Uncovering the Secrets: Jerusalem Cricket and Camel Spider

folder_openInsecta, Orthoptera
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Jerusalem crickets and camel spiders are two fascinating and often misunderstood creatures. Both of these arthropods have unique features and behaviors that can spark curiosity or fear in those who encounter them.

Jerusalem crickets, also known as potato bugs, are large insects found primarily in the western United States and Mexico. They have a distinctive, rounded appearance with tan or brown coloring. These nocturnal creatures are known for their ability to produce a drumming sound by rubbing their hind legs against their abdomens. Camel spiders, on the other hand, are a type of arachnid that inhabit dry, desert environments. Although they’re often called spiders, they belong to a different order known as Solifugae. These agile predators can grow up to six inches in length and have powerful, oversized jaws.

When comparing these two creatures, several differences are apparent:

  • Classification: Jerusalem crickets are insects, while camel spiders are arachnids.
  • Habitat: Jerusalem crickets prefer the western United States and Mexico, while camel spiders are found in desert environments.
  • Physical features: Jerusalem crickets have a rounded appearance, whereas camel spiders possess a more elongated body structure with powerful jaws.
  • Behavior: Jerusalem crickets produce a drumming sound, while camel spiders are known for their speed and predatory behavior.

Overview of Jerusalem Cricket and Camel Spider

Origins and Distribution

Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopelmatus):

  • Part of the family Stenopelmatidae 1
  • Native to the Western United States and parts of Mexico 2
  • Also known as sand cricket, niña de la tierra, chaco, stone cricket, and potato bug 3

Camel Spider (Solifugae):

  • An arachnid and not a true spider 4
  • Commonly found in deserts of Asia, Mexico, and the Western United States 5
  • Known by other names such as wind scorpion and sun spider 6

Size and Physical Attributes

Jerusalem Cricket:

  • Measures about 1.5-3 inches in length 7
  • Distinct human-like head with strong mandibles 8
  • Amber in color with dark stripes on the abdomen and no wings 9
  • Six stout legs with heavy spines for digging 10

Camel Spider:

  • Size varies by species; average length is about 3-6 inches 11
  • Large, round head with elongated pedipalps resembling a scorpion 12
  • Eight legs, with the front pair used as sensory organs 13
  • Dark brown or tan in color 14
Attribute Jerusalem Cricket Camel Spider
Size (length) 1.5-3 inches 15 3-6 inches 16
Total Legs 6 legs 17 8 legs 18
Head Appearance Human-like, strong mandibles19 Large, round, with elongated pedipalps20
Burrowing Ability Strong digging legs 21 Opportunistic burrower22
Nocturnality Typically nocturnal 23 Prefer dim lighting or night24

Feeding and Diet

Jerusalem cricket and camel spider are two distinct arthropods with different feeding habits and diet preferences.

Jerusalem Cricket diet highlights:

  • Plant roots: They feed on roots and tubers, often causing damage to gardens.
  • Decaying plant matter: They break down and consume plant debris.
  • Organic matter: Soil rich in nutrients and organic matter provides sustenance.
  • Occasional small vertebrates
  • Not venomous: Although potato bugs can inflict a painful bite using their strong mandibles, it is not venomous.

Camel spider diet:

  • Hunt live prey: They actively hunt insects, small vertebrates, and other invertebrates.
  • Scavenge: They feed on dead creatures and decaying organic matter.
  • Burrow: Often found in sand or soil burrows where they ambush their prey.

Here’s a comparison table to showcase their differences:

Features Jerusalem Cricket Camel Spider
Diet Plant roots, tubers, decaying plant matter Live prey, dead creatures, organic matter
Main Feeding Method Passive Active hunting, scavenging
Environment Soil rich in organic matter Burrows in sand or soil
Venomous No No
Bite Pain Level Painful Painful

In summary, Jerusalem cricket and camel spider have quite different feeding habits and diets. While Jerusalem cricket tends to consume plant roots, decaying plant matter, and organic matter in the soil, camel spiders are more aggressive hunters of live prey and scavengers of dead creatures.

Behavior and Communication

Jerusalem cricket and camel spider are both unique insects that exhibit interesting behaviors and methods of communication.

Jerusalem cricket

  • Painful bite: Jerusalem crickets can inflict a painful bite when handled; they are not poisonous, but the bites can cause short-lived, moderate pain.
  • Hissing: They create a hissing noise when disturbed, made by rubbing the femur of their hind legs against their abdomen.
  • Mating calls: They produce mating calls by drumming their abdomen against the ground, which are detected as vibrations in the soil.

