The Suitcase Lady


September 16, 2014, 10:31 pm

Soon the stridulation will start. For me, that’s the signal that summer is waning and all summer pleasures should be indulged in post haste.

Stridulation is a fascinating word I came across while doing insect research for one of my science programs. This well-written definition clearly sums up the term:

Stridulation is the act of producing sound, usually by rubbing two body parts together.

The Orthoptera insect family are champion stridulators. Each species; grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and katydids(sometimes called bush crickets), has its distinctive song. Grasshoppers and locusts have a series of small pegs on the inside of their back legs. The pegs are rubbed against the fore wing to produce the call. Crickets and katydids have the pegs on one of the fore wings (tegima), and the other fore wing has a flat structure known as a file. The pegs are dragged across the file as the wings rub together thus producing the song. In simpler terms, these bugs fiddle.

It is almost always the male that is making the racket and the noise is to attract a mate. The orthopterans are all equipped with an ear on each front leg just below the knee assuring that the love songs will be heard.

Bird song fills the air in springtime, but late summer and autumn, especially autumn evenings, are given over to a cacophony of insect arias. As night arrives earlier and the temperature starts to drop, the chorus of crazed males becomes louder and louder. And then, silence. The first frost has arrived.

When I learned about stridulation, I was eager to share it with kids. Fortunately, I was just about to present my insect program at one of my favorite schools. After we did the science stuff, I asked the kids if they would like to stridulate. I can report that those first and second graders did an ingenious and fun filled job of banging, slapping, sliding and rubbing body parts. They were positively strident.

2 Comments for this entry