Do Jerusalem Crickets Bite? Find Out the Surprising Truth

Jerusalem crickets, sometimes referred to as “potato bugs,” are large, nocturnal insects known for their frightening appearance. However, many people still wonder if these crickets are capable of biting. Jerusalem crickets do have powerful jaws, which they use to catch and eat other insects and spiders. While they’re not aggressive creatures, they can inflict a painful bite if provoked or handled carelessly.

These crickets are not venomous, as they lack poison glands. However, their strong mandibles can pinch and potentially draw blood from someone handling them improperly. It is essential to avoid provoking or handling these insects in order to prevent painful bites. Overall, Jerusalem crickets are mostly harmless towards humans and serve an essential role in controlling other insect populations in their natural habitat.

Understanding Jerusalem Crickets

Scientific Classification and Appearance

Jerusalem crickets (Stenopelmatus fuscus) belong to the Orthoptera order of insects, which also includes grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. They have a distinctive appearance, mostly characterized by:

  • Large, rounded heads
  • Strong mandibles
  • Striped abdominal patterns

Their powerful jaws are not venomous, but they can inflict a painful bite when provoked 1.

Habitat and Behavior

These insects dwell mainly in the western parts of the United States2. Jerusalem crickets play essential roles in their ecosystems by:

  • Feeding on dead plant matter
  • Aiding in nutrient recycling

Their behavior typically includes “playing dead” when they feel threatened1, producing drumming sounds by rubbing their spiny legs against their bodies2. Moreover, they have a low rate of reproduction3.

Alternative Names

Commonly known by different names such as:

  • Potato bug
  • Stone cricket
  • Camel cricket

These alternative names may be locally or regionally used, but they all refer to the same insect, the Stenopelmatus fuscus123.

Comparison of Jerusalem Crickets (Stone Cricket) and Camel Crickets:

Feature Jerusalem Cricket Camel Cricket
Size Large Small
Head Round, large Round, relatively small
Scientific Classification Orthoptera Rhaphidophoridae (order Orthoptera)
Habitat Western United States2 Worldwide4
Venomous No1 No5

Do Jerusalem Crickets Bite?

Potential Threats to Humans

Jerusalem crickets, despite their sinister appearance, are not venomous and do not sting. Although they might seem dangerous to humans, they are generally not considered a significant threat. However, in certain situations, such as when they feel threatened or cornered, they can bite as a means of self-defense. Some examples of negative interactions with humans could include:

  • Accidentally stepping on a Jerusalem cricket
  • Picking one up without caution
  • Cornering it without an escape route

Defensive Mechanisms

Jerusalem crickets are equipped with strong mandibles, which they use primarily for digging burrows and chewing through plant materials. When they feel threatened, they may adopt an aggressive posture and utilize these mandibles to bite an attacker.

Here’s a brief comparison of the cricket’s defenses:

Defense Description
Mandibles Strong, powerful jaws used for biting
Aggressiveness Adopting an aggressive posture when threatened to deter predators

Some characteristics that influence their defensive behavior include:

  • Teeth and mandibles
  • A natural tendency to defend themselves when cornered
  • An inclination to escape or retreat when possible

The bite from a Jerusalem cricket can cause short-lived pain, but the risk of complications is minimal. Nevertheless, it is best to avoid handling them without proper knowledge or experience. In summary, while Jerusalem crickets might appear dangerous, they pose little threat to humans unless put in a fearful or defensive situation.

Jerusalem Crickets and Gardens

Effects on Plant Roots and Tubers

Jerusalem crickets are not known to be major garden pests. However, they might feed on the roots and tubers of plants, including:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Beets

An infestation can cause minor damage to these crops but is generally not severe. Comparing the Jerusalem Cricket with the Colorado Potato Beetle, the latter is far more destructive to gardens.

