Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Where else to find a tree cricket but on a tree?

with 10 comments

Female Tree Cricket on Flameleaf Sumac Fruit 0484

Click for better clarity.

You’ve recently seen pictures from the park behind the Arboretum on November 30 showing flameleaf sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) with their colorful fall foliage. When I’d gotten back near my car I stopped to look at another flameleaf sumac that wasn’t as attractive as the other two but that rewarded my attention with the presence of an insect on one of the tree’s clusters of drupes. My guess, based on the prominently jointed rear legs, was that it was some type of grasshopper, but after doing a little research I think it’s a female tree cricket, Oecanthus varicornis. In particular, this species seems to be known as a different-horned tree cricket (different from what?). I didn’t hear it make any noise, but if you want to listen to the stridulation of a male of this species, just follow the link that appeared a few sentences back.

Sound or no sound, how about those antennae that are longer than the rest of the insect’s body? (Why the two are unequal in length on this individual, I don’t know.) If you’d like a closer look at the “face” of the tree cricket and the way the antennae emerge from its head, you’re welcome to click the icon below for an enlargement.

Female Tree Cricket's Head 0511

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 19, 2014 at 5:21 AM

10 Responses

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  1. I had no idea about tree crickets. I always expect crickets to be black or brown, and living in fields, the ground, or a corner of the house. I may have seen these and mistaken them for a different insect: especially the females.

    The veining in the wings that’s obvious in the closeup reminded me of the veins in yesterday’s Virginia creeper leaf.

    I wondered at first whether the differently-sized antennae might have been the feature that gave rise to the common name, but it seems this critter’s antennae are an anomaly. I did find that the fellow who named this species in 1869, F. Walker, named a total of five species in the genus in that same year. Maybe he just needed a different name.


    December 19, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    • I’m not sure I knew about tree crickets either, and my expectations of cricket color were the same as yours. When I looked at the closeup I didn’t think about the veining’s resemblance to a leaf, but the segment between the head and the wings reminded me of the irregular-looking (to me) segment on the back of the ground cricket I photographed in Bastrop in April:


      The antennae of different length do seem to be an anomaly. I thought that the difference in length might be an illusion caused by the angle at which I took the picture, but I looked at the other pictures I took and the difference in length was always there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM

  2. So unique and so interesting…There is truly so much to see in this world.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    December 19, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    • The number of insect species is much greater than the number of plant species, so there’s always a lot to see and learn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 20, 2014 at 8:50 AM

  3. The variety of possibilities in the critters of this world is nothing short of amazing, to which the colors in your subject readily attest. It’s as if imaginative children on a sugar high were given pastel fluorescent markers and invited to go wild. ‘Twould make a great Christmas ornament, don’t you think?


    December 20, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    • I wish we could package your enthusiastic imagination and sell it, Gary, and not only as a Christmas ornament

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2014 at 9:24 PM

  4. Fascinating creatures! I love the way that its head mimics the colour of the berries on the tree! (if that is what drupes are!)


    December 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    • With regard to this tree cricket, it’s good of you to point out the resemblance of its head to the little drupes (“berries”) of the flameleaf sumac around it. I’m assuming the similarity is merely coincidental rather than an example of camouflage, because a much larger area of the cricket is a different color, gold, rather than red.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 20, 2014 at 4:44 PM

  5. We have a few tree crickets in the yard here, but only one has posed for me. A few of the katydids here have antennae longer than the body as do the mayflies. Looks like it stuck one of the antennae somewhere that it did not belong.

    Steve Gingold

    December 21, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    • This was the first tree cricket I recall photographing, so you were ahead of me. I have, however, photographed katydids and mayflies.

      A couple of people have wondered if the name of this tree cricket, different-horned, is a reference to the antennae of unequal length. I haven’t been able to find out if all crickets in this species are that way, or just this individual.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 21, 2014 at 9:18 PM

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