Nature Connection #22 – Buzzzzzz

Okay. We mostly don’t like them. They have six legs, and overall, they are annoying. But this week, let’s look past all that. Just for a moment, remember that many insects are beneficial. They pollinate our fruit trees and vegetables. Without them, our food choices would be much less colorful, not to mention that we would have no nuts or berries. And the other good thing, they mostly eat EACH OTHER and dead things! Just one more reason to keep them around.

But today, let’s talk about insect ‘music.’

(From “Night Song,” in A Journey for All Season, 2000, by Lyons Press for The Nature Conservancy.)

“The sounds of insects fill prairie nights with their moonlight serenades. Crickets, katydids, grasshoppers and cicadas are musical wizards.

“Just as frogs and owls can be identified by their night songs, so too can insects. And while grasshoppers sing by rubbing their legs together, other members of the night choir, the katydids and crickets, use their wings. The katydids and crickets produce sound by means of a ridge-and-file system. They call by scraping the fixed ridge on the edge of their forewing against the file on the underside of the other wing. Grasshoppers have several ways of producing sound. The most common way is by scraping the teeth-like structures on their hind legs against a vein on their outer wing covers.

“But why, when the sun begins to set and the night sky covers the prairie, do the insects sing?

“Generally, only male insects sing; a few female katydids will respond to the male call with a click. Calls vary among courting calls, territory calls, and aggressive calls. The competition among some of the evening singing insects is fierce, and the loudest singer attracts the females.

“Crickets, katydids and grasshoppers don’t live long. They make their debut in spring as nymphs, with small wings and immature reproductive parts. Over the summer they go through several molts, reaching adulthood in eary fall, when their wings and reproductive organs mature and they are able to mate. While some insects begin calling in late June or early July, it is in early fall, when their wings and reproductive organs are fully mature, that the orthopteran orchestra reaches its summer crescendo.”

It seems to me that with the early onset of spring this year, we are likely to hear the insect chorus much much earlier. Take a listen on these late spring nights to see if the music fest has started yet!

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