Comparison Table of Jerusalem Cricket and Colorado Potato Beetle

Characteristic Jerusalem Cricket Colorado Potato Beetle
Feeding habits Roots and tubers Leaves and foliage of plants
Damage to gardens Minor Severe
Pest control measures Rarely necessary Often required

Pest Control Measures

In rare cases, Jerusalem crickets may require human intervention for management. Some effective control measures include:

  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Beneficial nematodes
  • Hand-picking and relocating

Diatomaceous earth can be sprinkled around affected plants, acting as a natural abrasive that deters the crickets. Beneficial nematodes can be introduced to the soil, as they are a natural enemy of Jerusalem crickets. Lastly, gentle hand-picking and relocating crickets from the garden can help reduce their numbers. It is important to handle them carefully as they may bite when threatened.

In conclusion, Jerusalem crickets have limited effects on plant roots and tubers and rarely require pest control measures when compared to other garden pests like the Colorado potato beetle. By employing appropriate management methods, it is possible to minimize any damage to gardens.

Precautions and Encounters with Jerusalem Crickets

Avoiding Bites

Jerusalem crickets are not considered to be poisonous, but they do have powerful jaws that can deliver a painful bite when handled carelessly. To avoid bites in scenarios where you come across these nocturnal creatures, follow these simple tips:

  • Do not handle them with bare hands
  • Keep a safe distance
  • Wear gloves if necessary

Providing a Safe Environment

Creating a safe environment for both Jerusalem crickets and humans can reduce the chances of negative encounters. Here are some recommendations:

  • Maintain a clean space, as they feed on dead organic matter
  • Use sturdy, plastic containers if capturing one for observation
  • Release them back into their natural habitat, away from residential areas

By staying cautious and respecting the natural habits of Jerusalem crickets, encounters can be safely managed and potential bites can be avoided.

Footnotes

  1. https://cals.arizona.edu/backyards/sites/cals.arizona.edu.backyards/files/b11summer_p6.pdf 2 3 4

  2. http://wci.colostate.edu/shtml/jersalem.cricket.shtml 2 3 4

  3. https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIORT26030 2

  4. https://www.orkin.com/other/crickets/camel-crickets

  5. https://entomologytoday.org/2019/11/06/cave-crickets-camel-crickets-invade-basements-dark-moist-places-winter/

Reader Emails

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 – Mashed Potato Bug

 

What the H-E-double hockey sticks is this thing??
August 3, 2009
Hi Bugman –
This little beauty wandered into my Northern California (Marin County) garage, stopped me dead in my tracks and prompted me to go on a bit of a killing frenzy. It was HUGE and…meaty. There was a lot of exoskeletal-crunching and gut-exploding going on as evidenced by the pictures attached. Thankfully, I had the wherewithal to grab a pack of the husband’s Marlboro lights to make sure that I was able to document size and scale (I think it adds a little class to the whole experience, don’t you?).
I will not be able to get a good night’s sleep again until you can help me identify and confirm that it’s relatives will not try to avenge their buddy’s death by attacking me in my slumber. Can you help? I have lived in this area my entire life and i have never seen a bug like this before or since.
P.s. I know that killing is wrong. But honestly I didn’t know what else to do in the heat of the moment.
Thanks, Sarah
San Rafael, CA

Mashed Potato Bug
Mashed Potato Bug

Hi Sarah,
Please don’t go postal on us for tagging your image of a Mashed Potato Bug as Unnecessary Carnage, because the fact of the matter is, Potato Bugs are harmless, despite a frightening appearance.  Not only are they harmless, we believe Potato Bugs have genuine personality.  Potato Bugs are in the genus Stenopelmatus, and according to BugGuide:  “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.
”  There are currently studies in the Southland to try to update the taxonomy on the genus.  Probably more than any other insect in the western part of North America, the Potato Bug generates curiosity, revulsion, and numerous legends and superstitions due to its humanoid appearance.  We hope the next time you encounter a Potato Bug, also commonly called a Jerusalem Cricket, you won’t react quite so extremely.

thanks, Daniel.  I promise to be more hospitable next time.  Promise.

