Jerusalem crickets are fascinating insects that are predominantly found in the western United States. These nocturnal creatures prefer living underground and are known for their unique appearance.
When it comes to their diet, Jerusalem crickets are omnivorous. They feed on a variety of items, including insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers. Although they may appear intimidating, these insects are considered harmless to both humans and woody plants. So as you encounter these peculiar crickets in your garden, rest assured that they are simply going about their daily routine of searching for their next meal.
Understanding Jerusalem Crickets
Jerusalem crickets, also known as Niño de la Tierra or Cara de Niño, are insects belonging to the Orthoptera order in the family Stenopelmatidae (Stenopelmatus fuscus) found mainly in the western United States. They are a unique species with a distinct appearance. Here are some key features of Jerusalem crickets:
- Body color: They have a combination of black, brown, and orange bands on their abdomens.
- Size: Their body size ranges from 1 to 2.75 inches long.
- Antennae: These insects have long antennae that help them navigate their surroundings.
- Legs: Jerusalem crickets have powerful hind legs used for digging.
The nickname Stone Cricket can be attributed to their habit of burrowing in soil and seeking refuge under rocks. Their appearance can be quite fascinating, with features like large, round heads and shiny back plates on their abdomens.
However, even with such striking looks, these insects don’t have wings, making them flightless. They make up for the lack of wings with impressive burrowing skills. These abilities make them efficient at finding their primary food sources, which include insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers according to the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Jerusalem crickets are mostly harmless to humans and woody plants. However, it is crucial to remember that their powerful jaws can deliver a painful bite if they feel threatened. It’s best to observe and appreciate these fascinating insects from a safe distance.
Identifying Jerusalem Crickets
Jerusalem crickets are unique insects that can be found in North America, particularly in the western region. To identify them, take note of these visual features:
- Large, bulbous heads with prominent jaws
- Nocturnal and mostly solitary habits
- Black or brown in color with yellow bands on the abdomen
- Legs adapted for digging
Remember to keep an eye out for them during evening hours, as they are more active at night.
Jerusalem crickets use various sounds and signals to communicate, including hissing, chirping, and drumming. Here are some notable auditory signals to listen for:
- Hissing: When threatened, they produce a defensive hissing sound by rubbing their hind legs together.
- Chirping: Like other crickets, Jerusalem crickets produce a chirping sound by rubbing their wings together.
- Drumming sound: To attract a mate, both male and female Jerusalem crickets perform a unique drumming ritual. They create vibrations by striking the ground repeatedly with their abdomen. These drumming patterns are exclusive to many species of Jerusalem cricket.
By listening for these distinct sounds, you can better recognize the presence of these fascinating insects.
Jerusalem crickets, also known as potato bugs, are large, flightless insects found primarily in the western United States, Mexico, and Central America. These intriguing creatures have a unique habitat that is important for them to thrive.
In the wild, you’ll typically find Jerusalem crickets living in soils, particularly in underground burrows. They prefer loose, moist soil which makes it easier for them to dig and navigate. They can often be found in grasslands, forests, and even suburban gardens.
Some key features of their habitat include:
- Loose, moist soil
- Underground burrows
- Availability of food sources such as insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers
Since Jerusalem crickets are nocturnal, they spend most of their daytime hours hidden beneath rocks, logs, or in their underground burrows. This provides them with shelter from predators and the sun’s harsh rays. At night, they emerge to forage for food and search for mates.
Remember, when encountering a Jerusalem cricket, respect its habitat and observe from a distance, as they, like all creatures, play an essential role in the ecosystem.
Jerusalem crickets have a diverse diet in which they consume different types of food items. They primarily feed on organic matter that is found beneath the soil’s surface. This includes a variety of plants, fruits, and vegetables.
Some examples of what Jerusalem crickets eat include:
- Tubers: Jerusalem crickets consume tubers, such as potatoes, due to their abundance of nutrients.
- Roots: These crickets are known to eat the roots of various plants as part of their diet.
- Vegetables: You can find Jerusalem crickets munching on a range of vegetables present in the soil.
- Fruits: Similarly, they consume fruits which have fallen to the ground or are buried in the soil.
In addition to plants and fruits, Jerusalem crickets include other small bugs in their diet as well. They are known to catch and eat insects, giving them a balance of both plant- and animal-based nutrition in their diet.
Here’s a simple comparison of their dietary preferences:
|Roots||Various types of plants|
|Vegetables||Carrots, beets, etc.|
|Fruits||Fallen or buried fruits|
|Bugs/Insects||Smaller insects found in soil|
So, as you can see, Jerusalem crickets have a varied diet, which mainly consists of plants, vegetables, fruits, and other bugs. This feeding habit allows them to thrive in diverse environments and maintain a healthy balance of nutrients in their daily life. Keep these diverse dietary requirements in mind if you encounter these crickets in their natural habitat or plan to keep them as pets in a controlled environment.
