Signs of Mole Cricket Infestation: Identifying Telltale Clues

Mole crickets can wreak havoc on your lawn, garden, or pasture, causing unsightly damage and negatively impacting the health of your turfgrass or plants. Recognizing the signs of a mole cricket infestation is crucial to addressing the problem and implementing appropriate management strategies.

One of the most evident signs of mole cricket activity is the presence of raised, erratic tunnels that can appear throughout your lawn or garden. These tunnels are created by the mole crickets as they burrow through the soil in search of food. You might also notice small mounds of soil or earthworm castings on the surface, which can be caused by their digging.

In addition to visible signs, mole cricket infestations can lead to weakened turfgrass, which can make your lawn more vulnerable to other pests and diseases. Pay close attention to any changes in the health or appearance of your lawn, as this could indicate a mole cricket problem that needs to be handled sooner rather than later.

Understanding Mole Crickets

Mole crickets belong to the family Gryllotalpidae and can be a common pest in the southeastern United States. They come in various species, such as the southern mole cricket, short-winged mole cricket, and northern mole cricket. These insects have their unique characteristics and behaviors.

These creatures are about an inch long and have a grayish-brown color. They can jump using their hind legs but are also known for their flight with wings. Mole crickets are originally from South America but have spread to the southern and eastern United States.

Adult male mole crickets attract females with their courtship song, which varies in frequency and pulse rate depending on the species. For example, the southern mole cricket has a song with 2.7 kHz and 50 pulses per second, while the tawny mole cricket’s song is 3.3 kHz and 130 pulses per second (source).

Here are some key characteristics of mole crickets in bullet points:

  • Inch long, grayish-brown insects
  • Can jump with hind legs and fly with wings
  • Courtship songs to attract mates

Mole crickets can cause damage to lawns and turf by tunneling through the soil. Understanding their habits and biology can help you manage them effectively and protect your lawn from damage.

Mole Cricket Life Cycle

Mole crickets go through a life cycle that includes eggs, nymphs, and adults. Let’s take a look at each stage to help you understand their life cycle better.

Eggs: Female mole crickets lay their eggs in the soil, usually in late spring or early summer. The eggs are placed in small chambers, 5-30 cm below the soil surface source. It takes a few weeks for the eggs to hatch, producing mole cricket nymphs.

Nymphs: The mole cricket nymphs resemble the adults but are smaller and lack wings source. They begin feeding on plant roots and continue to grow throughout the summer. Nymphs molt several times as they mature into adults.

Adults: By fall, the mole cricket nymphs have become adults, sporting wings and capable of mating. During this time, they’re most active, causing noticeable damage to lawns and gardens by tunneling through soil near the surface and uprooting plants source.

Mole cricket activity decreases during winter, as they overwinter in a semi-dormant state. However, in warmer climates, some adults may continue to be active throughout the year. Females will mate and lay eggs again in late spring or early summer, starting the life cycle anew.

Here are some key characteristics of their life cycle:

  • Eggs are laid in soil chambers in late spring or early summer
  • Nymphs hatch from eggs and feed on plant roots
  • Adults are fully developed by fall and cause the most damage
  • Mole cricket activity decreases during winter months, as they overwinter

By understanding the mole cricket life cycle, you can better identify signs of infestation and target your control efforts more effectively.

Identifying Mole Cricket Activity

Mole cricket activity can cause noticeable damage to your lawn, and identifying the signs is the first step in controlling these pests. One of the most common indicators of their presence is the appearance of tunnels on your turf. These tunnels are formed as mole crickets burrow through the soil near the surface and cause the grass to lift.

When inspecting your lawn for potential mole cricket damage, keep an eye out for:

  • Raised, irregularly-shaped tunnels
  • Dying or dead grass patches
  • Distinct mole cricket mounds

As mole crickets tunnel through the soil, they feed on grass roots and other plant tissues, weakening and killing the plants in the process. The damage is more noticeable in turfgrass lawns, where the tunneling can lead to an uneven, bumpy surface.

To confirm the presence of mole crickets, you can perform a simple test using a soapy water solution. Mix 1.5 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap in a gallon of water and pour it over a 2 ft x 2 ft area where you suspect mole cricket activity. Observe the area for about 3 minutes, and count the number of mole crickets that emerge.

