Crickets as pets

Crickets as pets

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Keeping crickets as pets emerged in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 in early antiquity. Initially, crickets
Cricket (insect)
Crickets, family Gryllidae , are insects somewhat related to grasshoppers, and more closely related to katydids or bush crickets . They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are about 900 species of crickets...

 were kept for their "songs" (stridulation
Stridulation
Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts. This behavior is mostly associated with insects, but other animals are known to do this as well, such as a number of species of fishes, snakes and spiders...

). In the early 12th century the Chinese people
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 began holding cricket fights
Cricket fighting
Cricket fighting is a blood sport involving the fighting of male crickets. Unlike most blood sports such as bullfighting and cockfighting, however, cricket fighting rarely causes injuries to the animals...

.Yutaka Suga, p. 79, discusses another theory dating cricket fights to the 8th century. However, the earliest reliable evidence is dated 12th century. Throughout the Imperial era the Chinese also kept pet cicada
Cicada
A cicada is an insect of the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha , in the superfamily Cicadoidea, with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the world, and many of them remain unclassified...

s and grasshopper
Grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...

s, but crickets were the favorites in the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum...

 and with the commoners alike. The art of selecting and breeding the finest fighting crickets was perfected during the Qing dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 and remained a monopoly of the imperial court until the beginning of the 19th century.

The Imperial patronage promoted the art of making elaborate cricket containers and individual cricket homes. Traditional Chinese cricket homes come in three distinct shapes: wooden cages, ceramic jars, and gourd
Gourd
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term 'gourd' however, can more specifically, refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow dried out shell...

s. Cages are used primarily for trapping and transportation. Gourds and ceramic jars are used as permanent cricket homes in winter and summer, respectively. They are treated with special mortar to enhance the apparent loudness and tone of a cricket's song. The imperial gardeners grew custom-shaped molded
Molding (process)
Molding or moulding is the process of manufacturing by shaping pliable raw material using a rigid frame or model called a pattern....

 gourds tailored to each species of cricket. Their trade secrets were lost during the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

 and the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, but crickets remain a favorite pet of the Chinese to the present day. The Japanese pet cricket culture, which emerged at least a thousand years ago, has practically vanished during the 20th century.

Chinese cricket culture and cricket-related business is highly seasonal. Trapping crickets in the fields peaks in August and extends into September. The crickets soon end up at the markets of Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai is the largest city by population in China and the largest city proper in the world. It is one of the four province-level municipalities in the People's Republic of China, with a total population of over 23 million as of 2010...

 and other major cities. Cricket fighting season extends until the end of autumn, overlapping with the Mid-Autumn Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival
The Mid-Autumn Festival , also known as the Moon Festival or Mooncake Festival or Zhongqiu Festival, is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. A description of the festival first appeared in Rites of Zhou, a written collection of rituals of the Western Zhou...

 and the National Day
National Day of the People's Republic of China
The National Day of the People's Republic of China is celebrated every year on October 1. It is a public holiday in the People's Republic of China to celebrate their national day.The PRC was founded on October 1, 1949 with a ceremony at Tiananmen Square...

. Chinese breeders are striving to make cricket fighting a year-round pastime, but the seasonal tradition prevails.

Modern Western sources recommend keeping pet crickets in transparent jars or small terrariums providing at least two inches of soil for burrowing and containing egg-crate shells or similar objects for shelter. A cricket's life span is short: Development from an egg to imago
Imago
In biology, the imago is the last stage of development of an insect, after the last ecdysis of an incomplete metamorphosis, or after emergence from the pupa where the metamorphosis is complete...

 takes from one to two months. The imago then lives for around one month. Cricket hobbyists have to frequently replace aging insects with younger ones which are either specifically bred for cricket fighting or caught in the wild. This makes crickets less appealing as pets in Western countries. The speed of growth, coupled with the ease of breeding and raising larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e, makes industrial-grown crickets a preferred and inexpensive food source for pet birds, reptiles, and spiders.

Cricket biology


True crickets are insects of the Gryllidae, a cosmopolitan family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 of around 100 genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 comprising some 800 species, belonging to the order
Order (biology)
In scientific classification used in biology, the order is# a taxonomic rank used in the classification of organisms. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, family, genus, and species, with order fitting in between class and family...

 Orthoptera
Orthoptera
Orthoptera is an order of insects with paurometabolous or incomplete metamorphosis, including the grasshoppers, crickets and locusts.Many insects in this order produce sound by rubbing their wings against each other or their legs, the wings or legs containing rows of corrugated bumps...

. Crickets, like other Orthoptera (grasshoppers
Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are insects of the suborder Caelifera.Grasshoppers may also refer to:* Grasshopper , a Hong Kong-based musical group* Grasshopper Club Zürich, a Swiss football club...

 and katydids
Tettigoniidae
The family Tettigoniidae, known in American English as katydids and in British English as bush-crickets, contains more than 6,400 species. It is part of the suborder Ensifera and the only family in the superfamily Tettigonioidea. They are also known as long-horned grasshoppers, although they are...

), are capable of producing high-pitched sound by stridulation
Stridulation
Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts. This behavior is mostly associated with insects, but other animals are known to do this as well, such as a number of species of fishes, snakes and spiders...

. Crickets differ from other Orthoptera in four aspects: Crickets possess three-segmented tarsi
Arthropod leg
The arthropod leg is a form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking. Many of the terms used for arthropod leg segments are of Latin origin, and may be confused with terms for bones: coxa , trochanter , femur, tibia, tarsus, ischium, metatarsus, carpus, dactylus ,...

 and long antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

; their tympanum
Tympanal organ
A tympanal organ is a hearing organ in insects, consisting of a membrane stretched across a frame backed by an air sac and associated sensory neurons...

 is located at the base of the front tibia
Arthropod leg
The arthropod leg is a form of jointed appendage of arthropods, usually used for walking. Many of the terms used for arthropod leg segments are of Latin origin, and may be confused with terms for bones: coxa , trochanter , femur, tibia, tarsus, ischium, metatarsus, carpus, dactylus ,...

