Have you been noticing the crickets chirping recently? I suspect that most of us enjoy hearing them outdoors during the evening hours.
Crickets can be found over much of the world except the higher latitudes. Worldwide there are over 2000 species. And there are over 100 species in the United States and a dozen or so here in North Dakota, including the northern field cricket and the house cricket.
As you might expect, the diets of crickets vary between species. Many of them are omnivorous, feeding on fruits, seeds, leaves, nectar, and other invertebrates. And they are mostly nocturnal.
But when it comes to chirping, not all crickets chirp. It is the males that chirp, and they are doing it to attract a mate. The males chirp by rubbing their wings together. One of the cricket’s forewings has a scraper which rubs along the other forewing which has lots of teeth. When they rub their wings together a chirping sound is produced. It is similar to running your fingernails down a comb.
Northern field crickets should be doing their thing now. They breed in late summer and early fall. Following copulation the female will oviposit the eggs in the soil where they lay dormant before hatching next spring.
Some of you have probably heard something about using their chirping to estimate air temperature. One method is to count the number of chirps in fifteen seconds, add forty, and you have the temperature. Give it a try sometime.
With the exception of their chirping, I suspect most people don’t pay much attention to crickets. But they are of economic importance. Some, however can damage crops and gardens. And they are important food for some zoo animals and pets such as small reptiles. And in some parts of Asia they are a snack food.
We cannot leave the topic of crickets without mentioning Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They made some great music back in the day. But if you are out listening to the crickets under a stary night and begin singing “When You Wish Upon a Star,” that’s Jiminy Cricket.