We are all too familiar with the chirping of crickets, the little insects that have their own appearance, with some species resembling grasshoppers or locusts. However, it is more common to see a grasshopper than these chirping crickets. Does this mean crickets are more active during the night or more elusive? If so, are crickets nocturnal because they’re active at night, or maybe they are diurnal, and we just don’t see much of them throughout the day? And what are their sleep behaviors? We decided to take a more in-depth look into the details of the sleep patterns of these insects through a scientific lens. Our exploration not only reveals the cricket’s sleep behavior but also whether they are nocturnal or diurnal.
What Are Crickets?
Crickets are orthopteran insects distantly related to the common grasshopper and more closely to the bush cricket. There are over 2,400 species of crickets across the globe consisting of medium to large-sized insects.
They are mostly known for their chewing mouthparts, a characteristic they share with their cousins, the grasshoppers, and katydids. Another similar characteristic is their powerful hind legs, which they use for leaping large distances and escaping predation. You can also identify crickets by their peculiar cylindrical-shaped bodies, round head, and long antennae.
Another familiar (often annoying) cricket characteristic is this insect’s distinctive, loud and persistent chirp that tears through most summer nights. Surprisingly, their high-frequency chirps are for echolocation and attracting a mate. Crickets come in various dark or bright colors, including green, red, brown, or black.
Nocturnal Cricket Behavior in Their Natural Habitat
As to the question of whether crickets are nocturnal or diurnal, they actually see well in the dark. Because of their excellent eyesight at night, crickets are nocturnal insects. In fact, one of the distinct differences between crickets and grasshoppers is that grasshoppers are diurnal insects. Diurnal insects and other creatures are primarily active during daylight hours, which explains why we tend to see more grasshoppers during the day and crickets at night.
Studies indicate that the cricket’s stridulation behavior is 94% dominant at night. Stridulation means rubbing body parts together to produce sound. This behavior explains why most chirping sounds in those hot summers only occur at night.
Nocturnal crickets live virtually everywhere, from underground to deserts, forests, grasslands, wetlands, caves, and even beaches. And crickets are most active at night and in summer, seeking shelter under any cover they can find during the day. Also, when crickets display their nocturnal preferences in the dark, they are well-equipped to navigate their surroundings.
Fine-tuned Nocturnal Cricket Vision
Crickets exhibit fine-tuned night vision in these natural habitats as they come out at night to hunt, eat and find mates. Their huge compound eyes with multiple lenses give them excellent night vision. Due to their eye structure, crickets can see in various directions simultaneously without necessarily having to turn. Interestingly, evolution has added to the visual abilities of this nocturnal insect with enhanced signal processing, even in the dimmest lighting conditions. Their eyes are specially adapted to process images at an approximate distance of up to 26 inches or 56 centimeters.
As omnivores and predatory animals, the cricket’s sharp eyesight ensures they can accomplish all their necessary nocturnal activities. They can hunt for food, socialize, and look for mates just fine in the dark. Apart from their two large compound eyes, crickets also have three simple eyes located on their forehead. Each of these simple eyes has a single lens that distinguishes between darkness and light. So, between their complex and simple eyes, crickets have an advantage when exploring their nocturnal habitats.
Cricket Sleep Patterns
As nocturnal insects, crickets are more active during the night and dormant during the day. Researchers have spent much time studying crickets and other insects. What they have found is that crickets spend plenty of their time in burrows. They emerge to eat and find mates. However, because these insects spend most of their time hiding underground, it is challenging to determine how much time they sleep and their sleep patterns.
It might be reasonable to assume that crickets that spend most of the day in their burrows devote much time to resting and conserving their energy. Perhaps like other insects, they also go into diapause in the colder months to conserve their energy.
Another theory is that they may also experience various sleep stages, like flies and honeybees, that suggest they dream. Without specific studies to understand their sleep patterns, the time spent in holes indicates how much time crickets are inactive. Another clue regarding their resting state is that nocturnal crickets only spend 6% of the day in stridulation. This behavior also demonstrates that they are more active at night.
How Does Artificial Light Affect Nocturnal Crickets?
Like many other nocturnal insects, bright artificial light at night (ALAN) seems to attract crickets. Scientists have compiled various reasons why crickets find artificial light attractive at night, even though they see perfectly well in the dark. Although crickets have excellent nocturnal eyesight, they also adapt their activities to the moon’s phases. However, researchers surmise that these insects may mistake artificial lights for moonlight. Unfortunately, artificial light stimuli disrupt their everyday activities, negatively influencing their light-dark cycle and impacting the cricket’s natural rhythmic patterns.
Researchers also hypothesize that bright artificial lights attract crickets to the large number of insects that congregate around this light. Because crickets are nocturnal hunters, hunting food around artificial light poses an easy meal.
Scientists also suggest that artificial light may provide warmth for crickets. These insects are possibly drawn to the warmth of these lights on cold nights. Alternatively, phototaxis is a natural attraction or repelling of light, which might also be the case in some insects like crickets.
Overall, light can positively or negatively influence crickets as it can disorient their navigation. ALAN can draw nocturnal crickets straight to predators or lead them to their next meal. Whatever the case, more research is necessary. Until then, researchers suggest that people regulate the brightness of their home lights to support natural cricket behavior. You can do this by replacing UV or white lights with LED or yellow lights, which have a less detrimental impact on crickets.
Nocturnal vs. Diurnal: What’s The Difference?
Navigate to Nocturnal vs. Diurnal: What’s The Difference? for further information about the nocturnal and diurnal phenomenon in various living creatures.
- Cricket Lifespan: How Long Do Crickets Live?
- Cricket vs. Cockroach: What Are the Differences?
- What Do Crickets Eat?
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/tracielouise
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- The Royal Society, Available here: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2021.1626
- National Library of Medicine, Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1834006/
- ResearchGate, Available here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349605538_CRICKET_REARING_HANDBOOK_SERVICES_FOR_SCIENCE_AND_EDUCATION_UNITED_KINGDOM