by Sandy Swegel
The garden crickets have begun their mating calls. Their singing melodies are the universal announcement that the end of summer is coming. We also become aware that they have been living in our yards and gardens all year and we mostly didn’t even notice. They are just another part of the entire ecosystem of insects that we share our gardens with. In most gardens, crickets don’t do much damage and their summer’s end song calls up pleasant memories of summers past. But what role do crickets play in our little garden ecosystem?
Crickets are detritivores. The life in the leaf litter of the forest floor or your back yard, or in my case the area behind the shed, breaking down the leaves and plant debris that gathers. They eat the leaves and leave behind tiny little cricket manure that helps fertilize the soil. There are even companies that sell organic fertilizers: Cricket Poo and KricketKrap!
What garden crickets eat:
Crickets are omnivores. They love their meat meals like small insects, eggs, pupae, scale and aphids. Some feed primarily on plant material. Other balance their diet with pollen and nectar. Crickets are also known to eat a lot of weed seeds. Mostly they eat decaying plant material and fungi.
What eats garden crickets:
Crickets are an important part of the food chain. (Another good reason not to use insecticides.) The list of who eats crickets is long: birds, mice, shrews, bats, rats, toads, frogs, small snakes, and salamanders. Other known predators of crickets are lizards, mantids, spiders, wasps, ground beetles and ants. And of course, people in some cuisines. This is one reason you hear crickets at night…they are hiding during the day!
Be sure to leave a home for crickets:
The most important thing you can do in your garden and yard for crickets and for all of the beneficial insects is not to clean up very well. You can pick up lots of leaves, but leave some leaves scattered throughout the garden and in out-of-sight areas to give the crickets and ladybugs and lacewings and lots of other creatures a safe place to overwinter or lay eggs.