Mike DiGiorgio and I did an interview on NPR’s Faith Middleton Show. It was for our book “Guide to the Night-singing Insects of the Northeast” (Stackpole, 2009). I was at the tail end of a bout with bronchitis, and my voice barely held out, but managed to get through it.
NPR puts their shows online a few days later – you can hear it here –
About this book – We worked on this book for 8 years. I wrote “It started as a hobby, turned into an obsession, and then, when I decided to write a book, it became my job. As much fun as it’s been, I am looking forward to this becoming a hobby again…”
I figured the easiest way to tell you about it is by cutting and pasting the “Introduction”. Here it is:
We all hear them. The true katydids scratching out their raspy chirps; the crickets staging their choruses of trills. They are the sounds of summer. They have replaced the calls of the Spring Peepers and Gray Tree frogs, which have already seen to their nuptial duties. Come July, the night singing insects begin to sing. By the end of summer, they’ve reached their crescendo, filling the soundscape of every yard, meadow, woodland, and tree-lined street. Most of us take these sounds for granted. They are just there. But some of us listen. We hear these songs and are grateful for our ability to appreciate what they do for us. Sometimes the sounds create an aural thread to our past, bringing us back to another time and place. Sometimes, we just enjoy that very moment and realize there’s something going on outside our homes that may have little to do with us, but touches our senses.
But, what are making those sounds? While we can hear the katydids and crickets, we rarely get to see them. That cryptic ability allows them to survive. It’s not easy being a bug. There are so many other creatures out to eat them that evolution had to come up with ways to usher them to adulthood. Katydids took the path of cryptic shape and coloration. They look like the leaves and grass upon which they live. Field and ground crickets blend with the soil and dead leaves on the ground, and spend most of their lives under things. They possess a rich diversity of forms that allow them to look like what they eat and the habitat in which they live.
While most guides deal with the eyes – what things look like, this one focuses on the eyes and ears. I don’t know how this happened, but it appears orthoptering has arrived, and seemingly from out of nowhere! It helps that this new interest offers much of the satisfaction of the popular pastime of birding. For one, you have the songs, which can be used to identify the species. You also have the pleasing aesthetic quality of the makers of those songs. Add to that the advantages of having fewer species to learn and the fact that your subjects tend to spend their entire life in one area.
It could be that the growing interest in butterflies and dragonflies got people thinking that insects had more to offer in terms of “the hunt”. It is often the case that one interest leads to another. When you’re out looking for one thing, it is impossible not to notice what else is around. That’s what makes us naturalist types who we are. We’re curious. One answer leads to three questions. One pretty bug makes us want to see another.
However, while a swallowtail butterfly gets noticed as you walk down a trail, a bush katydid is just one of the many leaves along the way.
The purpose of this book is to make those leaves jump out at you. You hear them; now it’s time to put a face to the call. It’s time to see them.