The Life Cycle of Crickets, Their Habitat, and Diet
Crickets are renowned for their loud chirping at night. This unique feature protects them from predators while also attracting mates. Surprisingly, crickets do not use their vocal cords to produce these loud resonant vibrations, but their wings.
Like all insects, the lifeform of a cricket starts out as an egg. However, the life cycle of a cricket is slightly different from the average critter. Let’s take a look.
The Life Cycle of Crickets
Every species of cricket undergoes three fundamental stages in its life cycle.
Crickets display incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they skip the pupal stage and hatch directly into nymphs before growing into adult crickets. The crickets life cycle takes an average of 2.5 months to complete depending upon the breeding conditions and environment. Once fully grown, the adult crickets lifespan can last from 3-6 months. The optimum temperature for the growth of a crickets lies between 80 to 90°F.
The time period of each stage is relatively the same in different species.
The Mating Ritual
Male crickets rub their wings together to produce a high pitched sound (also known as the “chirp”) that helps the females to locate them. The females use this sound as a metric gauge to seek the most desirable male. They prefer large sized-males that produce a low pitched sound to small sized counterparts. Large-sized males are better at locating resources, making them an instant hit among the ladies.
It was surmised that males could only chirp at a single frequency, but later, it was discovered that tree crickets could vary their singing frequencies with temperature. Studies showed that they exhibit a range of singing frequencies due to the subtle changes in temperature and the fact that they are cold-blooded animals. This hinted that male crickets disguised their size to gain a mating advantage. To what extent this is true is still up for question.
Stages in the Life Cycle of Crickets
The impregnated female deposits 50 to 100 eggs in humid soil or a plant in early spring or summer through a thin circular structure called “ovipositor”. Damp soil littered with toxic pesticides deters the growth of crickets.
The incubation period can take up to 14 days. It takes approximately 45 days for an immature cricket to transform into an adult.
Nymphs are premature versions of an adult cricket. They lack wings, and female nymphs do not possess an ovipositor. These anatomical deficiencies make them an easy target for adult crickets and other predators.
In a process known as “molting”, a cricket sheds its weak exoskeleton, around 8 times, to replace it with a new and hard exoskeleton. In about a months’ time, the wings also start to appear.
Instars are the stages of growth a nymph cricket undergoes before embarking upon adulthood. Crickets normally undergo around 8 to 10 instars, spread across a period of 3 months. Some studies have suggested that some species of cricket have more than 12 stages of instars.
The size of an adult cricket is 1 inch. Its body is segmented into a head, thorax, and abdomen like most other species of insects. Two antenna on the head and six legs are also present. Most adult species have wings, with the exception of a few.
Their ears are attached to their legs, which are visible as tiny spots, just below the neck and head region, on the anterior portion of their legs, in close proximity to the knees. Crickets have the smallest ears in the insect world, but they are highly sensitive. They can sense a predator from a mile away.
Where Do Crickets Live?
There are 900 species of cricket in total ― camel crickets, mole crickets, to name a few. Crickets are found in almost every environment, including forests, grassland, trees, caves, marshes, you name it. Sometimes, you’ll even find them hunkered in anthills. They like to make their homes in underground wooden burrows where they are sheltered from predators and have an abundant supply of food.
The most familiar and prevalent species of cricket are house crickets and field crickets. The preferred habitat of a field cricket is an outdoor environment, where dead decaying matter and seedlings are readily available. House crickets, on the other hand, as the name suggests, are predominantly found inside homes, eating away your silk-woven clothes.
What Do Crickets Eat?
Crickets feed on both plants and animals, depending upon what’s available, as they are omnivorous insects. They find dead decaying plant matter more delectable, but will not hesitate to fill their appetites on fungi, seeds, and fruit if the former option is unavailable.
Other insects require more effort to capture, but when the opportunity presents itself they crickets feed on them as well. Cannibalism runs rampant in a colony of crickets that is short on nutrients. The bigger, fit crickets turn to weaker members of the colony to satisfy their appetites as a last resort.
Crickets are not choosy when it comes to food. They make do with almost anything. However, if you have a pet cricket, and want to keep him healthy and strong, a balanced diet, comprising of leafy greens, fruits and grains will keep him nourished and satisfied.
Some people buy crickets for the sole purpose of using them as bait for fishing. Such crickets are store bought and have a lifespan of 1 week, because they’re undernourished and fed an unhealthy diet, consisting of damp cardboard boxes.
The only way to extend their lifespan is by changing up their diet on a regular basis. For example, if one of their meals comprised of leafy greens, serve them with fruits in the next meal. Keep on changing up their meals, and you will see a significant improvement in their overall health.
Fun Facts About Crickets
- The deadly cricket paralysis virus completely wiped out the house cricket from North America Europe between 2002 and 2010. The virus posed a threat to the very existence of this species and created a shortage of feeder insects in research labs. Later, it was replaced by the Jamaican field cricket, which was immune to the lethal virus, and possessed most of the desirable features of the eliminated house cricket.
- House crickets were used in China and other parts of the world for human consumption, as they are a complete protein. However, they are no longer commercially available. After the revelation that they are easily infested with parasites, their use was stopped altogether.
- Despite possessing the anatomical structures a male cricket does, females rarely sing, Only a select species, which are related to the “true crickets” chirp.
- When a fly insect wreaked havoc on a species of male crickets, they developed a unique evolutionary feature. They completely lost their chirping ability and evolved their wings, which made it close to impossible for fly insects to pinpoint their location. Now, they are always on the move, flying to their mates instead of attracting them with their courtship songs. Sure, it’s more painstaking, but at least it keeps them out of the radar of a vicious predator.***