Jerusalem Crickets and Humans
Although Jerusalem crickets are generally harmless to humans, they can sometimes be considered as garden pests if they feed on your nonwoody roots or tubers. To prevent infestations, it’s essential to keep your garden free from debris and weeds where these insects might reside. One effective method to maintain a healthy garden and deter these crickets is to apply neem oil on the affected plants.
- Neem oil is a natural pest control method
- Harmless to humans and pets
- May need repeated applications
- Can impact some beneficial insects
Jerusalem Crickets as Pets
Since Jerusalem crickets are relatively harmless and interesting creatures, you might consider keeping them as pets. However, it’s essential to provide the crickets with the appropriate habitat and diet that replicates their natural environment. Remember to handle them carefully, as they can bite if they feel threatened or mishandled.
Features of a suitable habitat:
- Adequate ventilation
- A substrate mimicking their natural soil
- Hiding spots like rocks or plants
- Temperature between 75°F to 85°F
Here’s a comparison table highlighting their key aspects:
|Diet||Insects, nonwoody roots, tubers|
|Lifespan||Up to 2 years|
|Harm to humans||Harmless, unless mishandled|
|Pets||Can be kept as pets|
|Pest control||Neem oil can be effective|
By taking into account these factors, you can create a safe and enjoyable environment for your Jerusalem cricket pet while ensuring that your garden remains unaffected.
Misconceptions About Jerusalem Crickets
Jerusalem crickets are fascinating creatures, but there are some misconceptions about them. In this section, we’ll address a few common myths.
One misconception is that they are venomous. You’ll be relieved to know that Jerusalem crickets are not venomous. In fact, they don’t have venom glands at all. But this doesn’t mean their bite is harmless. If threatened, they can deliver a painful bite. Just remember, they typically bite when provoked or feeling trapped, so be cautious and respectful of their space.
Another myth is that they prefer to bite humans. While Jerusalem crickets can bite, humans are not their primary source of food. They mostly eat:
- Dead or decaying plant material
- Roots and tubers
Here’s a quick comparison table to help clarify further:
|Prefer human prey||Eat plant material & insects|
By understanding and debunking these misconceptions, you can better appreciate these intriguing insects and their role in the ecosystem. So, when you encounter a Jerusalem cricket, remember that they’re mostly harmless and fascinating creatures deserving of respect rather than fear.
Jerusalem crickets are fascinating creatures with intriguing behavioral traits. They are predominantly nocturnal insects, which means they are most active during nighttime hours. This allows them to search for food and mates with less chance of being spotted by predators.
These insects have a noteworthy mating ritual. The male produces a drumming sound by rubbing his forewings together, creating vibrations on the ground or nearby surfaces to attract a female. Once a male and female have found each other, they mate, and the female lays her eggs in the soil.
Jerusalem crickets can jump, just like their distant relative, the weta. However, they are not known for their incredible leaping abilities, but rather for their strong, large back legs, which they mainly use for digging burrows.
When it comes to their diet, Jerusalem crickets consume various food items. They prefer to eat insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers, making them both predators and scavengers in the ecosystem.
To sum up, Jerusalem crickets exhibit the following traits:
- Unique mating signals through drumming
- Capable of jumping
- Diet consists of insects, roots, and tubers
These behavioral traits contribute to Jerusalem crickets’ captivating lives, making them an interesting subject for further exploration in the world of entomology.
Jerusalem crickets go through several stages in their life cycle, which includes eggs, nymphs, and adults.
You’ll first find the eggs in moist soil. Female Jerusalem crickets lay their eggs in burrows, and it takes around two months for them to hatch. Once they hatch, the nymphs emerge. These nymphs are smaller versions of the adults and undergo multiple molts as they grow larger.
During their growth, both nymphs and adults have voracious appetites. They mainly feed on roots, tubers, and other insects. Sometimes they will even eat other Jerusalem crickets!
In their life cycle, you’ll find:
- Eggs buried in moist soil
- Nymphs which shed their exoskeleton multiple times as they grow
- Adults, who mate and lay eggs to continue the cycle
Jerusalem crickets have a fascinating life cycle that demonstrates their adaptability to their environment. Enjoy observing these unique creatures and learning more about how they navigate through their stages of growth.
Predators of Jerusalem Crickets
As you learn about Jerusalem crickets, it’s essential to understand their place in the ecosystem. These insects serve as prey for various predators, including beetles.
