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Broad-winged Tree Cricket

Broad-winged Tree Cricket (Oecanthus latipennis)

Occurrence

Abundant in appropriate habitat

Habitat

Blackberry, grape vine tangles, and shrubs in meadows, fields, hedge rows, and edge habitats. Not a woodland species.

Range

All counties in our region.

Physical description

A pale green cricket with large wings and rich red on the top of its head that continues down into the base of its antennae.  

Song

A rich, loud, continuous trill that is surprisingly difficult to locate. These songs have fewer wing strokes per second than those of other tree crickets that share its habitat, and you may be able to hear a bit of separation between the wing strokes. Their songs will always be lower in pitch than those of the surrounding Black-horned, Forbes’s or Four-spotted Tree Crickets. They sing from dusk well into the night during August through the first part of September, but will begin singing very late in the afternoon from mid-September through frost.

The first track below is a recording of three different males at three progressively cooler temperatures. This will give you an idea of the pitch variation you might hear between a warm, humid August evening and twilight in late September or early October.

 

Broad-winged Tree Crickets at increasingly cooler temperatures - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
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The second was recorded on November 16th at Sheldon Marsh near the parking lot on Rte. 6. The temperature was in the upper 50s. The shadowy lines you see that look like reflections above the primary bright line are harmonics, or overtones. generated by the fundamental pitch. This is a visual representation of the rich tone quality of the Broad-winged's song. The bright line is actually composed of individual wing strokes. It's often not easy to see these in a sonogram because they're very close together, but the Broad-winged's song has fewer wing strokes per second that other tree crickets, and even fewer when the temperature is cold.

Broad-winged Tree Cricket on November 16th, temperature in the upper 50s - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
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Adult season

Mid-August until frost. They mature later than the other meadow resident tree crickets and are able to sing at colder temperatures. I have recorded them singing in the low 50s and even on occasion in the upper 40s!

General description and context

This strikingly beautiful cricket is surprisingly difficult to find. Their songs are so rich and strong that it seems they must be much closer than is actually the case. In addition, they typically sing from the undersides of broad leaves and are not very far above the ground.

 

They love blackberry, whose tangled, thorny canes make a person’s search for this lovely singer all the more challenging. At least in our area, they are not typically in more open vegetation; the less accessible and more impenetrable, the better! It becomes a little easier to find them at the end of the season when leaves begin to fade and drop.

Broad-winged Tree Cricket female and male
Broad-winged Tree Cricket female ovipositing
Broad-winged Tree Cricket nymph

Similar species

The Snowy Tree Cricket has rather large wings,and a little reddish-orange on the top of its head and antenna base. The wings of Broad-winged are considerably larger and the red is much richer and extends across a far more extensive area of the top of the head and down the antennae. Both can be found in shrubs, but the Snowy Tree Cricket’s song is a rhythmic chirp-chirp-chirp while the Broad-winged’s is a continuous trill.

Blackberry tangles out in a meadow may also have Black-horned or Forbes’s Tree Crickets in residence, and Four-spotted Tree Crickets may be found in shrubs scattered in meadows. Like the Broad-winged, these crickets all sing continuous trills. However, those species's songs will always be higher in pitch than the Broad-winged. They also do not have wide wings and have different coloration.

Field observation

Their primary defense seems to be hiding on the back or lower surface of a leaf and remaining absolutely motionless. I have found that if I can locate a singer, I may be able to gently remove the leaf he is on without the cricket even moving. Broad leaves like grape, blackberry, buckthorn, and other shrubs offer a wide space for hiding this cricket’s broad wings, but sometimes their antenna may give them away by extending a little beyond the leaf edge.