The Secret Language of Crickets (Video)

©. The face of a variable field cricket. (Photo: Josh Cassidy/KQED)

What's in a cricket's song? And how do they do it?

Few things say "summer evenings" like the rhythmic lullaby of chirping crickets. Most of us know that the cricket's song is a call for love. Or, well, a mate at least. But that's just part of the story.

KQED Science takes a dive into cricket calls and explains not only how they make their incredible music, but also why.

"Crickets don't chirp only to advertise themselves to mates. If an adult male cricket runs into another adult male, it uses a special rivalry call to try to encourage its competitor to back off. It sounds similar to the mating call but is less rhythmic and more aggressive sounding," writes Josh Cassidy.

When a lucky male happens to attract a female, he then ramps it up with a third type of call to woo her. "This courtship call is much higher pitched and quieter, like a whisper," explains Cassidy. I am picturing some Barry White sexy-crooning at this point.

Unlike grasshoppers, who rub their legs together for their distinctive chirp, crickets' wings are where the magic happens. In a small miracle of anatomy worthy of Antonio Stradivari, male crickets have a "file" covered in tiny teeth on the top wing and a "scraper" on the bottom wing – when the two are rubbed together, voila!

You can see it all in action below in this super KQED/PBS Deep Look video. Summer evenings may never sound the same again.

Read more over at KQED Science: Why Crickets Just Won't Shut Up