Do Mole Crickets Fly? Uncovering the Truth Behind Their Wings

Mole crickets are intriguing insects that live primarily underground, but often leave people wondering if they can fly. The answer to this question is yes, some species of mole crickets do possess the ability to take flight. However, their flying behaviors differ depending on the specific species.

For instance, tawny and southern mole crickets, which are important pests in turfgrass management, can both fly and tunnel through the soil 1 2. On the other hand, the northern mole cricket is native to South Carolina, but its flying ability may vary based on geographic location and wing development 3.

Mole Cricket Overview

Characteristics and Identification

Mole crickets are unique insects belonging to the order Orthoptera, which also includes grasshoppers and locusts. They have some distinct features:

  • Elongated, cylindrical body
  • Large, shovel-like front legs for digging
  • Antennae for sensing their environment

These insects can be identified by observing their front legs and antennae. Mole crickets are usually brown in color and range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches in length. They are known for their ability to tunnel through soil, as well as their capacity to fly at night.

Types of Mole Crickets

In the world of mole crickets, there are various types to be aware of. Here are two examples:

  1. Short-winged Mole Cricket: This species is native to Europe and Asia, and prefers moist habitats. They have shorter wings than other mole cricket types.

  2. Invasive Mole Crickets: Examples of invasive mole crickets in the United States include the tawny and southern mole crickets, both of which can cause significant damage to turfgrass.

Mole Cricket Type Native/Invasive Wingspan Habitat
Short-winged Mole Cricket Native Shorter wings Moist habitats
Invasive Mole Crickets Invasive Average wings Turfgrass, lawns

Lifecycle and Behavior

Egg and Nymph Stages

Mole crickets begin their life as eggs, usually laid in the soil during spring. After hatching, the nymphs resemble smaller, wingless versions of adult mole crickets. They go through several stages as they grow, molting to accommodate their increasing size.

  • Eggs are laid in spring
  • Nymphs are wingless, smaller than adults
  • Multiple molts occur during growth

Adult Mole Crickets

Upon reaching adulthood, mole crickets develop wings and become capable of flying. They are nocturnal creatures that primarily tunnel through soil and fly at night to find mates or food. Adult males attract females through calling, usually by sitting at the entrance of their tunnel and producing sounds.

  • Adults have wings and can fly
  • Nocturnal creatures active at night
  • Tunneling and mating calls are common behaviors

Seasonal Activities

Mole crickets have distinct activities throughout the year, with certain periods being more conducive to tunneling, mating, or laying eggs.

Season Activity
Spring Egg-laying, nymph development
Late Summer Nymph-to-adult transition
Early Fall Increased tunneling, mating
Winter Overwintering as adults

In the fall, adult mole crickets become more active in tunneling and mating before overwintering during the colder months. As the weather warms up in spring, the cycle starts anew with females laying eggs in the soil while nymphs develop into adults throughout the summer months.

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Range

Mole crickets are found in various parts of the world, but some species are more prevalent in specific regions. In the United States, mole crickets are mainly present in the southeastern states, such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. They have also been observed in areas like Arizona and South Florida.

Preferred Habitat

Mole crickets prefer different habitats based on their species. For example:

  • Northern mole cricket:
    • Thrives in damp areas
    • Often found near lakes, ponds, or grasslands
  • Southern mole cricket:
    • Nabors various environments
    • Feeds on plant roots and decaying matter
  • Tawny mole cricket:
    • Warm and moist habitats
    • Feeds on insects

In general, mole crickets are nocturnal creatures that are active during the night, making their homes in tunnels they create in the soil. Adults are capable of flying long distances, assisting in their distribution across various regions.

Habitat Species example
Damp areas Northern mole cricket Near lakes, ponds
Various Southern mole cricket Grassy landscapes
Warm and moist Tawny mole cricket Urban environments

Remember, mole crickets can cause damage to lawns and landscapes in different ways, depending on the species and their diet. It’s essential to identify and manage mole crickets, especially in regions where they’re common, like the southeastern United States.

Mole Cricket Damage and Signs

Effects on Turf and Grass

Mole crickets can have a significant impact on turf and grass. They damage grass by feeding on plant roots, including grass roots, and dislodging plants as they burrow beneath the soil surface. Some grass species like bermudagrass and bahia grass are particularly susceptible to mole cricket damage. When mole crickets damage turfgrass, it can lead to ugly brown patches and dying or dead grass, which are often replaced by weeds.

Mole cricket damage can be observed in various settings, such as well-watered lawns and golf courses, as well as in lower, damp areas like grasslands by streams, lakes, or ponds.

Indicators of Mole Cricket Infestation

There are a few telltale signs that can help identify a mole cricket infestation:

  • Tunneling: Mole crickets create tunnels as they burrow through the soil. These tunnels can be visible on the surface, resembling long raised ridges.
  • Dead or dying grass: Patches of dead or dying grass, as mole cricket feeding can cause significant damage to the roots and the overall health of the grass.
  • Nocturnal activity: Mole crickets are nocturnal, which means they’re most active at night, tunneling, and, in some cases, flying.

To confirm a mole cricket infestation, a soapy water drench can be used to flush out the insects from hiding. This should be done prior to applying any insecticides for mole cricket control.

