Obviously, There are good times in the year to teach this unit. i.e. in Western New York, the early fall is best as the crickets are very active then. In Texas, mid fall or late spring are better times for finding them outside. Or anytime with store bought crickets.
Anticipatory set: Introduce the topic. Why Crickets?
Close relationship since ancient times
Ancient Chinese love to keep crickets for their song and for fighting. They make special fancy houses to keep them in. (A neat homework assignment is for them to build cricket houses at home and then take a cricket home on the weekend)
Spanish people kept crickets in clay jars to enjoy the singing in their house.
Types of crickets and their habitats
Field crickets live and sing in the fields
Tree crickets live and sing in trees
Mole crickets tunnel under the ground and damage lawns
House crickets like to live in houses now most common as pet food for lizards and pet tarantulas. Camel or Cave crickets like to live in caves
Crickets as an ideal animal to observe typical animal behaviors.
Insect entomology entomologist pest control extermination behavior
Fill in blanks of cricket body parts sheet
Review the process of observing and proper notation of data. We describe what we see. Discuss anthropomorphic: how we do not describe behavior in terms of human feelings.
Go over and set up equipment for observing crickets:
graph paper for measuring baby crickets
petrie dishes, Test tubes, metric rulers hand lens, clock/stopwatch. note paper/pencil food water container ( clear food containers work well.)
Measuring the length of crickets
Give out crickets to students. Mixed culture or single culture
Measure length of the cricket ( For a high school exercise, more sophisticated measurement is to measure the heads with calipers and compare the male to female head sizes)
Fill out measuring crickets data sheet.
Graph class data
Give out Life cycle sheet and discuss life cycle.
How to distinguish adults from immature?
How to distinguish males from females?
territoriality habitat dominant satellite
Discuss how males defend a burrow from other males.
Put males together for awhile and they will chase each other for a bit. Have students record the aggressive behaviors. Please remove the males and keep separate after only a short time as they will fight to the death sometimes. They will damage each other and tear off legs.
Define: stimulus response
Release crickets for five minutes in to observation chamber
Review the names of the parts
Identify the stages and sexes
Then observe The crickets for twenty minutes.
Students can stroke the back legs gently with a stiff piece of fishing line fishing line cut about 10 cm taped to end of a pencil. They can also stroke antennae.
Fill in cricket observation data sheet
Did it move? How?
Record and describe how the legs move.
Has it eaten?
How does it eat?
Look for the mandibles!
video/ Laser disk
There are so many great videos on insects and their behavior, I couldn't just pick one!
Taxonomy of the cricket and some on its cousin species
crickets grasshoppers/locusts (migratory grasshoppers) cockroaches preying mantis
agricultural importance of the Orthoptera
grasshoppers damage crops especially in Africa as migratory locust swarms destroy acres in a few minutes.
(check locally with the extension agricultural folks)
Give out some crickets to students to take home to do some longer observations
Look at them while singing.
How do they sing?
How long do they sing?
When do they sing?
Give some students a male and a female
Instruct on the form being used
They can also use the checklist of behaviors
Make short oral reports to groups about the behaviors observed over the weekend
How did immature act?
Males with females?
Males at night? singing?
Hand out materials for testing crickets in a box a black and white bottom check every 5 minutes and record the location in the box.
Test under a light with a dark shelter on one side check every five minutes and record on data sheet Do a write-up for home work in lab report form.
If possible, go outside and look for crickets
Record and describe the environment and possible predators
Where did you look and why? previous experience?
Make a list of the biotic and abiotic factors in the school yard environment
Where else are they found? in your basement?
Have students draw food chains and then a web
demonstrating where a cricket occurs in the food chain.
Crickets as consumers of grass.
Mole crickets destroy lawns in Florida.
Their cousins grasshoppers and locusts destroy millions of dollars in crops in Africa.
Crickets as people food?
A challenge among some University graduate cricket students is to eat their animal in a specially prepared dish shared with others.
Crispy Cajun Crickets
The cricket as prey to a parasitic fly. How can this fly be used to control cricket pests? Now being tested as a biological control of the mole cricket.
Discuss cricket scientists
How do their findings relate to own observations
Compare time required to watch with time spent in classroom.
Crickets have been studied around the world, scientist get together and shared knowledge about crickets with each other. Science is build on top of previous information Also, there is a group of scientists that work together on crickets:
Dan Otte, The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Studied crickets in Hawaii, New Caledonia, Africa, Australia
Richard Alexander, University Of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Studied crickets in New Caledonia, Africa, Australia
William and Elsa Cade, Brock University, St. Catherines
Studied crickets in Texas, Africa, New Caledonia, Austrialia
Anne Marie Murray, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Arkanas Studied crickets in Texas
Difficulty of work at night collecting is dangerous in Africa, but very exciting.
Quiet work in the lab identifying the crickets
Discuss: the cricket, the fly and the satellite male story
Cricket behavior play
Have students write a short play about the cricket/fly relationship
male cricket (student with a tape recorder)
satellite male cricket,
a female fly (student with sun glasses)
Black plastic garbage bags with holes cut out for the head and arms work well. A tape recorder playing a tape of a calling cricket that the students have recorded can be hidden under the plastic bag.
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