When people learn about keeping crickets and katydids in the house late in the season, they often ask me for information on how I do this and what works well for the insects and myself.
I've promised this page for years, but maybe that's not so bad. With each passing year, I learn more about what works best for all concerned.
My first suggestion is to consider what they needed in the wild and see to what extent you can replicate their habitat, their diet, what they need to sing, how to provide safe conditions indoors, and what you need to hear and observe them well. As my field guide indicates. there are quite a few species here in NE Ohio and they live in different habitats and have different diets. Not all crickets and katydids will adapt well to life indoors.
I've been experimenting with housing since the first Four-spotted Tree Cricket came home with me just before Superstorm Sandy in late October, 2012. Here's what I think works best as of 2021
Mesh butterfly/caterpillar cages have been a very good choice for tree crickets, Jumping Bush Crickets, and katydids. There are even mini cages that can be used for ground crickets and trigs. I like these because the ventilation is good for the insects, the sound travels extremely well, and the insects are generally safe. I started this by using glass terrariums with metal mesh screens on top. But little house spiders were able to push their way through the holes in the screen, grow into larger predators, and kill the tree crickets. It was heartbreaking to find a tree cricket dangling - deceased - from a web. The mesh cages are a much better options. Just be sure to securely zip the zippers to the top and the little food doors near the bottom, observing the area of the zipper track very carefully in case someone up there could get stuck.
I use dinner plates from the dollar store to solidify the base of these cages and create floor space for small vases of appropriate flowers and leaves.
Plastic critter cages with plastic roofs that have slits in them can be a good temporary transporter, but I've decided that the insects don't really have good enough ventilation. Some of the sound is lost as well. Also, the tiny holes where the handles are inserted create just enough space for a Handsome Trig or Says Trig to squeeze out - and they absolutely will.
Glass terrarium cages are similar, and there's always the problem of spiders getting through the holes of the screen. The good think about them is the room to create and appropriate habitat and even grow some grass for them.
Here's where you'll need to keep in mind where they live in the wild.
I'll start with tree crickets, who are going to need vegetation in vases. They do not live on the ground.
Meadow-dwelling species like Forbes's, Black-horned, and Four-spotted Tree Crickets will appreciate meadow vegetation. Forbes's and Black-horned will prefer goldenrod and Four-spotted will prefer asters (including those ubiquitous small, white asters of later fall. Broad-winged Tree Crickets live in blackberry and goldenrod; they need wide leaves to correctly position themselves to sing, and they hide motionless on the undersides of these leaves during the day. Other shrub leaves will do (until frost) but blackberry is very hardy, widespread, and enthusiastically accepted. Add a little to the Black-horned and/or Forbes's vases as well.
In the online Songs of Insects, Wil Hershberger has an example of a singing cage you can create yourself. I wouldn't be that person. but some of you might have the patience. Go to Singing Insects as Pets on the Songs of Insects website.
Crickets and Katydids in the House
Creating the habitat - food, shelter, and singing perches.
Tree crickets like the Narrow-winged and Snowy Tree Crickets prefer shrub leaves mixed with some kind of flowers when possible. Blackberry is also accepted by Snowy Tree Crickets. Just keep in mind where they were when you found them and try to approximate this. As you observe these crickets, you'll find out what kinds of vegetation are their preferred plants.
Tree crickets will also need appropriate leaves for singing as well, so try to notice where they sing from and how much space they need for their wings. Broad-winged Tree Crickets need some space to extend those large, beautiful wings, and mine really seem to like blackberry leaves on a stem so they can position themselves between lobes of the leaves.
The leaf-mimic katydids (Amblycorypha and Microcentrum are more challenging because they live in trees and shrubs. Oblong-winged and Rattler Round-winged Katydids may accept blackberry, but my Lesser Angle-wing has no use for such things. Now that it's later December, I have no source of leaves for him other than a bit of privet from the neighborhood that still has some leaves and the invasive honeysuckle up near Lake Erie that is so hardy it is close to being everygreen. These are only plants for the general habitat rather than for food. However, I've recently places a large, tall leaf of organic Romaine lettuce in a small vase, and he has been enthusiastically chewing large holes in it.
