Four-spotted Tree Cricket
Four-spotted Tree Cricket (Oecanthus quadripunctatus)
Meadows, fields, occasionally edge habits. Prefers slightly dried habitat than Forbes’s and Black-horned Tree Crickets. This is not a woodland or wetland edge species. They favor asters and Queen Anne’s lace over goldenrod, but can be found in goldenrod on occasion. They are often found both in native grasses and pasture grasses such as timothy.
All counties in our region.
A slender, pale green tree cricket that blends beautifully with grasses and other meadow vegetation. Their identification can be confirmed by the four dark spots at the base of each antenna.
A loud but very pleasant, steady, continuous trill. The song is a little higher in pitch than those of the woodland, shrub, and edge habitat species. They initially sing only at night when they first mature, then begin singing in the afternoon as well within two or three weeks. As nights become colder, they will sing exclusively in the afternoon.
End of July or first week of August until a hard frost.
General description and context
Four-spotted Tree Crickets are the first of the meadow-dwelling tree crickets to begin singing in the late summer, and they will do so at night. This is a good time to learn their songs and study exactly where they sing, as the Black-horned and Forbes’s Tree Crickets won’t usually begin singing until a few days to a week later. They will ascend to the tops of grasses – especially timothy – to dine on seeds and you may also find them in flowers. Queen Anne’s lace is a good plant to search, and they may also oviposit (lay their eggs) in the stems. They appear to strongly prefer asters over goldenrod. If you watch carefully under the flowers and among the leaves, you may spot the singer on a stem. Because meadow vegetation is at eye level and often easier to examine, finding singing males and mating Four-spotteds is quite possible.
Female Four-spotted ovipositing in a blackberry cane. Her ovipositor is directly in front of the smaller stem that's at a right angle to the larger cane.
Black-horned and Forbes’s Tree Cricket songs are also continuous trills in the meadow and these songs can be at the same pitch as the Four-spotted. The species can be separated visually (if you can find the singers) and with practice, you may be able to separate them by sound. Consider the habitat as well, as Four-spotteds are less likely to be found in dense goldenrod meadows and are unlikely to be found at wetland edges. Definitely check for them in dry, upland fields.
Broad-winged Tree Cricket songs are also steady, continuous trills but are lower in pitch than the Four-spotted. Also, Broad-wingeds are far more likely to be found in dense blackberry thickets.
When I have studied these crickets in my late-season terrariums, I’ve noticed that they seem to be very flexible in their movements. It appears as if they can bend between the thorax and abdomen – a movement I haven’t observed in other tree crickets.
Listening in Nature post:
Songs of Insects
Singing Insects of North America
Oecanthinae.com (Tree Crickets)