Are Jerusalem Crickets Dangerous? Uncovering the Truth

Jerusalem crickets are large, flightless insects that can be found throughout the western United States.

They are known for their distinctive appearance and somewhat fearsome looks, but are they really dangerous?

Are Jerusalem Crickets Dangerous

In reality, these insects pose little threat to humans. While they are capable of delivering a painful bite if mishandled, Jerusalem crickets are not poisonous. 

They generally do not display aggressive behavior and the pain resulting from their bites is short-lived.

Most of their diet consists of insects, plant roots, and decaying plant material, meaning they are unlikely to cause significant damage to gardens or crops. Occasionally, they may damage vegetables and turf.

As nocturnal creatures, Jerusalem crickets are more likely to be seen by those who venture out at night or by gardeners digging in the soil during the day.

These insects serve as useful predators, helping to control populations of other pests. So, while their appearance may be intimidating, there is little reason to consider Jerusalem crickets as dangerous.

Jerusalem Crickets: Appearance, Habitat, and Diet

Jerusalem crickets, also known as “potato bugs,” belong to the Stenopelmatus genus.

They are predominantly brown or yellow-brown in color and have striking, black bands across their abdomen.

These insects can vary in size, with the average adult cricket being 1 ½ to 2 inches in length. However, some species can grow as long as 3 inches.

Potato Bug

Habitat

These ground-dwelling bugs are native to the western United States, where they can be found living in gardens, fields, and beneath rocks.

Though not technically considered garden pests, they have been known to feed on decaying plant matter.

Diet

Jerusalem crickets are omnivores known for their strong jaws they use for chewing. Their diet consists primarily of:

  • Decaying plant matter
  • Insect larvae
  • Small insects

Life Cycle

The life cycle of Jerusalem crickets is composed of several stages:

  1. Eggs: Laid in soil, hatched in spring
  2. Nymphs: Resemble small adults, 8-10 molting stages before reaching adulthood
  3. Adults: Fully grown, capable of reproduction

Overall, Jerusalem crickets are fascinating insects with unique features and habits. While they might seem intimidating, they pose minimal threat to humans or gardens.

Mating and Reproduction

Jerusalem crickets, also known as potato bugs or Stenopelmatus fuscus, have a unique mating process.

Males attract females by creating vibrations in the soil through drumming with their abdomen. Once a female approaches, the male offers her a spermatophore, which she consumes.

After mating, females lay their eggs underground in moist soil to ensure the survival of the nymphs.

Possibly Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket

Nocturnal Habits

These insects prefer to come out during the night because they are nocturnal insects.

They tend to avoid daylight and stay hidden in their burrows during the day. This helps them avoid predators and extreme temperatures.

Communication

Communication between Jerusalem crickets primarily occurs through vibrations, such as their mating drumming mentioned earlier.

They use their legs to produce these vibrations, sending signals that can be perceived by other nearby crickets, enabling them to communicate effectively.

Foraging

Jerusalem crickets are voracious foragers and primarily feed on plant materials, smaller insects, and decaying organic matter.

Their strong mandibles help them grasp and chew food, making them efficient hunters and scavengers.

However, they are not harmful to humans. While they are capable of biting if mishandled, they are not poisonous.

Jerusalem Cricket vs. Common House Cricket

FeatureJerusalem CricketCommon House Cricket
Size1.2 – 3 inches0.5 – 0.9 inches
WingsReduced wings, cannot flyDeveloped wings, can fly
HabitatFound underground, burrowsFound in homes and gardens
DietPlant material, smaller insects, decaying matterPlant material, smaller insects
CommunicationVibrational, using soilChirping, using wings
ActivityNocturnalPrimarily nocturnal, can be diurnal

Jerusalem Cricket Bites

Are They Venomous?

Jerusalem crickets (Stenopelmatus) are not venomous. However, they possess strong jaws capable of delivering painful bites.

These jaws also allow them to feed on roots, plants, and insects in the soil.

Bite Symptoms and Treatment

Although Jerusalem crickets are not venomous, a bite from one can still be painful. Here’s what you can expect if bitten:

  • Immediate pain at the site of the bite
  • Swelling and redness around the bite area

If you are bitten, take these steps to treat the bite:

  1. Clean the area with soap and water
  2. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment
  3. Use cold packs or pain relievers to alleviate discomfort

Remember that Jerusalem crickets generally do not seek out humans as a food source. They may bite only if provoked or handled carelessly.

