Field Crickets

Gryllus spp., Acheta domesticus, and other in subfamily Gryllinae

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Photo of an adult female field cricket
Field crickets in the genus Gryllus are usually shiny black, and the different species are often best separated by singing pattern. This is a female G. pennsylvanicus, one of the more common species.
Edward L. Manigault, Clemson University Donated Collection, Bugwood.org
Family

Gryllidae (true crickets) in the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids)

Description

Field crickets and house crickets are celebrated singers. There are many species in North America, and they can be hard to tell apart. They have large heads, hind legs adapted for jumping, and stout, unmovable spines on the hind legs. Species may be black, brown, or tan. Adult females have a needlelike (but harmless) ovipositor extending outward from the abdomen; all have a pair of filament-like circi extending from the abdomen (each cercus functions like an antenna).

Members of the genus Gryllus are usually shiny black, and the different species are often best separated by singing pattern. Scientists use The house cricket, Acheta domesticus, is light brown or tannish overall; the tan head has three dark crossbands; the wings of adults extend beyond the tip of the abdomen.

Size

Length: usually ½–1 inch (not counting appendages; varies with species and age of individual).

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image of Field Cricket among moss and gravel
Field Cricket
This is an immature cricket: the wings are not yet developed. Field crickets in the genus Gryllus are usually shiny black, and the different species are often best separated by singing pattern.

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Photo of a young male field cricket
Young Male Field Cricket
Immature crickets are called nymphs; they are smaller than adults, and their undeveloped wings are budlike or very small on the back. There are several species of field crickets that are blackish, and they can be hard to tell apart. This is one of the more common species, Gryllus pennsylvanicus.

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Photo of an adult female house cricket walking on bark
Female House Cricket
The house cricket, Acheta domesticus, is light brown or tannish overall; the tan head has three dark crossbands. This is a female cricket: You can tell because she has an ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

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Photo of a female house cricket, side view
Female House Cricket
House crickets and field crickets share in common large heads, hind legs adapted for jumping, and stout, unmovable spines on the hind legs. They are common in many habitats, especially grassy areas such as lawns, fields, pastures, prairies, roadsides, but also in woods.

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Photo of male house cricket chirping by rubbing wings together
Male House Cricket Chirping
Male crickets chirp by rubbing rough portions of their wings together; by raising the wings at an angle, they form a resonating chamber sort of like a violin body. The calls attract females and also warn off rival males.

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Photo of a male house cricket on sliced raw carrot
Male House Cricket
House crickets are probably native to Eurasia but are found nearly worldwide, having traveled the globe with people. They are commonly sold for fish bait and as a live pet food. They eat a wide variety of foods and can be kept as pets.
Habitat and conservation

Field and house crickets are common and can be found in many habitats, especially grassy areas such as lawns, fields, pastures, prairies, roadsides, but also in woods. They sometimes enter houses and other buildings. They are nocturnal; the sound of their chirping signifies “nighttime” to us. House crickets (A. domesticus) are probably native to Eurasia but are found nearly worldwide, having traveled the globe with people. They are commonly sold for fish bait and as a live pet food.

Foods

Field and house crickets are omnivores, nibbling at a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including leaves, fruits, grain, other insects, meat, and much more. Sometimes field crickets damage crops, or chew on clothing when they enter homes. Their broad diet and ability to sing has made them popular pets at different times in various cultures, as they can subsist on a variety of foods.

image of Field Crickets House Crickets Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common.

Life cycle

Most species overwinter as eggs, hatch in spring, and begin eating and growing. Like other insects, crickets molt several times as they grow. Immature crickets are called nymphs; they are smaller than adults, and their undeveloped wings are budlike or very small on the back. Their final molt gives them wings, and they are sexually mature. Males chirp, rubbing rough portions of their wings together. By raising the wings at an angle, they form a resonating chamber sort of like a violin body. The calls attract females that are ready to mate and also warn off rival males. Females deposit eggs under soil using their ovipositor.

Human connections

Crickets have economic impacts as agricultural and household pests, but also as fish bait and pet food. Their chirping sets the mood for a quiet autumn evening, and beautiful evenings inspire camping and tourism. Crickets have inspired folklore, myths, cartoon characters, and children’s stories.

Ecosystem connections

As omnivores crickets recycle decaying organic materials, graze on plants, and eat insects. They are preyed on by many animals, from insects (even other crickets) to birds to mammals to even people, in some countries. They are also attacked by parasitic insects that need hosts for their survival.