of cicadas, crickets, and frogs this summer are katydids. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to discover nature by learning more about the Ozarks’ loudest insect.

Katydids are a type of grasshopper. Their bodies have long slender legs, large, veined wings and antennae that are twice as long as most grasshoppers. Some call them long-horned grasshoppers because of their antennae.

A Katydid is related to the grasshopper, but with larger antennae. It is also the loudest insect in the Ozarks, but it sings alone. Cicadas tend to involve the entire chorus, although sometimes they do solos.

A Katydid is related to the grasshopper, but with larger antennae. It is also the loudest insect in the Ozarks, but it sings alone. Cicadas tend to involve the entire chorus, although sometimes they do solos.

Katydids are the insects that produce a distinct loud chirp, almost like singing “katy-did-katy-didn’t.” These insects create the sound by rubbing their wings together. The sharp edge of the right front wing moves rapidly against a file-like ridge on the left wing to make the distinct chirp. To attract a mate, male katydids can produce an ear-splitting hum that can be louder than a lawn mower.

These insects mate mostly at night, and to use their long antennae to help locate each other. Both male and female katydids chirp and hum to attract mates. After mating in the fall, the female lays her eggs on bark and young stems. The eggs are dormant through winter and hatch the following spring.

Most katydids look exactly like leaves. However, a genetic mutation caused by recessive genes producing too little pigment, can sometimes cause the usually green bug to appear bright pink.

Although it can be hard to ignore the sounds of katydids in the summer, it is rare to see them until autumn, when the cool air makes them clumsy and causes them to land on the ground. Keep an eye, and especially an ear, out for these loud yet elusive insects in July.

For more information on katydids visit MDC’s online Field Guide at http://on.mo.gov/29oOmrh or watch a video here.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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