Anatomical Terminology and Habitat Definitions
It’s generally straightforward.
We have a head, thorax, and abdomen. So do they.
Our thigh bone is the femur. The upper segment of each of their legs is the femur.
Our shinbone is the tibia. The lower segment of each of their legs is the tibia.
They have a tarsus – a foot - at the end of each leg. It consists of several small segments. We have several tarsal bones in our own ankles/feet.
If you observe these insects closely, you’ll notice that they generally get around by walking. They jump when necessary to cover a lot of distance quickly, but it requires a considerable expenditure of energy.
All six legs and the wings connect to the thorax.
The forewings – upper wings – are the tegmina. The male’s song-producing file and scraper are at the base of the tegmina.
The hindwings underneath them are used for flight in katydids and crickets with long wings. In the photo of the Four-spotted Tree Cricket below, you can see right through the clear tegmina to his hindwings below. The hindwings are not directly underneath - they are folded partially against his sides.
Many species do not fly, but long-winged individuals of species that typically have short wings will be able to fly, like the long-winged form of the Spring Trig. You can see that his tegmina are the upper wings and his hindwings - which, in this case, are long - are underneath the tegmina and extend behind him to the end of his rear tibia.
Four-spotted Tree Cricket's tegmina
This long-winged form of the Spring Trig has visible
hindwings beneath his shorter tegmina
At the base of the male's tibia, this is where the sound is produced. One wing has a file and the other has a scraper. The left wing crosses over the right in katydids and the right crosses over the left in crickets. There are photos on the "How, Why and When Do They Sing" page
Paired appendages at the end of the abdomen. Cricket cerci are longer than those of the katydids. Meadow katydid cerci are very helpful for identification, as each species has its own unique shape.
Short-winged Meadow Katydid cerci
Straight-lanced Meadow Katydid cerci
Fall Field Cricket cerci
You’ll see maxillary palps more prominently in some of these insects than others. They are sensory organs that are sometimes helpful in species identification and otherwise, simply fascinating to observe. The most obvious are those of the Handsome Trig, whose palps are constantly in motion. Sword-bearing Coneheads use theirs to help stuff seeds into their mouths. The palps of Cuban Ground Crickets and Confused Ground Crickets are helpful species identifiers because of the amount of white on them.
Handsome Trig palps
Sword-bearing Conehead palps
Texas Bush Katydid palps
The structure that covers the top and sides of the upper thorax. A shieldback katydid will have an especially impressive pronotum. (Pictured: Texas Bush Katydid and Roesel's Katydid.)
Tympana (singular: tympanum)
Their eardrums, which are located at the top of the tibia on their front legs. See more in "How they hear" in the "How, Why, and When do they Sing" page.
Texas Bush Katydid ear on its front tibia
Immature katydid or cricket.
Crickets and katydids molt several times before their final molt into adulthood. Each growth stage between molts is an instar. This process is called incomplete metamorphosis, unlike the dramatic transformation of complete metamorphosis that we witness with butterflies.
Tiny wings that appear in the later instars. The wings reach full size with the final molt into adulthood
Reproductive terminology illustrations can be found on the Reproduction page
During copulation, the male deposits a spermatophore, or sperm packetm that will be absorbed by the female.
In katydids, the sperm packet itself is surrounded by a nutritious substance called the spermatophylax. The female eats the spermatophylax while the spermatophore is being absorbed.
While the female cricket’s spermatophore is being absorbed, she consumes a sweet substance located in the metanotal gland at the base of the male’s wings. She is positioned on top of the male so that she can access this gland.
Females have ovipositors for depositing theirs eggs in various parts of plants or in the soil. Where they place their eggs depends on the species. See the Reproduction and ovipositing page for photos.
Sonogram, sonagram, spectrograph, spectrogram: all these terms refer to the visual representation of the sound in these recordings. How loud or soft it is will be indicated by the amplitude and how high or low the pitch is will be shown by the height on the sonogram (the y axis). Rhythmic patterns are also indicated (along the X axis). Reading a sonogram is like reading the music of the song. If you follow a sonogram while listening to the song, it will quickly become apparent.
To simplify for the recordings in this field guide: If there is a green layer, this is showing how often a sound occurs and how loud it is. This indicates rhythmic patterns very well
The red-orange layer measures frequency - not how often, but how high or low the pitch (frequency) is and how many pitches might be occurring at a given time. You'll see when the sound is happening and when it's not, and the brighter the intensity of the color, the louder it will sound.
The combination of the two gives the most complete picture, but we don't always need to see all of this information. Unlike crickets, katydids generally sing high-frequency, complex songs that do not lend themselves to pitch recognition. We need to see the rhythm. The green section is all we need for the rhythmic pattern and loudness.
When you listen to the recording, I think you'll find that in this case, the green images on top best represent what you're hearing. The orange, however, does show you just what a high-frequency song this is. (Example below: Common Meadow Katydid.)
Some habitat definitions are fairly standard and widely agreed-upon. But what about meadow, field, and edge habitat? Yet these are the habitats of many of our crickets and katydids. This guide uses them as follows;
In NE Ohio, a typical meadow will have goldenrod - probably multiple species - and various asters. There will be a range of forbs, likely including both natives and non-natives. Queen Anne's lace would be common, and Joe-pye, inronweed, penstemon, common milkweed, and other wildflowers will likely be present.. There will probably be grasses mixed in with everything else. The more diverse the plant life, the more diverse the insect life.
A meadow may have blackberry scattered in it and occasional shrubs, but it is primarily open. We usually have enough rainfall here to support dense growth, so some of them will have ironweed, Joe-pye, goldenrod and other wildflowers that are 6 feet and taller. A shrubby meadow might have more blackberry, some multiflora rose, some grapevines, and some dogwood mixed in with the goldenrod, asters, and other forbes.
Frohring Meadows, Geauga Park District
Field, or "grassy field"
A field has more grasses. This could be pasture, or perhaps a field that's been planted with native grasses such as big bluestem. Coneheads and several of the meadow katydid species love to feast on grass seeds, and some of the tree cricket species like the Four-spotted are common in grassy fields. I'll often specify "grassy field" if this is the case. Even reed canary grass will have singing insects
There are other open areas that are more shrubby, so specifying "shrubby field" would be appropriate.
The former Richfield Coliseum site in Summit County
is now an Important Bird Area for grassland birds.
The edges of wetlands are often excellent locations for singing insects, and some meadow katydids require this habitat. A few, in fact, actually live in the wetlands themselves. Any trail that takes you to an open wetland area is likely one to explore.
Shaded wetland areas with woodlands will have some singing insects, but open, sunny ones will have many more.
Wetland at Frohring Meadows, Geauga Park District
Edge habitat typically refers to the transitional area between woodland and meadow/field/shrubby areas. These are often very good areas to search for both crickets and katydids. Species that typically live just in a little inside the woods may often be found here (like Oblong-winged and Rattler Round-winged Katydids) as well as Narrow-winged and Snowy Tree Crickets, Jumping Bush Crickets, and most of the bush katydids.