Jerusalem crickets are one of the largest cricket species in North America, with adults growing up to 1 ½ to 2 inches in length. These insects can become a nuisance in some situations, so it’s essential to learn effective ways to manage and get rid of them.
These crickets are known for their strong jaws and are related to grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. Although they usually feed on plant matter, they can cause damage to gardens or crops if present in large numbers.
To successfully get rid of Jerusalem crickets, understanding their habits and preferences is important. In this article, we will explore various methods and approaches for dealing with these unwelcome critters, ensuring a comfortable and informative experience for readers.
Understanding Jerusalem Crickets
Jerusalem crickets are one of the largest cricket species in North America with a fully grown adult measuring 1 ½ to 2 inches in length. They have a distinctive appearance with a large, rounded head and strong jaws.
These insects are:
- Nocturnal, being active at night
- Seldom seen, typically discovered by gardeners digging in soil
- Mostly harmless but may bite if handled carelessly
Jerusalem crickets are not known to cause significant problems, as they are useful predators that eat other insects and spiders.
Jerusalem crickets are native to the western United States and primarily dwell in the soil. They are flightless and ground-dwelling, making their habitats in areas with native plants and grasses.
Their diet consists of:
- Native herbaceous perennials (forbs)
- Cultivated forage crops
By consuming these plants, Jerusalem crickets contribute to soil erosion, water quality, and depleted nutrients in the soil, but they also help control other insect populations through predation.
Recognizing the Infestation
Signs in the Garden
Jerusalem crickets can wreak havoc in your garden and identifying an infestation early is crucial. Some signs to look out for include:
- Chewed leaves and stems
- Damaged flowerbeds
- Holes in the soil
These pests prefer hiding under rocks, logs, or boards during the day, so inspect those areas in your yard.
To confirm the presence of Jerusalem crickets, observe the following physical characteristics:
- Large, rounded body
- Black and brown stripes on abdomen
- Strong legs for digging
Watch for them in and around your garden to help with identification.
Another way to detect these pests is by the sounds they make. Jerusalem crickets produce a unique hissing noise when disturbed. This sound is caused by their legs rubbing together.
Pros and Cons of Jerusalem Crickets
|Great for decomposition of organic matter
|Can cause significant damage to plants and structures
|Aren’t known to carry diseases
|Difficult to control without proper methods
By following these tips and knowing the signs of infestation, you can protect your garden from the destructive presence of Jerusalem crickets.
Dangers and Misconceptions of Jerusalem Crickets
Bites and Venom
- Jerusalem crickets are known for their powerful jaws.
- Their bite can be painful to humans, but they are not venomous.
Jerusalem crickets are among the largest crickets in North America, and they have strong jaws that they use for chewing1. If handled carelessly, they may bite humans, causing pain but not delivering venom1.
Poisonous or Harmless?
- Jerusalem crickets are mostly harmless.
- They are not poisonous insects.
Confusion with Other Insects
|Large size, powerful jaws, nocturnal
|Colorado potato beetles
|Oval shape, hard shell, feed on potato leaves
|Eight legs, spin webs, some venomous
Some confusion may arise because of the appearance of Jerusalem crickets, but they differ significantly from other insects like the Colorado potato beetle and spiders in terms of size, shape, and behavior12. For example, Jerusalem crickets are much larger than Colorado potato beetles and have a brown color, while the beetles are yellow and smaller1. Spiders, on the other hand, have eight legs and may be venomous, depending on the species1.
Preventing and Controlling Jerusalem Crickets
- Traps: Set up simple pitfall traps using containers buried at ground level.
- Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your garden to deter crickets.
Jerusalem crickets are not as harmful as other cricket species; they are useful predators that catch and eat insects and spiders. However, if their population becomes overwhelming, implementing natural methods is an eco-friendly way to keep them at bay.
- Neem oil: Apply neem oil to affected areas as a safe, organic insecticide.
While chemical treatments are available, opting for an organic solution like neem oil is better for the environment and safer for both humans and pets.
Keeping your Garden Safe
- Maintain cleanliness by removing dead leaves and debris.
- Avoid overwatering as it attracts insects, including Jerusalem crickets.
