Hitchhiker Surprise

by Carl Strang

In the last week of August I pushed to close the book on melodious ground crickets (Eunemobius melodius) in the Chicago region. I found that a marginal 2017 sound recording in DuPage County, Illinois, in fact was a Say’s trig, failed to find melodious ground crickets in Kane and Kendall Counties, and found them at a site in St. Joseph County, Indiana. This left Jasper County as the remaining candidate county where I had not found the species. I had found them in floodplain forests in all the other counties bordering the Kankakee River, but there are few places in Jasper County where the river intersects public roads. Otherwise the only possibility was floodplain wetlands in the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, and they are not there. On August 26 I checked the places along the river, and though I could see likely habitats from the road, all were on posted private property. Here is the final map:

Map of the Chicago region, black dots indicating the counties where I have found melodious ground crickets. They probably also occur in Jasper County on private property.

I was happy to close the book on melodious ground crickets, but the highlight of the day was a hitchhiker. As I pulled away from a road that dead-ended at an extension of the river, I noticed a cricket on my windshield that I did not recognize. I stopped the car and caught the cricket.

The brown wings with yellow borders were vaguely familiar.

After returning home I was inspired to slap together a makeshift white chamber, inspired by Wil Hershberger’s work, in order to take portrait photos of the stranger.

I thought I had seen photos of crickets like this, and a little research turned up the identification: restless bush cricket (Hapithus agitator). The Kankakee River fringe in Jasper County is now the second-farthest-north location where the species has been found, according to the Singing Insects of North America website (a site in Massachusetts is the northernmost). I will add a page to my singing insects guide for the species, but there’s an asterisk. Restless bush crickets are widespread in the eastern U.S., but they are known to sing only in Texas and Florida.

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