What Does a Mole Cricket Look Like: A Friendly Guide to Identifying this Unique Insect

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Mole crickets are fascinating creatures that live mostly underground, and you might be wondering what these insects look like. The primary features of a mole cricket include their light brown color and enlarged forelegs, which help them dig through soil efficiently. Adult mole crickets are about 1.5 inches in length, making them quite easy to spot if you come across one.

These insects go through various life stages, and their appearance changes with each stage. While nymphs resemble the adults, they are significantly smaller and lack wings. As they grow and develop, their wings eventually emerge, and they reach their adult size.

Now that you know the basics of what mole crickets look like, you can easily identify them when you come across these unique insects. Understanding their appearance is important for controlling their population, as they can cause damage by tunneling through soil and uprooting grass and crops.

Identifying a Mole Cricket

Comparison with Other Crickets

Mole crickets are quite different from other crickets, such as field crickets and house crickets. Let’s take a closer look at their characteristics to help you identify them.

Mole crickets are typically around 1.5 inches long, with a cylindrical body covered in short hairs. They display a tan to light brown color, which allows them to blend in well with their underground environment. You may also notice their two long, thin antennae on their heads.

Unlike house and field crickets, mole crickets have wings. Their hind legs are strong and adapted for jumping, but not as prominent as those of grasshoppers. A striking feature of mole crickets is their enlarged shovel-like forelegs, which are specialized for digging and burrowing. These insects also have two small, finger-like cerci at the end of their abdomen.

Let’s compare the features of mole crickets with other cricket types:

Feature Mole Cricket Field Cricket House Cricket
Size and Appearance Cylindrical, 1.5 inch Oval, 0.5-1 inch Oval, 0.6-0.9 inch
Color Tan to light brown Black or brown Yellowish-brown
Antennae Long, thin Long, thin Long, thin
Wings Yes Yes Yes
Hind Legs Strong for jumping Strong for jumping Strong for jumping
Forelegs Enlarged for digging Normal Normal
Cerci Two finger-like Two Two
Hairs Short, dense Sparse Sparse

To summarize, when identifying a mole cricket, pay attention to its:

  • Tan to light brown color
  • Long, thin antennae
  • Wings
  • Strong hind legs, less prominent than grasshoppers
  • Enlarged forelegs for digging
  • Two finger-like cerci
  • Dense covering of short hairs

By noting these specific characteristics, you can easily distinguish mole crickets from other common cricket types.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Mole crickets are fascinating insects with a unique life cycle and behavior. Let’s explore their journey from eggs to adulthood, along with some of their interesting behaviors.

In the beginning, female mole crickets lay clusters of 25-60 eggs in an egg chamber in the soil. They go through an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they don’t have a typical larval stage.

Once the eggs hatch, nymphs emerge. They look like miniature versions of adult mole crickets but without wings. Nymphs undergo several molts before becoming adults, with each molt making them larger and closer to their adult form.

As nocturnal creatures, mole crickets are mostly active at night. Males use their unique song to attract females for mating, something you’d notice by the loud chirping sound they produce.

Some key features of mole crickets include:

  • Enlarged, mole-like digging front legs
  • Short, dense hairs covering the body
  • Adults have wings and can fly, although clumsily

Remember, mole crickets spend most of their lives underground, tunneling through the soil to forage for food and create their habitats.

In conclusion, the life cycle of mole crickets from eggs to egg-laying adults showcases a fascinating journey filled with unique behaviors and adaptations. They play a significant role in the ecosystem by aerating the soil and recycling organic matter, all while living their lives mostly out of our sight.

Habitats and Distribution

Mole crickets are insects that primarily reside in tunnels and burrows, which they create in the soil. They are commonly found in lawns, turfgrass, and golf courses. Their preferred habitat is often sandy soil, which makes it easier for them to dig their tunnels. Some of the different regions where mole crickets can be found include Australia, North America, and the southeastern United States.

In North America, there are both native and non-native species of mole crickets. The native species include the northern mole cricket, western mole cricket, and prairie mole cricket. Their distribution ranges from the eastern and central states of the United States to parts of Mexico and Canada [1].

On the other hand, the non-native species in Florida consist of the tawny, southern, and shortwinged mole crickets [2]. These species are more likely to be found in the southeastern United States.

As you might have guessed, mole crickets are quite adaptable to different habitats. However, if you want to prevent them from infesting your lawns and gardens, consider the following:

  • Pay attention to the type of soil. Sandy soil is more conducive to mole cricket infestations.
  • Regularly monitor your lawns and gardens for signs of mole cricket activity to catch any infestations early on.

