Tree Cricket Ambiguity

by Carl Strang

During a recent Take Your Kids To Work Day program at Forest Preserve District headquarters in Danada Forest Preserve, I was one of the teachers in an entomology unit. An adult tree cricket turned up in a sweep net sample, and I decided to try for photos.

As seems common with tree crickets, this one was interested in palpating my finger (often they’ll nibble as well). The shot I was seeking was a photo of the insect with its antennae held back, preferably taken from a quartering angle. I did get a usable one.

Those dark spots on the first two antenna segments often are distinctive enough for species identification. The most recent authoritative drawings and descriptions I have seen were contributed by a leading researcher on tree crickets, Tom Walker, in the Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States (2004, Cornell University Press), which he co-authored with John L. Capinera and Ralph D. Scott. The Danada cricket falls into a middle ground in the drawings, conceivably fitting four-spotted, prairie, or black-horned/Forbes’s.

Until I saw the photo I didn’t expect this. The cricket overall was very pale, and I had ruled out the black-horned/Forbes’s sibling species pair because they typically have dark areas on the head, pronotum (top of thorax), and underside of the abdomen. If I had to choose, though, based on antennal spotting alone, I would say this individual was a black-horned or Forbes’s tree cricket, albeit at one extreme end of their range of variation (for more on that species pair, see my post of last autumn).

In previous years I have examined a number of tree crickets from the area where this one was caught, and all have been in the black-horned/Forbes’s darker color pattern. The only clear result is that I need more experience with these four prairie-to-shrubby-meadow tree cricket species.


1 Comment

  1. August 24, 2010 at 6:10 am

    […] I also caught a tree cricket. This was a more typical example of the black-horned/Forbes’s species pair than the individual I described in a post a few days ago. […]

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