To avoid an infestation and reduce the likelihood of bites, consider taking the following measures:

  • Keep a clean and clutter-free yard to discourage nesting
  • Seal gaps in the foundation and walls of your home
  • Limit outdoor lighting at night (as these insects are attracted to light sources)

Preventing and Controlling Infestations

Natural Remedies

  • Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle this natural, non-toxic powder around the areas where Jerusalem crickets are found. It helps by damaging their exoskeleton, leading to dehydration and eventually death1.
  • Neem oil: Spray neem oil on plants and soil to deter Jerusalem crickets from laying eggs and feeding on tubers2.

Some natural predators of Jerusalem crickets include spiders and certain bird species. Encourage these beneficial creatures in your garden to help control the cricket population3.

Trapping Methods

You can create simple, effective traps to catch and control Jerusalem crickets:

  1. Apple cider vinegar trap: Fill a small container with apple cider vinegar and add a few drops of dish soap. Place a cotton ball soaked in this mixture around areas where you’ve seen the crickets. The smell attracts them, and they get trapped in the liquid4.
  2. Organic matter trap: Bury a container with a mixture of damp soil, rotting leaves, and kitchen scraps within the soil. The Jerusalem crickets are attracted to the smell and will fall into the container5.

Jerusalem cricket control methods

MethodProsCons
Natural Remedies-Environmental friendly
-Safe for beneficial organisms
-May take longer to show results
Trapping Methods-Easy to set up
-Affordable
-Requires regular maintenance

Make sure to act promptly if you identify a Jerusalem cricket infestation, as they can cause damage to tubers and other plants in your garden6.

Maintain a clean and well-organized garden to prevent these insects from establishing a breeding ground.

Jerusalem Cricket

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth 1: Jerusalem crickets are dangerous and poisonous. In reality, they are not poisonous. They can pinch with their mandibles and possibly draw blood when handled, but they are not a threat to humans.

Myth 2: Jerusalem crickets are related to the Colorado potato beetle.

However, they are quite different; Jerusalem crickets are members of the insect order Orthoptera, while Colorado potato beetles belong to the order Coleoptera.

Here’s a comparison table of some key differences between the two insects:

 Jerusalem CricketColorado Potato Beetle
OrderOrthopteraColeoptera
DietPlant roots, other insectsPrimarily leaves of potato plants
NymphsResemble adults, winglessDifferent in appearance, wingless

Myth 3: Their songs indicate danger or upcoming harm. Jerusalem crickets’ songs are generated by rubbing their hind legs and are generally used to attract mates or communicate. They’re not an indication of any impending threat.

Myth 4: Jerusalem crickets are strictly nocturnal. They are mainly nocturnal, but they can be active during the day as well.

Myth 5: They are all the same color and appearance. Although they mainly have brownish bodies, variations in color and patterns exist among different species.

Myth 6: Jerusalem crickets are strictly herbivores, feeding only on plant roots. In fact, they are omnivorous and have been observed to engage in cannibalism, feeding on other insects and even their own kind.

Conclusion

In the world of insects, appearances can often be deceiving, and the Jerusalem cricket is a perfect example.

Despite their imposing looks and fearsome reputation, these insects are far from dangerous to humans. While their bites might cause momentary discomfort, they lack venom and aggressive tendencies.

In fact, Jerusalem crickets serve as valuable members of ecosystems by preying on pests and aiding in decomposition.

So, the next time you encounter one of these intriguing creatures, remember that beneath their exterior lies a gentle and ecologically beneficial insect.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.diatomaceousearth.com/garden-pest-control

  2. https://www.discoverneem.com/neem-oil-insecticide.html

  3. https://www.birdsandblooms.com/gardening/attracting-birds

  4. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/insects/soap-spray-insecticide

  5. https://www.neatmasterpestcontrol.com/insect-traps

  6. https://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about Jerusalem crickets. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cara de Nino

potato bugs
Dear Bugman,
Thanks for posting my “unidentified Mexican beauty” on your site. I hope we can get an answer. You might also be interested to know that the potato bug, frequently mentioned on your site, is also called “Cara de Niño” (child’s face) here in Mexico, a name that, to me, makes them doubly frightening.

