Jiminy Crickets!

Short winged Green Grasshopper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Short winged Green Grasshopper (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Nothing speaks the end of summer more significantly than the familiar chirping and high pitched songs of our local crickets and grasshoppers.  We may tune it out sometimes, but if we listen during our drive to work, as we stroll about during the day, or even at nightfall while walking the dog, we will hear these beautiful songs of nature.  It’s a medley of sounds blended together, an ebb and flow, creating a soothing melody reminiscent of the background music in a fancy restaurant.  But what exactly is making up this unique chorus?  And how or why do they produce these sounds? 

There are approximately 1200 different grasshoppers and crickets worldwide, and these closely related insects make music for the same reason a man slathers on cologne after a close shave or a woman dons her tightest pants before strutting onto the dance floor; to attract a mate.  The chirping sound emitted by male crickets is called stridulation, and is produced when one wing is rubbed against the other while holding the wings upright to assist in sound travel.  The pace of a cricket’s song increases with the temperature, up to 60 chirps per minute. Crickets have four different melodies: a bold serenade to attract females, a gentler courting tune once they are getting closer, a celebratory ditty once the deed is done, and a warning screech if another male tries to hone in on the action.

On the other hand, the higher pitched sound made by the male grasshoppers is also called stridulation, but is created instead by rubbing their textured hind leg against the forewing. Some of the band-winged grasshoppers prefer the finger snapping jazz style melody, and incorporate this sharp repetition while in flight.  Both the good vibrations or soulful tapping result in love songs any receptive female grasshopper would swoon over, although I have seen a few washing their hair and doing their nails . . .

Indian lore has symbolized grasshoppers as the harbinger of glad tidings.  If a grasshopper is observed while on a spiritual journey, it is a sign of upcoming beneficial news, as well as good luck, fertility, peace, courage and resourcefulness.  Or, it could just as easily be scooped up and eaten as a healthy snack for the trail worn traveler.  Whether you decide to relish their sounds or deep fry them, here are a few you may see in your neck of the woods:

Field Cricket in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Field Cricket (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Field Crickets (Gryllus pennsylvanicus) are a common site throughout the United States.  They are dark brown to black, up to 1 inch in size, and most active in spring and fall. Warm summer nights bring them out en masse as the males chirp up to 30 times per minute in effort to attract a mate.  Mostly active during the night, field crickets live in the ground or in piles of native plant debris and feed on plant matter such as crabgrass, ragweed and plantain. Laying over 50 eggs at a time, a single female can lay well over 400 eggs in her life span. Eggs laid in the late summer will overwinter and hatch the following spring. Gryllus pennsylvanicus can be found in the southeastern U.S., including the Florida Keys.

Acheta domesticus (photo: wikimedia.org) in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Acheta domesticus (photo credit: wikimedia.org)

House cricket (Acheta domestica) is native to Southwestern Asia, but has thrived in the Eastern portion of the U.S. since its introduction.  House crickets appear very similar to their related cousins, at about 3/4 ” long and yellowish-brown, with wings that cover the abdomen.  As adults, house crickets have long hind wings that may be shed during their life span.  Acheta domestica take about three months to complete their life cycle, and survive cold New England winters by burrowing near foundations or warm compost sites.  They eat soft plant matter and tiny insects.  Females prefer to deposit eggs in softer soils such as sand or moss.

Carolina grasshopper by Dan Irizarry in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Flying Carolina grasshopper (photo by: Dan Irizarry)

Carolina Grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina) are adept, slightly erratic flyers that can be found throughout the entire United States. Generally found to feed on plants and grasses, they have been known to cause damage to crops such as wheat, alfalfa, corn and cotton.  One of the largest native grasshoppers, with a wingspan up to 4 inches, the female is even larger than the male. While crickets are mostly nocturnal, grasshoppers are very active during the day time and the males will often serenade the silent females throughout the warm sunny days of summer and fall.   Females will lay from 30 to 70 eggs in the ground or on vegetation.

Green Grasshopper in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Green Grasshopper (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Short-winged Green Grasshopper (Dichromorpha viridis) are found from Minnesota to Cape Cod, and all points in between, but green grasshoppers are much smaller and less noticeable than their airborne cousins. The males range from brown to green, while the female tends toward mostly green, which is easily camouflaged in the garden.  The wings are longer on the male than female, but the females run larger in body size at just under 2 inches.  Dichromorpha viridis live in meadows and dense shrubbery, feeding mostly on grasses.

So, dear readers, as the nights get colder, the days get shorter, and the leaves of the trees turn to hues of gold and bronze, the winged members of nature’s band will start to pack up their equipment as well, preparing for the time when summer’s heat flares again.  Sigh . . . I’ll be sad to hear them go~

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Comments

  1. I find it a wonderful gift that in the early-mid spring we are serenaded by the Peepers
    and Bull Frogs and again in the Autumn by the closing songs of the crickets.
    Natures’ Symphony!

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