Here is a free lesson plan to help you teach about singing insects during an informal hike through your schoolyard or natural area.
Learn about insects
Nature Inquiries – Carl Strang’s website, a blog with updates on his local search for singing insects, with images and maps. A copy of his full guide can be obtained by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Singing Insects of North America by Thomas J. Walker – The primary goal of this Web site is to help users identify all species of crickets and katydids from America north of Mexico and the common species of Florida cicadas. The males of most species in these groups make loud, persistent calls that attract sexually ready, conspecific females. Because the songs are loud and species specific they are usually an easy means of identifying the caller. They also facilitate field and laboratory studies of many sorts. Secondary goals of this site are to attract amateur and professional biologists to the study of singing insects and to provide them helpful information and access to relevant literature.
Songs of Insects – “The Songs of Insects” is a book published in 2007 (now out of print) – the website is a fantastic companion resource to the book with recordings and pictures.
Bug Guide – no sounds, but tons of images and a forum to help identify insects by sight.
Inaturalist – an observation community and data hub for nature enthusiasts and scientists alike for photographs and sounds of local plants and animals.
The West Ridge Nature Preserve – a field site for trainings in citizen science in Chicago. Contact them for a schedule of upcoming walks and trainings.
Experimental Sound Studio – A resource and community hub for sound artists in Chicago. Host of the Florasonic series at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.
Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology – in 2017, the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology along with the Experimental Sound Studio and Inferno Mobile Recording Studio, hosted a field recording workshop at the West Ridge Nature Preserve to collect sounds from around the lagoon and natural area. The MWSAE hosts soundwalks in Chicago – check their website for upcoming opportunities.
Inferno Mobile Recording Studio – The Inferno Mobile Recording Studio creates community-relevant and participant-centered digital media with people all around Chicago.
Habitat 2030 – Habitat 2030 is a group of volunteers who care about the remarkable natural areas of the Chicago region. They host habitat restoration workdays, nature hikes and weekend camping trips, social gatherings, and educational opportunities. At workdays, they remove invasive plants, gather and spread seeds, and learn about nature as we go. They link interested newbies to expert mentors and are building a community where people of all skill levels can discuss local ecology, conservation, and habitat restoration issues. Everyone is welcome!
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – host of Nature On Tap events, the Chicago Citizen Science and volunteer fair, programs, and a large living butterfly collection.
Fanfare for Orchestra and Electronics
Beth Bradfish, composer, created a piece for the Chicago Composers Orchestra with field recordings from South Pond in Lincoln Park. It will be performed by the Chicago Composers Orchestra in 2018.
Imagine an orchestra performing in a clearing surrounded by prairie grasses. It’s early evening in late August and people are seated or standing nearby. The singing insects of summer are in full voice. Specifically it’s Lincoln Park’s South Pond. The insects, the orchestra and the audience together participate in the late summer performance. That is the experience this piece is meant to convey.
In June 2016 the Chicago Park District hosted its first meeting for a Singing Insects Monitoring Program. Carl Strang, DuPage county naturalist and expert on singing insects, introduced the insects and their songs. We were given a CD to study and forms to fill out during our monitoring. I chose to monitor Lincoln Park’s South Pond, not far from my home. For the next three months I made field recordings and was amazed by the variety and complexity of the insects’ songs. Eventually, I organized the recordings by rhythm and or articulations: insects singing in tuplets, preferences for second or third beats and trillers. Those songs and singers are the inspiration for this orchestra piece. The orchestra both accompanies and at times plays with the insects. In the mayhem of a full prairie of singing insects, the orchestra provides a respite while also celebrating the songsters. There is a fixed electronic track that is timed to the meter of the piece. Entering minute three, the audience is invited (by the conductor) to join in by playing downloaded (from Soundcloud) tracks on their Smartphones. Audience participation reinforces the sense of being in the midst of a Chicago prairie on a late summer’s evening. Note: the piece also works without audience participation. Like a summer evening in the park, there are moments of quiet and moments of raucous singing insects. The orchestra functions as the earth and sky that surround the insects providing space, complementing their trills, and lightly suggesting their rhythms.