Course Information and FAQ:

Questions? Please contact registration coordinator Kayla Rankin at 937-365-1935 or email

Cancellation Policy. Sorry, there is no guarantee of refunds for cancellations that occur after one month in advance of the event unless we have a waiting list. Please try to find someone to fill your place.

We STRONGLY recommend that you order the book and CD before arrival – or have us set one aside for you:  Please order a copy of Songs of Insects by course leader, Wil Hershberger, if you don’t already have one. The book is now out-of-print but can be very affordably purchased on the secondary market, such as on We also recommend that you load the CD onto your laptop or smartphones before you arrive. The workshop will rely heavily on content found within the book. Alternatively, buy one from Wil: Course leader Wil will be bringing several gently used copies of his book which he is happy to sell to you for a discounted price, so if you would prefer to buy one from Wil, then just let us know by writing Kayla at and we’ll set one aside for you. 

You can further prepare or consult later on Wil’s and Lisa’s online resources. See Lisa Rainsong’s with her latest recorded sounds, stories from the field, and photography of insect singers in Northeastern Ohio, Her superb website at is an excellent teaching device, featuring insect calls and callers living in NE Ohio,that can be gainfully used for a much broader geography.

Wil Hershberger’s is another wonderful natural history and field ID guide to crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and cicadas with a wide geographical application. Stories from the field and identification tips and orientation can be found on his blog .

What if I’m hard of hearing? If you can hear bird songs, you should be able to hear the majority of sounds we’ll be learning in this course. If you can’t hear high notes, you may miss many or most of the Meadow Katydids, but you’ll still have a good deal of fun finding and admiring them! The other insect singers tend to have at least some of their notes in lower ranges than the Meadow Katydids. Tinnitus can sound amazingly like a background of tree crickets. If you have tinnitus, you should be able to recognize it as background noise and block most of it out.

What background do I need to enjoy this course? Anyone with an enthusiasm for the subject will enjoy this course. Learning insect calls is not only a great skill to possess, it will increase your enjoyment of the out-of-doors for the rest of your life. Complete novices and intermediate students are equally welcome to attend. We have the ”best of the best” leaders for this course, so even experts would enjoy rubbing shoulders for a weekend with Lisa and Wil.

Cell phone coverage and internet: Please note that the Sanctuary is in a rural location in the foothills of the Appalachians. Cell phone coverage is spotty and connectivity depends on your phone service company. However, Wi-Fi is available at the Museum headquarters one mile from Whispering Springs, and a short drive to Highway 50 connects to nearly every provider. Sprint is the only carrier that works on Cave Road. You can pick up most other servers on US 50 before the Cave Road turnoff.

Comfort in the Out-of-Doors: We will be spending most of our time in the field, so please pack clothing that will allow you to be comfortable for a variety of weather conditions, and for hiking at night. The program will go on rain or shine. In southern Ohio, the low to mid-nineties are common daytime highs. Our schedule for insect listening takes us out in the cooler mornings and evenings and taking a siesta in the hot afternoons.  Regardless, it will be hot. If you work daily in an air-conditioned environment, you might be wise to prepare for the course by taking mid-day walks so you can begin adjusting to midsummer outdoor temperatures.

Physical Capacity: Because the course is focused on outdoor activities, participants should be able to hike up to four miles a day sustainably without injury or severe discomfort, although in this course it is unlikely we will be hiking more than 2-3 miles a day. Off-trail hiking may be an occasional component of the course, but for the most part we will be following established trails. Trails may be narrow and uneven in nature at times. Our hikes will be dependably slow.

Location. This course will be held in the tranquility of the beautiful 2600-acre nature preserve known as the Highlands Nature Sanctuary with field trips out to other preserves in the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System in south-central Ohio. The weekend hub will be at the Appalachian Forest Museum. Maximum attendance is 35 people.

Accommodations. Lodging is available in one of the Sanctuary’s beautiful overnight facilities, most of which are historic and all of which are tastefully and uniquely decorated. Lodging is optional but highly encouraged since you will be studying into the night and will probably want to crash into bed upon return. Lodges are anywhere from 1-5 miles from the workshop hub but are still much closer than private lodges nearby. All lodges have kitchens or kitchenettes and one or more bathrooms on the hall. If you are coming with a partner, you may request one of our rooms with a double bed. We have limited double bed offerings; first come first served. Most rooms have two twin beds; or a single bed and a double bed, the choice of which is also first come first served. If you are not coming with a partner but want to take advantage of the reduced rate of shared rooms, we will link you up with another registrant of the same gender. If we can’t find you a roommate, so long as you remain willing to share, even at the last minute, we will honor your shared rate. Click here if you with familiarize with Sanctuary lodges.

What if I want a private room? We have a very limited number of solo rooms and we encourage you to only go solo if you feel you would not make a good roommate due to heavy snoring or other technical difficulties (smiles), so that we can save those private rooms for people who need them the most. You can also choose to upgrade to the Zen or Eyrie Suites which are private facilities for 1-2 people perched on the rim of the Rocky Fork Gorge, or Leatherwood Cabin with has two bedrooms. We will simply charge you the difference. We also have 1-2 private room offerings at Ash Ayden, our volunteer headquarters. If you want to go solo, please inquire and we will share prices and availability.