Burying beetles, for example, are known to feed on Jerusalem crickets. In addition, these crickets can fall victim to birds, mammals, reptiles, and other larger invertebrates. Here are some examples:
- Birds: Crows, owls, hawks, and magpies
- Mammals: Skunks, raccoons, and foxes
- Reptiles: Lizards, snakes, and frogs
While they have predators, Jerusalem crickets also play a vital role in controlling other pest populations, as their diet includes other insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers.
Despite not being a direct threat to human health, they can put up a fight when threatened, using their strong mandibles to bite. However, it would help if you still were cautious around them.
As you can see, Jerusalem crickets have a vital role in the food chain and contribute to maintaining the overall balance in their respective ecosystems.
Jerusalem crickets, also known as Potato Bugs, are fascinating creatures found in parts of Mexico and the western United States. Don’t confuse them with the Colorado Potato Beetle, as they are entirely different insects.
These flightless insects possess a shiny exoskeleton and have a striking appearance. They are often called Child of the Earth or Skull Hill due to their unique, skull-like head. Their name in Spanish and Navajo languages also reflects their unusual looks.
Belonging to the Animalia kingdom, Arthropoda phylum, and Insecta class, Jerusalem crickets have the following features:
- Shiny exoskeleton
- Large, round head resembling a skull
Jerusalem crickets primarily feed on insects, nonwoody roots, and tubers. They can be helpful in controlling insect populations, but may also damage plant roots. You can learn more about their diet and habits here.
Despite their intimidating looks, these crickets are harmless to humans. They are mostly nocturnal and spend much of their time underground. So, if you encounter them, you don’t need to worry about them causing you any harm. Just appreciate the unique beauty they possess, and let them go about their lives in peace.
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 Bugs sighted after rain
Found this scary looking guy next to my front door
Location: Los Angeles, CA
December 6, 2010 10:02 pm
I found this insect next to my front door. It is about an inch/ inch and a half long and about 3/4 inch in diameter! I have never seen anything like it before and I was a child that always looked at bugs. Please help.
You have had the good fortune to encounter a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the family Stenopelmatidae and the genus Stenopelmatus. The Potato Bug represents one of our Top 10 identification requests. This family is found in the western portion of North America, primarily in the arid Southwest. You can read about it on BugGuide and there is much information about Potato Bugs online in other places. Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are often sighted just after a heavy rain, and the Southern California deluge that began Sunday night resulted in at least three identification requests in our inbox. Of the three, you had the best photo.
Letter 2 – Sandkrieke from South Africa
Subject: Koring kriek
Location: South africa thabazimbi
December 31, 2016 2:27 pm
Hello mr bugman .
Can you please confim if this is a koring kriek
Signature: Za kriek
Dear Za kriek,
The Koringkriek and your insect are both Longhorned Orthopterans, but they are in different families. Your individual is an African Jerusalem Cricket in the genus Sia based on images we located on iSpot. According to iSpot, the family is known as Sand Crickets or Sandkrieke.
Aaa great stuff thank you for the effort
Letter 3 – Potato Bugs: Spotted after California rains
Spotted: Huge insect, looking like a giant ant/tarantula/yellow jacket
Location: San Francisco, CA
December 7, 2010 5:28 am
I am in San Francisco and tonight saw a bug that was so weird. It was huge… about 4 inches long. The photo does not really do it justice… it was almost the length of my palm+pinky finger. It’s abdomen was swollen and very large, stripped yellow and black. It’s legs looked like a spider’s legs, or like a yellow jacket. It seemed to have small pinchers on it’s abdomen and antennae on its head. I think it had three body sections, but maybe it only had two. It had 6 legs. There were no wings.
What is this bug??
Now that you know that this is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, you should be able to locate countless websites with information, including much interesting lore. The recent rains in California have driven this subterranean species to the surface and our inbox has been flooded with identification requests.
Letter 4 – Potato Bug terrorizes girls in Hermosa Beach
IT HAS TOES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!
November 17, 2009
Dear King of Bug-kind,
Yes, we are girls, but we are usually fairly cool-headed. This thing has the body of an ant, the legs of a spider, the stripes of a honey comb, and seems as if one can plug it in and make it a light! It is the lenth of my index finger (adult medium). It is the width of my thumb. It has six legs with five toes, AND the middle toe is veeerry long on the back two legs. It has feelers and is trying to feel its way into our apartment. I want answers and I want help.
Sally Case & Nikki Cramer
Hermosa Beach, CA
Dear Sally and Nikki,
Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are quite common in Southern California. They are quite harmless, though they do have strong jaws and will not hesitate to bite if provoked. Their somewhat human appearance has led to the common name Children of the Earth. Potato Bugs are one of our most common identification requests, and we only post a fraction of the letters regarding them that we receive. Your letter really amuses us, so we are posting it.
