Summary: The katydid has a pleasant and familiar song, but a large population of these grasshopper-like insects could have you pleading for peace and quiet.
Also known as long-horned grasshoppers, because of the length of their antennae, Katydids are actually more closely related to crickets. With around 255 species in North America, all of them nocturnal, and most pretty well camouflaged, you're more likely to hear the Katydid than to see it.
Like crickets and grasshoppers, male katydids serenade the females and in many species the females reply by chirping, too. So if you're being kept awake at night by what you think are grasshoppers, the chances are you're actually listening to Katydids.
The diet of Katydids includes leaves, flowers, bark and seeds, many species will supplement their diet with insects, snails and even small snakes and lizards. Unfortunately, while many species may eat aphids and other insects that may infest your plants, they're quite indiscriminate and will happily munch on the very plants you want to protect. In fact, some are treated as pests by commercial crop growers who use sprays to limit their growth.
If you want to get rid of katydids, think in terms of a three step program. Habitat, deterrents and removal. First, reduce the number of attractive habitats for katydids, crickets and grasshoppers in your garden. Clean out gutters where damp collected debris offers a welcome haven. Trim any long grass areas down to a low level since they love long grass, and sweep the cuttings away from the house. If you have a compost heap, keep it a good distance from the home, and if you bin it, keep the bin a good distance away and ensure the lid is held down securely.
Next, use deterrents to discourage them from feeding on your plants. There are two ways to do this. You can plant "barrier plants" that these insects are repelled by such as horehound, cilantro, calendula or alliums. These crops will repel a wide range of insects long term, but if you don't have time to grow them, a short term solution is to use a repellent spray.
Try solutions of garlic oil, neem oil or Tabasco mixed with water and spray the plants. While the garlic and Tabasco will repel the katydids, neem oil acts not only as a repellent, but also as an anti-feed and growth regulator, and even sterilizes some species. If using insecticides such as Talstar Pro, read the instructions carefully and follow the manufacturers instructions.
If using barrier crops and sprays to protect your treasured plants is not enough for you and you don't want to listen to the "Katy did, Katdy didn't," argument all night, you can reduce their numbers by trapping and removing Katydids in home made traps. Mix a solution of black strap molasses diluted in water in an old jar or can, and bury these up to the neck in the ground. The katydids will be attracted by the sweetness and crawl in attempting to feed, only to drown in the solution. They will also be attracted to ultraviolet bug killers left in the garden overnight. Be warned, if handling larger species, they are capable of pinching the skin painfully.
With these simple measures you should be able to keep katydids off your plants and enjoy the night song without being driven to distraction.
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