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Thursday, March 25, 2004


Bell cricket

* Japanese name: Suzumushi
* Scientific name:Homoeogryllus japonicus
* Description: The bell cricket is a 2-cm-long insect in a family called Phalangopsidae. It's a small, not particularly attractive cricket, but it is very well known -- and loved -- in Japan for its song. It has a dark body and long, lighter-colored antennae. Like all insects, it has six legs; it has two pairs of wings, but the forewings are not used for flight. They are protective leathery covers (called tegmina) for the delicate hindwings. Bell crickets cannot fly well, however, and prefer to jump. The forewings are what produce the song: The edges are rubbed together and make a beautiful trilling sound, like a bell.
* Where to find them: Bell crickets live in fallen leaves, undergrowth and in trees, from Honshu to Kysuhu.
* Food: Bell crickets are omnivorous, eating through most of what they come across, whether plant, animal or fungi. When they mate, however, females get an extra snack called the spermatophore. This is a nutritious package produced by the male and given to the female in exchange for the privilege of mating with her. Females are known to choose between different males, and one thing they are looking for is the amount of food the male is willing to give in his spermatophore, which, for this reason, is also known as a "nuptial gift."
* Special features:The cricket can vary the noise its wings make by vibrating its body as it rubs the wings together. This distorts the noise and makes the song of each male unique. In this way females can identify and learn about each male. Perhaps the Buddhists in Kegonji Temple in Kyoto know about that, because they raise some 50,000 crickets a year. The temple is also called Suzumushi-dera (Bell Cricket Temple), and for centuries people have gone there to meditate to the sound of the bell crickets' songs, which are said to signify the voice of Buddha. Japanese have also traditionally kept bell crickets in bamboo cages, though when I kept one in such a cage the cricket chewed through the bars and escaped.

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