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  Inside Out - South of England: Monday October 6, 2003

CRICKET.... AND CRICKETS

A cricket
They can be found in the most unlikely places

Inside Out presenter Chris Packham probes the undergrowth in search of crickets – and finds these rare insects have made their home in a most unusual, but rather appropriate place.

They are big, brash and bolshy. Britain’s crickets are among our most impressive and exciting insects, but the best of them are also quite rare, surviving in just a few places in the south of England.

For many years, the charming field cricket survived on just two sites, one of which was a cricket pitch.

A south-facing bank on the boundary covered in rough grass provided a last refuge and despite the crowds and all the picnics, polite applause and trampling, the crickets continued to field a team.

Mole crickets

Mole cricket
A mole cricket - probably the rarest species in England

More recently, English Nature and London Zoo have been breeding field crickets and introducing them to new sites, a project which seems to be successful.

Probably our rarest cricket, if it still exists on the British mainland at all, is the enigmatic mole cricket.

This huge burrowing brute is aptly named. It’s armed with spade-like front limbs which are superbly adapted to burrowing in soft soils.

It’s difficult to find and often the only clue is its characteristic song – a loud, persistent buzzing, which sounds like an irritating moped stuck in first gear.

More easily encountered and every bit as spectacular is the great green bush cricket. This robust green songster occurs across the south where it lives in patches of thistles and bramble.

At the end of summer, males climb to the top of the vegetation on warm afternoons and evenings and sing their hearts out.

Singing for sex

A pet cricket
Crickets can make excellent pets

It’s a song for sex. The impressive volume is vital - females may be 500 metres away. On a still night, the sound is audible from twice this distance.

Further south in other parts of Europe, such a chorus is commonplace. Elsewhere in the world, there are some real giants.

The Katydids of the tropics and New Zealand’s Wetas are almost six-legged mice and in some sweaty verdant glades, the noise can be deafening.

In many eastern countries, children keep crickets as pets to serenade them to sleep each night.

If a mole cricket would do that for me, I’d be very happy indeed.

See also ...

On bbc.co.uk
BBC: Crickets in Devon

On the rest of the web
Crickets to be saved - from The Guardian

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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