When night falls on a hot July day, katydids come out. These large insects in the order Orthoptera are closely related to grasshoppers and crickets. Orthoptera means straight-winged.
The name katydid is uniquely North American and originates from the true katydid male's creaking call--katydid, katydidn't. An eastern and southern U.S. species, the true katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia) has recently taken up residence in the Twin Cities metro area. The call of other katydid species sounds more like buzzes, rasps, or ticks. Most are loud.
Minnesota has many species distributed among five groups: bush, meadow, cone-headed, shield-bearing, and true katydids. Many resemble muscle-bound green to brown grasshoppers, from 1 to 2 inches long, with powerful hind legs and whiplike antennae. Like most insects, they have two forewings and two hind wings. One common native species is the forked-tailed bush katydid (see photo).
Male katydids "sing" to attract mates by raising their forewings and scraping a rigid edge of the right wing against a filelike section on the left wing--a process called stridulating.
Katydids eat the leaves of many trees and shrubs. They stay motionless among the leaves during the day and feed around sunset.
To see bush katydids, go out after dark, stand still, and listen for the call. When you hear it, slowly and quietly move toward the sound. When you think you're within a few feet, wait for the song to begin again, then quickly turn on a flashlight and look for wing movement. Though katydids are vegetarians, they will bite if handled roughly, so be gentle.