Camel spider

  • Long antennae: Camel spiders have long antennae that help navigate in dark environments.
  • Wingless: These insects are wingless, lacking the ability to fly or make typical cricket sounds.
Feature Jerusalem Cricket Camel Spider
Bite Painful Not applicable
Wings None None
Antennae length Short Long
Noise-making capability Hiss and drumming None
Mating call type Drumming Unknown

When comparing these two insects, it’s evident that Jerusalem crickets possess a broader array of communication tactics, including their unique hissing and drumming behavior for mating. On the other hand, camel spiders primarily rely on their long antennae for navigation and may have different ways of communicating that are less understood.

Comparing Features and Habitats

Distinct Traits

Jerusalem Cricket:

  • Known as sand cricket, niña de la tierra, chaco, stone cricket, and potato bug
  • Measures 1.5-3″, amber in color, with dark stripes on abdomen
  • Large mandibles, long antennae, no wings
  • Generates sounds by rubbing hind legs against abdomen
  • Capable of inflicting a painful bite

Camel Cricket:

  • Also called camel crickets
  • Hump-backed, tan, reddish, or dark brown
  • Wingless, up to 1.5″ long
  • Long, fragile antennae and strong, jumping hind legs
  • Found in humid, concealed areas, active at night

Natural Environments

Jerusalem Cricket:

  • Primarily found in the western United States and Mexico
  • Lives in grasslands, forests, and deserts
  • Prefers soil burrows for shelter and hunting
  • Seen in NJ species are rare

Camel Cricket:

  • Widespread in North America, including Missouri
  • Found in caves, basements, cellars, and damp places
  • Humid environments are crucial to their survival

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Jerusalem Cricket Life Cycle

Jerusalem crickets are fascinating insects known for their unique features and intriguing life cycle. They typically have a life cycle that lasts up to two years. With a nocturnal lifestyle, they spend most of their time below ground and are seldom observed. Their life cycle consists of the following stages:

  • Eggs: Females lay eggs in small masses in soil, providing a safe environment for their offspring.
  • Nymphs: After hatching, the nymphs burrow through the soil, molting several times before reaching adulthood.

An interesting aspect of Jerusalem crickets’ reproduction is the complex mating ritual, which involves drumming and hissing. Male crickets create these sounds by tapping and rasping their abdomen to attract females.

Camel Spider Life Cycle

Camel spiders, also part of the Arthropoda phylum and the Insecta class, have a relatively shorter life cycle compared to Jerusalem crickets, usually lasting up to a year. Most of their life is spent in dark, humid environments, such as caves and basements. Here are the key life cycle stages of camel spiders:

  • Eggs: Females lay eggs in a protected environment.
  • Nymphs: After hatching, the nymphs undergo several molts before becoming adults.

Camel spiders don’t have a specific mating song or drumming ritual like Jerusalem crickets. Instead, they usually rely on their senses to locate mates.

Comparison Table

Jerusalem Cricket Camel Spider
Life Cycle Up to two years Up to a year
Behavior Nocturnal, lives mostly underground Lives in dark, humid environments
Reproduction Mating ritual with drumming and hissing No specific mating ritual

In summary, Jerusalem crickets and camel spiders have distinct life cycles and reproductive behaviors. While both are arthropods and have similar stages in their life cycles, they differ in terms of the duration of their respective life cycles and their mating rituals.

Human Interaction and Pest Control

Jerusalem Cricket Encounter

Jerusalem crickets, also known as “Spanish spiders”, “spider crickets”, or sometimes “sprickets”, are found in cooler parts of the western U.S. These insects tend to live in shallow soil burrows and are attracted to areas with moisture. They have brown or yellowish coloration, three distinct body segments, and piercing/sucking mouthparts.

If you encounter a Jerusalem cricket, it is best to avoid handling it as they can deliver a painful bite with their strong jaws. However, they are not venomous and generally pose no serious threat to humans.

Camel Spider Encounter

Camel spiders, on the other hand, inhabit warm arid places such as the Middle East and southwestern area of the U.S. They have remarkable survival abilities and can be identified by their large thorax. Camel spiders have been known to produce chirping sounds as a form of communication.

