Climate Change and the Cricket Season

I love this rather melancholic phase of the year partly on account of the seeming omnipresence of bush crickets in our parish. They are in every hedge, even our own, and walking here along the lanes at evening is to be bathed in their minimal music. Our commonest species is Dark Bush Cricket. Here’s a male singing in the hedegrow by the house, producing his quiet brief sparse ‘trrrr’ note that is created  by the rubbing together of those rough-edged winglets that form a short ‘cape’ round his ‘shoulders’.

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Less common but increasing is this handsome beasty called Roesel’s Bush Cricket. I first recorded it here in 2010 and have still to find it at Blackwater but it is expanding its range very rapidly having only been found in Norfolk in 1997. Image

Roesel’s is superabundant in parts of Essex and south Suffolk. I recently made a five mile walk around Orford Ness and suspect I was never out of earshot of its soft, seductive reeling song. Sadly not one of my three companions could hear it, the sound being in that upper register that is lost with age. I suspect there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of Roesel’s Bush Crickets on Orford yet I never saw a single one.

The rapid movement of this species northwards is probably a good indication of climate change and it is closely mirrored by a similar expansion of a cricket-devouring spider that I found for the first time at the house of a friend Adam Gretton in south Suffolk last year. It is called the Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi and is the handsomest spider I think I have ever seen  in the UK. Here is the one we found, photographed by Adam, in the act of trussing up its dark bush cricket for instant consumption. A bush cricket is no mean adversary, a predator in its own right, but it was mummified in silk almost faster than  wasp spider  Argiope bruennichi starting to devour a dark bush cricket at Cosford Hall © Adam Gretton

we could get a shot of the catch.  We think that at the time of our encounter with this wasp spider in Adam’s garden – and this is a rapidly moving picture – it had only been recorded in Suffolk on a handful of occasions. And almost certainly no more than 20. It has a fascinating history in Britain, having first been found on the south coast in 1922. From this tiny enclave it has gradually expanded northwards and i await it with interest here in Norfolk. It’s typical of the kind of ludicrous over-reaction to invertebrates in general, and to spider in particular that the Daily Mail carried a headline in 2007 ‘Exotic Spider That Bites Swarming Across England.’ You’ve been warned: the apocalypse is nigh.

Apropos of very little but I do think it looks extraordinarily suggestive – like a tiny mahogany icon – is this locally found Four Spotted Web Spider. Who said spiders can’t be beautiful?

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1 Comment

  1. Wonderful post … thank you for giving us a litlle immersion in your part of the world …. no such minimal music here in Sussex, but plenty of bee song,

    Reply

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