“He listened to that most ethereal of all sounds, the song of crickets, coming in full choir upon the wind, and fancied that, if moonlight could be heard, it would sound just like that.”
– ‘The Canterbury Pilgrims’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The sound of crickets, for most people, is a soothing and welcoming reminder of summertime. In case you missed past issues, it is my opinion summer evenings are without a doubt the finest time of the day. Not only a reprieve from the day’s heat, after the sun sets the sky takes on a certain shade of blue as the first stars appear, neighbors visit as children play outside late and dogs are walked. The finishing touches are the scent of night-blooming jasmine and cricket serenades.
Last summer, I waited and waited for the chirping to begin, but it seems heavy rains greatly reduced their numbers and therefore ability to make music. I really missed them. But thankfully, one year later they are out in full force again. As you relax and settle for the night, open the windows or go out in the yard and listen. The sound of crickets fill the air. Summer is now complete.
Did you know cricket’s sound is dependant on the weather? Like all insects, they are cold blooded and their activity levels are directly correlated to the outside temperature. Hmmm… I can relate! In warmer weather chirping is faster, in colder weather it slows down. A formula, called Dolbear’s Law, states you can approximate the outside night temperature in degrees (Fahrenheit) by counting the number of chirps in a 15-second span and add 40. I haven’t tried this formula yet to test its accuracy. So far the old-fashioned mercury method works, especially during the winter months.
We usually hear crickets during the summer and autumn because this is when courting and egg laying take place. The male attracts his mate by rubbing his wings together. This violin-type action is called stridulation, resulting in a chirping sound. Females pick the male with the nicest song and head toward him. The happy ending is that of “the birds and the bees.”
Crickets tend to keep a low profile in our yards, living under rocks and leaves and among various hardscape. In the house, they can be a nuisance, but outside they help break down plant material and add nutrients to the soil. Our enjoyment of their song is nothing but an added “gift of nature.”
Yes! The gift of cooler weather as the week winds down is a pleasant one. Over the weekend temperatures will begin to rise once again, reaching close to 100 degrees by Monday and Tuesday. Include the return of monsoonal moisture and its resulting cloud build over the deserts and mountains. By Wednesday a slight chance of rain is in the forecast.
Do crickets only sing on clear nights? Jiminy Cricket once sang, “When you wish upon a star…” during the summer of 1940.
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.