Letter 2 – Meet a Potato Bug

 

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Subject: Meet my newest, weirdest friend…
Location: San Diego, CA
October 13, 2014 12:22 am
Hey guys,
I’m baffled. Found this guy skittering along the sidewalk in front of a friend’s house around midnight. Looks like some kind of huge, wingless wasp/ant/kewpie doll. It’s thorax, legs & head are all “ant red”, if you will, while its abdomen is this incredible striped black & gold. Couldn’t tell if he has a stinger, but he’s pretty big (thumb-sized) and has great legs. When we locked eyes (yes, he’s big enough that I could see them clearly), I could swear we shared a moment. Hahaha!
Signature: Bella

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear Bella,
This magnificent and unforgettable insect is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, two common names for an unusual group of insects in the genus
Stenopelmatus.  Potato Bugs are rather iconic Southern California insects, and their large size and humanoid appearance make them one of our most frequent identification requests.  They are very common, though they are not encountered that often because, according to BugGuide:  “Most of their lives are spent underground. Damp, sandy soil is preferred.”

Letter 3 – False Potato Beetle

 

A black and white striped insect with rust colored legs.
May 31, 2009
I found this insect crawling on me while gardening. It seems inoffensive; despite me picking it up several times, it never tried to bite. The body was about 7mm long; with legs fully extended, it was about 1cm long. It has wings, but seems reluctant to use them; it never tried to escape by flight, only by crawling. I apologize for the poor photograph; my camera needs a macro lens to take better shots this close, and I have not yet purchased on. This was in late May of 2009, 70 degree temperatures, in central Maryland.
CommanderBalok
Central Maryland (suburb of Baltimore)

False Potato Beetle
False Potato Beetle

Dear Commander Balok,
This is a False Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa juncta.  According to BugGuide, it can be distinguised from its close relative, the notorious plant pest the Colorado Potato Beetle, in the following manner:  “Similar to Colorado Potato Beetle (1), but elytral punctures are regular instead of irregular. Also, a brown stripe at the center of each elytron (wing cover) and on the inner edge of each elytron (where they meet down the middle) distinguish this species.”
BugGuide has this to say about the similar looking Colorado Potato Beetle:  “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.”
Of the False Potato Beetle, BugGuide indicates:  “According to the University of Florida, the False Potato Beetle ‘is found primarily on the common noxious weed, horse-nettle, Solanum carolinense. It also feeds on other solanaceous plants, such as species of ground cherry or husk tomato, Physalis spp., and common nightshade, Solanum dulcamara.'”

Letter 4 – Giant Sweet Potato Bug Nymph

 

Is this in Hemiptera?
Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 2:43 PM
My students and I recently found this bug on a nature walk. I’ve looked everywhere to try and identify it. Please Help….???
Dr. G
Central Flordia

Giant Sweet Potato Bug Nymph
Giant Sweet Potato Bug Nymph

Dear Dr. G,
This is a Hemipteran.  More specifically, it is a Giant Sweet Potato Bug nymph, Spartocera batatas, one of the Leaf Footed Bugs in the family Coreidae.  We matched the photo to one on BugGuide, also from Florida.  According to BugGuide, which only has reports from Florida:  “Non-native, found in Surinam and some Caribean islands. First reported in the continental US in Florida in 1995. ”  We are tagging this as an invasive exotic.  It may be an introduced species that entered the country through human intervention, it may have been introduced through hurricane winds, or it may be a result of range expansion due to global warming.  Global warming will most definitely affect both species range expansions, and species range declines.

Letter 5 – Colorado Potato Beetle: Life Cycle from Bulgaria

 

Beetle found on Potato plant-life cycle
May 30, 2010
We found this bug on a potato plant in south western Bulgaria. We have the entire life cycle from beginning to adult. Thought these would be interesting photos for you. Our Bulgarian friends said these insects come from Colorado but we don’t know what they are, maybe you can help. Feel free to post these pictures.
Josh and Chantelle
Southwestern Bulgaria

Colorado Potato Beetle

Dear Josh and Chantelle,
How wonderful it is that you have provided documentation of nearly the entire life cycle of the Colorado Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, a species native to the mountains of Colorado.  With the cultivation of potatoes, the Colorado Potato Beetle range has spread nearly everywhere potatoes are cultivated.