When encountering a camel spider, it is advised not to handle them, as they can deliver a painful bite. Again, these spiders are not venomous and are not a significant danger to humans.

Jerusalem Cricket Camel Spider
Cooler parts of western U.S Warm arid places
Brown or yellowish coloration Large thorax
Shallow soil burrows Remarkable survival abilities
Attracted to areas with moisture Chirping sounds

Jerusalem Cricket Control:

  • Removing excess moisture around your home
  • Sealing any cracks or gaps in the foundation to limit entry points
  • Regularly clearing debris and clutter from your yard to reduce hiding places

Camel Spider Control:

  • Regularly inspecting and sealing potential entry points around your home
  • Keeping a clean and clutter-free environment, both indoors and outdoors
  • Using insect repellents specifically designed to target spiders, such as mint oil

Remember, always prioritize prevention methods over reactive control measures to minimize the need for potentially harmful chemicals and other interventions.

Footnotes

  1. http://wci.colostate.edu/Assets/pdf/CIIFactSheets/JerusalemCricket.pdf
  2. https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIORT26030
  3. http://wci.colostate.edu/shtml/jersalem.cricket.shtml
  4. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. http://wci.colostate.edu/Assets/pdf/CIIFactSheets/JerusalemCricket.pdf
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIORT26030
  11. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  12. Ibid.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. http://wci.colostate.edu/Assets/pdf/CIIFactSheets/JerusalemCricket.pdf
  16. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  17. https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIORT26030
  18. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  19. http://wci.colostate.edu/Assets/pdf/CIIFactSheets/JerusalemCricket.pdf
  20. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  21. https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIORT26030
  22. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/
  23. http://wci.colostate.edu/Assets/pdf/CIIFactSheets/JerusalemCricket.pdf
  24. https://www.a-z-animals.com/animals/camel-spider/

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 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

Subject: Large and Strange
Location: Boise, ID foothills
October 15, 2016 2:04 pm
I found this in the foothills of Boise, ID. I’ve never seen anything like it! It’s quite large, bigger than any crawling or flying insect I’ve ever seen here.
Signature: ?

Jerusalem Cricket
Jerusalem Cricket

This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug in the genus StenopelmatusSouthern California sightings of Potato Bugs are quite common, but in your area, Potato Bugs  are not as well known.  Since we must leave the office for several days, we are post-dating your submission to go live to our site at the end of the week.

Letter 2 – Jerusalem Cricket in Utah

 

Subject: Found in Utah
Location: Utah
August 27, 2014 4:30 pm
A friend found this late August in Utah at about 7000 feet elevation. It was almost 2″ long.
Any idea what it is?
Signature: Mountain buggy

Jerusalem Cricket
Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Mountain buggy,
This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, a member of a genus found in western North America.

Letter 3 – Jerusalem Cricket in New York?????

 

Subject: What is this bug?
Location: Hamilton, NY
September 30, 2012 2:21 pm
My co-worker and I found this bug this morning at work. We have never seem anything like it and really want to know what it is.
Signature: Thanks, redneckduckling

Jerusalem Cricket????

Dear redneckduckling,
Unless we are incredibly mistaken, this sure looks to us like a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug in the family Stenopelmatidae, which according to BugGuide has a range limited to the western states.  We cannot help but to wonder what your place of work might be, and if it is possible that this insect which looks so much like a Jerusalem Cricket somehow managed to get shipped to your job location.  We are going to write to Eric Eaton to get a second opinion on our identification.  We will also tag this posting as a mystery, because this would appear to be a significant sighting.  See BugGuide for additional information.

I work at an inn/hotel. We found the bug in one of the rooms after a guest had checked out. My co-worker actually screamed because she did not know what it was. I had never seen anything like it so I started looking around online. And found whatsthatbug.com.

We are still waiting to hear back from Eric Eaton.  It is possible that the last guest in the room transported this Orthopteran from a location in a western state by having it stow away in luggage.

Eric Eaton Responds
October 6, 2012
Daniel:
Forgot to tell you I was going to be out of town last week…..
Yes, it is certainly something in the family Stenopelmatidae.  Definitely had to be from somewhere else.  I understand they sometimes get shipped in nursery stock and what not, burrowing in the root balls and/or potting soil.
Eric

Letter 4 – Jerusalem Cricket in Wyoming!!!

