Monday, October 19, 2009

Insect Symphony: Final Movement

The eves are growing cool, and around here we've been flirting with frost. When the curtain drops on fall and freezing nighttime temperatures become frequent, our insect songsters are silenced.

This, to me, is a bummer. Kind of like when the last of the Neotropical warblers and other migrants wing south to their tropical winter haunts, and we're deprived of their beauty and song for another long, cold winter.

But, the toughest of the crickets are still producing their melodies. The three below are the ones that I'm still hearing every day, and they'll continue on into November, at least in warmer microclimates. Enjoy 'em will you can!

Allard's Ground Cricket, Allonemobius allardi, female. Note her long needlelike ovipositor sticking out like a cactus spine from the rear. This is an extremely common species, and like the next two, is in your yard if you live in Ohio or this part of the country.

Ground crickets are little; less than half the size of the large black field crickets that deliver the classic cricket chirp chirp chirp. They are ubiquitous denizens of lawns, weedy areas, fields - nearly any open to semi-open habitat.

This species is often the first sound of nature that I hear upon leaving my house, along with the next two species. Allard's Ground Cricket makes a semi-musical trill that goes on and on. To me, it has a somewhat tinkling quality, and the rate is slow enough that you can discern the individual pulses, but they are still too fast to count.

Carolina Ground Cricket, Eunemobius carolinus, male. Another miniscule cricket, and every bit as common as the Allard's, if not more so. Visually, they have a browner cast than the very black Allard's Ground Cricket.

But you're going to hear scores more of these insects that you'll ever see, so learning the songs is the way to go - just as with birds. The Carolina also has a rapid trill, but it is unmusical and very fast - an almost electric crackling, far to rapid to discern individual pulses. Far more rapid than the Allard's, and it is common to hear both from one spot, so an interested observer can quickly learn to tell them apart.

Another thing: ground crickets are well-named; they sing from the ground, so that habitat preference also eliminates other possibilities. In fact, it must be their preference for lurking in grass duff, leaf litter, and even concrete and asphalt crevices that accounts for their ability to last into cold weather. These microclimates can remain significantly warmer than unprotected areas just a few inches above.

Carolina Ground Crickets will often be heard singing into November. I heard one last night, as I entered the local Krogers. It was against a wall behind a propane tank display - air temperature 39 degrees.

Finally, my hands-down favorite of the elfin lawn crickets, the Striped Ground Cricket, Allonemobius fasciatus. The one above is a male, and was singing while I watched and photographed it. These are truly wee; seemingly only half the size of those other two ground crickets. They are so tiny that most people would flush them under foot and never begin to notice them, or if they did, would probably not guess them to be crickets.

But everyone hears them, and I'm still hearing Stripes every day. Males create a wonderfully bright, slightly metallic series of chirps that are uniformly delivered in series. The song is much slower than the preceding ground crickets, and one can keep up with and count the pulses.

For such a small insect, the song of the Striped Ground Cricket is astonishingly loud and carries some distance. Listen tomorrow! It'll be Indian Summerish and warm enough that all of these crickets will be going at it. If you are outside at all, you are bound to hear them.

Enjoy the final insect symphony will you can. It won't last much longer.

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5 comments:

Cathy said...

I do appreciate this post. I'm always wondering what insects I'm hearing. I'll be listening for these insects in the Mohican State Park area today.

Was able to hear their songs on musicofnature.com.

Cathy said...

Here's the link to the cricket songs:
http://www.musicofnature.com/songsofinsects/iframes/twentyspecies.html

Scott said...

Hi Jim. I'm still hearing Black-horned Tree Crickets here in northern Indiana. Where do they rank in terms of calling late into the fall?

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