Do Tree Crickets Bite? Unraveling the Mystery

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Tree crickets are fascinating insects that are more often heard than seen. Belonging to the subfamily Oecanthinae, these delicate creatures prefer to dwell in trees, bushes, and tall herbaceous plants to blend in with their surroundings rather than living on the ground like their other cricket relatives source.

A common question about tree crickets is whether they bite humans. Although these critters are known for their mesmerizing chirping sounds, they are not known for biting humans. Generally, their diet consists of plant material and smaller insects source. Rest assured, tree crickets pose no significant threat to people and are mainly outdoor insects that inadvertently enter homes occasionally.

What Are Tree Crickets

Physical Characteristics

  • Tree crickets belong to the subfamily of insects called Oecanthinae
  • A tree cricket is typically pale green in color
  • Round head with large compound eyes
  • Long, thin antennae
  • Two sets of wings
  • Delicate, slender body
  • Males have wing stridulating organs

Tree crickets are not to be confused with grasshoppers, as tree crickets have longer, slimmer bodies and different wing structures.

Habitat

Diet

Distribution

  • Found in several genera across diverse regions
  • Common in many parts of North America, Asia, and Europe

Comparison with Grasshoppers:

Features Tree Crickets Grasshoppers
Body Shape Slim, delicate More robust
Wings Two sets, used for sound Hindwings used for jumping
Stridulation Males only In some species
Diet Predators Primarily herbivores
Legs Slim legs Strong, jumping hind legs
Ovipositor Present in female Present in female
Antennae Long and thin Shorter and thicker

Do Tree Crickets Bite

Comparing with Other Crickets

Tree crickets are different from other crickets such as house crickets in several ways:

  • Location: Tree crickets live in trees, bushes, and tall herbaceous plants, while house crickets live on the ground.
  • Color: Most tree crickets are delicate, pale green insects, making them blend in with their surroundings. Meanwhile, house crickets are usually brown or dark gray.
  • Aggressiveness: Tree crickets are generally less aggressive than house crickets or other ground-dwelling crickets.

Bite Strength

Comparing cricket bites:

Cricket Type Bite Strength
Tree Cricket Weak
House Cricket Moderate

Human Interaction

Tree crickets are not known to pose a threat to humans. They do not transmit diseases, nor is their bite considered harmful. In general, tree crickets are more focused on finding food and mates, with their diet mainly consisting of aphids, scale insects, and other soft-bodied pests. They produce a distinct chirping sound by rubbing their wings together with a method called stridulation.

Handling Tree Crickets

If you need to handle a tree cricket, keep these tips in mind:

  • Be gentle; tree crickets are delicate creatures.
  • Use a cup or container to gently scoop them up.

Possible reactions to handling:

  • Best case: Cricket remains calm and allows handling.
  • Worst case: Cricket attempts to pinch with its mandibles; however, bite is weak and poses no real harm.

In conclusion, tree crickets are not aggressive, and even if they attempt to bite, their bite is weak and harmless. There is no need to worry about tree cricket bites or interactions with these innocuous insects.

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Eggs

Tree crickets, belonging to the subfamily Oecanthinae, have an interesting reproductive process. Females lay their eggs in the bark of a tree or plant stem. Some examples of egg-laying sites include:

  • Tree bark
  • Plant stems
  • Grass

The eggs remain dormant during winter and hatch in the spring.

Nymphs

After hatching, tree crickets go through several nymph stages before becoming adults. Nymphs resemble small versions of adult tree crickets and shed their skin multiple times as they grow. Some characteristics of nymphs include:

  • Pale green color
  • Small size
  • Delicate appearance

Adults

Adult tree crickets have a distinctive mating call, which is a melodious trill usually heard during the night, particularly from late August until early October (source). Adult males attract females through this call and engage in a fascinating array of reproductive strategies. Adult tree cricket features entail:

  • Pale green color
  • Delicate appearance
  • Wings
  • Antennae
Life Stage Features
Eggs Laid in tree bark or plant stems
Nymphs Pale green, small, and delicate
Adults Melodious trill for mating call; wings; antennae

During their brief lives as adults, tree crickets focus on reproduction before they perish, giving way to a new generation of these fascinating insects.

Signs of Infestation

Recognizing Cricket Chirping

Tree crickets are known for their distinctive chirping sounds. Identifying this sound is key to recognizing a tree cricket infestation. The chirping of tree crickets makes up a large part of the nighttime chorus of our summers (source). Here’s a comparison of the chirps produced by a tree cricket and a camel cricket:

Chirp Type Tree Cricket Camel Cricket
Sound High-pitched Low-pitched
Chirping Pattern Regular Irregular

Damage to Plants and Fabrics

During a tree cricket infestation, you may notice:

  • Small holes in leaves and vegetation
  • Chewing damage on plants, fabrics, or trees
  • Tree wounds and exposed tissue attracting pests (source)

Tree crickets can cause considerable damage to plants by piercing leaves to feed on their content, leading to visible signs like water loss, blackened leaves, holes, cracks, and other impacts on their appearance. Unlike tree crickets, camel crickets don’t usually harm plants but can do damage to fabrics thanks to their mandibles adapted for chewing.

