Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real Crickets Don't Wear White Gloves

An overwhelming number of Cricket species spend most of their time on or under ground.  It's dirty down there in the dirt.  Jiminy Cricket wouldn't stand a chance in the wild.

Nevermind cartoon characters right now.  The real live cricket is quite an interesting character. 

Crickets are insects, cousins to the grasshopper and cockroach.  Insects in general, have six legs, an exoskeleton, antennae, eyes, jaws, wings, a digestive system, a nervous system, respiration system, and their bodies are separated into three parts, head, thorax and abdomen.

The cricket on the left is a male.  The female is on the right.  Notice the middle appendage on the female's rump.  This is used to lay eggs.  She shoves her oviposter into the ground (or into plant tissue) to deposit her eggs.  The eggs are laid singly or in pods of 10-200.

Some Cricket Facts

- found everywhere except very cold places, such as Antartica

- life cycle: two or three generations a year in the South.  One generation a year in the North: eggs or nymphs, overwinter in the soil and adults appear in the spring or summer.

- most active at night

- roughly 20,000 species

- larve (nymphs) pretty much resemble adults (rather like puppies resemble the dogs they become)

- some crickets are solitary, some live in colonies, or swarms

The most commonly seen crickets are Field Crickets.  They are medium sized bugs, black or brown in color, with a stout body and small wings incapable of flight.  There are however, other cricket species that are camouflaged to look like leaves or bark, stones or sand.  Other crickets are near blind burrowers that  never surface.  Some crickets are brightly colored, signalling their distasteful or toxic nature to warn away would-be predators.

Cricket predators include:  spiders, other insects, lizards, frogs and birds.  The cricket's legs are designed for hopping to escape being eaten.  Many crickets avoid prey status by spending the bulk of their time hiding in or under plants, in sidewalk cracks, and under the dirt. 

At night they emerge to eat plant foliage, roots, dead plant and animal material, algae, mud and the microorganisms in mud.

Also at night the (usually male) cricket makes a sort of chirping sound using his stridulatory organs.  These musical notes are for courtship (some species dance too!) and for territorial annoucements.  The stridulation organs are located in vents on the bases of the fore-wings.  When rubbed together, sound is produced.

The call of the male Snowy Tree Cricket is slower when the air is cool and is said to be a measure of temperature.  Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds add 40, and you have the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

images:  Bing, Audubon Pocket Guide:  Familiar Insects and Spiders
sources:  Enclycopedia of Insects  edited by  Christopher O'Toole,
Insects, A Golden Nature Guide


  1. Just as long as they stay out of the house!

  2. Very interesting! I used to try keeping these guys as pets in a jar or shoe box as child but they usually died.

  3. Crickets are supposed to bring you luck. I always try to catch them when they come inside and let them outside. However, I don't like that they are related to the roach. That makes me think they are dirty and full of germs. Oh nooooooo!