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.

Letter 6 – Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

 

Subject: Unkown insect
Location: Nebraska
June 30, 2014 2:15 pm
I was walking around outside and I found these two sitting on a puncture vine..I’ve never seen anything like them, and I’m assuming that they are make and female due to one being bigger than the other. They are about the size of a pea, so not very big. They don’t seem to move around much. Can you help me figure out what they are, and everything about them? 🙂
Thanks!
Signature: Annalyn

hey, thank you for helping, but a couple of my friends helped me find out what I had. It’s a potato beetle larvae! 🙂 I’ve just never seen them in this state before. 😛 I love discovering new things, so this is fun! Thanks!

Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae
Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

Hi Annalyn,
We are happy to learn that you have already identified these Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae, and according to BugGuide, they can be distinguished from the larvae of other member of the genus because:  “Larva has two rows of black spots on each side. Falso Potato beetle larva has one row of black spots.”
  The range of the Colorado Potato Beetle was greatly expanded through agriculture and the cultivation of the potato.

Letter 7 – Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

 

Subject:  Eggplant leaf eater
Geographic location of the bug:  Kenosha WI
August 26, 2017 1:36 PM
Can you identify this pest eating eggplant leaves in our Kenosha, WI garden?
How you want your letter signed:  Phil Wheeler

Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae

Dear Phil,
These are either Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae or a closely related species.  According to BugGuide:  “Potatoes and related plants” and eggplant and potato are in the same family.

 

Letter 8 – dramatic Potato Bug photo!!!

 

What is this thing
We found this in Huntington Beach CA and were not too sure what it is. Its about 2.5" long.
Thanks,
Matt

Hi Matt,
We get so many requests for identifications of certain creatures that we like to always have images of them on our homepage. Potato Bugs and House Centipedes are very high on that list and had you scrolled down our page, you would have found a Potato Bug. We will now replace that photo with your very dramatic image. Potato Bugs are also known as Jerusalem Crickets.

Letter 9 – False Potato Beetle

 

What the heck is this??!!
I’ve seen beetles before but what the heck is this? I got a cool close up and you can see the little claws at the end of his feet and his feelers are funky looking!!!
Michele from Kinnelon, NJ

Hi Michele,
What a beautifully detailed photo of a False Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa juncta.

Letter 10 – False Potato Beetle

 

is he dangerous to flowers too?
hello, I just found this glorious looking beetle? in my verbena plant… I love his beauty but if he is going to destroy my flowers I rather get rid of him… thanks for an informative website. regards,
ddgiln

Hi ddgiln,
This is a False Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa juncta. It is a leaf eating species in both the larval and adult stages. They may also eat flowers.

Letter 11 – False Potato Beetle

 

what a strange bug!
Location: Brunswick, NY
June 27, 2011 5:47 pm
I was walking up the driveway at my fiance’s house in Brunswick, NY and I saw this strange bug walking up the pavement. I went to take a picture of the bug as he was walking away from me and he actually stopped, turned around and posed! I’ve never seen anything like it before…can you identify it?!?!
Signature: intrigued in brunswick

False Potato Beetle

Dear intrigued in brunswick,
This False Potato Beetle,
Leptinotarsa juncta, is easily confused with the closely related Colorado Potato Beetle.  According to BugGuide:  “Similar to Colorado Potato Beetle (1), but elytral punctures are regular instead of irregular. Also, a brown stripe at the center of each elytron (wing cover) and on the inner edge of each elytron (where they meet down the middle) distinguish this species.”

Letter 12 – False Potato Beetle

 

Subject: Beetle
Location: Columbia, Maryland
February 5, 2013 4:02 pm
Been looking to ID this beetle. Got your book Curious World of Bugs, and thought maybe a 10 line beetle. An entymologist suggested a ”potatoe beetle”. What say you? It was photographed by a pond.Mid July, 2013.
Signature: Bill

False Potato Beetle

Hi Bill,
The Ten Line Beetle you mention is probably a Ten Lined June Beetle, and that is a much larger insect than this False Potato Beetle,
Leptinotarsa juncta. According to BugGuide:  ” a brown stripe at the center of each elytron (wing cover) and on the inner edge of each elytron (where they meet down the middle) distinguish this species” from the Colorado Potato Beetle,  Leptinotarsa decemlineata.

