Chirp Chat

INTERESTING AND FUN FACTS ABOUT CRICKETS 

 PAGE CONTENTS 

Chirping   Brief History Lesson   Identification   Species Chart   House Crickets

Field Crickets   Ground Crickets   Snowy Tree Crickets   Camel Crickets

Northern Mole Crickets   Nutritional Value of Crickets   Jimmy's Story

The word "cricket" comes from a French word, criquer, meaning 'little creaker.' The Dutch call the insect a krekel.

Chirping

There are special songs for courtship, fighting and sounding an alarm. The principle role is to bring the sexes together with different songs in different species. Male crickets stridulate or "sing" by rubbing a sharp edge (the scraper) at the base of one front wing along a file like ridge (the file) on the bottom side of the other front wing, resulting in a series of "chirps." The number of chirps varies with the temperature with more (faster) chirping at higher temperatures. Chirps vary from four to five to more than 200 per second. The song is amplified by the wing surface. Only the male cricket chirps.

 

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Brief History Lesson

Achetus Domesticus or House Cricket was first introduced into Canada and the United States in the 18th century. They are less of a problem today because of modern building designs, but there are many stories of swarms and infestations as late as the 1930's. 

Back (1936) describes a plague of crickets that migrated from a waste paper dump to homes nearby in Baltimore.

"No crickets were in evidence through out the day except as they were exposed during a careful search of the rubbish, but upon the approach of dusk, hoards, in all stages of growth, began emerging from the debris in the dumps and swarmed upon tree trunks and over the ground between the dump and the nearest dwellings, a distance of several hundred feet. the winged forms flew readily, particularly after the city lights were turned on, and telephone and electric poles along the streets became covered with crickets."

Janjua (1939) tells of swarms of Achetus domesticus in India in which the swarms were 220 yards long and 100 yards wide.

Well you would not have to worry about food for your herp, but there would be many side effects, including damaged clothing and contaminated food (human).

Crickets are common pets in China. They have specially designed "carrying cages" so they can travel with their pets. 

There are many classroom "projects" involving raising and studying crickets. Some of which include breeding, observing territorial behavior and "jumping" contests.

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Identification

Crickets get their name from the high-pitched sound or "chirp" produced when the male rubs his front wings together to attract a female. Different kinds of crickets can be identified by listening to their song.

The "True Crickets" (House, Field, Ground, Tree) resemble longhorned grasshoppers in having long tapering antennae, striculating (singing) organs on the front wings of the male and auditory (hearing) organs on the front tibiae (4th leg segment)

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  SPECIES CHART 

Common Name

Scientific Name

House Cricket

Acheta domesticus (Linnaeus)

Field Cricket

Gryllus spp.

Ground Cricket

Gryllus abbreviatus Serville

Nemobius fasciatus (DeGeer)

Snowy Tree Cricket

Oecanthus niveus (DeGeer)

Camel Cricket

Ceuthophilus spp.

Northern Mole Cricket

Neocurtilla hexadactyla (Perty)

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Life Cycle and Habits

house cricketHouse Crickets  normally live outdoors especially in garbage dumps, preferring warm weather, but will move indoors when it gets colder usually in late summer. Overwintering occurs outdoors in the egg stage. Each female can lay an average of 728 eggs with the immature crickets (nymphs) resembling the adults except being wingless. Nymphs molt seven to eight times and reach adulthood in about 60 days. Also, these crickets can live indoors, completing their life cycle with eggs laid in cracks, crevices and other dark areas such as behind baseboards.

Adults are very attracted to lights, and become active at night (hide during the day) to crawl, jump or fly sometimes in countless numbers up the sides of houses, entering openings of even second and third story windows and roof skylights. The continued, monotonous "chirp" is loud and distracting, resulting in lost sleep. They will feed on silk, woolens, nylon, rayon and wood. They can bite when handled carelessly. They are found in fields, pastures, lawns, roadsides and in woods.

Adults are about 3/4 to 7/8 inch long, light yellowish-brown (straw-colored), with three dark bands on the head and have long, slender antennae much longer than the body. Wings lay flat on the back but are bent down abruptly on the sides. Females have a long, slender, tube like structure (ovipositor) projecting from their abdomen (spearhead at the tip) for egg-laying. Both males and females have two antenna-like (cerci) attached to the sides at the end of the abdomen.

Since crickets "chirp," you would suspect that they have some kind of "ear" to hear with, and they do. Crickets have a special eardrum for hearing, but it's not where you'd expect. If you look closely at the front leg right below the elbow, you will see a small pale spot that is the eardrum. It is not well known how precise a cricket's hearing is, but you can imagine that it's good enough to hear the song of a potential mate.

 

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field cricketField Crickets  overwinter as eggs or nymphs in moist, firm soil. Each female lays between 150 to 400 eggs which hatch in the spring. Nymphs resemble adults except are smaller and wingless, molt eight to nine times and reach adulthood in about 90 days. They are serious agricultural pests feeding on many crop plants. They become household pests in late summer and early fall when they move out of fields and into buildings. They can damage furniture, rugs and clothing and the "chirping" of adult males can be irritating. They are readily attracted to lights, can fly and are often found around dumpsters. Large swarms may invade well-lighted areas covering streets and the sides of buildings black with crickets. They feed on nylon, wood, plastic fabrics, thin rubber goods and leather. Outbreaks occur when rainfall follows a period of drought.

There are many different kinds and sizes of field crickets, none of which are able to survive and reproduce in buildings. They are found outdoors in similar places as are house crickets, especially under stones or boards, entering cool, moist basements in hot summers.

