Mystery Buddies in Your Garden
You may never have heard of a Katydid, but they're quite common backyard buddies and garden visitors. What is a Katydid? It's a cousin to the grasshopper and cricket, about 4 to 6 cm in length with extremely long, thin antennae, and powerful back legs for jumping.
Like Crickets, male Katydids play songs to romance females by rubbing their wings together.
Click here to listen to their calls. The call is supposed to sound like 'Katy-did'. Some Katydid songs, however, are at too high a frequency for human ears to hear.
You may not know much about Katydids, probably because they are masters of camouflage. Their green colouring and leaf-like shape helps them blend into leafy surroundings, and they are most active at night. They may be tough to spot, but may be a lot more common than you think. They can be found all over Australia wherever there are leafy plants.
There are around 1000 described species in the Tettigoniidae family to which Katydids and crickets belong, though there may be many, many more species as yet undiscovered. You might even have a new species of Katydid in your very own backyard.
Katydids are great to have around the garden as they love to munch insects, and they also help pollinate some flowers. The Common Garden Katydid loves to eat young leaves, seeds, fruit, nectar, pollen, insects and the odd flower. The Gum Leaf Katydid feeds only on gum leaves.
The Female Katydid lays and glues seed-like eggs along the edges of leaves or on stems, before flying to another location to lay another batch. The eggs usually hatch in early summer, though not always.
When Katydids hatch, they look like large, black ants, which many predators will avoid because of their ability to fight back. This is a great disguise for the baby Katydid that helps keep it safe.
Katydids go through a number of stages of development and moulting before they turn into adults. You may see juvenile Katydids, called 'nymphs', of many different stages around at any time of year. It can take four months or more for a Katydid to turn from a hatchling into an adult.
The nymphs are a bit easier to spot than adult Katydids. At around 1 to 3 cm long, nymphs can be brown, green, greeny-brown or even pink! Their colouring is adaptable to where they live. The new shoots of some plants are pink in colour, so being pink can actually be a great camouflage method.
Katydid nymphs don't have wings - they develop these in adulthood. Both nymphs and adults move quite slowly, but can jump if disturbed. Katydids move underneath leaves during wet weather, and then emerge once it stops to drink some water.
DID YOU KNOW?
Have you ever thought about how an insect hears? Katydids don't have ears on their heads, like humans, but instead they have an ear called a 'tympanum' on each front leg, just below the knee. Up close, this looks like a hole in their leg.
To feed or attract Katydids, you can plant Eucalyptus, Angophora, Bursaria, Leptospermum, Lomandra, Gahnia, Lepidosperma, Dianella, Pteridium, Esculentum, Alpinia, Triodia, Pandanus, Terminalia, Banksia, Acacia, or Xanthorrhoea.