Are Mole Crickets Poisonous? Uncovering the Truth About These Insects

Mole crickets are a unique family of insects that spend most of their lives underground.

With their modified front legs, they can easily tunnel through the soil, causing damage to turf grass and lawns1.

Are Mole Crickets Poisonous

Many people may wonder if these insects are poisonous or pose a threat to humans and pets. This is exactly what we are going to find out in this article.

Are Mole Crickets Poisonous?

No, mole crickets are not poisonous.

While they can cause significant damage to your lawn, they do not contain venom or any harmful substances that can affect humans or animals.

These insects are primarily considered a nuisance due to the damage they cause to turfgrass and other plants in their search for food3.

So, if you come across a mole cricket, rest assured that it poses no danger to you or your pets in terms of poisoning.

However, it is essential to address any possible infestation, as these insects can cause noticeable damage to your lawn and garden over time.

Mole Cricket Appearance

Mole crickets are unique insects with a distinctive appearance. They have front legs modified for digging, similar to a mole’s, which help them tunnel through the soil.

Additionally, these underground dwellers have wings and antennae.

Key physical features of mole crickets include:

  • Front legs: Designed for digging
  • Wings: Adult mole crickets have wings
  • Antennae: Important sensory organs

These features can be observed in both adult and nymph mole crickets, with nymphs being smaller and less developed.

Species

There are multiple species of mole crickets found across the world.

Some of the most common ones include the tawny mole cricket, southern mole cricket, and northern mole cricket. Here’s a comparison table of these species:

SpeciesSize (Adult)Feeding HabitsTurf Damage
Tawny Mole Cricket25-35mmPreferably feeds on grass rootsSignificant
Southern Mole Cricket25-38mmPredators feeding on soil creaturesModerate
Northern Mole Cricket20-30mmInsects, decaying matter, plant rootsMinimal

While the tawny mole cricket’s feeding habits predominantly cause damage to turf grass, southern mole crickets mainly function as predators in the soil.

Habitat and Behavior of Mold Crickets

Tunneling

Mole crickets, a unique family of crickets, are known for their tunneling behavior. They have modified “hands” (front legs) that help them create tunnels in the soil1. Their tunnels can be categorized into two types:

  • Shallow tunnels: Found near the surface, often visible on lawns
  • Deep tunnels: Located deeper in the soil, used for overwintering and hiding from predators

Feeding on Roots

Mole crickets, particularly the southern and tawny mole cricket species, can cause damage to lawns by feeding on the roots of turfgrass3.

This feeding behavior leads to extensive damage as they create tunnels and destroy the root systems.

They are commonly found in southeastern U.S., southern Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida4.

Mating and Reproduction

The mole cricket life cycle consists of eggs, nymphs, and adults. They mate during spring, with males attracting females using a calling song.

After mating, females lay eggs in the soil, typically in small chambers created within deep tunnels4.

Key aspects of their reproduction include:

  • Eggs: A single female can lay up to 60 eggs in her lifetime. Some species are known to lay 100 to 150 eggs during this period.
  • Nymphs: Eggs hatch into nymphs after 2-4 weeks, and they undergo several molts before becoming adults
  • Adults: Both southern and tawny mole crickets have functional wings, allowing them to fly and find new habitats for breeding3

Mole Cricket Control

One method to identify and control mole cricket infestations is using a soapy water drench2.

Have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of this approach.

ProsCons
Economical and safeTemporary solution
Quick and easy to applyRequires follow-up treatments

Geographical Distribution

United States

Mole crickets are known to inhabit the southeastern United States, with populations extending from southern Florida to North Carolina.

They are considered a significant pest in the region, causing damage to turfgrass like Bermuda and Bahia1.

Monitoring these invasive insects is crucial for turfgrass management programs.

Europe

In Europe, mole crickets are less of a concern and their distribution is not as widespread as in the United States or South America.

South America

South America is considered the native habitat of certain mole cricket species, like the tawny mole cricket and southern mole cricket3.

These species have since been introduced to other areas, including Florida4, where they have caused significant damage to turfgrass.

Table showing the geographical distribution of mole crickets

AreaNotable SpeciesImpact on Turfgrass
United StatesTawny & SouthernHigh damage
EuropeMinimal damage
South AmericaTawny & SouthernVariable damage

Causes and Signs of Lawn Damage

Mole crickets are members of the Gryllotalpidae family within the Orthoptera order, which also includes grasshoppers and locusts. They can cause significant damage to lawns, especially in Southern US states.

To identify mole cricket damage, look for these signs:

  • Dead or dying grass
  • Uneven surface caused by tunneling
  • Hollow or spongy feel underfoot

A good method for detecting their presence is the soapy water drench.

Pour a mixture of water and dish soap on the affected area. If mole crickets are present, they should emerge.

Mole Cricket

Affected Grass Species

Mole crickets primarily target warm-season grasses. Here’s a list of the most commonly affected species:

  • Bermudagrass
  • Zoysiagrass
  • St. Augustine
  • Centipede
  • Bahia grass

The following table compares the susceptibility of popular warm-season grasses to mole cricket infestations:

Grass SpeciesSusceptibility
BermudagrassHigh
ZoysiagrassModerate
St. AugustineLow to moderate
CentipedeLow
Bahia grassLow

Keep in mind that although mole crickets are not poisonous, they can cause extensive damage to your lawn if not addressed.

