Allard’s Ground Cricket

2011 November 19

This little black cricket was captured along with a bunch of other bugs with a sweep-net at the beginning of August 2011. His intended fate, along with the other larger contents of the sweep net, was to be food for the praying mantis that we raised from an egg case[1].

He was pretty wily, though, and managed to avoid being eaten by hiding out in the soil and litter at the bottom of the mantis cage. He also evidently found plenty of food there, being a detrivore, and he lived in the cage for months.

We were pretty sure of his presence (and were also pretty sure that he was a “he”), because he sang, and sang, and sang. Usually just after we’d misted the cage, or just about the time it started getting dark. Here’s a recording that I made of him singing his heart out [2]:


Like the field crickets I posted years ago, his wings were heavily veined, and acted as both sound generators and sounding boards.

For such a little guy (his body was only about 14 mm or so, about half the length of the larger field crickets, making him approximately an eighth their weight), he was pretty loud. His song could be heard through the whole house.

Judging from the sound recordings at The Songs of Insects[3], he’s an Allard’s Ground Cricket, Allonemobius allardi. They’re supposed to like somewhat dry ground, and we did hear many, many of them singing in the dry, upland part of our back yard through most of August and September.

[1] The mantis will be posted next week. I had to cheat and buy some commercial egg-cases to get a mantis, because they don’t appear to be found up here in the wild.

[2] As I mentioned in the footnotes to an earlier posting, this was the cricket that was completely invisible to our cheap digital voice recorder. So I had to fall back on the old method of shooting a movie with our point-and-shoot camera (a little Canon SD1300 IS), and then stripping out the soundtrack as a .wav file using Virtualdub.

To present the soundfiles for your listening pleasure, I’m trying something different from what I tried before. The Soundcloud music-sharing site has a rather nice sound player widget, whose best feature is that it appears to work fine for all of the web browsers that I have access to. The fact that it includes a waveform trace is a nice bonus. So, I just upload my insect sound files to Soundcloud, and then embed it back here in my posting. It works equally well in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Chrome, which are the four browsers that I have easy access to. Every other soundfile player I have tried, failed to work in at least one of those browsers. And, Soundcloud will let me upload up to two hours of soundfiles for free. At the rate of about 15-30 seconds per insect, it’s going to take me a long time to use all of that up. It works well enough that I’ve gone back and retroactively changed my other posts that included sounds so that they use this player too.

[3] Elliott and Hershberger really went all-out to get high-quality recordings for The Songs of Insects, and it shows. They used high-end recording equipment, put the insects in a soundproofed, anechoic recording chamber whenever possible, and spent thousands of hours getting recordings exactly right. Their recording is much crisper than mine, with practically no background hiss and a far wider frequency range. Still, mine is identifiably the same species, because even if my camera microphone messed up the tone and pitch, the cadence is still very distinctive.

Update: I was able to clean up most of the background hiss using Audacity, as JRR suggested in the comments. Here it is. Aside from a little “whoop!” sound at 7 seconds, I think it worked pretty well.


7 Responses
  1. JRR permalink
    November 19, 2011

    The webpage sound widget I use is the free one from WordPress
    It’s a little smaller on screen, but any free player will do.

    Also, if you have persistent background hiss or hum or other sounds, you can remove it with the “Noise removal” filter in Audacity. You need to be able to give it a clean sample with just the noise (Noise profile) then it uses FFTs to remove things that match that from the main audio track.
    Overdoing this filter leads to ringing but it can do wonders for knocking down hiss a few levels.

  2. November 19, 2011

    I am truly impressed with the care you put into each blog post! Thanks for the sounds of autumn (or our basement in September) at the start of winter.

  3. Carole permalink
    November 19, 2011

    Thank you, I’ve been hearing these little guys but hadn’t located the musician.

  4. November 20, 2011

    Nice, Tim. Glad you found an audio player that works for your needs. Works well and looks cool.

    As for the crickets, I always thought the whole “cricket chirp speed is an indicator of temperature” is pretty neat.

  5. November 22, 2011

    Thanks, everybody!

    There are still a bunch of singing insects in our yard that I have yet to capture, but between this one, the Field Crickets, and the cicadas, I’d say this accounts for somewhere around a third of the species that we routinely hear (and about 3/4 of the actual volume of sound). And between a new recorder, and Audacity to clean up the noise, I think I’m in a good position to pick up most of the rest next summer.

    I think if one is going to do the “count chirps to measure temperature”, one needs to pick the cricket species carefully. It will work with the Field Crickets (which chirp fairly slowly), but this one is too fast to count.

  6. November 24, 2011

    Happy Thanksgiving, Tim! One of the things I’m thankful for is having met you on the Interweb Tubes and the chance to learn from you.

  7. November 25, 2011

    Thanks, KT. I appreciate you and all of my other readers, too!

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