Living With Eavesdroppers


Bat Eating a Katydid
Photo: Marco Tschapka

Insects that use sound to attract mates can also attract eavesdropping predators and parasitoids. Katydids are active at night to avoid day flying birds. However, creatures of the night such as rodents and parasitoid insects hunt the serenading males. Females typically are quiet and locate the singing males. A male katydid that has been parasitized can still mate, but a parasitized female, will not produce offspring. Females are protected by their silence.

One type of predator can find both male and female katydids, bats. In areas where katydid hunting bats and katydids overlap, the males have a song that is very brief at the frequency that can be heard by the bats. The males add a trill to their song in a frequency that bats do not hear. This makes the males more difficult for the bats to locate while the females can focus on the high frequency trill. Bats have been found to prey on both males and females of these katydid species, when they can find them.

JACQUELINE J. BELWOOD & GLENN K. MORRIS. 1987. Bat Predation and Its Influence on Calling Behavior in Neotropical Katydids. Science 2 October 1987. Vol 238: 64-67.
DOI: 10.1126/science.238.4823.64

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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