Return to Home
Crickets: Companions of our Sleep
by Bay Vallarta Staff |
|Crickets are such unique creatures! They offer us background music over dinner, and their chatter soothes us when we take a walk at night or during our sleep. Faithful companions since the origins of our society, they are an important part of popular folklore around the world.
A Superbly Named Bug
The Spanish name "grillo" is derived from the Latin word "gryllo", meaning a cry or call, and refers to the sounds they produce. For contemporary Mexicans, this sound is best defined as a "cri, cri", which resulted in the cricket's most famous name in children's stories in Mexico, created by Francisco Gabilondo Soler.
The Insect Serenade
Crickets actually have no voice. The sounds they produce are generated by the motion and friction of its first pair of wings (they have 2 pairs), that has hardened and modified at its edges to create that unique and intense sound. This sound is believed to have been the first sound created by a land animal trying to communicate with one another, since the cricket's first appearance on earth, four to six million years ago.
Considered a monotonous sound, it is, in reality, barely a nuisance and generally well tolerated by humans. Males are the only ones that make these singing sounds to attract females. The males were commonly used in ancient China as prized pets, kept in small bamboo cages, with gold trim, just to add ambience to a room. The females are silent and generally larger than the males. While female crickets do have ears, she has developed a kind of eardrum in her hind legs with which, together with a number of hairs that cover it, she is able to hear the sounds effectively.
Scientists have proven that there is a mathematical relationship between the temperature and the frequency of sounds made by a cricket's song; the hotter it is, the faster they sing. If you are able to count how many times the cricket vocalizes in 8 seconds and add 5 and you can reliably calculate the temperature in degrees Celsius.
Beneficial and Harmful Animals
With around 20 thousand different species, crickets, grasshoppers and locusts are common inhabitants of almost all temperate and tropical habitats on the planet. With such variety, not surprisingly, they are an important part of natural ecological cycles and the economy, as some of these species are considered to be real "pests", as with locusts.
However, the crickets are not a particularly serious problem for our homes, much less to the economy, feeding on dead organic matter (animals and plants), nor are they carriers of diseases infectious to humans.
Crickets and grasshoppers are a popular food in many parts of Mexico, such as Oaxaca and elsewhere in the country. The protein content is very high (almost 70% protein), and thus represents an important source of nutrition.
Lazy and Shameless
In folktales, crickets are often regarded as lazy bums and cheats who spend their time having fun and "living it up", although one of the best known characters internationally as "Jiminy Cricket" who plays the healthy conscience and advisor to Pinocchio. There is one legend that crickets have been singing to the moon, since a couple in love was enchanted by a wicked witch, then separated and transformed into crickets. Since then, the cricket sings to the moon every night.
Whatever your favorite story, crickets teach us an important lesson in perseverance, because an adult cricket will sing forever, whether it is free or enclosed in a box, even if it takes up to a year to mature sexually and finally find a partner.
The song of the cricket can transport us from the city to the countryside just by closing our eyes. Interestingly, a significant number of deaf people, who have received a hearing implant, often say that the sound of crickets at night the one they most enjoy. Could it really be just a monotonous and meaningless sound? Perhaps it is actually a quiet whisper that reminds us that we are still alive and trying to remember how beautiful the moonlight and stars and the night is.