Bush Katydids: genus Scudderia
Curve-tailed Bush Katydid female
These katydids are also considered "false katydids." You’ll probably see from time to time, even in the daylight. Are you studying pollinators, butterflies and day-flying moths, beetles, meadow wildflowers, or generally observing the many surprises one can find in a meadow? Watch for a leaf that moves on its own, or a leaf with antennae.
They’re present. They’re just well camouflaged. Once you realize you’re looking at an insect, you may wonder how you ever overlooked something as substantial as a bush katydid. They’re about an inch and a half to two inches or a little more.
We’ll look at five of them in this field guide: the Broad-winged Bush Katydid, Curve-tailed Bush Katydid, Texas Bush Katydid, Fork-tailed Bush Katydid, and the Northern Bush Katydid. A sixth species – the Treetop Bush Katydid - has been found in the snowbelt but seems to be quite uncommon. Its residence (treetops) and its song (a simple “tsip!”) add to the challenge of locating this species. I have seen just one to date – an individual in Ashtabula County that had likely been knocked down from its tree in thundershower.
Only one other bush katydid lives in the trees, and that’s the Northern Bush Katydid. Their high, intricate songs are difficult to hear, and they're a little smaller than the other Scudderia. They are attracted to light, however, so they may fly down to a back porch, a garage, or a moth sheet. If this species is in your area (certainly Geauga County), listen for their very light, complex songs in the second week of July.
The other four species are meadow and edge-habitat residents. Look for them at the edge of wetlands as well. They are not forest species, but the Fork-tailed and Curve-tailed may also be in shrubs in a meadow, in hedge rows, or at the edge of wooded areas.
As is often the case with katydids, the species look similar and their songs are better indicators of their differences. Knowing when they mature is also helpful.
For example, the Broad-winged Bush Katydid matures the first week of July or perhaps the last week of June if it’s been a warm month. Because their season is so early, I don’t typically see or hear them past mid-August.
The Curve-tailed Bush Katydid, which is abundant in Ohio, begins to sing later in July,
The Fork-tailed Bush Katydid has such a simple song that it’s very easy to overlook. Listen - and especially look – for them in late July or the beginning of August. This is a katydid you can expect to find well into the fall.
The Texas Bush Katydid is the last to mature (early August) and also lives until frost.
The most reliable way to identify the Broad-winged, Curve-tailed, and Texas Bush Katydids (below) to species is the male’s tail plate, or dorsal process. Please do not expect that they will willingly pose for you while you study them but see if you can get a photo for later.
The females of these three species have large, broad, curved ovipositors that are similar. The angle of the curve, however, is a bit different. (Pictured: Broad-winged Bush Katydid and Curve-tailed Bush Katydid. The Texas Bush Katydid's ovipositor has a sharper upward curve.)
The male and female Fork-tailed are the least challenging to identify, as the male's tail plate and the female's ovipositor are pinkish-purple instead of green. It’s immediately obvious, so there’s one identification that’s relatively easy!
Here are links to male and female bush katydid identification. The ovipositor drawings will be helpful. There is also a splendid series of photos of a pink form Fork-tailed Bush Katydid ovipositing between the layers of a leaf!
Below is a summary of when our regional bush katydid species begin singing, their habitats, songs, and color. You'll find more information on each species' individual page.
Broad-winged Bush Katydid: end of June/beginning of July. Meadows. There's a simple day song that sounds like a little drum roll, and a longer night song that has an increasing number of “tsips.” Very green.
Curve-tailed Bush Katydid: third week of July. Meadows, edge habitat, wetland edges. Sings primarily at night. Song is a series of two to four very deliberate “tzits.” Green with pink on their very long rear legs.
Fork-tailed Bush Katydid: late July/beginning of August. Meadows, edge habitat. Sings at night and song is a very simple “tsit!” Smaller that most of the Scudderia. Purple tail plate or ovipositor. These katydids may become more bronzed and autumnal in color late in the season.
Texas Bush Katydid: early to mid-August. Meadows and wetland edges. Short day song (a few very fast “tsips”) and longer, bouncy night song. Green with bronze highlights and red accents on the upper wing edges and legs.
The Northern Bush Katydid is not likely to be found with the others because it’s in the trees or at lights at night, though sometimes a Curve-tailed will also come to a moth sheet or window at night.