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by Valerie

June, 2013

Prairie Tree Cricket

prairie tree cricket

One of the most attractive members of the cricket family (Gryllidae), the prairie tree cricket (Oecanthus argentinus) is also one of the least likely to be seen. Females are long and slender while males have the wide lacy wings that they vibrate together to sing. Although its song is easy to hear, and the species is quite common in our area, the camouflage green colors and secretive habits make finding an individual rather difficult. Any disturbance usually silences the wary animals. Even when one is singing, with a lovely long, tinkling trill, pinpointing the source of the sound is not at all easy. As the insect turns in different directions, the sound seems to come from other locations. A good place to find tree crickets is in flowers, where they sometimes feed on the pollen and other nutritious bits.

There are several species of tree cricket and they all look similar. The best way to identify them is to look at a front view of the base of the antennae. On most species, this is white with black markings. The different shapes and locations of the black marks can be used to tell which species is at hand. While it sounds simple, actually getting a look at this feature is not; the insects usually rest with their antennae extended forward, completely hiding the front bases. For the curious who might wonder how the above photo was obtained, with the cricket both singing and facing the camera, I will reveal the secret. It took a long time of remaining very still before the insect got used to my presence and resumed singing. It also seemed to finally get tired of changing positions every time I tried to look it head on. Basically, I just had more patience than it did.

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