Crickets are insects from the family Gryllidae, closely related to grasshoppers and katydids. There are almost 2,500 species of cricket, found primarily in the temperate regions of the world. These insects are perhaps most famous for their distinctive chirping noises, which are created by rubbing the front wings together.
Several features can be used to identify a cricket, and to distinguish it from the related grasshopper. Crickets and grasshoppers both have big, muscular rear legs which are used for jumping, but crickets also have long antennae, in contrast with the short antennae of grasshoppers. The front wings of these animals are small and leathery in texture, while the larger rear wings are usually tucked under the front wings flat against the body, except in flight.
Only males in some species of crickets produce chirping. Several different chirps have been identified by biologists, including a calling song to attract females, and an aggressive song to deter other males. The chirps are also unique to the species, although the casual human ear might not be able to detect the difference.
As a general rule, these insects are nocturnal, and they are also omnivorous. This is another major difference between them and grasshoppers, as grasshoppers are herbivorous. Crickets usually mate in the summer, producing eggs in the fall, with the young hatching in the spring. A single female can lay up to 2,000 eggs, ensuring that at least some of her young survive, despite predation.
In some cultures, the cricket is viewed as lucky. In some parts of China, for example, people like to keep crickets in cages, and in some parts of England, when a cricket chirps indoors, it is viewed as a good omen. They are also regarded as a source of food in parts of Africa and Asia, and many people raise them to feed pets such as lizards and fish. For those who don't feel up to raising their own, some exotic pet suppliers carry them.
The name cricket comes from the Old French criquer, which means to click, a reference to the chirps and clicking noises produced by males. Many people associate the sound of crickets with the evening hours, especially quiet evenings without many people around. In some English-speaking regions of the world, when a comment meets with a deafening silence, the commenter may jokingly make an allusion to these insects, referencing the fact that the room has fallen so silent that if crickets were around, they would be audible.