I took this photo of katydid in October 2014. I saw the “happy hoppy” at the top of our door one afternoon and I felt compelled to take my mobile out to snap. Pardon me if I cannot provide you the scientific name of this fascinating creature — because that is a job of a professional entomologist. And I, as a biologist, will just share some general facts and info on the amazing group that Happy Hoppy belongs to.
Is it a grasshopper (tipaklong) or a cricket (kuliglig)?
Is Happy Hoppy a grasshopper or a cricket? That’s a very tricky question. Well, katydids are also known as long-horned grasshoppers. However, one of the things that set apart a grasshopper from cricket is its antennae. Crickets have longer antennae than grasshoppers. And katydids, as the photo shows, have a long pair of antennae.
So Happy Hoppy here can be easily confused as a grasshopper. But it is more closely related to crickets. This one, in particular, is a bush cricket. So, that means if we are to translate katydid in Filipino, it’s kuliglig, not tipaklong. But, many of us are so used to calling it tipaklong because green hoppers are often called as grasshoppers and the brown hoppers singing at night (as if on queue) as crickets.
Katydids are bush crickets. They belong to the animal family, Tettigoniidae [Krauss, 1902].
Katydid – the grasshopper-like insect
Katydids, like grasshoppers, are amazing jumpers. They can jump high then land on the surface like us jumping over a puddle. But actually, they jump so high and so far that it’s like they are jumping across a football field. Thanks to their super long legs! Their legs act like springs that catapult them up in the air. However, when it comes to flying, they’re kinda awkward in that regard. They’re poor flyers. Good thing for katydids, they are good at camouflage. Their color (typically green) and wings that resemble leaf markings help them blend in the leafy surroundings.
Identifying a katydid from a grasshopper is important especially if you have a crop field to take care of. That’s because grasshoppers eat a lot! And they can eat as much as half of their body weight each day. Yes, each day! I can’t imagine doing the same. My gut is going to curse me and ask for a pay raise because of overwork. But to a grasshopper? Oh! That’s just a piece of grassy cake. That’s why they can be a nuisance to farmers if they visit a crop field en masse. They’ll be partying over a crop field, grazing and chewing on grasses and other plant leaves like there is no tomorrow. It’s like they’ve seen a banquet and gatecrashed to a party they were not invited to. It’s not because they’re uncouth or ill-mannered. It’s just that they’re programmed to eat that much and even dine in swarms.
But that’s a grasshopper thing!
For katydids, it’s a katydidn’t. They do not dine as one million-solid throng. And they eat not just veggies. Sometimes, they eat other insects, like aphids.
They may not eat out as swarms but they do sing as one. Like a marvelous choir. At night. They “sing” to woo the female katydid audience. It’s a mating ritual thing.
So, similar to grasshoppers, they can be quite noisy. To some humans, at least. To katydids, that’s erotic singing. Why male katydids sing in unison still baffles scientists. What they know so far is that the female katydids swoon over the male choir leader — the one to hit the notes first (source), as they listen through their forelegs… Well, that’s because katydids do not have ears like ours. Rather, they have a specialized hearing organ in each foreleg for sensing sounds.
Katydids sing with their wings. They rub their ridged forewings together to produce that screeching, rasping sound. Entomologists call that sound-making stridulation.
It is their distinctive song where they got their name. The lyrics apparently have only two phrases, “katy did, katy didn’t” — which they sing on repeat. Now, that’s definitely pop music!