What Do Mole Crickets Eat? A Quick Guide to Their Diet

Mole crickets are fascinating insects that have developed unique adaptations for their subterranean lifestyle. These crickets belong to the family Gryllotalpidae, and there are several species, including the tawny mole cricket and the southern mole cricket. They are known for their enlarged forelegs, which help them dig tunnels through the soil in search of food. However, you might be wondering what exactly these insects eat.

Adult mole crickets typically have a diverse diet. Some species, like the tawny mole cricket, primarily feed on plant roots and shoots in the soil, causing damage to turfgrasses and vegetable seedlings. In contrast, southern mole crickets include small creatures living in the soil into their diet, making them predators as well.

The nymphs of mole crickets, which are their younger stages, also follow a similar dietary pattern as the adults. While the native northern mole cricket is less damaging, the introduced species like the tawny and southern mole crickets can cause significant problems in the United States. So, it’s crucial to learn about mole crickets’ eating habits to manage their population in your lawn or garden.

Mole Crickets Diet

Mole crickets are known for their tunneling behavior and the damage they cause to lawns and gardens. But what exactly do they eat?

Mole crickets are primarily omnivores, meaning they have a diverse diet. Some of the items they consume include:

  • Roots: Particularly in the case of southern and tawny mole cricket species.
  • Grass: They can damage lawns by feeding on grass roots and shoots.
  • Plants: Mole crickets may consume shoots of various plants apart from grasses.
  • Insects: Southern mole crickets are known to be predators, feeding on small soil-dwelling creatures.
  • Worms: These are also part of their regular diet, helping them contribute to soil aeration.

When mole crickets feed on plant roots and tunnel through the soil, they cause ugly brown patches to appear, which can eventually be replaced by weeds. It’s crucial to monitor your lawn and determine if mole cricket damage is the culprit.

In summary, mole crickets are omnivores that consume a variety of items, ranging from roots, grass, plants, insects, and worms. Understanding their diet can help you better deal with these little creatures in your garden or lawn. Remember, keeping your lawn healthy and monitoring it for mole cricket damage is key to maintaining a beautiful outdoor space.

Lifecycle of Mole Crickets

Mole crickets are interesting insects with a fascinating life cycle. In this section, you will learn about the key stages of their life, from eggs to adults. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it brief!

Eggs and Mating: Mole crickets usually mate during the spring months. After mating, females lay their eggs in underground chambers. A single female can lay hundreds of eggs, which can take a few weeks to hatch.

Nymphs and Molting: Once the eggs hatch, the mole cricket nymphs emerge. These nymphs closely resemble adult mole crickets but are smaller in size. As they grow, nymphs go through several stages called instars, in which they molt or shed their outer skin.

  • First instar nymphs are tiny and fragile
  • Later instars become more robust and resemble adults

Life Cycle and Generations: The life cycle of mole crickets consists of eggs, nymphs, and adults, with most of the species undergoing one generation per year. They begin their lives as eggs and progress through the nymph stage before becoming adults capable of reproduction.

  • Some mole cricket species may have multiple generations per year
  • Most species overwinter as nymphs or adults

To recap, the mole cricket life cycle is comprised of eggs, nymphs, and adults. They mate and lay eggs in the spring, and nymphs grow through several molting stages. Different mole cricket species can have varying numbers of generations per year, and they typically overwinter in nymph or adult stages. Now that you know the basics, you can better appreciate these little creatures and their intriguing life cycle!

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

Mole crickets, such as Neoscapteriscus vicinus, Neocurtilla hexadactyla, and Neoscapteriscus borellii, have a distinct appearance. They exhibit a light brown or tan color and are known for their size, typically around 1.5 inches long.

Their front legs are especially adapted for digging, as they are enlarged compared to their other legs. With these legs, they can easily tunnel through soil in search of food. Not only do their legs make them effective burrowers, but their antennae also play a crucial role in their daily activities.

As for other features to note:

  • Mole crickets have a large abdomen
  • Their body is covered with short, dense hairs that can vary in color
  • Some species have darker or lighter markings on the thorax

Apart from their physical features, mole crickets also have unique behaviors. For example, many have wings and are known to be powerful, albeit clumsy, fliers.

