Working around the farm this week, I am constantly reminded that August is the season of Orthopterans. Whether I'm wandering through the pastures, checking the fence lines, sickling the weeds or trimming the shrubs, grasshoppers are present in abundance, springing away at my slightest movement. And, as the sun sets behind the Rockies, the crickets strike up their evening chorus; while most are kind enough to remain outdoors, a few manage to get into the house, chirping from the kitchen or, worse yet, from a bedroom closet.
Unlike 85% of insects, Orthopterans, known to most of us as grasshoppers, crickets and katydids, do not undergo a complete, three-stage metamorphosis. Rather, their nymphs, small replicas of the adult form, hatch from the eggs and grow to adult size; there is no true larval or pupal stage. More than 1200 Orthopteran species inhabit North America and late summer is the time when they are most abundant, most active and most conspicuous.
The night music of these fiddlers is both an essential ingredient of our summer experience and a welcome sign that cool, autumn air will soon sweep across the Heartland. Indeed, it is the looming threat of this seasonal chill that intensifies their mating chant; they must install the next generation before a hard freeze puts an end to their brief summer fling.