Letter 5 – Potato Bugs
Ok, these things are disgusting. I have found two of these horrible creatures in my yard, all in a two seek span. Where are they coming from and how can I get rid of them? I feel guilty killing anything, but these things are too much to bare sight of. What can I do so they won’t return? Also, after reading some info. on your site, it was mentioned they are not poisonous. But, what would one do if biten by one of these things?
Terrified in San Fernando Valley
I can’t think of anything you could do to get rid of your potato bugs as they are burrowing insects and you would need to make your entire yard toxic to poison them, which whould probably have more dire consequences to you and your family than to the potato bugs. They are not poisonous, as you point out, and if bitten you will probably cry out since the jaws are powerful and the bite painful, though it is doubtful the bite would draw blood.
Letter 6 – Potato Bugs
I have NO idea how it got into my kitchen but there it was this morning and my skin is still crawling thinking of it. It’s under a glass bowl right now. I don’t know how to get rid of it. My last encounter with one in the garden several years ago was horrible and I couldn’t kill it! My nightmare now is wondering how the hell this huge thing got into the house when there are no visible holes or gaps under doors…it’s as big as a small mouse – and we blocked the mouse access holes over a year ago, I thought!
Freaked of Laurel Canyon
Potato Bugs are digging insects that might have gotten access through burrowing. They are also nocturnal and might enter the home through an opened door at night when you don’t notice them skulking about. They are harmless, but do have powerful jaws that can inflict a painful bite. They seem to have universal horror appeal.
Thank you! I steeled myself and got it outside last night! Way away from the house! They look like something under a magnoscope which has escaped and is giant!
Letter 7 – Potato Bugs
What is it? I found this, trying to sneak into my apartment this morning – and have no idea what it is!! Is it a good bug, or a bad one? Does it bite? What does it eat? I don’t know anything about it – other than it is about 2.5” long, and is nothing I want running around inside my apartment!
It is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket. They are omniverous, eating roots and tubers and occasionally dead animals. They can bite painfully, but are not poisonous.
Letter 8 – Potato Bugs
hi, wondering if you can help … i live in the hollywood hills, of los angeles. i saw a bug in my house yesterday that looked like a double A duracell battery with what seemed like claws. it was probably 3 inches in length and a half inch in width excluding it’s appendages. i am not a bug person and thought about stepping on it – but it was so big, i didn’t want to make the mess. instead, i flicked it across the room with some cardboard. it landed on its back and seemed to have a hard time turning over, right side up. while on it’s back, i was able to open the door and fling it outside. it was creepy as can be. i’m wondering if you know the type of bug it may have been? any pictures of it? it was gross to me … any help would be great,
brad in los angeles
Possibly a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket.
Letter 9 – Potato Bugs
I recently found a large bug under a rock at my house in South Jordan, UT. I can’t seem to find anyone that knows what type of bug is. I hope you can help me. Its characteristics are: light brown/tan in color, 2 segments of body with black stripes across the bottom half of the body (on top, like a bumblebee), legs that look like a grasshopper’s, only not as large in proportion to the body, head looks like that of an ant, and its overall length is about 1 1/2 inches long. I put him in a jar with dirt and mulch, and he burrows under the dirt most of the time, and remains hidden, although at first he was quite aggressive in trying to climb out of the jar. He has lived for one week in the jar with no additional food or water. He has no wings, and an overall smooth body appearance. Some have said he might be a Mormon cricket, but after having looked at several images of the Mormon Cricket, I do not think he is one. He is quite adept at digging with his front legs. He has six legs, and does not jump at all. If you could help me determine what this is, I would really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Sounds like a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug. Try doing a websearch. The scientific Family name is Stenopelmatus. Mormon crickets have a different shape than you describe.
Letter 10 – Potato Bugs
I recently moved to Los Angeles, and last night I found the biggest, scariest bug I’ve ever seen in my apt. It looked somewhat like an ant on steroids, but it looked a little like a beetle, too. I thought it might be one of the "wind scorpions" you mentioned elsewhere on the site, but the photos don’t seem to match up. The bug’s body and legs weren’t quite as long as the scorpions.
This bug was about 1 1/2 inches long, about 1 inch wide. It had six very thick legs (thicker than any legs I’ve ever seen on a bug, and so thick I wouldn’t find it difficult to believe it was a baby animal). The bug was mostly flesh-colored, except the abdomen was black, with rings around it. Can you help me identify it? I am so scared I’m going to see another one of these things in my place. I want to make sure that it won’t hurt me or my cat.
