Mole crickets are unique insects that primarily live underground, using their specialized front legs to tunnel through the soil.
These insects are common turfgrass pests in places like Florida and the southeastern U.S. as well as in other parts of the world.
While some may wonder if mole crickets are rare, it’s important to know that their population and impact vary depending on the species and region.
In Georgia, for example, mole crickets are considered serious pests, causing significant damage to turfgrass and resulting in annual losses exceeding $20 million.
On the other hand, the northern mole cricket is native to South Carolina and generally causes little to no harm to lawns.
The tawny and southern mole crickets are introduced species and can cause more damage.
Are Mole Crickets Rare?
No, mole crickets are not considered rare.
They are naturally elusive and not often seen, remaining somewhat rare in appearance. Their nocturnal behavior and subterranean lifestyle led to their infrequent sightings.
They belong to a family of insects found in many parts of the world, primarily in temperate and tropical regions.
These subterranean creatures are known for their burrowing habits, which can sometimes lead to damage to lawns and crops.
Mole Cricket: Characteristics and Life Cycle
Mole crickets mostly live underground and have modified “hands” (front legs) for tunneling through the soil1.
Some notable features of mole crickets include:
The life cycle of mole crickets consists of three stages: eggs, nymphs, and adults. Southern mole crickets have a one-year life cycle3, whereas northern and prairie species have two- or three-year life cycles2.
There are several mole cricket species, each with its unique characteristics:
- Northern Mole Cricket (Neocurtilla hexadactyla): Occurs throughout the United States and causes less damage4.
- Southern Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus borellii): Feeds primarily on small soil creatures and may damage plant roots4.
- Tawny Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus vicinus): Primarily damages turfgrass and is an introduced species in the United States5.
- Short-winged Mole Cricket (Scapteriscus abbreviatus): Primarily consumes plant matter but also minorly preys on insects. It targets plant roots, stems, and leaves, resembling the feeding habits of the tawny mole cricket.
Habitat and Distribution
Mole crickets can be found across the Southeastern United States, including North Carolina, Southern Georgia, and other parts of the region1.
Preferred Soil Conditions
Mole crickets prefer loose, sandy soil and well-drained areas.
These conditions allow them to easily burrow and create tunnels for feeding and nesting4.
Some mole cricket species, like the tawny mole cricket and the southern mole cricket, are considered pests due to the damage they cause to lawns and plants6.
Comparison of Mole Cricket Species in the Southeastern U.S.
|Tawny Mole Cricket||Introduced||Damaging|
|Southern Mole Cricket||Introduced||Damaging|
|Northern Mole Cricket||Native||Minimal Damage|
Feeding and Damage
Mole crickets primarily feed on plant roots, stems, and leaves. They are adaptable pests, known for their tunneling behavior, which can cause significant damage to turf and plants.
Mole cricket damage is closely related to their digging and moisture requirements.
They prefer moist soil for easier tunneling and are more active during warm, wet periods.
Impact on Turf and Plants
Mole crickets can negatively impact various grass types, especially bermudagrass and bahiagrass, commonly found in golf courses and residential lawns.
They cause problems by:
- Severing grass roots and shoots
- Burrowing through the soil, creating tunnels
- Disrupting germinating seeds
- Leaving small mounds of soil on the surface
Signs of Infestation
Visible signs of mole cricket damage include:
- Dead or dying grass patches
- Disrupted soil with small mounds
- Presence of tunnels near the surface
Therefore, the feeding habits and tunneling behavior of mole crickets adversely affect turf and plants.
Regular monitoring and early detection of signs can help manage and control infestations effectively.
Methods to Control Mole Cricket Infestations
Chemical treatments are often used to manage mole cricket infestations in turfgrass.
Common chemical treatments include:
- Imidacloprid: Effective in targeting mole cricket nymph stage
- Bifenthrin: A synthetic pyrethroid used for fast knockdown of mole crickets
- Carbaryl: Works as a mole cricket bait for invasive mole crickets
These pesticides have varying levels of effectiveness and safety, and it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for their use.
- Quick results
- Effective against multiple life stages of mole crickets
- May be harmful to beneficial insects and the environment
- Potential to develop pesticide resistance
Biological control involves using natural enemies to manage mole cricket populations.
The University of Florida has researched classical biological control methods using the following:
- Nematodes: Beneficial parasitic organisms that infest mole cricket nymphs
- Larra wasps (Larra bicolor): A parasitoid wasp that feeds on mole cricket eggs and nymphs
These biocontrol agents are environmentally friendly and target mole cricket populations without causing harm to beneficial insects or the surrounding ecosystem.
- Sustainable and eco-friendly
- Targets specific mole cricket species
- Requires more time and effort for implementation
- May not provide immediate results
Natural methods for mole cricket control focus on preserving native species and discouraging mole cricket development.
