Okay, so what was your guess? Most of you probably guessed that it was a prehistoric monster but this is actually the Spotted or Mottled Katydid.
Let’s begin by explaining the difference between grasshoppers and katydids.
First of all, both grasshoppers and katydids come from the same “order” called Orthoptera, or “straight wings”, as do crickets. The katydid and cricket are actually more closely related because of something called ‘stridulation’. This is what it’s called when these insects make their distinctive noise by rubbing parts of their bodies together. Grasshoppers and locusts have a row of sharp pegs on the backs of their legs and produce their sound by rubbing these ‘combs’ together. Katydids and crickets, however, create their sounds by rubbing their wings together. This entire order of insects, remarkably, are able to hear the sounds from other insects (as when they are looking for a mate) through an ear — or tympanum — located just below the knee on their front leg. Although certain kinds of grasshoppers can have their ears on the sides of their abdomen.
The above picture is a grasshopper (probably the biggest I’ve found) and you can clearly see the combs on the backs of the legs that they use for stridulation. Grasshoppers also have a slimmer body and shorter antennae. Katydids have long antennae (sometimes longer than their body) and a more round or robust body shape that usually resembles a leaf, even down to the veins in the leaf. (See below) Female katydids have a long, upwardly curving egg-laying structure (ovipositor) underneath the abdomen that, in my opinion, looks like a weapon or stinger of sorts.
All straight wings (grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and katydids) have the following features:
-Ability to make sounds
-Powerful rear legs for jumping
-Long, thin or short antennae
-Metamorphosis from wingless (nymphs) to winged (adults)
As far as diet goes, grasshoppers feed mainly on grasses (herbivores) but will also eat a variety of other plants. Katydids, however, will feed on vegetation, pollen and nectar and even other insects (omnivores). And both serve as meals to a variety of predators…including people. In some countries grasshoppers are fried, roasted and some are even dipped in chocolate!
Perhaps the most interesting bit of information I found while researching the above Spotted Katydid, was that at different stages of some katydid’s developement or instars (phase between two periods of molting) they actually mimick other insects in their appearance. So, while they are wingless nymphs, some may have the physical attributes of a black ant. Katydids will go through four nymphal instars lasting about 30-40 days.
So, there’s a quick lesson on how to tell the difference between a katydid and a grasshopper. And as always, don’t forget to send me pics of your own buggy findings and I’ll post them on the site!