You found a potato bug or Jerusalem cricket ( Family Stenopelmatidae) and they do tend to startle people. They are burrowing relatives of true crickets, and sometimes go by the Spanish name Niños de la Tierra or Children of the Earth. They are nocturnal, and live in the soil. Though they can bite with considerable force, they are not harmful.
Letter 11 – Potato Bugs
When working in our garden my wife found a worm-like insect about 1-1/2" long and 1/4-1/2" wide, with a white translucent body and a pair of forward pinchers and bulging eyes. My mother-in-law says it is a "nino de la Tierra." Sorry no photos. Can you help?
Niño de la Tierra is a Spanish common name for the fearsome potato bug, or Jerusalem cricket. The navajo call them "wo wee ts’inii" which means skull insect or bone neck beetle. They fit your description. They belong to the genus Stenopelmatus. Take a look at potatobugs.com. It’s an entire website devoted to this good looking creature. We stole this photo from them.
Letter 12 – Potato Bugs kept in captivity Cannibalize one another!!!
Subject: POTATO BUG
Location: SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA
April 1, 2013 1:04 pm
I HOPE YOU CAN GIVE ME SOME INFORMATION ON THESE SCARY BUGS. I HAVE FOUND HUNDREDS IN MY BACKYARD WITHIN THE PAST 6 MONTHS. (SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA) I HAVE SOME IN CAPTIVITY, AS SEEN IN PHOTOS, AND AM WONDERING WHAT I CAN FEED THEM. SO FAR THEY SEEM TO RATHER FEED ON EACH OTHER. THEY ARE PRETTY AGGRESSIVE AND RUTHLESS AND BATTLE TO THE THEIR DEATH. ANY INFORMATION OR SOURCE WOULD BE MUCH APPRECIATED. THANK YOU.
Signature: S. WOLFF
Dear S. WOLFF,
Your request arrived when we were out of the office and we are just catching up on all the mail we received. We are unclear if this is a joke or not as it arrived on April Fools’ Day. It appears by your subject line that you already know that these are Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets in the genus Stenopelmatus. According to BugGuide, Potato Bugs are “Predatory on other insects, also feeds on roots, decaying vegetation. Sometimes found eating potatoes.” Keeping them in captivity and not feeding them and forcing them to cannibalize one another seems cruel. You should be able to find plenty of information on Potato Bugs online. They are a southern California icon.
I WOULD THINK I COULD FIND A TON OF INFORMATION ON THEM BUT HAVEN’T HAD ANY LUCK, ANY SUGGESTIONS WOULD BE APPRECIATED. WE HAVE TRIED ALL KINDS OF THINGS TO FEED THEM FROM OTHER INSECTS TO BEEF JERKY, CHEESE, LETTUCE, EVEN A PIECE OF A WAFFLE. I SAW A YOU TUBE VIDEO OF ONE ACTUALLY EATING THE WAFFLE BUT WE HAVEN’T HAD MUCH LUCK. THE ONLY THING THEY ACTUALLY DID EAT WAS A TERMITE BUT LUCKILY WE DON’T HAVE A LOT OF THOSE AROUND. I HAVEN’T FORCED THEM TO CANNIBALIZE ON EACH OTHER. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY AFTER WE CAPTURED THEM THEY BATTLED IT OUT AND THE WINNERS GOT TO EAT. THE ONLY TIME WE HAVE EVER FOUND TWO IN THE GROUND NEXT TO EACH OTHER WAS WHEN ONE WAS EATING THE OTHER. THANK YOU.
We find it hard to believe you cannot find any information on Potato Bugs online, or are you specifically searching for information on keeping them in captivity? We understand they make good pets, but perhaps they cannot be kept in a social situation. Perhaps they really do not adapt to life in captivity. Try contacting your local natural history museum for information. We are unable to provide any information on keeping Potato Bugs as pets. We have amended the title of our posting so it no longer indicates they are being “forced” to cannibalize one another.
THANK YOU FOR AMENDING YOUR POST. THE ONLY INFORMATION I COULD FIND WAS GENERAL STUFF, NOTHING ON HOW THEY REPRODUCE. WE DID HAVE SOME LUCK FEEDING THEM SOME KIND OF SMALL WORM TYPE BUG. TWO OF THEM ACTUALLY SHARED IT AND ARE NICE PLUMP AND CONTENT FOR THE MOMENT. THANKS AGAIN.
Dear S. Wolff,
We hope you will give us regular updates on your Potato Bugs in captivity.