I have limited experience with Scudderia (the bush katydids) but I would give them flowers like goldenrod or asters along with stems and leaves of meadow plants when possible.
Clicker Round-winged Katydid eating his leaves, left, and Lesser Angle-wing on his Romaine lettuce tree
The challenge for those katydid and crickets who live in the leaves and sing from the leaves is providing them with leaves in later November on through December (or occasionally, even later). I search for remaining blackberry leaves, often under the protection of snow. Just remember not to use anything from a florist or house plants from a garden center that could possibly have a trace of pesticide remaining, as that is likely to be lethal. Even non-organic produce can have pesticde residue which can be lethal.
Jumping Bush Crickets, should you be able to catch one, live in shrubs and shall teres. The are always in motion and climb all over branches, twigs, vines, leaves, and sometimes even tree trunks. They will need a cage with pieces of branches tangled together to allow them to move and explore. I have also found a pieces of grape vine or Virginia creeper tangled or draped among the small branches will be a welcome addition. Jumping Bush Crickets are yet another species that enjoys having blackberry available, though I don't know if they eat it or just hide in it.
Jumping Bush Cricket climbing from a twig to a leaf in his cage, then singing.
Habitats for Meadow Katydids
Black-legged Meadow Katydid singing from a cattail seed head in his cage.
Black-legged Meadow Katydids (Orchelimum nigripes) are an absolute delight to have in the house!Excellent accommodations can be arranged with a tall mesh butterfly cage supported by a dinner plate in the bottom of the cage, two small vases or perhaps empty iced tea bottles, and an empty plastic prescription bottle partly filled with sand
The sand will the a base to support two thick, heavy cattail seed head stems (no seed head just yet) or another comparable heavy, smooth stem. These two stems will be perfect singing perches. One little vase (no water needed) can hold a cattail seed head on its stem and some bulrush (wool grass) seed heads on stems. Any other tall seed heads on stems that you might find at a wetland edge will be welcome as well. (Just don't use purple loosestrife!)
One vase may be enough, but two plus the singing perch base will fit if you'd like to add additional vegetation. Think of what grows along wetland edges and see what you can recreate.
I have two cages next to each other with a Black-legged in each one, and they inspire each other to sing for hours at a time for weeks on end.
Conocephalus meadow katydids such as Short-winged Meadow Katydids will appreciate grasses - green or dry - such as timothy (if you remembered to collect some earlier in the season) or any native grasses. They will probably like tall ones that arch over in the cage and would likely appreciate singing perches.
We had a Woodland Meadow Katydid (Conocephalus nemoralis) from southern Ohio here this year and he loved arching grasses. He would hide on the undersides of the wider ones and sing from the tops of the narrower ones. I provided various kinds of seeds and grasses as I came across them, and he lived - and sang - until mid-December (see below).
Meadow katydids live in a variety of habitats, so study where they came from when you create their indoor homes. They'll be more likely to sing and you'll learn about how they use their singing perches and plants.
Habitats for field crickets, ground crickets, and trigs
Field and ground crickets are literally at ground level, so their indoor habitats will quite different from the leafy or grassy cages of the tree crickets and the katydids.
Fall Field Crickets and Spring Field Crickets like sandy soil and one of their habitats is the beach edges along Lake Erie. They are extremely difficult to catch because their otherwise drop down into hole or crcks in pavement,
I typically just create beach habitat because it's unlikely that I'll ever catch one otherwise. I start with beach sand on the floor of a large plastic "critter cage" or a medlium-sized glass terrarium with a metal screen cover. I suspect they could chew their way our of a mesh cage, and I don't want to confirm my suspicions.
I create a little beach from sand, some stones, a couple of very small pieces of smooth wood from the beach, and maybe a little clump of grass (not beach grass). They like to sing from a stone or piece of wood, and they like to have a couple of dead leaves or a little pile of small rocks to hide under.
They likely will sing quite a bit, and if you have a cat, she/he will very much enjoy studying this cricket. Just be certain that the screen is secure. If you are concerned about spiders, you can put a little mesh cloth over the top of the screen.
