© 2018 by Lisa Rainsong.

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Singing Insects: Crickets and Katydids

A Concerts of Crickets and Katydids

Bird song is the first music we hear each year, and frogs and toads join them throughout spring and into the summer. But late summer and early autumn? Crickets and katydids take the stage for nature’s final performances of the year! Dr. Lisa Rainsong of the Cleveland Institute of Music will introduce you to the members of this delightful ensemble and explain how to identify who’s doing all that singing!

Topics covered:

Introduction to crickets and katydids: when and how they sing, habitats in which they are found.

​Species categories:

Field and bush crickets

Ground crickets

Tree Crickets

Trigs (sword-tailed crickets)

Common True Katydids

Meadow Katydids

Conehead katydids

Round-winged, Oblong-winged, and Angle-winged katydids

Bush katydids (Scudderia)

May include shieldbacks katydids

Individual species descriptions

Common representative species from each category

These may include compare and contrast recordings and photos

All programs include Lisa's field recordings and photos.

Sonograms may also be incorporated for helpful illustration of songs

Indoor only, or indoor/outdoor?

The indoor-only version of this program works very well for libraries, Audubon societies, and indoor park programs. An outdoor exploration can be included at the end of the indoor presentation for park districts and other programs in locations where participants can hear and possibly see crickets and katydids.

Crickets and Katydids: a concert for all ages

This program is shorter than “A Concert of Crickets and Katydids” (though it can still have the same title) and includes both an indoor and outdoor experience. The indoor program is approximately 30 to 40 minutes and focuses only on larger groups of singing insects with limited emphasis at the species level.

The outdoor component can be either afternoon or evening. Every participant is offered a jar to catch and release insects, and all participants have the opportunity to observe and admire everyone else’s discoveries. Participants learn to distinguish grasshoppers from meadow katydids, and crickets from katydids. They also learn to distinguish males from females.

Participants are taught to gently catch insects without harming their antennae and legs. They will subsequently release their insects where they found them, reinforcing that crickets and katydids have homes.

 

A sample program description for a late August/early September all-ages program would be:

Crickets and Katydids in a Late Summer Concert”

As late summer approaches early autumn, crickets and katydids continue to sing in goldenrod-filled meadows through the afternoon. Evenings have become a little chilly for their concerts, but the warm sun of late August is perfect for an afternoon matinee!

Dr. Lisa Rainsong of the Cleveland Institute of Music will introduce you to these fascinating, gentle insects, and then we’ll walk through the beautiful gardens and paths around the Nature Center to search for them. All ages are welcome.

Crickets and Katydids: Research by Ear

This indoor presentation is suitable for academic institutions and can be modified for a specific audience such as biology students, for music students and faculty, or for a more general college lecture series. In addition to basic descriptions of crickets, katydids, and their songs, an emphasis is placed on habitats, research (including citizen science), and conservation.

Description

If you have listened to the sounds of a field, marsh, or woodland on late summer evening or a goldenrod-filled meadow in early fall, you’ve probably noticed that a chorus of insect song is in progress. Because these tiny singers are often far more difficult to see than to hear, their songs are the key to determining who is present. There are many more species of crickets and katydids in Ohio than most people realize, yet detailed documentation is sparse and range maps are incomplete.

Species that appear similar (if you can see them at all) will have distinctly different songs. Good ear training skills and audio field recording equipment are essential for this kind of research. Willingness to explore varied (often wet) habitats in the dark is also necessary.

The study of these insects is important for a number of reasons. Crickets and katydids are a significant food sources for many birds, mammals, insects, and spiders. Therefore, their abundance and diversity provides information about the quality of the habitat and can also help guide decisions for land management practices. They are also good messengers for conservation. People become engaged through listening and subsequently realize that the concert will not continue if the ‘singers” and their concert halls are not protected.

Cleveland Institute of Music professor Lisa Rainsong will describe how she learned to identify all the crickets and katydids she hears and how she pursues her research on their current ranges. She will share some of her intriguing discoveries and her approach to conservation education through insect song.

A Concert in the Dark: learning the ensembles of katydids and crickets

in their concert venues         

Class or training: format for a three to four hour indoor and outdoor in-depth experience

Course Description

If you have listened to the sounds of a field, marsh, or woodland on a late summer evening, you’ve probably noticed that a chorus of insect song is in progress. Because these tiny singers are often far more difficult to see than to hear, their songs are the key to determining who is present. There are many more species of crickets and katydids in Ohio than most people realize, yet detailed documentation is sparse and range maps are incomplete.

The study of these insects is important for a number of reasons. Crickets and katydids are a significant food sources for many birds, mammals, insects, and spiders. Therefore, their abundance and diversity provides information about the quality of the habitat and can also help guide decisions for land management practices. They are also good messengers for conservation. People become engaged through listening and subsequently realize that the concert will not continue if the ‘singers” and their concert halls are not protected.

Outline of course activities

One hour before dusk: Introduction to the crickets and katydids of NE Ohio: PowerPoint presentation with field recordings and photographs from NE Ohio.

Dusk: begin to listen for katydids and crickets as they start to sing. Begin to learn the most common songs and where in each habitat they are heard (Ground level? Up in the trees? Hedge rows?)

Search for the singers. Practice gently capturing and observing these insects. I will coach people on how to find them and how to respectfully catch and release them.

Observe the interactions of crickets and katydids with others of their species and with the plant communities in which they live. What are they eating? How are they communicating? How do females respond? Is mating or ovipositing observed?

Each habitat will have a somewhat different ensemble of crickets and katydids. We will explore more than one and make species lists of each habitat we explore. It is important to document what we are observing, as the presence or absence of various species can be an indicator of habitat health.

Target habitats:

            Marsh/wetland

            Meadow

            Edge habitat – shrubs, hedge row, etc.

            Woodland path

If the weather is warm and dry, crickets and katydids will easily sing until midnight and later

Supplies needed for class

Participants will need flashlights and both Parmesan cheese container-sized jars for katydids and larger crickets and smaller jars for ground crickets.

I can provide a few larger insect carriers for display purposes

I’ll need a projector screen (plus a power if in a park pavilion) for the preliminary program. I can provide a projector, audio speakers and my laptop.

Brief instructor biography

Lisa Rainsong holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a member of CIM’s music theory faculty. A soprano as well as a teacher and composer, she sings with the professional early music ensemble Quire Cleveland. Lisa also earned a Naturalist Certificate from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  She now teaches bird song and insect song classes across Ohio and does her own field recording for these programs. In addition, she does field research on crickets and katydids – research work that is done primarily by ear.  She has documented species not previously known to occur in NE Ohio and two that were not known to occur in Ohio at all. Her recordings and photos can be found on her blog, Listening in Nature at listeninginnature.blogspot.com.