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The Science Behind a Cricket's "Chirp"

cricketIn China, the sound of a cricket chirping in the house is considered good luck, and the chirping males are often bred as pets and kept in tiny cages made of bone. Many people around the world find the little insect’s early evening song a calming piece of natural music, while others find it an annoyance. How do tiny crickets produce such a vibrant noise and why do they do it? Just what is the science behind the cricket’s chirp?

Why Do Crickets Chirp?

Actually, not all species of cricket chirp, and among those who do , it’s only the males who sing and they are doing so to attract a female mate. A female cricket will only respond to the unique sound of a male from her own species. Male crickets may also chirp to establish their own territories and keep competing males away.

What Makes the Chirping Sound?

A cricket sings his song by rubbing his wings together. A thick, ridged vein at the base of the forewing acts as a file to toughen the upper surface of the wing, which acts as a scraper. To call for his mate or warn away invading males, the cricket lifts his wing and pulls the file of one wing over the scraper of the other, causing the wings to vibrate and emit a loud, papery sound. The resonating song is called stridulation and is evoked in much the same way as blowing on a piece of grass held between the thumbs.

Amplifying Chirps

As if the sound of a cricket in the house isn’t loud enough, some crickets actually have a way to chirp even louder. They dig burrows in the ground with widening, megaphone-shaped openings and then sing just inside, causing the tunnel’s shape to magnify the sound.

The Meaning of Cricket Calls

Not all chirps mean the same thing to potential cricket mates. An aggressive song is designed to detect and scare off invading males, while the cricket’s other songs are all related to courtship. Amazingly, the cricket’s calling song can be heard for up to a mile and is used to help the female find the male. The male can sense when a potential mate is near and will then switch to a sort of courtship song trying to “sing” her into mating with him. After mating, some crickets may even burst into a celebratory series of chirps!

If you find the chirps of crickets in your house more of an annoyance than a musical treat, contact Clegg’s online or phone at 888-672-5344. Though crickets are a particularly fast-producing species, the experts at Clegg’s will soon have you listening happily to the sounds of silence.

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