Summer Sounds: An Introduction to August Orthopterans

i Aug 13, 2010 No Comments by

Thanks to Board Member Ed Corey, for this week’s post.

Go out on a warm, humid August night, and you’ll hear strange noises coming from the treetops, bushes, and grasses: chirps, trills, shuffles, chips. No, these aren’t aliens taking over your vegetation, but a diverse, interesting and beautiful group of organisms comprising the order Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets).

Grasshoppers (family Acrididae) can be very common in open fields, and the number of different species found in a small area can be astounding!  All grasshoppers in North Carolina are diurnal, meaning they are only active during the day.  A few species of band-winged grasshoppers, in the subfamily Oedipodinidae, make noise while flying; this is known as crepitation.

Likewise, some katydids, particularly meadow katydids (those in the genera Conocephalus, Orchelimum, and Odontoxiphidium) are also active during the day, and can be heard calling from dense vegetation.  However, it’s after dusk that the true spectacle of orthopteran diversity can be observed.  Common True Katydids (Pterophylla camellifolia) can be heard with they’re eternal struggle of “Katy-did, Katy-didn’t”.  Several species of Coneheads (genus Neoconocephalus) prod the night with their long (and often loud) trills.  Short chirps and chips arise from members of the Bush Katydids (genus Scudderia), while Round-headed and Angle-winged katydids (Amblycorypha and Microcentrum, respectively) each give their distinctive shuffles and chips.

Let us not forget the smallest members of the summer serenade: crickets and trigs.  Most of us are familiar with the brownish black field crickets of the genus Gryllus commonly found around houses.  However, many more colorful representatives comprise this group, including the incredibly loud-for-its-size Handsome Trig (also called the Red-headed Bush Cricket, Phyllopalpus pulchellus); and the Columbian Trig, Cyrtoxipha columbiana.  Additionally, some lights left on at night are visited by the interesting and often misidentified tree crickets (Neoxabea and Oecanthus).

This group of insects can provide full nights of entertainment and great photo opportunities. and other sites can help with identification.  So grab a flashlight, clean out your ears, and enjoy the summer sounds of August.”