Cricket, ventriloquist

Ventriloquist of the wild

In the past, a favourite pastime of the people in China was keeping jumping insects known as crickets, in cages, as pets. They enjoyed earing the musical chirping of these insects. Not only were crickets kept for their song but also for staging fights. Male crickets were pitted against each other in special bowls. The fight was usually to the death and there was heavy betting on the outcome.

The chirping of crickets is clearly audible in the silence of the night in wooded areas. How do crickets produce their song? Only the males can sing- they have their sound-producing equipment on the two front wings. Each wings have a vein bearing a row of teeth, which are rasped or rubbed across a kind of scraper or plectrum on the edge of their wing. A pure high- pitched note is produced and the typical ‘chirping’ is a rapid succession of these notes. The wings are raised and the space between them and the body acts as a resonating chamber, amplifying the sound.

The insect also has the ingenious ability to ‘throw’ its voice like a ventriloquist. If it senses danger, the cricket alters the pitch of its chirps, giving the impression that the sound is coming not from the insect, but from some spot far away!

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