One of the more interesting of the fall insects is tree cricket. This amazing little creature will appear in the bushes or trees bordering fields or meadows during the last weeks of summer or early weeks of fall. The tree cricket is usually no larger than one inch in length and has a pale green or whitish colored body depending on the species.
Found in the Gryllidae family in the Orthoptera order of crickets, roaches, mantids, and grasshoppers, the tree cricket is part of the Oecanthinae subfamily. They are nocturnal insects and often hard to spot since they easily camouflage their presence among the leaves of their chosen habitat. Unlike other species of crickets, the tree cricket always makes its home within woody plants. Their rich trill is heard only during the evening hours and is usually the loudest of the cricket sounds heard at night.
Like most of the over 2,000 species of crickets, the tree cricket has antenna that are greater in length than the body length. The back legs are made up of three segments that aid the creature with jumping. Tree crickets have two pair of wings, one appearing to cover the other. The front wings are hard, shell like structures and the second pair of wings, which are used for flying, are made up of a thin membrane type material.
Depending on where the tree cricket decides to make its home, they are considered both beneficial insects and pest. Unlike others of the cricket species that feed on plants, the tree cricket feeds on small insects. This has made them very beneficial in areas where aphids are a problem since this is one of their favorite meals. But even though this helps during certain times of the year, the tree crickets eggs laying habits have been found to be extremely damaging to some trees.
Male tree crickets announce their mating season with their loud, musical trill. This sound is made by the males by rubbing their front wings together which produces a sound much like that of quickly running your finger over the points on a comb. The male tree cricket uses this call to attract receptive females to his location. Once the female approaches the sound will change ever so slightly as he courts the receptive female.
If a second male comes to near during this courtship ritual, the original male will change his sound once again in an attempt to drive the intruding male away. Once mating has occurred, the female will choose an area to deposit her fertile eggs. This may be on the smaller branches of fruit trees or the twigs of other trees or bushes.
Female tree crickets deposit their eggs by making a small split in the bark of her chosen laying site. She will then drill a tiny hole, depositing a small amount of feces and one egg in each minute cavity before sealing it. The female will continue this activity until all her eggs are deposited, often leaving behind a long split in the bark with a zipper type row of minute drilled holes.
The eggs of the tree cricket will remain unhatched until the early months of the following spring. Once they hatch the young begin feeding on aphids, going through as many as twelve molts and finally reaching maturity around the middle of the summer months. Often the splits in the tree bark made by the female when depositing eggs create serious damage to the host tree. Due to this problem, tree crickets are often viewed as pests in some areas.