Mole crickets are unique insects that spend most of their lives underground, using their modified front legs to tunnel through the soil. Commonly found in Florida and the southeastern U.S., these critters can have quite a significant impact on the turfgrass where they reside due to their burrowing habits. Knowledge of their life cycle is essential for understanding their behavior and implementing effective control strategies.
In general, the life cycle of mole crickets consists of egg-laying, hatching, and the growth of nymphs into adults. Adult mole crickets typically lay their eggs in underground cells during the spring, and these eggs hatch in two to four weeks, depending on the weather. As the nymphs emerge, they feed and grow throughout the summer, ultimately maturing into adults in late fall or winter.
Life Cycle of Mole Crickets
Eggs and Nymphs
Mole crickets start their life cycle as eggs, which are laid by females in spring within underground cells in the soil. The eggs hatch in about 2 to 4 weeks, depending on weather conditions, and proceed to the nymph stage.
Nymphs are the immature stage of mole crickets. They feed and develop throughout the summer, tunneling through the soil in search for food. As they grow, nymphs go through a process called molting, shedding their exoskeleton to accommodate their increasing size.
Adult Mole Crickets
By late fall or winter, nymphs mature into adult mole crickets. Adult mole crickets have a similar behavior to nymphs, but they are more robust and can fly. Examples of mole cricket species include the tawny mole cricket and the southern mole cricket, with the former being slightly larger and more robust.
|Mole Cricket Species||Size||Robustness|
|Tawny Mole Cricket||Approximately 1.25 inches long, 0.4 inches wide||More robust|
|Southern Mole Cricket||Approximately 1.25 inches long, 0.4 inches wide||Less robust|
Adult mole crickets mate and continue the life cycle, with females laying more eggs once soil temperature is suitable.
During winter, mole crickets overwinter deep in the soil but come to the surface to feed during warm periods. Overwintering ensures the survival of mole crickets during colder months, allowing them to continue their life cycle once temperatures become more favorable in spring. The majority of mole cricket species, such as southern and tawny mole crickets, have one generation per year.
- Mole crickets start as eggs laid in spring
- Nymphs develop and feed throughout summer
- Adult mole crickets emerge in late fall or winter
- Overwintering occurs during winter months
- Majority of species have one generation per year
Prevalent Mole Cricket Species
Tawny Mole Cricket
The Tawny Mole Cricket is a common pest species.
- Light brown color
- Can damage turfgrass
Southern Mole Cricket
Another pest species is the Southern Mole Cricket.
- Similar appearance to Tawny Mole Cricket
- Also damages turfgrass
Shortwinged Mole Cricket
The Shortwinged Mole Cricket is a less common species.
- Smaller wings
- Less significant as a pest
Northern Mole Cricket
Neocurtilla hexadactyla is the scientific name for the Northern Mole Cricket.
- Darker markings on thorax
- Clumsy but powerful flyer
Comparison of Mole Cricket Species:
|Species||Pest Status||Appearance||Flight Capability|
|Tawny Mole Cricket||Pest||Light brown, spade-like feet||Yes|
|Southern Mole Cricket||Pest||Similar to Tawny, large eyes||Yes|
|Shortwinged Mole Cricket||Less common pest||Smaller wings||Limited|
|Northern Mole Cricket||Non-pest||Darker markings on thorax, large eyes||Clumsy but powerful|
Impact on Lawns and Plants
Damage to Lawns
Mole crickets can cause significant damage to lawns due to their burrowing habits. Their modified front legs allow them to tunnel through soil, creating a network of tunnels that can weaken the grass roots and cause dying grass or dead patches. This problem is especially prevalent in the southeastern U.S., where mole crickets are common turfgrass pests, affecting various grass types such as Bermuda grass and Bahia grass.
Affect on Vegetables and Pastures
Mole crickets can also impact vegetables and pastures. Their burrowing can disturb germinating seeds and damage the roots or shoots of plants. In addition, their nocturnal feeding habits can lead to reduced growth and productivity. Mole crickets are considered pests in some golf courses, sod farms, and even municipal properties, according to NC State University.
Mole Cricket Damage Compared to Other Lawn Pests:
|Pest||Damage Type||Control Method|
|Mole Cricket||Burrowing, root damage||Nematodes, pesticides, dish soap|
|Grasshoppers||Defoliation||Pest control products, natural predators|
|Locusts||Defoliation||Pest control products, barriers|
Some suggested control methods for mole crickets include:
- Using nematodes
- Applying dish soap
- Monitoring infestations
Note: Always consult a professional for pest control, as improper use of pesticides can be harmful to the environment and non-target species.
Mole crickets are unique pests with a range of effects on lawns, vegetables, and pastures. By learning to identify and control their infestations, we can help maintain healthy and vibrant landscapes.
One method of managing mole crickets is using biological control agents like nematodes and parasitic wasps.
- Nematodes: Steinernema scapterisci, a species of entomopathogenic nematodes, is an effective parasite against mole crickets[^1^].
- Parasitic Wasps: Larra bicolor wasps are natural predators of mole crickets, laying eggs on their bodies[^2^].
Several insecticides are available for mole cricket control. A mix of ¾ oz. liquid dishwashing soap in 1 gallon of water can be poured over suspected mole cricket activity areas to force them to surface. Note that not all chemicals are safe; refer to manufacturers’ guidelines.
