Insect Facts True Cricket

The true crickets are a group of insects that belong to the insect family Gryllidae. This specific family of crickets is differentiated from the mole crickets and the camel crickets which belong to the families Gryllotalpidae and Gryllacrididae respectively. All types of crickets belong to the insect order Orthoptera which also includes grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas. The Orthoptera family is large and includes over 20,000 species worldwide with over 1,000 in North America.

All true crickets have long antennae, wings, and long hind legs that are adapted to jumping that will propel the cricket to long distances. Their other most distinguishing feature is the chirping noise that is produced by males. Chirping is used by males to excite female crickets into mating. Male crickets produce the chirping noise by rubbing their wings together at an exact location of wing edges where one side is comb-like and the other side is like a scraper. When the comb is scraped, the chirping sound is produced. This action is also known as stridulation. Different species of true crickets produce specific chirping sounds and sequences and is useful for identifying what species are present in a field filled with many different true cricket species.

Crickets belonging to the true cricket family can be distinguished from the mole crickets and camel crickets by their physical appearance. Camel crickets have a distinct humped body and are normally found in dark places such as caves or in basements. Mole crickets are a common lawn pest and have short front legs used for digging and thick bodies that are adapted to living in the soil. Neither camel crickets or mole crickets chirp.

All true crickets are omnivores and will eat a variety of plants as well as other insects when given the opportunity. They also serve as prey to other predators such as other insects, spiders, lizards and birds.

Although similar in appearance, grasshoppers and true crickets have several distinguishing features that are used to tell them apart from each other. The antennae of true crickets are long and can be longer than the length of the cricket’s body while the antennae of grasshoppers are relatively short. True crickets are most active at dusk and during the night while grasshoppers are most active during the day. While both insects chirp, true crickets, especially field and house crickets, have a distinct high pitch that is usually heard in the evening on warm nights. True crickets use only their wings to produce their chirp while grasshoppers rub their long hind legs against their wings.

True crickets can be further classified into several subfamilies which include the field crickets, bush crickets, ground crickets, winged brush crickets, and the tree crickets. Of these subfamilies, the field cricket family (Gryllinae) is the most well recognized. The species Acheta domestica (house cricket) and Gryllus pennsylvanicus (field cricket) are the most commonly associated species of true crickets, especially when the chirping noises are heard on warm autumn nights.

The house cricket is ¾ to 1 inch long and are a tannish color with black or dark brown bands that ring around their necks. Males have brown wings covering their backs and will chirp during the day and night. Females do not possess wings but have a long pointed ovipositor projecting from the hind end that is used to lay eggs. House crickets are easily raised in captivity and are commonly sold as feeder insects at pet shops.

Field crickets are ½ to ¾ inches long and are a shiny dark brown or black. Field crickets are active from dusk to dawn and produce the commonly associated chirping that is associated with rural life. This type of true cricket has been featured in a beloved children’s book.  The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden, depicts a field cricket named Chester who accidentally leaves his rural home in Connecticut when he jumps into a picnic basket. He is then transported to a subway station in Times Square and becomes a musical sensation with his extraordinary chirping abilities.