Katydid Folklore

katydid folklore

As summer gives way to fall-one of the things I will miss-is the nightly song of Katydids around my house. Earlier this summer while attending a contra dance, I stepped outside to try to escape the heat. A gentleman remarked to me that nights in this part of the US were really loud. Took me a minute to figure out-he was talking about the Katydids.

Each spring I anxiously await the katydid chorus-thinking this will be the year that I’ll notice the first chirp they make. It never happens. Suddenly one night I hear them in full concert and wonder how many nights they’ve been singing while I was too busy or tired to notice.

I remember listening to the katydids when I was a little girl. With no air conditioning-all the windows in the house were left open during summer nights-which made for a surround sound of katydid voices. Somewhere along the way I picked up the story of how the katydids got their name. I don’t recall if someone told me or if I read it in a book. The gist of the story:

There was a lovely maiden named katy who fell in love with a handsome man. She loved him with all her heart and soul and only wanted to please him. Fate turned against her-the handsome man fell in love with her sister. The pain of seeing them together was to much for her and in a fit of jealous anger she killed them both. No one in town would have ever believed she killed them-but the bugs turned against her. Telling the towns people- Katy did it Katy did it.

I would amuse myself by trying to prove the katydids were saying something else like ‘yes she did no she didn’t yes she did no she didn’t’. I guess I felt sorry for the heart broken Katy and wondered if the bugs were really sure she killed the lovers.

Some other Katydid folklore:

  • katydids sing to bring in cold weather
  • 3 months from the first katydid chirp there will be frost
  • the earlier in the summer you hear the katydids-the earlier the first frost will be that fall
  • the first katydid you hear in July-it’ll frost on the same day of the month in September

This is what the katydids sounded like earlier in the summer-as I stood on my front porch.

Do you have katydids around your house in the summer? Do you like their song?



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  • Reply
    Shane Moad
    October 15, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Great sound of the Katydids Tipper, down here in Oz we have cicadas. I can remember as a young boy walking down the street to where a Anglican (lutheran) church was. In the grounds you could find cicada holes where they came out of. I would poor some water down there to get them to come on up and then collect a few when they did. I would keep a couple in a shoe box and feed them leaves and such and would show them at school as many of the other kids would. The prize Cicada to have was the Black prince which was of course all black. Now as an adult I kind of regret having kept them all cooped up but at least I know I made sure I looked after them. They also had a great sound to go to sleep with at night. I would be happy to doze off to the sound of the Katydids of a night.

  • Reply
    September 30, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Yes, we have Katydids, but we rarely see them. I have one in our insect collection now. 🙂

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    September 29, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    We call them the Katydid quartets.
    And David: where in the world do you park at Bristol at the R/Roots? We started to go, felt blah…and I couldn’t think of anywhere we could park because we were going to get a late start. I’ve NEVER been….got remedy that.

  • Reply
    Amy - parkcitygirl
    September 29, 2009 at 11:11 am

    We don’t have those here! Great pics of the critters – so pretty 🙂

  • Reply
    September 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I hear them less than I used to, and I am very grateful for the music. Thanks for these great pix.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    September 28, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    Now that’s a great recording! I really enjoy listening to it.
    It’s interesting, what you say about anticipating the Katydid’s song. Even as much of a nature person as I think I am, I’m not sure I noticed that Katydid’s are not playing their music as soon as spring comes. I had a sudden thought one night, because the night was so silent, that maybe Rachel Carr was right; Maybe the katydids are all gone from the Earth. I realized, sometime later, into the summer, that the symphony was all around me, in full force. Did it begin all on the same night or did it fade into the nights without my noticing?
    Tipper, your posts are special; unlike anyone else’s on the Internet.
    I have been gone for a while. I made another trip to East Tennessee.
    By the way, if you ever get a chance to attend the Rhythm and Roots Festival at Bristol VA-TN, you will be mesmerized by the moment. We found it almost accidentally, while in Kingsport, looking for something to do, went, fell in love with it.
    God bless you and yours.

  • Reply
    September 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    It is kind of funny that you posted about katydids as my daughter was trying to throw one on me just the other day. I love to listen to them. And, I think they are a lovely green.

  • Reply
    Eggs In My Pocket
    September 28, 2009 at 11:35 am

    We have katydids here as well and have always wondered why they were named that! What a great story! Loved the sayings as well. blessings,Kathleen

  • Reply
    September 28, 2009 at 1:37 am

    A little city boy visiting us in the mountains of NC was trying to go to sleep but finally he sat up and looked at me and said,”I can’t go to sleep.”
    We had a big laugh and now when I hear the katydids singing I think of little Luke who was five and just couldn’t sleep because of the noisy “bugs?.

