Subject: What the…
Location: South-central Arkansas
June 2, 2012 1:11 am
As an archaeologist in the Southeastern Unites States I have the pleasure (and occasional terror) of encountering an wide and fascinating array of wildlife including some pretty fascinating insects.
(my personal favorite was stepping barefoot into a flooded excavation unit to bail water after a heavy rain only to find my unit had toe-biters in it who had somehow made it across a field to my water filled unit).
Generally speaking, because we work ”side by side” with so many types of insects and we end up digging up a lot of them, we tend to flick them away as safely as we can and go on working. This one however stopped three archaeologists with years of fieldwork experience dead in our tracks. None of us have ever seen anything like this.
It was accidentally shoveled up in some loose soil that we were back-filling a test unit with and it shot immediately head first into the dirt and started trying to dig back in. We gently lifted it back out so I could get a photo (it wasn’t easy – it was frantic to burrow back into the dirt). It looks like someone crossed a crayfish with a dobsonfly. I would love to know what this was; I think it takes my personal prize of weirdest looking bug I have seen so far.
Photo was taken in early summer in a low bayou region with a lot of wetland and agriculture fields (western edge of the Arkansas Delta).
Signature: Dr. Horton
Dear Dr. Horton,
We love your letter. This is a Mole Cricket, and like archeologists, Mole Crickets spend a great deal of time digging and their front legs are perfectly adapted for moving through soil. Many species can also fly quite well and they are attracted to lights. We get identification requests from all over the world for Mole Crickets and requests from armed forces in the Middle East are especially common. Now, on to that Toe-Biter anecdote, we just have to ask: Were you bitten? If so, you would be the first person to come forward and substantiate that there is credibility in the common name for Giant Water Bugs.