Potato Bug Comments
July 22, 2009
I just spent some time looking through your Potato Bug (I knew it as Child of the Earth) section. I have to say those things gross me out. However, I was pleased to find your emails reiterating that they are not as dangerous as I thought.
I worked on an archaeological dig in the Galisteo Basin (south of Santa Fe) for 3 summers in the late 90’s, and I came across those things very frequently once we got to a depth of about 10-20cm (if I recall.)
Local “lore” (don’t know how common it is) says that they are poisonous and also that they carry inside them some sort of parasite, so that if you squish them, you have exposed another problem. (Yeah, sounded a bit odd to me even then, but I didn’t know any better and honestly wouldn’t even go close enough to squish one!) They also say that if you burn them in a fire they scream. (I have to point out; I have NEVER tried that…I may not like the bugs but wouldn’t torture them!)
Anyway, I was glad to hear about them being relatively harmless (aside from a possible painful bite), but wondering if you could shed any light on what I’ve heard? I would wager it’s just because they’re so creepy looking it’s easy to get people to believe creepy stuff about them.
Thanks for the awesome site, I’ve sent like 3 emails in as many days! Lol. I realize you’ve got lots on your plates, so totally understand if I never hear back.
Bethany, NM

Hi Bethany,
First, we are unable to even answer most of the mail that we receive, and it is in no way intended to be a slight if we cannot respond.  Shear volume makes answering all of our mail task prohibitive.  The local lore about the beast within is well documented on our website.  There is a worm known as a Horsehair Worm or Gordian Worm.  It is an internal parasite of Potato Bugs and certain Spiders, and perhaps other large arthropods.  The worm matures inside of the Potato Bug and causes the Potato Bug to search out water.  When the Potato Bug drowns, the worm is released to continue its life cycle.

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