Early identification and treatment with appropriate pesticides can help protect your turf grass and maintain a healthy lawn.

Control and Treatment Methods

Natural Predators

Mole crickets have several natural predators that can help control their population. Some examples include:

  • Birds
  • Toads
  • Ants
  • Spiders

These predators are attracted to gardens with diverse plants, such as chrysanthemums and marigolds.

Monitoring Techniques

To monitor mole cricket activity, perform the following steps:

  1. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of dish soap with a gallon of water.
  2. Pour the soapy water over a 2 square foot area of the infested turf.
  3. Observe mole crickets surfacing within a few minutes if they’re present.

Soapy water is effective because mole crickets are more vulnerable in their nymph stage.

Chemical Control

For effective chemical control of mole crickets, use granules or liquid insecticides. Some key aspects to consider:

  • Chemicals: Apply chemicals in late June or early July, when nymphs are small.
  • Granules: These are ideal for application during summer.
  • Liquid insecticides: They leave longer residual effect in late summer.

Different chemical control methods

MethodProsCons
GranulesBest for summer application, easy to applyMay require reapplication
Liquid insecticidesLonger residual effect, effective for late summerMay be more difficult to apply

Remember, always follow label instructions when using chemicals for mole cricket treatment.

Natural methods, such as introducing nematodes, can also be effective in controlling mole crickets.

Conclusion

Mole crickets, with their unique tunneling behavior and modified front legs, can damage turf grass and lawns.

While they are not poisonous and do not pose a threat to humans or pets through poisoning, their feeding habits can cause significant harm to vegetation.

Early detection and appropriate control methods, including natural predators, soapy water monitoring, and chemical treatments, are essential for safeguarding lawns and maintaining healthy grass growth.

It’s crucial to address any potential infestations to prevent further damage and preserve the integrity of your outdoor spaces.

Footnotes

  1. https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/lawn-and-garden/mole-crickets/ 2 3

  2. https://craven.ces.ncsu.edu/2021/03/are-you-sure-thats-mole-cricket-damage/ 2 3

  3. https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/insects/mole-cricket-in-turf/ 2 3 4 5

  4. NC State Extension Publications 2 3

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Mole Cricket

Subject: Please Identify
Location: Southern New Jersey
September 27, 2012 10:40 pm
I located this bug outside my store. It’s approx. 4-5 inches long. Appears to be a cross between a lizard, grasshopper, and cockroach. The front legs like just like a crab’s claws. Any help identifying would greatly be appreciated.
Signature: Thanks , Kevin

Mole Cricket

Hi Kevin,
This subterranean dweller uses those crablike front legs to tunnel underground.  It is a Mole Cricket.  We get reports of Mole Crickets from all over the planet and in February, we made it the Bug of the Month.

Letter 2 – Mole Cricket

Big brown, furry bug in Texas
April 10, 2010
Bugman,
I was startled today by this big brown furry bug I saw in the street. The three things I thought it was before I more closely inspected it were a scorpion, spider, or a beetle. However, it is definitely not a spider or a scorpion, Maybe a beetle.
Alex Duenas
Dallas, TX

Mole Cricket

Hi Alex,
We have been getting numerous requests to identify Mole Crickets lately.  Mole Crickets, as their name implies, are subterranean diggers that are also capable of flying.  Sometimes they are attracted to lights.

Thanks. I actually figured it out before you helped me but yea. I would have never guessed it was a cricket. It was much more scary looking than a cricket. I read that they ate rarely seen. Everyone I showed had never seen one so  I guess that’s true. A cricket…haha…and I was afraid to pick it up. Thanks

Letter 3 – Mole Cricket

Found in Central Hungary
Location: Kecskemet, Hungary (central plains)
October 27, 2010 2:19 pm
Hello,
I saw this on my walk home from work on October 25, 2010. Specifically, it was crawling along the sidewalk in a residential area behind a poultry processing plant and close to the train tracks. The pen I added for scale is 14 cm long.
Thanks for your help!
Signature: Franny

Mole Cricket from Hungary

Hi Franny,
The Mole Cricket which is pictured in your photograph and the Toe-Biter are probably two of the most frequent identification requests we receive.  If our memory serves us correctly, we have received requests for the identification of the Mole Cricket from every continent but Antarctica.

Letter 4 – Mole Cricket

Wierd Bug in eastern NC
November 19, 2009
I am trying to figure out what this is. I have only seen one other like it. Up close, it looks like it has a lobsters head, mole paws and the features of a grasshopper. Soo strange. What is it and what does it do/eat?
Dawn
Eastern NC

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Hi Dawn,
This is a Mole Cricket, so your description of the mole paws is quite accurate.  Additionally, Mole Crickets are in the same insect order as Grasshoppers, and since they are both Orthopterans, that observation was also quite keen.  Mole Crickets are subterranean diggers.