UPDATE: May 2, 2013
GREAT NEWS, WE FOUND SOMETHING THOSE POTATO BUGS LOVE TO EAT. MULBERRIES. I WAS TRYING APPLES AND CARROTS WHICH THEY ALSO REALLY LIKE BUT WHEN I PUT SOME OF THOSE BERRIES IN THEY WERE ALL OVER THEM. I ALSO FOUND A REALLY BIG AND FAT ONE, LOOKS PREGNANT SO I AM GOING TO PUT IT INTO ITS OWN QUARTERS SO NONE OF THE OTHERS CAN BOTHER IT. I DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HOW THEY REPRODUCE BUT THAT WOULD BE COOL.
What wonderful news.
Letter 13 – Potato Bugs, Parasites and Fear Factor
answer to posting on the web site
On your site on 12/18/2004, there’s an entry Question from Tim Doak, in Southwest Wyoming, regarding a bug similar to something he had seen on Fear Factor. I grew up in that area of Wyoming (Sweetwater County) and the believe the bug he’s referring to is commonly called “Jerusalem Cricket, Stenopelmatus fuscus. The parasite living inside is called a horsehair worm, I think. Please advise Tim, for more info, he contact the science dept, there in Southwest Wyoming, at Western Wyoming Community College, she’s done quite a bit of research on this, especially related to the parasite it carries.
Letter 14 – Questions about Potato Bugs
Potato Bug Comments
July 22, 2009
I just spent some time looking through your Potato Bug (I knew it as Child of the Earth) section. I have to say those things gross me out. However, I was pleased to find your emails reiterating that they are not as dangerous as I thought.
I worked on an archaeological dig in the Galisteo Basin (south of Santa Fe) for 3 summers in the late 90’s, and I came across those things very frequently once we got to a depth of about 10-20cm (if I recall.)
Local “lore” (don’t know how common it is) says that they are poisonous and also that they carry inside them some sort of parasite, so that if you squish them, you have exposed another problem. (Yeah, sounded a bit odd to me even then, but I didn’t know any better and honestly wouldn’t even go close enough to squish one!) They also say that if you burn them in a fire they scream. (I have to point out; I have NEVER tried that…I may not like the bugs but wouldn’t torture them!)
Anyway, I was glad to hear about them being relatively harmless (aside from a possible painful bite), but wondering if you could shed any light on what I’ve heard? I would wager it’s just because they’re so creepy looking it’s easy to get people to believe creepy stuff about them.
Thanks for the awesome site, I’ve sent like 3 emails in as many days! Lol. I realize you’ve got lots on your plates, so totally understand if I never hear back.
First, we are unable to even answer most of the mail that we receive, and it is in no way intended to be a slight if we cannot respond. Shear volume makes answering all of our mail task prohibitive. The local lore about the beast within is well documented on our website. There is a worm known as a Horsehair Worm or Gordian Worm. It is an internal parasite of Potato Bugs and certain Spiders, and perhaps other large arthropods. The worm matures inside of the Potato Bug and causes the Potato Bug to search out water. When the Potato Bug drowns, the worm is released to continue its life cycle.
Letter 15 – Reddish Potato Beetle
Subject: who’s this?
Location: Prescott AZ
July 10, 2013 2:06 pm
Bright red beetle walking around in the splash from a fountain on the patio?
Is it going to eat something I’m trying to grow?
It did not take us long to identify your Leaf Beetle as a Reddish Potato Beetle, Leptinotarsa rubiginosa. BugGuide reports the Reddish Potato Beetle from Arizona and New Mexico and states it feeds on Solanacea, the family that includes tomatoes, peppers and eggplant as well as potatoes and many native plants like jimsonweed and nightshade. We are not certain if they indiscriminately feed on all members of the family, or only certain plants, but the family contains many cultivated food plants as well as some ornamental garden plants. We believe this is the only example of this species in our archives, so thank you very much for submitting your excellent photograph.
Letter 16 – Smashed Potato Bug Approached Infant
sand puppie photo
bugman, I noticed you have a few letters about sand puppies on your web page, so I took photo’s of a dead one, (it got too close to my 1 year old baby, its slightly destroyed, but if you can identify the species, I’m pretty sure you can find another photo somewhere. it may come in handy when someone wants to ask about this particular solpugid. hope its useful!
We have heard the term Sand Puppy applied to Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets as well, and that is what your specimen is. Though we will be posting your letter and photo on our Unnecessary Carnage page, we do not really blame your infant for the slaughter. Children just don’t understand how strong they are when they squash things. Children really don’t realize the importance of respecting life and hopefully your toddler will soon be cognicent enough to learn this important lesson from you.
