Mid-summer nights dream? For me it is the sound of a chorus of crickets softly chirping through the night. There are few better natural sounds in life. I simply love sleeping with the windows open and falling asleep to their melody.
What do we know about these symphonic little insects anyway? They are quite interesting when you stop to find out more about them. Most folks know it is the male cricket that is the musician, rubbing his two hind legs together to make music. But, did you know that he actually has four songs in his repertoire? He has one song to attract his lady and repel the competition (this one is actually the loudest), a courting song when the female cricket has come near (played with soft, tender notes), an aggressive song is triggered by receptors on his antennae that detect the presence of another male, and well, a copulatory song is produced for a brief period after successful mating.
Now, just to keep things straight, each species has its own set of music; just so things do not get confused. What is really funny about these common, everyday insects is that the females hear all of these beautiful songs with ears on their front legs! (Males ears are on their front legs, too.)
Crickets are omnivorous scavengers. That means they eat a variety of both plant and animal materials that are dead or dying. Largely though, they eat fungi, dead plants, fruit, nectar, seeds, small insects (like aphids), and occasionally will nibble on dead larger animals. They have incomplete metamorphosis. This means that young crickets hatch from eggs and look a lot like adults, they just dont have wings. They go through several molts before getting wings.
Crickets live in leaf litter, under logs, and damp wet areas in gardens. For the most part they do not create a problem or become a nuisance unless they are in very large numbers. They actually have positive effects in gardens as they help to break down plant materials and renew soil minerals. They are also an important food source for other animals, including some people.
In ancient Asia, people kept crickets as pets believing they brought cheer and good luck. They kept them in small bamboo and wooden cages. They even had carrying cases where they carried crickets in their pockets. Imagine villages with people walking around with the sounds of crickets chirping from everyones pockets! In Germany, it was considered good luck to have a cricket living at your fireplace hearth. (Hence, the story of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, set in Germany.)
It has been published in the Farmers Almanac and other periodicals that you can tell the temperature outdoors by counting the chirps of a cricket. Crickets sing faster in warmer temperatures than in cooler temperatures. If you count the number of chirps in 14 seconds and add 40, you will come up with an accurate temperature outside; a pretty fun experiment to try at home.
Who knew there were so many fun facts about such a small creature we hear every night making beautiful music just for us as we delve into our summers night dreams!
Reach Lynn Youngblood at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net