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    September 27, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    Amazing recording. What a neat chorus, back and forth. Good to catch up on my reading over here.

  • Reply
    Kim Campbell
    September 27, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I love the story! katydids are one of the few incests I’ll pickup. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    We have katydids around here, but not in the full force you do! Our summer singers are the cicadas (or locusts, whatever). I grew up in AZ where the locusts sang in a continuous buzz. Here in KS, they do this rrraaairrr-a, rrraairr-a, rrraairrr-a…Weird.
    Now that summer’s closing out, we’re finding lots of cicada shells around. Weather’s turning…

  • Reply
    fishing guy
    September 27, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Tipper: I do have them around the house but have never heard them sing. You captured them beautifully in photo and recording.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    September 27, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Tipper, I love the concert of the katydids. I hear one group saying Katy Did and another group saying back Katy Did. Thanks for the recording. That was clever of you to capture them that way. Where I live, they are so loud you cannot have a conversation with another person on the deck when they are in full concert. I will miss them when they are gone, which will be one night soon. Their voices have already diminished some.

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    September 27, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    Hmmm, we have a lot of night sounds here in Northern Virginia; don’t know that I have been able to distinguish katydids from the rest, if we do indeed have them. We do have cicadas, which make a lot of noise during the day, and during the 17-year swarm summers, it’s like a screaming sound all day long.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    September 27, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard them called that. I saw one the other day and didn’t know that’s what it was.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I have crickets around here that sing in the evening. I love to listen to them. Last week there a little cricket sitting on our fireplace chirping it’s little heart out.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I like both katydids and your music today.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    A friend who grew up on an Iowa farm told me that the sound of cicadas is one of her favorite memories of home. She also confessed to liking the smell of fresh cow pats and that reminds her of the farm. I wonder about that girl! We don’t have cicadas or katydids here. Thanks for the audio of the katydids today. They sound like a small tambourine.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 11:36 am

    We have Katydids around our house as well and I truly love to sit on the porch at night and listen to them.
    This post you did gave me an idea for a tip’s post on my site, just wanted to let you know. It’ll be posted on Tuesday’s Tip’s.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I don’t think that I have Katydids in a very long time. Thanks for the video…it was almost as if they were speaking to one another! ;D

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Very nice. I love the night sounds. I think your katydids are louder than ours! More frogs and crickets and coyotes here.

  • Reply
    Coach Daley
    September 27, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Hey Tipper,
    I also loved a similar sound, that of the cicada. Cicadas will be heard almost exclusively during the day or at dusk while your Katydids sing at night.
    Your Katydids are a much lighter and prettier sound than cicadas too, but I still loved to hear them anyway.
    In the winter time in Mississippi, around 5 O’Clock (hour earlier over there) as the sun was getting low in the sky, Jack Johnson would always stop by to say hello on his way home from work (the town was only a sq mile so he walked). I know it was 5 b/c we were always eating supper, and supper was at 5! As Jack cracked opened the door to peak in with his small little greeting for the evening, the giant reddish sun ball blasted my eyes and the deafening sounds of the cicada ripped through my ears.
    I have a keen visual memory of this just as you do of your Katydids. I wonder if Jack was just getting in from the horrendous noise for a moment as he still had a ways to walk, or just being a good deacon and checking up on the preacher each day.(the preacher was my dad)
    At any rate I loved the sound and still do. I hear them down hear in the Atl area but not anywhere with the volume I did as a child in MS.
    Long live Cicadas and long live Katydids.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I like to sit outside at night and listen to sounds of the darkness. So relaxing. And yes, I like the katydid song. And the crickets. And the frogs. And the whipporwhil……

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Now that is a unique post. I’ve heard them most of my life, and I can’t say I have ever heard that story. Most people only hear the hum of their air conditioners these days. It was nice to hear the Katydids in your video. Tell Pap hello for me. We talk about y’all quite often. Bebe sends greetings also. Pappy

  • Reply
    September 27, 2009 at 7:44 am

    wow! I never realized how loud they were

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    September 27, 2009 at 7:20 am

    I live in South Florida, but will always be an Appalachian man. I remember the katydids, but this story reminds me of a complaint I heard recently from someone here about the noise outside. It had rained the previous day and the tree frogs here were in full chorus and they are MUCH louder than katydids. I had to laugh when this person wanted someone to do something about the noise. I told him that those tree frogs were here long before we ever arrived here and would probably be here long after we are gone. I find the noise almost as soothing at night as I did the katydids when I was a kid in East Tennessee.

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