Spring Field Cricket – The April Chirper

I arrived at Land Between the Lakes late in the afternoon of April 18. As dusk approached, I noticed it was almost dead quiet. No birds were singing, no frogs were calling, and I heard not a howl or yip or chatter from anything furry. But there was one sound that stood out: the incessant soft chirps of crickets, calling from under the leaves along the sides of the dirt roads.

An April Chirper, sounding off at dusk from under leaves at the edge of a road. Recorded by Lang Elliott at Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, April 18, 2010.

So who is our little April Chirper, sounding off months before nearly all other singing insects will be heard? Our handsome little singer is the Spring Field Cricket, a shiny black cricket about 2/3 inch long.

photo of fall field cricket

The Spring Field Cricket, Gryllus veletis, looks identical to the Fall Field Cricket, Gryllus pennsylvanicus. Once thought to be the same species, scientists confirmed that they are morphologically identical but developmentally distinct. Fall Field Crickets overwinter as eggs, as do the vast majority of temperate zone insects, including nearly all the singing crickets and katydids. Adults mature in late summer, and the songs of the males can be heard from late July or August until the first hard frosts. Spring Field Crickets, however, overwinter as nymphs, which quickly develop into adults (only the males sing) when warm weather arrives. Halleleujah—let the insect concert begin!

spring field cricket range mapSpring Field Crickets range across much of the Northeast and Midwest. They continue their chirping until late June or early July, at which time the adults finally die off. Eggs hatch in the summer and develop through late summer and autumn, the large nymphs surviving until the following spring.

How nice it is to hear crickets chirping in the spring! I am thankful that the Spring Field Cricket is a rebel among the insect musicians, a real non-conformist who sprinkles its bright chirps on the springtime landscape when other singing insects are but tiny little hatchlings capable of little more than a whispering hush as they scurry from place to place.

Comments

  1. Avatar Gary J. Lovell says:

    Hello, I love your book Songs of Insects and your website. One of these days I will go over and listen to every insect on the site. I also want to thank you for identifying the Spring Field Cricket. You are the first I have seen mention anything about it. My friend and I have suspected them since 1970 ( I have nature and insect notes going back that far) when we found a nearly full grown nymph in the middle of winter under a log. Then we noticed the first singing male in May 1973. Since then I expect them out in Northwest Ohio by May 15.
    The past two years I have had several outside my door in Perrysburg , Ohio and have noted their singing till about July 20th or 23rd. Thanks for verifying that there is one.
    Also I noticed your comments on the Southeastern Field Cricket long wings. The picture shows it distinctly. I have a VHS video of a big black cricket flying down in a Tennessee State Park. Most probably that species. I have not seen anyone else note a “flying cricket”
    And on the same order I have seen and have specimen of a ground cricket that has wings allowing it to fly. I have seen them at lights in Columbus, Ohio in 1969 and in Toledo area off and on over the years. They have the under wings extend out like the Southeastern Field Cricket picture in “Songs of Insects”. None of the ground crickets in your book show the extended wings. Possibly a new species or something. I caught one in Perrysburg two years ago. Uploaded pictures to iNatualist. They seemed clueless. I have the specimen. Who could I send it to to have it correctly identified? Thanks.

  2. Avatar Zack Frieben says:

    Excellent! I too always thought there was just one species of Field Cricket, but I guess not. Winter is approaching, and it’ll be silent at nights, unless owls are hooting in nearby woods.

    I like the crow in the background because of its “echoey” quality.

  3. Avatar Wil Hershberger says:

    Terrific. The insect chorus is heading north. We should be hearing them soon.
    Lang is on a roll

  4. Avatar Barry J Merluzzo says:

    Fantastic audio, I’m looking forward to hearing this spring rebel in the coming weeks up here in Massachusetts. Thanks for sharing.

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