Nature’s Choir – A Course in Insect Music

Registration is full.


    Thursday Eve – Mid-day Sunday; August 15 – 18, 2019

    With Musician Lisa Rainsong,  creator of Listening to Insects

    & Wil Hershberger, Author of Book, CD & Website: Songs of Insects


Held at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary with field trips to other Arc preserves

Supported with the assistance of the Midwest Native Plant Society


$395/person includes nine meals and all curriculum.

Optional 3-nights lodging at the Sanctuary –  $40/night/person shared; $65/night private room

A world of sound!  Each year trees awaken from their dormancy in the spring, unfurl their leaves, and spend the rest of the summer nourishing a bounty of tree crickets and katydids chomping hungrily on their leaves. In essence, it takes trees just one summer season to transform their green biomass into song, turning their essence into insects that in turn, transform their bodies into sophisticated living instruments. By late summer in southern Ohio it is not unusual to hear a dozen and a half species singing all at once in the day or night in what appears to otherwise be a perfectly ordinary habitat.

Fiddlers of the Fields and Forests. When first learning insect songs, it will likely appear  that you are surrounded by an impenetrable wall of sound. However, with instruction and practice, your ears will begin to detect individual species making up the orchestra. Each species has its own song, with it’s own distinct pitch, quality, and rhythm. Once you learn these musical beings as individual species, the days and nights of late summer will never be the same for you. You will be forever enriched by your singing friends, you will feel a regret when the deep frost extinguishes their last song for the season, and you will feel grateful to have witnessed another year of the earth’s most magnificent and ancient chorus.

“It is just amazing to imagine Tyrannosaurus rex resting in the jungles of the Jurassic period, listening to insect choruses that sounded very similar to what we hear today.”  – Wil Hershberger

What you will learn.

  • Life cycles of the summer singers
  • Body anatomies that enable these insect families to master percussion.
  • Chorusing behaviors
  • Song structure and recognition; musical theory and sonograms
  • Human perception of insect songs
  • Appreciation and aesthetics 
  • How to extend the lives of singers in the fall by bringing them inside your house
  • Anatomical and musical differences between cicadas, grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets
  • Field ID: species recognition by sight, sound, and habitat belonging to the following families
    • Field crickets, ground crickets, tree crickets, bush crickets and trigs 
    • Mole crickets
    • Katydids, including meadow katydids, true and false katydids, coneheads, shieldbacks
    • Grasshoppers, also called locusts
    • Cicadas
  • You will be learning to recognize by song a minimum of 5 species of cicadas, 6 ground crickets, 2 trigs, 2 bush and field crickets, 5 tree crickets, and 8 katydids. We will be providing learning guides and checklists.

TRUE OR FALSE – Take this little quiz just for fun. This is a little taste of the kinds of things you will be learning

  1. The most biologically diverse and the most commonly heard of the day singers in Ohio are the grasshoppers.
  2. All cicada species spend many years of their lives as nymphs below the ground before becoming an adult.
  3. All cicada species are periodical, that is, they only appear all at once on a 13 or 17 year cycle.
  4. Cricket songs are very low in frequency, on the edge of most human’s hearing. Much of their songs go unheard.
  5. Cricket songs will sound very different at various temperatures
  6. Both male and female crickets and katydids sing.

Answers: 1. False, there are relatively few species of grasshoppers that sing loud enough to be heard easily. 2. True. 3. False, most cicada species have staggered emergences. 4. False, they are right in the middle of the human hearing range. As we get older some species are harder to hear. 5. True. 6. False. Only the males in all of the above families sing, and they do so as part of their breeding display.


Slightly Musical Conehead. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Dark Brown Straight-Lanced Meadow Katydid. Photo by Lisa Rainsong
Snowy Tree Cricket. Photo by Wil Hershberger.
Swamp Cicada by Wil Hershberger
Black-sided Meadow Katydid ovipositing on cattail by Lisa Rainsong
Handsome Trig singing by Lisa Rainsong
Common True Katydid by Lisa Rainsong