Crickets are insects related to grasshoppers. They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are about 900 species of crickets. They tend to be nocturnal and are often confused with grasshoppers because they have a similar body structure including jumping hind legs. Crickets are harmless to humans.
The sound emitted by crickets is commonly referred to as chirping; the scientific name is stridulation. Only the male crickets chirp. The sound is emitted by the stridulatory organ, a large vein running along the bottom of each wing, covered with "teeth" much like a comb. The chirping sound is created by running the top of one wing along the teeth at the bottom of the other wing. As he does this, the cricket also holds the wings up and open, so that the wing membranes can act as acoustical sails. It is a popular myth that the cricket chirps by rubbing its legs together.
There are four types of cricket song: The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near, and is a very quiet song. An aggressive song is triggered by chemoreceptors on the antennae that detect the near presence of another male cricket and a copulatory song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating.
Crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is (approximately 62 chirps a minute at 13°C in one common species; each species has its own rate). Counting the number of chirps produced in 14 seconds and adding 40 will approximately equal the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
Crickets are omnivorous scavengers who feed on organic materials, as well as decaying plant material, fungi, and some seedling plants. Crickets eat their own dead when there are no other sources of food available, and exhibit predatorial behavior upon weakened, crippled crickets.
Crickets have relatively powerful jaws, and several species have been known to bite humans.
Crickets mate in late summer and lay their eggs in autumn. The eggs hatch in the spring and have been estimated to number as high as 200 per fertile female.
Crickets are popular as a live food source for carnivorous pets like frogs, lizards, tortoises, salamanders, and spiders. Feeding crickets with nutritious food in order to pass the nutrition onto animals that eat them is known as gut loading. In addition to this, the crickets are often dusted with a mineral supplement powder to ensure complete nutrition to the pet.