By Ian Bushell
One of the quintessential sounds of summer is the chirping of grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera). They are found all over the park, but probably the best places to see them are those areas of longer grass or bramble beside the many paths.
Their unusual songs and giant leaps provide great amusement to children and adults alike. The singing, which is unique to each species, is produced by a process called stridulation in which the hind leg and wing are rubbed together.
Meadow grasshopper song
Children, with their keen hearing, are best at locating them but for those whose hearing is not so good the songs can be amplified by using a bat detector, or possibly an app for your smartphone, set to a frequency of 20 – 40 kHz. The Field Grasshopper sounds a little like the steady ‘wup wup wup’ of a Chinook helicopter.
Within the UK there are some 27 native species of Orthoptera plus a number of naturalised species and so far we have identified seven species of bush-cricket and grasshopper within the SCP. Most characteristic of both are the large hind legs modified for jumping and one simple way to tell the difference between bush-crickets and grasshoppers is that in general bush-crickets hind legs are ‘lankier’ than the grasshopper. Bush crickets’ antennae are thread like and often exceed their body length, and the females are easily identified by having a blade like ovipositor (the egg laying apparatus).
Female bush crickets have a blade-like ovipositor
The header image is of a Meadow Grasshopper by Jonathan Baker from Bradford on Avon.