Monitoring and Prevention
Regular monitoring can interrupt the mole cricket life cycle, as targeting nymphs and adults early in the spring can prevent egg-laying[^3^]. Lawn management practices are also crucial; healthy, well-maintained turf can deter mole crickets from establishing.
Pros and Cons
|Biological||Natural; no harmful chemicals||Takes time; not always as effective|
|Chemical||Effective; quicker results||Can be harmful to non-target organisms|
|Monitoring||Preventative; reduces population||Requires regular attention and resources|
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 Australia
Subject: weird bug
Location: Gisborne, Victoria, Australia
January 15, 2017 6:43 pm
In Macedon we saw this insect that was about 1.5 inches long, it looks like a bee but with an unusual tail end?
Since we are a global website, we needed to research your location as it was unknown to us. We though Gisborne was an unusual name for Macedonia. We have since learned Gisborne is a town in Victoria, Australia. This is a Mole Cricket, a commonly sighted subterranean insect found in many locations around the world.
Thank you, yes it is Gisborne Victoria, Australia………..sorry.
Wow very interesting as it could hardly walk as its back feet were just dragging along, it was found under a seat at a cafe and its obviously been disturbed and wanting to get back into the earth.
Thank you again!
Letter 2 – Mole Cricket bites April on the Butt!!!
Subject: what is this
April 7, 2015 4:50 pm
I think it bit me on my butt
Mole Crickets, like the one that might have bitten you on the butt, are normally subterranean dwellers that also fly quite well. As though that were not enough, we have received numerous reports of Mole Crickets that are able to swim. We have received accounts of Mole Cricket sightings from Namibia, Australia, Iraq, Spain, and Hawaii as well of most of North America. We think it is more likely that this Mole Cricket scratched your butt with its strong forelegs which have adapted to digging.
Thank you it sure is ugly
Letter 3 – Mole Cricket Carnage from Australia
Subject: mole cricket australia
Location: lower north shore, sydney, nsw, australia
February 14, 2016 1:11 pm
Hi, we found a mole cricket in our living room the other day (sorry to say we killed it, but at the time didn’t know it’s harmless). Since identified this insect thru your site. Great site! I’m amazed at the geographical worldwide spread of these crickets! Thought you might like to know they also occur in urban Sydney, Australia! Feel free to add this comment/photo to your collection !
We are happy you were able to identify your Mole Cricket using our site. We are also glad to learn that now that you have learned they are harmless, future encounters will have a happier ending. Mole Crickets really do have a global distribution, and we have many submissions from Australia.
Letter 4 – Mole Cricket from Australia
Subject: Bristle tail with wings?
Location: Northern NSW, Australia
April 30, 2016 2:19 pm
Any idea what this is? Spotted at night in northern NSW, Australia on the 29th April. Approx 2.5 inches long.
Looks like it has small wings.
This Mole Cricket is a subterranean insect that uses its front legs to burrow quickly through the soil. Mole Crickets are among our most frequent identification requests, and we get submissions from all over the world, not just Australia. Some species are capable of flight.
Letter 5 – Mole Cricket from Australia
Subject: Bug found
November 29, 2016 1:06 am
Hi there I was just wondering if you would be able to tell me what sort of bug this is, as I’ve never seen one before and quite curious. Thanks heaps
Signature: Laken ilott
This is a Mole Cricket, a common subterranean dweller found in many parts of the world.
Letter 6 – Mole Cricket Carnage
Subject: Unidentifiable beetle
Location: Rotonda, FL. 33947
January 28, 2017 10:03 am
Found this in my screened front entryway. Killed it with bug spray as we’re new to FL and unsure what bugs are good and what are not. Cannot find anything similar in searches. No identifying features except large carapace and brush-like front legs. Thank you for any information.
Signature: Deb Svirtunas
This is a harmless, subterranean Mole Cricket. We hope the next individual you encounter lives.
Thank you very much, Daniel, for your prompt and informative response! We will ensure that any future encounters will be harmless removal outside where he/she may continue their job as God intended. Have a great afternoon and Go Patriots!! Deb
Letter 7 – Mole Cricket from Australia
Subject: What’s this thing????
Location: Melbourne. Australia
April 17, 2017 10:00 pm
Hey bugman this photo was taken today in Melbourne, Australia and I have absolutely no clue as to what this creature is. Hoping you can help!
Letter 8 – Mole Cricket from Australia
Subject: Whats that Bug
Location: Gippsland Victoria
May 3, 2017 3:31 am
UMMM i saw this Bug on our farm down the bottom of a valley and it looked lost !! i have never seen anything like this before.
This is a Mole Cricket, and it is one of our most common identification requests. We receive images of Mole Crickets from Australia and many other parts of the globe. Mole Crickets are subterranean dwellers that use their front legs to quickly did in the earth. Some species can also fly and they are attracted to lights.
Letter 9 – Mole Cricket found on board in Caribbean
Geographic location of the bug: arrived on boat, Caribbean somewhere between Trinidad and Martinique, think it flew on board
Time: 11:09 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Looks like a Jeruselem Cricket but has wings.
How you want your letter signed: Chris
This is a wonderful image of a Mole Cricket, a primarily subterranean dweller that is found in many parts of the world. Some species are capable of flight. We have even had folks claim they can swim.