Chorus of chirping crickets has moved in

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Invariably, unwelcome guests invade our house every fall. They stay up all night making noise and playing loud music, and they don’t respect our privacy at all.

I found one of them in the bathtub when I was (gasp!) stepping in to take a shower and another lurking behind the toilet. The last straw was the one hiding in our bathroom fan, in the ceiling.

Yes, the crickets have moved in, totally uninvited. And the one in the ceiling fan (who knows how it got up there?!) kept it up into the wee morning hours, chirping seemingly louder as the night wore on.

Why is it that a chorus of crickets harmonizes into a soothing soundtrack for a summer night, but a single cricket chirping is so piercingly annoying?

I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that Walt Disney’s Jiminy Cricket is a total fake. Once again, my childhood experiences have deceived me compared to the “real world.”

Don’t let Jiminy’s charming little spiel fool you. Crickets don’t play their legs, befriend pathological liar puppet-boys, or sing songs about stars or whistle warb-ling solos.

The songs real crickets sing aren’t about your conscience or wishing, they’re mostly about sex. Like much of the animal world, males just want attention so they can produce some offspring. Bull elk bugle, frogs croak, and crickets chirp to get the ladies.

Crickets make their music by rubbing veins in their wings together, not their legs. Only male crickets can make the music, and like many other species, use sound to attract mates. They do this by rubbing their wings together, and have what’s called a “file” on one wing and a “scraper” on the other. The file kind of looks like a comb, which they drag across the other wing to make music.

Interestingly enough, according to Colorado State University entomologist Whitney Cranshaw, 95 percent of crickets are right-winged, since their file is on the right wing. There are more than 100 different types of crickets, so different species of crickets play varying songs, to avoid attracting female crickets to male crickets of a different kind. The females hear the male crickets’ serenade through their ears, which are located on their front legs (sort of near what we would call the elbow).

So, why are they so loud this time of year? Well, crickets can sing different tunes for different purposes — for example, to attract a mate, to court that potential mate, to stay together with a mate or to out-sing a rival male suitor, according to Cranshaw. Male crickets without mates sing a “calling song” to attract them, and that song becomes louder and more frequent as time progresses.

Now that I know the pathetic, tone-deaf cricket warbling without any sense of rhythm behind our toilet is just a sad, lonely guy without a girl ... well, I feel a little sorry for him. But he’s still got to go. He’s drowning out the melodic crickets on my iPhone nature sounds app.

The crickets in my house are referred to as “field crickets,” although there are also “house crickets.” These field crickets feast on a variety of things and love moist, wet places, and we have a lot of those with the record rainfall this month.

Their chewing mouth parts can munch everything from rotting vegetables and fruits to leaves. I’ve seen them eating past-due tomatoes melting into the soil. Generally, crickets are scavengers and help eat decaying material, but inside your home they can be a pest, and may eat things such as fabric and paper. More than anything, their sporadic jumping freaks me out and I just don’t like having them inside.

How do you get rid of them? Well, the best thing is to just avoid giving them the chance to enter your home. Don’t leave doors or windows open and they won’t jump in. If they come inside uninvited, you can always sweep them up with a Kleenex and throw them in the toilet (hubby’s brutal method) or perform a catch-and-release outside. Like Jiminy said, let your conscience be your guide.

ON ANOTHER NOTE: The 16th annual Tree Auction and Plant Sale is Saturday, Oct. 5, at the CSU Extension offices at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.

The plant sale will be from 
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the auction will start at 10 a.m. New this year is a one-time “U-Dig-It” plant sale from 7:30–9:30 a.m. in the arboretum, where you can bring your own shovel and containers to dig up perennials including yarrow, lavender, columbine and salvia.

Master gardeners will be on-hand for assistance with planting and growing advice, as well as help with plant selection. For information, call 244-1836.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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