; and the females have long, slender ovipositor
Ovipositor
The ovipositor is an organ used by some animals for oviposition, i.e., the laying of eggs. It consists of a maximum of three pairs of appendages formed to transmit the egg, to prepare a place for it, and to place it properly...

s.

The life cycle of a cricket usually spans no more than three months. The larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e of the field cricket
Field cricket
Field crickets are insects of order Orthoptera. These crickets are in subfamily Gryllinae of family Gryllidae.They hatch in spring, and the young crickets eat and grow rapidly. They shed their skin eight or more times before they become adults.Field crickets eat a broad range of feeds: seeds,...

 hatch from eggs in 7–8 days, while those of Acheta domesticus develop in 11–12 days. Development of the larvae in a controlled, warm (30 °C (86 °F)) farm environment takes four to five weeks for all cultivated species. After the fourth or fifth larval instar
Instar
An instar is a developmental stage of arthropods, such as insects, between each molt , until sexual maturity is reached. Arthropods must shed the exoskeleton in order to grow or assume a new form. Differences between instars can often be seen in altered body proportions, colors, patterns, or...

 the wingless larvae moult into the winged imago
Imago
In biology, the imago is the last stage of development of an insect, after the last ecdysis of an incomplete metamorphosis, or after emergence from the pupa where the metamorphosis is complete...

 which lives for around one month. Crickets are omnivorous, opportunistic scavengers. They feed on decaying vegetable matter and fruit, and attack weaker insects or their larvae.Levchenko, p. 125, warns against uncontrolled feeding of crickets to spiders immediately before and during moulting. A cricket will eagerly attack a much larger but defenseless moulting spider.

A male cricket "sings" by raising his wing covers (tegmina
Tegmen
A tegmen designates the modified leathery front wing on an insect particularly in the orders Dermaptera , Orthoptera , Mantodea , Phasmatodea and Blattodea .-The nature of tegmina:The term tegmen refers to a miscellaneous and arbitrary group of organs...

) above the body and rubbing their bases against each other. The wing covers of a mature male cricket have protruding, irregularly shaped veins. The scraper of the left wing cover rubs against the file
File (tool)
A file is a metalworking and woodworking tool used to cut fine amounts of material from a workpiece. It most commonly refers to the hand tool style, which takes the form of a steel bar with a case hardened surface and a series of sharp, parallel teeth. Most files have a narrow, pointed tang at one...

 of the right wing, producing a high-pitched chirp. Crickets are much smaller than the sound wavelength
Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength of a sinusoidal wave is the spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.It is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings, and is a...

s that they emit, which makes them inefficient transducer
Transducer
A transducer is a device that converts one type of energy to another. Energy types include electrical, mechanical, electromagnetic , chemical, acoustic or thermal energy. While the term transducer commonly implies the use of a sensor/detector, any device which converts energy can be considered a...

s, but they overcome this disadvantage by using external natural resonators. Ground-dwelling field cricket
Field cricket
Field crickets are insects of order Orthoptera. These crickets are in subfamily Gryllinae of family Gryllidae.They hatch in spring, and the young crickets eat and grow rapidly. They shed their skin eight or more times before they become adults.Field crickets eat a broad range of feeds: seeds,...

s use their funnel-shaped burrow entrances as acoustic horns
Horn (acoustic)
A horn is a tapered sound guide designed to provide an acoustic impedance match between a sound source and free air. This has the effect of maximizing the efficiency with which sound waves from the particular source are transferred to the air...

; Oecanthus burmeisteri attach themselves to leaves which serve as soundboards and increase sound volume by 15 to 47 times. Chinese handlers increase the apparent loudness of their captive crickets by waxing the insects' tympanum
Tympanal organ
A tympanal organ is a hearing organ in insects, consisting of a membrane stretched across a frame backed by an air sac and associated sensory neurons...

 with a mixture of cypress
Cypress
Cypress is the name applied to many plants in the cypress family Cupressaceae, which is a conifer of northern temperate regions. Most cypress species are trees, while a few are shrubs...

 or lacebark tree sap and cinnabar
Cinnabar
Cinnabar or cinnabarite , is the common ore of mercury.-Word origin:The name comes from κινναβαρι , a Greek word most likely applied by Theophrastus to several distinct substances...

. A legend says that this treatment was discovered in the day of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

, when the Emperor's cricket, held in a cage suspended from a pine tree, was observed to develop an "unusually beautiful voice" after accidentally dipping its wings in tree sap.

Entomologists
Entomology
Entomology is the scientific study of insects, a branch of arthropodology...

 from Ivan Regen
Ivan Regen
Ivan Regen was a Slovenian biologist, best known for his studies in the field of bioacoustics....

 onward have agreed that the principal purpose of a male cricket's "song" is to attract females for mating
Mating
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...

. Berthold Laufer
Berthold Laufer
Berthold Laufer was a German-American anthropologist and orientalist.Laufer was born in Cologne to a Jewish family. He attended the Friedrich Wilhelms Gymnasium from 1884-1893. He continued his studies in Berlin and completed his doctorate degree at the University of Leipzig in 1897...

 and Frank Lutz recognized the fact but noted that it was not clear why males do it continuously throughout most of their adult lives, when actual mating doesn't take much time. More is known about the attractive mechanism of a cricket's song. Scientists exposed cricket females to synthesized
Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

 "cricket songs", carefully varying different acoustic parameters, and measured the degree of females' response to different sounds. They found that although each species has its own optimal mating call, the repetition rate of chirp "syllables" was the single most important parameter. A male's singing skills do not guarantee him instant success: other, silent, males may be waiting nearby to intercept the females he attracts. Other males may be attracted by the song and rush to the singer just as females do. When another cricket confronts a singing male, the two insects determine each other's sex by touching their antennae
Antenna (biology)
Antennae in biology have historically been paired appendages used for sensing in arthropods. More recently, the term has also been applied to cilium structures present in most cell types of eukaryotes....

. If it turns out that both crickets are male, the contact leads to a fight.This is a simplified model of Teleogryllus commodus behaviour. Huber et al., pp. 48–54, discuss various other means of sexual recognition in different species. Crickets, and Orthoptera in general, are model organisms for the study of male-male aggression, although females can also be aggressive. According to Judge and Bonanno, the shape and size of male crickets' heads are a direct result of selection through male-male fights.