Down here, they have a reputation for being poisonous and I’m always having to convince people otherwise.
Sincerely,
Elizabeth Collins Morrison
México, D.F.

Hi again Elizabeth,
Thank you for the information. It seems we have heard this before but it is nice to have it in writing.

Letter 2 – Black Headed Potato Bug

Subject: What kinda bug is this?
Location: Bakersfield, CA
October 27, 2012 8:15 pm
I found a bug, yellow, with a black and yellow striped abdomen, 6 legs, and about 1-1.5 inches long. i have a picture…red on the tips of its fore legs, black and yellow head.
Signature: Jerry

Potato Bug

Hi Jerry,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus
Stenopelmatus, one of our most popular identification requests, especially from Southern California.  According to BugGuide:  “Nearctica.com lists 8 species of Stenopelmatus

Capinera (1) states the genus needs revision, with 14 species currently described in the family, but more than 60 North American species likely–most presumably in this genus.”  We have never tried to distinguish the various species as they all tend to look so similar, and DNA analysis might be the only way for scientists to distinguish one species from another. 

With that said, we have never seen a black headed Potato Bug.  We do not know if this represents a species, a subspecies or if it is just an individual variation in coloration.  At any rate, we find it to be quite unique.

Thanks for your help in identifying this bug. Is it poisonous?
I appreciate that you took the time to respond. Thanks a lot for your help.

Potato Bugs are not poisonous.

Letter 3 – Bug of the Month: January 2007 – Potato Bug

Please tell me what It is.
Hi Bugman,
I hope you could tell me what this is too. I found this in Los Angeles, California near DownTown Los Angeles on December 14, 2006.

It didn’t move even if I threw a quarter or a penny. It’s more than 2″x1″x1″. I believe it doesn’t have any wings and the shape might look like a bee w/o wings, or a giant ant. Hope to hear from you soon. Best Regards,
Tak S.

Hi Tak,
This is probably our most common insect query subject from southern California. This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket.

They are subterranean dwellers that are often discovered in gardens, especially in the winter and spring during rainy season. Potato Bugs are in the family Stenopelmatidae, and in the genus Stenopelmatus.

They eat roots and tubers. Because of their unusual appearance, there are many myths and superstitions about these fascinating creatures.

Letter 4 – 28 Spotted Potato Ladybird Larva

Insect eating leaves of potatoes
February 1, 2010
Hi –
I have this infectation of hairy 6 legged bugs eating my potato leaves. At first I thought it was a woolie aphid but they aren’t. The are about 2mm wide and about 5mm long and there are masses of them all over the back of my potato leaves.

However this is the only plant in the vegie patch they seem to have taken a liking too. To me they look like a hairy what & black caterpillar but when you rool them over they only have 6 legs.

I have sprayed the potato leave with white oil which seems to be killing them but I would really like to know what they are.
Thanks
JLO
Australia, NSW, Ulladulla on the south eastern coast.

28 Spotted Potato Ladybird Larva

Dear JLO,
Most Lady Beetles in the family Coccinellidae are beneficial predators, with both adults and larvae consuming insects that are detrimental to plants, including many crops, but alas, your larvae are 28 Spotted Potato Ladybird Beetles, Epilachna vigintioctopunctata, one of the few plant pests. 

The Brisbane Insect Website has a wonderful page on this species.  You may also find information on the Butterfly House website where it is called the 28 Spot Ladybird.

Letter 5 – Another Mount Washington Potato Bug

Editor’s Note:  This brief email arrived at our personal address from Bettie across the street.

This bug?
Date:     October 3, 2013 11:31:10 AM PDT
Jerusalem cricket?
bt

Jerusalem Cricket
Jerusalem Cricket

Hi Bettie,
You are exactly right.  I just photographed this one a few days ago.  I just photographed a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug a few days ago.  It is curious that they are out and about in the dry Santa Ana days.

Letter 6 – Call for Potato Bugs

Several months ago, our supervisor, Dean A. Jones, presented us with a clipping from the Orange County Register and we have not had a chance to post it. Here it is.