Letter 13 – False Potato Beetle

 

Subject: What Kind Of Bug Is This
Location: Connecticut
May 22, 2014 8:00 pm
His I Was Just Curious And Thought This Bug Was Quite Cool But I Don’t Know What It Is Help Me Please 🙂
Signature: Logan

False Potato Beetle
False Potato Beetle

Hi Logan,
This appears to be a False Potato Beetle,
Leptinotarsa juncta, but it might be another member of the genus.  According to BugGuide:  “Similar to Colorado Potato Beetle, but elytral punctures are regular instead of irregular. Also, a brown stripe at the center of each elytron (wing cover) and on the inner edge of each elytron (where they meet down the middle) distinguish this species.”

Letter 14 – False Potato Beetle

 

Subject:  Bug in Indiana
Geographic location of the bug:  Fort Wayne Indiana
Date: 07/30/2018
Time: 02:34 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Here is the bug on the porch
How you want your letter signed:  Fort Wayne Indiana

False Potato Beetle

Dear Krista,
Thanks for submitting your image after providing several comments on a Ten Lined June Beetle posting.  Interestingly, we had almost this same case of mistaken identity with our good friend Monique who believed she saw a Ten Lined June Beetle in France.  Your beetle is a considerably smaller False Colorado Beetle, which can be distinguished from an actual, related Colorado Potato Beetle, because, according to BugGuide, the former has:  “a brown stripe at the center of each elytron (wing cover) and on the inner edge of each elytron (where they meet down the middle) distinguish this species.”  The Ten Lined June Beetle is longer, wider and considerably heavier than either of the Potato Beetles.

Letter 15 – Ensiferan from Borneo

 

Subject:  Bu Jiminy, it’s a huge cricket!
Geographic location of the bug:  Borneo
Date: 09/29/2017
Time: 06:33 PM EDT
Dear Bug-dudes, on the road up to Mt. Kinabalu I foolishly picked this monster up to get a size comparison photo – it chomped the end of my bird-flipping finger and drew ridiculous amounts of blood … for a cricket!! I guess it’s about 3 1/2″ long.  A fantastic beast indeed, as are so many on this amazing island.  I’m very surprised that my googling has not revealed the animals true identity – help would be appreciated.
Cheers
How you want your letter signed:  Paul Prior

Large Ensiferan from Borneo

Dear Paul,
This looks to us like a close relative of North American Potato Bug, or a King Cricket from Australia or Parktown Prawn from South Africa.  We located an image on ShutterStock, but alas, it is only identified as a “giant cricket in Sabah, Borneo.”  We hope to have a better identification for you soon.  We will attempt to contact Piotr Naskrecki.

Possibly Sia incisa

Piotr Naskrecki provides an identification
Hi Daniel,
This looks like Sia, possibly S. incisa, a distant relative of North American Jerusalem crickets.
Cheers,
Piotr Naskrecki, Ph. D.
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

Ed. Note:  We found a matching image on Wikiwand.

Large Ensiferan
Thanks guys, this is brilliant. Certainly looks pretty close to the pics I see on the internet. No mention of size and the map doesn’t show Borneo, but perhaps there’s another larger species occurring on that island (which so many examples of “gigantism”!).
Paul

Letter 16 – Fanmail

 

Fan letter, no response requested
January 31, 2011 3:50 pm
I have just spent the morning re-visiting your site, one of the very best in the world in my humble opinion. To my knowledge, no one else is doing what you do. Just one reason for your work: songbirds of all kinds are in serious decline, in no small measure due to pesticide use. Private individuals are often the worst offenders in use of widely available, broad-spectrum pesticides. We all need to learn not to unthinkingly destroy invertebrates.
Unnecessary Carnage” is important as well as entertaining (if tragic), and the entire “Nasty Readership” section has made me laugh more today than anything has in weeks. You guys are incredible. I know it’s a lot to ask of volunteers with important, time-consuming day jobs, but please never stop!
Sincerely,
Signature: Lee White

Hi Lee,
Thanks so much for your kind letter.  It is really appreciated.

