Potato Bug and Gordian Worm
Location: Porter Ranch, California
February 12, 2011 8:40 pm
Hello Bugman!
I spotted this Jerusalem Cricket in the pool this morning (02-12-11), although I had no idea what it was at the time. After I scooped it out and realized it had drowned, I then spotted what I thought was an extremely skinny snake swimming in the pool. I scooped it out also, then took a few photos of the ”snake” and the ”termite on steroids”. I threw the ”snake” over the fence and went inside to get a ruler for size in the photo of the other bug. I wasn’t quick enough because a Scrub Jay spotted him and flew off with lunch before I could take photos with a ruler.
Frustrated, I decided to begin at What’s That Bug and Bugguide.net to identify the bug. Little did I know that the ”snake” was actually a Gordian Worm or I’d have taken more care to get a decent photo. Drat.
Offering gratitude for your awesome sight, although photo perusal did cause me several shivers and a couple of gags. (I like bugs for the services they provide and their place in the world, but it does get a bit creepy to look at their anatomy in detailed images. To that end, I’m attaching my own creepy images.) After finding out what the duo were named, I even found a video online showing a cricket dive into a pool and the worm wriggle out of him. *shiver again*
(I had four pictures – attached are three)
Signature: Regards, Tiffany Hawkins

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Tiffany,
Thank you for your wonderful email and excellent photos.  The relationship between the parasitic Gordian Worm and the host Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug is a chilling example of complexity of the web of life on our planet.  The chances of a Jerusalem Cricket ingesting the cyst of the worm and then hosting the internal parasite until being suicidally driven to seek out water in which to drown itself are quite slim, yet enough Gordian Worms survive to perpetuate the species.  Gordian Worms are also known as Horsehair Worms.

Gordian Worm

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Location: California

2 Responses to Food Chain: Parasitic Horsehair Worm and Potato Bug prey

  1. Blane E Christensen says:

    When I was a boy about 10 or 12 I found a Jerusalem Cricket in my yard. I captured it and put it in a bottle. The next day, there was a horsehair worm on the bottle with it. Not knowing anyone who could explain what had happened, we were forced to conclude that the worm was a parasite. Not until now have I ever read anything that confirmed our suspicion. Thank you for your post.

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