Scientific name: Gryllus rubens
At the end of summer, you can't help but notice crickets. When you go outside at night, you'll hear them. The most common cricket in Minnesota is the Field Cricket. It has a shiny, black body that ranges in size from 1/4 to 3/4 inch in length. Crickets have long antennae. They also have wings that they keep folded over the side of their body. Female crickets have long, spear-shaped ovipositers that they use to lay eggs.
Crickets belong to the order Orthoptera. The insects in this order all have big hind legs that let them jump. Ever tried to catch a cricket? They're pretty fast and can always be "one jump ahead of you."
Crickets are also nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day and look for food and do cricket stuff at night. You'll usually hear them "singing" or chirping at night when they're out and about.
Why do crickets sing?
Only male crickets sing, and they sing to attract a female cricket for a mate. They make their chirping song by either rubbing their wings together, or rubbing a leg against a wing. The scientific term for cricket chirping is called "stridulation."
Each cricket species has its own unique chirp. Females hear the males through their "ears" that are on the front side of their foreleg. That's a pretty weird place for an ear. The "ear" is a small pit or depression in the leg that has a thin membrane stretched over it. The ear picks up the vibrations of the chirps and helps the females find the males.
Females lay their eggs one by one (not in groups) right in the dirt. The put them there through a long ovipositer on the rear end of their body. Eggs are usually laid in late summer and early fall and winter over in the dirt until they hatch in May and June. The baby crickets look just like adult crickets, except they're lots smaller.
What do crickets eat?
Crickets eat just about anything -- they're omnivorous. You'll find them in your garden eating rotten tomatoes and other debris. They'll even eat other insects, including each other. They can also get into your house and eat paper, clothes, or anything else they feel like eating. Sometimes they'll chew on something that's wet, just to get moisture. And once they're in your house, they'll wake you up in the middle of the night with their chirping songs.
What eats crickets?
Anything that is a meat eater and can catch a cricket will eat it. Frogs, toads, snakes, birds, and even mammals, like fox, skunk and raccoon will eat crickets. That's why they hide during the day and have evolved long legs that help them escape from predators.
Crickets make good thermometers
Did you know that you can tell the temperature by counting cricket chirps? Here's how you do it. Go outside at dusk or at night and find a chirping cricket -- don't get too close or it will stop chirping. Count the number of chirps it makes during a 15-second period. Then, add 40 to the number of chirps. The total will be pretty close to what the actual temperature is in Fahrenheit. Pretty cool, huh!