Spring Trig

by Carl Strang

This is the story that made my participation in the Connor Prairie Bioblitz worth the trip. Beginning in 2008, I have heard occasional cricket trills that sounded identical to those of Say’s trigs, but were too early in the season. In 2008 my office was at Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve, and on June 27 I heard one of those odd early songs. I also noted them on July 8 and 14 that year. In 2009 the first Say’s trig was singing on a more reasonable August 6, and in 2011 on July 31. In 2010 the first was on July 19 at Waterfall Glen, a little marginal perhaps but acceptable. Then last year I heard one near the Fox River in Kane County on June 10. Granted, last year was early phenologically, but this was completely out of line. I speculated that perhaps a rare few Say’s trigs hatched early and successfully overwintered as nymphs.

Then came last weekend’s bioblitz at Connor Prairie. This is too early to expect much singing insect action in the woods, so I headed straight to the large prairie restoration project west of the interpretive center.

View of the restored prairie from the balloon.

View of the restored prairie from the balloon.

The same area at ground level. This prairie first was seeded around 5 years ago.

The same area at ground level. This prairie first was seeded around 5 years ago.

There were plenty of spring field crickets chirping, as expected. But as I approached the taller grasses I also began to hear trills. Lots of them. Furthermore, they sounded just like Say’s trigs. On June 8. I began stalking these singers. Several times I got within 2-3 feet, but was never able to see one of the singing crickets in the dense grasses. When my approach stopped the singing, the cricket was able to outwait me. I was fairly certain they were above the ground, and so probably were not ground crickets. They became quiet in late morning. I heard one singing briefly in the afternoon, but that was it.

In the evening I returned, and as the sun slid to the horizon I was pleased to find that the mystery crickets were singing again. Again I tried stalking, and again was frustrated. Then, when yet another cricket stopped singing when I got within 2 feet, I shuffled my feet through the grass clump where his perch seemed to be, and up he hopped. I caught him in a vial.

He was a brown trig, but his head was entirely dark rather than pale with dark stripes as is characteristic of Say’s trig. I made the necessary decision and collected him.

Here he is, pinned and drying. The uniformly colored head is distinctive.

Here he is, pinned and drying. The uniformly colored head is distinctive.

The color, size and shape otherwise are similar to Say’s trig.

The color, size and shape otherwise are similar to Say’s trig.

I returned the next morning, but was unable to flush another male or sweep-net a female. None of my printed references mentioned anything like this cricket. I was able to connect to the Connor Prairie’s Wi-Fi, and searched the Singing Insects of North America website. Imagine my elation when I found it! This is an unusual instance of a species getting a common name before its scientific name is assigned. It has been designated the spring trig, Anaxipha species G. The SINA spreadsheet lists May and June dates, and gives a range that includes Indiana and Illinois, though apparently my cricket is the first specimen for Indiana. So, now there is another species to listen for in my travels. I will want to get some definition of this species’ season relative to Say’s trig. The reasonable assumption is that, unlike other Anaxipha, the spring trig overwinters as a nymph.

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4 Comments

  1. Nancy Collins said,

    June 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thomas J Walker and Dave Funk are having a paper published this year to describe all those trigs on SINA. I belive they are having it published in the Journal of Orthoptera. In any case, I’m sure the SINA site will be updated.

  2. Lisa Rainsong said,

    June 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I literally just sent am email to one of my naturalist about the mysterious SpringTrig, We have an early ground cricket here in NE Ohio from later June into early July that I have recorded at different locations and have not been able to find. I have been wondering if it could possibly be the Spring Trig. She just heard one on her property yesterday evening and I’m going to start listening for them this weekend. Your post is very timely and very exciting!

  3. Linda Gilbert said,

    June 13, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Lisa/Carl– It could indeed be a Spring Trig. I was comparing Lisa’s recording from my property with the sound clip on SINA and it was hard to tell the difference between the two. The Melodious Ground Cricket could be a contender, though. Lisa–we must find it!

    • natureinquiries said,

      June 14, 2013 at 6:11 am

      Thanks, everyone, for the interesting responses. The Walker/Funk paper will be of great interest. As for the melodious ground cricket, in my limited experience there is a big habitat difference, at least in my area (I first found them last year: https://natureinquiries.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/melodious-ground-cricket/). All the early trigs I have heard have been in mesic prairie or tall meadow areas. The ground crickets were in a very wet forest bordering a swamp or swampy marsh. Though the trills were similar, that of the melodious ground cricket was distinct from that of the Say’s trigs singing nearby. It was later in the season, too, though I do not know when the crickets started.


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