The cricket is known for it’s chirping, adding his or her own music to a quiet night. Many are not aware, however, that this insect has a cosmopolitan distribution, meaning that it can be found in all parts of the world except for those regions that are extremely cold such as Antarctica. With such a wide range, it is no surprise that these insects are omnivorous, scavenging on any food that is available. The diet of a cricket contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, and meats.
Crickets belong to the order Orthoptera, which holds insects with similar morphology, such as grasshoppers and locusts. The family Gryllidae comprise the “true crickets” that are set apart by their powerful hind legs, flattened and elongated exoskeletons, and antennae equivalent in length to their bodies. It is difficult for scientists to know the exact number, but we do know that there are around 900 species found worldwide, all of which belonging to this family.
With crickets inhabiting a realm of different habitats, it is important to not only look at crickets as a whole family but on the species level. Crickets found in separate parts of the world have honed their food preferences to that of their environment.
What Do Crickets Eat in the Wild?
In the wild, crickets will eat a wide range of plants, fruits, and meats. To fully understand the “true crickets”, one must break it down to a few selective habitats.
Field crickets (genus Gryllus) can be found throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The habitats in which they dwell are quite diverse. The name is only a part of its designated niche. They can also be found in lawns, forests, caves and even outhouses. Crickets in this genus typically are larger and have a black outer shell, or exoskeleton.
As far as what field crickets consume, they rely on mostly plant matter and animal remains. Most commonly, they will eat small fruits, seeds and various plants such as crabgrass, ragweed or chicory. If food is scarce, a field cricket will eat insects, living or deceased. This genus is known for its beneficial aid to the ecosystem. They prey upon the eggs and pupae of pest insects, preventing further crop destruction.
Insects are known as one of the most adaptable species, being able to survive in extreme temperatures. The Giant cricket (Brachytrupes megacephalus) is found in the sandy dunes of Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, and North Africa. The name “megacephalus” translates to “big-headed”, a top indicator of this bug. The Giant cricket is also known for its strong jaws and armored legs that help to dig into the soil where it lives. With such specialized morphological features, you would assume that this critter could eat a myriad of plants and animals.
The Giant cricket is found in sandy environments that are often challenging. Due to these extreme conditions, it has adapted into foraging an opportunistic omnivore. This species preys upon mostly insects, providing a great deal of protein. They also tend to thrive off of underground desert plant matter such as tubers and roots.
Crickets are found to exist all over the world, including the moist habitats like the rainforest. One such insect found in the tropical rainforests of eastern Australia is the White-kneed cricket (Penalva flavocalceata). They are named for their white bands located on the knees. It is rare to see this species in the daytime, as they prefer to burrow deep under the soil during these hours. Instead, they are most commonly found roaming at night. The rainforest floor contains a great amount of food to forage.
These true crickets are omnivorous, consuming on plant matter and other insects for sustenance. In the rainforest, it is only a matter of time before food shows up amongst the leaf litter. This is where the White-kneed crickets find their meals. Insects living in rainforest biomes will typically feed on fruit, nuts, and leaves. In addition to the plants that they consume, they will also scavenge on dead animals.
What Do Wild Crickets Find to Eat in Our Homes?
Due to their willingness to find food in our homes, some have given crickets a bad reputation. Pests find a way into because of the shelter that is provided. Crickets have also taken advantage of this. In fact, the most common cricket to become a pest in the United States is the House cricket (Acheta domesticus). This species prefers warm, moist environments and can be found in and around homes, sometimes even foraging in fields. The House cricket has been identified as a pest for its wide range of meal preferences.
To understand the various ways that a cricket invades and forages for food in civilized areas, you must break it up into categories.
Inside the Home
House crickets are attracted to homes because of the shelter provided. These locations are also a great source of sustenance. When inside a home, a cricket will most commonly be found foraging near indoor heaters, kitchens, and fireplaces. In a house, a cricket is able to find food such as other insects, clothing, carpet, synthetic fabrics, and scraps. House crickets will even choose to eat pet food. These tenants can be quite noisy during the evening hours, making a lot of chirps.
Around the Home
There are plenty of foraging possibilities outside a house as well. Woodpiles and mulch are known to attract crickets due to the smell. These spots are great for finding plant matter, fruit, and vegetables either around the house or in the fields. Those found in gardens prey on various meat items such as small insects, eggs, pupae, and aphids.
What Do Pet Crickets Eat?
Whether choosing to keep a cricket as a pet, or feeding it to your gecko, crickets require the right diet in captivity. One odd option is to feed a captive cricket damp paperboard. The plant matter in the wild is made up of high concentrations of cellulose. Paperboard offers a more diluted concentration amount of cellulose, meaning that it should not be the entire diet. The other options can be found under two different categories: dry foods and fresh foods.
The best dry foods to feed a cricket involve food that they might consume in the wild such as wheat bran, alfalfa, seeds, and nuts. There also is cricket chow, designed to meet all nutrient requirements of a pet cricket. In a pinch, owners typically feed crushed cat or dog food that is vegetable based.
In addition to dry food, it is important to add food that is fresh. Greens include lettuce, mustard greens, dandelion leaves, and broccoli. Other options are carrots, apples, berries, potatoes, and bananas. Combining fresh foods with dry options will give a cricket a well-rounded diet.
Crickets that are gut loaded refer to insects that are intentionally kept in captivity for the purpose of feeding a pet lizard. Naturally, crickets are known to provide minerals and nutrients for a bearded dragon or leopard gecko, but extra precautions are taken by captive cricket owners. Gut loading a cricket requires one to feed crickets different foods that will improve the overall health of the desired animal. These foods include squash, potatoes, dark leafy greens, rice cereal, and even tropical fish flakes. The common denominator between foods involved with gut loading is that they are all healthy.
