A Season of Song: late May through late October
Roesel's Katydid is the earliest katydid of the season.
Late May through the beginning of July
I get impatient waiting for the first cricket and katydid songs of the new field season. In general, katydids mature before crickets, but our earliest singers are actually crickets.
The Spring Field Cricket is the first. They overwinter as nymphs instead of eggs, so they mature ahead of everyone else. I begin to listen for them toward the end of May, and dry, even sandy habitats are the good locations. The first places I’d try would be along the lakeshore, and railroad tracks near the lakeshore (as found at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s North Kingsville Sand Barrens presence) is ideal. They can be heard cheerfully chirping along the tracks and in sandy fields with clumps of grass in which to hide - or perhaps at the edge of a beach, where they'll scurry into a pile of driftwood if startled.
Spring Field Crickets are not as common as their look-alike and sound-alike cousins, the Fall Field Crickets. Fall Field Crickets overwinter as eggs and mature in the second half of July. This is the time when Spring Field Crickets have about finished up their season, and there seems to be very little overlap between the two species. That’s actually helpful since we can’t tell the difference between the species either by sight or by song.
Spring Trigs follow in late May and in June. These tiny crickets are widespread a little south of our region and recently are becoming common in our region as well. I have found them as far north as Mentor Lagoons and Lake Erie Bluffs in Lake County within sight of Lake Erie, and I have documented them in every county in the greater Cleveland region.
A small, beautiful, non-native shieldback katydid also begins to sing in June. This is the Roesel’s Katydid, which is native to eastern Europe. They were introduced to the NE US and Montreal about 1953 and have been spreading westward. A separate population appeared to exist in the Chicago area and Carl Strang has documented their presence reaching back from the Chicago-area population to our NE Ohio population. You can read more about his research here on his blog site, Nature Inquiries. at https://natureinquiries.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/roesels-katydid-quest/
Listen for their crackling, electrical buzz in grassy fields and sometimes in meadows with forbs as well as grasses. They sing in the afternoon and night.
Late June brings the first of our native katydids: the Gladiator Meadow Katydids in tall grasses, meadows, and wetlands are followed a week later by Broad-winged Bush Katydids in the meadows. If the late spring and early summer have been cool, they may not appear until early July. Other meadow katydids and bush katydids will appear later in July, but these two species are the first
Early to Mid-July
This is the time to listen for the first ground crickets and also our annual cicadas. Carolina Ground Crickets are typically the first ground cricket species, followed by the Striped and Allard’s Ground Crickets. Depending on temperatures, you may hear the first Carolina Ground Crickets as early as the first week of July, but the second week is common. Keep in mind that Carolina Ground Crickets can be heard in the woods, where Striped and Allard’s are not present. In our region, Striped Ground Crickets prefer damp habitats – even wetland edges – over very dry areas, and Allard’s Ground Crickets are more likely in drier habitats, including near the edges of Lake Erie’s beaches. If there are Northern Bush Katydids in the trees where you live, you may find one at the light on your porch or at the moth sheet you set up at your park or backyard.
Third week of July
This is generally the time when I welcome new species every few days. You’ll likely notice the tree crickets first, as they are easier to hear. The woodland and edge habitat species mature sooner than the meadow residents. Listen for Two-spotted Tree Crickets and Pine Tree Crickets, quickly followed by Snowy Tree Crickets, then Narrow-winged Tree Crickets.
Gladiator Meadow Katydids and Broad-winged Bush Katydids are now joined by Slender Meadow Katydids in grassy areas and wetland edges. Short-winged Meadow Katydid nymphs will be abundant, but they aren’t quite mature yet. Sword-bearing Coneheads will suddenly appear in meadows everywhere. The light, high songs of the Slender Meadow Katydids are quite a challenge to hear but watch for them climbing up grass stems at night to eat seeds. Sword-bearing Coneheads also have very high-frequency songs, but they are louder than the little meadow katydids. They, too, will be eating grass and sedge seeds after dark. Lorain and Medina County residents should listen for Nebraska Coneheads around this time as well.