 

Subject:  Large insect I spotted.
Geographic location of the bug:  Lincoln County, Southwest Wyoming
Date: 09/28/2021
Time: 06:08 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Dear Bugman,
I was hiking on a hill and spotted this large bug on the ground. I searched through a site with pictures and categories, but couldn’t get a match.
I took this photo with a Moto smartphone zoomed out, about 4-5″away. Bug is about 2″ long.
Location:
On a foothill just East of Kemmerer, Wyoming.
Elevation: about 7000 ft.
Season:
September 27, 2021 at 5pm
I would appreciate any insight. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed:  Bill R.

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Bill,
This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, two common names that really do not adequately describe an unusual group of insects in the only genus found in North America,
Ammopelmatus, in the family Stenopelmatidae.  Sightings of Potato Bugs are quite common in the Los Angeles area, and when Daniel began writing What’s That Bug? in print over 20 years ago, he thought, as many naturalists thought, that these critters were limited to the American Southwest.  Internet reporting by regular folks like you have caused scientists to realize that the range of Potato Bugs includes many other western states.  BugGuide reports previous sightings from Wyoming, but we speculate they are not too common at the edge of their reported range.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that often come to the surface after a rain.  According to BugGuide they:  “Live in burrows and under rocks, logs, may wander on surface at night. Adults, and sometimes nymphs, strike ground with abdomen to produce species-specific drumming patterns (1). Female makes depression in soil for masses of oval, white eggs. Female often devours mate.”

Letter 5 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

Strange bug in Northern Utah (cricket?)
I came across a very strange bug in the Bear Lake Valley in northern Utah at our cabin (photo attached). While I have seen my share of crickets, most recently by the tens of thousands crossing Nevada from our California home, I have never seen a bug like this. Is it a cricket?
Randy

Hi Randy,
The Jerusalem Cricket is not a true cricket. It is commonly called a Potato Bug.

Letter 6 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

potato bug
i was moments from asking you to please help me identify my completely unknown beetle. i had scoured (almost) your entire site (awesome) and couldn’t match it up. i decided to check one more time before submitting my question and looked at the first paragraph… lo and behold. anyway, thanks for the great site… and all the good potato bug pictures. i’ll send my pictures because i didn’t see any pictures of the underside… if you want to include it.
thanks
steve
salt lake city, ut

Hi Steve,
Thanks for the cute belly-up view.

Letter 7 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

Potato bug
Hi Bugman,
After attending a conference in San Diego this week, I took off for the hills and saw this bug outside my cabin, the key from which I used as a scale. I thought it was a Cricket and after a couple of Googles, found your site and a picture of a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket by trying "insect cricket california". I was once a zoologist but this is the first taxonomy I hav done for about 30 years. Thanks for the help.
Mark
Beckenham UK

Hi Mark,
We always like a new Potato Bug image on our homepage since we get so many requests for its identification.

Letter 8 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

Bug found in Sparks, NV
Hello,
This picture was taken Sept. 1, 2005. We are located in Sparks (Reno Area), Nevada out in a desert area. We would like very much to know just what this bug is exactly. Can you help us? If bugs can be beautiful, your website made them that way. What awesome photographs. Thanks for any help you can give us.
Sincerely,
Dennis & Robin Andrews

Hi Dennis and Robin,
Thank you so much for the compliment, but we cannot take credit for the photos as they are supplied by readers just like you. Your insect is a Cricket, a Jerusalem Cricket also commonly known as a Potato Bug. These awesome creatures spend most of their time underground.

Letter 9 – Jerusalem Cricket

 

Subject:  What type of cricket is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Salinas CA USA
Date: 11/11/2017
Time: 11:12 PM EDT
I believe that this is a cricket. What is the exact name of this cricket on the photo. I found this one on my backyard patio and took a photo.
Thanks
How you want your letter signed:  Mark

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Mark,
Though it is commonly called a Jerusalem Cricket or a Potato Bug, this member of the genus
Stenopelmatus is not a true cricket, nor is is from Jerusalem, nor does it eat potatoes.  It is nonetheless an iconic Southern California insect that lives underground and is generally only encountered when digging or after a recent rain.

Letter 10 – Jerusalem Cricket in Oklahoma

 

Subject:  Jerusalem cricket in Oklahoma
Geographic location of the bug:  Sand springs Oklahoma
Date: 08/01/2021
Time: 02:31 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I stepped on a Jerusalem cricket this morning in my mudroom. Unfortunately it was dark and I accidentally stepped on it. The cricket didn’t survive. I am surprised because I didn’t think we had Jerusalem crickets in Oklahoma.
How you want your letter signed:  Diana

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Diana,
We are not certain how common Jerusalem Crickets are in Oklahoma, but BugGuide does have sighting data from Oklahoma.