Letter 5 – Mole Cricket

Brown flying insect
I found this bug crawling around my garage tonight and had to take a picture of it. I tried for about 2 hours online trying to find out what it is to no avail. It ran pretty fast and did not hop at all or make any noises when i caught it. I hope you can help me identify this.

Hi Doug,
Mole Crickets are subterranean burrowers and many species can fly quite well. We get requests for identifications from many parts of the world, and our troops in Iraq frequently send us photos of Mole Crickets.

Letter 6 – Mole Cricket

Please identify this bug!
Bugman,
Hi, I love your site and I appreciate all the effort you go to to help your fans. I think I’ve checked every page on your site but I can’t find this bug anywhere. I live in New York about one hour north of NYC, I have a large pond on my property.

This is the smallest one of these creatures I have found, the largest one was about the length of a cell phone! All told, I have come across 6 or 7 of these. Any information on what it is and wether or not it can be harmful to children or pets would greatly be apprciated. Thanks! Regards,
Nelson

Hi Nelson,
Mole Crickets are subterranean burrowers that can also fly. We get images of Mole Crickets from all over the world, including many from the Middle East that are sent in by are armed forces.

Letter 7 – Mole Cricket

Another bug from Perth WA

This bug was found in our house in the Perth Hills. It has scoop-like front “claws”, wings, and a very large head. It looks a little like our “sandgropers” but it is darker and they are subterranean. It’s quite large, maybe 40-50mm long. We would appreciate any information you can give us as it looks quite alien.
Thanks
Amy and Erryn
PS Sorry about the photos they’re not our strong suit.

Hi Amy and Erryn,
This is a Mole Cricket. Mole Crickets are in the family Gryllotalpidae. They tunnel underground and are most common in moist soil.

Letter 8 – Mole Cricket

I found this in my pool
I found this bug in my pool skimmer but I saw another just like it swimming in my pool today. When I came out with my camera it was gone. I couldn’t find one like it on your site. It’s a very good swimmer. It has 6 legs, but uses 4 of them for swimming. Does it bite? Where does it live? Should I be worried?
Brett Hufziger

Hi Brett,
This is a Mole Cricket, and its habitat does not include your swimming pool. It is a subterranean dweller that is probably leaving its burrows, perhaps because of rain, and wandering on the surface.

In its surface wanderings, it and its brethren are stumbling into your pool and are unable to get out, with drowning as the ultimate outcome. Mole Crickets have chewing mouthparts and might deliver a slight nip, but we would hardly consider that a bite.

Letter 9 – Mole Cricket

burrowing bug
Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 12:21 PM
While laying a patio foundation with leveling sand, I found this bug burrowing in the sand. Photo 2 shows what I found the morning after compacting the sand. ( I had covered the sand with plastic overnight.)
Thank you for any information.
John
Miami, Florida

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Hi John,
This is a Mole Cricket in the family Gryllotalpidae .  We have received images of Mole Crickets from many parts of the world, including many from American troops fighting in Iraq.

Letter 10 – Mole Cricket

Two mystery bugs
September 21, 2009
Bug #1 – Brown, six legged with wings and looks to be a stinger. About 2 inches long. Found dead on our driveway.


Bug #2 – Brown and white spotted bugs with orange spots almost like a lady bug. Found on our althea red heart hibiscus buds.
Heather Korn
West Tennessee

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Dear Heather,
We frown on unrelated insects in the same posting as it compromises our archiving process, so we will address Bug #2 separately.  We have gotten numerous requests worldwide recently for Mole Cricket identifications. 

We have responded to some without posting the images and your photo is quite nice, so we have decided it is time to post a new image of a Mole Cricket on our site.  Mole Crickets are found underground and some species are capable of flight.

Hi and thanks for the information. I apologize for posting unrelated insects in the same posting and will remember not to do so in the future. Your answers are very helpful and informative, I appreciate it.


Thanks again for your time and have a great day.

Letter 11 – Mole Cricket

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

Mole Cricket

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.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    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.

10 thoughts on “Are Mole Crickets Poisonous? Uncovering the Truth About These Insects”

  1. i could never be more thankful….
    the reason that i started looking for insect identification sites was that very same MOLE CRICKET……
    i found it about a month ago…i was terrified by the ugliness of that bug….
    i could not stop thinking about it,so i started searching the web for id sites, since i did not have a photo of it…….and that’s how i met WTB.

    Reply
  2. Mole cricket: edible

    Hello Daniel and Franny,

    Mole crickets are particularly popular in Thailand and neighboring countries in Southeast Asia; they’re consumed in other parts of the world too.
    I’ve had them and they’re definitely tasty.

    Best,
    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  3. What I can’t find an answer about is why these Texas specimen are so furry or fuzzy. The one I saw the other day was as fuzzy as velvet and seemed to have no wings. However, it was just short of two inches long so I don’t know if it is a nymph, either…

    Reply
  4. my husband found one of these nasty looking bugs in my car in wv…it is creepy…never have i seen something like this before…i would like more info on these insects if possible/…..thank you very much..

    Reply

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