cricket, common name of the slender, chirping, hopping insects forming the family Gryllidae in the order Orthoptera. Most crickets have long antennae, muscular hind legs for jumping, and two pairs of fully developed wings. In some subfamilies the wings are reduced or absent.
In most subfamilies the males have song-producing, or stridulatory, organs on the front wings. Both sexes possess auditory organs on the forelegs. The stridulatory apparatus is most highly developed in the field crickets and the tree crickets. Members of these subfamilies have a ridged region, which acts as a file, and a hardened region, which acts as a scraper, on each front wing; sound is produced by rubbing the wings together.
Crickets reproduce sexually, producing from one to three generations per year. The females usually lay eggs in the ground or in soft-stemmed plants during the late summer or fall. The eggs hatch in the spring and the emerging young are similar to the adults except for their smaller size and lack of wings.
Crickets occur mostly in the temperate climates. The common field crickets of the United States are species of the genus Gryllus; all are brown to black, about 1 in. (2.5 cm) long, and are found in fields and meadows and often in houses. The tree crickets are slender, pale green or whitish insects of trees and shrubs; most U.S. species belong to the genus Oecanthus. The rate of chirping of tree crickets increases with increasing temperature. In the snowy tree cricket, Oecanthus fultoni, this variation is so regular that if the number 40 is added to the number of chirps per 15-sec interval, the sum is a fair approximation of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. Ant-loving crickets are tiny wingless forms 1/8 in. to 1/5 in. (3–5 mm) long that occur in ant nests, where they feed on an oily secretion produced by the ants.
In addition to the true crickets of the family Gryllidae, insects of the family Gryllacrididae are also called crickets. These are the cave, or camel, crickets, found throughout the world in dark, moist places, and the stone, sand, or Jerusalem crickets of W North America, found under stones in sandy soil. Mole crickets (genus Gryllotalpa, family Gryllotalpidae) are nocturnal insects that have strong front legs adapted for digging and burrowing rather than strong hind legs for jumping. They live in moist soil. All crickets belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.