To prevent infestations, it’s important to keep your garden clean and well-maintained. Regularly removing plant debris and controlling moisture levels can deter Jerusalem crickets from entering your garden.
|Eco-friendly, safe for the garden
|May require more effort
|Can harm the ecosystem
|Keeps other pests at bay
|Requires ongoing effort
Reproduction and Lifecycle of Jerusalem Crickets
Jerusalem crickets exhibit unique mating behavior. The male attracts a female through a process called drumming. This action consists of:
- Tapping the abdomen on the ground
- Producing vibrations to get the female’s attention
Eggs and Nymphs
After a successful mating, the female lays her eggs in moist soil. This process involves:
- Female can lay up to 200 eggs
- Takes around 2 months for eggs to hatch
- Hatched crickets are called nymphs
The nymphs go through several stages called molts as they grow:
|Short antennas, smaller body, almost translucent
|Longer antennas, larger body, darker color
Some key points about Jerusalem cricket nymphs:
- Nymphs resemble adult crickets but smaller
- They molt about 8-10 times before reaching adulthood
A brief overview of their lifecycle:
- Mating: male attracts female by drumming
- Female lays eggs in moist soil
- Eggs hatch into nymphs after about 2 months
- Nymphs undergo multiple molts as they grow
- Adult crickets eventually mate and restart the cycle
Jerusalem Crickets in the Home
Dealing with Indoor Infestations
Jerusalem crickets are large nocturnal insects known for their strong jaws and burrowing nature. They generally are not harmful to humans, but they can become a nuisance inside homes due to their nighttime activity and loud chirping sounds. Here are some steps to effectively deal with indoor infestations:
- Capture and Release: If you find just a few Jerusalem crickets, capture them using a container and release them outdoors far away from your home.
- Vacuuming: Jerusalem crickets can be vacuumed up and disposed of by sealing the vacuum bag and placing it in the trash.
Safeguarding your Home
To prevent Jerusalem crickets from entering your home, take the following precautions:
- Seal gaps and cracks: Make sure all entry points like doors, windows, and vents are properly sealed off.
- Eliminate food sources: These pests are attracted to decaying organic material, so keep your living spaces clean and free of food debris.
- Reduce moisture and clutter: Jerusalem crickets thrive in damp, dark spaces. Keep your home dry and decluttered to discourage their invasion.
Comparing two common cricket invaders, Jerusalem crickets, and camel crickets:
|Up to 1 inch
|No; bite if handled carelessly
|No; mostly harmless
To minimize the chances of cricket infestations in your home, following the above precautions, and dealing with infestations swiftly should keep your living spaces free from these nighttime nuisances.
Geographical Distribution and Species
North America and Mexico
Jerusalem crickets, also known as “Child of the Earth” or “stenopelmatus,” are native to the western United States, where they can be found primarily along the Pacific coast. These nocturnal insects are also present in Mexico. Some key features of Jerusalem crickets include:
- Native to western United States and Mexico
- Prefer Pacific coast habitat
Different Species Classification
The Stenopelmatus genus contains various species of Jerusalem crickets, with Stenopelmatus fuscus being among the most common. These species share similar characteristics but may display subtle differences. For example:
- Stenopelmatus fuscus: Common Jerusalem cricket species
|Western United States, Mexico
|Nocturnal, common species, prefers Pacific coast habitat
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 – Potato Bug
Please help us discover what this creepy bug is!
Location: Southern California
November 16, 2011 8:53 pm
This 2 1/2 inch wonder was waiting on our door step this evening. Scared the daylights out of us!
Would love to know who came to visit!
Thank you 🙂
The Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket or Niña de la Tierra (in Spanish according to Hogue) is not uncommon in Southern California.
Letter 2 – Potato Bug
Crazy Huge Backyard Bug
Location: Marin, California
April 22, 2011 12:03 pm
Hi, My son and I found this bug in our backyard in Marin, California yesterday (April 21). It appears somewhat like a non-flying bee/wasp (could it be a queen kicked out of nest?) and was moving very very slowly. The thing was HUGE – at leas 4 inches. It looked prehistoric and somewhat venemous. What is it?? Should I remove it from our yard if I encounter it again? Does it mean a colony of something dangerous is in our yard, or just an amazing creature? Thanks for any help!
