Posts Tagged: katydid
Decades after he passed, a cousin gave me a set of his books from his childhood home. One was "The Early Poems of Oliver Wendell Holmes," published in 1899 by T. Y. Crowell and Company.
In it is a poem, "To an Insect," and it's about katydids.
"I love to hear thine earnest voice,
Wherever thou art hid
Thou testy little dogmatist
Thou pretty Katydid!
Thou mindest me of gentlefolks,
Old gentle folks are they,
Thon say'st an undisputed thing
In such a solemn way."
Holmes (1809-1894), a physician, poet and professor, goes on to describe the sounds of a katydid as "thy piercing notes, so petulant and shrill" and asks "Oh, tell me where did Katy live and what did Katy do?"
Katydids, like grasshoppers and crickets, belong to the order Orthoptera. The katydid family, Teggigonildae, includes more than 6400 species. They're found throughout the world, with the greatest diversity in the tropics. They live where their host plants are.
Last weekend we saw long filamentous antennae poking from behind the red salvia in our yard. Upon closer inspection, it belong to a...drum roll...katydid.
The katydid is no friend of the farmer; it can wreak havoc in agricultural crops. Still, there's something about a katydid that makes you stop and ask "Katydid or Katy didn't?"
Or as Oliver Wendell Holmes pondered "What did Katy do?"
Katydid on salvia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Its stance is firm. Its eyes glow menacingly. Its attitude: "Don't mess with me."
We spotted this katydid on a rose in a UC Davis rose garden. It towered over the honey bees, spotted cucumber beetles, ladybugs, hover flies, and assorted other insects.
The katydid, in the family Tettigonlidae, is also known as a long-horned grasshopper, but entomologists point out it's more closely related to crickets than grasshoppers.
Tettigoniids dine on flowers, leaves, bark and seed, and some feed on other insects.
Now if the katydid were six feet tall...that would scare any trick-or-treater...
As a child growing up in Washington state, I received an entomological nickname.
My father, in a take-off of the name, Kate, affectionately called me "Katydid."
Katy did. Katy didn't.
Maybe Katy did. Maybe Katy didn't.
Whatever, I've always loved the sounds of katydids performing their nighttime concerts, or rather, their mating calls. (Listen to the sounds; lean back, close your eyes, and you can almost hear "Katy did. Katy didn't.")
Scientists classify katydids in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera, and family Tettigoniidae.
Agriculturists consider them pests; stone fruit growers try to eradicate them from their orchards.
So, was I surprised last week to see a katydid tucked inside one of our pomegranate blossoms. Honey bees, yes. Leafcutter bees, yes. Sweat bees, yes.
But a katydid?
At first glance, the green critter resembled an exotic Walt Disney cartoon character: long, awkward-looking hind legs; long, threadlike antennae; and beady eyes.
Yes, a katydid. A juvenile.
Maybe, just maybe, we'll someday hear the sounds of "Katy did. Katy didn't."
Maybe Katy will. Maybe Katy won't.