What happened to all the singing crickets in Lafayette?

DEAR JOAN: During last week’s heat wave, I was awakened one night by a concert of crickets singing throughout the entire valley. It seemed very intense in our neighborhood.

As the heat wave subsided, so did the crickets. This week, with the increased temperatures, the concert began again, but not as intense as the week before. Any idea why the chirping stops or where the crickets go?

Anne, Lafayette

DEAR ANNE: When you hear crickets, you’re actually hearing a few different species of them. California has at least 12 kinds, although they are pretty similar. In the fall, they lay eggs to overwinter, the adults die off, and the next generation emerges in the spring.

Crickets sing primarily for mating. The females listen carefully to the songs, making sure they’re hearing ones from their own species, and then fly off to find the males and mate. When it’s still cold, the crickets hold off on mating, and therefore aren’t singing, but when the temperatures rise, so does the loving.

During the mini cold spell we had, it was probably too cold for them so they didn’t sing much. When the heat returned, so did the chorus, but between the first and the second concert some of the crickets might have been eaten by birds and other predators, killed by insecticides from non-music lovers, or they simply moved to greener pastures.

DEAR JOAN: Can we talk rock? Not rock around the clock, but rock in my soil.

Every year, to prepare for planting my vegetable crops, I have to clear out the winter overgrowth. Uprooting the weeds entails pulling up large clumps of dirt attached to the roots. In order to separate the dirt from the weeds, I process them by means of a type of sluice box where I can rub the clumps against a piece of metal grate to loosen and remove the soil that goes through the grate.

What is left inside is the weeds and a whole lot of hard rocks, most bigger than gravel that I dispose of. What I cannot understand is, where are the rocks coming from? It is just baffling to me how rocks continue to show up in my soil when I get rid of them every time.

Is it rock gremlins that come in the night and spread more rocks around just to vex me? I await enlightenment.

David Arroyo, Berkeley

DEAR DAVID: Prepare to be enlightened.

We tend to think of soil as being pretty stable, except during earthquakes and please, 2020, don’t do that to us. The soil fills your beds and provides a place for plants to grow, but otherwise it just sits there. But it doesn’t.

Our soil, hopefully, is full of all sorts of creatures and microbes that tunnel through the earth, sucking up nutrients and expelling other ones. Plant roots move through the soil in search of food and water, their roots extending out and downward. Water from irrigation and from above also moves through the soil, going deeper and deeper.

With all this activity, it’s a wonder our flower and vegetable beds aren’t rolling like the ocean, but all this action works together to erode larger rocks down below, pushing and pulling the smaller ones toward the surface where those weeds grab hold of them to anchor themselves firmly in place.

Or it might be gremlins.

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Author: Joan Morris

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