Signature: Amazed by bug
Dear Amazed by bug,
We hope you and your son will long remember your first encounter with a truly iconic California insect, the Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a member of the genus Stenopelmatus. Entomologists in recent years have realized that there is much more diversity in this genus than originally suspected, and BugGuide now indicates there may be as many as 60 North American species of this unique insect whose closest relatives are the Wetas of Australia. Potato Bugs are not venomous, but they do have powerful jaws that might draw blood if a person carelessly handles a large individual. Native Americans and Spanish speaking cultures have many myths and superstitions regarding this fascinating insect that is almost humanoid in its appearance. There is no need to remove Potato Bugs from your yard. They are subterranean dwellers that spend much of their time underground. Potato Bugs comprise one of our most frequently made identification requests.
Letter 3 – Potato Bug
Bug found in Cathedrale Gorge Nevada
Location: Cathedrale Gorge Nevada
November 1, 2011 11:44 pm
We found the attached bug or insect in the sand of Cathedrale Gorge Nevada. What is it?
Signature: Sue Dangelo
This distinctive insect is commonly called a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and it is one of our most common insect requests from the western states.
Letter 4 – Potato Bug
Location: Los Angeles, CA
October 18, 2011 12:35 am
We found this bug in our pool in Hollywood Hills, CA USA. What is it and is it harmful? Thanks.
Signature: Gabe Naghi
We knew by your subject line without even opening up your image that you had found a Potato Bug, one of our Top 10 Southern California identification requests. Native Americans and Spaniards gave Potato Bugs common names that referred to their humanoid appearance. BugGuide lists other common names as: “Woh-tzi-Neh (Navajo, variously translated as ‘old bald-headed man’, ‘skull insect’, or ‘bone-neck beetle’), Nina de la Tierra (Spanish, ‘child of the earth’), … Devil’s Baby.” Potato Bugs are also called Jerusalem Crickets, though they native and not from the biblical Holy Land. Potato Bugs in the genus Stenopelmatus were the only members of the family Stenopelmatidae, however recent taxonomic changes seem to have created another genus. According to BugGuide, there are “over 50 spp. in our area, mostly undescribed”.
Letter 5 – Potato Bug
Strange Bug in New Mexico
Location: Albuquerque, NM.. 1 mile from Rio Grande
July 2, 2011 11:36 am
We were on a walk and came across this giant 6-legged bug. It’s an orange yellow with black striped on the (rear?) section of its body. The bug was almost 1.5” long and fat. On the rear were two vertical (straight up) antenni looking things. On the front(?) appeared to be an eye (big black dot).. but couldn’t see if there were two. Touching it with a stick, it wasn’t interested in moving. We took two pics.
Signature: Abby & Gracie Slentz
Hi Abby & Gracie,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and it is one of our Top 10 identification requests, though for Southern California, it just may be #1.
Thank you so much for your response! We went back to where we had found him and brought him home. We took him to our local science museum and they were thrilled to get him! He told us he was a “baby faced grasshopper” (and there was some language barrier there), but we were so happy that they wanted him.
Thanks for your time.
Abby and Gracie
Hi again Abby and Gracie,
In Spanish, the Potato Bug is Niño de le Tierra, or Child of the Earth, and in Navajo it is called a Skull Insect. The humanoid appearance cannot be denied.
Letter 6 – Potato Bug
huge bug never seen anything like it!
Location: wooded area, spokane valley, wa
September 29, 2011 2:32 am
This was outside in the. Gravel next to my house. There are plenty of trees nearby and its fall now. Temperatures are about 60-80 the last couple of days. This bug is about 2-3 inches.
This subterranean insect is commonly called a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, and we get so many identification requests that we have tagged it one of our Top 10, though most sightings are from Southern California. With the advent of the internet, it became apparent that populations of Potato Bugs can also be found in the more northern latitudes of the western North American states.
Letter 7 – Potato Bug
I have ran across the potato bug twice. I know its the potato bug because of your site, however, I have a question regarding the potato bug. I have three small children at home. Are these bugs aggressive? My youngest doesn’t know any better but the other two wouldn’t touch it if it were close… I’ve read your page on the potato bug and it says they have the tough jaws that pinch but would those touch jaws pinch for no reason? I’m going to go ahead and send my picture of my recent potato bug just for kick, I noticed you really don’t need any more pictures.. 🙂 Thanks for any info you can provide,
Potato Bugs are not aggressive, but they will bite if handled. You do not have to worry about them stalking your children. Though we do have numerous photos of Potato Bugs, we always like posting a new one on our homepage. Potato Bugs are one insect we always have pictured on our homepage, and your photo will remain until we receive a new image.