If you’re dealing with a tree cricket infestation, keep an eye out for these factors:

  • Water loss: Tree crickets pierce leaves and consume their content, leading to water loss in plants.
  • Holes or cracks in plants: Crickets’ chewing may lead to visible holes or cracks in leaves and stems.
  • Blackened leaves: Crickets feeding on leaves can cause them to turn black and appear damaged.

Some examples of damage caused by tree crickets are:

  1. Holes in leaves and the blackening of surrounding areas
  2. Cracks in tree trunks due to their feeding habits

Remember to keep in mind the differences between tree crickets and camel crickets when identifying the cause behind the signs of infestation.

Prevention and Control

Sealing Entry Points

Tree crickets are a subfamily of crickets that are often heard but seldom seen, as they live in trees, bushes, and tall herbaceous plants. To effectively prevent them from entering your home, it’s essential to seal any potential entry points:

  • Inspect doors and windows for gaps and cracks, where tree crickets can easily sneak in
  • Check for gaps in walls or around utility pipes and wires, and seal them with appropriate materials

Reducing Food Sources

Tree crickets help control pests by feeding on aphids, scale insects, and other soft-bodied pests. In order to discourage tree cricket infestations:

  • Keep your garden and surroundings clean, reducing the availability of their preferred food sources
  • Store food and waste in sealed containers, making them less accessible to tree crickets

Natural Predators

Encouraging the presence of natural predators can help control tree cricket populations without causing harm to trees and bushes. Here are some examples of natural predators for tree crickets:

  • Lizards: These reptiles actively hunt insects such as crickets, and will gladly help you get rid of them
  • Frogs: Like lizards, frogs are efficient predators that can help to keep cricket numbers in check

In conclusion, prevention and control of tree crickets can be achieved through sealing entry points, reducing food sources, and encouraging the presence of their natural predators. By following these simple steps, you can protect your home and garden from a potential cricket invasion while remaining environmentally friendly.

Potential Health Risks

Cricket Bites and Infections

Tree crickets (family Gryllidae) are nighttime singers, known for their song and helping gardens by eating aphids and other pests1. Though they are generally harmless, there are some health risks associated with cricket bites.

  • Tree cricket’s bites are rare, but they can puncture the skin, and in some cases, might introduce pathogens2.
  • House crickets, a relative of the tree cricket, have been associated with spreading salmonella3.
  • If bitten, it’s essential to clean the bite area with soap and water and apply antibiotics to prevent infection4.

Allergic Reactions

An uncommon, but possible health risk from crickets is allergic reactions.

  • Some people might experience swelling, redness, or itchiness after being bitten by a cricket5.
  • In rare cases, severe allergic reactions may occur with symptoms such as nausea or difficulty breathing6.

Prevention is key:

  • Avoid handling crickets or areas with a high population of the insects
  • Wear gloves when gardening or working around potential cricket habitats
  • Keep your home clean and free of crickets

A comparison of Tree Cricket and House Cricket potential health risks:

Risk Factor Tree Cricket House Cricket
Bite Frequency Rare More common
Infection Risk Possible (clean bite area) Associated with salmonella
Allergic Risk Uncommon Uncommon

By being aware of these potential health risks and taking preventive measures, one can enjoy cricket song and their assistance in controlling garden pests without concern.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/michigan-insects-in-the-garden-week-9-tree-crickets

  2. https://www.reference.com/world-view/crickets-bite-b269655581d2f0af

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2137130/

  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327261#treating-an-insect-bite-or-sting

  5. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/skin-conditions-insect-bites

  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-treat-a-caterpillar-sting

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bug of the Month December 2014: Snowy Tree Cricket, AKA Thermometer Cricket

 

Subject: What is this bug??
Location: San Angelo, Texas
November 28, 2014 11:54 pm
I live in West Texas, and this little guy was making a HORRIFICALLY loud continuous chirping sound for hours until we found him. Can you identify it for us?
Signature: Delilah

Thermometer Cricket
Thermometer Cricket

Dear Delilah,
Though you letter is not clear about the specific location, we are speculating that based on the information you provided that this Snowy Tree Cricket was found inside the home, hence the rigorous and lengthy search.  Snowy Tree Crickets are found in much of North America.  Snowy Tree Crickets are also known as Thermometer Crickets.  Charles Hogue, in his landmark book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin writes that you can tell the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit “if one counts the number of chirps in 13 seconds and adds 40.”  According to BugGuide:  “These are the crickets you hear in movies and on TV when they want to show that it’s out in nature and very quiet.”  Lowering the thermostat will slow the chirping.

