Songs at ground level: field crickets,
ground crickets, and the Northern Mole Cricket
What do these crickets all have in common? They sing at ground level.
All are brown to black. They lay their eggs in the ground. They hide – or even live – in holes and crevices in the ground, under rocks, in the leaf litter, or under branches and logs.
Most people know the song of the Fall Field Cricket (Gryllus pennsylvanicus.) It’s the stereotypical chirp-chirp-chirp associated with crickets in general. It’s a little erratic in rhythm, but definitely a series of chirps that are faster in warm, sunny weather and slower on cool nights. What you may not know is that it’s springtime cousin, the Spring Field Cricket (Gryllus veletis), looks and sounds identical, and the only way to separate them is by season. Both species are substantial, very dark, and have large, round heads.
I’m also including a non-native species that hasn’t yet arrived in the Cleveland area but will be here any year now: the Japanese Burrowing Cricket (Velarifictorus micado.) Already common in the southern half of the state, I heard one singing in a crack in a downtown street curb in Erie, PA a couple of years ago. They are similar in size the the Fall Field Cricket but are more colorful and have bright white palps.
Listen for them in developments and commercial landscaping, as ornamental nursery trees with a substantial pile of mulch around them would be a likely location. Once established, they'll be in cracks and crevices in rock walls, bricks, and concrete. I expect we'll eventually learn all about this species. And who knows – you might be the first person in our region to find them! Post your findings on the Singing Insects of Ohio Facebook group to share your sightings/hearings with other Ohio singing insect enthusiasts so we can track their "progress."
There are three genera of ground crickets represented in our region: Eunemobious, Allonemobius, and Neonemobius. They range from small down to tiny - ½” to ¼” - and they are rather dark brown until one looks more closely to see the subtle details of stripes and spots. They sing at night and some sing during the afternoons as well. All of them are difficult to find and even more difficult to catch.
What’s helpful with this group is that each species’s song is distinctive and their songs are fairly easy to learn. They may look alike, but they certainly do not sound alike. Here are the songs of three most common ones: Carolina Ground Cricket, the Allard's Ground Cricket, and the Striped Ground Cricket.
I've written a very helpful and entertaining Listening in Nature blog post on the ground crickets we've hosted in terrariums in our kitchen. You'll get a closeup look into their lives, hear the recordings, and see Dmitri (our beloved little gray cat who was still with us at the time) monitoring the terrariums that he considers to be his. http://listeninginnature.blogspot.com/2014/11/crickets-in-house-ground-crickets-and.html
The ubiquitous ground cricket of our region is the Carolina Ground Cricket (Eunemobius carolinus.) They are the ground cricket you’ll hear in the woods, in damp areas, meadows, backyards, gardens, garages, and around your house.
The Confused Ground Cricket (Eunemobius confusus) is in the same genus, but it is rare in our region and very common from Ohio’s central lakeshore west. To date, I have only found them in the wet woods above the Lake Erie at Mentor Lagoons in Lake County. Their song sounds as if they are saying, "Con-FUSED? Con-FUSED?"
There is one other member of this genus in our area: the Melodious Ground Cricket (Eunemobius melodius). Their silvery trills are beautiful, as their name suggests, but they are generally impossible to see. I typically hear them under dense vegetation at woodland edges, and they seem to be especially fond of poison ivy. Consequently, I have yet to actually get a photo of this species, though I have several recordings.
Allonemobius ground crickets are a bit larger than Eunemobius species. The two common species in our region are the Striped Ground Cricket (Allonemobius fasciatus) and the Allard’s Ground Cricket (Allonemobius allardi), and they are easy to distinguish by song. The Striped really does have subtle stripes on the head. Stripeds prefer wetter areas than Allard’s, who can be found at the edge of beaches and in other sandy soil. Both species are common. The Tinkling Ground Cricket (Allonemobius tinnulus), which sounds like a slow version of the Allard's, is found in dry, open wooded areas in western and southern Ohio. If you think you hear one here, it's likely to be either an Allard's singing a slower song (they do have that option) or an Allard's at a chilly temperature.
The third cricket from this genus that you might encounter in NE Ohio is the Spotted Ground Cricket (Allonemobius maculatus), which lives in dry – even sandy - open woods. They do indeed have spots and I think they are our most attractive ground cricket. When I find them, they usually are close to Lake Erie.
The ground crickets listed above are small, but there are two species here that are even smaller! The Cuban Ground Cricket (Neonemobius cubensis) is very tiny and almost impossible to see. They’re widespread and can be found in meadows, grassy areas, mowed paths, and along woodland edges, but not typically in yards. Their songs are different from the other ground crickets, and this will be your only hope of identifying them.
Should you be interested in exploring a floating bog mat, you might encounter an equally diminutive cricket with a similar song: the Sphagnum Ground Cricket (Neonemobius palustris.). However, they live exclusively in sphagnum moss in a very specific – and challenging - habitat for humans. Please see Songs of Insects for photos and recordings.
Northern Mole Cricket: Neocurtilla hexadactyla
I have included Mole Crickets here because they live at ground level – in fact, they live below ground level! They are named mole crickets because they burrow and create tunnels underground, using forelegs that resemble those of moles. They look nothing like any other cricket in NE Ohio and live in burrows at the edge of ponds, wetlands, streams, and even drainage ditches. Their rhythmic chirping is lower in pitch than any of our other crickets and emanates from a burrow rather than above ground. Not surprisingly, I hear these large crickets in suitable habitat but never see them. Please see the species page for more information on these secretive, fascinating crickets and Songs of Insects for photos. I have actually never seen one!
More about the Confused Ground Cricket can be found below:
Songs of Insects