Saturday, July 13, 2013
The Gladiators Are Coming!
The time has finally arrived for the first of our native katydids to take the stage! The Gladiator Meadow Katydids (Orchelimum gladiator) have begun singing in wetlands and damp meadow areas across NE Ohio.
People who only know the Common True Katydid understandably confuse meadow katydids with the green grasshopper nymphs and Northern Green-striped Grasshoppers that are so common in similar habitats right now. There is an easy way to the difference: katydids have long antennae and grasshoppers have short ones. Grasshoppers also appear to have bulkier, more powerful “thighs” as if they do squats (see the comparison photos below).
Really, though, just look for long or short antennae - it’s that easy.
Gladiators sing anytime from late June through July in the afternoon as well as into the evening, so their songs often are accompanied by bird songs and calls. The Gladiator’s song is primarily a long “purrrr” with a few short, soft “tics” at the end. The “purrrr” can be fairly long, but the length is variable. The number of “tics” is variable as well. The songs cover a wide band of frequencies from about 7000 Hz up to 20,000. At these frequencies, it is more of a swishing sound that anything we humans will perceive as pitches. (The song is only loud to children and people in very early adulthood, becoming softer and less easy to hear with age.)
These little katydids blend beautifully with grasses and sedges. They can be very difficult to spot even when they are singing right in front of you! Look on stems of sedges, rushes, timothy, and even thistles, asters, and goldenrod. A bulrush stem is a perfect singing perch, but they will shift their bodies in an instant to place the stem between you and them. You may only see their feet and long antennae – IF you’re lucky to see them at all!
Like all katydids, Gladiators are very gentle and their only defenses are hiding and escape. They can be coaxed onto hands and fingers, where they will nibble at your skin so lightly that you will barely be able to feel it.
It’s a great way to admire their beauty up close!
Their movements and curious positions are fascinating to watch, and they seem to have exceptionally beautiful eyes. It’s worth the effort to find them, and you can enjoy their soft, pleasant songs while you search for them.