Feature Mole Cricket Infested Grass Healthy Grass
Appearance Brown patches, dying or dead grass Evenly green, lush grass
Surface Tunneling Visible tunnels or ridges caused by mole cricket burrowing Smooth, no signs of disruptions
Nighttime Activity Presence of mole crickets during the night No noticeable nocturnal insect activity

Mole Cricket Management

Biological Control Methods

Neoscapteriscus vicinus (southern mole cricket) and Neoscapteriscus borellii (tawny mole cricket) are common pests that cause damage to turfgrass by feeding on roots and tunneling through the soil. But there are ways to manage mole cricket populations using biological control methods:

  • Nematodes: These beneficial organisms, such as Steinernema scapterisci, are used as a biocontrol agent to infect and kill mole crickets. They’re applied to infested areas and can effectively reduce mole cricket populations.
  • Parasitoids: Using natural enemies like Larra bicolor, a wasp species, is another option. They attack the mole cricket, lay eggs on it, and the larvae consume the host, eventually killing it.

Chemical Control Methods

Sometimes, pesticides are required to manage mole cricket infestations. Changes in their population should be monitored, and chemical control methods should only be used when other options aren’t enough:

  • Selective insecticides: Products like bifenthrin and imidacloprid target mole crickets specifically, reducing the impact on other beneficial organisms.

Pros and Cons of Chemical Control

Pros Cons
Quick results Potential environmental impact
Effective against large infestations Can harm non-target organisms
Longer-lasting control Resistance development in crickets

Natural Control Methods

Neocurtilla hexadactyla, or the northern mole cricket, is less damaging compared to southern or tawny mole crickets. Leveraging natural enemies and maintaining healthy turfgrass helps control these pests:

  • Predators: Birds, frogs, and other animals naturally prey on mole crickets, helping regulate their populations.
  • Cultural practices: Proper turfgrass management, like mowing and irrigation, can minimize damage caused by mole crickets.

In summary, mole cricket management can include biological, chemical, and natural methods. Each method has its merits and should be considered based on the specific infestation’s characteristics and the desired result.

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 – Mole Cricket from Turkey

 

Subject: Help Me Identify This!!!
Location: Ankara, Turkey
August 8, 2017 11:29 am
Dear Mr./Mrs.
I recently found this creature on the side of the road, took its photo and let it go. However I couldn’t understand what kind of bug it is. I asked many locals but they don’t know it as well. Since I have never seen such creature I thought you might help me identify it. Details are as follows:
-Date: 1st of August 2017
-Location: Ankara, Turkey
-Climate: Continental Climate
-Size of the creature: Approximately 5-7cm (2-2.75inch)
-Behavior of the creature: Cumbersome, non-aggressive and flightless
I would love to know what kind of creature this is. Thank you for your time.
Signature: Orcun Bekem

Mole Cricket

Dear Orcun,
This is a Mole Cricket, a subterranean insect that uses its powerful front legs to dig.  Many Mole Crickets are capable of flight as well.  We get requests to identify Mole Crickets from all around the world.

Thank you very much for your quick and informative response. Please keep doing what you are doing.
—Orcun Bekem

Letter 2 – Mole Cricket in Swimming Pool

 

Subject: Pool visitor
Location: Barkhamsted, CT
May 21, 2017 7:41 pm
Found this little dude in the pool while prepping for spring setup. Grasshopper? Cricket? About 3 inches long.
Signature: Kate

Mole Cricket in Swimming Pool

Dear Kate,
This is a Mole Cricket, and though we have gotten reports in the past that they swim quite well, we do not consider them to be aquatic.  They are subterranean dwellers that can also fly.

Letter 3 – Mole Cricket takes a dip

 

Found this in our pool
Hi,
Here’s another one for you. But first let me say that I found one of those wonderful giant waterbugs, Toe-Biters, swimming in our pool also. My girls jumped in and from under the rung on the ladder came swimming a dark shadow, I swore it was going after my eldest. I finally got it out but couldn’t find it after, That probably had to do with the fact that I flung the skimmer as far as I could, girls and me screaming the whole time. What a sight. LOL! These little critters here, about an inch long, have been swimming around in my pool also but I don’t think they are meant to only because I find them dead in there also. Any help with what they might be would be great. Not as scary as the giant waterbug but boy is it ugly.
Denise (Texas)

Hi Denise,
Mole Crickets oftne unwittingly stumble into pools.

Letter 4 – Mole Cricket stops work in industrial park

 

Subject: Had to stop working to take a picture.
Location: Monroe, Ohio.
September 3, 2013 8:46 pm
I was working on a jobsite in an industrial park in Monroe Ohio, which is about 45 minutes North of Cincinnati, when this critter came lumbering out of the grass. It looked like it had the head of a spider, butt end of a whip scorpion, but six legs and walked with a bit of a waggle. There was no hopping, and moved at an alright pace, very straight forward across concrete. None of us had ever seen anything like it before, and this is the best picture I was able to snap. Please let us know!
Signature: Bill Yeager

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Hi Bill,
Because of their large size and unusual appearance, Mole Crickets often cause a stir when they are encountered.  Mole Crickets live underground and some species are capable of flying.  We get reports of Mole Crickets from all parts of the globe.

Authors

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  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

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2 thoughts on “Do Mole Crickets Fly? Uncovering the Truth Behind Their Wings”

  1. I saw one of these in Georgia, USA and it freaked me out. My brother screamed alien when he saw it. So I googled and here I am

    Reply
  2. I found one of these and I have scoured the internet looking for what the heck it is! I found one running across our garage! Go figure I find it on this page!…we live in Canton, CT! I expected to find it in a rainforest in the Amazon! Not, literally next door, barkhamstead!! Haha

    Reply

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