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Black-horned Tree Cricket

Black-horned Tree Cricket (Oecanthus nigricornis)

Occurrence

Common to abundant in parts of our region: See “Overlapping ranges: Forbes’s and Black-horned Tree Crickets in NE Ohio”

Habitat

Meadows, edge habitat. They are especially fond of goldenrod, blackberry, and can be found in buckthorn and other shrubs as well as meadow vegetation. They are less likely to be in dry, grassy areas but may be found near wetland edges.

Range

Confirmed in Portage, Summit, Lake, and Geauga Counties in our region, and is probably in Cuyahoga as well. I've found more in Portage than elsewhere.

Physical description

Black head, black legs, black antennae, and light yellowish-green bodies. The heads may have a little variation in the amount of black. When the male raises his wings to sing, they will be somewhat yellowish.

Song

A loud, trill that may continue uninterrupted for quite a while. Short, irregular songs may indicate courtship/mating.

Black-horned tree Cricket at 74F, then at 80F - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
00:00 / 00:00

Adult season

Early August until a hard frost.

General description and context

This gorgeous cricket is a meadow resident and can be quite numerous in goldenrod. Blackberry tangles are also popular, and the common NE Ohio mixture of goldenrod, blackberry, and buckthorn suites them splendidly. They initially sing at night when they first mature, but will then sing in the afternoon as well. When days become shorter and nights chillier, they will sing exclusively in the afternoon and stop before sunset.

Similar species

Forbes’s Tree Cricket. The Black-horned cannot be reliably distinguished from the Forbes’s by sight and their songs are extremely similar. Only counting the number of wing strokes per second at a specific temperature can reliably distinguish them, and both species are sometimes present in the same location.

The Four-spotted Tree Cricket is also a meadow resident.  Their songs sound similar, but these crickets are entirely green. In addition, the Four-spotted isn’t particularly bonded to goldenrod and prefers asters, Queen Anne’s lace, and grasses. They can also be found in somewhat drier habitats.

Field observation

Many of the crickets I initially assumed were Black-horned Tree Crickets ultimately were Forbes’s Tree Crickets. NE Ohio is an overlap zone for these two species. While I've found some Black-horneds in Lake, Geauga, and Summit counties, I’ve found more Black-horned Tree Crickets in parts of Portage County. The Towners Woods butterfly trail is an especially good place to find them, and they are also more common than Forbes's at Kent Bog and Herrick Fen.