Where Do Jerusalem Crickets Live? Uncovering Their Secret Habitats

Jerusalem crickets, also known as potato bugs, are fascinating creatures that often leave many people curious about their habitat and lifestyle. These large, flightless insects are native to the western United States and Mexico, and typically reside in dry, grassy environments, as well as mountainous regions.

You may come across these crickets under rocks, logs, or other dark, sheltered areas during the day. The reason for this is that they are primarily nocturnal, which means they are most active at night. The different habitats that Jerusalem crickets live in are essential to their survival, providing them with the right conditions for feeding and breeding.

Overall, Jerusalem crickets are an intriguing insect species, with their habitats stretching across a variety of environments. It’s essential to respect their natural habitats, ensuring that these fascinating creatures can continue to thrive and contribute to the ecosystem.

Classification and Appearance

Taxonomy

Jerusalem crickets belong to the insect order Orthoptera. They are part of the family Stenopelmatidae, within the subfamily Stenopelmatinae. The genus Stenopelmatus and Ammopelmatus are the most well-known, containing several species of these fascinating insects. They reside in the phylum Arthropoda and class Insecta, which includes other insects such as crickets and grasshoppers.

Physical Description

These flightless insects have a unique appearance, featuring a large, rounded head and shiny, striped abdomen. Their bodies are typically 1-2 inches in length, and they have six spiny legs that help them navigate through their environments. The following features characterize Jerusalem crickets:

  • Large, round head
  • Shiny, striped abdomen
  • Flightless
  • Six spiny legs

Here’s a brief comparison of the Jerusalem cricket with another member of the order Orthoptera, the Gryllidae (true crickets):

Feature Jerusalem Cricket True Cricket (Gryllidae)
Wings Flightless Usually have wings
Body Length 1-2 inches Varies, typically smaller
Head Large, round Smaller, less rounded
Abdomen Shiny, striped Less shiny, more uniform

As you can see, Jerusalem crickets have quite a distinct appearance, setting them apart from other insects within the Orthoptera order. Their unique physical characteristics help them adapt to and survive in their environments.

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Range

Jerusalem crickets or potato bugs are mainly found in the western United States, including California. They also inhabit some parts of Mexico and Central America. In North America, their distribution extends northward up to parts of Canada.

Examples of where you might encounter Jerusalem crickets include:

  • Western United States, such as California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
  • Parts of Central America, including Mexican regions.
  • Some regions in the southern area of Canada.

Preferred Environment

Jerusalem crickets reside in a variety of habitats. They are commonly found in moist, cool environments like gardens, fields, and under rocks or logs. You may also find them in some dry, grassy areas.

Here are some preferred environments of Jerusalem crickets:

  • Moist and cool environments like gardens and fields.
  • Under rocks or logs, which offer protection and moisture.
  • Comfortable in some dry, grassy areas.

Keep in mind that Jerusalem crickets are nocturnal creatures, so they typically stay hidden during the day. You are more likely to encounter them during dusk or nighttime when they venture out to find food and mates. Overall, the habitat and distribution of Jerusalem crickets indicate their adaptability to a wide range of environmental conditions found in western North America and parts of Central America.

Behaviour and Communication

Daily Activity

Jerusalem crickets, known for their unique appearance and intriguing behavior, are primarily nocturnal creatures. They spend their days hidden underground or under rocks and emerge at night to search for food. This helps them avoid predators and the harmful rays of the sun.

Sound Production

You might be surprised to learn that Jerusalem crickets employ various methods of communication, including hissing and drumming sounds. When they feel threatened, they produce a hissing noise by rubbing their back legs together. They also use vibrations to communicate with potential mates or rivals. For example, they may create drumming sounds by hitting their abdomen against the ground or a nearby object.

Mating Rituals

When looking to mate, Jerusalem crickets engage in a fascinating courtship display. The male cricket will produce a drumming sound to attract a female. If interested, female crickets respond by creating their own vibrations. This back-and-forth exchange is essential to their mating rituals.

During mating, the male Jerusalem cricket will:

  • Approach the female from behind
  • Gently tap her abdomen to signal his intentions

Below is a comparison table highlighting the communication methods used by Jerusalem crickets:

Type of Sound Method of Production Purpose
Hissing Rubbing back legs together Defense
Drumming Hitting abdomen on surfaces Mate attraction

By understanding Jerusalem crickets’ behavior and communication methods, you can gain a deeper appreciation for these intriguing creatures.

Diet and Predation

Eating Habits

Jerusalem crickets are known for their diverse diet. They primarily feed on nonwoody roots and tubers, which they find underground. You might also find them munching on insects like garden pests. These crickets play an essential role in controlling infestations of potentially harmful insects in gardens.

