GARDENING: Battling the cricket offensive at Curt’s house
Many believe that you can tell the temperature by counting the chirps of a cricket?
Here’s the formula from The Old Farmer’s Almanac:
To convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count number of chirps in 14 seconds then add 40 to get temperature.
Example: 30 chirps + 40 = 70° F
Crickets. There they are waiting outside the back door for one of us to go out so they can get in. They often come in with our cat. Like crickets, our cat is nocturnal but often comes in at night. He ignores the crickets giving them time to rush through the kitchen and into the bathroom where they hop into the tub. It is not uncommon to find up to five of those little rascals in the bathtub in the morning when we get in the shower.
I once thought they were coming out of the sewer but that made no sense. After I saw one looking down at me from the top of the door jam, I realize they don’t have any trouble climbing walls and could easily get access the tub. We had always placed the floor mat over the side the side of the tub when we were not bathing and put it down on the floor to step out on. The first thing we did when we saw our first cricket was remove the mat so they wouldn’t have a way to climb up and into the tube. We seem to be catching even more crickets than usual after removing the mat.
I’m not sure why the largest percentage of crickets ends up in the bathroom and the tub. Maybe it is the increased humidity in that room and they can smell it. That concept isn’t so farfetched as one would believe as they have chemoreceptors on their antennae so they can find mates. Why not water? And, all of the old cowboy movies always mentioned the herd of cows smelling water. And cowboys and their cows are never wrong, at least in the old movies.
Since neither the dog nor the cat want anything to do with the crickets, they continue to invade the house. Susan, however, has her own technique of beating each cricket with her slipper until its legs stop kicking. I’m not sure if her method is in violation of the animal rights act (I assume there is such a law for insects), but she doesn’t want to catch them in her hands and throw them back outside. Sorry, I meant to say carefully set them outside. That is the technique I use after I place a non-toxic dot on the backs of those deported back outside. It is amazing how many make it back over the border (threshold) and into the tub. Several crickets are a rainbow of color dots. I use a different color dot for every time they cross the border. I should have expected their continual attempts to make it to safety; after all, the U.S. government, with all its high tech equipment and thousands of enforcers, has had the same experience stopping visitors from crossing our southern border. I’m willing to give the crickets amnesty, but the other party isn’t. She makes her decision clear every time she clutches her slipper.
Some of the crickets have a spear-like appendix coming off the back end. This makes sense because this is the ovipositor they use to insert eggs(ova) into the soil at the base of plants. Unlike some insects that have done away with their male counterpart, our crickets still have their males around. I’m not sure they actually enjoy each other’s company, but their companionship certainly produces a lot of little crickets, up to 50 at one time. The crickets that don’t have this spear obviously are males.
There is always at least one cricket outside fiddling away through the night. If there are more fiddlers, they must be in sync. Or, maybe what I’m hearing is my tinnitus. Unlike grasshoppers that fiddle away by rubbing the hind legs against their forewings or abdomen, crickets have a specialized organ to provide their music. This organ is a large vein running along the bottom of each wing. These are covered with teeth and when the two wings are rubbed together they generate the noise we hear every night in late summer.
I think the amnesty will only be for the females. I don’t think I could stand hearing cricket noises all winter. Only the males sing. The females are quiet.
Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.
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