Some examples include:
- Planting bahiagrass: A type of turfgrass less favored by mole crickets
- Reducing exterior lights: Mole crickets are attracted to light, so dimming or turning off exterior lights can help deter them from invading lawns
- Making a soapy water solution: Mix liquid dishwashing soap with water to create a dish soap solution that can be poured into mole cricket burrows, forcing them to the surface where they can be removed
Natural predators, such as raccoons and armadillos, can also help to control mole cricket populations in the environment.
- Eco-friendly and less harmful to other organisms
- Encourages preservation of native species
- May be less effective on severe infestations
- Can require more time and effort to implement
Remember, dealing with mole cricket infestations can be challenging, but a combination of preventive measures and treatment methods can help protect your lawns and gardens from these pests.
Dealing with Mole Cricket Infestations
Mole crickets, known for their spade-like feet and tunneling abilities, can be a nuisance to lawns and gardens. To prevent infestations, consider the following measures:
- Maintain healthy grass: Select grass species that are less appealing to mole crickets, like Bermuda grass or Bahia grass.
- Monitor soil temperature: Mole crickets are more active in warmer soil temperatures. Regularly check soil temperature to detect early signs of infestation.
- Encourage natural predators: Attract birds and other insects that feed on mole crickets to help keep their population in check.
Here’s a comparison table of different grass types and their resistance to mole cricket infestations:
|Grass Type||Mole Cricket Resistance|
Mole crickets are unique insects with specialized front legs for tunneling through soil. Common pests in regions like Florida, their impact varies by species and location.
While they remain elusive due to nocturnal behavior, they’re not rare worldwide. The destructive potential of mole crickets is evident, causing damage to lawns and crops, prompting various control methods.
Vigilance and integrated approaches are essential to manage these subterranean pests effectively.
- Mole crickets – University of Florida ↩ ↩2 ↩3 ↩4
- Basic Biology of Mole Crickets – Entomology and Nematology Department ↩ ↩2 ↩3
- Mole Crickets | Oklahoma State University – OSU Extension ↩ ↩2
- Mole Cricket | NC State Extension ↩ ↩2 ↩3
- Mole Cricket Management in Turfgrass – Home & Garden Information Center ↩ ↩2
- https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/mole-cricket-management-in-turfgrass/ ↩
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – “Swimming” Mole Cricket
Subject: Pool bugs?
Location: North Salem, NY
May 29, 2016 10:53 am
These critters were found crawling out of the pool skimmer baskets and into the pool, where they didn’t do so well. What on earth are they?
This is a Mole Cricket, and they are subterranean dwellers, NOT aquatic insects, though this is not our first report of a “Swimming” Mole Cricket. Mole Crickets can also fly, and we get reports of Mole Crickets from all over the planet.
Letter 2 – South African Mole Cricket
What is this bug
I stay in South Africa and this bug was found by my dog. It has funny front claws, and it is quite strong.
Thanks in advance.
This is a Mole Cricket, a burrowing insect in the family Gryllotalpidae. We get images from the U.S. as well as the Middle East. Some species are capable of flight.
Letter 3 – Swimming Mole Cricket!!
Florida Mole Cricket
Thanks so much for having this site! Since moving to the country I feel like I’m on your site daily! I just wanted to send you a picture of a mole cricket that I took. Ever since March 1st we get at LEAST 1 of these in our pool each night. One night we had as many as 5!
Thanks so much!
Thanks for your kind letter and your artful photo of the poor drowned Mole Cricket.
Wow, that was a fast response! Just wanted to let you know that the mole cricket wasn’t drowned. They swim in the pool. They are great swimmers!
Letter 4 – Smashed Mole Cricket in Australia
whats this bug.
we found these bugs one night while sitting outside, the fact that they were there didn’t worry us. but what worried us was the fact that the bugs “watched” us, they turned there heads around and fully “looked” at us.
Unfortunately they were exterminated as there were young children present. what are these bugs and are they harmful? there were 2 but ants got them. this one was the most intact
perth western australia
These are the remains of a harmless Mole Cricket. Mole Crickets have a nearly worldwide distribution. They are omnivorous, nocturnal, underground dwellers that are sometimes considered agricultural pests.
In an effort to educate the public about random acts of killing, we have created an Unnecessary Carnage page in an effort to keep the public from killing first and asking questions later.
Letter 5 – Yet another Mole Cricket from Iraq
what is this?
Can you tell me what bug this is? I’m at FOB Warhorse, Iraq which is a little north of Baghdad. This thing was about as long as my finger!
Dear SPC Plucinik,
We have received countless images of Mole Crickets from Iraq. Though they are found in the U.S. as well, the vast majority of our images come from the troops in the Middle East.
Letter 6 – Yet another Mole Cricket from Iraq
Mole cricket??? Strange critter in Iraq
Just got this note and picture from my son in Iraq. I think it’s a mole cricket. Am I right? Thanks!
[W]hat on earth is the critter in the attachment? It’s about 2 inches long, and it was crawling around the office recently. It has 6 legs and a jointed exoskeleton. It did not jump, and it made a “crack” that was clearly audible from more than 20 feet away when I stepped – not stomped on it.
You are correct. This is a Mole Cricket and we have gotten numerous submissions from Iraq.