Ruminations on Cohabitation
(09/03/2006) Unnecessary killing of living things
I totally sympathize with the family who killed bugs they thought might harm someone. Unfortunately, their philosophy is harming their children. Children need to learn how to live with, not how to kill, other living things. I have been in the education field for over 30 years and worked with children and animals in a Science Museum for many years, and I saw, daily, people who grew up with phobias about animals. It wasn’t pretty. We teach children how to look both ways before crossing a street–we don’t teach them to kill cars. Children can be taught how to live with animals, not kill or be afraid of them. I agree that on very rare occasions we must protect and defend our own. 2 weeks ago my husband violated our no-kill policy and shot a copperhead that was about 6 feet from our front door. (I didn’t even know we had a gun!) We live in the woods of the NC piedmont area with skunks, foxes, brown bats, black widow spiders, poisonous centipedes, etc., and this is the only animal I felt truly threatened us. The point is, our education policy worked, because my son was able to identify the snake for his father ( I wasn’t at home) and did not panic. My son has been taught to deal with the animals, including what to do if you or someone else is stung or bitten. We have found out over the years that the best thing to do is learn to live in their environment. We don’t wear heavy scents like perfumes, scented deodorants, etc when outdoors, we don’t swing at and make animals defend themselves by hurting us, We also don’t use pesticides and insecticides unless a wasp or hornet nest is near house entrances. We also use nature to help us. Every time we find a praying mantis egg case, it goes in my herb garden. It’s much healthier to use my mantis army to prey on harmful insects than to poison my family with insecticide laden food. In short, if you don’t want animals around, go back to the city and live in a condo. But in the meantime, stop the lazy parenting ( a cheap blow, I know, but I’m tired of the “kill” policy of these people) and educate yourselves and your families. Use this most excellent website, visit your local science museum, and take a walk through the woods with your child and a nature book. Also, look for natural ways to deal with problems. One great idea I was given by a naturalist was about yellow jacket nests. We have many in this area. Instead of spraying with poisons which stay in the environment and will ultimately prove more harmful to our children than the bugs we are trying to kill, we sprinkle dry cat food near and if possible on top of the nest. Skunks will come out at night, eat the cat food and be led to the nest, where they treat themselves to the larvae “dessert” in the nest , ultimately destroying the nest. If you have bats in your house and want to remove them, make sure you correctly mount bat houses outside before removing them from your current home. Remember, one bat consumes a few thousand insects (including mosquitoes) each night. We need bats. Last comment, and I may as well discuss religion since I’m sure many people at this point would like to burn me at the stake anyway. God also gave us “dominion” over our chidren. That means we love and protect and nurture them. It doesn’t mean we have God’s approval to destroy them. God made everything in nature, and it is beautiful. Every animal God made has a purpose – it has a job to do. All we need to do is leave the animals alone and let them do their job. Please continue to love, protect, and nurture nature. Thanks for letting me vent. Please feel free to contact me, use my name on your web site, but do not release contact info to the public. I don’t need the hate mail. Thanks.
Letter 17 – Smooshed Potato Bug
Hold your stomach.
I have NO clue as to what kind of bug this is. I searched your site and there is nothing there. I Googled without luck. I’m sending a picture (I guess this will end up in your Carnage section….sorry) hopefully you can identify. The bug was about 4 inches long I’m in Nevada, Reno. I have never seen this bug before. Any ideas?
Thanks for your help.
Your poor smooshed Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket could easily be the poster child for our Unnecessary Carnage page.
Letter 18 – Suicidal Potato Bugs
Suicidal Potato Bugs
October 4, 2009
I’ve recently added a pond to my backyard garden. I’ve seen the Potato Bugs before, but usually leave them alone. Lately, I’ve been finding them at the bottom of the pond. The first week, there were 2 of them, this past week, 2 more and today, 6 we’re drowned at the bottom of the pond. I wonderd if I had disturbed their pathway and they are just falling and and drowning, or if these Potato Bugs are Suicidal?
Santa Maria, California
Dear Bizzare questiionaire,
Potato Bugs that have been parasitized by Horsehair Worms or Gordian Worms often exhibit this suicidal behavior. When the parasitic worm is ready to leave its hosts, its next stage of life is in water, hence the Potato Bugs “desire” to drown itself.
