by Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
I have an interest in all things crickets. Ridiculous? Yes.
I had already formed a different story for the Sentinel in my head on Monday of this week, and it was (is) a good one. But, I poked my head outside the back door and all I could hear was the serenade of crickets.
The temperature was at 66 degrees at 9:30 p.m.; almost a full moon and no wind. It was a beautiful evening. I sat on the back porch, and around me all I could hear were the crickets doing their business. I had been watching TV and decided to take a seat outside and listen. After all, I can watch TV anytime, but now is cricket time.
Late summer and fall is the best for getting outside and tuning in. Generally, the male cricket is the only one that chirps. You don't need to tune too much whether you live in the city or in a rural area. They are out there in good numbers on warm nights this time of year.
I thought, "Holy gee, how great is this; I wonder how many people don't get to hear this stuff, unless you are outside?" You can't enjoy them by trying to hear them through the walls with the TV on.
In this world, there are hundreds of millions, probably billions, of these little creatures doing the same thing: attracting mates. Mature female crickets lay eggs at intervals of 30 to 60 days, and each is capable of laying between 50 and 100 eggs, which hatch in the spring. Adults generally live up to three months in warm weather.
A lot of people think a cricket rubs his hind legs together to make his mating sound, but it doesn't. According to experts, it rubs its wings (forewings) together to do that. Some crickets will sound much louder than others in the group, and those guys that are chirping loudest make other males shy away, letting the female move in.
As the lower chirping song occurs, the female is near to being courted, or is being courted. If you listen close enough, you will be able to distinguish what is happening in the darkness of night.
Crickets are nocturnal in nature, and they like damp spaces. Believe it or not, house crickets, generally found east of the Mississippi, are not native to the U.S. They came in from Asia, being brought here for fishing bait and pet food.
In a conversation a few days back with my daughter, who lives in Niagara Falls, she mentioned how nice it is to sleep with the windows open in the room. She also said how cool the cricket sounds are, but they were starting to get under her skin with the early morning racket. She said, "There are so many!" In ancient times, the royal ladies kept crickets in a cage on their pillows in hopes of falling to sleep with their song.
That got me to thinking about the times they have crept into the cellar looking for someplace warm, and started their mating call. No one was there to play with them, and the calling would continue sometimes until almost daylight.
I found the best way to catch one in the house was with the shop vacuum, but you need to be quiet - something like playing cat and mouse. They will feel the vibration of your footsteps if you are not careful, so you have to sneak up on them. When you move, they will go silent. Stand there without moving, and they will relax and start chirping again. Generally, you will locate them under something like a box or a low table, even under the edge of a carpet. That's when you move quickly and give them a quick ride up the vacuum tube.
If you don't want to give him that ride, you could try putting a jar upside-down over the noisemaker. Slide a piece of paper or card stock under the jar to take it outside. That is difficult, because they are so fast.
Crickets are considered the most popular bait for panfish such as bluegills, sunfish, perch, even bullheads in the south. When people want to go live bait fishing around our area, generally the demand is for worms or minnows, but never live crickets. In a lot of the southern states where live crickets are in big demand, some companies manufacture artificial crickets that resemble them so close it is hard for a fish to tell them apart. There are others that sell dried crickets and others that have cricket farms on such a large scale that they sell live crickets to bait dealers and on the Internet for pet rodents and reptiles.
Crickets are a friendly little critter with no ties to human sickness or diseases, but, of course, any rare bites should be treated with an antiseptic from any insect. In some countries, like Thailand and other Asian countries, crickets are considered a delicacy for dining fare (they're rich are in protein).
In some areas, crickets are an indication of good luck or sometimes a sign of impending rain.
Enjoy them when you can; the amazing "sounds of the crickets" will be ending soon.
•Crickets do not leave residue (tobacco spit) on your hands after handling them. Grasshoppers do. Plain water takes the stain out.
•Grasshoppers "sing" by rubbing their long hind legs against their wings. Crickets only use their wings to do that.
•Crickets don't have ears; they have what is called receptors on the front of their hind legs.
•Some sources say there are more than 900 species of crickets.
•According to the state DEC, "New York's black bear population is currently estimated at a minimum of 6,000-8,000 bears in areas open to hunting. Black bears can remain dormant for up to five months in winter. It is illegal to feed black bears in New York."
"So Smart" sez: "Ten percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish."
Take a kid fishing, and grab his friend to go, too!