Posts Tagged: Jerusalem cricket
It's a strange little insect.
A reader likens it to "a cricket on steroids."
A Van Nuys resident says she always wondered what they were. "I've lived in this house for 17 years, and a few times a year I see this strange insect in my backyard. It is always either dead or dying. It has a really large head and seems to be a bit top-heavy and has problems walking. I have never seen these insects anywhere but in my backyard and no one seems to know what they are. I feel badly for the little critters, since they don't seem to be thriving."
A Vacaville resident encountered this "unknown species of insect" in her backyard. Her dog discovered the first one. Dead. She discovered the second. Alive.
Guess what they found? A Jerusalem cricket, also known as a "potato bug" because it occasionally feeds on potato tubers.
They're among the largest insects found in California and elsewhere in western North America, says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology at UC Davis.
The adult is characterized by its "large shiny brown abdomen with dark stripes, large ovoid head and spiny hind legs."
These ground dwellers crawl (slowly) but they don't fly. They belong to the family Stenopelmatidae. The common species found in California is Stenopelmatus fuscus, Kimsey says.
Kimsey also says they are harmless, although if you handle them, they may bite.
So when you're digging around in your backyard, you may find them under rocks, logs or boards. They feed on plant roots and tubers. "They generate sound by rubbing the hind leg against the side of the abdomen (stridulation)," Kimsey says.
In her Fact Sheet on Jerusalem Crickets posted on the Bohart Museum website: Kimsey points out that "Unlike most other crickets, female Jerusalem crickets frequenty kill the males after mating."
Ah, a touch of the praying mantis behavior!
We've seen Jerusalem crickets beneath the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. We've also seen their predators: birds of prey, including owls and hawks, but never the prey and predator together.
Seems like a tasty treat for a burrowing owl.
A Jerusalem cricket. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Burrowing owls feed on Jerusalem crickets. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you don't know what it is, don't kill it.
That insect in your garden could very well be a beneficial insect.
If you operate on the "shoot-first-ask-questions later" or "the only good bug is a dead bug," no telling how many insects--and generations--you'll be destroying.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, tells this story that's worth remembering.
"Last week I was walking across Capitol Park in Sacramento when I observed a smartly dressed young woman in her 20s stomp a praying mantis and grind it into the sidewalk. She exclaimed to her phenotypically similar friend: 'Did you ever see such an ugly, icky bug?'"
And, many years ago, Shapiro encountered a man in College Park, Davis, in the act of stomping a Tiger Swallowtail.
Shapiro asked him why he was doing this.
The man replied: "This is the bug that has the big green caterpillar that eats my tomato plants!"
When Shapiro told him it wasn't, the man told him to check his information, and that "I'm right and you're wrong."
There is indeed a lot of misinformation and misidentification out there.
Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis relates the story about an avid gardener who absolutely loved ladybugs (aka lady beetles) because of their voracious appetites for aphids. But when our avid gardener came across "some weird black and orange bugs," she promptly killed them.
Little did she know that she was killing immature ladybugs.
Then there's the story about a UC Master Gardener who encountered a "green-eyed golden bumblebee-like" insect that frightened her because it buzzed so loudly around her flower beds. So, she killed it. Turns out it was a pollinator, a male Valley carpenter bee, also known as a "teddy bear."
And, can you imagine what goes through people's minds when they meet up with a Jerusalem cricket in the mud after a rain? Whoa! Bug-o-mania!
Here's where the Bohart Museum, 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis campus, can help. If you live in California and see an insect and wonder if it's beneficial insect or a pest--or just want to know what it is--take a photo of it and email it to the Bohart. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum (home of more than seven million specimens) and professor of entomology at UC Davis, identifies insects in between research, teaching, administering the Bohart Museum, and other duties. Her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe, just maybe, this will save a few praying mantids, ladybugs, Valley carpenter bees and Jerusalem crickets./span>
Praying mantis with remnants of a meal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is an immature ladybug (aka lady beetle). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This male Valley carpenter bee is a pollinator, not a pest. The female Valley carpenter bee is solid black. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jerusalem cricket is often mistaken for a pest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It was an unexpected visit.
She found it several days after the massive Oct. 12 storm raced through Northern California.
The heavy rain soaked the earth, apparently forcing the critter from its habitat.
How it wound up in the restroom is anybody's guess.
What is it?
Not a true cricket, though. It's an insect (genus Stenopelmatus) that feeds primarily on decaying organic material (and occasionally insects). It burrows into the soil using its highly specialized feet.
And yes, it does inflect a sometimes painful bite, as Cobey can attest.
It's not lethal though.
Cobey returned it to the Laidlaw grounds, releasing it near a stump.
She has no plans to trade her honey bees in for Jerusalem crickets.