Summer Soundtrack

Snowy Tree Cricket Song Here

The snowy tree cricket chirp is a comforting continuous soundtrack of summer nights. Its rhythm can lull us from hot sleeplessness to

On the other hand, if you are a student of Dolbear’s formula you might as well get up and go read. The trick Professor Dolbear discovered is that the tiny green cricket is an audible thermometer. So if you can listen for fifteen seconds, count each chirp then add forty, you know the approximate ambient temperature. Knowing it is 82 degrees farenheit at two in the morning sends most people into somnolent dispair.

This summer has been odd, what with the nearly continuous rain. Many living things rely on warmth and sun to create the right conditions for procreation. Bird populations are suffering, as are insects. Things are maturing slowly and sometimes don’t thrive in the cool and damp.

So it wasn’t surprising the other night that the number of fireflies seemed down from the norm and only one snowy tree cricket chirped. In a normal summer at this time, snowies are usually singing their hearts out each evening, faster if it’s hot, slower if it’s not.  The song is a standout in the usual symphony of summertime insect sound. Though that night there was a mild, snowy treebuggy hum, the drama of millions of insect stridulations was missing.

This cricket is called “snowy” because it is often so pale green as to appear white. Males like to sing hanging upside down from a branch or leaf. They favor brushy understory plants in an open wood. Hill-Stead’s meadows are surrounded by open wood and brushy areas. With a song at a frequency of 3 kiloherz, it can be quite a concert.

Crickets are a big family, including anywhere from 16 to 32 tree cricket species. They have a repertoire of romantic song patterns, from a “love song” for wooing, to a song for warding off potential rivals. Sounds are made by forewings with a “scraper” and a “file” on each which produces and broadcasts the chirp. The cricket raises the wings at a right angle to his body and fiddles the night away.

The cricket family and its allies fascinated Asian cultures for centuries, and their songs were celebrated by poets. By the sixteenth century insect sellers in Japan known as mushiya were often found in outdoor markets and it was the fashion to have a cricket or katydid as a pet. The insect was kept through the winter so that the song could be enjoyed throughout the year. The trend never caught on in the Western cultures, but most people like to hear the reassuring melodies made by crickets and their kin once summer comes.

If it ever stops raining, we should be able to enjoy the songs of the cricket until the first frosts, when they begin to lessen. As it gets colder, fewer voices join the chorus until the last remaining romantic hopeful is silenced by the frost for another year.

See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist


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One Response to “Summer Soundtrack”

  1. Ratty Says:

    I don’t think I’ve heard the sound of crickets as much this year, but it might only be because I haven’t been outside as much at night. I remember a blogging friend from Asia mentioned that he had crickets as pets when he was a kid.

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