Once you have identified mole cricket activity, you can take appropriate measures to control and manage these pests, ensuring a healthy and well-maintained lawn.

Infestation Signs In Plants And Grasses

Mole cricket infestations can cause various damages to your plants and grasses. Here are the common signs you should watch for:

  • Spongy turf: This is one of the first signs of mole cricket damage to your lawn. It occurs when the soil beneath your grass becomes loose, and walking on it feels spongy.

  • Grass uprooting: Mole crickets mainly feed on grass roots, including those of bahiagrass and bermudagrass. If you notice your grass being uprooted, it could indicate mole cricket damage.

  • Damaged plant roots: Aside from grass, mole crickets also feed on plant roots, causing them to weaken. For example, mole crickets can damage the roots of plants like shrubby false buttonweed and partridge pea.

  • Germinating seeds and seedlings: Mole crickets may eat germinating seeds, affecting the growth of your new grass or plants.

Additionally, some mole cricket infestations may cause damages that are more noticeable in certain types of grasses, such as:

Grass Type Damage Sign
Bahiagrass Thinning of grass and reduced growth due to damaged roots
Bermudagrass Irregular bare spots that become larger as the infestation worsens

Keep an eye out for these potential mole cricket infestation signs to protect your plants and grasses. Acting early can save your lawn or garden from severe damage caused by these insects.

Damage to the Soil and Lawn

Mole cricket infestations can cause significant damage to your lawn and soil. You may notice uneven, spongy patches in the turf, along with raised ridges and tunnels. These signs indicate that mole crickets are burrowing through the soil, severing the roots of the grass.

Home lawns, especially those with sandy soil, are particularly susceptible to mole cricket infestations. These pests prefer loose, sandy soil for tunneling and laying eggs. The tunnels created by mole crickets weaken the structure of the soil, which can compromise the health and appearance of your lawn.

Some examples of mole cricket damage include:

  • Loose patches of turf that can be easily pulled up
  • Thin or bare spots appearing in the lawn
  • Small mounds of soil or mud on the surface

If you suspect a mole cricket infestation in your lawn, conduct a soapy water drench to flush out the pests. This will help you determine the extent of the infestation and guide you in selecting the appropriate course of action to treat the problem.

Remember, early detection and intervention are key to preserving the health and beauty of your lawn. Don’t wait until extensive damage occurs before addressing any signs of mole cricket activity.

Monitoring And Treatment Methods

Monitoring mole cricket infestations starts with identifying the pests in your lawn. Overwintered nymphs can damage grass by tunneling and feeding on roots. To identify a mole cricket, flush them out with a mixture of water and dish soap. It’s an effective method to determine if they are present before using any insecticides.

When it comes to treatment, you have various options including chemical treatments, biological control, and professional services like Orkin. Here are some commonly used insecticides for mole cricket control:

  • Carbaryl
  • Bifenthrin
  • Imidacloprid
  • Gramma cyhalothrin
  • Deltamethrin
  • Permethrin

For a more environmentally friendly approach, try using mole cricket bait or biological control methods, such as introducing beneficial nematodes that can kill the pests without harming your lawn.

Keep in mind that although chemical treatments can be effective, they may come with potential health and environmental risks. Don’t forget to follow the dosage recommendations and safety precautions provided by the manufacturers.

Regular monitoring is essential in maintaining a healthy lawn. Be on the lookout for signs of re-infestation, and consider a combination of control methods for better results. Remember, early detection and intervention can save your lawn from significant damage and keep it looking lush and green.

Preserving Lawn Health

A healthy lawn starts with proper care and maintenance. To keep your lawn in top shape, it’s important to identify potential threats like mole cricket infestations early on. Mole crickets can cause significant damage to your grass by feeding on the roots and creating unsightly tunnels beneath the turf.

To prevent mole cricket damage, you can take a proactive approach:

  • Regularly monitor your lawn for signs of mole cricket activity, such as raised, erratic tunnels or areas of wilted, dying grass.
  • Maintain a proper watering schedule to encourage deep root growth, making it more difficult for mole crickets to reach the grass roots.
  • Use a balanced fertilizer to promote healthy turfgrass and improve its ability to recover from mole cricket damage.

