I'm not sure what cricket Walt Disney used as the basis of his cartoon character, Jiminy Cricket, but it sure wasn't one of ours!
But how do you identify a cricket? And what makes it different from a grasshopper? And what then is a bush-cricket? And can they be helped in gardens?
Ok, let's start with identification. You know you've got one of them if you find an insect about an inch long with a giant back leg, so long that the 'knee' juts right up over its back.
Now there are only about 27 or 28 regular species in the the British Isles, so there aren't many to consider. And many of those are rare or very restricted in their range.
But the first place to start is with the antennae. If they are rather short and stout, you're looking at is either a grasshopper or a groundhopper. This is the Meadow Grasshopper.
If they are really really long, then it is a bush-cricket. Simples!
And the crickets? Well actually there are only four species, and all are rare. Oh, and there's a very strange thing called a Mole Cricket, but that's rare too.
The grasshoppers eat mainly grasses in unimproved grasslands and downland. One can only imagine how many there used to be when there were hay meadows everywhere, but now the chirruping of grasshoppers is something you rarely hear.
They are difficult to accommodate in gardens UNLESS you have a really large lawn or paddock or fields which you can let grow as a meadow. If you do, it will benefit so much other wildlife too. And there are four species (Common Green, Field, Meadow and Mottled) that are found in lowland areas throughout much of Britain, so this isn't just a 'southern' wildlife thing.
The bush-crickets are rather easier to entertain, but unfortunately most are found only from the Midlands south. Boo! But many are expanding their range, and they are definitely ones to watch out for in the north in the future.Hooray!
Bush-crickets tend to like hedgerows and shrubberies, with thick grass and flowers at their base, although the fast-expanding Roesel's Bush-cricket (which has a Nike tick along its side) likes rough grasslands too.
Species to watch out for include the Oak Bush-cricket (which is green and has long wings) and the Dark Bush-cricket (which is brown and wingless - photo below).
And don't be afraid if you see one with a giant spear of a rear-end - that's just the egg-laying apparatus of the female, such as this Speckled Bush-cricket which I photographed on the wall in my hall one night when it paid a visit!
And, and quiz question for ten points: in which famous film does the lead character utter 'Oh! Oh! Jiminy Crickets' upon entering a wizard's palace?
Many of you will know that all this gardening for wildlife stuff I do is not my day job - it's my hobby and out-of-work passion. But I've found a sneaky way to take it into work with me!
The thing is that, at the start of the year, our office moved into a different part of Brighton city centre. Our new home is on the first floor of a terraced building, but it does have a 'light well' - an open air gravelled square, bounded on all sides by 8-foot walls of glass and white-painted brick. And you know what that means - garden!
Here is was on 3 April, with the first few pots in place.
My simple plan for year one was just to begin to fill the space with plants, and get a feel for the growing conditions up here, such as how much sunlight would penetrate into this 'elevated hole'. If any wildlife arrived this year it would be a bonus.
And here's where we'd got to by last week:
(As I said, don't judge me on design! It's just wildlife-friendly plants in pots at this stage.)
Various of my RSPB colleagues have helped with watering and some of the planting, and over time I want to involve them more.
The fab thing has been that some wildlife has already arrived, even though to get into this garden they have to fly up two storeys and drop into this green pit. So far we've had regular Buff-tailed Bumblebees, at least three species of hoverfly, Lime Hawkmoth, three species of moth caterpillar (so presumably their mother visited to lay her eggs), Blue Tit, Red Admiral, and our first Honeybee this week.
Almost all the plants are from cuttings or seed, so thus far the only cost is compost and pots - about £200 in total. And I estimate the time spent is about an hour a week.
And it has turned out to get very little sun, and be surprisingly breezy. But it is light, and it is slug and snail free. And a refuge for a few moments each day from emails and meetings. Bliss!
Life is sweet when you can mix together your favourite things, and last weekend was the perfect combination - sport and gardening.
I don't mean that I got to compete in speed-weeding or synchronised digging. No, I was one of the lucky ones who got to go to the Olympic Park to see the high diving final (go, Tom, go!) and at the same time enjoy the special Olympic planting that had been done on a grand scale.
They looked simply stunning, and they were packing in the pollinators too.
The team that created the garden were from Sheffield University, who created the what they claim to be UK's 'largest man-made wildflower meadows' ever. (Of course in the past nature and Man combined to create a nation full of wildflower meadows, most of which Man has since destroyed, but I know what they mean with this claim.)
Now these weren't all native wildflowers and included flowers such as a swathe of Coreopsis (below).
But then plants like poppies aren't strictly native either, so I'm not critical of their choice. The good thing is that the species had been chosen to offer nectar and pollen for insects as well as looking great. and it was certainly working for Honeybees and hoverflies.
And there were gardens themed geographically too, such as this southern hemisphere garden with Agapanthus showing off in it, another great pollinator plant much loved by bumblebees.
And what's great is this style of planting is becoming ever better understood and available, in large part due to the work of Sheffield University and the company Pictorial Meadows.
It was definitely a gold medal from me!
Regular readers will know that I'm a firm advocate that you don't need to live by the mantra of 'native native native' when it comes to plants in a wildlife-friendly garden - there are plenty of non-natives that are simply brilliant (but you do have to choose carefully).
But I do like it when a native plant looks great in a garden and is wonderful for wildlife at the same time.
And right now we're at about the peak flowering season of one of my 'indispensibles' - Wild Marjoram. And the fact that you can cook with it too makes it the perfect all-rounder.
When I say native, there are many plants that are called that which actually have a very restricted range in the UK, so are often not native to where you live. But Marjoram does well on that front too, because it is naturally found across much of England and Wales and right up into central Scotland.
It grows to about 50cm tall, although it tends to be rather shorter on poor soils. I give it a Chelsea chop in May to keep it in check and stop it going too floppy.
It has many small, simple leaves along its wiry stems, and right now each stem is topped with rounded heads of pink flowers that emerge from crimson buds.
And what a nectar source it is, particularly for butterflies. All sorts of species will visit plants grown in sheltered sunny positions.
You might get Small Tortoiseshells...
or skippers, in this case a Small Skipper...
or the Marjoram addict supreme, the Gatekeeper (this is a male - note the dark bar across the centre of the forewing)...
Being a perennial, there's no mucking about with seed next year. It's just a case of cutting the old stems back to the base in late winter, and up it comes again.
Want more plants? It's dead easy to take cuttings from; or you can layer it, poking some of the long stems into the soil to get them to root; or you can divide a plant by slicing it through with a spade.
You can probably pick up a small young plant for three quid at a garden centre.
And if you still need one final reason to grow it (surely not!), then just call it by its other name, Oregano, and stick it on your pizzas. How can you resist?