Singing Insects

You likely won’t see many of these without a little dedicated searching.

September 8, 2020 | | Notes from the Wild

Before reading on, pause a moment, open a window and listen. No matter where you are, urban or rural, you should hear insects. The lusty voices of breeding birds have faded. In late summer and early fall, nature’s soundtrack is provided by the trilling, chirping, and buzzing of insects.

Though all around us, these singers are seldom seen. Most are cryptic – green among greenery. Others hide on the ground, concealed in grass or under logs and stones.

Black horned tree cricket. Photo by Don Scallen.

Black horned tree cricket. Photo by Don Scallen.

Cicada. Photo by Don Scallen.

Cicada. Photo by Don Scallen.

Common or gladiator meadow katydid. Photo by Don Scallen.

Common or gladiator meadow katydid. Photo by Don Scallen.

The familiar chirping of fall field crickets, heard day and night at this time of year, provides a soothing background rhythm as we get on with our day or snuggle into our beds. You know these singers well. They are the black crickets that scuttle away when you move a planter or bag of soil in your yard.

But field crickets are only one section of a great insect orchestra. Several species of tree crickets trill in our shrubs and trees. Cicadas accent sultry afternoons with high-pitched buzzing, and various katydids, superb leaf mimics, chime in too.

You likely won’t see many of these without a little dedicated searching. The diminutive musicians usually press mute as you approach and rely on their superb camouflage to hide in plain sight. But the search is worth it. Many of these insect singers are lovely.

My guess is that more and more naturalists will come to cherish singing insects. Birds are usually the entry level passion of naturalists who then get smitten by butterflies and dragonflies. Many naturalists are now agog over moths. Singing insects may be the next big thing. And why not? They are diverse, musical and beautiful.

Greater anglewing. Photo by Don Scallen.

Greater anglewing. Photo by Don Scallen.

Handsome trig (cricket). Photo by Don Scallen.

Handsome trig (cricket). Photo by Don Scallen.

Short winged meadow katydid. Photo by Don Scallen.

Short winged meadow katydid. Photo by Don Scallen.

Sword bearing conehead female. The long spike is called an ovipositor. It is an egg laying organ. Photo by Don Scallen.

Sword bearing conehead female. The long spike is called an ovipositor. It is an egg laying organ. Photo by Don Scallen.

Two spotted tree cricket and its singing hole. The male cricket cuts a hole in a leaf, hides underneath and broadcasts its call through the hole. Photo by Don Scallen.

Two spotted tree cricket and its singing hole. The male cricket cuts a hole in a leaf, hides underneath and broadcasts its call through the hole. Photo by Don Scallen.

Please check the links below to learn more about singing insects and to hear their wonderful voices.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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