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Fork-tailed Bush Katydid

Fork-tailed Bush Katydid (Scudderia furcata)

Occurrence

All counties in our region

Habitat

Shrubby meadows and woodland edges.

Physical description

One of the smaller Scudderia bush katydids – only the arboreal Northern Bush Katydid is similar in size. The female has a distinctive pinkish-purple ovipositor, and the male has a similarly-colored tail plate that appears forked. This color is apparent even in the nymphs, and it certainly makes identification easier!

Female's ovipositor
Male's tail plate
Female nymph
Male nymph

Song:

“Pffftt!” That’s all it is. There can be a lengthy pause between songs.

Fork-tailed Bush Katydid - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
00:00 / 00:00

Adult season

Late July through much of October.

General description and context

This common, hardy, adaptable katydid can be found in a variety of habitats and its range is actually coast to coast. Their very short song is difficult to separate out from the general singing insect song texture because it is very simple, there are substantial pauses of 3-4 seconds between each “pffftt”, and the very high pitch frequency of the song can be difficult to hear.

Similar species

The female’s ovipositor and the male’s tail plate (located at the far end of his abdomen) are distinctive because of their purple color. Only the Treetop Bush Katydid has a similar color, but they live up in the trees and may be rare. I have only seen one once (in Ashtabula County), and I believe it was knocked down from its trees in a thundershower.

One can easily confuse the Fork-tailed’s song with the “tzip!” call of the Greater Angle-wing, and Greater Angle-wings can be in the same shrubs as Fork-taileds as well as up in trees. The Angle-wing’s calls more frequently – closer to two seconds apart than the Fork-tailed’s 3-4 seconds.

 

In this composite recording below, I've shortened the amount of time between the Fork-tailed songs so the track isn't quite as long. When you hear additional crickets singing, we've moved to the greater Angle-wing tzit calls. I think the latter is sharper, cleaner, and more percussive, but acoustics in the field would make the differences far less obvious.

Fork-tailed songs followed by Greater Angle-wing tzit calls - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
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Field observation

These hardy katydids live well into the fall and sometimes seems to change color to match their surrounding vegetation as fall progresses. Their autumn coloration can be quite beautiful. Perhaps this is a result of the changing color of the vegetation they're eating?

 

Listening in Nature

http://listeninginnature.blogspot.com/2017/10/a-katydids-studio-recording-session.html

 

Songs of Insects:

http://songsofinsects.com/katydids/fork-tailed-bush-katydid

 

Singing Insects of North America:

http://www.entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/buzz/063a.htm

Female Fork-tailed Bush Katydid's final molt into adulthood.