Update
Me again, sorry — more supportive thoughts
February 1, 2011 1:36 am
I have been sitting here for some time now, re-reading your marvelous responses to irate readers. These are people who have been trained to believe that the customer, however ignorant and infantile, deserves immediate gratification and an ego stroke in the process. “Ooh, was the bug scary? Oh you poor thing! I can’t believe you waited hours for my unpaid labor!” It thrills me beyond words that you don’t play that game.
As to the smash-first response (“But I was scared!” “I feared for the safety of the chiilldrennn…”), how hard is it to brush the critter off and count some legs? Education is everything! As a California child, I feared the dreaded potato bug, but eventually learned to appreciate it as the harmless and charming Jerusalem cricket. Of course, some people don’t care; they smash because they just don’t like bugs, or because “it’s only a bug”. As I recently told my  classmate, who smirked while I took some trapped boxelder bugs outside, “they understand suffering as well as you do”. Unnecessary carnage is not okay.
Signature: Lee White

Potato Bug from our archives

Thanks for your additional insight Lee.  We have found a nice image of a Potato Bug from our archives to illustrate your passionate and supportive letter.

Letter 17 – Golden Orbweaver perhaps or Potato Bug

 

Mammoth bee-looking-spider
November 16, 2009
We stepped out of our house here in Pasadena, CA to go for a walk. In front of my neighbor’s house, we saw an insect moving on the sidewalk like Addams Family’s “The Thing.” You can hear it walking on the cement. I assumed that it might move fast when we had got closer. Instead, it moved slow, and when we had gotten closer and it stood still. It didn’t raise it’s legs in defense like some bugs. The head was golden yellow, the body yellow/brown, and the end was striped yellow and brown. We left it alone, came back, and it was ran over (probably by a bike). My lady said there was four legs; I thought it was three because it looked like a bee, but it didn’t have wings. Every body part was thick, like it was taking steroids. I left it at night, came back in the morning, and it was gone. I need your help. I’ve not seen anything this big since Mexico. I’m having a baby soon and would like to know what’s crawling around my neighborhood. Any help would be awesome. I drew four legs, but it might be three legs.
Andres Dorame
Pasadena, CA 91106

Sketch of Golden Orbweaver, we believe
Sketch of Golden Orbweaver, we believe

Dear Andres,
Though your sketch is lovely, it makes it difficult to be certain of an identification.  We are guessing you encountered a Golden Orbweaver, Argiope aurantia, a harmless spider that builds a circular web in the garden.  The spiders are quite helpless if knocked out of the web, and they will not leave their webs to hunt, preferring instead to snare flying insects that become trapped.  Golden Orbweavers pose no threat to humans, despite the large size.

A Differing Opinion
November 18, 2009
Golden Orbweaver OR Potatoe Bug!?
Hey bug lovers! I know I am not an expert like you guys/ladies but the last post about the “Golden Orbweaver” with the drawn picture sounds like a potatoe bug to me. I have been pretty much obsessed with those bugs lately and that picture and description sounds like a potatoe bug to me.. But like I said, I’m not the expert! 🙂 Just thought i’d give me input… Love the sight! Keep up the great work!
Amber

Good Call Amber,
You are probably correct, though the drawing shows eight legs and not six.  The written description does tend to indicate a Potato Bug.  Tring to make an identification based on a simple drawing takes a bit of creative license.