In summary, mole crickets, such as Neoscapteriscus vicinus, Neocurtilla hexadactyla, and Neoscapteriscus borellii, have distinct physical characteristics that set them apart from other insects. Their light brown or tan color, large abdomen, strong front legs, and antennae allow them to be highly efficient at burrowing and foraging through soil.

Habitat and Distribution

Mole crickets are known to make their homes in a variety of locations, including lawns and underground tunnels. They’re commonly found throughout the southeast United States, particularly in states like southern Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Mole crickets can also be found in other parts of the world, such as Australia and Arizona.

These critters prefer to live in areas with plenty of grasses for them to feed on, as well as cover for them to hide under. In the southeastern U.S., for example, you might find mole crickets in densely planted lawns and garden beds.

In their preferred habitats, mole crickets are quite comfortable and can cause damage to turfgrass and other plants. This is due to their feeding habits, which involve both munching on roots and tunneling underneath the soil. To help protect your lawn or garden from mole crickets, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of their activity and take appropriate measures to control their populations.

Mole Crickets Behavior

Mole crickets are nocturnal creatures, meaning they become active during the night. In areas like Florida, these insects can cause damage to turfgrass due to their digging habits. Adult mole crickets have wings, which they use for various activities such as mating.

Male mole crickets use their wings to produce unique, audible calls. These calls attract females so they can mate. In addition to their nighttime activities, mole crickets excel at digging tunnels and burrows under the soil.

Here are some of the notable behaviors of mole crickets:

  • Nocturnal: Mole crickets are active at night, which is when they create most of their tunnels, search for mates, and perform other activities.
  • Digging: They are known for their exceptional tunneling ability, creating intricate networks of tunnels and burrows beneath the surface.
  • Mating calls: Male mole crickets use their wings to create distinct calls, attracting females for mating purposes.

These behaviors can be linked to their need for survival and reproduction. As they dig tunnels and burrows, they feed on turfgrass roots, disrupting the soil and causing the earth to bulge upwards. This can lead to significant damage being done to the grass, especially in areas like Florida. To better understand their eating habits, mole crickets primarily feed on small creatures that live in the soil, but southern mole crickets may also feed on turfgrass roots 1(https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/insects/mole-cricket-in-turf/).

Remember that understanding mole cricket behavior is essential in order to effectively manage these pests. By learning more about their activities, you can take appropriate measures to prevent any damage they may cause to your lawn or turfgrass.

Mole Crickets and Human Interaction

Mole crickets are notorious for the damage they cause to grass, especially on golf courses and lawns. As pests, they can become a significant problem if an infestation occurs. During the fall, the damage is most apparent as they create mud chambers for mating and overwintering.

These insects are known for their tunneling behavior, which can lead to the destruction of grass roots. They feed on grasshoppers and plant roots, making them a nuisance in various landscapes. Despite the destruction mole crickets cause, they are harmless to humans and do not pose a direct threat.

While trying to manage mole cricket issues, it is essential to keep in mind that their damage can be confused with other lawn problems. So, always diagnose the problem accurately before applying any insecticides or control methods.

To wrap up, remember that:

  • Mole crickets cause damage to grass and can lead to infestations.
  • They are most active and damaging in the fall when they build their mud chambers.
  • These insects are primarily harmless to humans and do not pose a direct threat.
  • Accurate diagnosis of the problem is crucial before applying any control methods.

Management and Control Measures

Mole crickets, belonging to the Gryllotalpidae family, are an invasive pest that can cause damage to lawns, sod farms, and other grassy areas. To effectively manage mole crickets, you can use a combination of chemical treatments and biological control methods.

Chemical treatments like carbaryl can be used for controlling mole cricket populations. However, keep in mind that chemical treatments could have adverse effects on the environment and beneficial organisms. Always read and follow label instructions when applying chemicals.

As for biological control methods, parasitoid flies and nematodes can be your friends. These organisms act as natural enemies to mole crickets and help control their population. Here are some pros and cons of using them:

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Targeted control strategy

Cons:

  • May require multiple releases to be effective
  • Could take a longer time to show results

Another way to manage mole crickets is using a simple soapy water solution. Mix 1.5 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap with 1 gallon of water and pour the solution over a 2 ft. x 2 ft. area where mole cricket activity is suspected.

