One important aspect of behavior is communication, which is widespread among animals. Ask the students the following questions - How do humans communicate? Can insect talk? How do you think insects communicate?


Today we will learn about how insects communicate through sound production. There are many different ways that insect produce sound.


1. Stridulation - this is the moving of one body part against another.Some insects rub their wings together, others rub different segments of their abdomen. Some rub their legs and their wings, while others rub their legs against their head or their wings against their body. The most well known insects that use stridulation to produce sound are the crickets (rub their wings together) and grasshoppers (rub legs or leg and wing), but some ants, wasps, and beetles also use stridulation. Show examples, short-horned grasshoppers, long-horned grasshoppers, bess beetles


2. Strike a part of the body against a surface - deathwatch beetles tap their heads, cockroaches and some stoneflies tap the tip of their abdomen, and some grasshoppers tap their feet against a substrate to make noises.


3. Vibrating membranes - cicadas, which make very distinctive sounds vibrate tymbals. Tymbals are membranes located on the abdomen that are moved by muscles. Other insects make sounds by vibrating their wings or other body parts.


4. Forcing air through body openings - although many vertebrates use the expulsion of air to make sounds (as we do when speaking), this form of communication is fairly uncommon among insects. Some cockroaches make a hissing sound by ejecting air. The death's head sphinx moth expels air to make a whistling sound.


Why do insects make sound? Insects often use sound to communicate with each other. Most often, insects produce sounds to attract mates. Usually, the male's song attracts the female. Often, insect will make noise when they are disturbed - this may be to scare off the predator or to warn other insects of danger. Some insects use sound to mark their territory. A male insect may sing in order to let other males know that an area is his territory.


What is a disadvantage of stridulation. Predation - you let everyone know where you are!


How do insect detect or hear these sounds? Crickets, grasshoppers, katydids, and cicadas all possess hearing organs called tympanum. The tympanum is located on the front legs of crickets, katydids, and long-horned grasshoppers and on the abdomen of short-horned grasshoppers.


Temperature Inquiry:



Male crickets and katydids chirp by rubbing their front wings together. Each species has its own chirp and chirping is temperature dependent. Crickets chirp faster with increasing temperature and slower with decreasing temperatures. Therefore, at least in theory, the temperature can be estimated by counting the chirps. However, problems with putting this theory into practice abound. For example: (1) crickets generally do not sing at temperatures below 55 F or above 100 F, (2) some crickets do not chirp in discrete bursts, they utter a more continuous trill, (3) chirp rate is affected by other factors such as the cricket's age, mating success, hunger, and with competition from nearby males. Nevertheless, this is a fun inquiry to do.



The simplest method is to count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and add 40. The sum usually approximates the temperature within a few degrees Fahrenheit.


The original formula for determining temperature from cricket chirps appears to have been published in 1897 by A.E. Dolbear, a physics professor at Tufts College. Since Dolbear's time, formulas have been devised for various species.Here are Three formulas which may or may not actually work! In all cases, T is the temperature and N is the number of chirps per minute.


Field Cricket: T = 50+[(N-40)/4]


Snowy Tree Cricket: T = 50 + (N - 92 / 4.7)


Katydid: T = 60 + (N - 19 / 3)


Additional Notes:

This exercise may be done whenever crickets are heard, either in the field or with classroom cultures.

Entomology News at Nebraska

Breaking Entomological News...

  • Samantha DanielGraduate student Samantha Daniel did an awesome job being interviewed  by KODY radio about overwintering insects!!  Samantha is a master's student mentored by Dr. Julie Peterson.
  • Dr. John RubersonDr. Tom WeisslingCongrats to John Ruberson and Tom Weissling who were honored at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Family and Friends Recognition Awards. These awards are nominations by parents for faculty and staff who have a made a significant difference in the students’  lives. Tom has now been recognized twice with this award! Congratulations! And a big thank you to the thoughtful students and parents.
  • Dr. Jeff BradshawDr. Jeff Bradshaw was chosen as president-elect of the North Central Branch of the Entomology Society of America. Bradshaw is an associate professor of Entomology, extension specialist, and interim director of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. 
  • Entomology Alumna Jennifer Weisbrod was recently selected as the new Pesticide Safety Education Program coordinator in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Weisbrod graduated with her master's degree in Entomology in 2020 and is taking the reins from her predecessor Clyde Ogg, emeritus extension educator.
  • Dr. Sylvana Paula-MoraesCongratulations to departmental alumna Dr. Silvana Paula-Moraes who was recently named the recipient of the 2021 Department of Entomology Alumni Recognition Award. She presented a online seminar in connection with the award on Monday, March 1, 2021.
  • 7 seal awardThe UNL Department of Entomology has been awarded the Seven Seals Award by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). The Seven Seals Award is presented in recognition of significant individual or organizational achievement, initiative, or support that promotes and supports the ESGR mission, to include the efforts of the more than 4,500 volunteers who carry out ESGR’s mission across the nation on a daily basis. The Entomology Department is fortunate to support Courtney Brummel and Sheldon Brummel in their service to the nation. Thanks for the nomination, Courtney and Sheldon!