Why Do Crickets Stop Chirping When You Approach?

Crickets can hear you coming, and will stop chirping as you approach. Getty Images/Corbis Documentary/Gary Ombler

There's nothing more maddening than trying to find a chirping cricket in your basement. It will sing loudly and ceaselessly, until the moment you approach, when it abruptly stops chirping.

Crickets Are Super Sensitive to Vibrations

Crickets are sensitive to floor vibration and noises. Since most predators are active during daylight hours, crickets chirp at night. The slightest vibration may mean an approaching threat, so the cricket goes quietly to throw the predator off its trail.

Crickets do not have ears like we do. Instead, they have a pair of tympanal organs on their legs, which vibrate in response to vibrating air molecules (sound to humans), in the surrounding air. A special receptor called the chordotonal organ translates the vibration from the tympanal organ into a nerve impulse, which reaches the cricket's brain.

A cricket is always on the alert for predators. Its body color is usually brown or black blending in with most environments well. But, when it feels vibrations, it responds to the nerve impulse by doing what it can to hide best—it goes silent. Crickets are extremely sensitive to vibration. No matter how soft or quiet you try to be, a cricket will get a warning nerve impulse.

Noise to a human is nothing more than vibrations traveling through the air and reaching our ears. Think about the thumping of a loud, deep bass drum or the bass on your music system turned up.

Humans can feel the music at that point. From this example, it is easy to see how noise and vibration are intertwined. Usually, in everyday life, humans will hear something first, but crickets will always feel it.

Why Do Crickets Chirp?

Male crickets are the communicators of the species. The females wait for the songs of the males to spur on the mating ritual.

Female crickets do not chirp. Males make a chirping sound by rubbing the edges of their forewings together to call for female mates. This rubbing together is called stridulation.

Several types of cricket songs are in the repertoire of some species. The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near and encourages her to mate with the caller. A triumphal song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating and may reinforce the mating bond to encourage the female to lay some eggs rather than find another male.

Crickets chirp at different rates depending on their species and the temperature of their environment. Most species chirp at higher rates the higher the temperature is. The relationship between temperature and the rate of chirping is known as Dolbear's law. According to this law, counting the number of chirps produced in 14 seconds by the snowy tree cricket, common in the United States, and adding 40 will approximate the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.

How to Sneak Up On a Cricket

If you are patient, you can sneak up on a chirping cricket. Each time you move, it will stop chirping. If you remain very still, eventually it will decide it is safe, and begin calling again.

Keep following the sound, stopping each time it goes silent, and you will eventually find your cricket.

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Your Citation
Hadley, Debbie. "Why Do Crickets Stop Chirping When You Approach?" ThoughtCo, Oct. 15, 2017, thoughtco.com/chirping-crickets-quiet-when-you-move-1968336. Hadley, Debbie. (2017, October 15). Why Do Crickets Stop Chirping When You Approach? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/chirping-crickets-quiet-when-you-move-1968336 Hadley, Debbie. "Why Do Crickets Stop Chirping When You Approach?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/chirping-crickets-quiet-when-you-move-1968336 (accessed May 20, 2018).