To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Crickets vs. cicadas vs. grasshoppers

         The summer skies, filled with the noises of insects, will soon darken with fall leaves. Before summer leaves Brandeis campus entirely and the cool autumn wind blows in, I feel it is important to discuss these insects. The three insects of summer, without a doubt, are crickets, cicadas and grasshoppers. Each one has its drawbacks and attributes. After encountering all three of these bugs throughout the course of summer 2023, we must address the insect in the room: which one is the best? 

         First, the humble cricket. Small and brown, it does not look like much. It has adapted well to blend into an environment of dirt and short grass. Visually, this makes the cricket look not so interesting. However, by far, it has the best sounds out of all of the summer insects. Its chirps fill the summer breeze, and you can see the crickets jumping around your ankles as you walk through the long grass to the lake. At night, the crickets consistently put on the best orchestral performance. No need to listen to “calming music for 10 hours” on YouTube; instead, you can simply open your window and listen to the show. I associate crickets with cool summer evenings.

         Now, I need to admit something. I heavily associate crickets with the pet store. When I see them out in the wild, for a moment, I think that they have escaped from the boxes they are sold in. It is like realizing that pet store animals exist in the wild too—wild hamsters exist. There are hamsters out there who have never seen a hamster wheel. I digress. Crickets look a little sad to me in pet stores. Usually, I see them in boxes ready to be served as a meal to an excited reptile. To see them in the wild is a moment of excitement—their chirps sound noticeably happier outside of a cardboard box (I too sound happier when I am not in a cardboard box). In sum, crickets sound stunning but are lacking in the visual interest department. A good bug. 

         Cicadas, however, are an entirely different story. The bugs are relegated to the hot midday heat of summer. Their noise grates against your ears as you walk through the park. But, oh, they look simply magnificent. Half of the fun is in finding where they are on any given tree. They blend in against the textured bark and can be sneaky—as you get closer to them, their chorusing (the official name of their sound) stops. It is such a treat to find a cicada. The insect looks simply prehistoric, seemingly plated with the scales of an ancient deep sea fish. Cicadas are hidden jewels against the trees. Also, cicadas can be rare. Their cycles could be as long as 17 years. So, to hear the screeching chorusing of an army of cicadas is something to be grateful for. 

         In analyzing appearance and sound, grasshoppers lie somewhere in the middle. They look visually intriguing, though not so much as a cicada. I love how long and angular the grasshopper’s legs are—you can see just how far and high it can jump before it does so. Their shades of greens and yellows ensure that no one grasshopper looks alike. (While I am certain that any individual cricket can identify and recognize a fellow cricket friend, I as a human do not have the skill set required to do so.) Further on music, grasshoppers do not produce as beautiful a sound as a cricket. I know in theory that grasshoppers make noise, but for the life of me I cannot recall the sound of a grasshopper. This does not help the grasshopper’s case. 

         On the whole, each of these insects have a place in their respective ecosystems and in different parts of the summer. Crickets are for the nighttime, cicadas for midday and grasshoppers for the times in between. I do not mind the chorus of cicadas; they remind me that I am in summer. If I had to choose a winner of the three, it would have to be the cicada. Its bejeweled ancient carapace sets it apart from the rest of the bugs. They look reminiscent of the stampeding insect-like creatures from Studio Ghibli’s movie “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind.” While cicadas are by far my favorite insect on this list, I am grateful that they are not the same size as the creatures in the movie—that would be terrifying. 

         In dishonorable mention, we must address the locust. I am not a fan. During this summer, when doing the dishes by the sink, a huge locust almost the length of my hand jumped on top of my head. (The window must have been open, allowing the insect access inside). It was horrible. In light of this experience, the locust cannot be considered the best insect of the summer of 2023. 

         As the fall 2023 school semester continues and starts actually living up to its name as a “fall” semester, I hope that you pay special attention to the grass pathways you take on and off campus and that you leave your window open at night. You may just see a grasshopper or hear the cricket orchestra as they warm up before their nightly performance. It will not last forever.

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