Letter 8 – Potato Bug
I don`t know anything much about bugs but this one caught my attention and I can`t figure out what it is? A cricket of some kind? I live in Magalia CA. Thanks for your help.
Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are one of our most common query subjects.
Letter 9 – Potato Bug
What is this
Location: Valley Center CA
April 9, 2011 11:14 pm
I found this under a rock and am wondering what it is. It is a good digger. It tried to bury itself when I went to catch it and it digs pretty fast.
The Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket is a Southern California icon.
Letter 10 – Potato Bug
Please Identify This Big, Scary Bug
Location: Near Salt Lake City, Utah
September 28, 2011 7:29 am
I live in Eagle Mountain, Utah, which is about an hour southwest of Salt Lake City. I saw this giant, slow-moving bug walking on the road last night. Sorry the picture quality isn’t better; I only had my cell phone. It’s about two inches in length! Very meaty. We have a lot of soldiers returning here from the war, and they’ve brought camel spiders to our area. So, perhaps this bug also came from the Middle East. Thank you.
Signature: Jason Pyles
We just finished posting a photo of another Potato Bug from Washington. Potato Bugs are also known as Jerusalem Crickets.
Letter 11 – Potato Bug
Subject: This bug actually made me scream
Location: Mount Washington, Los Angeles, CA
June 17, 2012 9:24 pm
I was gardening yesterday when a bug that I’ve never seen before crawled past me. He was just over two inches long and seriously freaky looking. What is he?
Our What’s That Bug? offices are located in Mt Washington, the best neighborhood in the entire city of Los Angeles. This iconic insect is commonly called a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, or in Spanish, Niña de la Tierra, a member of the genus Stenopelmatus. This genus ranges over much of the western United States, and there are believed to more than 60 species, however, there is not much information on how to distinguish one species from another as all look quite similar. Potato Bugs are subterranean insects that are classified with crickets, katydids and grasshoppers in the insect order Orthoptera. They have strong jaws and large specimen might bite if carelessly handled, but they are harmless. See BugGuide for additional information on the Potato Bug. We are going to post your letter on What’s That Bug? as well as on the Mt Washington Homeowners Alliance website. If you are free on the evening of July 21, you might want to attend our National Moth Week event in Elyria Canyon Park. Please introduce yourself to Julian and Daniel.
Letter 12 – Potato Bug
Subject: what type of bug is this???
Location: los angeles,ca
December 6, 2012 9:09 pm
Hello, How are you??? I was wondering if u can help me identify what type of insect is this?? I never seen one like this before. Is it dangerous?? I found this outside by my apartment.. We previously just had new neighbors move in so I’m wondering if they brought this? Or is this an everyday bug you see ?? Please help!! Do I need to tell my landlord about this??
Signature: it doesn’t matter
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and they are among our most common Southern California identification requests. Sightings peak after the onset of winter rains.
Letter 13 – Potato Bug
Subject: what is this thing!?
February 20, 2013 2:01 pm
My friend sent me this pic wanting to know what it is.
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket and it is one of our most common Southern California identification requests.
Letter 14 – Potato Bug
Subject: What is this?
Location: Spokane Valley, Wa.
July 6, 2013 4:54 pm
Location: Spokane valley, Wa. Found in our garage today, July 6th 2013.
Signature: Christina Lamb
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus Stenopelmatus. This is a very common Southern California creature and prior to the advent of the internet, we believed Potato Bugs ranged throughout the arid southwest. With the internet and recent reports, we have learned that Potato Bugs are actually found much farther north than originally suspected. According to BugGuide, they are found in the “Western United States, basically west of 100 west longitude–just reaching western Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas.” Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that often attract attention when they are spotted above ground because of their large size and somewhat humanoid characteristics.
Letter 15 – Potato Bug
Subject: Brown and white striped mystery bug
Location: Reno, Nevada
August 21, 2013 10:51 am
I found this interesting critter when I was digging a hole to plant a shrub in my backyard this morning (August 21) It was living down in the soil within a foot of the surface. It looks sort of soft bodied and transitional, so I am thinking maybe it is someone’s larval form? I looked through your grub and larvae photos but didn’t see anything similar. I live in Reno, Nevada at about 5,500 ft. elevation. The areas outside the yard are typical high desert sagebrush and rabbit brush environment. Any ideas? Thanks!
