Crickets are often associated with good luck and intelligence, and if you harm one, even accidentality, calamity, and bad luck is said to follow.
They are often mistaken for grasshoppers, and aside from the antennae length, some differences make these insects worth learning more about. They are great for the environment, helping your backyard break down plant material while helping to revive soil, infusing them with minerals to promote re-growth.
This is just the beginning of why you shouldn’t rush to get rid of crickets in your garden. Here’s all you need to know about crickets.
Crickets are part of the Gryllidae family, and there are more than 2,400 different types of crickets in the world. They are nocturnal, and their habitats include grass, bushes, trees, burrows, and caves. They can survive anywhere, even on the surface of water in some cases, except in areas with extreme cold. They prefer warmer, tropical climates. There are 88 different species found in Malaysia alone!
Crickets are invertebrates and have an exoskeleton, with six legs, segmented bodies, and long, thin antennae. Their hind legs have evolved for jumping, and they also have two arms that help with their sensory functions. Their feet have three joints. Crickets also have two pairs of wings – one is used to fly, while the others are harder, almost leathery to the touch, though not all can fly.
Different species have different dietary needs. Some are herbivores, feeding on leaves, fruit, or flowers. In contrast, others eat aphids, insect larvae and pupae, other small invertebrates, and even decaying matter. Crickets will eat whatever is available in captivity, and while they don’t eat humans, they have been known to bite!
Different Types of Crickets
There are more than 2,400 species of crickets throughout the world, but here are seven of the most fascinating types. While not all are true crickets, they share enough features to be considered unofficial members of the family.
Australian Field Cricket
Australian field crickets, also known as Pacific or Oceanic field crickets, are black or brown with stripes that go down the back of their heads. They sing by opening and closing their wings quickly. This species places a lot of weight on the virility of its males. They compete with their antennae to prove who is strongest, and the winner has a unique mating call that signals to the female that they are fit and suitable to mate with.
Camel crickets, or cave crickets, have humps on their back with long legs, almost like a spider. They have no wings or way to make a sound as they lack the stridulating mechanism that other crickets have. They often make their home in greenhouses and prefer cool, humid climates.
Jerusalem crickets belong to the Stenopelmatus family, so they’re not true crickets. However, they chirp like crickets, producing an almost hiss-like sound to scare predators away. They are also known as potato bugs or old baldheaded men because of their appearance. While not poisonous, Jerusalem crickets can bite and emit a foul smell to ward off predators.
House crickets are the most common type of crickets you’ll find in and around your home. They make their home in any location, including appliances, furniture, fireplaces, patios, kitchens, etc. Crickets will try to make their home anywhere they can find a foothold. They are nocturnal bugs, becoming most active during the wee hours of the morning.
Mormon crickets are part of the katydid family of insects, with a green, purple, brown, or black exoskeleton that changes colors if they are swarming or not. They’re herbivores, preferring a diet of grass and vegetation. However, the crickets themselves are a delicacy for crows, coyotes, and even people.
Mormon crickets earned their nickname because they infested the first Mormon settlement in Utah.
The Parktown prawn is also known as the African King cricket. They’re part of the Anostostomatidae family, which means they’re not true crickets. Originally found in South Africa, they are great at protecting gardens, specifically controlling the snail population that would otherwise damage the vegetation. They are omnivorous and will eat anything in their way.
Roesel’s Bush Cricket
The Roesel’s Bush Cricket is native to the United Kingdom, but it’s quickly spreading around the world. They are small, brown, or yellow bugs with spotted abdomens. They thrive in warm weather, and if it’s hot and sunny, they will sing continuously. It sounds like a continuous high-pitched buzzing.
Cricket Mating Calls
The cricket’s chirp is more than just the soothing sounds of nature. It’s actually a mating call. When the female and male mate, they connect using their antenna, and the chirps will change during their short courtship.
While a single spermatophore can fertilize the female, it can mate with different males. They lay eggs in soil or plant stems.
While mating is a primary function of a cricket’s chirp, it can also happen when males assert dominance over one another. This can also attract mates.
Difference Between Cricket and Grasshopper
Crickets and grasshoppers are similar, and one of the easiest ways to tell them apart is by their antennae. Crickets have longer ones, while grasshoppers have shorter antennae. Crickets chirp by rubbing their limbs, particularly their wings together, while grasshoppers rub their legs against their wings. Crickets hear from their front legs, while grasshoppers hear at their abdomen.
Lastly, crickets are omnivores, feeding on plant and animal material, while grasshoppers are herbivores, eating only grass.
Fun Facts about the Cricket
In Asia, crickets fighting is a sport that has been popular for hundreds of years. In other cultures, male crickets are kept in cages, harnessed for entertainment and musical purposes. Around their world, they’re eaten as a snack, prepared differently to enhance their flavor.
These are versatile bugs, hinting at good fortune, calmness, and even desertion. No matter what crickets mean to you, they are popular, beneficial creatures that can help breathe new life into your garden.