I thought it was time to work out what is making the noise that is the background accompaniment to my summer days (and sometimes nights). I knew it was either crickets, grasshoppers or cicadas.
I started with You Tube clips of different sounds, but found it difficult to distinguish one from another and could never be certain which one I was supposed to be listening to. I’m pretty sure grasshoppers don’t make the same racket that the other two do. Indeed I have had a large grasshopper in my bedroom here, and although it did make a strident noise, it was once in a while, not constantly.
The grasshoppers I see quite frequently are called ‘long horned’ grasshoppers, because they have long antennae. This is a small one I found when pruning my grapevine – they vary a lot in size and colour, from greens to browns, and the bigger ones I have seen are 3 or more inches long when ‘crouched’. Confusingly, long horned grasshoppers are also known as ‘bush crickets’.
The ‘short horned’ grasshopper looks very different, and I haven’t seen them around here.
Crickets look quite different to grasshoppers, apart from the long back legs, and are easy to recognise by the pair of spikes that protrude from the end of their abdomen. I’m not sure that I have ever seen a cricket.
Two things made me certain that my friends around here are cicadas. Firstly, the alternative name for cicada is ‘tree cricket’, and the noise certainly comes from the trees. You get a loud background hum from the woods surrounding the garden, then often get one or two individuals that sit in trees nearer the house which you can hear much more distinctly.
Secondly, I stalked over to my apple tree one time when I could hear an individual making his shrill screech there. The noise stopped as I approached, but after standing quietly looking for it for a few moments, it flew back from an end branch to land on the trunk in front of my nose, and started screeching again, and it looked just like the internet pictures! Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me.
Later, I found another one on the ground under the almond tree, trying to disguise itself among the soil and dead grass.
Interestingly, I read that cicadas only start singing when it reaches 22 degrees celsius, and they certainly do start abruptly as the day warms up.