CAVE CRICKET EXIT COUNTS: ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES AND DURATION OF SURVEYS
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Cave cricket abundance is used as an indicator of integrity of cave ecosystems. One means of monitoring cave cricket abundance is counting crickets as they emerge from cave entrances for two hours after sunset. The influence of cloud cover, relative humidity, and surface temperature on counts is unknown and there might be few cave crickets that emerge during the first hour of the survey. Using mixed effects models, I assessed the influence of these environmental variables on exit counts and estimated when cave crickets emerged within the two-hour survey period. Exit-count surveys were conducted in eleven caves over four years in central Texas, and caves were surveyed up to four times a year across the four calendar seasons. Cloud cover, relative humidity, and temperature influenced counts, but the greatest influence was from temperature. Peaks in cave cricket counts occurred 80 to 90 minutes after the start of a survey and declined thereafter. Cave cricket exit count surveys should record surface temperature, cloud cover, and relative humidity at the start of surveys so that counts can be adjusted for these environmental influences. Also, surveys can be shortened to 1 or 1.5 hours in length.