Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cricket or Katydid or What?

Late entry---written 9/18/09

A large lime-green leaf-looking insect appears on the outside of my kitchen window, well displayed by porch light and proximity. Fascinating as insects are, I usually avoid writing about them due to ignorance, particularly on the current question that keeps re-presenting itself: Who makes the consuming night noises in the trees---crickets or katydids or locusts or what? Additionally, I find it hard to describe sounds---though who can avoid notice of and attention to the late summer screech of these stridulating lovers?

Tonight the green thing on my window screams, "Write about me!" Or maybe, "Katydid Kate!" Alarmed to discover how little I know about it, not even its name, I remark only on the near perfect camouflage that copies the veins of a leaf in its wings; or its long long antennae, nearly twice the length of its two-inch body; and of course the elbow-like hind legs, full of potential for surprise. I'm glad a glass is between us, since my nose is but inches away. I hope to observe a little wing-rubbing, or to find the ear buds on the legs, but this specimen jumped back into the night after only a few seconds under my scrutiny.

I retreated to the internet for facts, there to consume what was left of the evening. It cleared my confusion right up. I discover that this was indeed a katydid, or bush cricket, but not a true cricket, one of hundreds and hundreds of species of "long-horned grasshoppers," which are not true grasshoppers, and are in turn a huge sub-category in the even larger category of orthoptera, meaning straight- or parallel-winged and including the major families of grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, AND katydids. That is: grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, and katydids each belong to their own families under the larger order orthoptera, but the species and sub-groups within each family often carry the names of the other distinct families. Hence: A katydid, sometimes called a bush cricket, is a member of the long-horned grasshopper division, but is neither a grasshopper nor a cricket. It is singular in its katydidness.

The umbrella progression of the family katydid goes something like this: Phylum/Arthuropod: Class/Insecta: Order/Orthoptera: Family/Tettigoniidae (katydids)---not to be confused with the many individual species of tettigoniidonous katydids, all of which carry equally cross-referenced names within the family tettigoniidae. I have no idea as to WHICH species my kitchen katydid belongs, nor do I care. But I'm pleased to be pretty sure that the creatures that make the night noises in Decatur, Georgia are probably katydids, not crickets, grasshoppers, or locusts. But they might be. It depends on the year and the website you consult. dkm

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