Wednesday 25 February 2015

Handsome Trig

Image: cotinis
Phyllopalpus pulchellus
Look at this handsome devil! Have you ever seen such colours? Such powerful, toned legs? Such a large, well-fashioned moustache?

I wonder if they wear one of those moustache guards when they sleep?

Image: Benny Mazur
Handsome Trigs get their name from two attributes. One: they're gorgeous to look at! Two: they're crickets who belong to a subfamily called Trigonidiinae.

They're also known as Red-headed Bush Crickets for exactly the same sort of reasons.

Image: Sara Eguren
Handsome Trigs are less than 1 centimetre (0.4 in) long but they still catch the eye with their fabulous colours. This is not your usual, drab cricket hidden in dark places and creeping in the night, heard but not seen.

Video: nyjastul696

Handsome Trigs are keen to show off their good looks. In many of the easterly states of the U.S. they can be seen scampering around among the foliage of trees and shrubs in broad daylight. They're looking for food, and I hope they have some good utensils to let them eat without getting their moustache dirty.

Image: oliver.dodd
But what is that moustache, really?

It's actually part of their mouthparts! Not biting, chewing mandibles, but hugely enlarged palps. Pretty much all insects have a couple pairs of palps next to their jaws. They're sensitive to touch, presumably to help them decide whether they really want to eat whatever it is that's near their mouth.

Image: cotinis
Very few insects have such gigantically enlarged palps as the Handsome Trig! As these crickets wander around, their long antennae and giant palps are constantly on the move. Up and down, up and down as they sniff out their surroundings. Some people suggest that it might serve as a disguise. Perhaps it makes them look like a spider, a bombardier beetle or some other more dangerous creature.

Females have these palps, too. In fact, males and females are almost identical. Almost.

Image: Hope Abrams
Males have specially modified wings which they use to sing.

When they want to attract a female, they lift their wings right up and rub them against each other to create their high-pitched, rasping song. Or "din", depending on taste.

Image: cotinis
Females on the other hand are armed with what looks like a giant sting. It's actually what's known as an ovipositor and they use it to lay their eggs.

Image: Jim, the Photographer
When the eggs hatch, the nymphs are a bit underwhelming. They're pretty much black with pale legs. Where's the red head? At least they still have their moustache. You're never too young for a good moustache.


Esther said...


But really though, they look like a hybrid between a cockroach, a cricket and an ant. It's bizzare.

TexWisGirl said...

really nice colors! like parts made from a cootie game. :)

Porakiya said...

they do look rather stunning. their "singing", on the other hand, is a different matter. it's annoying, like with most other crickets.

Crunchy said...


Unknown said...

Now we just need to get them a bunch of tiny top hats.

Joseph JG said...

@Esther: You're right! Most crickets look like they're very much built for jumping and seem quite awkward when they try to walk. This one seems much better at just running around.

@TexWisGirl: I had to look that one up but I can see what you mean! The colours are pretty much ludicrous!

@Porakiya Draekojin: I quite like cricket songs at night. So long as it's all a blur of white noise. If I can hear any particular one too loudly it's horrible!

@Crunchy: Precisely!

@Jacob Littlejohn: Haha! We could get monocles too except I don't know how they'd work with compound eyes.

Unknown said...

Thanks for all the info I kinda freaked out when I found 2 in my bathroom this morning. I will put the little girls outside now.

Unknown said...

I just got bit on the inner thigh. Though it may not have broke the skin, it still felt like it had strong mouth parts because the bite felt similar to a horse fly.