As the dawn chorus of birdsong fades towards the end of spring another sound of nature fills the void. By August it's in full swing, and as well as the buzzing of bees, beetles, dragonflies and hoverflies, there's the familiar chirping sound of meadow grasshoppers singing away in the fields. It's the "Insect Chorus" and it's one of those sounds which typifies a summer day.
There are 11 different species of grasshopper native to Britain, and each species has its own unique sound which experts find as recognisable as bird songs. The meadow grasshopper makes a pulsing chirp which repeats every few seconds. X Factor finalist it ain't. It sounds something akin to a tube of Smarties being shaken vigorously.
The chirping sound is created by rubbing a row of pegs on their back legs against their wings. You can see the pegs with a good hand lens. The action is called 'stridulation'. Both sexes stridulate, but it's usually the males you can hear who make the noise in order to attract a mate.
Mating goes on until September, and once mated the females laying their eggs in batches of about a dozen in dry soil. The nymphs will emerge the following spring, around April or May.
Of the eleven species found in the UK the meadow grasshopper is the only one which can't fly. This species is also extremely variable in colour. They can be green, brown, purple, orange and even pink.
We're often asked how to distinguish between grasshoppers and crickets. The easiest way is to look at their antennae. Crickets have very long thin antennae, whereas grasshoppers have short stubby antennae.