A Mystery Solved: Miogryllus!

by Carl Strang

In 2014 I first heard what sounded to my ear like a singing striped ground cricket, but it seemed too early in the season. It was June 21, at Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve in Lake County, Indiana. I made a recording, then moved on to the Indiana Kankakee Sands, where I heard it again. Though these sites are a bit south of my DuPage County home, I didn’t hear striped ground crickets in DuPage until July 13. The next year I heard the same odd songs, this time at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, in the middle of Will County, immediately south of DuPage. This was even earlier, on June 10. Again I made a recording. And again, I did not hear striped ground crickets in DuPage until, as it happened, July 13. In 2016 I went down to Midewin on June 28, and heard the same early, striped-ground-cricket like songs. This year, the same story, Midewin, June 23. This time, though, it seemed to me that the songs were not quite right for striped ground crickets. They seemed too precise, too even and strong. Here is a recording I made in the same location on June 28:

I went back and listened to my earlier recordings, reviewed my list of hypothetical singing insect species for the Chicago region, then checked reference recordings of their songs. The early songs did sound different from my recordings of later-season striped ground crickets, an example here:

The odd, early songs seemed to be a match for one of the hypotheticals, the eastern striped cricket, Miogryllus verticalis. Furthermore, references indicated that M. verticalis is an early season species, most abundant in June. I drove back down to Midewin on June 28. Trying to zero in on the singers was very frustrating; they seemed to have a ventriloquial quality. Eventually I flushed out and captured a female cricket near one of the singing mystery males. Looking through the clear plastic cup that held her, I could see that she was indeed an eastern striped cricket. I took a couple photos looking down into the cup. It was well that I did, because when I tried to get her positioned for a shot from the side, she gave me the slip and I was unable to recapture her.

Female eastern striped cricket, dorsal view

She was just a little smaller than a spring field cricket, which species was sharing the grassy meadow where Miogryllus were abundant. This confirms that eastern striped crickets are established in the southwestern portion of the 22-county area I define as the Chicago region. They would seem to represent yet another example of a range extension northward by a singing insect species.

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Low Hanging Fruit

by Carl Strang

There haven’t been many new posts in this blog recently because mainly I am going after the low hanging fruit. In other words, most of my research time has been going into checking new counties and new sites, as well as return visits to sites visited earlier in the season, to build my database of singing insect species locations. Though this is productive work, most of that product consists of added locations for common species. That’s not exactly fodder for blogging. A few interesting points have come out, however.

Last week I was working in Indiana. The weather was unseasonably cool, but there was plenty of singing action. In Fulton County I heard a broad-winged bush katydid singing, which establishes that northern species down to the southern edge of the survey region. Clearly they are fewer there than farther north, however. As I drove the rural roads in temperatures that were dropping rapidly to the mid-50’s F, I started hearing a strange, unfamiliar song coming from wetter locations. It was a kind of slow, fluttering buzz, reminiscent of the protean shieldback but much louder, and the buzzes were in repeated short bursts. I pulled off at one such location, and soon realized that these were slightly musical coneheads, their songs altered by the cold, but still singing in lockstep unison. I also found that species in Pulaski County, so they are widely dispersed at least in the northwest Indiana counties.

Slightly musical conehead

Slightly musical conehead

On the way back home I explored some sites in Lake County, Indiana. The best of these was the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve. This is a relatively large, high quality prairie and savanna property. Broad-winged bush katydids were abundant there.

A portion of the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve

A portion of the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve

On the way to Hoosier Prairie I passed a sign with a familiar name.

Tom Sporre Wildlife Area

Tom Sporre Wildlife Area

Tom Sporre was in the Purdue wildlife undergraduate program a year ahead of me. Personable and proficient, he went on to become a prominent Indiana waterfowl biologist who died much too young. I was pleased to see a marsh and prairie set aside under his name.

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