The fact that only males sing, and only males fight, means that females have little value as pets apart from breeding. Chinese keepers feed young home-bred females to birds as soon as crickets display sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism
Sexual dimorphism is a phenotypic difference between males and females of the same species. Examples of such differences include differences in morphology, ornamentation, and behavior.-Examples:-Ornamentation / coloration:...

. There is one notable exception: males of Homoeogryllus japonicus
Suzumushi
is the Japanese name for the bell cricket, also known as the bell-ring cricket. It is known particularly for its song.-Japanese literature:...

 (suzumushi or jin zhong) sing only in the presence of females, so some females are spared to provide company to the males.

History


The singing cricket became a domestic pet in early antiquity. The ancestors of modern Chinese people possessed a unique attitude towards small creatures, which is preserved in present-day culture of flower, bird, fish, insect.See Suga, pp. 77–78, for a review of the evolution of flower, bird, fish, insect culture. Other cultures studied and conquered big game: large animals, birds, and fishes. The Chinese, according to Laufer
Berthold Laufer
Berthold Laufer was a German-American anthropologist and orientalist.Laufer was born in Cologne to a Jewish family. He attended the Friedrich Wilhelms Gymnasium from 1884-1893. He continued his studies in Berlin and completed his doctorate degree at the University of Leipzig in 1897...

, were more interested in insects than in all other wildlife. Insects, rather than mammals or birds, became symbols of bravery (mantis
Mantis
Mantis is the common name of any insect in the order Mantodea, also commonly known as praying mantises. The word itself means "prophet" in Latin and Greek...

) or resurrection (cicada
Cicada
A cicada is an insect of the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha , in the superfamily Cicadoidea, with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the world, and many of them remain unclassified...

), and became a precious economic asset (silkworm
Bombyx mori
The silkworm is the larva or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth, Bombyx mori . It is an economically important insect, being a primary producer of silk...

).

Between 500 and 200 B.C. the Chinese compiled Erya
Erya
The Erya is the oldest extant Chinese dictionary or Chinese encyclopedia. Bernhard Karlgren concluded that "the major part of its glosses must reasonably date from" the 3rd century BC....

, a universal encyclopedia which prominently featured insects. The Affairs of the period Tsin-Tao (742–756) mention that "whenever the autumnal season arrives, the ladies of the palace catch crickets in small golden cages ... and during the night hearken to the voices of the insects. This custom was imitated by all the people." The oldest artifact identified as a cricket home was discovered in a tomb dated 960 A.D. The Field Museum of Natural History
Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum of Natural History is located in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It sits on Lake Shore Drive next to Lake Michigan, part of a scenic complex known as the Museum Campus Chicago...

 owned a 12th-century scroll painted by Su Han-Chen depicting children playing with crickets. By this time, as evidenced in the painting, the Chinese had already developed the art of making clay cricket homes, the skills of careful handling of the insects, and the practice of tickling to stimulate them. The first reliable accounts of cricket fights date back to the 12th century (Sung Dynasty) but there is also a theory tracing cricket fights to the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang , also commonly known as Emperor Ming of Tang , personal name Li Longji , known as Wu Longji from 690 to 705, was the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty in China, reigning from 712 to 756. His reign of 43 years was the longest during the Tang Dynasty...

 (8th century).

Singing and fighting crickets were the favorite pets of the Emperors of China
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

. The noble pastime attracted the educated class, resulting in a wealth of medieval treatises on keeping crickets. The oldest one, The Book of Crickets (Tsu chi king), was written by Kia Se-Tao in the first half of the 13th century. It was followed by the Ming period
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 books by Chou Li-Tsin and Liu Tong
Liu Tong
Liu Tong was a Chinese prose master and official from Macheng in Huanggang. He was a figure in the Ming Dynasty's Jingling school of Chinese prose literature in contrast to the Gongan school and the well known Yuan Hongdao and his brothers...

 and early Qing period
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 books by Fang Hu and Chen Hao-Tse. According to Yutaka Suga, cricket fighting was also popular among the commoners of Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

 and they, rather than the nobles, were "the driving force behind the amusement" during the Qing period. The court, in turn, forced the commoners to collect and pay their dues in fine fighting crickets, as was retold by Pu Songling
Pu Songling
Pu Songling was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.-Biography:Pu was born into a poor landlord-merchant family from Zichuan...

 in A Cricket Boy
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio or Liaozhai Zhiyi is a collection of nearly five hundred mostly supernatural tales written by Pu Songling in Classical Chinese during the early Qing Dynasty.Pu borrows from a folk tradition of oral storytelling to put to paper a series of captivating,...

 (early 18th century). In this story, which is set in the reign of the Xuande Emperor
Xuande Emperor
The Xuande Emperor was Emperor of China from 1425 to 1435. His era name means "Proclamation of Virtue".-Biography:...

, an unfortunate peasant was given the impossible task of finding the strongest prize-fighting cricket. His cricket miraculously defeated all Emperor's insects; the ending reveals that the champion was mysteriously guided by the spirit of an unconscious child.

One aspect of cricket-keeping, that of growing molded, custom-shaped gourd
Gourd
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term 'gourd' however, can more specifically, refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow dried out shell...

s destined to become cricket homes, was an exclusive monopoly of the Forbidden City. The royal gardeners would place the ovary
Ovary (plants)
In the flowering plants, an ovary is a part of the female reproductive organ of the flower or gynoecium. Specifically, it is the part of the pistil which holds the ovule and is located above or below or at the point of connection with the base of the petals and sepals...

 of an emerging Lagenaria
Lagenaria
Lagenaria is a genus of gourd bearing vines from the family Cucurbitaceae, also known as the "Squash" family. It contains at least seven species, one of which is known as the Calabash . Its species fruit can either be harvested young and used as a vegetable or harvested mature, dried, and used as...

 fruit inside an earthen mould, forcing the fruit to take up the desired shape. The oldest surviving molded gourd, Hasshin Hyōko dated 1238, is preserved in Hōryū-ji
Hōryū-ji
is a Buddhist temple in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, Japan. Its full name is Hōryū Gakumonji , or Learning Temple of the Flourishing Law, the complex serving as seminary and monastery both....