Bring Out Your Bugs
Jerusalem crickets have become the focus of intense scientific scrutiny because they seem to exist in a stunning variety. In fact, you might well have a new species hiding in your back yard.
And if you do, David Weissman wants to hear from your. Weissman, a San Francisco anesthesiologist with a PhD in entomology, and local entomologist Bob Allen want residents to help them gather specimens as part of Weissman’s attempt to identify and name an estimated 40 to 50 species found in California.


Weissman says he’s interested in specimens found a little farther inland. He’s especially curious about crickets from Costa Mesa.
Weissman wants only live specimens, and he wants them mailed — after you’ve checked with him. “I do reimburse for postage,” he said.
Both scientists urge caution. The bug’s jaws can deliver a mean bite; the larger ones can draw blood. “Scoop them up in a jar,” Allen says. “Use the lid of the jar.. They’ll just walk right in.”
Pat Brennan, The Register
Send a photo of your Jerusalem cricket to Gryllus1@juno.com . If Weissman is interested, he will tell you how to ship the live specimen.

Letter 7 – Colorado Potato Beetle

NJ Bug?
Hi,
We just moved into a 1920s cape about 4 months ago. Today I went to open the garage door and saw this bug there. I have NEVER seen this here or in NY before and was mesmerized. It just sat there. Looked like maybe it was gnawing on the wooden garage. It just sat there.

I was able to snap this picture without it budging. But about an hour or so later I came back to look for it and it’s gone.
Is it dangerous???
Celia, NJ

Hi Celia,
Your garage is safe, but your potato plants, tomato plants and pepper plants could get eaten by the Colorado Potato Beetle which was originally found only in the Rocky Mountain States. The nationwide commercial growing of agricultural crops is responsible for this pest’s spread far and wide. Both adults and larvae devour leaves.

Letter 8 – Colorado Potato Beetle

What are these playground bugs?
Hello!
We are so happy to have found your web site! We are a class of 4 and 5 year olds in PA. We take photos of bugs everyday but then we have no clue what they are. We used the photos on your site to identify some of the bugs we have photographed.

Like the Wheel Bug that visited us last week. The first photo included is of a roundish bug. We have ben calling it by the wrong name. Could you please give us the correct name for our playground bug friend? THANK YOU! Obviously we REALLY need a bug encyclopedia! THANK YOU VERY VERY MUCH!
Fours and Fives in PA

Dear four and five year olds,
I’m so happy to see you are budding entomologists. Your round bug is a Colorado Potato Beetle, once native to the Rocky Mountains, but now naturalized wherever potatoes and other solanaceous plants are cultivated. It is considered a pest and both adults and the fat grubs can do considerable damage to the leaves of potato plants and their relatives.

Letter 9 – Colorado Potato Beetle

Dear Bugman,
I have been gardening or helping to tend to the garden since I was just a wee fella.Most of my life was spent gardening in Ohio.Shorter growing season,not a whole lot of bugs.Cold winters killed alot of the buggers I guess.
we move to Georgia about four years ago.whole new ballgame you might say.

Since moving here I have discovered at least forty new insects I never knew.Some of these things can eat entire plants in a night.Well maybe not that bad but close.
I have searched high and low to figure the latest one out.You may be my last hope.

So far they have wiped out my potatoes and have since migrated to the tomatos.They are less than a quarter inch in length, soft fat bodies,red except for the head and underbelly,looks like about six or eight legs,black spots.The head is much smaller than the body.Oh and they’re really juicy when you pick them off.


I wish I knew how to send a picture on this stupid thing but I don’t.Any help or pictures for me to look at would be appreciated.
Thanks Doc.
Frank Kovach

Dear Frank,
You have Colorado Potato Beetles, Leptinotarsa decemlineata. The grubs are as you describe and the adults are striped black and yellow. Both adults and grubs feed on potatoes and related plants including tomatoes.

This is an example about how a relatively unimportant insect can change its role as the environment changes. this beetle was once native to the Rockies, living on nightshade and other wild members of the potato family Solanacea.

