Yesterday my wife called me – “You need to come to Mahoney’s [our local garden center], there are tree crickets on every Holly bush.” I promptly grabbed a few containers and was there in a matter of minutes. And indeed, the place was resonating with soft, bell-like calls of dozens of crickets, but I did not recognize the species. I spent about 20 minutes looking for them, eliciting confused stares from the staff and customers, but could not locate any singing males. In desperation I shook a few bushes, and eventually a female tree cricket (Oecanthus) flew out of one. But I was not convinced that this was the genus that was singing there; the call was just not very tree cricket-like.
I returned the following evening, armed with a shotgun microphone and headphones, intent on locating the callers. The staff of the center was apparently on the verge of kicking me out after watching me waving the long microphone around the shrubs like some deranged Dumbledore wannabe, but Kristin managed to placate them and so they left me alone. But even with the ability to pinpoint each caller, finding the crickets was very tricky, and it took me almost an hour to finally catch a couple.
The mystery insects turned out to be not tree crickets but much smaller, and orders of magnitude more agile, Say’s trigs (Anaxipha exigua), named after Thomas Say, the prolific 19th century entomologist and malacologist, and the discoverer of this species. I had never seen a Say’s trig before, and was happy to add both the recording and photos to my database of local orthopterans. Anaxipha is a large genus of the cricket subfamily Trigonidiinae, with 135 described and a bunch of yet undescribed species, found mostly in the tropical and subtropical parts of the globe. The Say’s trig, along with the Handsome trig (Phyllopalpus pulchellus), is one of the few species of the group reaching as far North as Massachusetts. The call of the Say’s trig is an almost pure tune trill, with the loud portion at exactly 7 kHz, and a softer harmonic at 14 kHz (click here to listen to the recording).