In your yard: crickets


The sounds of fall wouldn’t be complete without the chirping of crickets. They go primarily unheard until late summer and fall, but their familiar chirps are everywhere from then on. Why then? It’s mating season, and the chirps are from males calling to females. They produce their sounds by rubbing their upper wings against their lower ones. Sound of a cricket  

Female crickets can be easily identified by their long ovipositor (egg-laying organ), which projects from the rear of their abdomen. You’ll notice two shorter projections coming from there, too. They’re sensory organs called cerci, and both sexes have them. After mating, females deposit their eggs in the soil, where they’ll hatch in the spring. Young crickets look like their parents, except they’re smaller and without wings. They molt several times over the summer as they grow to adult size. Their wings grow longer and longer until they’re fully developed as adults.

Crickets are nocturnal and omnivorous. They feed on seeds, grains, flowers, leaves, and small fruits, and some species eat meat, such as ladybugs and insect larvae. Their foraging causes no damage to speak of, and they’re harmless to humans. They may bite in self-defense, but when they do, it rarely breaks the skin.

All crickets are in the order Orthoptera, along with grasshoppers and locusts. You might be most familiar with those in the Gryllus family—field crickets, of which there are about 900 species around the world, except Antarctica. They’re so-called “true crickets,” and about 100 species inhabit the U.S. You’ll read about some of them here. Also, about some “crickets” that aren’t actually crickets.


An all-black Field Cricket standing in a green plant that has small lavender flowers.

Field Cricket, Gryllus campestris (gailhampshire / Flickr CC BY 2.0)


House Crickets inhabit the eastern half of the U.S. Despite their name, they’re found predominantly outdoors. Like Field Crickets, they’re attracted to light. They’re thought to be native to southeastern Asia.

Brownish-colored House Cricket standing on a white surface.

House cricket, Acheta domesticus, (Geyersberg, Prof. Emeritus Hans Schneider / Wiki; CC BY-SA 3.0)


This is another species of cricket you probably know very well by sound, even if you can’t give a name to it. And you may never see one because they blend into their environment very well. Their songs evoke summer through and through. Males begin singing at dusk from July into October. They can produce an amazingly loud sound and often synchronize into an even-louder chorus. There are 80 tree cricket species worldwide, found everywhere except Antarctica.

Snowy Tree Cricket standing on a flower

Snowy Tree Cricket ((Oecanthus fultoni) (Mark Yokoyama / Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Despite their name, Camel Crickets aren’t crickets. They’re in the order Orthoptera but belong to a different family, Rhaphidophoridae, and number about 1,100 species in the world. They seek out cool, damp, dark areas, so they’re often discovered in basements. It’s a mystery how they find their way in, except the tiniest crack can allow entry. They get their name from their camel-like humped back. Unlike true crickets, they don’t produce sounds.

Camel cricket standing on surface of a leaf

Camel Cricket (Ceuthophilus sp.) (Katja Schulz / Flickr; CC BY 2.0)


The Mormon Cricket (Anabrus simplex) isn’t a cricket but one of the shield-backed katydids. They’re in Orthoptera but belong to the family Tettigoniidae. Their name comes from their invasion of the first Mormon settlement in Utah in 1848.

There are 6,400 katydid species around the world, except Antarctica. Many are quite small, but some species grow up to 5.1 inches long (130 mm). Males produce their songs in the same fashion as field crickets and Snowy Tree Crickets by rubbing their legs together (called stridulation).

Mormon Cricket (Anabrus simplex) (Oregon Dept. of Agriculture, Thomas Shahan / Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Listen to the buzzing sound of a Mormon Cricket  (Turn volume up


Another “cricket” with a misleading name; they’re neither crickets nor from Jerusalem. You may have also heard them called potato bugs. These flightless insects may emit a foul smell and can deliver a painful bite if threatened but are otherwise harmless. They’re in the family Stenopelmatidae. The origin of their name isn’t certain, but it may have originated from a mix of Navajo and Christian terms. There are 19 species; some grow quite large, up to 2.72 inches long (69 mm). Both males and females make a drumming sound by hitting the ground with their abdomens.
Brownish-colored Jerusalem Cricket standing on white background.

Jerusalem Cricket (© Quyen Tat / Shutterstock)

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