Ground crickets live on the ground and hide very well in grasses, under leaves, among rocks...just try to create a comparable habitat. A terrarium kind of setup will allow you to see how they live, and you may be able to have more than one ground cricket in one of these. Avoid putting two males of the same species together, however, as they WILL fight. If there are males and females, they may mate and the female will deposit her eggs in the soil.
2015: the year I unexpectedly had cricket nymphs appear in a terrarium June!
Carolina Ground Cricket, left and singing Allard's Ground Cricket, right.
I remain uncertain about the best arrangement for ground crickets. A terrarium with considerable soil, some rocks, and some clumps of grass would seem perfect, but I don't always know who might be living in the soil and a subterranean predator might be possible. I'm not convinced that the smaller plastic critter cages provide adequate airflow. I'm currently experimenting with smaller mesh cages with crumbled dead leaves on the floor of the cage. I should also consider that these crickets may be as much as 4 months old by the time I bring them inside, as they mature earlier than most other singing insects. To be continued...
Looking down into a very nice ground cricket habitat. The crickets like to have a stone or piece of wood from which to sing, and a little vegetation or even dry leaves to hide under.
Trigs - whether Says Trigs, Handsome Trigs, or Spring Trigs - need to be in small mesh cages. They are wonderful singers and skillful escape artists. They can sneak out of almost anything except mesh cages. Even small plastic critter cages are not safe, as they can get out through the little space where the handle connects to the lid
Just put their food, water cubes, and perhaps a little leaf to hide under on the floor of the cage and let them sing. Handsome Trigs are particularly outstanding, and having a few of them in the early fall will guarantee a delightful concert for as long as they live.
If you use a small mesh butterfly/caterpillar cage, you can put a small saucer of something similar on the bottom to stabilize it. I use a plastic lid from a 1quart yogurt container. 7" high and 5" diameter mesh caterpillar cages work well, and these tiny trigs don't require any more space than this.
I also have some very useful little singing cages that Wil and Donna Hershberger made from Tupperware containers and, I believe, no-see-um netting. The container bottom supports the structure even though its sides have been replaced with mesh.
Left: Handsome Trig singing in his cage. Right: his produce display.
Food and water
I've covered the details of the indoor habitat now. Simply adding food and water beyond an approximation of what they eat outdoors is the easy part of their care.
I provide little pill bottle caps or water bottle caps (if you can find any without drinking a lot of bottled water) that have Flukers dry cricket food in one and Flukers "Cricket Quencher" water cubes in another. (These supposedly eliminate the risk of an insect drowning in a little dish of water.) You'll need to replace water cubes regularly, as these are popular. Dry cricket food should be monitored, as it can mold if it gets damp. Some people have had good luck with Fluker's complete diet cubes which provide both water and nutrition (and these are orange, not yellow). However, none of the singing insects here has shown any interest in these. The Fluker's products are readily available in pet supply stores (because people use them for feeder crickets for their reptiles) and online.
Ground crickets and field crickets absolutely love the dry cricket food! I've learned that katydids like dry, uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal flakes, so I'll experiment with that next year as well. I imagine the ground crickets will like those as well.
Everyone gets a piece of fresh, organic Romaine lettuce daily, a little piece of organic apple, and half an organic grape. I put all three on the wooden skewer to make little produce kabobs. Ground crickets, field crickets, and trigs have theirs served on the floor of their cages.
Oblong-winged Katydid eating his apple
All the crickets and katydids have their leaves or other habitat misted nightly. Sometimes, they will start to sing
almost immediately after I do so.
This is not very complicated. They want to be warm, so keep them in a warm room. If they can get some south sun when available, they will enjoy it. They like peaceful, quiet surroundings and don't seem to mind a cat watching them. And if it gets really chilly, help them out a little with a space heater.
Remember that some of these insects will sing during the day, and others only sing at night. Broad-winged Tree Crickets are powerful singers and are too loud for the bedroom, but ground crickets or a Rattler Round-winged Katydid would be lovely. A Four-spotted Tree Cricket might not be overly loud, but a Jumping Bush Cricket will be too boisterous. You'll figure out your own preferences and you'll enjoy doing so.