Weekly Puzzler Answer #83

You may have heard this sound if you were in a field or meadow recently. It may have been hard to distinguish though, seeing as how it is likely it was mixed with MANY other animal sounds. When all those sounds are filling the air, it’s hard to tell one from another!

Notice how the palps and antennae are blurry--that's because they are in constant motion!

Notice how the palps and antennae are blurry–that’s because they are in constant motion!

This sound is made from an insect called a Handsome Trig. I only learned of this creature when I took a picture of one, wondered what it was, then researched to identify it. This is often how I learn about new animals, especially insects and spiders. This was one I’d never seen and certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify by sound.

Handsome trigs belong to a small group of tiny crickets. The word “trig” comes from Trigonidiinae, the taxonomic subfamily of crickets. In North America there are 18 species. trig-9411

Handsome trigs are black and red with cream colored legs, their bodies only 1/4 to 1/3 inch long. Their latin name–Phyllopalpus pulchellus–means “beautiful leaf-feeler” because their mouthparts, called palps, are in constant motion. The trig uses them to “taste” the environment. In addition, they constantly move their long antennae.

When singing, the male holds his wings nearly straight up, rubbing one wing against the other to create their unique sound.

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  1. beth October 24, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    thanks sharon i always wondered about this sound;thought it might be a tree cricket. Then i read about trigs, but never put the two together.

    • Sharon Mammoser October 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

      Yes, the sound mingles right in with the tree crickets and it is hard to tell. I have a great book–highly recommend–called The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliot and Will Hershberger. It has fabulous pictures along with the sounds the insects make. Wonderful reference! You would love it. Thanks for reading and for commenting!