Little Green Men: Tree Crickets

10 Jun
A green, long-legged female tree cricket cleans her antennae (College Station, Texas).

A female tree cricket (Gryllidae:Oecanthinae) grooms her antennae.

Tree crickets are a fun, bizarre looking species of cricket in the subfamily Oecanthinae.  With their green color, delicate bodies, and strange flat wings on the males they don’t easily fall into the average person’s image of a cricket.  As their name suggests, these crickets live in trees and shrubs, where they take in an ominivorous diet of plant matter and small insects.  Because of this somewhat cryptic life history they are seen less commonly than they occur.  The best way to find tree crickets is beating trees and shrubs especially at night.  They may also be tracked by their calls, or come to lights.  The male and female pictured here turned up while sweeping brush at the Texas AgriLife field station.

A male tree cricket with wings specialized for courtship song.

Male tree crickets (Gryllidae: Oecanthinae) lack ovipositors and have flatter, broader wings specialized for courtship song.

The most interesting fact I learned about tree crickets:  When the male sings, his wing rise up, exposing a special dorsal gland that secrete a tasty snack for the female.  While she’s on top chowing down on this nuptial gift, the male takes the opportunity to mate, singing all the while.  The spermatophore that is passed from male to female remains partially extruded, so the snacking and singing serves an additional purpose.  The male must keep the female distracted so that she does not consume the spermatophore before the sperm has been transferred.

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One Response to “Little Green Men: Tree Crickets”

  1. Comment1 June 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    I’ve never heard of these, they look almost cute! They actually look a little bit like those green lacewings, all slim and slender. Very nice!

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