Data on patterns of variation within hybrid zones, combined with studies of life history, mate choice, and hybrid performance, allow estimates of the contribution of different pre-zygotic and post-zygotic barriers to reproductive isolation. We examine the role of behavioural barriers to gene exchange in the maintenance of a hybrid zone between North American field crickets Gryllus firmus and Gryllus pennsylvanicus. We consider these barriers in the context of previous studies that documented temporal and ecological isolation and a one-way post-mating incompatibility (i.e. G. firmus females do not produce offspring when they mate only with heterospecific males). Based on no-choice mating experiments in the laboratory, we demonstrate strong behavioural pre-mating barriers between the two species, but no apparent fecundity or fertility costs for G. firmus females when they mate with both conspecific and heterospecific males. Furthermore, we show that G. firmus females do not discriminate between hybrids and conspecifics, whereas G. pennsylvanicus females do. This observation could explain the asymmetric allele introgression observed in the hybrid zone. We also document a failure of heterospecific males to induce normal oviposition in G. firmus females, which may be due to rapid evolution of accessory gland proteins and may serve as an additional barrier to gene exchange. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 390–402.