by Karen Miller, Master Gardener Entomology Specialist
Are you one of the people who enjoying sitting on your porch at night listening to the crickets chirp? Is the sound relaxing or does it get on you last nerve? Whether you like or hate the sound, it is made by the male cricket looking to attract a mate, or warning another male not to invade his territory. The chirping sound is made by rubbing his wings together. Crickets are found all over the world. There are about 900 species worldwide; out of that 900, over 120 species are found in the United States. Texas has only 9 species statewide, the field cricket and the house cricket are the predominate species. This insect is about one inch in length and is related to the grasshopper and katydid. Crickets have compound eyes giving them the ability to see in many different directions at one time. Even though they have wings, they are mostly too small for flying. Crickets are found in several habitats. You may be taking a stroll around your yard and come upon a cricket just hanging out in the bushes, among your grasses, or hiding under dead plants or fallen leaves. You may be startled when they run or jump out of your way. They stay hidden during the day avoiding any predators lurking around. They are most active on warm summer nights. They will chirp faster and louder on a warm night than a cold one. Crickets have chewing mouth parts and are omnivores. They eat small insect, some leaves, fruit, seeds and nectar. On the whole, crickets are not considered a major pest, but can be a problem in the agricultural industry if they begin eating crops. Natural enemies include birds, reptiles, and naturally occurring microbes. Crickets are mostly grown as food for insect eating reptiles, arachnids and as fish bait. The cricket is efficient at converting its food into body mass, making it a good source for food production. In Southeast Asia crickets are deep fried and sold in the marketplace as snacks. Bottom line…Crickets are considered heroes in many countries through folklore and myths. They are believed to bring good luck in the form of rain, health, money and hope. Charles Dickens wrote “to have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in all the world!” prompting many people to purchase or make models of crickets to place on their hearth. Pinocchio had a friend that was a cricket - Jiminy Cricket. One last interesting detail about the cricket, its droppings make very good organic fertilizer. You can even buy it online. But, as with most things, a little goes a long way.