Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Insects by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Insects by  Anna Botsford Comstock

The Snowy Tree-Cricket

Teacher's Story

dropcap image HIS is a slim, ghost-like cricket. It is pale green, almost white in color, and about three-fourths of an inch long. Its long, slender hind legs show that it is a good jumper. Its long antennæ, living threads, pale gray in color, join the head with amber globe-like segments. The pale eyes have a darker center and the palpi are very long. The male has the wing-covers shaped and veined like those of the black cricket, but they are not so broad and are whitish and very delicate. The wings beneath are wide, for these crickets can fly. The female has a long, sword-like ovipositor.

The snowy tree-cricket, like its relatives, spends much time at its toilet. It whips the front foot over an antenna and brings the base of the latter to the mandibles with the palpi and then cleans it carefully to the very tip. It washes its face with the front foot, always with a downward movement. If the hind foot becomes entangled in anything it first tries to kick it clean, and then drawing it beneath the body, bends the head so as to reach it with the mandibles and nibbles it clean. The middle foot it also thrusts beneath the body, bringing it forward between the front legs for cleaning. But when cleaning its front feet, the snowy tree-cricket puts on airs; it lifts the elbow high and draws the foot through the mouth with a gesture very like that of a young lady with a seal ring on her little finger, holding the ornate member out from its companions as if it were stiff with a consciousness of its own importance.


Eggs of snowy tree-cricket, laid in raspberry cane.

After C. V. Riley.

There are two common species of the snowy tree-crickets which can hardly be separated except by specialists or by watching their habits. One is called "the whistler" and lives on low shrubs or grass; it gives a clear, soft, prolonged, unbroken note. The other is called "the fiddler" and lives on shrubs and in trees and vines. Its note is a pianissimo performance of the katydid's song; it is delightful, rhythmic and sleep-inspiring; it begins in the late afternoon and continues all night until the early, cold hours of the approaching dawn. The vivacity of the music depends upon the temperature, as the notes are given much more rapidly during the hot nights.


Snowy tree-cricket.

"So far as we know, this snowy tree-cricket is the only one of the insect musicians that seems conscious of the fact that he belongs to an orchestra. If you listen on a September evening, you will hear the first player begin; soon another will join, but not in harmony at first. For some time there may be a see-saw of accented and unaccented notes; but after a while the two will be in unison; perhaps not, however, until many more players have joined the concert. When the rhythmical beat is once established it is in as perfect time as if governed by the baton of a Damrosch or a Thomas. The throbbing of the cricket heart of September, it has been fitly named. Sometimes an injudicious player joins the chorus at the wrong beat, but he soon discovers his error and rectifies it. Sometimes, also, late at night, one part of the orchestra in an orchard gets out of time with the majority, and discord may continue for some moments, as if the players were too cold and too sleepy to pay good attention. This delectable concert begins usually in the late afternoons and continues without ceasing until just before dawn the next morning. Many times I have heard the close of the concert; with the "wee sma" hours the rhythmic beat becomes slower; toward dawn there is a falling off in the number of players; the beat is still slower, and the notes are hoarse, as if the fiddlers were tired and cold; finally, when only two or three are left the music stops abruptly." (Ways of the Six-Footed,  Comstock.)

The lesson on this cricket may be adapted from that on the black cricket.

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