by Carl Strang
Last week I provided a field training on singing insects for interpretive naturalists in Will County, a group organized the Nina Baki of that county’s Forest Preserve District. We started at Braidwood Dunes, finding the same species that I encountered in my first visit there a year ago, plus a few more. After an enjoyable dinner at a nearby restaurant, four of us went on to Forsythe Woods Forest Preserve to see what singing insects would emerge in the darkness. We were gifted with some good displays by several species, including the first broad-winged tree crickets I have heard singing this year.
While I was attempting to get clear photos of that tree cricket, someone noticed another insect near it. This one arrested our attention. The greater part of an inch long, its broad face and extremely long antennae, its reddish color, and the apparent lack of wings contrasted it with everything we had seen that day. It was tempting to call it a nymph, but I had a hunch that this was a cricket belonging to a wingless group.
The next day I went to the BugGuide website, a generally reliable source of insect images, and it and other web references identified this as a Carolina leaf-roller. This is a truly odd cricket, the only member of its family (Gryllacrididae) north of the tropics. The family is mainly a southern hemisphere group, with many of the several hundred species found in Australia. Carolina leaf-rollers spend the day sheltered in a leaf they roll up and glue closed, or sometimes in the inflated pod of a bladdernut bush. At night they emerge to prey on aphids. They are not singing insects, indeed being wingless, but are fascinating creatures nevertheless.