Letter 19 – Three-Lined Potato Beetle
Our site just went down for the month, and though we have 130 letters outstanding, we decided to photograph this event taking place on our Datura plant. We noticed that the leaves were being eaten and found large numbers of beetle grub, chewing hungrily. They had an unusual viscous liquid on their backs. We also noticed a small green and black striped beetle on the plant. Guessing they were different stages of the same species, we researched the Three-Lined Potato Beetle, Lema trilineata, also called the Old-Fashioned Potato Beetle. This beetle obviously went out of fashion when the Colorado Potato Beetle became such a pest. Our Audubon Society Guide states: “Voracious larvae gather in clusters on potato leaves, nibbling lacy holes and eventually consuming all but the midvein. Unlike other larvae of other potato-feeders, they are blanketed in a wet froth of their own secretions. Adults can be distinguished from the Striped Cucumber Beetle by the constriction behind the thorax.”Datura is a member of the potato family, which explains the beetles presence on this hallucinogenic plant.
Letter 20 – Three Lined Potato Beetle
Striped beetle – What is it?
Can anyone identify this striped beetle that is eating my petunia? How does one keep them away from petunias without using a chemical that damages this sensitive flower, if you know?
RC in Cranston, RI
Thanks to your query, we learned something about Petunias. We suspected this was a Three Lined Potato Beetle, Lema trilineata, but that beetle only feeds on potatoes, tomatoes and members of the nightshade family. They eat our Datura. A very similar looking beetle is the Striped Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica acalymma vittata, which is a less particular eater. It feeds upon beans, peas, corn and flowers while larvae feed on cucumber plants. A quick look at our Western Garden Book revealed that petunias belong in the nightshade family, so we believe you have a Three Striped Potato Beetle. Sorry, we looked for a natural means of control and can’t locate one. Try hand-picking.
Letter 21 – Three Lined Potato Beetle
July 8, 2010
Saw dozens of these decimating a datura plant (leaves and flowers) in North San Diego County, CA. Never saw them before and wondered if they’re new in town. They are not more than 1/4 inch long.
Our initial belief that these were mating Three Lined Potato Beetles, Lema daturaphila, caused us some doubt when we looked at the images posted to BugGuide. The photos posted there were of individuals with red heads, pronota and legs, but a few photos had coloration like your pair. One image posted to BugGuide has this information: “lighter eastern beetles were called trilinea or trilineata while the darker California ones were called daturaphila. They have now all been lumped” into Lema daturaphila. The species is also known as the Old Fashioned Potato Beetle, and though the coloration of eastern individuals and those from California is different, we are confident with our identification.
Letter 22 – Three Lined Potato Beetle
What beetle is this?
Location: CT Shoreline
June 2, 2011 4:42 pm
Hi, I recently found this beetle eating my eggplant leaves. Not sure what it is or how to naturally get rid of it.
Signature: James C.
This Three Lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila, feeds on the leaves of potatoes and other related plants in the family Solanaceae. Eggplant is a member of that family. You may reference BugGuide for additional photos and information.
Letter 23 – Three Lined Potato Beetle
Subject: Yellow Beetle
Geographic location of the bug: Bismarck, ND
Time: 07:24 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: The stripes are dark blue and hisses when disturbed. About 1/4” long.
How you want your letter signed: R. Green
Dear R. Green,
This looks to us like a Three Lined Potato Beetle, Lema daturaphila, which is pictured on BugGuide. There is no mention on BugGuide of stridulation, which is the hissing sound you heard the beetle make by rubbing together parts of its body. This comment “I remember the first time I heard them squeaking like little birds when I picked them up” appears on another BugGuide posting.
Thank you so much! It does make chirps and squeaks and small hisses. It’s a strange little thing!
Letter 24 – Three Lined Potato Beetles Mating
Here’s one for your collection. I don’t know what they are, but I think I know what they are doing. Photo was taken in Burbank, CA at a park.
These are Three Lined Potato Beetles, or Old Fashioned Potato Beetles, Lema trilineata. The term Old Fashioned is probably in reference to the increased distribution of the Colorado Potato Beetle. The Three Lined Potato Beetle feed on the leaves of plants in the nightshade family. If your park is a natural wild park, they will feed on datura and deadly nightshade. If there is a cultivated garden, they will feed on peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant as well as potatoes.
Letter 25 – Tinker Toy Bug
Looking through almost 20 years of memory distortion, my wife and I were confronted by the strangest looking bug we had ever seen. We were living in Glendale and this "tinker toy" bug had somehow gotten into the house, seemed to be nesting in the pile of our rug near the patio sliding glass doors. It was about 2 inches long, and looked like it had been assembled out of brown plastic parts, big round shiny head with two smaller black dot eyes, antennae, a shiny cylindrical body and six legs. We even captured it into a jar where it clicked away at the sides trying to escape. Eventually it was released but we never have seen it pictured in any reference books. The name, Vinegaroon, was mentioned but it hasn’t really satisfied. Any ideas?
We’ve lost our original reply to Richard which included a photo, but we correctly identified his visitor as a Potato Bug.