Remember that understanding the habitats and distribution of mole crickets can be useful in managing their populations and protecting your landscapes. Keep an eye on your property and act promptly if you notice any signs of mole cricket activity.

Mole Cricket Species

Mole crickets are insects that belong to the family Gryllotalpidae and the order Orthoptera. There are a few common species you might encounter, such as the tawny mole cricket, southern mole cricket, and Neoscapteriscus vicinus.

The tawny mole cricket is light brown, with a velvety appearance. They are known for their ability to cause damage to turfgrass and pastures. Some key features of tawny mole crickets include:

  • Size: 1.2 to 1.4 inches in length
  • Forewings: Pale and translucent
  • Habitat: Prefer sandy soils

The southern mole cricket has a darker color and is slightly smaller than the tawny mole cricket. They too can cause damage to turfgrass, pastures, and vegetable seedlings. Here are some characteristics of southern mole crickets:

  • Size: 1 to 1.2 inches in length
  • Forewings: Darker with smoky brown spots
  • Habitat: Varied soil types

Neoscapteriscus vicinus, also known as the short-winged mole cricket, is similar in appearance to the southern mole cricket. However, it prefers to live in wetter environments. Some features of this species are:

  • Size: 1 to 1.2 inches in length
  • Forewings: Shorter and dark brown
  • Habitat: Wet soils, often near water sources

Mole cricket species have experienced convergent evolution, meaning they have developed similar physical features to adapt to their environments, even though they may come from different lineages.

Here’s a comparison table to help you understand the differences between these three species:

Species Size Forewing Appearance Preferred Habitat
Tawny Mole Cricket 1.2 – 1.4 in Pale and translucent Sandy soils
Southern Mole Cricket 1 – 1.2 in Darker, brown spots Varied soil types
Neoscapteriscus vicinus 1 – 1.2 in Shorter, dark brown Wet soils

By understanding the taxonomy and characteristics of these mole crickets, you can better identify the species you encounter and determine the potential risks they pose to your garden or lawn.

Feeding and Damage

Specific Damage to Plants

Mole crickets primarily cause damage by tunneling through the soil near the surface, which can negatively impact the roots of your plants and grass. This tunneling can disturb the grass roots, leading to dead or dying grass in the affected area. Most often, you’ll notice brown and die patches in your lawn as a telltale sign of an infestation.

Mole cricket damage is particularly prevalent in certain grass types such as bermudagrass, where they feed on its roots. The damage rendered by the mole cricket manifests in the form of weakened and dying patches of grass, making it easier to spot an infestation.

Here’s a brief comparison of mole cricket damage impact on different plants:

  • Bermudagrass: High susceptibility, extensive root damage
  • Other grass types: Moderate susceptibility, varying degrees of root damage
  • Non-grass plants: Low susceptibility, minimal damage

To help recognize and manage mole cricket damage, follow these simple steps:

  1. Look for telltale signs like brown and die patches in your lawn.
  2. Check for tunneling and disturbances in the soil near affected plants.
  3. Implement control measures such as soapy water drench to flush out the mole crickets.

By identifying the signs early and taking appropriate action, you can prevent further damage to your plants and ensure a healthy, thriving garden or lawn.

Control and Prevention

Mole crickets can be a real pest in your turf, causing unsightly damage and costly maintenance. Luckily, there are several ways to control them and prevent further infestation.

First, let’s talk about some signs that may indicate mole cricket activity:

  • Raised, tunnel-like burrows in your lawn
  • Uneven, spongy turf
  • Areas of brown or dead grass

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take action. A simple yet effective method in monitoring mole cricket presence is the soapy water drench. Just mix water and dish soap, then pour it over suspect areas. The soapy solution will irritate mole crickets and force them to surface. Clemson Information provides a description of this technique.

Now let’s move on to some treatment options to control mole crickets:

  • Insecticides: Carbaryl is a popular chemical treatment for mole crickets. Apply it to affected areas according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Baits: Both chemical and non-chemical baits can help eliminate mole crickets. Place them strategically around your turf.
  • Biological controls: Beneficial nematodes are an eco-friendly alternative, which will prey on the mole crickets without harming your lawn.

In addition to treatments, it’s essential to implement preventative measures:

  • Maintain healthy turf by regularly watering, fertilizing, and mowing.
  • Keep an eye out for mole cricket activity during their peak seasons, usually from late spring to early summer.
  • Encourage natural predators, such as birds or parasitoid wasps.