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, one of the iconic insects of the American Southwest. It is one of our most common identification requests.
Thanks, Daniel! I have heard of Jerusalem crickets, but I’ve never seen one… until now.
Letter 16 – Potato Bug
Subject: What is this?!
Location: Orange County, CA
September 29, 2013 1:57 am
Earlier today my grandma found this bug outside her hotel room. Neither of us knew what it was or if it is dangerous or not. We both think it looks like a giant ant or termite. I hope you can tell what it is. Thank you.
This is a Potato Bug, one of the most iconic of Southern California insects. Daniel just encountered a Potato Bug while doing yard work yesterday, and he stopped to take some photos. He thought it was a somewhat unseasonal sighting because most reports of Potato Bugs come after the rains. Santa Ana winds were blowing earlier in the week and things are very dry, and we would not expect Potato Bugs to be coming to the surface under such arid conditions.
Letter 17 – Potato Bug
Subject: Like a water bug…but not 🙁
Location: Los Angeles
October 27, 2013 7:51 pm
My friend and I were walking across the driveway at our house at 7:30p in Los Angeles. This bad ass was on the pavement. What the HECK is this?? Some sort of queen bee termite? It was pretty big- at least an inch and a half long and with that striped rear end looks dangerous if not run of the mill, gross
We are happy to learn you have been introduced to a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, perhaps the single most iconic Southern California insect found in Los Angeles. Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are most visible after the weather cools and once the rains begin, because that is the time they come to the surface to search for mates or to escape flooded burrows.
Letter 18 – Potato Bug
Subject: identify this bug
Location: LosAngeles County. RedondoBeach, Ca. North America.
November 12, 2013 2:06 am
Monday November 11-2013 around 10:30 pm i found this bug on the sidewalk in front of my house in Redondo Beach, Ca. 1 mile inland from the Pacific Ocean, Torrance Beach or Redondo Beach side to be exact. I have taken a picture of it next to my lighter which is 3 inches in length 1 inch wide & on its side it’s 3/8ths inch high off the ground.
I believe the picture will tell you as much as i can about its color and characteristics.
Please let me know if its a new discovery soon. or what it is exactly.
Thank You Much.
Signature: Cory Ivie
You must be new to Southern California. This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, and it is probably one of the most iconic Southern California insects, and definitely one of our more common identification requests. Because of their rather humanoid appearance, Potato Bugs have many legends and superstitions surrounding them. They are subterranean dwellers that are rarely seen during the warm summer months, but once the weather begins to cool and the rains arrive, they come to the surface more readily.
Letter 19 – Potato Bug
Subject: identification of a bug
Location: San Jose, CA
December 4, 2013 9:33 am
Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer this question. My 6 year old son woke up this morning and found a bug in our kitchen. I believe it was about an 1.5 inches long. I have never seen anything like this and not really sure how it got into the house based on its size. I have attached the picture and would appreciate if you could help me identify this bug.
Hi again Mohit,
We wrote back with a quick response yesterday, and we have a bit of time so we can provide you with additional information. As we have already indicated, this is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and it is a relatively common insect in California and other parts of the southwest. Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that generally pass unnoticed until the fall rains begin, and they come to the surface. Because of their large size and somewhat humanoid appearance, they attract attention when encountered the first time. Though they are not venomous or dangerous, large specimens have powerful mandibles and they might deliver a painful bite, especially to tender six year old fingers, so they should be handled with caution.
Thank you Daniel. Looks like it must have come into the house from our backyard. I carefully removed it our of the house. Apparently my son has read about potato bugs and was familiar with them 🙂
Letter 20 – Potato Bug
Subject: bug identification?
Location: Southern California
January 12, 2014 10:09 pm
Just ran into this bug and it scared the living daylights out of me. I was wondering if you might know what kind of bug it is? It was about the size of 2 quarters next to each other. Looked like a giant ant that was half bee. Very interesting looking.
Potato Bugs like the one in your photo are southern California icons. They are basically harmless, though they have strong mandibles and may deliver a sharp nip if carelessly handled.
Letter 21 – Potato Bug
Subject: Giant ant bee
Location: Los Angeles
March 20, 2014 5:37 pm
Found it hiding under a wet sack of soil in the garden. Cool outside, but not cold.
Say hello to the Potato Bug, the most iconic of all Los Angeles insects. Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Cricket are found throughout the western United States, but they are most commonly encountered in the southwest.