Crickets, family Gryllidae (also known as “true crickets”), are insects which are related to grasshoppers and katydids (order Orthoptera). They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae and are known for their chirp (which only male crickets can do; male wings have ridges that act like a “comb and file” instrument). They chirp by rubbing their wings over each other, and the song is species-specific.
There are two types of cricket songs: a calling song and a courting song. The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near, and is a very quiet song. Female crickets have a long needlelike egg-laying organ (ovipositor).
There are about 900 known species of cricket, worldwide. The cricket tends to be nocturnal and is often confused with grasshoppers (which are related, but not the same), because they have a similar body structure including jumping hind legs.
In 1970, Dr. William H. Cade discovered that the parasitic fly Ormia ochracea is also attracted to the song of the male, and uses it to locate the male in order to deposit her young on him. It was the first example of a natural enemy that locates its host or prey using the mating signal. Since then, many species of crickets have been found to be carrying the same parasitic fly around the world.
Crickets are popular pets and considered good luck in Asia, especially China. They may also be eaten in some cultures.
Subfamilies of the family Gryllidae:
- Eneopterinae – Bush crickets
- Gryllinae – Common or field crickets; brown or black; despite the name, some of them enter houses.
- Mogoplistinae – Scaly crickets
- Myrmecophilinae – Ant crickets
- Nemobiinae – Ground crickets
- Oecanthinae – Tree crickets; usually green with broad, transparent wings; frequent trees and shrubs.
- Pentacentrinae – Anomalous crickets
- Trigonidiinae – Sword-tail crickets
In addition to the above subfamilies in the family Gryllidae, several other orthopteran groups outside of this family also may be called “crickets”:
- Mole crickets
- Cave Crickets (also called camel crickets)
- Sand crickets
- Mormon crickets
- Weta crickets
- Jerusalem crickets
- Parktown prawns