Readers’ wildlife photos

February 22, 2018 • 8:00 am

From Switzerland, one of the world’s happiest countries (and champion in 2015), reader Jacques Hausser sends orthopterans. This is the second installment in a three-part series (the first is here), and it’s CRICKETS! Jacques’ notes are indented:

Like bushcrickets, aka katydids (infraorder Tettigoniidea), the crickets proper (Gryllidea) belong to the suborder Ensifera. Like bushcrickets, they have long threadlike antennae, and stridulate by rubbing one of their forewing (elytrae) on the other. But contrary to bushcrickets, they rub the right wing over the left one. And their feet consist of three tarsal segments only, instead of four.

May I introduce you to the real Charles Dickens’  “cricket on the hearth” ? The house cricket, Acheta domesticus, is mostly a commensal species across most of Europa, living in houses – traditionally in well warmed kitchen or in bakeries under the baking oven. However, in mediterranean regions and other warm places (in Switzerland, typically at the vineyard level), it can maintain wild or feral populations. Here is a male. Note the rolled hindwings protruding at the rear between the two cerci. The species is well known to herpetologists, being bred to feed various reptiles and amphibians – and recently it became a fashion food for humans too. I haven’t tried it.

A female of the same species. The ovipositor of crickets looks like a spear rather than like the sword of bushcrickets. Both pictures were shot in a white bowl, what allows to get the insect almost without background.

Like bushcrickets – and contrary to the grasshoppers (Caelifera)—crickets hear with their forelegs – thus the old joke is not entirely wrong. You can see the eardrum just under the knee.

Gryllus campestris, male, the field cricket. A flightless species with a big black rounded head. The male digs a burrow and in the warm summer afternoons and evenings, sits in front of it and sings to attract females. Like most species, they are very aggressive toward other males. In China, another species, Velarifictorus aspersus, is used in very popular cricket fights. Usually the animals are not wounded: the fight stops as soon as the loser retreats and the winner sings his victory song. Champions can reach several thousands of dollars, which is astonishing for pets living only up to three months. But of course champions are naturalized with due reverence after their short career.

A sad end… I don’t know the reason for the death. The animal looked intact, and the wasp (Vespula vulgaris) was certainly not the killer, only a scavenger.

The life span of field crickets run on two years – another difference with the bushcrickets in which only eggs survive the winter period. In autumn, old larvae or late born adults look for warm places to overwinter, and frequently try to go inside houses. Here’s a female larva of G. campestris; you can see the not-yet-grown ovipositor.

The smaller wood cricket, Nemobius sylvestris, shows the same behavior: I found this adult female in my workshop. A good opportunity to take a picture of an usually very active, very fast and very camera-shy species. The thin yellow mark on the head is diagnostic.

10 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Interesting, thanks. Where do I find the first installment? Somehow I missed it. Please add a link if possible.

  2. Years ago my mother was in a tuberculosis sanitarium in southern Ontario. The staff indulged her by letting her keep ‘a pet’ cricket under her bed. Occasionally it sang which reminded her of her home in the prairies. She made sure it got crumbs and protected it when the cleaning crew came in.

    1. That’s sweet. The Nelson-Atkins museum in Kansas City has a great little display of the various accoutrements required for keeping champion fighting crickets in Japan.

  3. I’ve sacrificed many a house cricket to my turtle gods over the years, and I’ve kept them as almost-pets too. They are quite inoffensive and I find their soft singing rather soothing.

Leave a Reply