Wild Profile: Meet the black-horned tree cricket

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Their song isn’t as recognizable—or quite as loud—as a cicada’s, but for an insect only half the size of a standard paperclip, black-horned tree crickets can sure belt it out. The males do the singing, on September afternoons and evenings, to attract females. They scrape a toothed ridge on one wing across the hard edge of another wing to produce a continuous trill of 45 pulses per second.

To the human ear, a black-horned’s tune sounds a little like the connection tone of dial-up Internet (remember that)? Happily, the noise is far less obnoxious. The lady crickets sure love it, and the lower the pitch—from a larger male, usually—the better. When a female hears Mr. Right, using “ears” on her front legs, she’ll track him to his leaf perch. Then, in a move that’s opposite to almost every other creature on the planet, she mounts him. (Yup. All crickets mate this way.)

By the time late fall hits, cricket romance is literally dead. Hard frosts kill the population. Don’t worry, the music will be back next year—black-horned tree cricket eggs hatch in spring.


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