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Katydid - Summer Music Maker
I don't like bugs. Even the harmless are usually too creepy crawly for me. But I do love katydids. Katydids have several things going for them. Their brilliant green color makes them attractive to the eye. They don't bite or sting. Best of all katydids bring music to the night, often commanding the chorus of summer evenings. The sound evokes memories of open windows before air conditioning and falling asleep to nature's lullaby. Once the katydid's song is no longer heard, we know the quiet of winter has settled the land.
Katydid Facts -
Katydids are relatives of crickets and grasshoppers. They can grow over two inches in length and are a bright leafy green color. They have long oval shaped wings which are held vertically over the body resembling roof shingles. The wings have lots of veins and look like leaves. They have very long antennae often extending beyond the tip of the abdomen.
Katydids live in forested areas, in thickets or even in fields where there are plenty of shrubs and trees. They are often heard but not seen preferring to stay at the tops of the trees where more leaves are available. Most katydids are vegetarians but there are some that are predatory on other insects.
Both male and female katydids make sounds. They sing to each other by rubbing their front wings together. With their ears on their front legs they can hear each other's songs. In the early fall, females lay their eggs on stems. The following spring, a nymph is hatched. Katydid nymphs eat and grow. They shed their skin several times as they grow, each time looking more like an adult katydid.
Katydids are not big into flying but will fly short distances when they feel threatened. When they do, it is more like a downward drift. They prefer to climb and walk and when they find themselves on the ground will hike along to the nearest tree and climb it. Katydids have several predators to include spiders, bats, birds, frogs and, at my house, cats.
Katydid Legends -
The katydid is considered a prophet of weather to come. The legend alleges that when the katydids first start their song at night it means the first frost will occur in three months. Later in the summer when the katydid is heard during the day singing from the deep shadows, the first frost is but six weeks away. On the last day before the first hard frost, the katydid sings its own eulogy.
A Cherokee legend has it that hearing a katydid close by is warning of impending death.
Chinese lore includes the katydid as a symbol of thriving prosperity and fertility.
One explanation for the variety of sounds different katydids make is "Some of them say 'katy did', others say 'katy didn't' which gives them an excuse to argue all night.
Another legend about how the katydid got its song is one of unrequited love. It goes like this. Two sisters, Katy and Dora, were in love with the same fellow. When he chose Dora, katy became so angry she murdered him. His spirit transformed into an insect. While his friends were puzzling over his murder one night, he revealed Katy's name in a song - "Katy did, She did, Katy did".
A Mississippi valley legend goes that the reason katydids die in the winter is because they spend all summer singing instead building shelter like the ants do.
Another weather predictor - the earlier in the day you first hear a katydid, the hotter that day will be.
In Brazil, seeing a katydid in the house is a sign of hope.
Katydid Quotes -
"Thou art a female, Katydid!
I know it by the trill
That quivers through thy piercing notes
So petulant and shrill.
I think there is a knot of you
Beneath the hollow tree,
A knot of spinster Katydids, -
Do Katydids drink tea?"
From Oliver Wendell Holmes- To An Insect
"But the katydid - how shall I describe its piquant utterances? One sings from a willow tree just outside my open bedroom window, twenty yards distant; every clear night for a fortnight past has sooth'd me to sleep. I rode through a piece of woods for a hundred yards the other evening, and heard the katydids by myriads- very curious for once; but I like better my single neighbor on the tree."
From Walt Whitman - Prose Works
"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream."
From Shirley Jackson - The Haunting of Hill House.
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