Parktown Prawn Unveiled: Essential Information for Nature Lovers

The Parktown prawn is a fascinating creature that often startles people due to its unique appearance. These creatures, scientifically known as Libanasidus vittatus, are a type of cricket native to Southern Africa. They are named after the Parktown suburb in Johannesburg where they are commonly found.

Although they are called “prawns,” these insects are not actually related to aquatic prawns. Instead, the name comes from their striking resemblance in appearance. Parktown prawns are generally 2 to 3 inches long with a reddish-brown body, paired with long legs and antenna. The Parktown prawns are known to be nocturnal and feed on plant debris and smaller insects.

Parktown prawns display several fascinating features:

  • A unique defense mechanism: They spew a smelly brown liquid to deter predators.
  • Strong legs: This allows them to leap great distances, making them efficient escape artists.
  • Invasive behavior: Despite being native to Southern Africa, they have begun to spread to new regions.

Appearance and Identification

Exoskeleton and Antennae

The Parktown prawn, also known as Libanasidus vittatus, is an insect characterized by an exoskeleton and long antennae. They can grow up to 70mm (2.76 inches) in length, making them quite visible and easy to spot.

Some key features include:

  • A hard exterior exoskeleton
  • Long, thin antennae
  • A reddish-brown color

Male and Female Characteristics

Male and female Parktown prawns have certain distinctive features that can be observed to differentiate between the two.


  • Tend to be smaller in size
  • Have more developed, larger hooks on their hind legs


  • Generally larger than males
  • Display smaller hooks on their hind legs
  • Possess a wider abdomen, accommodating eggs when carrying offspring
Feature Male Parktown Prawn Female Parktown Prawn
Size Smaller Larger
Hooks on hind legs Larger Smaller
Abdomen width Narrower Wider

Habitat and Distribution

Johannesburg and Parktown

Parktown prawns, also known as Libanasidus vittatus, are large king crickets commonly found in Johannesburg, particularly in the suburb of Parktown. These nocturnal creatures prefer moist environments like gardens, leaf litter, and compost heaps.

In Johannesburg, Parktown prawns have become a well-known urban dweller. They are also known for their dramatic appearance and ability to jump significant distances, making them quite the conversation topic.

Southern Africa

The distribution of Parktown prawns extends beyond Johannesburg, covering parts of Southern Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.

  • South Africa: In addition to Johannesburg, Parktown prawns can be found in other provinces like Gauteng and Western Cape.
  • Namibia: These crickets also inhabit humid regions of Namibia and are often found in dense vegetation.
  • Angola: In Angola, Parktown prawns appear in tropical and subtropical forest areas.
Country Habitat
South Africa Johannesburg, Gauteng, Western Cape
Namibia Humid regions, dense vegetation
Angola Tropical and subtropical forest areas

Behavior and Diet

Movement and Jumping

Parktown prawns are known for their unique movement patterns. They have impressive jumping abilities, which they use for evasion and hunting:

  • Jumping distance: up to 10 centimeters
  • Jumping height: up to 7 centimeters

Feeding Habits

Parktown prawns have an omnivorous diet and consume various types of food. Their menu includes:

  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Slugs
  • Vegetable matter
Food Source Prey Examples
Insects Ants, beetles, flies
Snails and slugs Garden snails, slugs
Vegetable matter Decaying leaves, plants

Overall, Parktown prawns play an important role in maintaining ecological balance, as they help control the populations of various garden pests while also contributing to the breakdown of organic matter.

Interaction with Humans

Encounters and Experiences

The Parktown prawn, a type of large cricket native to South Africa, is often encountered by humans in urban environments and gardens. These nocturnal insects have a tendency to find their way inside homes, startling residents. These encounters can lead to:

  • Damaging doors, carpets, and fabrics while trying to escape
  • Being compared to the aliens in the movie District 9, which depicted an insect-like alien race

Example: A homeowner discovering a Parktown prawn underneath their couch

Impact on Gardens and Suburban Dwellers

Parktown prawns can have both positive and negative effects on gardens and suburban dwellers.


