Last night after darkness fell over the city, a cacophony of voices and fluttering wings filled the night. I stepped outside to investigate and had two katydids land on me as they flitted around the patio. I heard at least three species, perhaps four, but decided to leave them to their impulses rather than attempt a nighttime photography session.
When the clock of life begins winding down for winter, here in Texas many katydid species congregate in larger and larger groups, each individual driven by the desire to mate, to ensure the longevity of their kind. So a few weeks ago after the rain stopped and the sun appeared, I took a walk hoping to find this autumnal magic. And find it I did.
Across the floodplain from my home rests a line of thicket surrounding the Dixon Branch woodlands. Dense brush fills the understory along the forest edge and extends beyond the drip line. The combination of riparian woods outlined with heavy scrub proffers a variety of life. On this occasion, it teemed with katydids.
The largest and most obvious species was the fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata). Both males and females busily ate every bit of green they could find.
Though I did not see individuals getting to know each other in the biblical sense, katydids as a general rule prefer saving their intimacy until after nightfall. That is when they usually sing to each other and seek the embrace of like-minded mates.
One problem with photographing katydids stems from the length of their antennae. As you can see in the above image, a katydid antenna normally stretches more than one body length, and in some species an antenna can be several times as long as the body. The antennae length is why katydids are also called long-horned meadow grasshoppers (though they are not really grasshoppers).
As I walked the length of the floodplain (watching for cottonmouths who like to sun at the edge of the drip line), I felt a rush of joy seeing the air filled with katydids, every branch hosting at least one species of these insects, every plant heavy with critters hiding in plain sight.
The fast disappearing verdant growth will fuel the hope of their kind. The remaining warm days and cool nights will embrace them as they embrace each other. The final days of autumn will be home to the last stand of the katydids.
[more photos of different species from this walk will be shared in later posts]