Meals: All meals are provided from Thursday supper through Sunday lunch – nine meals altogether. The Arc of Appalachia is well recognized for its fabulous meals that are often based on local organic produce. Meat and eggs are local and pasture-raised whenever available. All meals are provided with vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan options. Meat is available for at least one meal a day. Eggs and cheese are frequent accompaniments. If you have other food restrictions, please make a note on the registration form and we will let you know how well we can accommodate your needs. All lodges have kitchen facilities if you need to supplement your diet.

Flying in? Participants may fly into either Cincinnati or Columbus. Both airports are 1 hour and forty five minutes away from the Sanctuary. Shuttles are not available so participants may need to rent a car. If you wish to car-share from your home or airport, please let us know and we will get you in contact with any other interested participants.

Additional Expenses: Registrants will supply their own transportation to the Highlands Nature Sanctuary and to other field trip locations in south central Ohio. Carpooling can usually be arranged with other participants for day trips, and such carpooling is often necessary since some of our locations have limited parking. We recommend you offer a modest gas cost contribution if you link up with another.

Emergency Messages: Emergency messages for course participants can be left at the main line of the Highlands Nature Sanctuary (937) 365-1935 during daytime hours.

Should I prepare for insects?  We experience very few to no mosquitoes and no black flies. You may encounter ticks in the open fields, and chiggers in tall grass if you choose to wander off trail (which is a good reason not to), and a few deer flies in low moist areas. If any of these challenges are new for you, let us know and we will do our best to orient you. No exposure to at least some insects in southern Ohio is not a realistic expectation for outdoor field work. During every field trip there will inevitably be a few ticks found crawling up some of our registrants’ legs. If you see them, they are not a problem. Just brush them off. It’s the ones you don’t see that might pose a problem. Since we DO have deer ticks in southern Ohio, please read below.

A Special Note on Ticks. We will be orienting everyone to ticks in order to minimize exposure to disease which can be carried to you by deer ticks, an exposure which is unlikely but possible. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THE USE OF ROSE GERANIUM OIL ON YOUR LEGS AND PANTS which has proved to be a good deterrent. We also recommend a good tick check at night before or after showering. If you have a partner, use him or her to do the ‘primate thing.” If you don’t, employ a mirror and don’t forget to check your hairline.

The key to addressing Lyme’s disease risk is to be aware of symptoms and  demanding proper diagnostic tests if you suspect the disease. You may know more than your doctor so being empowered is important. Lyme’s is treatable if detected in a reasonable time, but because deer ticks have not been in Ohio for very long, many doctors are slow to recognize the symptoms. Being informed and proactive provides you with the highest level of safety.  Here are some symptoms to remember, which tend to be flu-like:

  • Pain areas: in the joints or muscles
  • Whole body: fatigue, fever, or malaise
  • Joints: stiffness or swelling
  • Also common: appearance of large red blotches, sometimes with bulls-eye pattern,
  • Headache
  • Palsy

A Special Note on Chiggers. Chigger bites are very annoying if numerous, and are itchy but not dangerous. The best way to minimize or better yet, completely avoid, chigger exposure is to stay on the trail. Perhaps ironically, we have found that open-toed sandals attract less chiggers than socks and shoes. Chiggers love to bury into tight places between skin and clothing. Bare legs can also deter ticks because you can easily feel the more common dog tick crawling up your legs, as well as visually see them and easily send them on their way. We are not necessarily recommending shorts and sandals during the day, but if you enjoy wearing them, do so. You may fare better than your less scantily dressed colleagues.

Poison Ivy. We will not be going off-trail, so it is very unlikely you will be exposed to poison ivy. In any case, the leaders know the plant well and will help you avoid exposure. If you do touch the leaves, washing vigorously with soap within an hour avoids reactivity in most people.

What to bring to this course:

  • Close-focusing binoculars are not necessary but will definitely get good use
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Comfortable shoes for hiking and outdoor wear
  • A small day pack for field trips
  • Rain gear
  • A notebook or clipboard and pen
  • Personal care items; soap, shampoo, etc. (towels, linens, and tissue are provided in the lodges)
  • Sunscreen if you use it (there are also environmental reasons not to- check it out)
  • A light-weight wide-brimmed hat for sun protection
  • Sunglasses if you are sensitive to bright sunlight.
  • Flashlight – VERY important for night viewing. We recommend a small pen light. It will allow you to see a singing insect without ruining your and others’ night vision.
  • Insect repellent for ticks is recommended, see details above.
  • Optional: Your own first aid kit appropriate to your needs.
  • Pocket money for snacks and small purchases
Broad-winged Tree Cricket. Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Katydid species by Wil Hershberger
Spotted Ground Cricket by Lisa Rainsong.
Allard's Ground Cricket by Lisa Rainsong.
Field Cricket. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Dark Brown Straight-lanced Meadow Katydid. Photo by Lisa Rainsong.
Black-sided Meadow Katydid ovipositing by Lisa Rainsong
Common True Katydid by Lisa Rainsong