One of the sweetest sounds of summer is the nighttime chirping and singing of crickets and katydids. (That is, until one is hiding under your refrigerator and annoyingly chirps all night!)
What you are hearing are the males of the species, calling to attract females in order to mate. These insects don’t actually “sing” - not with voices. Their music is created by their wings, through an action called stridulation. The base of one front wing has a sharp edge, like a scraper and it is rubbed across a bumpy ridge at the base of the other front wing.
But these songs of summer could gently fall away from one year to another and we may hardly notice. As ubiquitous as that evening sound is, there is little information on how widespread the cricket and katydid population is and whether it’s increasing or decreasing. Also, we usually listen to the symphony of sounds and rarely distinguish between the individual sounds that make up the chorus.
Enter the “Cricket Crawl” - a recent local citizen science project to guide people in identifying the sounds of 8 local species of crickets and katydids, and then to report on hearing them in their local area. It’s a fun and easy way to start to distinguish and appreciate the different sounds of these insects. The resources are available online. You don’t need to participate in the project to enjoy the resources.
You can listen to and/or download the snippets of individual sounds of 8 selected species. Then take a minute and listen on your own -- in your backyard or a local park. Do you hear that sound? Try the next one. In a few minutes, you’re on your way to hearing and identifying individual sounds.
Cricket & katydid audio clips can be found here on the Washington D.C. / Baltimore Cricket Crawl website.
In my backyard, I heard the jumping bush cricket, japanese burrowing cricket, and of course the common field cricket. You’re invited to post here which crickets and katydids you were able to identify!
Two of the most common singing insects are featured in this year’s Cricket Crawl: the northern fall field cricket and the common true katydid. (Photos courtesy of Wil Herschberger and Lang Elliott)