Crickets and Grasshoppers
The only way to miss seeing a cricket or grasshopper is, to never leave your home. Even then the cricket has an amazing knack for coming inside for a visit. Interestingly, these two insects are both found in the Orthoptera order of insects even though they are from different families. While the cricket is part of the Gryllidae family that contains over 2,000 species, the grasshoppers belong to the Acrididae family that is comprised of over 4,000 species. Both insects can be found throughout the world and are often heard in the last weeks of summer or early fall months as they send their high pitched buzzing chorus across the land. Even though these two insects are relatively different in appearance they have several parallel distinguishing characteristics. Both have two sets of wings, one that is fine but tough and covers a second set that folds in or out much in the same way as a folding fan. They also both have thin, long rear legs that are used for jumping and a preference for feeding on plants.
To observe some of the different species of grasshoppers and crickets one should find a field that is lush in vegetation during the early morning hours or around dusk. Remain perfectly still and listen for the different chirps or trills of these insects. Very often when one begins the chorus others will follow until the sound reaches an amazing crescendo. If you follow the different sounds to their source you will find one or both of these insects as they engage in calling to their mates. The crickets you find making this noise will be males but the grasshoppers will be females. While crickets rarely measure over two inches in length, some species of grasshoppers will grow to the incredible length of around five inches. As you observe these two insects you will notice that each makes a distinctly different sound.
The mating song of the cricket is made as the insect presses a kind of scraper, which is located on its front wings, against tiny teeth like appendages that is found on the opposite front wing and moves it back and forth. A grasshoppers mating music is made when the insect creates a kind of friction by pressing its somewhat spiky hind legs or tough front wings against other parts of its body and moving them back and forth. Even though both insects use their song to attract receptive mates, this sound is used for other reasons as well. With each, their song will change when they are attempting to defend their territory or simply calling to locate others of their species. But since both the cricket and grasshopper are known to mate in the early months of fall, the majority of their chorus during this time will be part of their courting ritual. Once a receptive mate has been found the females of both insects will look for an area to deposit her eggs.
The female grasshopper in most species will deposit her eggs in the earth in small groups of around twenty eggs. The female cricket may deposit each of her eggs singly in the earth or in tiny splits in the stem of a plant. In most species the females will produce a single generation each year, but some species that are found in more moderate climates can produce up to three generations each year. The eggs of the single generation females of grasshoppers and crickets will remain unhatched until the later spring or summer months of the following year. Once they hatch the nymphs will under around five molts with the grasshopper and around ten with crickets prior to emerging as adults.
Since both of these insects feed on plants most species are considered to be pest. It is interesting to note that in some species of short horned grasshoppers a shortage in the food supply can cause new generations to under go a change that produces migrating adults that are often called locust. Both the cricket and grasshopper are considered a pest since they feast openly on almost any plant. The cricket is known to create additional damage to plants when depositing their eggs. But some species, such as the tree cricket are considered beneficial since they feed on aphids.