Letter 18 – Immature Giant Sweet Potato Bugs

 

Subject: Swarming on beach morning glory
Location: Wellington, Florida
December 24, 2015 2:50 pm
Dear Bugman,
There is a crowd of these bugs swarming on our only beach morning glory plant (Ipomoea imperati) here in western Palm Beach County, Florida. The plant looks peaked and is starting to turn yellow. What are these bugs, and are the bugs to blame? Will they move on to other plants after they are done with the morning glory?
Thank you!
Signature: Helen

Giant Sweet Potato Bug Nymphs
Giant Sweet Potato Bug Nymphs

Dear Helen,
We are sorry about the delay, but you wrote during the time we were out of the office for two weeks and we are still catching up on old mail.  These appear to be Giant Sweet Potato Bug nymphs,
Spartocera batatas, based on this BugGuide image.  The individual in that image were also on morning glory in Florida.  Though BugGuide notes:  “native to the Neotropics (West Indies to so. Brazil), adventive in our area (FL)” and “first reported in the continental US: FL 1995,” there is no mention of food plants, so we cannot say if they will move to other plants.  Featured Creatures has much more information including:  “A large colony of Spartocera batatas (Fabricius) was found in late June 1995 on an Asian cultivar of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) in Homestead, Florida, by Lynn D. Howerton, environmental specialist, Division of Plant Industry (DPI). The plants were badly damaged by the insects. That collection represented the first report of S. batatas in the continental U.S. Subsequent surveys of commercial fields of sweet potatoes in the area failed to turn up any more S. batatas. However, an additional single specimen was found in Miami in early October 1995 by DPI Inspector Ramon A. Dones. Many bugs were found in suburban Miami by Julieta Brambila (University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences) in late September 1996.”  The following food plants are also mentioned:  “The most important host of S. batatas appears to be sweet potato, after which it was named. Other hosts listed in the literature include Solanaceae [tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum), eggplant (Solanum melongena var. esculentum), potato (Solanum tuberosum), and Solanum nigrum], Lauraceae [avocado (Persea americana)] and Rutaceae (Citrus spp.) (Ravelo 1988, Martorell 1976, Alayo 1967, Barber 1939, Wolcott 1923). Observations in Florida indicate that S. batatas adults sometimes disperse in high numbers. Thus, transient adults could be collected on a wide variety of plants. It is not known which of the above host records represent breeding populations.”

Dear Daniel,
Thank you – this information is very helpful. I have been picking them off because the morning glory is at the edge of our vegetable garden and we found more of the nymphs on the other side of the garden. We also have an avocado tree nearby so we don’t want to take any chances that they might spread further.
I appreciate your response.
Helen

Letter 19 – Mashed Potato Bug

 

Note from bug central
Daniel,
First of all, I apologize for the first photo I send you being of carnage. Yesterday my sister, who lives in San Rafael, CA, eMailed me and mentioned she had murdered a 3 inch long termite in her garage the evening before. I am not a bug expert, but I quickly told her it wasn’t a termite, ha ha! Meanwhile I visited your website to quickly compare visually what her bug may have been with what I would picture my sister thinking would be a gigantic termite. After seeing the Potato Bug I knew right away this was her bug. After finding out that she performed this act by dropping a brick from waist high, wearing knee high rain boots while her husband protected their family dogs from this horrible monster!…I broke the news as to what kind of bug it probably was. I gave her the link to your Cricket pages and she thought I may be correct. I told her next time to make sure she gets a photo of the bug, preferrably alive. Just as I told her this, she went to the outside trash can and believe it or not found the bug right on top of everything. She snapped a photo and proved to both of us her giant termite was indeed a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket. I promise the next photo(s) I send you will not be of carnage. I just had to send this one.
Great site, thanks.
Bald John of Tucson

Hi Bald John of Tucson,
While we feel sorry for the poor Mashed Potato Bug, we can’t help but chuckle at your colorful story. We wish there was a photo of your brick wielding sister in her boots with the cowering husband and dogs, preferably from the Potato Bugs point of view. A dramatic recreation is in order.