Predatory Behaviour

Despite their appearance, Jerusalem crickets are not venomous or dangerous to humans. They do have a powerful bite, but it is mostly used for hunting prey and not for self-defense. As far as predators go, Jerusalem crickets have a few natural enemies. Common predators include:

  • Bats
  • Coyotes
  • Skunks
  • Foxes

These predators play a crucial role in keeping the population of Jerusalem crickets in check. This helps maintain a balanced ecosystem where each species can continue to coexist.

So, next time you encounter a Jerusalem cricket, remember that it’s a helpful garden ally, and not a dangerous or venomous creature. Instead, appreciate the role it plays in your garden ecosystem and the food chain.

Reproduction and Lifecycle

Egg Laying

During mating, both male and female Jerusalem crickets engage in a “drumming” behavior, where they strike the ground repeatedly with their abdomens to communicate and locate each other source. After mating, the female lays white, oval-shaped eggs in the soil in small masses source.

Development Stages

Jerusalem crickets undergo several developmental stages. After hatching from eggs, nymphs emerge. They closely resemble adult crickets in appearance but are smaller and have a lighter color. Nymphs molt up to about 10 times before reaching adulthood source.

During their life cycle, Jerusalem crickets may take 2 to 5 years to reach maturity, depending on geographical latitude source. Adult crickets are large, about 1 ½ to 2 inches in length, and have strong jaws for chewing source. Once they reach adulthood, they live for an additional 2 to 6 months before dying.

Here are some key characteristics of Jerusalem crickets during their life cycle:

  • Nymphs resemble smaller adults and molt about 10 times.
  • Adults have strong jaws for chewing.
  • They take 2 to 5 years to mature depending on location.
  • Adults live for an additional 2 to 6 months.

The Jerusalem Cricket and Humans

Are They Dangerous?

Jerusalem crickets, also known as potato bugs, sand crickets, or stone crickets, are usually harmless to humans. They have mandibles that can deliver a painful bite if mishandled, but they don’t pose a significant threat. Some things to note about their interactions with humans include:

  • They have no wings or powerful hind legs to help them escape.
  • They are not aggressive unless threatened or roughly handled.
  • They can emit a foul smell when disturbed, similar to some beetles.
  • They live mostly underground and feed on organic matter, so they’re rarely encountered.

Nevertheless, it’s important to treat them with caution if you do come across one, mainly to avoid a painful bite.

Cultural References

Jerusalem crickets are also called “child of the earth,” “skull insect,” or “niño de la tierra” in Spanish, due to their distinctive appearance and cultural references. Although they might seem rare or mysterious due to their mostly hidden lifestyle, they are not considered endangered.

Different species of Jerusalem crickets belong to the genus Stenopelmatus, such as Ammopelmatus fuscus. People’s views about these insects can vary, ranging from fascination to fear.

In conclusion, Jerusalem crickets don’t pose significant danger to humans unless provoked, and they have an intriguing presence in various cultural aspects. Remember to keep a respectful distance if you encounter one, and appreciate their role in the ecosystem as natural decomposers and their unique cultural symbolism.

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 – Potato Bug from Oregon

 

Subject: Creepy in Oregon
Location: Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
May 21, 2016 8:49 am
We found this guy in our kitchen this morning. (May 21st) we’ve both lived all over the country and have never see any thing like this before.
Signature: KJH

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear KJH,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus
Stenopelmatus, and though most of our sightings come from Southern California, they range much farther, according to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Potato Bug … In Florida?????????

 

Wierd bug , dont know what it is
Tue, May 12, 2009 at 2:18 PM
Hi, I found a weird bug by the back wall of my vacation house in Florida and i was hoping you could tell me what it is. I didn’t know if i should have killed it or kept it, so i decided to let it go. Please write back.
Thanks, Ryan
back wall of my vacation house in florida

Potato Bug, In Florida???
Potato Bug, In Florida???

Hi Ryan,
The identification of your Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, genus Stenopelmatus is easy enough, but the rest of your letter is quite perplexing. Potato Bugs range, to the best of our knowledge, in the western U.S. primarily in the arid Southwest, though there are reports from as far north as Canada according to BugGuide. If your letter is not a hoax, then this sighting must surely be an accidental introduction. We also wonder if this is an isolated event, or if by some odd chance Potato Bugs have been introduced to Florida and are breeding. Time will tell.

Comment: Wed, 13 May 2009 00:16:25 -0700
Daniel:
I would reach the same conclusion you have: an accidental introduction if the location is correct. They are known as far east as western Nebraska, last I heard, so I suppose it is not a huge stretch….
Keep up the great work!
Eric Eaton

Letter 3 – Potato Bug names in Spanish: Mestizo and Cara de Niño

 

Subject: Potato Bugs in Spanish
September 2, 2012 2:05 am
I just read your posts about the Potato Bug (I have encountered my share of them as well), and I noticed you say that in Spanish they are named “Niña de la Tierra”.
I’m not sure in other Spanish-speaking areas, but in central Mexico these bugs are called “Mestizo” (Half-breed) or “Cara de niño” (Literally, “face of a child”, I guess it would translate as “child-faced bug”). I’ve never heard anyone calling them “Niña de la tierra”.
Good night!
Signature: Liveswithspiders

Potato Bug photo from our archives

Dear Liveswithspiders,
Thanks for providing this valuable information on one of our Top Ten identification requests, the Potato Bug.