Remember, it’s essential to monitor your lawn, spot signs of mole crickets early, and take swift action. With these strategies, you can keep your turf healthy and mole cricket-free.

Other Interesting Features

Mole crickets have a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from other cricket species. Their front legs are highly modified, making them efficient at digging through soil. You may also notice their unique claws which aid in their subterranean activities.

They belong to the family Gryllotalpidae within the order Orthoptera, which also contains grasshoppers and other cricket species. Despite their name, mole crickets are more closely related to grasshoppers, as both are members of the same order. Here are a few fascinating characteristics of these intriguing insects:

  • Size: Adult mole crickets measure about 1 1/2 inch in length.
  • Omnivorous habits: Mole crickets are omnivores, feeding on both plant material and other insects.
  • Flight capabilities: Although clumsy in flight, these creatures are effective at flying at night for short periods.
  • Interesting reproductive behavior: Male mole crickets build mud chambers to amplify their mating calls, attracting females for mating.

Their diet consists of grasses, organic matter, and other insects, making them both predatory and herbivorous. Despite being relatively harmless to humans, mole crickets can cause damage to turfgrasses, pastures, and vegetable seedlings. As a result, they are often considered an invasive pest, especially if their population gets out of control.

Mole crickets have a few natural predators, including parasitic wasps. The adult wasp lays its eggs on individual mole crickets, and upon hatching, the larva feeds on the cricket’s blood, eventually leading to the cricket’s demise (source).

In conclusion, mole crickets showcase a range of intriguing features that distinguish them from other insects, such as their unique front legs, burrowing abilities, and diverse diet. So next time you come across one of these peculiar creatures, take a moment to appreciate their fascinating characteristics.

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 Australia

 

Identification Request
April 19, 2010
Hi Daniel,
I’ve got this type of bug that likes to come into my garage / room and I can hear it crawling in on my floor its a scratchy noise and I’m wondering what bug it is and if
it poses any harm. I also wouldn’t mind some info on it just out of interest so I know what I’m dealing with.
Found in: Perth Australia, in my garage
Thanks
Alastair
Perth Australia

Mole Cricket

Hi Alastair,
Thank you so much for resending your letter with the photograph attached.  It is virtually impossible for us to try to piece together letters and images that do not all arrive together because of the volume of mail we receive.  This is a Mole Cricket, a creature that is found in many places throughout the world.  We get frequent identification requests with images of Mole Crickets from Iraq and Afghanistan, Australia, and many parts of North America.  Mole Crickets are subterranean dwellers, and some species are capable of flight and are attracted to lights.

Letter 2 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Help in Identifying a bug
Hi, my name is Jonathan Tindal and I need help to indentify an insect. I live in Australia (Adelaide) and Iv’e never seen an insect like this before. I got lots of Photos (5 mega pixel) but a lot turned out a bit blurry; but I will send you the best one attached below. It has the back of a wasp with 2 stingers, 2 antennas, ant nippers, little claws like a crab and small wings. I checked Austrlaia’s csiro but can’t find it. Your help would be appreciated Thank you
Regards
Jonathan Tindal

Hi Jonathan,
Nice to know there are Mole Crickets down under. These subterranean dwellers are also capable of flight, and they are excellent diggers.

Letter 3 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Freaky bug
Location: Sydney, Australia
November 24, 2010 2:50 am
Hi! Could you please help to identify this freaky looking bug that got stuck in my fish bowl outside? It has 4 main legs and 2 short upper legs, no wings. This one is only 4cm long but we have seen one that is about 7cm long.
Thanks!
Cheryl
Signature: CL

Mole Cricket

Hi Cheryl,
We are certainly curious about how this Mole Cricket got stuck in your fish bowl with what appears to be an artificial koi.  Mole Crickets are common insects that can be found in many places around the world.  It is one of our most frequent identification requests from military troops stationed in Afghanistan and other places in the Middle East.  Mole Crickets live underground, but many species are capable of flying and they are sometimes attracted to lights.