Some actions you can take if you suspect a mole cricket infestation:

  • Apply a mole cricket-specific pesticide when necessary to target the pests without harming beneficial insects.
  • Cultivate a diverse ecosystem in your yard by promoting organic matter and introducing natural predators of mole crickets, such as ground beetles and ants.

Keep in mind that not all lawn damage may be due to mole crickets. Other creatures like skunks and raccoons can also cause similar problems in search of food. Understanding the cause of the damage is crucial for developing the right strategy to preserve your lawn’s health.

Remember, a healthy lawn is not only visually appealing but also provides a home for various beneficial organisms. By proactively monitoring for signs of mole cricket damage and taking appropriate action, you can better protect the health and beauty of your turf.

The Mole Cricket’s Habitat Influence

Mole cricket infestations can cause significant damage to your garden. Let’s explore their habitat preferences to understand how certain factors, such as soil type, influence their presence:

Mole crickets love to burrow in loose, sandy soil. This type of soil makes it easier for them to create their tunnel systems. Examples include areas with a high concentration of sand, like coastal regions or certain parts of your garden where the soil is loose.

Additionally, they usually build tunnels near the soil surface. This is because it allows them to easily access plant roots for feeding. Keep in mind that their underground burrows can range in depth, but they generally prefer shallow depths.

Here’s a comparison of mole cricket habitat features:

Features Mole Cricket Habitat
Soil Type Loose, sandy soil
Soil Depth Shallow, near the soil surface
Tunnel Depth Can range, but generally shallow
Feeding Habits Underground, focusing on plant roots and some insects

In conclusion, mole cricket infestations are more likely to occur in areas where the soil is loose and sandy. This type of soil allows them to easily create tunnels, which they use for hiding, feeding, and laying eggs. Paying attention to the factors that influence their presence can help you identify potential infestations quickly, and take appropriate action to maintain a healthy garden.

Role In The Ecosystem

Mole crickets, belonging to the family Gryllotalpidae within the order Orthoptera, play a unique role in the ecosystem. Despite being considered pests in some areas, they contribute to the natural balance.

Being insects that primarily live underground, mole crickets help aerate the soil. You will find them more often in light soils, such as sandy or easy-to-dig soils, and even mud. Their tunneling activity can benefit plant growth by promoting better circulation of air and water around the roots.

However, mole cricket damage can also be harmful to plants. As they tunnel near the surface, they end up severing plant roots and causing them to uproot. In places like lawns and gardens, this can be quite an issue.

Thankfully, there are biological control methods for mole cricket infestations. One example is the utilization of parasitoid wasps, which lay their eggs on individual mole crickets. These wasp larvae feed on the mole cricket’s blood and eventually consume them when fully grown. This process helps to reduce the mole cricket population in a sustainable way.

Key features of mole crickets:

  • Belong to the family Gryllotalpidae in the order of Orthoptera
  • Primarily live underground
  • Contribute to soil aeration through their tunneling activities
  • Can damage plant roots due to tunneling near the surface

So, while mole crickets can sometimes be bothersome pests, it is important to remember the role they play in maintaining the ecosystem. By using sustainable methods like biological control with parasitoid wasps, we can find a balance that benefits both nature and our own surroundings.

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

 

Help me identify this thing!
I have attached a picture of a bug I found today in the garden. I have never seen anything like this. It was about 3-4 inches long and super fast. It was burrowing in the dirt. Please help!
Kellie in Oklahoma

Hi Kellie,
You have a Mole Cricket. They live underground where they eat the roots of plants.

Letter 2 – Mole Cricket

 

Strange Beetle(?)
I found this beetle? on my driveway this afternoon. He’s about 2 inches long, pretty thick fast and strong(for a bug). He’s got paw like diggers in the front, two long feeler like appendages coming off the rear end and a very interesting cape on the back with patterned stripes in tan which tapers out to a long slim tailin the back. I would be very interested in finding out about him. I have never seen an insect like this before.
Thanks,
Howard Blum
Stamford CT

Hi Howard,
Your insect is not a beetle, but a Mole Cricket. They live underground and use those claws to dig. They are also capable of flying. Yours is the second letter this week requesting an identification for this interesting insect.

