September 2 – Jimminy Cricket!

Today’s factismal: Citizen scientists have discovered that Asian cave crickets now outnumber North American cave crickets on the East Coast.

One of the most common questions asked about citizen science is “Does it really matter?” And that’s understandable. People want to know that their contributions are useful and actually help scientists learn more about the world. Today, we’ve got an example to show that it really does.

A Camel cricket, close up and personal(Image courtesy Your Wild Life)

A Camel cricket, close up and personal
(Image courtesy Your Wild Life)

It all started when a biologist specializing in crickets went into a fellow biologist’s basement during what is described as a “social gathering” (If you are a biologist, that’s a real knee-slapper. And if you are a sociobiologist, then you are probably wiping tears of laughter form your eyes.) While down in the basement,t he researcher saw a cricket. Not being one to overlook the hand of Providence, she captured the cricket and took it to her laboratory where she discovered that it was an Asian cave cricket. In Asia, that would have been the end of it. But this was North Carolina and a research project was born.

The biologists partnered up and started an online survey asking people to identify what sort of cricket they had in their homes and to send pictures if they could. In the end, they heard from 669 households in 39 states and discovered two amazing facts. First, 88% of the houses had Asian camel crickets in their basements and only 12% had native camel crickets. The invaders had taken over. Second, some of the photos showed that a second type of Asian camel cricket was invading as well. Not only were we being invaded but they had brought friends.

Another species of camel cricket(Image courtesy North Carolina State University)

Another species of camel cricket
(Image courtesy North Carolina State University)

Even though the biologists have published one paper with the results of the citizen science work done by people like you, they’d like to learn more. (We always want to learn more. The only thing that scientists like more than cookies is data.) And so they’ve asked for people to continue telling them about the crickets in their homes. If you’d like to help researchers learn more about camel crickets, then please keep an eye out for them in your neighborhood. If you spot one, try to take a picture and send it to the Camel Cricket Census:

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