Letter 20 – Mashed Potato Bug

 

Any idea about this spider like creature
Hello again,
My name is Susan and I recently sent you a message about a garden orb spider. Thank you again, for your research. The attached photos were taken in Long Beach, CA at a horse barn. I accidentally found him under a patch of hay that had been tossed out of a stall. I went to pick up the hay, and this thing touched my finger and very much surprised me. After we kind of mushed it, I decided to take the attached photos in hopes that you might be able to help me determine what it is. I’m only guessing that it might be of the crab spider family.
Hope to hear from you,
Susan
Torrance, CA

Hi Susan,
We haven’t had a posting on the Unnecessary Carnage page of our site in a month. Your Mashed Potato Bug is also called a Jerusalem Cricket. We get 100’s of letters per year with requests for their identification. They are harmless, but people fear them and are grossed out by their appearance. We at What’s That Bug? are much more grossed out by the gore.

Letter 21 – Mashed Potato Bug

 

What is this bug?
Location:  Walnut Creek, CA
August 5, 2010 6:26 pm
What is this. We found it in my daughter’s room.
Laurie Gilmore

Mashed Potato Bug

Hi Laurie,
This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, or in your case, a mashed Potato Bug.  These are large scary subterranean dwellers, but they are quite harmless and should not be subjected to Unnecessary Carnage.

Mashed Potato Bug

Letter 22 – Emerges with the Rain: Potato Bug

 

Subject: what is this bug????
Location: San diego
December 5, 2012 3:48 pm
I cannot figure this one out. just over an inch long and found under a stack of bricks trying to burrow.
Signature: Lawrence

Potato Bug

Hi Lawrence,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket and it is one of our Top 10 Southern California identification requests.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that make an annual appearance when the winter rains begin.

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.

18 thoughts on “Do Jerusalem Crickets Bite? Find Out the Surprising Truth”

  1. They can bite if they’re really provoked, but I’ve handled many of them (gently) with no problem at all. They’re quite prevalent in the Bay Area, and get squished much too often because they seem scary.

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  2. It should be a requirement to learn that the Jerusalem cricket is harmless in California. I’m constantly identifying this one for people. I live in the Bay Area, where everyone is always “saving” something, so as a joke, I had a shirt made that says “Save the Potato Bug” with a big picture of a Jerusalem cricket on it. I get some strange looks, but I know I’ve helped save some innocent cricket lives.

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  3. I always knew them as potato bugs, never heard of Jerusalem cricket. Kind of scary looking. But what I want to know is do they bite? I never picked on up and the last time I saw on was when I was in elementary school. May my nightmares ensue lol.

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    • How are you able to identify the species from the image? According to BugGuide which doesn’t identify any Potato Bugs to the species level: “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.” Even Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin only identifies Potato Bugs to the genus level.

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  4. This was very helpful! I was not sure if I had found a Colorado potato beetle, or a fake!
    I am now sure this beetle is an impostor.
    Thanks, Josiah

    Reply
  5. This was very helpful! I was not sure if I had found a Colorado potato beetle, or a fake!
    I am now sure this beetle is an impostor.
    Thanks, Josiah

    Reply
  6. yeah i saw one of these once. went to show it to a friend and he almost smashed it completely. one of its wing covers cracked off though, and i can confirm that the wings are a pretty looking transparent red shade.

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  7. I picked up one of these little guys and it looked like it was playing dead, it locked its legs out and didn’t move until I put it back down, is this something these normally do? I haven’t been able to find anything on that

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    • I just had this happen with one on my front porch! I wanted to move him from a leaf to my porch, to take a picture, and he played dead for nearly 10 minutes! I thought I had killed him. LOL

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  8. Where I like, we call them, child of the earth. They are Egyptian crickets aka Jerusalem cricket.
    They do bite, and I heard they are poisonous. I found one on my room floor in the middle of the night. It was the biggest/fattest one I’ve seen. I heard they are rare also (though I’ve seen them more often that regular crickets.) So I don’t kill them, and just place them outside. (Though I seriously don’t know how it got inside my room, air vents?) I live in the last room of my apartment.

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  9. I just had one on my Arm it was big scared the hell out of me how could Pittsburgh pa. Have these ? It left a mark on my arm

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  10. Every year about this time these come up in one spot in our yard. Grass doesn’t grow well where they come out. They seem to just come out, scream and breed then lay eggs in hole and die. Don’t bother them as they don’t bother me. Lol

    Reply

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