Life at Night
It’s evening, and the sun is going down; whether you’re in the Deschutes River valley or up in the Cascades near Salmon La Sac, you will hear the chirps of crickets. If it is in the high desert near the Deschutes the beautiful chirping that you will hear will probably be made by true crickets -- field crickets to be precise. If you are not in the high desert, but up in the forested mountains of the Cascades, it will be a whole different picture. Instead of the lovely serenade of the field crickets that could lull anyone to sleep, a loud, obnoxious screech meets your ears. Eeeeeeeeeeee! Eeeeeeeeee! Eeeeeeee! Instead of listening to the soft chirps, and slowly dozing off to sleep, you pull your pillow over your head and try to ignore the noise. Some of you might think that these things can’t be anything as bad as cicadas, but trust me, they are at least as loud.
These creatures are what J. R. R. Tolkien mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, Book I, chapter XI: "There were also abominable creatures haunting the reeds and tussocks that from the sound of them were evil relatives of the cricket."
The mysterious insect with which I have piqued your curiosity is called a grig. They are in the family Prophalangopsidae, different than that of true crickets, which are in the family Gryllidae. The males will deliver a short high-pitched trill, while sitting head-down on a tree trunk. These insects Are ferocious looking, but are really quite harmless. They are found in northwestern North America and central Asia. Their evil sounding chirp seem to be warning off all intruders, “Keep away! It is now night, and now we rule.” Of course I take no heed; my love of insects and adventure swells stronger than my want of sleep, so I plan an outing for the night and wait patiently for dusk. When the sun is set, and it is getting darker by the minute, the grigs begin their songs; I head out with my brother, a couple of my cousins, and once even my sister. In a few minutes it is completely dark, and we listen to the chirps, trying to discern the individual songs and figuring out which one is closest. Every grig seems to be chirping at a slightly different pitch than the other. Once I think I hear one that is fairly close I approach its general direction, until I think that I’ve pinpointed which tree it’s on; then I turn my headlamp on and scour the tree trunk up to six feet off the ground. If it isn’t there, I turn my light off and listen for it to start chirping again. If I do find one on it, I grab it by the thorax and quickly drop it into the awaiting cage. After a while, the grigs will get used to being in the cage and they will once again add their notes to the eerie song of their night rule.
Of course, grigs aren’t the only insects out at night; you will occasionally come across a ground beetle wandering around the forest floor. When you take a closer look you will find camel crickets, a wingless (songless) cousin of crickets, camouflaged well in their environment; even katydids will come out sometimes (though these ones would have been mistaken as grasshoppers by most people).
Now we go back down to the high desert, to the Deschutes River valley to be precise, and take a look at the life down there. Though you may think that there would be much less life in a desert, you would be wrong. The air is filled with the beautiful chirps of field crickets that seem to call to you, “Come, come and find us! I’m the best hidden of all the crickets, so you’ll never find me.” It’s as if they’re all playing a game of who can hide the best from Arthur. All the crickets that are caught, lose. I don’t mind the game at all, in fact, I quite like it. I go out and catch as many as I can. It’s a lot easier than catching grigs, and field crickets are just so much better.
There is much more than just crickets; there’s some sort of insect everywhere you look. Camel crickets, darkling beetles, praying mantis’, and many other insects. I even encountered a solifugid, or camel spider, which aren’t actually spiders, but are in their own separate order, and are the most ferocious looking creatures God has put upon this planet.
“What do you do with all these insect?” you might ask. What else? I bring them home and put them into different cages. I currently have both field crickets and grigs (although I have to put the grigs in the garage for the night). I have a large assortment of beetles, lots of camel crickets and a few katydids. My menagerie continually grows, every insect that won’t eat my others, gets picked up and put in one of my cages. Some of them don't fare too well; but that just grows my collection of insects that are ready for pinning. Some of my beetles have lasted for quite a while; my oldest insect is a cabin beetle (Iphthiminus serratus) which I have had for over two years.
Insects are an amazing part of God's creation, and a joy to observe; that is why I love them so much. I encourage you to stop a second the next time you see an Insect and observe it for a minute. When you come back home or back inside look it up on the internet or in a guide book and try to identify it to at least the order if not the family. Until my next rant on insects, go out and observe them!