 temple in Japan. The art reached its peak in the 18th century, when the gardeners implemented reusable carved wood and disposable clay molds. The shapes of the gourds were tailored to different species of cricket: larger gourds for larger species, long-bottle gourds for the species known for long hops, and so on. Immature fruit easily reproduces the artwork carved into the mold, but also easily picks up any natural or man-made impurities. The finest craftsmen exploited, rather than concealed, these blemishes. Molded gourds were a symbol of the highest social standing. The ones held by Chinese royalty depicted in medieval portraits were actually prized cricket containers. The Yongzheng Emperor
Yongzheng Emperor
The Yongzheng Emperor , born Yinzhen , was the fifth emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty and the third Qing emperor from 1722 to 1735. A hard-working ruler, Yongzheng's main goal was to create an effective government at minimal expense. Like his father, the Kangxi Emperor, Yongzheng used military...

 held a gourd in his hand even when he was sleeping, the Qianlong Emperor
Qianlong Emperor
The Qianlong Emperor was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796...

 maintained a private molded gourd garden. In the 1800s the Jiaqing Emperor
Jiaqing Emperor
The Jiaqing Emperor was the seventh emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fifth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1796 to 1820....

 lifted the monopoly on molded gourds, but they remained expensive even for the upper classes.

At the end of the Imperial era Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi1 , of the Manchu Yehenara clan, was a powerful and charismatic figure who became the de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty in China for 47 years from 1861 to her death in 1908....

 revitalized cricket fighting by staging contests between cricket breeders. A cricket of her successor, the infant Emperor Puyi
Puyi
Puyi , of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, was the last Emperor of China, and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing Dynasty. He ruled as the Xuantong Emperor from 1908 until his abdication on 12 February 1912. From 1 to 12 July 1917 he was briefly restored to the throne as a nominal emperor by the...

, became a plot device
Plot device
A plot device is an object or character in a story whose sole purpose is to advance the plot of the story, or alternatively to overcome some difficulty in the plot....

 in Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci is an Italian film director and screenwriter, whose films include The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, 1900, The Last Emperor and The Dreamers...

's film The Last Emperor
The Last Emperor
The Last Emperor is a 1987 biopic about the life of Puyi, the last Emperor of China, whose autobiography was the basis for the screenplay written by Mark Peploe and Bernardo Bertolucci. Independently produced by Jeremy Thomas, it was directed by Bertolucci and released in 1987 by Columbia Pictures...

 (1987). Bertolucci presented the cricket's container as a magic black box
Black box
A black box is a device, object, or system whose inner workings are unknown; only the input, transfer, and output are known characteristics.The term black box can also refer to:-In science and technology:*Black box theory, a philosophical theory...

 that opens up the memories of Puyi. According to Bruce Sklarew, the cricket, mysteriously emerging from the box, carries at least three meanings: it is the metaphor
Metaphor
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

 of Puyi himself, it is the metaphor of his wisdom acquired through suffering, and a symbol of the ultimate freedom that comes with death.

The ancient secrets of cricket handling and cricket-related crafts, only some of which were recorded on paper, were largely lost during the Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War
The Chinese Civil War was a civil war fought between the Kuomintang , the governing party of the Republic of China, and the Communist Party of China , for the control of China which eventually led to China's division into two Chinas, Republic of China and People's Republic of...

. From 1949 to 1976 the Communist regime suppressed cricket keeping, which was deemed an unacceptable distraction and a symbol of the past. Cricket trade was banned altogether in the 1950s, but continued secretly even on the People's Square
People's Square (Shanghai)
People's Square is a large public square adjacent to Nanjing Road in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, China. People's Square is the site of Shanghai's municipal government headquarter building, and is used as the standard reference point for measurement of distance in the Shanghai...

 of Shanghai. A dozen illegal markets emerged in the 1980s, and in 1987 the government formally allowed trading crickets on the Liuhe Road. By 1993 there were five legal markets, and in the 21st century Shanghai has over 20 cricket markets.

Trapping


The short life span of a cricket necessitates frequent replacement of ageing insects. The crickets sold in present-day China are usually caught in the wild in remote provinces. Earlier, most crickets sold in major cities were caught in the nearby countryside, but in the 21st century a local catch, or dichong, is extremely rare. The majority of crickets sold in Shanghai in the 1990s and the 2000s came from rural Ningjin County
Ningjin County, Shandong
Ningjin County is a county of northwestern Shandong province, People's Republic of China, bordering Hebei province to the north. It is administered by Dezhou City.The population was 444,038 in 1999.- External links :*...

 in Shandong
Shandong
' is a Province located on the eastern coast of the People's Republic of China. Shandong has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese...

, where cricket hunting became a second job for local peasants. Practically all people of Ningjin—men and women of all ages—engage in the cricket business. A peasant usually makes around 70 yuan
Chinese yuan
The yuan is the base unit of a number of modern Chinese currencies. The yuan is the primary unit of account of the Renminbi.A yuán is also known colloquially as a kuài . One yuán is divided into 10 jiǎo or colloquially máo...

 per night, and 2000 yuan per season. A very good season can bring a family over 10,000 yuan ($1,210).

Cricket catching extends over August and September. Crickets are most active between midnight and dawn. They are agile creatures, and when distressed they quickly hide into burrows or improvised shelter, or hop and even fly away. Typical Chinese crickets hide underground,Burrowing crickets use funnel-shaped entrances to their nests as natural resonator
Resonator
A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior, that is, it naturally oscillates at some frequencies, called its resonant frequencies, with greater amplitude than at others. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical...

s to amplify their songs. A singing cricket literally faces its own burrow and can instantly hide underground. – Huber et al., p. 44.
so the catcher's first task is to either force or lure the insect out of its hideout. Trappers from the North of China use lighted candles to lure insects into their traps. Trappers from the South use iron cage-like lanterns or fire baskets to carry smoldering charcoal
Charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...

 which forces insects to flee from the smoke. Other ways of forcing the insect out involve flooding their burrows or setting up juicy fruit baits. The Ningjin trappers use a simple tool, similar to an ice pick, for digging earth and poking under stones.