Letter 2 – Female Two Spotted Tree Cricket

 

Subject: Interesting Bug!
Location: Attleboro, MA
August 12, 2014 6:20 pm
I think this guy is neat looking, and I have been scouring online bug guides and can’t find anything that really comes close! But then I have never really studied bugs that closely . . .
He was on my back door in Attleboro, MA mid-afternoon in August.
Thanks!
Signature: EmilyRose

Two Spotted Tree Cricket
Two Spotted Tree Cricket

Dear EmilyRose,
He is a she.  This is a female Two Spotted Tree Cricket,
Neoxabea bipunctata, and according to BugGuide:  “Adult females have two large dark spots on their ‘back’.  Adult males do not have the large dark spots on their ‘back’.”

Two Spotted Tree Cricket
Two Spotted Tree Cricket

Thank you so much!  I think it is kind of beautiful.  Sorry to be a repeat for you!  I appreciate your time!
~Emily

Hi again Emily,
We have no problem with repeats as multiple images of the same species help provide a more comprehensive picture of what the insect looks like.  Also, it helps to have a more comprehensive range represented on our site.  Additionally, we like to indicate years when particular species are more numerous.  Your images are quite beautiful.

Oh I’m glad! I don’t see any others with her little fishtail end so that’s neat 🙂
Thanks again!
~Emily

Letter 3 – Female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket

 

Subject: Bug to be Identified.
Location: Northern Cook County Illinois
August 14, 2016 8:52 pm
Northern Cook County, Illinois.
This was about an inch long, found near water in August.
Thank you. Please help ID, if you can.
Signature: Stephanie

Female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket
Female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket

Dear Stephanie,
This is a Two-Spotted Tree Cricket,
Neoxabea bipunctata, and only the females have the two dark wing spots, so your individual is a female.

Thank you Daniel. We love your web site.  We see a lot of interesting insects on our land which we investigate bit couldn’t find this one.  We get more interesting insects on our land as we ate restoting  it to its native flaura.  Have a great day.

Letter 4 – Female Two Spotted Tree Cricket

 

Subject:  I’ve never seen this bug before
Geographic location of the bug:  North America in Knoxville, Iowa
Date: 10/23/2017
Time: 12:13 AM EDT
This bug was just chilling on my door frame last summer and I haven’t been able to find what it was since then! Hoping you could help! Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Kelsey Colwell

Two Spotted Tree Cricket

Dear Kelsey,
This is a female Two Spotted Tree Cricket.  According to BugGuide:  “Two-spotted Tree Cricket, can be found on a wide variety of vegetation including (but not restricted to): Grapevine, Sunflower, Maple Tree, White Pine Tree, Apple Tree, Post Oak Tree. They are generally high on tall plants or in trees.”

Letter 5 – Female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket

 

Subject:  Weird Mantis Mix
Geographic location of the bug:  New York, Long Island
Date: 08/11/2018
Time: 04:52 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this bug on my bed. It has a red small head and neck the face reminds me of an ant or mantis. A tan/clear top and a green belly. Six legs. Big hind legs like a grasshopper. No Mantis arms. Also wings! Never seen anything like it! Like a mantis mixed grasshopper. Seems too thin for a grasshopper
How you want your letter signed:  Thomas

Female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket

Dear Thomas,
This is a female Two-Spotted Tree Cricket.  According to BugGuide:  “Two-spotted Tree Cricket, can be found on a wide variety of vegetation including (but not restricted to): Grapevine, Sunflower, Maple Tree, White Pine Tree, Apple Tree, Post Oak Tree. They are generally high on tall plants or in trees.”

Letter 6 – Pine Tree Cricket

 

Finding a Pine Tree Cricket hints
Hi Bugman,
I thought some bug lovers would be interested in seeing how well a Pine Tree Cricket blends in with its habitat. It took me two visits to find this little tree cricket. Now that I see how they position themselves on a branch, I’m sure it will be much easier to find more. This is a 6 foot high ornamental shrub–the tree cricket was about 5 feet up and about 2 feet in. I wasn’t sure I would even be able to find a Pine Tree Cricket in Wisconsin—but I finally have. Love your site,
Nancy Collins Racine (in Southeastern Wisconsin)

Hi Nancy,
Your hints will also apply to other Tree Crickets in the genus Oecanthus as well as the Pine Tree Cricket, Oecanthus pini. We located a website with additional images and information.

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
Tags: Tree Cricket

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