Adults range in size from 1/2 to 1-1/4 inches long depending on the species, are usually black-colored (sometimes brown), have long, slender antennae and a typical stout body (more robust than the house cricket) with large "jumping" hind legs. The ovipositor may be up to 3/4 inch long. Females have three easily seen appendages coming out of the tip of the abdomen, whereas males have only two. Most chirp and may sing both day and night.  

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Ground Crickets act similar to field crickets except are smaller, overwinter as eggs, are largely active at night and attracted to lights. They occur in pastures, lawns and wooded areas.

Adults resemble house and field crickets but are much smaller, usually less than 1/2 inch long, and brownish. Spines on the hind tibiae are long and movable. Their songs are often soft, high-pitched, pulsating trills or buzzes.  

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snowy tree cricketSnowy Tree Crickets  occur in trees, shrubs, weeds and high grass and are excellent singers, chirping at a regular rate varying with the temperature. Eggs are laid in the bark or stems of fruit and ornamental plants, often seriously damaging the twigs during the process of egg laying. Eggs are laid in pin-size holes (usually in single rows), sometimes injuring brambles of bush fruits. Overwintering eggs hatch in the spring with nymphs maturing in late summer. Apple, peach, plum, prune, cherry and berries are food hosts.

Adults are about 5/6 to 7/8 inch long, pale yellowish - green or whitish shaded pale green and have a single black spot on the front side of each of the first two antennal segments. Male wings are broad, paddle-like, and lay flat on the back at rest, whereas the female forewing is narrow, and wrapped closely about the body. They chirp at a regular rate varying with the temperature. A good approximation of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit is to add 40 to the number of chirps in 15 seconds. These are the  crickets commonly heard in the background noises of TV and movies. Most deliver loud trills.  

 

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camel cricketCamel Crickets  are active at night in cool, damp, dark areas and occasionally invading damp basements or crawlspaces. They are not attracted to lights nor produce songs. Overwintering occurs as nymphs or adults in protected places. They may be found living in large numbers, causing alarm. Some textiles may be damaged. Some hide under hay bales, feeding on other insects seeking shelter there. Most are found in caves, hollow trees, under logs and stones and in other dark, moist places. They can live and reproduce indoors.

 

 

Adults, sometimes called cave or cellar crickets, are a little over 3/4 inch long, light tan to dark brown (darker bands on some segments), wingless, with head bent downward, back arched (humpbacked appearance), large hind legs and long antennae.  

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mole cricketNorthern Mole Crickets  spend most of their life burrowing in the soil, coming to the surface as the soil is wet or flooded with rain. They are not often pests, but sometimes enter basements or homes. They fly to lights during their spring mating period. Females lay eggs in the soil (35 eggs per cell). Eggs hatch in 10 to 40 days with adulthood reached by autumn. They feed on roots, tubers and underground stems of grasses, strawberries, vegetables, etc. They overwinter as adults in the soil.

 

 

Adults are 1/2 to 1-1/4 inches long, brownish to blackish-brown, with beadlike eyes. Their broad front legs are adapted for "digging" (they resemble front feet of a mole). They have rather short antennae, a large head and can fly.

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Nutritional Value of Crickets

Compared to other commercially available insects, crickets are a GREAT herp food. They are high in protein, around 24%, about the same or just barely less than mealworms (which are somewhat harder to digest). They are low in fat, just over 9% (only flies are lower at 7.5%). At about 0.04% calcium content, crickets, like most insects, are a fairly poor source of calcium. They are higher in calcium than either mealworms or waxworms (both at about 0.02%) but lower than flies (0.06%). There are no significant differences in the carbohydrate, fiber and moisture contents. These numbers are from one industry source. Numbers from other analyses or sources may vary, but comparatively the results should be about the same. For more information about the nutritional value of crickets and comparisons to other feeder insects, visit the nutritional values page on this website.

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Jimmy the cricket has chirp, will travel

By Dan Rodricks

  I get this tip about an 80-year-old woman with a pet cricket. Not just any pet cricket. An 11-year-old pet cricket named Jimmy. So, intrigued, I make a phone call. I get the 80-year-old woman on the phone at her apartment in Elkridge, Howard County. She's very pleasant. She says she moved to the Baltimore area from her native Buffalo, N.Y. during the winter. The cricket came with her.

"How do you know the cricket is 11 years old?" I ask.

"Because," she says, "this went on for 11 years, and my house in Buffalo had screens and bars on all the windows. How could he get out?"

"The same way he got in?" I asked.

"Well," she says, "all I can tell you is Jimmy -- that's his name --got in my house and stayed with me all those years. He chirped when I was around. He lived in the cellar and, in the winter, he used to stay right on the furnace to keep warm. When I went on vacation, I used to leave the radio on to keep him company."

"And Jimmy came with you to Maryland?"

"I moved down here in February by myself," she says. "And four days after I moved in, I started hearing him chirp again. I think he knew I was leaving Buffalo and found some way of getting here."

"You mean, you didn't bring him with you?"

"No, I've never seen him."

"You've never seen him?"

"No, but he chirps. But he only chirps when I'm around, and he never chirps when I'm in bed. He knows not to keep me awake, a very educated cricket."

"Are you sure you don't need a new battery for your smoke detector? It chirps when the battery's low."

"Oh, it's not a smoke detector. It's a cricket. This little cricket has brought me so much happiness. He thinks the world of me."

I called the chairman of the entomology department at the University of Maryland yesterday to ask how long crickets live and whether they can bond with humans. Mike Raupp didn't get back to me right away. But that's OK. Why spoil the woman's story with science? 

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Parts excerpted from The Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet at:

http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/2000/2066.htmlLink will open in a new window. 

Parts excerpted from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences website at:

http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/misc/crickets/gryllus.htmlLink will open in a new window.

literature cited (10)Link will open in a new window.

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