My mothing nights find more than moths. Beetles, bugs, flies, wasps, spiders, and crickets, even snakes and frogs, are frequent visitors to the porch light. The latest non-lepidopteran to make an appearance is the sword-bearing conehead (Neoconocephalus ensiger). It is a new addition to my insect checklist and is one of five species of Tettigoniidae (Katydids) that I’ve identified from here.
The sword-bearing conehead is a large insect with males growing 4.5 to 5.5 cm, and females 5.2 to 6.4 cm. The head is conical with the sides pinched-in and black below. The body’s lower surface is edged in black. The stridulatory vein, which is used to make the call song in males, is long and weakly swollen. The ovipositor is blade-like and nearly the length of the body hence the name “sword-bearing”. Two color forms, green and brown, exist.
The call song of the sword-bearing conehead is a series of rapid tsst-tsst-tsst sounds. At higher temperatures the call song is faster. Singing begins at dusk and may continue all night if temperatures are warm. Singing Insects of North America (SINA) and Songs of Insects have recordings of this species and others on their websites.
Sword-bearing conehead is common across much of the eastern and north-central US and ranges as far north as Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick in Canada. Habitat includes damp grassy areas, roadsides, and weedy areas where they feed on grasses and sedges including the flowers and developing seeds.
Range map of the sword-bearing conehead.