Katydids are one of summer’s most ubiquitous creatures, yet we rarely see them. We sure hear them, though.
That beautiful (to my ears anyway) sound you hear all evening and night during warm weather is a katydid, which rubs its wings together to make its namesake sound. I’ve heard people say they’ve heard cicadas all night, but what they are likely hearing are katydids. Cicada are usually heard during the day and have a different insect sound. Crickets also chirp at night, but katydid sounds can easily be differentiated.
Katydids are bright green and somewhat resemble a grasshopper. They also look like leaves, a handy attribute to have to fool predators.
If you are lucky enough to find one, check out its face. It looks (again, to me anyway) like a mini lobster.
The katydids we have in New England are about two inches long. The giant katydid of Malaysia grows to six inches, but is still completely harmless to humans.
It looks like an overgrown mosquito and causes fear among many people who find these menacing-looking giants in their homes. But, alas, crane flies are as gentle as they come. They can neither sting nor bite. They can make it difficult to sleep as they flitter around your walls and ceiling at bedtime, but don’t worry, they won’t attack you in your sleep. In fact, they aren’t even capable of attacking as many species do not even have mouth parts. So, no, they don’t eat mosquitoes either as many people believe. And they certainly aren’t mosquitoes, despite their uncanny resemblance.
I’ve been seeing a lot of photos and videos this summer of these fascinating creatures on Facebook and other social media. Many of the posts include the question: What is this???
No, it’s not a hummingbird, even though it resembles one, creates a humming sound with its wings and hovers around flowers like a hummingbird. It is a hummingbird moth, so named because … well, you can figure that out, I’m sure. Although it’s hard to tell without a side-by-side comparison, hummingbird moths are smaller than hummingbirds. A hummingbird moth is about two inches long and a hummingbird is a bit longer than three inches, but also much more bulky.
Look for hummingbird moths at the same flowers you’d expect to see butterflies and hummingbirds. Butterfly bush is a backyard favorite for hummingbird moths.
A hummingbird moth sips nectar with its long proboscis, a tongue-like sucking organ, which can be double the length of the moth. The photo below shows the proboscis rolled up.
Many people wouldn’t consider dragonflies strange because they are so common and part of our daily summer lives. I am including them in the Birds of New England ‘stranger things’ series because of their awesomely menacing appearance and otherworldly flying ability.
Dragonflies have only two eyes, but they make up most of the insect’s head and have up to 30,000 ommatidium, or facets (see close-up photos). I’ll post more information about dragonflies in next week’s For the Birds column.
Here’s a shot from the close-up meadow series I did for the Darien Land Trust five years ago. I came across many strange things during my time in the meadows that summer. It’s amazing what you find when you tune out everything except your immediate surroundings.
Treehoppers, not to be confused with planthoppers, are often called “thorn bugs” because of their appearance.