Adventures in Owning Crickets

I can’t believe I have pictures of my crickets but not of Rafiki the jumping spider.

As I mentioned last week, I bought a bunch of crickets over the summer that were initially intended as food for my jumping spider, Rafiki. I ended up keeping the crickets as pets for a couple weeks after Rafiki had left and was off living his best spider life in my backyard somewhere, which was an interesting experience to say the least.

I know – I did the one thing you’re not supposed to do when you have a pet that eats its food live, and that is get attached to the food. I figured my big crickets would be safe because they were too large to feed to Rafiki, but the little ones were even cuter! After Rafiki revealed his picky nature by not eating either of the two crickets I tried to feed him, I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want my spider to starve or my crickets to be digested, so Rafiki returned to the wild – and the crickets stayed inside.

Temporarily.

After releasing Rafiki, I got to work tidying the cricket cage. It was one of those little cages you can buy at most pet stores, with a couple of tubes in the top so you can shake the crickets out of the tubes and into your pet’s cage, but instead I used the tubes to shake the crickets into my bathtub so I could clean up their little habitat without them hopping away. I wiped their poop out, opened a fresh food container, laid down a damp paper towel and even threw in some nice, juicy lettuce leaves – and then I realized I’d just released a ton of crickets into my bathtub.

It took much longer than I’d care to admit to catch all those crickets (I think there were at least twenty of them), but I was eventually able to corral them all back into the cage. I did have a few close calls with some crickets hopping out of the bathtub and making a break for it, but fortunately I was able to scoop them up before they could find a hole in the wall and disappear.

Because the whole releasing-crickets-in-the-bathtub thing got old after only my second time cleaning their cage, I decided to let my little insect pals join Rafiki in the wilderness. That, and my brother and dad kept making jokes about using the crickets as fishing bait that I wasn’t too sure would stay jokes for much longer. I will miss my crickets, though – they were musical but not too noisy, and it was super cute to watch them leapfrogging over each other and nibbling on their lettuce leaves.

The crickets I owned were called house crickets. It’s a good thing none of them escaped the tub for too long, because true to their name I would’ve been hearing cricket music in the walls for a long time to come. The best way I can describe them visually is as little toffee-colored crickets with a mustache, headband, and stripe between their eyes that all look like they were drawn on with chocolate syrup. Therefore, I shall henceforth refer to them as candy crickets.

One reason candy crickets will enter your home is because, like a lot of insects, they don’t particularly like the cold. An interesting fact about some cricket species is that you may be able to tell what the temperature is outside by counting their chirps! According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the temperature outside in Fahrenheit is about 40 plus however many times the cricket chirps in a span of fourteen seconds (so I guess this little trick stops working when it drops below 39°). I really want to try this out now; if you know whether or not this actually works, please let me know in the comments!

Another fun fact about cricket chirps is that crickets make their music by rubbing their wings together, a behavior called stridulation. To stridulate, male crickets will rub the “scraper” of one wing across the “file” of the other in a manner that is often compared to running your fingernail down the teeth of a comb. In other words, thinking of crickets as playing tiny fiddles to chirp isn’t too far from the truth! Typically only the male crickets possess stridulation organs, and will use their music for mating or dominance purposes. There are some crickets that don’t sing at all, typically so they can avoid predators or parasites, but most species carry a tune.

The next time you see a candy cricket hopping around your yard, take the time to enjoy its music and perhaps use it as a thermometer. Just be careful about bringing it inside, because if you lose track of it, well – I hope you like that music, because it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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