Are There Any Strictly Carnivorous Crickets?
Crickets, as a whole, are typically omnivorous. They will eat both plants and animals in order to survive. But are there any cricket species that rely mainly on meat to survive? It turns out that there are a few in the world.
The Southern mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus borellii) is a member of the true crickets that is unusual in its morphology. Compared to other crickets, these insects have forelimbs that are similar to a shovel. This adaptation allows for advanced burrowing. They are known to be one of the most destructive and largest crickets found in North America but inhabit agricultural fields worldwide.
Although not solely dependent on meat, these insects are considered more carnivorous due to the tendencies of their diets. The Southern mole cricket forages through turf and pasture grasses, consuming dead grass as they tunnel. Plant matter, however, is not their main source of food.
Scientists have dissected these insects, revealing that they prey largely on insects and other soil-inhabiting animals. These options include ants, larvae, and worms. Oddly enough, plant matter is the alternative when insects are scarce. Due to these feeding habits, the Southern mole cricket is considered a predacious insect.
How Do Crickets Eat?
Crickets have what are called “mandibulate mouthparts”, which are jaw-like appendages near their mouths. The mandibles are used to grasp, crush or cut the food of an insect. They can also be used to defend themselves against predators. Crickets use these mandibles to hold on to the food that they either catch or forage, using these jaws to cut through the food while keeping it in place.
How Long Can Crickets Live Without Food?
Crickets only live approximately 8 to 10 weeks once they reach adulthood. Due to such a short lifespan, you would assume that they could go long periods of time without food or water. Scientists have found that a cricket can last for up to 2 weeks without food. This is the same duration for an insect thriving without water.
Do Crickets Need Water?
As with any animal, crickets do require water in order to survive. As previously mentioned, they can go a few weeks without it, but should not be denied this requirement in captivity. For those trying to take care of pet crickets, it is essential to provide water in a way that allows them to drink without letting them drown, as they cannot swim. Baby crickets are extremely susceptible to this and should be given a wet sponge to allow for safe water consumption.
What Predators Do Crickets Have?
Being such a small insect has its disadvantages. Many species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles prey upon crickets for their nutritional benefits. Among the mammals are rats, bats, shrews, mice, and humans. In terms of what birds feed off of crickets, there are bluebirds, sparrows, crows and wrens. Reptiles include snakes and lizards. Amphibians that crickets have to watch out for are usually frogs and toads. Other insects such as ground beetles, spiders, mantis species and wasps also prey upon crickets.
Why Do Humans Eat Crickets?
Did you know that 80 percent of the world eats insects? The Western culture has seemed to adopt the eating of bugs as a taboo, but the rest of the world understands the benefits that insects have to offer as an additional food source. The nutrient profile of a cricket highlights just how nutritious these bugs can be, providing a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, crickets are approximately 65 percent protein. They also contain every essential amino acid required by the human body. Additionally, they are high in calcium and offer human taste testers omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. Next time your friend gets squeamish when offered a bug, let them know what they are missing out on.
Differences Between a Cricket and a Grasshopper
Although not in the same family, the cricket and the grasshopper are closely related. In fact, they both belong to the order Orthoptera, which can be translated to “straight wings” in Latin. But how exactly can you tell if you are looking at a grasshopper versus a cricket? Comparing diet, when they are active, and the morphology is the best way to tell them apart.
In terms of when they are most active, the grasshopper is diurnal, or awake during the day. This differs from the nocturnal cricket, foraging primarily at night. The diet of a grasshopper is strictly herbivore, finding plant matter to satiate their appetites. This differs from the omnivorous cricket, which depends on both plant matter and other insects to survive. The antennae lengths of grasshoppers are short as opposed to the long antennae found in crickets. One last distinction is their stridulation, or how they make their chirping sounds. Grasshoppers make sounds by rubbing their hind legs against their forewings. Amongst crickets, the forewings are simply used to make these chirps.
How and Why Do Crickets Chirp?
The chirping of crickets can be a melodious sound on a quiet night. But how exactly do they manage to make this song? In the previous paragraph, we touched on the matter, learning that they use their forewings to chirp. But what exactly happens?
The anatomy of the forewing helps one understand just how they are able to chirp. The bottom end of a cricket wing has teeth-like ridges. The upper region of the wing is covered with a leathery film that acts as a scraper. By rubbing the upper and lower parts of the wing together, a cricket is able to make chirps.
As to why a cricket chirps, the most common reason involves females. Interestingly, only male crickets are able to chirp. This is because they are using these sounds to attract females. Scientists have theorized that a male that is able to produce more chirps per minute seems more attractive to potential female suitors.
Crickets Chirping and the Temperature
Did you know that you could use crickets to tell the temperature? Well, believe it or not, there is an equation behind this known as the “cricket calculation”. Crickets are known to prefer hotter temperatures and they aren’t afraid to show it. On a warm night, you are bound to hear a choir of crickets chirping. If the temperature falls below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, then they will refuse to chirp at all.
The “cricket calculation” that you can use to tell the temperature is based on the chirps heard in a certain amount of time. To complete this equation, simply count the number of chirps that you hear in 14 seconds and add 40 to that number. This will give you the approximate temperature. For instance, if you hear 30 chirps in 14 seconds, then you should be in an area with a temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The cricket is an omnivorous insect known to prey upon plant material, other insects, and even household items such as fabrics. Known as a taboo by some cultures, they offer a great source of protein and minerals when consumed by humans or other predators. Just remember that the cricket is viewed as a symbol of hope, wealth, and good luck in places around the world.