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Handsome Trig

Handsome Trig (Phyllopalpus puchellus)

Occurrence

Generally abundant, but still uncommon in parts of the snow belt.

Habitat

Shrubs, including native viburnum and invasive buckthorn. They are also commonly found in blackberry tangles and grape vines, and occasionally in heavy-stemmed meadow plants such as Joe Pye weed and ironweed.

Range

All counties in our region, but in much larger numbers in Summit, Medina, and Lorain Counties than in Lake and Geauga.

Physical description

A tiny, brilliantly-colored cricket with a bright red head and thorax, black body and prominent black palps, and pale legs. The male has one black wing and one clear wing with a black border.  Although their bright colors appear dramatic, they actually blend very well with autumnal leaf and stem colors.

Their prominent black palps move constantly, feeling everything.

Song

A surprisingly loud, high, crackling, continuous song that is similar in pitch to a Say’s Trig but very different in texture because of the irregular separations between wing strokes. Although they do sing at night, their chorus is especially strong in the afternoon.

The track below consists of two different recordings. The second is at a warmer temperature than the first. Notice the tiny spaces throughout the sonogram; these create the crackling, sparkling sound that contrasts with the smooth sound of the Say's Trig.

Two Handsome Trig songs second is a little warmer - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
00:00 / 00:00

Adult season

Early August until frost. Handsome Trigs will even sing in leaves that have fallen off their plants, taking the trigs down to the ground with them. Handsome Trigs continue singing much later into the fall than Say’s Trigs and only freezing temperatures will stop them.

General description and context

These crickets are very active, continuously exploring everything around them except when males are singing from within a curled leaf or underneath a cluster of leaves. Females are more visible than the males, and you may even see one ovipositing.

Female Handsome Trig ovipositing in buckthorn

Similar species

None. Say’s Trigs may be in the same shrubs, but their coloration is a subtle blend of tans and browns. Although their songs will be at the same pitch, the Say’s Trig songs are much smoother in texture.

Terrarium observation

I have actually had Handsome Trigs “audio-bomb” my recordings of Forbes’s and Black-horned Tree Crickets, who are themselves very strong singers. While some crickets are delightful singers in the bedroom at night, the Handsome Trigs need to stay downstairs.