Letter 11 – Possibly Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket

 

Subject:  Strange looking Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Modesto, CA
Date: 01/11/2018
Time: 09:55 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I just moved into a new house in Modesto, CA  and it’s not surprising that there is a lot of bugs around because I live about 200 yards away from a River. So I see a lot of centipedes and Beatles but about a week ago I seen a bug that I’ve never seen in my entire life. The only way I can describe the look of this bug was that it looked like an Alien. So I need some help to figure out exactly what kind of bug this is.
How you want your letter signed:  Franky Ocegueda

Possibly Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Franky,
We don’t know from whence you moved to Modesto, but if you originated in Southern California, we are surprised you never encountered a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus 
Stenopalmatus before this.  The first winter rains often bring these normally subterranean dwellers to the surface.  Their large size and vaguely humanoid appearance make them unforgettable.  Because your individual does not have a striped abdomen, we suspect it might be a Mahogany Jeerusalem Cricket, , a species identified on BugGuide where it states:  “Can be distinguished from other Stenopalmatus species by its lack of striping on the abdomen.”

Possibly Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket
Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug

Letter 12 – Possibly Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket

 

Subject:  Huge insect outside my door
Geographic location of the bug:  SF Bay Area, California
Date: 04/12/2018
Time: 12:35 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Two weeks ago (early April), I found a huge bug outside my door at night.  It was about an inch long. It did not move at all while we observed it with the light on, and we haven’t seen anything like it before or since. What is it??
How you want your letter signed:  Curious California

Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Curious California,
This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, one of our most frequently requested identification queries from California.  Furthermore, we would say it is a Mahogany Jerusalem Cricket which BugGuide claims:  “Can be distinguished from other
Stenopalmatus species by its lack of striping on the abdomen.”

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Jerusalem Crickets

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • We seen a 2 of these near mcclean avenue near the yonkers boarder. I cant help but to wonder how they got here

    Reply
  • First saw one of these in Thousand Oaks, CA and was amazed at its size and weight. I now live in the bay area of CA (Vallejo) and have seen them here as well, although they do not seem to be as numerous, nor have I seen any as large as we commonly observed further south. A few quick questions about these guys: What are their closest relatives in the insect world? (Are they indeed a type of cricket?) Where do the largest of them rank among insects according to size? Do either of their common names “Jerusalem Cricket” or “Potato Bug” indicate anything factual about their origins or habits? Lastly, I was told these creatures have been the objects of quite a few strange myths and tales, has anyone heard any of these? Thank you to any and all for info !

    Reply
    • In his book, the Curious World of Bugs, Daniel wrote: “The Potato Bug, which is one of the most frequently made identification requests on WhatsThatBug.com, is quite the curiosity. Potato Bugs, Long-horned Orthopterans in the family Stenopelmatidae and natives of the western portion of North and Central America, have numerous other interesting common names that do not make much sense. Despite living underground, Potato Bugs do not prefer to eat potatoes. Though they are also called Jerusalem Crickets, they did not originate in Jerusalem. Other names are much more descriptive, including Children of the Earth from the Spanish Niñas de la Tierra, due to the almost human appearance of the insect’s head, and Skull Insect from the Navajo name, also a reference to the insect’s head. Interestingly, the closest relatives to Potato Bugs are the Wetas of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. These insects have a wealth of legends associated with them as well.”

      Reply
  • I first saw one of these while turning my compost pile in Central Oregon.
    I was surprised by the large size and now I’ve been seeing them burrowing in my garden.
    At first glance I thought it was a scorpion, which I know we have around here as well. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  • I first saw one of these while turning my compost pile in Central Oregon.
    I was surprised by the large size and now I’ve been seeing them burrowing in my garden.
    At first glance I thought it was a scorpion, which I know we have around here as well. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  • I found this bug wen i was sleeping,i had felt somthing so i almost fully set my hand down wen i felt somthing so i grabbed it with two fingers and threw it but then realized that i had felt it move in my hand so i looked for it and found it again but me thinking it was a lizzard wen i seen this insect i was astonished and still traumatized to this day🤣

    Reply

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