A Katydid bug is shown on a green blade of grass in this file photo.

The Gardener’s Guide To Katydids

Has your garden been overrun with little green grasshoppers? Katydids are leaf-eaters and will flock to your garden to nibble fresh leaves. This, of course, presents problems for the average gardener because they do pose a risk to vegetation in large numbers. In this article, you will learn what katydids are. And what to do if your garden is suddenly swarmed with katydids. 

Katydid bugs are a type of bush cricket commonly found in North America and Australia. However, they originated in the Amazon, and today you can find the highest number of katydids in the Amazon forest. They are also known as “long-haired grasshoppers,” with characteristic long antennae.

Katydids can damage fruit and vegetation, but as you’ll learn, they are relatively easy to control compared to other types of garden pests. 

What Are Katydid Bugs?

Katydids are a type of insect that belongs to a family of grasshoppers called Tettigoniidae. There are over 6,000 species within this large family of insects. Many of them are extinct, but at least a few hundred are found on every continent except in Antarctica. 

In North America alone, there are over 250 species of katydid.

Katydids are almost always green. The bugs have some markings on their bodies that help keep them camouflaged against predators such as caterpillars. Like all grasshoppers, katydids have strong back legs that they use to jump and hop around, and they can generate sound by rubbing their front wings together.

Katydids get their name from the sound they make from rubbing their wings – which forms the sound ka-ty-did – and is sung all night by males to communicate to females and attract a mate.  

The Lifecycle Of Katydids

They start as tiny oval-shaped eggs laid on the ground. The eggs are also often laid in holes, and on plants, usually arranged in rows, right at the end of summer. When they hatch, the insects come out looking like miniature versions of katydids. They have little green bodies, small wings, and a somewhat large head. They go through several stages of growth, during which they shed their exoskeleton and take on the form of an adult katydid.     

Females judge the fitness of potential mates based on the fluency and volume of their chirp.  

Are Katydids Dangerous?

For the most part, this garden pest (like most grasshoppers) are gentle insects that mostly feed on green leaves. Some of the larger ones can bite if you grab them, but this is only when they feel threatened, and they will rarely attack. Their defense mechanism involves flight, not aggression, so the only real danger they pose is to your garden. 

On the off chance that you get bitten by a katydid, the bite won’t be severe; in fact, it won’t hurt any more than a mosquito bite (probably less so), and you can avoid this by wearing gloves before handling them. In any case, you won’t bleed from the bite, as they can’t break the skin, unless in rare cases.  

Here’s what to do if bitten by katydids:

You probably won’t need medical attention, so focus on reducing the itch with a cold compress or wash the area with cold, flowing water and soap to prevent swelling. If you must use a disinfectant or anti-inflammatory, it should help speed up healing, but it is unnecessary as the wound doesn’t pose any real danger of infection.   

What Attracts Katydids?

Like crickets and regular grasshoppers, katydids are attracted to leaves and grass in your garden or property. And at night, they may be attracted to bright light. There are several plants that they favor more than others, so if you have these on your property, there’s a good chance that a few of these insects will find their way into your property:

  • Citrus leaves
  • Acacia
  • Eucalyptus
  • Alpinia
  • Bursaria 
  • Angophora
  • Flax lilies

If you have an orchard, the fork-winged katydid may present a real challenge because of its attraction to citrus leaves; but the good news is they can be dealt with the same way as other species of katydids and grasshoppers.  

Do Katydids Pose A Danger To Pets, People, Or Your Garden?

Katydids are only known to nibble on leaves, and aside from causing some damage to your garden, they won’t pose any danger to people or pets. There are types of locusts and grasshoppers that will destroy a garden within a short time, eating everything they come across. However, katydids are mild eaters in comparison and will only inflict a small degree of damage to your garden, leaving you plenty of time to get rid of them before they can get out of hand. 

Some katydids species can feed on smaller insects, including other critters, and their presence may serve to deter other types of insects from invading your garden.

How To Get Rid Of Katydid Bugs

As fewer people use carbamate and organophosphate insecticides, katydids have become more numerous in North America. There are several biological and organic control methods that you can apply to prevent or deter katydids from attacking your plants and trees:   

Set traps

Like most insects, katydids are attracted to light, which makes this the easiest way to trap them. Keep in mind that light traps vary, and not everybody is comfortable killing insects: So determine if you want to trap and zap them with electricity or trap them and release them elsewhere. 

Use bug spray

When purchasing insecticides, please pay attention to the damage they may be causing to the natural balance of life and chemicals in your garden (and the environment at large). That being said, insecticides offer an immediate solution to most garden pests, but they are not necessarily the best solution. Check online for insecticides that work on critters and hoppers if this is your preferred method.    

Introduce insect-repellent plants to your garden

Consider planting chrysanthemums in your garden to help get rid of katydids. These plants contain a compound called pyrethrin that kills insects, and the best part is, it won’t affect your garden or pollute the soil in any way. Besides that, you can also plant lavender, garlic, cilantro, and many more plants that are known to repel insects.     

Get rid of tall grass and compost.

Tall grass attracts all kinds of critters, including katydids. If your garden overruns with tall grass and bushes, that can be a significant reason for these and more insects to attack your vegetation. Cut down excess grass and check for places that may serve as perfect hangouts for these insects, and either spray them or mow the grass. 

All kinds of insects can use compost to lay eggs, including katydids, so you may want to keep it further away from your plants or stop piling up on compost altogether.   

Create a homemade spray

You can mix up compounds in the home to use against insects, and they work amazingly well. Start mixing a clove of garlic with soap and Tobasco sauce, and add about 25 ounces of water, adding each ingredient as needed. Check online for a variety of ingredients that you can use to make your own homemade bug spray.     

How To Monitor Katydids In Your Garden

Start watching for katydids in April, before the petals fall, as this is when they start attacking fresh leaves. Inspect a few trees in your garden, taking about 2-3 minutes per tree, and then try to determine how many they are on average. Remember, katydids can see you coming and hide behind leaves to avoid detection. In general, look out for damaged leaves and inspect them to determine if the cause of damage is katydids. 

In Closing

Katydids are not particularly dangerous, but they can pose a danger to your plants if left unchecked. Luckily, there are several different approaches that you can take to control or eliminate them; and this article helps you do just that. 

Remember, you may get nipped on your hand if you pick one up, but it probably won’t break through your skin or cause any severe discomfort. These are mostly harmless little creatures that chew on green leaves without causing disease or any other imbalance to your garden. 

Katydid FAQ

Sources

  1. Katydid (disambiguation), Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katydid_(disambiguation), Accessed 16/02/2021.
  2. Tettigoniidae, Wikipedia, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tettigoniidae#:~:text=Insects%20in%20the%20family%20Tettigoniidae,”long-horned%20grasshoppers”.&text=Many%20katydids%20exhibit%20mimicry%20and,and%20colors%20similar%20to%20leaves, Accessed 16/02/2021.
  3. Can Katydid Bugs Bite You?, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/katydid-bite, Accessed 16/02/2021.
  4. Katydids: Agriculture, Citrus, and Pest Management Guidelines, University of California Regents, https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/citrus/Katydids/, Accessed 16/02/2021. 
  5. Katydids, Wisconsin Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, https://hort.extension.wisc.edu/articles/katydids/, Accessed 16/02/2021.  

More From Farmer Jer

Still Hungry For More? How About These Gardening Articles?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Farmer Jer on his Gardening Adventure

Subscribe to the Farmer Jer newsletter.

Scroll to Top