Thursday, September 3, 2009

Counting Katydids on Broadway, Crickets in Central Park

In 1920, New York City native William Davis noticed that the constant whine of katydids that once filled the night air was gone. The katydid, Davis wrote in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society, "is either extinct or nearly so on Staten Island." At first, he suspected that smoke from factories had driven the katydids away. But then he noticed that the insects were also gone from the seashore and "about 50 miles of the most rural parts."

After stumbling across this 90-year-old paper, a katydid researcher has now decided to tackle the unsolved mystery of the vanishing insects by asking New Yorkers to help conduct a cricket census.

The Entomological Society, along with the United States Geological Survey and several other organizations are sponsoring "NYC Cricket Crawl" on the evening of Sept. 11. The researchers are inviting New Yorkers to go to "parklands, undeveloped and neglected areas" and to listen for one minute. These citizen researchers are then being asked to write down the location and a best guess of how many individuals of seven different species of katydids and crickets they hear.

The data should be immediately texted or emailed to the scientists.

While undeveloped areas are more likely to contain the insects, the researchers are looking for data from anywhere in the city. Instructions, counting sheets and other information are available at http://www.discoverlife.org/cricket/.

By Jim Dawson
Inside Science News Service
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