When settlers began togrow potatoes, the new food gave the beetles a fresh start. they prospered and spread, till they now exist in practically all of the 48 continental states. Here are some photos and more information can be found on this site:
http://creatures.ifas.ufl.edu/veg/leaf/potato_beetles.htm

Letter 10 – Colorado Potato Beetle

Colorado Potato Beetle?
May 28, 2009
I found these beetles in a field where I work, in the Dallas, TX area. They were clearly feasting on the leaves of the plants they were on. Are they Colorado Potato Beetles?
Lars
Dallas, TX

Colorado Potato Beetle
Colorado Potato Beetle

Hi Lars,
We are randomly selecting a few letters that were unanswered and posting them.  You are correct.  This is a Colorado Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, and there is information on the species on Bugguide.

Letter 11 – Colorado Potato Beetle


Dear Bugman,
I have been gardening or helping to tend to the garden since I was just a wee fella.Most of my life was spent gardening in Ohio.Shorter growing season,not a whole lot of bugs.

Cold winters killed alot of the buggers I guess.
we move to Georgia about four years ago.whole new ballgame you might say.Since moving here I have discovered at least forty new insects I never knew.Some of these things can eat entire plants in a night.Well maybe not that bad but close.
I have searched high and low to figure the latest one out.You may be my last hope.So far they have wiped out my potatoes and have since migrated to the tomatos.They are less than a quarter inch in length, soft fat bodies,red except for the head and underbelly,looks like about six or eight legs,black spots.

The head is much smaller than the body.Oh and they’re really juicy when you pick them off.
I wish I knew how to send a picture on this stupid thing but I don’t.Any help or pic
tures for me to look at would be appreciated.
Thanks Doc.
Frank Kovach

Dear Frank,
You have Colorado Potato Beetles, Leptinotarsa decemlineata. The grubs are as you describe and the adults are striped black and yellow. Both adults and grubs feed on potatoes and related plants including tomatoes. This is an example about how a relatively unimportant insect can change its role as the environment changes.

this beetle was once native to the Rockies, living on nightshade and other wild members of the potato family Solanacea. When settlers began togrow potatoes, the new food gave the beetles a fresh start.

they prospered and spread, till they now exist in practically all of the 48 continental states. Here are some photos and more information can be found on this site:
http://creatures.ifas
.ufl.edu/veg/leaf/potato_beetles.htm

Letter 12 – Colorado Potato Beetle from Slovenia

Subject:  I think i may have a new type of bug i found on the sidewalk and carefully took it home
Geographic location of the bug:  Slovenia, Logatec
Date: 09/21/2017
Time: 08:33 AM EDT
Is it a new type it looms like half a ladybug ( the head) and some kind of black and bage stripes
How you want your letter signed:  However you want

Colorado Potato Beetle

This is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae.  It looks to us like a Colorado Potato Beetle, which is native to the Rocky Mountains in North America.  This amusing BBC News article begins with “In 1950 the East German government claimed the Americans were dropping potato beetles out of planes over GDR fields in an attempt to sabotage their crops. Was it true, or an example of Cold War propaganda?” 

According to BugGuide:  “before the introduction of the potato in the US, was confined to Colorado and neighboring states feeding on native Solanum species; now occurs in most potato growing areas both in NA and Europe has become a serious pest in Europe.

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

7 thoughts on “Are Jerusalem Crickets Dangerous? Uncovering the Truth”

  1. Hi JLO, can you contact me at the Ulladulla Times so I can do a little story about the bugs that have been effecting other potato crops. thanks katrina 44551244

    Reply
  2. I just found a dead Colorado Potato Beetle in western Morris County, New Jersey … right next to Sussex County NJ. What are they doing here? I notice they are called Colorado Potato Beetles.
    Any info appreciated. This is the only site I find a picture of this beetle and other sites that list bugs by state do not show them in either NJ or PA as I looked at the list of beetles for both states.

    Reply
    • According to BugGuide: “Before the introduction of the potato in the US this beetle was confined to Colorado and neighboring states feeding on some native species of Solanum (night shade), now it has spread to most potato growing areas. It has been transported to Europe where it has become a serious pest.” The Data Page on BugGuide reports the Colorado Potato Beetle in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

      Reply
  3. I just found a dead Colorado Potato Beetle in western Morris County, New Jersey … right next to Sussex County NJ. What are they doing here? I notice they are called Colorado Potato Beetles.
    Any info appreciated. This is the only site I find a picture of this beetle and other sites that list bugs by state do not show them in either NJ or PA as I looked at the list of beetles for both states.

    Reply

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