Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Running and Jumping in the Bushes
You may have noticed that there are quite a few species of crickets and katydids singing here in NE Ohio in the later summer and early autumn. We occasionally also have new musicians on the stage as well. Jumping Bush Crickets have been moving up into NE Ohio from farther south in the state and have become very common in some areas. However, it wasn’t that long ago that theirs was a new song for me.
Before we had The Songs of Insects (field guide and accompanying CD by Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger), people like me did not have a way to match up the insect singers and their songs. When Jumping Bush Crickets first began to appear in my inner-ring Cleveland suburb, I simply called them “the pretty ones” – not because I’d ever seen one, but because I so enjoyed this new song. I’d walk to those couple of streets in my neighborhood that had a few trees or tangles where I could hear them, but I never could find the elusive singers because they blend so beautifully with twigs and branches.
I was delighted when the first few Jumping Bush Crickets showed up here in the back yard, and now…they are everywhere! I’m still surprised that this has happened in just the past several years. Now that I know more about them, I’d like to share these curious crickets and their beautiful songs with you.
Have you heard this song yet? If you’re south of Cleveland – or in the city itself – it’s probably familiar to you. It’s a decisive, short chirp on warm nights and a more extended trill on cool ones. I actually like the chilly evening song the best. Here are warm evening songs recorded in my back yard on 9-7-13 and much cooler evening songs - 55 degrees - recorded in the same trees and shrubs just one night later.
I was determined to study where they sing and figure out why it’s so hard to find them even when it seems like they are singing in my ear. Not surprisingly, it’s all about coloration.
Crickets and katydids don’t really have any way to defend themselves, so they need to stay hidden even when they’re singing – or perhaps especially when they are singing. Their color is just like the twigs and branches they inhabit, and they almost look as if they were carved from wood. Even their wings blend with their surroundings.
When the males sing, they run from one spot on a branch to another. They stop, pop their wings up, sings a few songs, then move to the next location.
I realize now that this is why I couldn’t figure out where they were singing - they keep moving! The tree crickets with which I’m more familiar often stay in one place, and I can find them singing from the same leaf or plant stem for hours. Jumping Bush Crickets move all around their trees, shrubs, and vines. Females also run along the branches, stopping occasionally on leaves while males sing nearby.
When the male and female approach each other, they may touch antennae to initiate contact. I have yet to find a mating pair, but these two seemed to be considering the possibility.
I’m interested in learning where these crickets currently are in their northward expansion and in tracking their progress as they move into the “snow belt” counties of NE Ohio. Although absolutely abundant in Cleveland and in Summit County just to our south, they become less common as I travel northeast into eastern Lake and Geauga Counties. With each year, however, they are extending their range. They are becoming established at the Holden Arboretum and nearby areas in Lake County and can also be heard at some locations in the western end of Geauga County.
And why are they called Jumping Bush Crickets? You probably figured out the “Bush Cricket” part – they are in trees and shrubs. And yes - they are very strong jumpers, which you will certainly discover should one find its way into your house!