Letter 3 – Mole Cricket

 

Interesting one…
Hey “Bugman”,
I must tell you that I was pretty surprised (And happy) to find a site where I could just send a picture of this interesting bug I just found, and someone would identify it for me. I’m not naturally particularly interested in bugs, but this site is still going on my “Favorites” list. Anyhow, I live in South Carolina, and last night I saw this interesting looking bug, about 1.5” long running around on the sidewalk. I went to push it with the side of my foot into the middle of the sidewalk so I could see it better, but I accidentally squished it’s abdomen, and to my surpise it made a loud popping sound, just like those little white paper things that pop when you throw them on the ground (That you can get around 4th of July, usually…I hope you know what I’m talking about). Well, when I realized that it had something that looked quite a bit like claws, I decided I had to find out what it is. Here are a couple of pictures of it. Thanks for your time.
Gabriel

Hi Gabriel,
You accidentally trampled a Mole Cricket, Family Gryllotalpidae. These insects are usually found burrowing in the ground. Some species can fly.

Letter 4 – Mole Cricket

 

What is this bug
I found this bug climbing out of the ground in my yard during the summer. It’s head was hard but the back portion was leathery. It’s front claws were like a cicada’s. I took some pictures and let it go but was curious.
Darrell

Hi Darrell,
You released a Mole Cricket from the Family Gryllotalpidae. They use their spadelike front legs for digging. They are common in moist soils.

Letter 5 – Mole Cricket

 

Houston Texas – New Bug
I live North of Houston in a pine area and after 10 years of residence I have started finding these new bugs everywhere. The alsmost look crawfishlike from the front. The can get up to 2" long and the from legs seem to have a hand or pawlike look. The back looks like it may have a stinger. (See attached photo) Any help would be appreciated.
Les Osborne

Hi Les,
Nice photo of a Mole Cricket, Family Gryllotalpidae. They get their common name from the fact that they spend most of their time underground, burrowing. They eat plant roots. Some species are capable of flight. They like moist soil. The European Mole Cricket, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa, can grow to 2 inches. It is a European introduction is generally found in the Eastern U.S.

Letter 6 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Subject: Land shrimp??!!
Location: Perth, Western Australia
October 24, 2013 9:21 pm
Hi, I heard this little critter crawling across my laminate floor this morning. It was very noisy!! I thought it was a giant cockroach, until closer inspection reveals it looks like a shrimp/earwig/cricket type of bug. Needless to say, I caught it and put it outside. Never ever seen one before. Any ideas??
Location: Perth, Western Australia (less than 1 mile from beach)
Month: October (spring-summer), 25C today
Colour: sandy brown with dark brown head
Length: 5cm approx.
Signature: A. Price

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Dear A. Price,
Mole Crickets like the one you photographed are found in may parts of the world.  They are subterranean dwellers that use their front legs to burrow beneath the surface.

Dear Daniel,
Thanks for solving the mystery for me!
Cheers,
Anys

Letter 7 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Subject: Weird bug
Location: South west Sydney, Australia
May 4, 2014 3:21 am
I found this in my hallway today. Never seen anything like it before and nobody else knows what it is. Can you help?
Signature: Laura

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Hi Laura,
This is a Mole Cricket, and we field identification requests for Mole Crickets from all over the world.  We just responded to a query from Florida, but as the image was quite blurry, we did not create a posting.  We are creating a posting from your request and image.

Letter 8 – Mole Cricket

 

Subject:  Unknown bug in NC
Geographic location of the bug:  Havelock, Eastern North Carolina
Date: 10/30/2021
Time: 12:40 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This is the second time I’ve seen a bug like this. It looks scary. This was taken on my patio around October 26 at approximately 11am.
How you want your letter signed:  Creeped out in NC

Mole Cricket

Dear Creeded out in NC,
This is a harmless, subterranean Mole Cricket.

Reader Emails

100519

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 Switzerland

 

Subject:  Big Swiss Bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Central Switzerland
Date: 08/21/2022
Time: 12:18 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, this fella is easily 8cm long, nothing like I have ever seen here before!
How you want your letter signed:  Matt

Mole Cricket

Dear Matt,
This is a Mole Cricket and it is one of our most common global identification requests.  We get images of Mole Crickets from all over the world, including Australia, North America and the Middle East.  We have even gotten a report of a Mole Cricket on a ship in the Caribbean.  Mole Crickets are subterranean dwellers that are also capable of flying and they are sometimes attracted to lights.

Authors

    by
  • 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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