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On the Fiddle

30 August 2011 | Posted in Insects , Wildlife , Wildlife Garden

common green grasshopper / Alan Price
Author Kathy Green

Down in the meadow where the grass grows long,

Live a host of little creatures and they’re bursting into song.

Well, not really singing, but a whirring, chirring and chirruping that is the quintessential sound of balmy summer meadows and days that go on forever. Walk through the long grass and the invisible musicians will suddenly appear pinging off in all directions. Stop and look for them and they will again have disappeared. Continue walking and they will be hopping, jumping, skipping and even flying in a tidal wave before you.

Masters of camouflage in hues of brown and green, grasshoppers and crickets blend effortlessly into the background. When you eventually track one down they are easy to tell apart. Grasshoppers tend to like the open grassland and are four-square and stubby with short antennae. Crickets prefer scrubland and bushes, are more rounded and streamlined with extra long, whippy antennae and are the ones that serenade you at night. The female cricket also has a long egg-laying tube at the rear which is often mistaken for a sting.

It is a mistake also to think that they sing. Grasshoppers chirp by rubbing their legs against their wings whilst crickets get groovy by rubbing the raised veins of their wings together. All a bit of a fiddle really! And if you listen carefully you will notice there is a great deal of different fiddling going on. It is possible to identify individual species by the sound they make and also whether they are wooing a mate, preparing for battle or staking a claim to a particular patch of meadow.

So, forget about Glastonbury. Enjoy instead the varied repertoire of a really wild concert rocking away for free in a field near you.

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