The other night, I was thumbing through a book on freshwater invertebrates (my typical exciting evening). Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the cats stalking something across the living room floor. At first glance it looked like a spider, but I counted the legs and it didn’t have enough.
Eventually the cat subdued it, so I got a closer look when I pitched the carcass in the trash (this honked off the cat because he wasn’t done with it yet). It was a cricket that had found its way into the house, probably up from the basement. This led me to wonder how many types of crickets we have in Indiana.
There are some sources that say six and some say four species in our neighborhood. We’re going with four: northern mole, house, camel and field crickets.
Northern mole crickets get one to two inches long with small beady eyes; the fore legs are shovel-shaped for burrowing. As with most crickets, it has three stages in life: egg, nymph (may molt up to ten times) and adult. This is all done underground. As far as food goes, some are vegetarian and other omnivores. They have wings, but use them only when dispersal time arrives.
The male always does his singing underground in a specially-built burrow shaped like an acoustic horn. The females will burrow in the ground as far as 12 inches in order to lay 25 to 60 eggs. Some of them will seal the entrance, then leave, while other may stay in an adjoining passage to watch over the eggs.
The house cricket is a gray-brownish color, under one inch long, and takes two to three months to complete its life cycle. When cold weather hits, it generally is in or near buildings or dumps where it is warmer. Its sound is made by males rubbing their two wings together in order to find a mate. Being closely related to the grasshopper, it has hind legs built for jumping. They prefer to eat soft plant material, but also will eat other insects and carrion.
This is one of the crickets people buy to feed pets such as lizards and tarantulas. In Thailand, these crickets are deep fried and sold as food (for humans).
The camel cricket gets its name from being slightly humpbacked. It is also called the “spricket,” because sometimes people mistake it for a spider (spider + cricket = spricket). It is more closely related to cave crickets. Its eating habits have been compared to a goat, as it will eat almost everything. When it lives outside, it feeds on plants and other insects; indoors it goes for fabrics and household plants.
In color it is light tan to a dark brown and one-half inch to one and one-half inches long. These crickets don’t bite and they don’t chirp. They attract females by chemical scents released from the body itself. It prefers to live in high humidity areas. This is what the cat was chasing.
The field cricket is the one most people will recognize easily. Its colors vary from black to red to brown, and it grows from one-half inch to one inch long. After hatching, they will molt eight or more times to become adults in about six weeks. As far as food goes, they will eat seeds, plants, insects (dead or alive) and, if really hungry, each other.
The males attract the females by rubbing their wings together, and if you want to tell the difference between male and female field crickets, it’s easy. The female will have a spike-like appendage called the ovipositor sticking out to the rear. This is for laying eggs into the ground, 50 at a time and up to 400 in her life. When cold weather comes, they may move indoors; but by early winter, unlike house crickets, they generally die.