Anyone for Crickets?

Crickets, and their melodious song, the perfect finishing touch for the exotic garden. By cricket captain Tony Keating.
Tony Keating, 105 Fairway, Chertsey, Surrey
Chamaerops No. 8, published online 23-10-2002

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There you are lying on a sun-lounger under the palms. You need this holiday. Two weeks of relaxing. Doing nothing. The sun burns down. You reach out for a drink. Something moves. A little black-brown grasshopper thing scurries up a wall, stops and rattles its wings. A beautiful trill emanates from it. You suddenly realise this enchanting melody is the song of this small creature. The day grows shorter. Warm wind rustles through the palms. Evening falls into dusk. The night air vibrates to the song of this creature. You sit back, glass in hand, wishing you could stay here forever. Well you can. The above is myself in summer. Southeast England, just off Junction 11, M25 motorway. Palms, sun, crickets. We all know the hardy palms, but do you know the hardy crickets?

There are four crickets native to England. These are the true crickets of the order Gryllidae.

The first is Gryllus campestris. Large, black, very musical but very rare. This is a protected species and must not be disturbed or taken from the wild.

The second is Gryllotalpidae. Very large, musical. Also rare and protected.

The third, Nemobius sylvestris is softly musical. This cricket is not in danger and fairly plentiful.

The fourth, Acheta domesticus (The House Cricket) is very common but even so, not very well known. Although it is a native of North Africa and Asia it has been well established since the days of the Romans in our countryside. The song is a bird-like warble continued for long periods. Mainly nocturnal, it will often be found on rubbish dumps and in gardens in summer. It is sometimes sold in tubs in pet shops. To establish this creature in your garden you will need a warm compost heap on which the tub should be emptied in April or May. Many will live and breed in the compost and move about your garden and adjoining areas.

Seeking out the warmest places they do become part of the food chain so they will have to be topped up once or twice a month until they establish themselves. Don't be surprised if you come across the odd one in the house. (They are not called house Crickets for nothing!) However, they are easily caught and do not bite. If you don't have a compost heap just tip them into the garden in June. Top them up regularly and they will sing right through to November.

P.S. Gryllus campestris, the large black cricket, the one we often hear on those sun-soaked holidays, is also a native of southern England, but very rare. This year the Nature Conservancy Council in cooperation with London Zoo Insect Department have bred over 1500 of these crickets. These have been bred from our own wild stocks for release back into the wild. If everything goes to plan it should not be too long before the south of England vibrates to the beautiful song of these creatures, as does the south of France.

Crickets, with their warbling evening trill provide the perfect finishing touch to the exotic garden, and will entertain and enthral friends and neighbours alike.

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