The trapper who has located a cricket must catch and contain the insect without causing it any injuries. Present-day trappers use zhao, a soft catching net on a wire frame, to contain the cricket on the ground. The captured crickets are then placed into a clay pot and stay there until being sold; they are fed a few boiled rice grains per day. Earlier, the Chinese used cage-like traps made of bamboo
Bamboo
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family....

 or ivory
Ivory
Ivory is a term for dentine, which constitutes the bulk of the teeth and tusks of animals, when used as a material for art or manufacturing. Ivory has been important since ancient times for making a range of items, from ivory carvings to false teeth, fans, dominoes, joint tubes, piano keys and...

 rods. Pavel Piassetsky, who visited Beijing in the 1880s, described a different technique. The Beijing people used two kind of tools: a bell-like bowl with a hole in its bottom, and a tube several inches long. When a cricket was forced to leave its hideout, the trapper would quickly cover it with the bell. When the trapped cricket emerged from the hole, the trapper would present the tube, and the cricket would eagerly hide inside it. The plugged tube then became a convenient cricket cage.

Logistics


In his 1927 book, Laufer described seven species of crickets kept by the people of Beijing; Oecanthus rufescens and Homeogryllys japonicus
Suzumushi
is the Japanese name for the bell cricket, also known as the bell-ring cricket. It is known particularly for its song.-Japanese literature:...

 were the favorites based on their "singing" rather than fighting qualities. The most common species sold by Chinese traders in the 21st century are Anaxipha pallidula, Homeoxipha lycoides, Gryllus bimaculatus
Gryllus bimaculatus
Gryllus bimaculatus is one of many cricket species known as the Field cricket. Also known as the African or Mediterranean field cricket or as the two-spotted cricket, it can be discriminated from other Gryllus species by the two dot-like marks on the base of its wings.This species of cricket is...

. Velarifictorus micado from Shandong is especially prized. Ningjin peasants collect only the Velarifictorus species and discard the abundant Teleogryllus emma and Loxoblemmus doenitzii, which are not used in cricket fighting. Peasants usually cannot even remotely estimate the probable market value of the catch. At best, they can sort crickets by size; their objective is to sell the catch to the wholesalers as soon as possible. They offload their catch at the local roadside markets (daji) in the early morning, immediately after the night shift. They frequently overstate their selling skills: many crickets remain unsold and are discarded.

The trade is driven by urban consumers. As recently as 1991, from 300,000 to 400,000 people of Shanghai engaged in cricket fighting, with around 100,000 crickets fighting every day of the August–September season. Dealers from a large city normally control cricket haunts within 1000 kilometres (621.4 mi) of their base. The dealers and aficionados from Shanghai arrive in Ningjin in groups and lodge in the villages. Unlike the peasants, they are skilled in quick evaluation of the insects and have a stronger hand in bargaining. They have complex systems of ranking crickets in up to 140 grades (pinzhong). They quickly get what they came for and return to their home cities. The markets that normally sell bonsai
Bonsai
is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hòn non bộ...

 and goldfish
Goldfish
The goldfish is a freshwater fish in the family Cyprinidae of order Cypriniformes. It was one of the earliest fish to be domesticated, and is one of the most commonly kept aquarium fish....

 are suddenly overwhelmed with a mass of cricket buyers and sellers. Shanghai is a clear leader but the same activity takes place in all major cities. Local authorities encourage the trade and organize seasonal cricket fairs.

Fighting and gambling


Cricket fighting is a seasonal sport, "an autumn pastime" (qiu xing) that relies on the supply of wild-caught insects. Young crickets must mature before fighting; thus the high season begins near the autumn equinox
Equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

. Crickets are placed in individual clay homes sprinkled with herbal medicines, bathed in licorice infusion
Infusion
An infusion is the outcome of steeping plants with desired chemical compounds or flavors in water or oil.-History:The first recorded use of essential oils was in the 10th or 11th century by the Persian polymath Avicenna, possibly in The Canon of Medicine.-Preparation techniques:An infusion is very...

 every three to five days and fed according to each owner's secret recipes. The traditional diet of captive crickets, described by Laufer, consisted of seasonal green vegetables in the summer and masticated
Mastication
Mastication or chewing is the process by which food is crushed and ground by teeth. It is the first step of digestion and it increases the surface area of foods to allow more efficient break down by enzymes. During the mastication process, the food is positioned between the teeth for grinding by...

 chestnuts and yellow beans in winter. The Southern Chinese also fed their crickets chopped fish, insects and honey. Fighting crickets were given a special treatment of rice, lotus seeds, and mosquitoes, and an undisclosed herbal stimulant.

The owners closely watch the cricket's behavior for signs of discomfort, and adjust the diet to bring the fighters into shape. The crickets are mated with females before the fight, as the Chinese believe that, unlike other beings, male crickets become more aggressive after having sex. In Laufer's time the fighters were sorted in three weight classes
Weight classes
Weight classes are divisions of competition used to match competitors against others of their own size. This reduces the exclusion of smaller athletes in sports where physical size gives a significant advantage...

; present-day Shanghai aficionados have a system of nine classes from 0.51 to 0.74 grams. Both sides in a fight should belong to the same class, thus before the fight the crickets are weighed on high-precision scales (huang). The units of cricket weight, zun and dian, are not used anywhere else.

The fights are held outdoors in an oval ring (douzha), which was traditionally a flat clay pot but is more commonly a plastic container today. Crickets are stimulated with a tickler (cao) made of a rat's whisker hairs (Beijing style) or of fresh grass strands (Shanghai style). The handler tickles the cricket's head, then the abdomen, and finally the hind legs. Each fight consists of three or five bouts; the winner must score in two of three or three of five bouts. A bout is stopped when the triumphant winner extends his wings as a sign of victory, or when his opponent flees from the action. Laufer wrote that the fights of his time usually ended in the death of one of the crickets: The winners physically beheaded their opponents. Present-day fights may look vicious but are not lethal; the loser is always allowed to flee from the winner.

