Crickets are insects in the Orthoptera, which also includes the grasshoppers and groundhoppers. All of these insects have enlarged hindlegs that enable them to jump long distances. These two groups can be distinguished by the length of the threadlike antennae. In grasshoppers and groundhoppers, the antennae are clearly shorter than the body length. Crickets have antennae that are at least as long as the body length and often longer. Crickets are mostly pale green or greyish brown in colour and when adult are 15-50mm long, depending on the species.
Species in Britain and Ireland
There are 16 native species of cricket, but a number of others are occasional imports, some of which have become established. Some native species, like the wart biter, Decticus verrucivorus, and the field cricket, Gryllus campestris, are extremely rare and are only found in a few places. Others, like Roesel’s bush-cricket, Metrioptera roeselii, and the long-winged conehead, Conocephalus dorsalis, have increased their range in southern England since the 1980s. A non-native species known as the southern oak bush-cricket, Meconema meridionale, has become common in the London area since its discovery in 1991.
The species most frequently seen in gardens is the speckled bush-cricket, Leptophyes punctatissima, which is widespread in southern England, west Wales and south east Ireland. Pholidoptera griseoaptera, the dark bush-cricket is common in the south of England. The oak bush cricket, Meconema thalassinum, can also occur in gardens. This native species has fully developed wings when adult, unlike the non-native southern oak bush-cricket, which has its wings reduced to small flaps and is incapable of flying.
The house-cricket Acheta domesticus
used to be very common in houses, but has become much less so with near universal drying central heating and general cleanliness. North African in origin, it needs warmth to survive most winters, but can be found in gardens with sheds or warm compost heaps. Jennifer Owen
recorded both this and the oak bush-cricket in her Sheffield garden.