If you’ve seen a rather large green insect crawling on your plants at night, you might have seen a katydid. But is this katydid a pest or a friend to your garden? I did some digging to find out and it turns out that…
Katydids are not considered to be garden pests. A pest is something that is destructive. Even though katydids eat all parts of plants and many types of fruits in gardens, especially citrus fruit rinds, katydids don’t cause any real damage to these plants or the fruit’s edible flesh. In fact, katydids can be beneficial insects in your garden.
Katydids are often confused with other annoying insects, such as crickets, because of the way they look. If you know what’s in your garden, you know what sort of benefits and damage to expect and how to fight it.
If you have a few katydids singing in your garden at night, it’s best to leave them be because katydids do a lot more good than harm. Let’s find out what katydids are and how you can identify katydids so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.
What are katydids
Katydids are insects. You’ll find katydids all over the world, except Antarctica. Why? Because katydids love cool, dry, desert climates, especially those in the US, Canada, Australia, and Africa.
Katydids are rather large insects, with the adults growing as long as 0.5 to over 2.5 inches (13 – 63.5 mm). If you want to compare, an adult fly is usually 0.3 inches (7.6 mm) long. So katydids can be as long as 8 flies next to each other.
Katydids spend their days hiding in trees and shrubs, and they come out at night to eat smaller insects, grass, fruits. and plant leaves, stems, and roots.
Katydids are also called ‘long-horned grasshoppers’ and ‘bush crickets’ as they look a lot like these insects, but katydids aren’t crickets or grasshoppers. They are related though…
Katydids come from the same insect family as crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts, but the only real similarity between these insects is that they all have straight wings that sit vertically along their body.
How can you tell if you’re looking at a katydid in your garden or if you have katydid eggs? Let’s find out!
How to identify a katydid
If you’re looking for katydids in your garden, focus on tree branches, tall grass blades, and the leaves of plants. Katydids spend most of their time here and not on the ground. Once a katydid has moved in, it will stay in the same area for the rest of its life, which is about 1 year.
Even though there are over 6000 katydid species in the world, most katydids have the following characteristics:
- Katydids have antennae that are very thin and long, often longer than their body
- All katydids have wings, but some species have long, broad wings while others have tiny wings
- Katydids are brown or green, with many katydids having a body and wings shaped like leaves for camouflage
- Adult katydids measure anything from 0.5 to 2.5 inches long
- Katydids have long back legs
- Female katydids may lay dark brown or gray, oval eggs in the soil, on plant stems, or under sticks in late Summer or Fall
- At night, male katydids rub their wings together to make their mating call and attract females. Each katydid species has its own call. One of these sounds like they are singing ‘Katy-did’, which is how the insect got the name ‘katy-did’
Here’s a video where you can see the size, green coloring, and wings of a large katydid. You can also listen to the distinct sound this katydid makes with its wings:
Why katydids are good for the garden
Katydids are good for your garden for two main reasons:
- Some katydids eat destructive insects, such as aphids, and insect eggs. This helps to keep your garden free from harmful pests without insecticides, or at least keep these pests under control.
- Katydids move from plant to plant at night to feed. When a katydid feeds on a flower, pollen from the flower sticks to the katydid’s legs and long antennae. This pollen is then transferred to other flowers when the katydid moves on to eat other flowers. This process is called pollination and it helps the pollinated plants make seeds, which brings you more plants, flowers, and fruit in your garden.
Are katydids pests?
Katydids are not garden pests but can be pests for farmers. Even though katydids don’t cause much damage to plants in gardens or small orchards, some species swarm farms and destroy crops, or infest orchards and make small holes in the fruit skins so farmers can’t sell the fruit. So katydids can be agricultural pests, but such problems are rare.
Commercial farmers use pesticides to stop katydids and other insects from attacking their crops. These pesticides are designed for agriculture and are not available to gardeners like you and me.
A little katydid damage to the garden does not require any action or treatment as katydids don’t do much damage or kill plants. Katydids do eat the leaves and flowers of plants, but you often won’t even notice the damage.
Gardeners report that they’ve found katydids sitting on their roses, azaleas, and daylilies. These katydids are often seen eating the aphids on blooms.
Katydids won’t come into your home or infest structures on your property.
How to spot katydid damage to your fruit
If you grow fruits at home in a garden or orchard, you might be wondering if katydids are enjoying and harming the ‘fruits’ of your labor.
Katydids enjoy eating the following fruits:
- Citrus of all kinds (oranges, lemon, lime, grapefruit, tangelos)
If something is eating your tomato plants, it probably isn’t katydids. Katydids don’t love eating tomatoes and will only eat them if there’s nothing tastier to eat. Click HERE to find out what’s eating your tomato plants at night.
Broadwinged katydids particularly enjoy eating citrus leaves and fruits. These katydids tend to be longer than other types of katydids, with veined wings that look just like citrus leaves.
Katydids usually take a bite from the fruit’s skin or rind when the fruit is still small and unripe. As this fruit grows and ripens, the katydid’s small bite in the skin gets bigger. In a ripe orange or citrus fruit, you’ll notice a shallow hole in the rind that’s about 1 inch across.
This shallow scar in the fruit’s skin does not affect the fruit’s flesh, which you can still eat.
Scars in fruit skin and rinds are not a sure sign you have katydids. You might have locusts or crickets eating your fruit. The only way to know for sure that katydids are eating your fruit is if you see katydids or find a katydid’s eggs on plant stems or in the soil.
How to keep katydids out of your garden
If you’re finding more katydids in your garden than you’d like, and you want to keep katydids out, there are a few things you can do to kill katydids or prevent them from coming into your yard.
- Use a spinosad-based pesticide (Amazon link) on your plants. Spinosad is toxic to insects when eaten, but putting spinosad in your garden will kill other insects too, not only katydids.
- Grow insect-repelling plants near the plants that katydids are eating. It’s believed that katydids won’t go close to marigolds, chrysanthemums, lavender, cilantro, or garlic.
- Cut down shrubs and mow long grass, to give katydids fewer places to hide in your garden.
- Use a butterfly net to catch katydids at night. Relocate them to a nearby natural area.
- Try to attract katydids’ natural predators to your garden, such as birds, bats, spiders, tree frogs, praying mantids, and parasitic wasps. These animals and insects eat katydids and katydid eggs, keeping the local katydid population under control.