A winning cricket progresses from fight to fight to the rank of "the General". Laufer wrote that the people of Whampoa
Huangpu District, Guangzhou
Huangpu District is one of the ten districts in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, People's Republic of China.-History:...

 buried their dead fighting champions in tiny silver coffins. According to a local tradition, a proper burial of a "general" ensures a good catch of wild crickets. Live champion fighters sell for hundreds, rarely thousands of U.S. dollars. The highest price for a single cricket was recorded in 1999 at 100,000 yuan ($12,000). The lowest price, of around 1 yuan, is for the mute and shy females that still have some value as consorts to the fighting males. The cheapest males sell for five yuan.

Betting on cricket fights is outlawed throughout the PRC
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 but widespread on the streets. In 2004 Shanghai police reported that it had raided 17,478 gambling places involving around 57,000 people. One such place specializing in cricket fights was located in an old factory building and had around 200 patrons, men in their forties and fifties, when the police arrived. Bets at this place started at 5,000 yuan
Chinese yuan
The yuan is the base unit of a number of modern Chinese currencies. The yuan is the primary unit of account of the Renminbi.A yuán is also known colloquially as a kuài . One yuán is divided into 10 jiǎo or colloquially máo...

 ($600). According to an anonymous source of China Daily
China Daily
The China Daily is an English language daily newspaper published in the People's Republic of China.- Overview :China Daily was established in June 1981 and has the widest print circulation of any English-language newspaper in the country...

, secretive and elusive "luxury games" take place not in Shanghai but in the outlying provinces. Official attitudes about fighting vary from region to region: Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 banned fights altogether; Hangzhou
Hangzhou
Hangzhou , formerly transliterated as Hangchow, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. Governed as a sub-provincial city, and as of 2010, its entire administrative division or prefecture had a registered population of 8.7 million people...

 regulates it as a professional sport.

Cricket homes


Male crickets, whether held for fighting or for singing, always live in solitary individual homes or containers. Laufer in his 1927 book wrote that Chinese people sometimes hoarded hundreds of singing crickets, with dedicated cricket rooms filled with many rows of cricket homes. Such houses were filled with "a deafening noise which a Chinese is able to stand for any length of time". Present-day cricket containers take three different shapes: cages are used for trapping and transportation, ceramic jars or pots are used in the summer and autumn, and in the winter the surviving crickets are moved into gourd
Gourd
A gourd is a plant of the family Cucurbitaceae. Gourd is occasionally used to describe crops like cucumbers, squash, luffas, and melons. The term 'gourd' however, can more specifically, refer to the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita or also to their hollow dried out shell...

s.

Wooden cages made of tiny rods and planks were once the most common type of insect house. The people of Shanghai and Hangzhou areas still use stool-shaped cages for keeping captive grasshopper
Grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...

s. Elsewhere, cages were historically used for keeping captive cicada
Cicada
A cicada is an insect of the order Hemiptera, suborder Auchenorrhyncha , in the superfamily Cicadoidea, with large eyes wide apart on the head and usually transparent, well-veined wings. There are about 2,500 species of cicada around the world, and many of them remain unclassified...

s. They were suspended outdoors, at the eaves of the houses and from tree branches. Their use declined when the Chinese concentrated on keeping crickets. Small cages are still used for transporting crickets. Some are curved to follow the shape of a human body; crickets need warmth and prefer to be kept close to the body. The cage is placed in a tao, a kind of protective silk
Silk
Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The best-known type of silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity...

 bag, and is ideally carried in the pocket of a shirt. A special type of funnel-shaped wire mesh cage is used to temporarily contain the cricket while its main home is being cleaned.

Ceramic jars or pots with flat lids, introduced in the Ming period, are the preferred type of container for keeping the cricket in summer. Some jars are shaped as a gourd but most are cylindrical. Thick clay walls effectively shield the cricket from excessive heat. Ceramic pots are used for raising cricket larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e until the insect matures to the point when it can be safely transported in a cage or a gourd. The bottom of the jar is filled with a mortar
Mortar (masonry)
Mortar is a workable paste used to bind construction blocks together and fill the gaps between them. The blocks may be stone, brick, cinder blocks, etc. Mortar becomes hard when it sets, resulting in a rigid aggregate structure. Modern mortars are typically made from a mixture of sand, a binder...

 made of clay, lime, and sand. It is levelled at a slant angle of about thirty degrees, smoothed, and dried into a shiny solid mass. In addition to shaping the cricket's habitat, it also defines the acoustic properties of a cricket house. Inside, the jar may contain a cricket "bed" or "sleeping box" (lingfan) made of clay, wood, or ivory, and miniature porcelain "dishes".

Pet crickets spend winters in a different type of container made of a gourd (the hard-shelled fruit of Lagenaria vulgaris). The bottoms of the gourds are filled with lime mortar. The carved lids can be made of jade
Jade
Jade is an ornamental stone.The term jade is applied to two different metamorphic rocks that are made up of different silicate minerals:...

, coconut shell, sandalwood and ivory; the most common motif employs an ornament of gourd vines, flowers, and fruits. The thickness of the lid and the configuration of vents in it are tailored to enhance the tone of a cricket's song. The ancient art of growing molded gourds was lost during the Cultural Revolution
Cultural Revolution
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution , was a socio-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966 through 1976...

, when the old pastime was deemed inappropriate for Red China. 20th-century cricket enthusiasts like Wang Shixiang
Wang Shixiang
Wang Shixiang was a Chinese researcher of traditional Chinese culture, leading art collector, poet and Hanzi-calligrapher.-Youth:...

 had to carve their gourds themselves. Contemporary cricket gourds have carved, rather than naturally molded, surfaces. Molded gourds are being slowly re-introduced since the 1990s by enthusiasts like Zhang Cairi.

Pet crickets in Japan


The two species most esteemed in Japan, according to Huber et al., are the Homoeogryllus japonicus (bell cricket, suzumushi
Suzumushi
is the Japanese name for the bell cricket, also known as the bell-ring cricket. It is known particularly for its song.-Japanese literature:...

