Illustration by Wesley Merritt

H ave you ever listened to the mesmerizing serenade of crickets on a crisp autumn evening and wondered why? I mean, the mercury’s definitely headed south soon, the nights are going to become chill and those bugs’ll be belly-up before too long. Yet they’re standing on the stoop warbling impromptu a cappellas. What’s up with that?

I’ll give it to you straight: crickets or Sinatra, it all comes down to Guys and Dolls.

First there’s An Affair to Remember.

OK, several affairs.

What can I say? The Lady is a Tramp.

A few weeks later the she-cricket leaves her eggs to be fostered by soil or plant stems, then scurries away to die of exposure shortly thereafter. The guy(s) have long since split but suffer a similar fate. The following spring their orphaned offspring hatch, molt and become wingless nymphs — tiny versions of Mom and Pop(s). Summer is spent looking for rations and staying out of trouble. Autumn leaves mean it’s time to go underground until things heat up again. Come spring they’ll emerge with a song in their hearts.

Well…not exactly.

Crickets don’t actually sing. The females are silent, and when males want to croon they don’t clear their throats. They rub their wings together like snapping fingers. Very hip. So maybe it would be more accurate to say they wear their hearts on their sleeves…except they don’t have sleeves. Or arms. Let’s just say they do it their way. I’m sure The Chairman of the Board would understand.

Frank had plenty of hits and, early in his career, an impressive two-octave range. Male crickets have a much more limited range and repertoire — one Nice ’n’ Easy hit, usually a single note. Repeated as many times as necessary. These cats don’t swing but they do have stamina, plus they mix up the tempo to suit the room’s temperature.

And Jeepers Creepers, there’s something about a love song that sets the female heart a-flutter, especially In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning. Makes no difference whether she’s a dame or The Girl Next Door. She’ll leave home and go Wandering in search of a song she just can’t resist…and in no time at all she’ll be Taking a Chance on Love. Apparently, a dreamy tune counts for a lot more than looks because she completely ignores the fact that her suitor’s ears are on his front legs. She’s Funny That Way.

Come to think of it, Frankie’s ears were rather conspicuous, too, but the bobbysoxers still swooned.

The author loves looking for wild things in all the wrong places…so she became an urban wildlife biologist. She’s also the official Animal-Vehicle Biologist for NPR’s “Car Talk.” Read her blog at www.nextdoornature.org.