Soapy water forces mole crickets to the surface and makes them easier to spot and remove. This method can be particularly useful for small infestations.

In summary, effective mole cricket management requires a combination of chemical and biological control measures. Always monitor your lawn or sod farm for signs of mole cricket activity to keep these pests under control.

Mole Crickets Predators

Mole crickets are fascinating creatures, but they can’t escape the circle of life. They have quite a few predators that prey on them for a meal. Let’s explore some of them.

Birds are one of the most common predators of mole crickets. They love to feast on the nutritious insects as they tunnel close to the soil surface.

  • Examples of birds that prey on mole crickets include:
    • Robins
    • Crows
    • Blue jays

Other predators include raccoons and armadillos. They skillfully dig up the turf to snack on mole crickets, causing additional damage to lawns and gardens in the process.

You might find it interesting that locusts are not predators of mole crickets. In fact, both insects are part of the same family, the Orthopterans. While they share similarities, their diet preferences and habits make them distinct from one another.

Concerning the bite of a mole cricket, they primarily use their mandibles and powerful front legs to feed on roots, shoots, and other small creatures living in the soil. They’re not known for biting humans, but it’s always a good idea to handle them with care.

In conclusion, mole crickets have a variety of predators, with birds being among the most common. Raccoons and armadillos also enjoy snacking on these insects, while their cousin, the locust, is not a predator but shares a similar family background.

Footnotes

  1. (https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/insects/mole-cricket-in-turf/)

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 – Swimming Mole Cricket

 

New Insect Found
Location: Cooper City, Florida
October 10, 2011 3:48 pm
Need your Expertize for identification of this insect.
I found this bug today in front of the lake, I was on my Deck sitting and just a couple feet away this Insect was swimming in the lake. I asked many people around, nobody seems to know that insect…
Monk
Signature: Your choice

Mole Cricket Swimming

Hi Monk,
Your insect is a Mole Cricket, and we get identification requests from around the world including numerous requests from troops in the Middle East.  Your letter has us quite amused because you found this guy swimming.  This is not the first time we have gotten such reports, but when a swimming pool is involved, we naturally figure that the hapless Mole Cricket fell into the pool and couldn’t get out.  A lake is a different story, though we suppose it might have fallen off the dock, or perhaps a flying Mole Cricket misjudged a landing.  In one previous posting, Paula indicated that they are “great swimmers”.  If that is the case, the Mole Cricket, which is a subterranean burrowing insect, might be the first insect that we are aware of that is comfortable in the air, underground and in water.  We still believe that though they are able to paddle, they are not happy in water, though crossing small bodies of water might be an advantageous survival habit that might explain the frequency of swimming Mole Cricket instances we have encountered. 

Thank you for your quick response,
I’m glad you were amused; nonetheless my children were not entertained by this insect…
That was a memorable and grasping experience…
I also got Video seeing that insect swimming in the lake toward the deck…Swimming very well…Unfortunately your website does not accept video.
So to take pictures I decided to grab the basket from my Pool to catch the insect on the lake, and I carried it on my patio, took 1 picture and the insect run in my pool. Take a few more pictures…
But once again thank you

Letter 2 – Mole Cricket from Cyprus

 

Subject: DAFUQ IS THIS BUG?!?!
Location: cyprus
December 2, 2013 7:17 am
about 6cm
Signature: NIKOLEXIS

Mole Cricket
Mole Cricket

Dear NIKOLEXIS,
This Mole Cricket in the family Gryllotalpidae.  Except during the months from December through February, when we have an upsurge in identification requests from Australia because of the southern hemisphere summer, most of the mail we received comes from the United States of America.  We get Mole Cricket identification requests from all over the world, including Australia, Africa, North AmericaEurope and the Middle East, and though we cannot locate any submissions from South America, we are confident that Mole Crickets can also be found there.  They are subterranean dwellers that use their front legs to dig quickly through the soil.  Some species can fly and they are attracted to lights.   

