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Cricket Radio
Tuning in the Night-Singing Insects

-Harvard University Press

At a time when night-singing insects have slipped beyond our notice—indeed, are more likely to be heard as NatureSounds than in a backyard—John Himmelman seeks to reconnect us to creatures whose songs form a part of our own natural history. 

On warm summer evenings, night-singing insects produce a whirring, chirping soundscape—a calming aural tapestry celebrated by poets and naturalists for millennia. But “cricket radio” is not broadcast for the easy-listening pleasure of humans. The nocturnal songs of insects are lures and warnings, full of risks and rewards for these tiny competitive performers. What moves crickets and katydids to sing, how they produce their distinctive sounds, how they hear the songs of others, and how they vary cadence, volume, and pitch to attract potential mates, warn off competitors, and evade predators 

is part of the engaging story Cricket Radio tells.

Himmelman’s narrative weaves together his personal experiences as an amateur naturalist in search of crickets and katydids with stories of our cultural connections to these insects. He also offers instructions for bringing a few of the little singers into our homes and gardens. We can, Himmelman suggests, be reawakened to these night songs that have meant so much to the human psyche. The online insect calls that accompany this colorfully illustrated (many color photographs and line drawings) narrative provide a bridge of sound to our past and to our vital connection with other species. 

Listen to Himmelman's recordings of Crickets and Katydids in their natural settings.

A note from the Author:

I spent 8 years working with wildlife artist Michael DiGiorgio on a field guide to crickets and katydids - Guide to Night-singing Insects of the Northeast (Stackpole Books).  It shows the naturalist how to identify these insects by site and sound.  It is the "how", with regard to knowing who is making what sound.

Cricket Radio was 11 years in the making.  It is the "why" to the previous book's "how".  Why are these insects singing, and more importantly (to us, not them), why should we tune in those sounds?  It is a fact that once you open your ears to the concerts of the night insects, you'll be tuned in for life. 

Chapter List for Cricket Radio: Tuning In the Night-Singing Insects

by John Himmelman

1 - Music Beckons

      Why are these bugs singing when calling attention to one's self in a world of predators may not be the best idea?  (Hint - it's a great way to meet women)

2 - Why Listen?

       What do you mean those crickets aren't calling for our pleasure?  Should that even matter?  Of course not!

3 - The Straight-winged Bearers of Swords

It's basically what their scientific names -- Orthoptera and Ensifera -- refer to.  This chapter explains why and how they are what they are, and what they do to be what they be.

4 - The Katydids

Every katydid is the product of a pair of katydids that died a winter or two (or three) ago.  Of course there are other things that distinguish them from other insects, like, for example ...

5 - The Crickets

Crickets sing from way up in the tops of the trees to beneath our feet in hidden chambers.  It's hard to pin a general description on them since they inhabit so many fascinating forms!  Some appear to be delicate buds, others, pretzel nuggets.

6 - The Might Cricket Gladiators

Put two male Japanese Burrowing Crickets in a little arena and you end up with one.  They don't always play nice.  Humans, being who we are, have figured out a way to make money on this.  This is also a story of the author's own experience with his childhood cricket farm and his attempt to get them to pull the little carts they came with.

7 - "Give a Little Whistle": More Stories of the Ensifera and Us

We've been crossing paths with these bugs for many a millennia, so it should come as no surprise they've worked their way into our culture.  From Jiminy Cricket to presaging katydids... they've been cast as our conscience and our bane.

8 - A Blade within a Sea of Grass: Adventures in Hunting Katydids and Crickets

Okay, try finding something in the grass that looks so much like grass that, well..., it might as well be!  The author shares tips on finding them he learned traveling from Maine to Florida in search of katydids and crickets.

9 - The Bug People: Putting Everything in its Right Place

Everything has a name -- or at least everything we've named has a name.  Those names tell us something about the insect and, at times, about the person who gave it that name.  This chapter takes us from a swashbuckling pirate, back to Aristotle, and then all the way through history to two entomologists who sorted through all the information left by their forebears.

10 - Assembling Your Cricket Radio 

Crickets and katydids have been kept for their song for thousands of years.  That practice never seemed to make it to the New World, though.  That's unfortunate.  Bringing insect song into the home is something that is sure to enrich the aural tapestry.  The author shares some of his favorites songsters and how to set up a cozy little place for them.

List of calls on the online Audio Resource.

It was decided that since CDs seem to be on their way out, the calls would be made available on the Internet.  There are two files available.  One is a blend of katydids and crickets in their natural settings that flows from one species to the next.  The other is the same, but with narration giving the species and location of each

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