by Piter Kehoma Boll
It is always cool to look at the extravagant, unusual and extreme species of our world, but it is also nice to know about the ordinary small creatures living right around us. So today we are going to talk about an insect found in Western, Central and Southern Europe, as well as Northern Africa, the wood cricket, Nemobius sylvestris.
The wood cricket is a small cricket, reaching about 1 cm in length. It is flightless, with males having only a pair of front wings that reach half of the abdomen and females lacking wings entirely. Living in the leaf litter, especially close to the forest edge, the wood cricket feeds on decaying plant matter and fungi growing on it.
During the mating season, male wood crickets attract females by stridulation (“singing”) and then present them with a spermatophore, i.e., a sperm-filled sack, which they attach to the female genital opening. Sometimes, before transfering the large spermatophore (called macrospermatophore) to the female, the male transfers a smaller spermatophore (called microspermatophore) that lacks sperm. The female eats the microspermatophore and then accepts the macrospermatophore, eating it too some minutes after having it attached to it. The male usually pursues the female, sometimes pushing her with his head, apparently to prevent her from eating the spermatophore too soon, as it would reduce the chances of fertilization.
Females really seem to like eating spermatophores. Sometimes they also “lick” the male wings while they mate, as if thinking “that looks delicious”. Kind of creepy, right?
Despite being a common species in Europe, the wood cricket is rare in the United Kingdom, with only a few isolated populations known. As a result, it is considered a species of conservation concern in this country, a status that invertebrates rarely attain in the world, unfortunately.
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Brouwers, N. C.; Newton, A. C. (2009) Habitat requirements for the conservation of wood cricket (Nemobius sylvestris) (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) on the Isle of Wight, UK. Journal of Insect Conservation, 13(5): 529–541.
Brouwers, N. C.; Newton, A. C. (2010) Movement analyses of wood cricket (Nemobius sylvestris) (Orthoptera: Gryllidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research (2010) 100, 623–634.
Prokop, P.; Maxwell, M. R. (2008) Interactions Between Multiple Forms of Nuptial Feeding in the Wood Cricket Nemobius sylvestris (Bosc): Dual Spermatophores and Male Forewings. Ethology 114: 1173–1182.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.