A new species of cricket has been caught on camera – and its bizarre behaviour has surprised scientists.
Far from living up to the cricket’s plant-destroying reputation, this species lends a helping hand to flora by acting as a pollinator.
Scientists say this is the first time a cricket has been spotted pollinating a flower – in this case, an orchid.
A study of the nocturnal insect, which was found on the island of Reunion, has been published in the Annals of Botany.
The creature has yet to be given a scientific name, but it belongs to the Glomeremus genus of crickets, which are also known as raspy crickets.
The insect was spotted by researchers who were attempting to find out how a species of orchid called Angraecum cadetii was being pollinated.
This green-white flower is closely related to the comet orchid, which is found in Madagascar.
Naturalist Charles Darwin predicted that because the comet orchid has an incredibly long nectar spur (the part of the plant that holds the sweet nectar), it would be pollinated by an insect with an equally long tongue.
It was later found that the nocturnal hawk moth with a proboscis measuring approximately 35cm (14in) in length was the pollinator.
However on Reunion, which is situated in the Indian Ocean, hawk moths are very rare and the Angraecum cadetii orchid has a shorter nectar spur than its Madagascan relative, so scientists suspected something else was pollinating it.
To solve this mystery, scientists trained a night-vision camera on the flower.
Claire Micheneau, from the University of Reunion, who carried out the research with the UK’s Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), Kew, and the University of Strasbourg, France, told BBC News: “We were very surprised when we saw a cricket.
“Crickets usually eat flowers, not pollinate them.”