Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Unexpected babies!

Nice array, isn't it? These are my cricket terrariums with their new spring growth. Most are currently unoccupied - at least as far as I know...

Some of last fall’s terrariums had both male and female crickets together, and I had seen a Striped Ground Cricket female possibly ovipositing (laying eggs) in the soil of one of them last fall. There was also a female Short-winged Meadow Katydid that attempted to oviposit in the plant stems in her terrarium. Did she really manage to accomplish this? 

It seemed likely that any eggs should have a period of cold weather to approximate winter, so those terrariums overwintered in the garage. I watered the soil a little on occasion when temperatures were above freezing, and that was all.

I don’t remember why there was one little terrarium that stayed in the house all winter.

I continued to water its plants from last fall, and it experienced no winter at all. Then in the late winter or early spring, a cricket nymph unexpectedly appeared!

But from where? The soil in this little terrarium was potting soil, as I wanted to try to avoid earthworms and slugs. There also were no female crickets in the terrarium, so I concluded that there must have been some Carolina Ground Cricket eggs in the clump of grass I’d dug up from the tree lawn and put in the terrarium last fall. (A “tree lawn," for those of you who aren’t from the Cleveland area, is the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street.) 

By mid-April, he was an adult and he began to sing! This was three months earlier than when the first Carolina Ground Crickets will start singing in our yard, but he didn’t know that. He’s still singing two months later, even as I type this post. Here’s his song, and I think you’ll know it when you hear it:

Two days ago was the first time I saw him – or any Carolina Ground cricket  - in the process of singing!

In fact, I hardly ever see him at all. He either stays under his little plants or the pieces of lettuce I give him, or else he is well hidden in the many little chambers of the terrarium's soil. Then last night, I had another surprising observation: at times, he was actually singing in those little chambers underneath the surface of the soil. He must not have realized that he was visible in the air pockets next to the glass of the terrarium walls.
Although they are extremely common, these are very secretive crickets!

He also has an interesting song variation that primarily occurs when he first starts singing in the late afternoon or early evening. It's almost like a little warmup - short bursts of song that crescendo, then abruptly stop.

The initial space between these little outbursts can be as long as 20 minutes, and they become more closely spaced until he moves into his long song. Once he really gets started, he can sing uninterrupted for hours. Although I’d heard – and even recorded – those short little bursts of song in the field, I could never isolate them. 

It’s been fascinating to learn about this species by studying this single individual!

More surprises followed. As I continued to search for fleeting glimpses of the Carolina Ground Cricket, I started seeing very small cricket nymphs. They found the little medicine bottle cap with dry cricket food right away.

Where did they come from, and why did they show up so much later? For that matter, who are they? These babies don’t act like the Carolina Ground Cricket and they don’t look like him, either. However, Carolina Ground Crickets are the only ground crickets we have here in our yard and on our street.

The soil in this particular terrarium was potting soil, as I wanted to minimize the slugs and earthworms that can take over the terrariums. Did I put some grass or a little plant in there that came from somewhere other than our yard, and were there cricket eggs in the roots? I have no idea. 

There's three of them and they all look like the same species. Now that they’re getting bigger, I can see they have reddish heads with a suggestion of stripes on them. 

Once the males reach maturity and have adult wings with which to sing, I expect they'll sing Striped Ground Cricket songs. Here's a recording of one of the Striped Ground Crickets in our terrariums last fall - in fact, I recorded him in November. Since he didn't get eaten, predated, or frozen outdoors, he lived a long time.

I’m really looking forward to hearing the first songs from them! When it's warm, they'll sing faster than the one in our home last fall, and the males should sound more like this:

And now there's a new chapter to the story: as of a couple of days ago, there's suddenly even more cricket nymphs, and they're in two of the larger terrariums that overwintered in the garage!


When it finally stopped snowing in NE Ohio, I moved those terrariums to the back porch steps. Lots of plants sprang up from the soil, and it looked hopeful. Just recently, though, NE Ohio had day after day of thunderstorms with a series of torrential downpours. One such occurrence was hours before any storms were supposed to reach our area, and the terrariums  - even with their screen lids - were drenched when I got home. I figured that was the end of any cricket eggs or possible nymphs.

And yet…

The next day, I found the tiniest ground cricket nymphs I’ve ever seen. This one's on a blade of grass.

They’re the size of small seeds, but they are already good jumpers. I think they are members of the genus Allonemobius, which includes Striped Ground Crickets, Allard’s Ground Crickets, and Spotted Ground Crickets. 

Both the older nymphs and the very young ones behave differently from the Carolina Ground Cricket. As I've noticed with other Allonemobius ground crickets in the past, I actually see these crickets on a regular basis. They climb around on the plants and sit up on the leaves.  

I find them on dead leaves, their little pieces of lettuce, and the little sticks and stones I've included in their habitat. They occasionally hide in the Carolina Ground Cricket’s underground network, but they're frequently out, active, and visible.

My hope it that there's more than one species, but I'll be delighted with whichever ones are present. Crickets in the house – and I did not catch any of them!


  1. What a wonderful story. It will be such fun to find out what species they are. You'll have a house full of song in no time.

  2. This is my first Cricket reading and it's wonderful! I'm very happy to meet the Carolina Ground and the Striped Group Crickets!