  • They can help control other pest populations, like snails and slugs
  • As decomposers, they contribute to breaking down organic matter


  • They can harm certain plants through their consumption of roots and leaves
  • Their presence might frighten residents due to their size and appearance

Comparison Table:

Characteristic Positive Impact Negative Impact
Pest Control Yes (Snails, Slugs) No
Decomposition Yes No
Plant Damage No Yes (Roots, Leaves)
Human Fright No Yes

In conclusion, knowing more about Parktown prawns and their interaction with humans helps us understand the balance between their roles in urban environments and the importance of managing our reactions to these creatures.

Natural Predators and Pests

The Parktown prawn encounters a few natural predators and pests in its environment. One notable predator is the Hadeda Ibis, a bird species found in South Africa.

  • Hadeda Ibis: This bird is known for its distinct loud call and can be found in urban areas, feeding on insects such as the Parktown prawn. Due to its size and beak, the Hadeda Ibis can easily prey on these large insects and consume them for energy.

Some pests may affect the Parktown prawn’s habitat and population as well.

  • Invasive species: Invasive pests and diseases might disrupt the ecosystem and cause harm to Parktown prawns by competing for the same resources or altering their living conditions.

To better understand the relationships between Parktown prawn, Hadeda Ibis, and pests, we can compare their features in the table below:

Entity Role in Parktown Prawn Life Pros Cons
Hadeda Ibis Predator Helps control Parktown prawn population Could impact Parktown prawn numbers
Invasive pests Competitor None Harm Parktown prawn population & habitat

Knowing the natural predators and pests may help in developing relevant Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies to maintain balance in the ecosystem. Remember to always consider the environment and other species when attempting control measures.

Role in Ecosystem

The Parktown prawn (Libanasidus vittatus) plays a significant role in its ecosystem. Being a part of the Anostostomatidae family, it is one of the nocturnal invertebrates contributing to the ecosystem’s balance.

As a predatory insect, the Parktown prawn consumes various smaller insects. This helps control the number of pests in the environment. The species also serves as food for several birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Dwelling primarily in the leaf litter, these insects create decomposition sites. In turn, this benefits other organisms and helps recycle nutrients in the ecosystem.

The Orthoptera order has more than 25,000 species, including crickets of the Gryllidae family. The Parktown prawn, although part of the Anostostomatidae family, shares similarities such as being nocturnal and having hind legs adapted for jumping.

Comparison Table: Parktown Prawn vs. Crickets

Feature Parktown Prawn Cricket (Gryllidae)
Family Anostostomatidae Gryllidae
Order Orthoptera Orthoptera
Nocturnal Yes Yes
Diet Insects Plant materials, insects
Hind Legs (Adapted for jumping) Yes Yes

Key Characteristics of Parktown Prawn:

  • Belongs to Anostostomatidae family
  • Nocturnal
  • Insectivorous
  • Hind legs adapted for jumping

By understanding the Parktown prawn’s role in the ecosystem, we appreciate their importance and the ecological balance they help maintain.

Interesting Facts

Parktown prawns, also known as African king crickets or Libanasidus vittatus, are fascinating creatures that have some unique features and behaviors. Here are some interesting facts about these insects:

  • Parktown prawns are large crickets, closely related to the Tusked king cricket and the New Zealand tree wētā.
  • They are nocturnal and often found hiding in gardens or cupboards during the day.
  • Like other crickets, Parktown prawns are known for their nocturnal songs which are produced by rubbing their wings together.

Rain plays a significant role in their life cycle, as their eggs are laid in moist soil and their population booms after heavy rains.

Diet and natural predators:

  • Parktown prawns feast on snail populations, which can be beneficial for gardeners, as they help control pests.
  • These crickets are also known to eat locusts.
  • Cats are reported to enjoy hunting them, with some even finding them in cat food.

Interaction with householders:

  • Parktown prawns have a reputation for entering homes, which can make them an unexpected visitor for householders.
  • They are known to avoid light and indeed prefer dark hiding spots.

Distinctive features:

  • Parktown prawns are impressive in size, with adults averaging 2 to 3 inches in length.
  • They have prominent tusks and a reddish-brown color, which sets them apart from other cricket species.

In summary, Parktown prawns are fascinating creatures that can be helpful in controlling pests such as snails, but their size and appearance can sometimes surprise or alarm homeowners when they find them inside their homes.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. 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.

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  • 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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5 thoughts on “Parktown Prawn Unveiled: Essential Information for Nature Lovers”

  1. I live on the Mornington Peninsula in Southern Victoria and I have noticed quite a number of these around my house and at work at the RACV Cape Schanck.


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