Letter 4 – Mole Cricket from Australia: Rescued from Drowning

 

This was in my pool
Location: Perth, Western Australia, Southern Hemisphere, South Pacific, My swimming pool.
January 3, 2011 2:04 am
Hi, My name is Seb from Perth, Western australia.
It’s very hot here at the moment.
The photo posted is the second one of these I’ve seen in the space of a fortnight.
On the first encounter I was working on my bike in the shed and one of these was more or less trying to attack me?
I can confirm it can fly.
Anyway my dad took it away to the swamps later that night for his walk.
The second one was in my pool pretty much drowning so I rescued it with our brush.
I noticed it was not only trying to attach itself to the brush, but it was biting at the bristles!
Anyways I couldnt completely get it out with the brush so I scooped it up with the container, hence the water.
I was abit afraid of putting my hand any closer for a better photo… lol.
After taking the photo, it was released to the front garden. God forbit its actually an invasive species not indigenous to this region.
Im guessing because of its rear spines, its part of the cricket family?
We have a relatively large veggie patch wich at night time seems to come alive. We can hear 2 or 3 different types of frogs etc which I think should be part of a healthy ecosystem? Also lots of various plants planted around the walkways etc.
I do hope someone can help to identify this.
Kindly thanking you in great anticipation.
Signature: Thanks, Seb

Mole Cricket

Hi Seb,
This is a Mole Cricket and they do fly.  They are subterranean insects that for some reason, perhaps the pool lights, are frequently found in swimming pools.  Mole Crickets, which resemble one another even when the are different species, are found worldwide.  The Brisbane Insect website has a lengthy page on the Mole Cricket.

Letter 5 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Bug Identification
Location: Perth, Western Australia, Australia
February 15, 2011 4:20 am
Hi,
I found this bug at my school and my girlfriends and I got a little freaked out. The bug in the photo is real size. My nickname is nature freak and I was just wondering what the bug is if I come across it again, i could tell my girlfriends.
Signature: Grace Holness

Mole Cricket

Dear Grace,
You encountered a Mole Cricket.  Mole Crickets have a global distribution and we get submissions from many locations, though most of the reported sightings we get are from North America and the Middle East as well as Australia.

Letter 6 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Bug with hands
Location: Inner Eastern Suburbs, Melbourne Australia
December 10, 2011 6:56 am
Found my cat chasing this bug around my living room. Never seen anything remotely like it.
Signature: Perplexed

Mole Cricket

Dear Perplexed,
Your insect is a Mole Cricket.  Mole Crickets are subterranean dwellers that use their front legs to dig tunnels underground.  Mole Crickets are found in most temperate regions of the world.

Letter 7 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Is this a mole cricket??
Location: Rockingham, Western Australia
March 10, 2012 6:52 am
Not sure how this got into a box in the corner of a room in my house so far from either outside doors..It was not making the usual clicking noises and i heard it scrapping in the cardboard box…
I have never seen this bug before.
Signature: Rockingham, Western Australia

Mole Cricket

Dear Rockingham,
You are correct.  This is a Mole Cricket.

Letter 8 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Subject: Daughter’s find
Location: Perth, Western Australia
January 31, 2013 9:01 am
Hi,
My daughter found this on its back and asked, ”Is it a monster?”
Up close it certainly looks that way with a prawn/lobster like head and beetle like body. It has two stubby front limbs that are flattened and spiny at the ends.
It was found in my back yard and aside from, ’what is it?’ I’d also like to know whether it is friend or foe (I never know in Australia, most things here will kill you!)
Many thanks,
Jeff
Signature: Jeff

Mole Cricket

Hi Jeff,
This is a Mole Cricket, a subterranean dweller that uses it front legs to tunnel underground.  Interesting, exactly one year ago, submissions of Mole Crickets from Slovenia and Australia prompted us to declare the Mole Cricket the Bug of the Month for February 2012.

Mole Cricket

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for the prompt response, what a fantastic resource you run, I’ll bookmark your site and send you any more interesting finds.
Kind regards,
Jeff

 

Letter 9 – Mole Cricket from Australia

 

Subject:  New species
Geographic location of the bug:  Ballarat
Date: 05/10/2019
Time: 06:36 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this bug? Is it a new species?
How you want your letter signed:  Nate G

Mole Cricket

Dear Nate,
This is a Mole Cricket, and we probably have over 100 images of Mole Crickets on our site from all over the planet, including Australia.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Mole Crickets

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Edibility status: yum.
    Mole crickets are particularly enjoyed in Thailand and neighboring countries, and are eaten in other parts of the world. I had some in Thailand, and they’re quite tasty. Of course they were deep-fried, which doesn’t hurt, but I’m pretty sure that even prepared in other ways they’d be good.

    Dave
    http://www.smallstockfoods.com

    Reply
  • Freaky mole cricket!

    Reply
  • Manage to capture 5 of these yesyterday while the grand children were playing on there slip and slide. Whould the moisture on the lawn encourage them to surface.
    We kept them to feed to my grandsons pet bearded dragon.

    Reply

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