October Serenade

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It’s October. That means it’s time to enjoy the October Serenade! Can you hear the sounds of grasshoppers buzzing outside during the day? Have you noticed the chirping sounds of crickets “singing” at night? That’s creation’s October Serenade.

Those chirps and buzzes you hear aren’t just random noises. They’re grasshoppers and crickets talking to each other. They’re saying things like, “This is my territory.” But this time of year, most often they’re calling to find a mate.

Listening to this October Serenade is a lot more interesting if you know what these critters are saying to each other. So read on. Then walk through your backyard or a nearby field on a sunny day. And open your window on a balmy night. Enjoy creation’s serenade!

Why the Racket?
Grasshoppers and crickets can’t live through a cold winter. When the temperature dips below freezing, they freeze. So God created them to mate and lay eggs at this time of year.

Their eggs, which they lay in the ground, are made to live through the winter.

The following spring, a new “crop” of grasshoppers and crickets is ready to hatch. Year after year, as long as seasons change, springtime brings new little crickets and grasshoppers.

That’s why you hear them singing right now. Males are calling females to mate. Females need to lay those frost-proof eggs!

Grasshoppers usually call during the day. That’s the buzzing you hear in fields and in your backyard. Crickets usually call at night. That’s the chirping you hear through your open window.

What’s the Difference?
Male grasshoppers and crickets have two antennae-like feelers called “cerci” growing from their back ends. Females have two cerci plus one spear-like thing to lay eggs. So, if you see three feelers you know the cricket is a female, and females don’t sing. If you see two feelers, it’s a male. It might sing all night, so put it outside!

Monotone Mates
Male grasshopper “songs” are not very musical. Those mating calls are just buzzes or rasping sounds.

The next time you hear grasshoppers buzzing out in your yard, try singing on the same pitch that a grasshopper is buzzing. You’ll discover that you can’t do it! Buzzing doesn’t have a pitch. It’s just a buzz, one tone. Male grasshoppers are monotones.

But that’s OK: female grasshoppers are tone deaf. They can’t hear different pitches. They hear differences in buzzes.

That male grasshopper “buzz” that we hear really is a series of short stop-and-go buzzes. One type of grasshopper may make a “Buzzzzz buz buzz” sound, while another sounds more like “Buz buzz buzz.”

We can’t hear the differences because it all happens so quickly. But female grasshoppers certainly can tell one buzz apart from another. Each female grasshopper is created to respond to one rhythm only—that of her kind of male.

Different grasshopper species never become confused. They always find one of their own.

Quick Singing Lesson
Generally, only male crickets sing. The song is, after all, a mating call.

Male crickets have rasps on the edges of their wings—a bit like nail files. When they rub their wings together, the “files” rub together. That makes the chirps that you hear.

Female crickets usually just listen. They have “ears” on their front legs. So when a male sings, a female moves around until she can hear the song well. This puts her facing the male cricket—right where she should be!

He’s Playing My Song!
Scientists have identified more than 10,000 species of crickets in the world, about 400 different species in North America alone. You probably have several different species in your backyard or local park. All these crickets are singing through each other. But each male is singing a specific mating song.

We hear all these nightly chirps simply as cricket songs. We can’t tell that different species are singing slightly different songs.

But each female cricket hears only the mating song of her species. She’s simply deaf to all other male cricket songs. She won’t respond unless she hears her specific song.

Cool Songs
Like all insects, crickets can’t keep themselves warm. Their bodies are warmed or cooled by the air around them.

Also like all insects, crickets slow down as they cool down. They move more slowly, and they sing more slowly. And the slower they sing, the lower they sing.

But that’s no problem for female crickets. As they cool, their ears cool too. They move more slowly and they hear more slowly. And the slower they hear, the lower they hear.

That’s how female crickets are designed to always hear only the call of their mate.

Who do you suppose thought of that?

Cricket Thermometers
In October, temperatures cool off in northern countries. It’s fall; winter’s coming. But do you know exactly what the temperature is in your backyard at night?

Some people say you can figure that out from a cricket’s chirps. To do this, you need a stopwatch or a clock with a second hand. You may also want the help of a friend. This activity is easier to do with two people.

For Fahrenheit temperatures, try this: Count the number of chirps a cricket makes in 14 seconds. Then add 40 to get the temperature.

For Celsius temperatures, try this: Count the number of chirps in 25 seconds. Divide this number by 3. Then add 4 to that answer.

Write your answer down on a piece of paper. Then check your outside thermometer to see how close you came!

About the Author

Joanne De Jonge is a freelance writer and a former U.S. National Park Ranger. She attends West Valley Christian Fellowship in Phoenix, Ariz.
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