) and Xenogryllus marmoratus (pine cricket, matsumushi).Contemporary English translators renders suzumushi as bell cricket, matsumushi as pine cricket – see translator's notes to The Tale of Genji, pp. 445 and 1135. Lafcadio Hearn
Lafcadio Hearn
Patrick Lafcadio Hearn , known also by the Japanese name , was an international writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things...

 in his 1898 book named the third species, kirigirisu (Gampsocleis mikado). The Japanese identified and described the most musical cricket haunts centuries ago, long before they began keeping them at home. According to Hearn, the Japanese esteemed crickets far higher than the cicadas, which were considered "vulgar chatterers" and were never caged.

The first poetic description of matsumushi is credited to Ki no Tsurayuki
Ki no Tsurayuki
was a Japanese author, poet and courtier of the Heian period.Tsurayuki was a son of Ki no Mochiyuki. He became a waka poet in the 890s. In 905, under the order of Emperor Daigo, he was one of four poets selected to compile the Kokin Wakashū, an anthology of poetry.After holding a few offices in...

 (905 A.D.). Suzumushi is featured in an eponymous chapter of the The Tale of Genji
The Tale of Genji
is a classic work of Japanese literature attributed to the Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world's first novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be...

 (1000–1008 A.D.) which, according to Hearn, is the oldest Japanese account of an insect hunt. Crickets and katydids (mushi) were the staple symbols of autumn
Kigo
is a word or phrase associated with a particular season, used in Japanese poetry. Kigo are used in the collaborative linked-verse forms renga and renku, as well as in haiku, to indicate the season referred to in the stanza...

 in haiku
Haiku
' , plural haiku, is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterised by three qualities:* The essence of haiku is "cutting"...

 poetry. The Western culture, unlike its Japanese counterpart, regards crickets as symbols of summer. American film producers routinely insert clips of cricket sounds to tell the audience that the action takes place in summer.

Cricket trade emerged as a full-time occupation in the 17th century. The poet Takarai Kikaku
Takarai Kikaku
Takarai Kikaku, 宝井其角 also known as Enomoto Kikaku, was a Japanese haikai poet and among the most accomplished disciples of Matsuo Bashō....

 complained that he could not find any mushiya (cricket dealers) in the city of Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

; according to Hearn this meant that he expected to find such dealers there. Tokyo
Tokyo
, ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

 lagged behind other cities; regular trade there emerged only at the end of the 18th century. A food vendor named Chuzo, who collected crickets for fun, suddenly discovered considerable demand for them among his neighbors and started trading in wild crickets. One of his customers, Kiriyama, succeeded in breeding three species of crickets. He partnered with Chuzo in the business, which was "profitable beyond expectations". Chuzo was flooded with orders and switched exclusively to wholesale operations, supplying crickets to street dealers and collecting royalties from cage makers. During the Bunsei
Bunsei
was a after Bunka and before Tenpō. This period spanned the years from April 1818 through December 1830. The reigning emperor was .-Change of era:...

 period the government contained competition between cricket dealers by limiting them to thirty-six, in a guild
Guild
A guild is an association of craftsmen in a particular trade. The earliest types of guild were formed as confraternities of workers. They were organized in a manner something between a trade union, a cartel, and a secret society...

 known as Ōyama-Ko (after Mount Ōyama
Mount Oyama (Kanagawa)
, also or Mount Kunimi , is a high mountain situated on the border of Isehara, Hadano and Atsugi in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Together with Mount Tanzawa and other mountains in the Tanzawa Mountains it forms the Tanzawa-Ōyama Quasi-National Park...

) or, alternatively, the Yedo Insect Company. At the end of the 19th century cricket trade was dominated by two houses: Kawasumo Kanesaburo and his network supplied wild-caught insects, and the Yumoto house specialized in breeding crickets off-season. They dealt in twelve species of wild-caught and nine species of artificially-bred crickets.

This tradition, which peaked in the 19th century, is now largely gone but crickets are still sold at pet shops. A large colony of suzumushi crickets thrives at the altar of the Suzumushi Temple in Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

. These crickets have no particular religious significance; they are retained as a tourist attraction.

Pet crickets in the West


European naturalists studied crickets since the 18th century. William Gould described feeding ant nymphs to a captive mole cricket
Mole cricket
The mole crickets compose family Gryllotalpidae, of thick-bodied insects about long, with large beady eyes and shovel-like forelimbs highly developed for burrowing and swimming. They can also fly: the adult mole cricket may fly as far as during mating season, is active most of the year, and...

 for several months. The European approach to cricket breeding has been popularized by Jean-Henri Fabre. Fabre wrote that breeding "demands no particular preparations. A little patience is enough." According to Fabre, home breeding may start as early as April or May with the capture of a couple of field crickets. They are placed in a flower pot with "a layer of beaten earth" inside, and a tightly fitting lid. Fed only with lettuce, Fabre's cricket couple laid five to six hundred eggs, and practically all of them hatched.

Crickets are a common subject of children's books on nature and advice on keeping pet crickets are plentiful. An ideal home habitat for a cricket is a large transparent jar or a small terrarium with at least two inches of damp soil on the bottom. There must be plenty of shelter where the crickets can hide; children's books and industrial breeders recommend egg-crate shells
Egg carton
An egg carton is a carton designed for carrying and transporting whole eggs. These cartons have a dimpled form in which each dimple accommodates an individual egg and isolates that egg from eggs in adjacent dimples...

. The top of the terrarium must be tightly covered with a lid or nylon mesh.

Drinking water is supplied by offering crickets a wet sponge or spraying their container, but never directly: crickets easily drown even in small dishes of water. Crickets feed on all kinds of fresh fruit and greens; industrial breeders also feed bulk quantities of dry fish food
Fish food
Aquarium fish feed is plant or animal material intended for consumption by pet fish kept in aquariums or ponds. Fish foods normally contain macro nutrients, trace elements and vitamins necessary to keep captive fish in good health. Approximately 80% of fishkeeping hobbyists feed their fish...

 – Daphnia
Daphnia
Daphnia are small, planktonic crustaceans, between 0.2 and 5 mm in length. Daphnia are members of the order Cladocera, and are one of the several small aquatic crustaceans commonly called water fleas because of their saltatory swimming style...

 and Gammarus
Gammarus
Gammarus is an amphipod crustacean genus in the family Gammaridae. It contains more than 200 described species, making it one of the most speciose genera of crustaceans...

