A Restless Bush Cricket on a leaf near Delacorte Theater
[Click on photo to enlarge]
It's been an unusually balmy fall. If I'm not mistaken last night was the first time the temperature dropped below the freezing point in this part of the country. The first frost. Here's why this makes me sad:
For the past few weeks I've still been hearing occasional cricket song as I walk through the park. Certainly not the glorious chorus of late summer and early fall, but a few little chirps here and there A cheerful sound.
A week ago, on November 29 to be exact, a small group of us wandered through the park looking for owls. We had to settle for a little hotbed of singing crickets near the north end of the Reservoir. It was a remarkable sound for late November, and a sign that the temperature had not yet descended below 32 degrees.
The sad reality is that come the first frost and that's the end of most insect life, at least the life of the adults.. Eggs have been laid that will hatch in the spring, cocoons have been formed from which larvae will emerge in the spring, and some insects in adult form will live through the winter in hibernation, to come to life in warmer weather.
But there will be no more cricket song after the first frost. John Keats shows a knowledge of this in the famous sonnet I've copied below when he notes that the frost has wrought a silence. That's the sad part.
But the silence is only in the outdoor world, Keats reminds us. All bets are off if an insect's life cycle is altered through human intervention,. A cricket finding a place in a nice warm cottage will sing long after cricket and grasshopper song has vanished from the woods and fields.
Keats implies, at least by omission, that crickets do not sing in summer, only grasshoppers do. Of course we know this is not so.
On the Grasshopper and the Cricket
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead
In summer luxury,--he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.