Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Circle Chirp

We have two crickets in our yard, and they are at the five-foot level of our raspberry canes. We can hear them, but we haven't seen them. Many people, including myself until about a week ago, believe they chirp by rubbing their legs together. In my defense, I would add that I have been able to use the word "stridulate" in a sentence for decades. But they don't use their legs. They use a pair of wings. The upper part of one wing is stroked against the nubbly part of another wing. It's the males making the noise. They're hoping to attract females, in theory, but they also attract parasitic flies that lay eggs on them and the fly maggots eventually eat their way out of the cricket, to its lasting detriment. So it isn't the grandest plan. I think we can safely conclude that the crickets chirp because they really, really like to. In fact, a young male cricket can sit in his bedroom and stroke his wings all night long.

Our crickets are likely to be Snowy Tree Crickets. And those are pale, if not precisely snowy, and probably hard to see against the raspberry leaves. Usually one of our crickets gets the show going at nightfall. The second one pops in a little later, but they chirp in unison. That's totally normal. If we had more than two crickets, they'd sit in a circle and go off all at once. Our second cricket has a slightly higher-pitched chirp. I assume his instrument is a little smaller.

The Snowy Tree Cricket chirp rate is related to the ambient temperature and can be predicted, it says here, using a simple formula expressed in Dolbear's Law. Well, I never heard of Mr. Dolbear and, not that I'm a libertarian or anything, I thought his law was on the unnecessary side. And who was this fellow whose only contribution of note was a cricket chirp temperature predictor? Well!

Mr. Amos Dolbear in fact invented the telephone eleven years before Alexander Graham Bell. And he invented the wireless radio years before Marconi. And the only thing he couldn't do was get his patents to stick. A full plan for a remote-control color HD television set was recently discovered in an 1888 file of his marked "what the hell." So Mr. Dolbear was a very clever man, and yet all we have left of him now is this cricket thing. It would be like if you invented sliced bread and later the Internet, and a hundred years from now nobody's even heard of you except for your Law of Peonies ("the bloom period of peonies is directly correlated with the incidence of hail"). It's sad, is what I'm saying.

And now, thanks to Mr. Dolbear, we can tell what the temperature is by how fast a young cricket is chirping, but we still can't make him stop. Even if we tell him "you keep doing that, and flies are going to burst out of your abdomen," he'll still do it.

31 comments:

  1. Poor Mr. Dolbear. And then there was the time the smoke alarm low battery indicator started beeping periodically, and Dad told Mom that it was a cricket and they could tell the temperature by the incidence of the beeps.

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    1. My guess is it was very cold in your house.

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  2. So what was the temperature? I'm too lazy to look it up. My bell-bottom shorts invention never took off either so I don't feel bad for Mr. Dolbear.

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    1. The number of chirps per minute minus forty divided by four, plus fifty. In degrees Fahrenheit.

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    2. Or, alternatively, you could look at a THERMOMETER.

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    3. I'm trying to envision bell-bottom shorts!

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  3. It just so happens that I did invent the internet!

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  4. You know how when you hear about someone inventing something wonderful or even just discovering it, you think back over your own life to recall what you have invented or discovered in your all too short time on earth? Well, I just did and have been made aware yet again that I have never invented nor discovered a blessed thing. And when I thought I had, I seemed to be surrounded by folks who were glad to tell me that someone else had got there first.

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    1. I invented tons of things but I don't remember any of them.

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    2. It's probably better that way.

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  5. I thought you made up all this stuff about Dolbear until I googled him!!

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  6. So once again your post has led me down the wikipedia rabbit hole, landing me - via stridulate - on the lowland streaked tenrec, a tiny porcupine-like mammal that communicates by rattling its back quills together. Huh. "The world is full of such wonderful things..."

    And I can tell you I will never again hear a cricket without thinking about this post! (and probably either blushing or laughing, or both, leading people to wonder if I have taken up drinking)

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    1. Well right back atcha. I had to look up the lowland streaked tenrec and that is one cute little sucker.

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  7. Learning all the time. And much more interested in crickets and lolwland strreaked anythings than technology (but grateful for the technology which facilitates that learning).

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    1. So do you have lowland streaked tenrecs where you live? I'll be right over.

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  8. Man, I'm glad I'm not a bug. If it isn't bad enough that spiders and birds are always trying to eat you (and sometimes your own mate, after mating, will chomp off your head!), there are also flies that will eat you slowly from the inside out. Jesus. Whenever you think you have it bad, just be glad you're not a cricket.

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    1. Or a maggot. Stuck inside a cricket and you have to eat your way out. Bleah.

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  9. My husband's step-father's great-grandfather invented perforated toilet paper. No one's heard of him either, but we recently came across the patent papers. The paper goes OVER the roll, people!

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    1. If you go to the great-great-grandfathers in my own family, you're looking at being born around 1800. My own grandparents (and I think my mom) used the Sears-Roebuck catalog. Dave once worked somewhere they made toilet paper and came home with a roll before they'd chopped it into size--about six feet wide!

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    2. Nobody has a butt that big. Or do they?

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  10. I think I will stick to the thermometer as horrible at math.

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    1. I think you should sharpen up your math skills and the nubbles on your wings.

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  11. I usually tell the temperature (not accurately) by my clothing. If I'm taking off layers, it's hot, if I'm piling on extra layers it's cold. If I want to be more exact I'll check the thermometer on the wall.
    I've only ever seen tiny brown crickets here, usually in the ivy on the back fence.

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    1. I always thought of crickets as brown too, or black, but these are greenish. Not that I've seen the little buggers.

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  12. Move to Montana in January....the third law of thermodynamics will quiet the suckers right down.

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    1. Yeah, I think the cold makes their wings smaller.

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    2. LOL Wink! Got it! They always blame the cold.

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  13. males will do anything for sex.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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