sword-bearing conehead

(Neoconocephalus ensiger)

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed

sword-bearing conehead


NNR - Unranked


not listed




July to September


Moderately moist grassy areas


Total Length:
Male: 1¾ to 23 16

Female: 21 16 to 2½

          Photo by Bill Reynolds


This is a common, large, meadow katydid.

The male is 1¾ to 23 16 in length, the female 21 16 to 2½. Both males and females have two color phases. On green phase individuals the thorax, abdomen, wings, and femurs are leaf green. There is a narrow yellowish edging on the plate covering the thorax (prothoracic shield) and on the front wing. On brown phase individuals the body is dark tan with black speckling on the wings. The female ovipositor is as long or longer than the body, and is curved, sword-like, which gives this species its common name.

The top of the head extends well beyond the first segment of the antennae, forming the “cone” which gives this tribe its common name. The cone is pinched in at the sides and separated from the head by a gap. It is rounded at the tip and the lower surface is edged with black.

The antennae are long, slender, and hair-like. They are much longer than the body.

The wings are narrow and long, extending beyond the end of the abdomen. They have fewer than 8 longitudinal veins. The front wings slope over the sides of the body, with only a small portion near the base being horizontal. The male has sound-producing organs, a raised hardened vein at the anal edge of the right front wing (scraper) and a toothed vein (file) near the base of the left front wing.

The last segments of the leg (tarsus), corresponding to the foot, has four segments.


The song of the male is distinctive. It is often compared to the sound of a distant locomotive. It is a continuous series of high-pitched lisps, clearly separated, produced at the rate of 10 per second.



Nymphal Food

Grass flowers and developing seeds

Adult Food

Seeds of grasses and sometimes sedges.

Life Cycle

The female uses her long ovipositor to inject eggs into the crown of grass clumps. Most of the eggs overwinter. In the spring the nymphs feed on grass flowers and developing seeds.


They are strong fliers. They sometimes come to lights.

By rubbing the file against the scraper the male produces a high-pitched lisping song. At low temperatures nearby males synchronize their lisps.

They are often heard at night but seldom seen in daylight. During the day they perch head down on the lower stalk of vegetation with only their wings and hindlegs visible, appearing like a grass blade. At night females can be found near calling males feeding on the seedhead of a grass plant.

Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 7, 22, 24, 27, 29, 30, 70.


Some sources recognize seven subfamilies of katydids (Family Tettigoniidae). However, most online sources, including ITIS37, NCBI34, BugGuide.net, and Orthoptera Species File (OSF) Online, demote the subfamily Copiphorinae (coneheads) to the tribe Copiphorini (coneheads) under the subfamily Conocephalinae (meadow katydids).



Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids)



Ensifera (crickets and katydids)









Tettigoniidae (katydids)



Conocephalinae (meadow katydids)



Copiphorini (coneheads)




sword-bearing conehead











In insects, the largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. In humans, the thigh bone.



A long needle-like tube on the abdomens of some female insects, used to inject eggs into soil or plant stems.


Prothoracic shield

The hardened plate on the dorsal surface of the first segment of the thorax.







Visitor Photos

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Bill Reynolds

Grabbing a gas can to fill the lawn tractor, I noticed this green leaf and thought no more about it. But, while filling the tank, my mind said to look again for the leaf had legs. Sure enough it did!

  sword-bearing conehead   sword-bearing conehead


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Visitor Videos

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Other Videos

  Sword Bearing Conehead Katydid (Neoconocephalus Ensiger) Male
David Thompson

Published on Aug 1, 2016


Published on Aug 28, 2015

A male Neoconocephalus Ensiger (Sword-bearing Conehead) of the Tettigoniidae (Katydids or Bush Crickets) family of insects, sub-family Copiphorinae (Coneheads).

Thank you for watching and sorry about the shoddy camera work!

  Sword-bearing Conehead Katydid 7-21-13

Published on Jul 25, 2013

What a handsome Sword-bearing Conehead - and in full song! - courtesy of Naturalist Linda Gilbert. This video was shot in her backyard about 9:45 p.m.

"It's amazing how fast it can rub those wings together," says Naturalist Linda. "One not-well-known fact about insect songs is that when it is hot outside, the insects are singing at a great risk - the verge of death! The friction generated by their wings rubbing together creates heat, and when that's combined with the heat of the day or night, the resulting temperature is almost enough to denature their body enzymes. It really is a wonder that they don't just burst into flames!"





Visitor Sightings

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Bill Reynolds

Location: Numedal township, Pennington County, Minnesota

Grabbing a gas can to fill the lawn tractor, I noticed this green leaf and thought no more about it. But, while filling the tank, my mind said to look again for the leaf had legs. Sure enough it did!

sword-bearing conehead


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