Jumping Alien Bug
Location: Cape Girardeau, Missouri-USA
October 13, 2010 4:05 pm
About a week ago we found two of these bugs barely alive in the middle of our living room floor (we kept them & took the attached pictures). Just last night we had two more appear. This time they were very alive. They definitely jump. We have a four year old daughter that is extremely interested in bugs & playing with bugs, so it would comfort me to know what type of bug this is, as well as, if it is harmful. They are about 1” long, with 2” long back legs, which were detached on the ones that were found in the middle of the floor. They have large black eyes & little prong-like arms coming from the back-end. Hopefully the attached pictures help.
You have Camel Crickets in the family Rhaphidophoridae, and normally we do not attempt a species identification on this family, but the unusual appearance of the divided ovipositor of the female specimen piqued our curiosity, so we looked on BugGuide and found a posting on the Greenhouse Camel Cricket, Diestrammena asynamora, that matches your specimen, but the ovipositor on the pictured individual does not appear divided. There is a robust comment section on that posting, including a recipe for cooking them submitted by Paul Landkamer, so we will probably get David Gracer, the renowned entomophage, to comment. BugGuide also has a short information page on the species, which is believed to have originated in China, and a photo of a dead specimen is also pictured with a divided ovipositor, indicating that perhaps its complex anatomical structure is revealed after death. In the event you are interested, the “little pronglike arms” you mentioned, which many people would describe as a large stinger, are actually the ovipositor or egg laying organ of the female. Many other Longhorned Orthopterans in the suborder Ensifera, including the Katydids, possess such an organ. Camel Crickets will proliferate in damp dark places like basements, and though they are an annoyance if they are plentiful, they are not harmful. BugGuide includes this comment about the Greenhouse Camel Cricket: “An oportunistic scavenger, will feed on varied organic material, dead or alive. Sometimes causes damage, particularly to young plants in greenhouses.” Camel Crickets are also known as Cave Crickets.
Piotr Naskrecki provides insight
The ovipositor in the Ensifera consists of 6 valvules: a pair of lower, a pair of upper, and a pair of poorly sclerotized, inner ones. They are never permanently fused, and may get separated if the specimen is injured, like this camel cricket appears to be. What is seen in the photo is the right upper and lower valvules separated at the tip.
David Gracer comments on edibility
Paul’s comment (hey Paul, how’s it going?) makes sense. Technically I’d never really condemned the concept of eating camel crickets, though I think I’d been unclear. What I’d meant is that if someone suspects that a particular bug has been subsisting on dog feces, then that’s a good bug to avoid eating. Yet a lobster’s diet really isn’t any better than that. Paul’s anecdotes and directions are the first documentation I’ve seen of camel cricket consumption, and I’m happy to see that he’s stepped forward. I’ll definitely try them from now on.