The Love Song of the Cricket

AT TWO inches [50 mm] or less in length, a cricket might not seem to be a likely showstopper. Yet, the song of this cricket captures the attention of millions of people worldwide. How does this small creature sing, and for what purpose?

Interestingly, among the approximately 2,400 species of crickets, only the males sing, or chirp. Rather than doing so from their throats, male crickets make music with their wings. One encyclopedia explains that male crickets chirp by rubbing part of one forewing along a row of about 50 to 250 teeth on the opposite forewing. The frequency of the chirps depends on the number of teeth struck per second. The vibrations fill the air with the distinctive song of the cricket.

But surely the male cricket does not sing simply to entertain his human listeners! No, indeed! The intended audience of this musician is a potential mate. The book Exploring the Secrets of Nature explains: “In his quest for a mate, the male cricket, a skilled communicator, sings three different songs: one to advertise his presence, one to court and one to ward off unwanted competitors.” Some crickets continue to sing to advertise their presence until a female cricket shows interest. Hearing the song through the “ears” on her forelegs, the female is not content to carry on a long-distance courtship. As she approaches the source of the chirping, the male cricket will begin to sing a continuous trill, the courtship song. This serenade entices the female to her suitor, and the two crickets mate.

In East Asia some people keep male crickets as pets because they are amused by their song. Others prefer to enjoy such music in a cricket’s natural habitat. In whatever setting, the song of the tiny cricket enchants human listeners around the globe and brings praise to its Designer.