Micro-Season: “The Grasshopper Sings” (2022)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Grasshopper Sings”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini-season of Cold Dew.  The micro-seasons within Cold Dew are:

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about grasshoppers and stridulation. Then we will read seasonal haiku by Basho, Issa, and Buson.


The Grasshopper

Grasshoppers are part of the taxonomic suborder Caelifera within the order Orthoptera, which is suspected to be over 250 million years old.(1)   There are an estimated 11,000 different species of grasshopper worldwide.(1) Crickets and katydids, while similar to the grasshopper and within the same taxonomic order, are in their own suborder called Ensifera.(2)

Grasshoppers typically live in “lowland tropical forests, semiarid regions, and grasslands.”(3) They can range in color from green to brown and may have yellow or red markings.  Grasshoppers are herbivores and a few species have been known to damage crops.  

The grasshopper is probably most known for its ability to jump.  Some jumps are approximately 20 times the grasshopper’s body length. Grasshoppers will jump for various reasons including to escape predators, launch into flight, or simply get around. 

How Grasshoppers Sing

Before discussing how grasshoppers sing, it should be noted that at this time of year you are probably not hearing grasshoppers signing but crickets.  While this may highlight a slight discrepancy in the 72-season calendar, both crickets and grasshoppers use the same process, which is called stridulation, to make their sounds.

Stridulation

Stridulation is the process of making sounds by rubbing two body parts together.  The two parts used in stridulation are commonly known as “the scraper” and “the file”.  In the grasshopper, the hind leg is the scraper and the adjacent forewing is the file. In crickets, one wing is the scraper and the other is the file.(4)

While stridulation is mostly associated with insects, other animals such as some fish, snakes, and spiders, also use this process.(4)

Stridulation in Grasshopper

Both male and female grasshoppers stridulate.  However, the males are much more active in this process than the females. 

The grasshopper’s songs are used as a means of communication.  The intention for the song can range from a way to attract a mate to the desire for “social cohesion.”(1) 

The Marsh Meadow Grasshopper, which is widespread in much of the United States, uses stridulation to produce “a rapid series of about thirty-five very high pitched raspy notes.”(6)  You can listen to the Marsh Meadow Grasshopper at Songs of Insects website.

Stridulation in Crickets

Stridulation in crickets is primarily done by males.  Many female crickets do not have the necessary anatomical adaptions to be able to make sounds.(7) The reason for crickets to sing is primarily to find a mate or to ward off competition.  

The Carolina Ground Cricket is a common cricket in the United States.  Its song is described as “A rapid, buzzy trill with a stumbling or sputtering quality, as if the singer is never quite able to get on track.”(8)  You can listen to the Carolina Ground Cricket at Songs of Insects

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay
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Seasonal Haiku

The World Kigo Database tells us that “chirping insects” and many species of grasshoppers and crickets are autumn kigo.  Below are a few singing insect haiku.

Basho

in the fish market, 
from among the little shrimps, 
a cricket sings 
(translated by Sam Hamill)
every morning 
practicing to improve 
a cricket 
(translated by Jane Reichhold)

Then there are these two translations of the same haiku.

Alas for mortality! 
underneath the helmet
a grasshopper. 
(translated by Donald Keene)
so pitiful - 
under the helmet
a cricket 
(translated by David Landis Barnhill)

Issa

on a branch
floating downriver
a cricket, singing.
(translated by Jane Hirshfield)
Grasshopper's song in
moonlight - someone's
survived the flood.
(translated by L. Stryk)
crickets
chirping
in a scarecrow's belly.
(translated by R. Hass)

Buson

the cricket climbs up the pothook - cold, cold night 
(translated by Michael Haldane) 

Grasshopper Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
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A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references grasshoppers or crickets singing.  

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


Resources

  1. “Grasshopper”; Wikipedia
  2. “Orthoptera”; Wikipedia
  3. “Grasshopper”; Brittanica
  4. “Stridulation”; Wikipedia
  5. “Stridulation”; Amateur Entomologist Society
  6. “Marsh Meadow Grasshopper”; Songs of Insects
  7. “Cricket”; Wikipedia
  8. “Carolina Ground Cricket”; Songs of Insects
  9. Insects (mushi); World Kigo Database

Basho’s haiku were retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” editor: Gábor Terebess.  Issa’s haiku were retrieved from “Poetic Entomology: Insects in Japanese Haiku” by R. R. Dunn and Poetry Foundation. Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson” Terebess Asia Online.

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41 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Grasshopper Sings” (2022)

Add yours

  1. Fascinating post, Mark! Sorry it’s taken me so long to visit, I’m so behind with everyone’s blogs. But I always learn something new when I drop by here 🙂

      1. I am so enjoying your posts, Mark. I am learning so much from them. They certainly are a writing inspiration.

  2. *bell cricket sounds like chimes.

    meditating
    the buddha’s song
    from a bell cricket

    ~ Christina Chin
    蟋蟀の仏陀の歌や瞑想す 千秋


    tiger autumn
    chimes of a bell cricket
    in the temple

    ~ Christina Chin
    虎の秋寺に鈴虫響きけり 千秋


    caught in a web
    the praying mantis clicks
    a maracas sound

    ~ Christina Chin
    蟷螂やカチリと蜘蛛の巣にかかる 千秋


    a vocal cricket
    in the bathroom
    sings for mate

    ~ Christina Chin
    蟋蟀やバスルームにて愛の歌 千秋

    1. Hi Christina, Thank you for sharing such a wonderful collection. The meditating one I really enjoyed. I think I need to go find a recording of a bell cricket! Thanks again and have a good week!

      1. Hello Mark,

        Thanks and I hope you’ll not be disappointed with the bell cricket chimes.

        ~ Christina

      2. Wikipedia says that some people keep bell crickets as pets. That is interesting! I am never disappointed when learning new things about the natural world! Thanks for the introduction to the bell cricket.

  3. So inspiring article about grasshopper to read 🌷🙏👍🏻 Our place also so many big grasshoppers
    Can see , we go near it will jump and fly 👍🏻😊 they make nice sound !! Thank you for sharing 🌷🙏

    1. Hi Thattamma, Thank you and I am glad that you enjoyed this post. The grasshoppers were I live are probably pretty small compared to the ones where you are. I hope all is well. Have a good week!

    1. Hi Art, Yes, That can be a problem. The can definitely their fair share of greens! Thanks for adding to the conversation. Have a good weekend!

  4. With thanks to redirection from my friend Nan.
    Also thank you for the imformation. I enjoy autumn.
    Perhaps a day late, but inspired by your post;

    grasshopper
    serenades my moves
    to tai chi

    © JP/dh

    1. Hi Jules, Glad you made it! Thank you so much for writing and sharing your haiku. I really enjoy the imagery here. I can a lone person performing tai chi in a park. It is so quiet and the only sound is the grasshopper. Wonderful! Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      1. Thank you – I actually started doing a program called EnerChi via a local Gym. I too can imagine doing some of those moves in my yard to grasshopper song. 🙂

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