Currently viewing the category: "Potato Bugs, Wetas and Parktown Prawns"

I recently found a large bug under a rock at my house in South Jordan, UT. I can’t seem to find anyone that knows what type of bug is. I hope you can help me. Its characteristics are: light brown/tan in color, 2 segments of body with black stripes across the bottom half of the body (on top, like a bumblebee), legs that look like a grasshopper’s, only not as large in proportion to the body, head looks like that of an ant, and its overall length is about 1 1/2 inches long. I put him in a jar with dirt and mulch, and he burrows under the dirt most of the time, and remains hidden, although at first he was quite aggressive in trying to climb out of the jar. He has lived for one week in the jar with no additional food or water. He has no wings, and an overall smooth body appearance. Some have said he might be a Mormon cricket, but after having looked at several images of the Mormon Cricket, I do not think he is one. He is quite adept at digging with his front legs. He has six legs, and does not jump at all. If you could help me determine what this is, I would really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Dear Lori,
Sounds like a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug. Try doing a websearch. The scientific Family name is Stenopelmatus. Mormon crickets have a different shape than you describe.

What is it? I found this, trying to sneak into my apartment this morning – and have no idea what it is!! Is it a good bug, or a bad one? Does it bite? What does it eat? I don’t know anything about it – other than it is about 2.5” long, and is nothing I want running around inside my apartment!

Dear Rob,
It is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket. They are omniverous, eating roots and tubers and occasionally dead animals. They can bite painfully, but are not poisonous.

Looking through almost 20 years of memory distortion, my wife and I were confronted by the strangest looking bug we had ever seen. We were living in Glendale and this "tinker toy" bug had somehow gotten into the house, seemed to be nesting in the pile of our rug near the patio sliding glass doors. It was about 2 inches long, and looked like it had been assembled out of brown plastic parts, big round shiny head with two smaller black dot eyes, antennae, a shiny cylindrical body and six legs. We even captured it into a jar where it clicked away at the sides trying to escape. Eventually it was released but we never have seen it pictured in any reference books. The name, Vinegaroon, was mentioned but it hasn’t really satisfied. Any ideas?
Richard Leppig

We’ve lost our original reply to Richard which included a photo, but we correctly identified his visitor as a Potato Bug.

When working in our garden my wife found a worm-like insect about 1-1/2" long and 1/4-1/2" wide, with a white translucent body and a pair of forward pinchers and bulging eyes. My mother-in-law says it is a "nino de la Tierra." Sorry no photos. Can you help?

Dear V.
Niño de la Tierra is a Spanish common name for the fearsome potato bug, or Jerusalem cricket. The navajo call them "wo wee ts’inii" which means skull insect or bone neck beetle. They fit your description. They belong to the genus Stenopelmatus. T
ake a look at It’s an entire website devoted to this good looking creature. We stole this photo from them.

I recently moved to Los Angeles, and last night I found the biggest, scariest bug I’ve ever seen in my apt. It looked somewhat like an ant on steroids, but it looked a little like a beetle, too. I thought it might be one of the "wind scorpions" you mentioned elsewhere on the site, but the photos don’t seem to match up. The bug’s body and legs weren’t quite as long as the scorpions.
This bug was about 1 1/2 inches long, about 1 inch wide. It had six very thick legs (thicker than any legs I’ve ever seen on a bug, and so thick I wouldn’t find it difficult to believe it was a baby animal). The bug was mostly flesh-colored, except the abdomen was black, with rings around it. Can you help me identify it? I am so scared I’m going to see another one of these things in my place. I want to make sure that it won’t hurt me or my cat.
Thank you,

Dear Michele,
You found a potato bug or Jerusalem cricket ( Family Stenopelmatidae) and they do tend to startle people. They are burrowing relatives of true crickets, and sometimes go by the Spanish name Niños de la Tierra or Children of the Earth. They are nocturnal, and live in the soil. Though they can bite with considerable force, they are not harmful.