Monday, December 18, 2017

The Odd Ones

I wasn’t planning on writing yet another post about Jumping Bush Crickets. I’ve already written two posts about their range expansion into NE Ohio and their ongoing march (or leap) into the “snow belt” counties of eastern Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, and Ashtabula. But now that they've arrived and become increasingly common each year, I’ve had frequent opportunities to study this species. The more I get to know them, the more I return to my initial impression of these crickets, which is…

They are SO odd!

At first, it was the charming, yet anonymous songs I'd never heard in Cleveland when I was younger. I didn't know who they were, what to look for, and therefore had no luck locating them. Fortunately, the Songs of Insects became available in its original form as a book and CD combination (it's now online). Because of this splendid resource, I was finally able to identify what I was hearing. Here's one of my first recordings of this species in my area - September, 2008.

When I did occasionally find a Jumping Bush Cricket in the next couple of years, they looked quite different from any of the other crickets we have here.

And where do they sing?

I learned that they sing from twigs and branches – even occasionally from a tree trunk. They resemble wood and blend beautifully with it. They look like they should move no faster than Ents.

Locating them was a problem because they don’t necessarily stay in one place. As I’ve written in my previous posts, I’ve seen them run along branches, pop up their wings, sing a few songs, lower their wings, run or jump to another branch or twig, pop up their wings again and sing a few more songs…

Still, it seemed that I should be able to search them out by closely observing the branches. Sometimes they really were singing above my head in a tree, but the songs often sounded as though the singers were on lower branches. Why weren't they more visible?

Even in the trellis vines on our tiny back porch, I could not find the male in the recording below. In fact, I hardly ever find them when they're in the trellises on either side of the steps, yet this male was so close I had to lower my recording level. I probably could have touched him.

But this year, I discovered there were places I hadn’t thought to search.

Yes, they also sing from curled-up leaves. A dried brown leaf would be an even better hiding place, but green is still effective since they sing primarily at night.

This was helpful to know, especially if the cricket seemed fairly stationary and I could track the sound with my microphone. On occasion, I could even break the singer’s leaf off its shrub and drop both the leaf and the cricket as a unit into one of my plastic containers for closer observation - a technique I'd used for Broad-winged Tree Crickets and Handsome Trigs as well.

In general, unless they're moving between singing locations, they are very well concealed.


Look at this guy! He was boldly standing on a hydrangea leaf next to the driveway, singing as if he were Northern Cardinal advertising from his favorite perch! 

It soon became obvious that this really WAS his perch. I didn’t think these crickets had specific singing territories, but this male certainly did. At various points in the evening I returned to this leaf or the one just below it, and there he was. I found a few other males who also had claimed their own individual performance venues within the same hydrangea border.

While I’d noticed similar behavior with some of the tree crickets, I had not observed singing territories with Jumping Bush Crickets. Now I know this, too, is an option.  So when you search for them yourself next year, check the branches and twigs first, then listen for singing from within a curled or folded leaf, and finally – if you have time – see if perhaps there’s even a specific territory where the singer is more visible than you would expect. 

What are their preferred habitats? They won’t be in meadow vegetation unless there are scattered shrubby dogwoods, young buckthorns (always a possibility in NE Ohio, unfortunately), or perhaps in a well-established blackberry thicket. They aren’t a wetland species, but you may hear them in shrubs near wetland edges. Edge habitat is perfect, and they also have no reservations about proximity to human structures.

Where they're well established, as is the case in Summit County and Portage County, the woods (and even older residential areas) can be full of them. In fact, the waves of sound can be almost overwhelming! It becomes difficult to hear any of the tree crickets because there are simply so many Jumping Bush Crickets. 

This isn’t yet true in the NE corner of Ohio. I haven't found significant numbers of them in the woods, but I imagine that will change. They currently seem to be more common in the shrubs and landscape trees of residential areas and are doing well in the city. Cleveland's University Circle area is home to a substantial number of them. 

