Folks have recently been writing and commenting after lectures about a rapid field cricket song they are hearing. Most of these reports are from urban areas and a few from suburbia. During a recent singing insect workshop in southern Ohio we caught one of these gorgeous singers in the act — a Japanese Burrowing Cricket (Velarifictorus micado). They are slightly smaller than our native Fall Field Cricket (Gryllus pennsylvanicus) with pale markings on their face and very nicely patterned stripes on their hind leg femurs.
Japanese Burrowing Crickets were introduced into the Washington D.C. area in 1959. From there they apparently spread to the south and have been introduced all around the Southeast, hitching a ride from nurseries as eggs in the root balls of ornamental plants. There is also evidence that some populations have developed the ability to fly. These are called macropterous individuals as they have longer than normal flight wings making them able to fly more easily and for further distances than the typical form. I have not heard any reports that this new species is displacing or harming our native field and burrowing crickets. I would love to know of any studies that are looking into this.
Now, in 2011, it appears that the Japanese Burrowing Cricket is really on the move. I am hearing them just about everywhere I travel in the mid-Atlantic states. Their songs are distinctive, composed of a rapid series of chirps very reminiscent of a field cricket’s song. These rapid series of chirps can go for 6, 8, to 12 repetitions or can go on more-or-less continuously for minutes on end. Apparently, a number of people have dismissed the song as some form of native field cricket song type that they were not familiar with.
Listen to the mellow chirping of the Japanese Burrowing Cricket, first inside at 77F and then outside at 72F. From personal experience I find that individuals that are outside tend to sing continuous trains of chirps rather than the shorter versions that the inside cricket is singing. However, one of the cricket listeners I was talking with described the shorter chirp sequence coming from his flower beds at night.
Japanese burrowing cricket from Ohio singing short series of chirps followed by a longer series of chirps that was recorded outside near Shepherdstown, Jefferson Co. WV. ©Wil Hershberger August, 2011
Have you heard or seen these wonderful introduced burrowing crickets in your area? I think their song is a pleasing addition to the nighttime soundscape. What do you think of their song?