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Grasshopper, Katydid or Cricket? What's the Difference?

When you think about the sounds of summer, what do you hear? Maybe the familiar notes of the ice cream truck circling the neighborhood or the sounds of kids playing outside. The loud buzz of cicadas probably comes to mind too. But cicadas aren't the only insects making a racket out there. We hear other insects as summer days turn into nights.

A grasshopper on a blade of grass.
A grasshopper. (Photo by Chad Merda)

Who are all these insects singing those songs of summer? Cicadas are the noisiest of our singing insects, but grasshoppers, katydids and crickets are also singing their tunes. Distinguishing between these insects can be difficult because we tend to lump them all together without learning what differentiates them.

Crickets, grasshoppers and katydids all belong to the insect order Orthoptera. Most insects in this order don't fly, but they do have wings. Of course, there are often exceptions in nature, and some grasshopper species do fly.

Another characteristic of Orthoptera insects is their strong back legs that are adapted for jumping. They are also noted for their sound-making ability. Generally, only the males make noise, and they use the sounds to attract a mate.


Words to know

Differentiate: To recognize what makes something different.

Stridulation: To make a shrill sound by rubbing legs, wings or other body parts together.


Their sounds and how they produce them vary, but they all make sound using stridulation — the act of rubbing the upper surface of a wing against the lower surface of a wing or leg surface.

The sounds they make are one of the things that can be used to differentiate between crickets, grasshoppers and katydids, starting with the time of day when you hear them. Crickets generally begin calling at dusk, while katydids wait until later at night to begin singing their songs. Grasshoppers are mostly active and calling during the day.

The songs themselves can also be a key identifier. Crickets create sound by rubbing a peg on one wing against a row of ridges on the other wing. This movement creates a series of clicks that sounds like running a fingernail down the teeth of a comb. Because the rubbing movement is so quick, you don't hear the individual clicks, just the collective sound created.

Like many birds, katydids sing a song that sounds like they are calling out their name — kay-tee-did or kay-tee-did-did. This song becomes common in late summer, and it's often sung three times in a row. They are able to create the sound by rubbing one of their back legs on one of their wings.

Grasshoppers stridulate in the same way as katydids, by rubbing a hind leg against a wing. And like crickets, this action is similar to running a fingernail down a comb. Their sound is different, however. It sounds more like rubbing two pieces of sandpaper together.

While crickets, katydids and grasshoppers are more often heard than seen, you may find them while outdoors. They may even make their way indoors from time to time, making their presence known when you hear them calling out. Many species exist of all three kinds of insects, leading to a lot of variation in size, color and even sounds. Crickets are generally easy to distinguish, while katydids and grasshoppers look more similar and can be confused for one another.

Crickets are dark in appearance, either black or dark brown. And because they are mostly nocturnal, we don't usually see them during the day.

Katydids and grasshoppers are both green, but different shades. Katydids tend to be a bright green color, while grasshoppers are more earthy green. Their antennae are also different lengths. Katydids have longer antennae, often longer than the length of their bodies. Grasshoppers typically have shorter and thicker antennae.

Where you might find these insects might vary as well. Not surprisingly, grasshoppers are usually found in the grass. Crickets, too, are often seen in the grass. Katydids, though, are commonly seen in trees and on other leafy plants. They rely on their green coloration to blend in with the vegetation.


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