SEPTEMBER
1995

 

 

 

By
Tom Turpin
 
Professor of
Entomology
Purdue University

 

 

 

 

 

9-28-95

House Musician Or Noisemaker?

Crickets are among the most recognizable of the insect songsters — especially during the fall of the year when, at times, every nook and cranny of nature seems to serve as a home to a cricket musician.

There are many kinds of crickets, including tree and bush crickets. There are ground crickets and even underground types called mole crickets. There are sword-bearing, short-winged and short-tailed crickets. But probably the most common of the crickets belong to the group known as house and field crickets. These dark brown to black crickets are of the genus Gryllus which is the Latin word for cricket. The English word, cricket, is said to be based on a popular French term used for this insect. The term "cricri" is imitative of the sound produced by the songster!

The house cricket is so called because it frequently enters houses. Scientifically, it is named Acheta domestica, Acheta because it sings and domestica because of its habit of wanting to share our abodes. Native to Europe, the house cricket, like many other insects was accidentally introduced into this county.

The singing prowess of the house and field crickets has not gone unnoticed by poets and song writers over the years. In most instances these wordsmiths use crickets to create a soothing, pastoral feel. James Whitcomb Riley, in his children's poem "Dream March," uses the line "Marching to the robin's fife and crickets rat-ta-tat!" The Hoosier poet Riley refers to the cricket's song in "A Song" with the line, "And the cricket chirrups the whole night through."

In general, people have come to believe that the presence of a cricket in the house is an omen of good. Of course, crickets are notorious for chewing things, so a cricket can sometimes do damage but that is of little concern to poets set on the good side of things. Bourne, in his poem "The Cricket," writes:

"Little inmate, full of mirth,
Chirping on my kitchen hearth,
Whereso'er be thine abode,
Always harbinger of good,
Pay me for thy warm retreat
With a song more soft and sweet;
In return thou shall receive
Such a strain as I can give."

In his Italian dialect poem "Il Grillo," Thomas Daly relates how the people of Rome liked to have crickets in their garden, "Dey are so glad for hear heem seeng, Dey no can gat too manny."

Of course the singing of a cricket is not always sweet music to every pair of ears.  For instance the insect poet archie the cockroach has a free verse poem entitled "the cheerful cricket." The poem begins with the lines:

I can't see for the
life of me what there is
about crickets that makes people
call them jolly they
are the parrots of the insect race

In reference to the repeated sound he calls — cheer up, cheer up, cheer up — archie writes, "I wish I was the woolworth tower I would fall on you."

The singing of crickets to some is a song of beauty; to others it's just a noise. It's all in the ears of the hearer I guess!

 

Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Andrea McCann