. Contrary to the Eastern approach of keeping males in solitary cells, keeping males together is acceptable: According to Amato, protein
Protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

-rich diet reduces the males' drive to fight.

Industrial cricket farming


Chinese breeders of the 21st century strive to extend the fighting season to the whole year. They advertise farm-bred "designer bugs" as super-fighters and agree that their technology is "completely counter to the natural process". However, they refuse to use hormone
Hormone
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Only a small amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one...

s or the practice of arming crickets with steel implants
Implant (medicine)
An implant is a medical device manufactured to replace a missing biological structure, support a damaged biological structure, or enhance an existing biological structure. Medical implants are man-made devices, in contrast to a transplant, which is a transplanted biomedical tissue...

. As of 2003, these farm-bred crickets retailed for only around $1.50 a head, ten times lower than average wild-caught Shandong cricket. Breeding is a risky business: Chinese cricket farms are regularly wiped out by an unknown disease. Fungal diseases
Mycosis
A mycosis is a fungal infection of animals, including humans. Mycoses are common, and a variety of environmental and physiological conditions can contribute to the development of fungal diseases...

 are manageable, but crickets have no defenses against cricket paralysis virus
Cricket paralysis virus
Cricket Paralysis Virus was initially discovered in Australian field crickets by Carl Reinganum and his colleagues at the Victorian Plant Research Institute . The paralytic disease spread rapidly through a breeding colony as well as through a laboratory population causing about 95% mortality...

 (CrPV), which almost certainly kills the entire population. The virus was first isolated in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 around 1970. The worst outbreak in Europe occurred in 2002. The cosmopolitan virus is carried by a multitude of invertebrate hosts
Host (biology)
In biology, a host is an organism that harbors a parasite, or a mutual or commensal symbiont, typically providing nourishment and shelter. In botany, a host plant is one that supplies food resources and substrate for certain insects or other fauna...

, including drosophila
Drosophila
Drosophila is a genus of small flies, belonging to the family Drosophilidae, whose members are often called "fruit flies" or more appropriately pomace flies, vinegar flies, or wine flies, a reference to the characteristic of many species to linger around overripe or rotting fruit...

e and honey bee
Honey bee
Honey bees are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis...

s, which are not affected by the disease.Honey bees suffer from two related but different viruses – acute bee paralysis virus (ABPV) and chronic bee paralysis virus (CBPV), discovered in 1863. – Christian and Scotti, p. 310.

Almost all crickets farmed in the United States are Acheta domesticus. The American cricket industry does not disclose its earnings; in 1989 Huber et al. estimated it at $3,000,000 annually. Most of these crickets were not pets, but fish bait and animal food. The largest shipment, of 445 metric tons, was reported by Purina Mills
Purina Mills
Purina Mills, LLC, is the animal feeds unit of Land O’ Lakes. It was previously part of Ralston Purina, but the animal feeds portion was sold in 1986.- History :...

 in 1985. A decade later individual cricket farms like the Bassett Cricket Ranch in Visalia, California
Visalia, California
Visalia is a Central California city situated in the heart of California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley, approximately southeast of San Francisco and north of Los Angeles...

 easily surpassed the million-dollar mark. By 1998 Bassett shipped two million crickets a week. The Fluker Cricket Farm in Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 exceeded $5,000,000 in annual sales in 2001 and became a staple subject of American business school textbooks.The Fluker case studies are discussed in Steven P. Robbins (2001). Organizational Behavior. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0131890956.; Garnter and Bellamy (2009). Enterprise. Cengage Learning. ISBN 0324130856; Thill and Bovee (1999). Excellence in business communication. Prentice Hall. ISBN 0137815018 etc.

The zoos of the Old World
Old World
The Old World consists of those parts of the world known to classical antiquity and the European Middle Ages. It is used in the context of, and contrast with, the "New World" ....

 breed Acheta domesticus, Gryllus bimaculatus
Gryllus bimaculatus
Gryllus bimaculatus is one of many cricket species known as the Field cricket. Also known as the African or Mediterranean field cricket or as the two-spotted cricket, it can be discriminated from other Gryllus species by the two dot-like marks on the base of its wings.This species of cricket is...

, and Gryllus assimilis. Their cricket farms usually rotate four generation ("four crates") of insects. One generation or one physical crate is used for mating and incubation of eggs, which takes from seven to twelve days. One male usually mates to three or four females. Females are discarded (and fed to zoo animals) immediately after laying the eggs: their life span is too short to give them a second chance. Three other generations, spaced by the same seven to twelve days, are for raising the larvae, which takes 4–5 weeks. Thus the zoos restock their live food supply practically every week.

British zoos breed crickets in deliberate attempts to restore the nearly extinct wild populations. In the late 1980s the British population of Gryllus campestris
Gryllus campestris
Gryllus campestris is one of many crickets known as the Field cricket. These insects are dark colored and slightly less than one inch in length. The males range from 19 to 23 mm and the females from 17 to 22 mm....

 shrunk to a single colony of around 100 individual insects. In 1991 the species became the subject of the national Species Recovery Program. Each year, three pairs of subadult crickets were caught in the wild and bred in a controlled lab environment to preserve the gene pool
Gene pool
In population genetics, a gene pool is the complete set of unique alleles in a species or population.- Description :A large gene pool indicates extensive genetic diversity, which is associated with robust populations that can survive bouts of intense selection...

 of the mother colony. The London Zoo
London Zoo
London Zoo is the world's oldest scientific zoo. It was opened in London on 27 April 1828, and was originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study. It was eventually opened to the public in 1847...

 raised 17,000 crickets; the field biologists laid down seven new cricket colonies, four of which survived into the 21st century. The program became a model for similar efforts in other countries. In the same period the London Zoo bred the more demanding wart-biter
Wart-biter
The wart-biter is a bush-cricket in the family Tettigoniidae. Its English and scientific names derive from the age-old practice of using the cricket to bite warts from the skin.-Description:...

 (Decticus verrucivorus), also resulting in the establishment of persistent colonies in the wild.

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