I love these cool evenings when we can sleep, turn off the AC, and open the windows wide. Cool breezes float in and with them come the melodies of the night. The chorus lulls me to sleep and I sleep better on these nights than any others.
There’s a reason that poets, musicians, and lovers often refer to these night calls as a chorus. It is not simply one animal, nor one insect that creates this incredible music. It is truly a chorus of voices that join together to make beautiful music throughout the night. Did you ever wonder exactly who is making this music?
Some think it is the cicadas. The large, big-eyed, clumsy-flying insect whose calls seem to drift through the trees in clouds; moving from one tree to the next in the afternoon through evening hours. Cicadas, however, typically end their calling when night falls. No, it is not our singer the cicada.
These night vocalists are really an unlikely trio that lulls us to sleep, two insects and one amphibian. Can you guess who they are? A cricket, a Katydid, and a tree frog!
Crickets (Gryllidae sp.) may be the most common and most identifiable. Most folks know that they are black (not the yellow-green cousin, the grasshopper). Crickets do their “singing” by rubbing their two back legs together, and ladies, only the males do the serenading. You can also gauge the outdoor temperature by listening to crickets. Count the number of chirps within 15 seconds, then add 37. This will give you a rough estimate of the temperature in Fahrenheit.
Our next worthy vocalist is the katydid, or to be specific, the “True Katydid” (Pterophylla camellifolia). If you have never seen one, they are truly a wonderful insect to behold. Their camouflage is nearly perfect as their body is bright green and in the shape of a leaf. Since they are a tree dweller, they hide very well and are very difficult to find. They get their name from their song, “Katy-did,” “Katy-didn’t,” “Katy-did,” “Katy-didn’t.” Katydids only sing at night.
To complete this musical trio we have the gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis and Hyla versicolor). There are two species of gray treefrogs in our area: Cope’s gray treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis) and the eastern gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor). These two frogs are nearly identical in appearance and are best identified by their calls. Cope’s gray treefrog sounds like a buzzer, while the eastern gray treefrog has a birdlike, musical trill (definitely the one that lives by me). Some folks call gray treefrogs “rain frogs” because they seem to sing the loudest when it is damp, or raining. Gray treefrogs do not come only in gray, they may also be greenish-gray, brown, and sometimes bright green. There is always a large, white marking below each eye. These treefrogs have three toes on each foot, each with large adhesive toe pads.
So, there you have it, the answer to the question you may have always wondered. Who sings you to sleep every night – a trio of talented musicians! Sweet dreams!
-- Lynn Youngblood is the Executive Director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City, Missouri. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net