I was out enjoying the nature that is my yard early the other morning, before the blasted heat of the Florida sun made it impossible to stay outside.
I always am looking for new natural patterns on the plants and trees that might reveal clues to Mother Nature’s wonder. These observations are how I learn what I missed for so many years while I lived in oblivion to life going on around me.
Never disappointed, I glanced skyward, looking for critters of interest in my Sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) and was rewarded by a leaf edge that appeared to be full of eggs. I pulled down the branch to get a closer look, took a few photos and headed into the trusty computer to find out exactly what I was encountering.
I headed over to bugguide.net and put in the search terms “eggs” and “sycamore”. Lo’ and behold, Angle-wing Katydids (Microcentrum spp.) popped up. Rather than laying its eggs within plant tissues or in soil, this species lays its eggs in exposed rows on the edges of leaves or along stems.
Katydids can be considered pests because they are herbivorous, consuming foliage, stems, flower petals, fruit of trees, weeds, and crops; some also eat nectar and pollen. On the other hand, a few are known carnivores that prey on other insects so I guess not all are pests. Katydids are capable of biting and may do so if handled roughly.
Katydids have incomplete metamorphosis, having 3 life cycle stages: egg, nymph and adult. As they grow, they shed their exoskeletons (molt). In their last molt, they get wings and they become adults. While some katydid species are active during the day, most are nocturnal. They can move around less likely to be spotted by predators. Katydids are not social; they don’t live in groups.
I learned that the eggs are parasitized by Chalcid Wasps (Anastatus spp.) and upon closer inspection of my photos, I got an additional educational benefit since a wasp was already working on keeping Mom nature in balance.
There are many other natural predators of katydids including spiders, ants, praying mantids, tree frogs, birds and bats. Katydid nymphs are an important diet component for baby birds.
For me the highlight of having katydids in your beautiful wildlife garden is the melodious sounds they provide. It always is a most soothing encounter to lie back on the chaise lounge and listen in on a heated summer night. Nature at it’s best.
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