Letter 3 – Mole Cricket from Montenegro

 

Subject: Unidentified bug in Montenegro
Location: Virpazar, Montenegro
September 28, 2012 4:00 pm
Hi,
We hope you can help us identify this curious bug. My husband and I live in Montenegro at Lake Skadar National Park and the bug in question landed on our balcony a couple of weeks ago. We have no idea what it is. We’ve lived here four years and never before saw anything like it. Next to our lodgings is a smallhold farm where the owners keep pigs, sheep and cows and grow vines and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, etc. There are also fruit trees about with plums and apples in season at the time we found the bug(early September).
The insect was about 3 inches long and was able to fly.
We are so curious to know what it is. Hope you can help us! Thanks!
Signature: Emma Heywood

Mole Cricket

Hi Emma,
Mole Crickets like the one in your photograph are subterranean dwellers, but as your letter indicates, many species are capable of flight.  We get reports of Mole Crickets from all over the world.

Hi Daniel, thanks so much for clearing that up for us. They’re rare where we come from (the UK). What incredible creatures!
Best wishes
Emma

Letter 4 – Australian Mole Cricket

 

What The??
Hey Guys,
I found this in my home yesterday in Australia. Very strange bug, never seen anything like it before, looks like a cross between a prawn and a cricket. What do you guys think?
Kind regards
Nick Burgess

Hi Nick,
We have been getting images of Mole Crickets from all over the world lately.

Letter 5 – Another Iraqi Mole Cricket

 

The obvious question…
While deployed in Balad, Iraq , by friend and I came across this bug. It seems to have the general characteristics of a grasshopper, but has large front legs to burrow, is very strong, and has a slight resemblance of a lobster. I know it sounds crazy, but see for yourself… WHAT THE HELL KIND OF BUG IS THIS?
SrA Hand, Tyler E
726 ACS/ SCMR
Balad Air Base, Iraq

Hi Tyler,
Yours is the second letter from Iraq this week enquiring about the Mole Cricket. This amazing insect spends much of its time underground, but several species are also capable of flight. Chris who wrote several days ago want to keep his Mole Cricket as a pet.

Letter 6 – Mole Cricket from Greece

 

Ugly looking bugger!
Hi,
Have had trouble identifying this ugly thing that we found in Rhodes, Greece a few weeks ago. He was crawling on the tiled area behind our sunbeds, but looked out of place – perhaps normally an earth dweller, though I fear that the Carrion Crows which resided around the hotel hunted these creatures and may have dropped one? I hope you can help – we didnt kill it, but we stayed well away. Scariest thing I have seen in a long time. The nearest I am getting is the Weta, but none of the species had the fat, muscular trailing half legs things. Thanks,
Kyla

Hi Kyla,
Over the years, we have received 100s if not 1000s of letters and images of Mole Crickets from around the world, and we have posted a good amount on our Cricket pages, but we have never seen a lovlier, more dramatic photo. Mole Crickets are subterranean, and some are capable of flight.

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.

  • 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.

11 thoughts on “What Do Mole Crickets Eat? A Quick Guide to Their Diet”

  1. I found a ‘mole cricket’ [although I didn’t realise what it was until now] in my pool last night, it was swimming from side to side, very ably. It seemed to be investigating all around, and did not attempt to climb out. I netted it out and photographed it then let it go in the garden it did not seem at all perturbed from its swim. In fact whilst on the net, I watched it grooming itself as a cat would, it was very interesting indeed. I have quite a few photos if you want them. Jaine

    Reply
    • Despite the ability the Mole Cricket demonstrated in the pool, we still suspect it fell in and was trying to get out.

      Reply
  2. I can vouch for swimming mole crickets. Every morning I wake to no less that 15 or so mole crickets in my swimming pool. I am not sure if they are coming from the rice fields or where but until I had my pool installed about 4 months ago, I have never seen this bug. I had to ask around and research before I found out exactly what it was.
    I have read they are nocturnal and maybe that is why I found them only in the mornings.
    Is there any way to prevent them from coming into my pool?

    Reply
  3. I can vouch for swimming mole crickets. Every morning I wake to no less that 15 or so mole crickets in my swimming pool. I am not sure if they are coming from the rice fields or where but until I had my pool installed about 4 months ago, I have never seen this bug. I had to ask around and research before I found out exactly what it was.
    I have read they are nocturnal and maybe that is why I found them only in the mornings.
    Is there any way to prevent them from coming into my pool?

    Reply

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