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Singing Insects in NE Ohio

Remember that humid night at the end of July when it seemed that there was an ensemble of singers and percussionist from the ground to the tops of the trees – and you couldn’t see a single individual musician? Or that warm, sunny afternoon in early September when an entire goldenrod-filled meadow was in song – and even in the daylight, you still didn’t see who was responsible for all that sound? Maybe you saw a multitude of other insects, but not the ones who seemed to be singing?

Backyard insect ensemble - Recording by Lisa Rainsong
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Welcome to the concert halls of Northeast Ohio’s crickets and katydids!

There are insect ensembles in the trees, shrubs, grassy fields, wildflower meadows, pond edges, and wetlands. Some species may perform in a number of venues, and others are habitat-specific. They could almost be the voices of the plants in which they live.

As you begin to learn the songs, you’ll likely be surprised and delighted to discover just how many different crickets and katydids are present in the insect chorus. You’ll also be quite pleased as you learn to actually locate and observe these small, but powerful singers and occasionally even watch them in full song.

Some of you already know a number of these insects, but there will be others that you haven’t yet learned to distinguish or perhaps have never seen. Or maybe you’re a naturalist or park volunteer who would like to be able to introduce park visitors to the singers of the night and late summer afternoon.

If you are restoring, preserving, and caring for natural habitats, knowing who is singing can give you important information about habitat health, management, and restoration goals.

These insects are important not only for their songs, but as food sources for a wide variety of birds, mammals, larger insects, spiders, amphibians, and reptiles.

This brings us to the topic of camouflage. You have to really work to see them, right? That’s essential for their survival. It seems that just about everything else will eat them if the opportunity presents itself, and their incredible resemblance to the leaves, grasses, and even soil and leaf litter in which they live is their greatest protection. They jump. Many can fly. But remaining undetected – even while singing – is their most effective defense.

So here’s the challenge. They are beautiful, but difficult to see. They are powerful singers, but it can be difficult to specifically locate the source of the sound. There are quite a few voices, but one has to learn how to listen in order to distinguish them.

Are you up for the challenge with a little help?