I've also heard individuals singing in landscape saplings on sale outside of Home Depot, eventually on their way to new neighborhoods. I'm quite certain that humans are physically moving these crickets into new locations as well as encouraging their range expansion through climate change.  
The photos I've included could make it appear that they're not that difficult to find, but I worked hard for every cricket I located - even the one in his cricket carrier in the house! Their varying shades of brown create excellent camouflage and they will remain absolutely motionless when it's to their advantage to do so. Even their eyes and wings look like wood.

Their quirkiness is most apparent in the house, where they're a challenge to keep in a terrarium or plastic carrier because they're quick, powerful jumpers that seem to be able to attach to anything in between leaps. 

While opening his large cricket carrier on the kitchen table one evening, our indoor Jumping Bush Cricket sprang from somewhere within his carrier up the kitchen window in just one jump, adhering to the glass like a Gray Treefrog. On another occasion, I noticed he was riding around the kitchen on top of my shoe. He occasionally leaped out onto my shirt or climbed up my sleeve.

Finally, he and I worked out an arrangement in which he would climb into a small glass jar that I’d position near the rim of the carrier. I’d give him a little push, he’d climb in, I’d screw on the lid, and take care of his food and vegetation. 

Getting him back out was more difficult, because he wouldn’t retrace his steps and may have been too confined to jump. He and I solved this awkward situation by my placing one end of a twig into the little jar. He’d eventually climb onto the twig (since he was a Jumping Bush Cricket) and I’d gently remove the twig from the jar and place it on the blackberry leaves below.

He very much appreciated the sticks I included in his carrier, as these seemed to be his roadways. 

He often would sit on the rim of the carrier directly beneath the lid, so I’d have to check there first whenever I lifted it. 

I was never quite certain how he fit in that small space, but then I remembered finding a female hiding securely between two stacked plastic chairs in the backyard after a thunderstorm. 

Their songs are quite loud indoors and their steady rhythms can become a little too repetitious to be restful. That's why I kept this cricket in a separate room  - or even on a separate floor - from the softer-singing crickets I'd move from the kitchen or my studio up to the bedroom each night. 

Jumping Bush Crickets are a significant challenge to keep track of, as they can vanish from a terrarium or cricket carrier in a second. But they’re certainly intriguing, fascinating…

…and odd.


  1. Your patience pays off, Lisa. I still have not seen very many, though they have become abundant in NE Illinois. They may behave differently here, as they stick to tree trunks, especially those with tangles of vines growing against them, and especially 10 feet or more off the ground. Perhaps if I put more time into it, I will be able to duplicate your success and find them in other spots.

  2. Wonderful post. Another place to find them is in boxwood bush plantings around houses and restaurants. They can be uncommonly numerous in these situations. However, they are no easier to catch here then elsewhere.

  3. I've found your blog via BugTracks, and I'm becoming quite interested in it.

    A few comments:

    For the orthopteran cages, have you tried coconut coir and plastic aquarium plants (not the droopy kind)? Apparently, coir can be bought from pet shops in dried bricks, so uninvited guests do not arrive. Dead leaves that haven't fallen off the tree also seem to have no/few hitchhikers. I understand that coir and fake plants are not natural, but the insects are unlikely to notice any difference.


    1. Alex, I see from your blog that you may have katydids and crickets year round. I must confess I'm a little jealous! Interesting to read about Scudderia eating pollen. I've seen this on occasion and it sounds like this is something you observe regularly.

    2. Yes, there are katydids and other insects here all December. One carabid beetle in the area is actually a winter-breeding specialist.

      As for the pollen...

      Bugguide: "Often (especially nymphs seen feeding on flowers of assorted, especially herbaceous, plants."

      Scudderia is only one example of the Insectile Law of Opportunism: if it is nutritious, disregard dietary notions those humans have labeled you with, and stuff your face madly.

      Mantids will feed on fruit, specialist seed bugs will suck on dead insects, and pillbugs will gorge themselves on starchy/meaty things while surrounded by equally-edible dead leaves...

  4. I can't wait to look for them in my yard next year! I'm sure I've heard them!

    1. Sally, I'm sure you'll have them over your way. They are definitely in Lorain and Medina Counties.