Curve-tailed Bush Katydids and Fork-tailed Bush Katydids will join the Broad-winged Bush Katydids in the meadows, edge habitats, and wetlands edges. If Rattler Round-winged Katydids are in the woodland edges nearby, this is the time to watch and listen for these little singers. The larger Oblong-winged Katydids will begin singing this week in the woodland understory, edge habitats, wetland edges, and occasionally in meadows.
Spring Field Crickets, having begun their adult season in the second half of May, will have faded away, By the end of July, you’ll hear the first Fall Field Crickets in meadows, beaches, and even urban areas.
Last week of July
Unless it’s a chilly summer, Common True Katydids will begin singing in treetops. (Cold weather will delay them until the first week of August.) Tiny Say’s Trigs will sing in meadows and wetlands, This first Four-spotted Tree Crickets may begin to sing at night on Queen Anne’s Lace and asters; if not, listen for them the following week. If you haven’t yet seen any Fork-tailed Bush Katydids, they should also be mature now. Fall Field Crickets will begin singing between now and early August, continuing through September.
First week of August
Black-legged Meadow Katydids begin to replace the Gladiator Meadow Katydid in wetlands, and Common Meadow Katydids sing in drier, upland meadows and fields in some areas (remember that they are less common). Short-winged Meadow Katydids may be mature now, and in the drier areas that host them, Straight-lanced Meadow Katydids are likely maturing now as well. Check the wetlands for the possibility of Long-tailed and Black-sided Meadow Katydids, though they may be difficult to hear.
Four-spotted Tree Crickets will certainly be singing in the meadows now, and the Black-horned and Forbes’s Tree Crickets will join them this week. (Remember that the Black-horned and Forbes’s look identical, sound virtually identical, and live in the same habitat, so you can only distinguish them by literally counting the number of wing strokes per second at specific temperatures. Both species are here in NE Ohio and both can be in the same park!) These crickets initially sing only at night but will also sing in the afternoon in another week or two.
Handsome Trigs mature this week. Listen for their high-pitched crackling songs in blackberries, grapevines, and shrubs. They sing in the afternoon and, at least in August, will also sing after dark. Cuban Ground Crickets can also be expected to mature this week.
Second week of August
Broad-winged Tree Crickets – the last tree crickets to mature – will sing in meadow and edge habitats at night. They are likely to be in shrubs and vines – and especially in blackberries. Next month, they may also sing in the late afternoon when shadows fill their meadow edges. Round-tipped Coneheads will join the meadow chorus, adding their penetrating buzz in the later afternoon and after dark.
Greater Angle-wings will begin to sing their “tic-tic-tic-tic” songs from trees in woodlands, edge habitats, and even in urban parks. Jumping Bush Crickets will begin to sing this week and will likely continue into October. They sing in suburban and some urban areas and have become widespread in the woods a little south of Cleveland.
Third week of August and beyond.
August is the month of the glorious full chorus of crickets and katydids. Rain and chilly temperatures will affect the amount of singing on any given night, but warm, humid nights are superb. When September arrives, nights are noticeably longer and cooler. There will be considerable singing in the afternoon, though, and warm nights can still be good for listening.
You will likely notice that some of the night singers will now sing in the early evening before twilight, or even in the late afternoon if the singers are not in the sun.
As September progresses, the chance of frost increases, especially in the inland areas away from the lakeshore. Lake Erie, which delayed the beginning of singing insect season, now prolongs it with the modifying effect of its relatively warm waters.
Some crickets and katydids are more sensitive to cold than others, and those who can get close to the warm earth tend to live later into the fall. The meadow-dwelling tree crickets sing well into autumn, as do Black-legged Meadow Katydids and Short-winged Meadow Katydids. I have no idea how Common True Katydids and Greater Angle-wings survive up in the trees for as long as they do, but I have occasionally heard them as late as Halloween. Snowy Tree Crickets are very hardy individuals, and Handsome Trigs continue to sing in their leaves even when they fall to the ground.
The ground crickets are well-protected: the last singers I hear each year are Carolina Ground Crickets.