Letter 4 – Potato Bug in Washington State

 

Subject: Pasco WA What is this bug?
Location: Pasco, Washington
November 8, 2012 12:24 am
What is this bug it keeps coming into our workshop. Is it poisonous? It looks like it has six cricket like legs, a red ants head, creeps like a spider, and the body makes me think of some type of beetle or roach. We just relocated to Pasco, Washington i have never seen such a large bug! it had to be 2” long and 3/4” wide(plus the legs), i just want to make sure it is not dangerous, I have a 1 year old just learning to walk and i just dont want him to get bit or hurt if this thing is dangerous.
Signature: totally freaked out in Pasco WA

Potato Bug

Dear totally freaked out in Pasco WA,
We get so many Potato Bug identification requests from Southern California and parts of the Southwest that we only post the smallest fraction of them, generally ones with great stories or fabulous photos.  We get a few identification requests from the Pacific Northwest, but not many, so your sighting is post-worthy.  Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are subterranean dwellers that are often driven to the surface during the rainy season.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous as they have no venom, but they do have powerful mandibles and they might produce a painful nip if carelessly handled.

Letter 5 – Potato Bug in Utah

 

Large crawling insect
Location: Northern Utah
October 17, 2011 10:06 am
Hi there,
While hiking in the Lone Peak area of Utah, I saw this large insect crawling up the trail. It looks like an enormous cross between a bee and an ant. It was about 2.5 inches long, with a body about as thick around as a nickel. Any idea what it is?
Signature: Darrin Lythgoe

Potato Bug

Hi Darrin,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a common insect in the Southwest.  They are subterranean dwellers that often come to the surface after a rain.  They represent one of our most frequently identified bugs and they are on our Top 10 list.

Letter 6 – Potato Bug comes in out of the rain

 

Large and striped during rainy season…CA
Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 8:52 PM
I found this insect on the garage floor, not really moving around. Soon after taking the photos, it started to scurry around with its tail raised a little and trying to flip its barbed legs backwards. I imagine it was to hook something.
Recently, we have had 10″ of rain in two weeks. I don’t know if this has any relevance.
fascinated
northern california

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear fascinated,
Seems there is nothing like a good dowsing of rain to bring subterranean dwellers like your Potato Bug above ground. The Potato Bug is one of our most common identification requests in Southern California.  Potato Bugs are also commonly called Jerusalem Crickets.

Letter 7 – Potato Bug found in Texas

 

Subject: Oversized Ant-like Insect
Location: Monahans, TX
February 11, 2013 11:41 pm
Was on a geology field trip camping at Monahans Sandhils State Park when we came across this thing at night. Its head is so disproportionate to its body, its a wonder it doesn’t fall forward. A friend was brave enough to get up close and take these pictures. What is this thing?
Signature: Sara

Potato Bug

Dear Sara,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus Stenopelmatus, one of our most common Southern California sightings.  Thanks to internet reports on websites such as BugGuide, we now know that they range much farther east than was originally thought.  BugGuide even has reports from Arkansas.

Letter 8 – Potato Bug from Utah

 

Subject:  Bug Spotted on Zion Hike
Geographic location of the bug:  Zion National Park, Utah
Date: 10/28/2019
Time: 03:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello,
I saw this critter on a hike.  At first it was on it’s back and looked dead.  I flipped it over and it moved slightly.  It did not seem to be healthy.  My initial thought was that it somehow just passed through a predator’s digestive track.  So, what’s that bug?
P.S. I also saw a tarantula on this hike – photo also attached!
How you want your letter signed:  Zion Hiker

Potato Bug

Dear Zion Hiker,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a subterranean dwelling Orthopteran that is most often found on the surface after a good rain.  It appears to have undergone a trauma.  We are always amazed at the number of squashed insects we have seen on hiking trails.  We generally think of hikers as nature lovers, and the squashed insects seem too numerous to have been accidentally stepped on.  Rather, we believe many hikers take out their fear and loathing of insects by squashing them on hiking trails. 

Letter 9 – Potato Bug in Oklahoma

 

Found in the Sand Dunes
September 22, 2009
Hi Bugman,
We found this little creature over the weekend in the Sand Dunes of Oklahoma. Can you help identify it?
Marsha Reynolds
Oklahoma

Potato Bug in Oklahoma
Potato Bug in Oklahoma

Hi Marsha,
The Potato Bug is one of our top 10 identification requests.  We get so many identification requests for Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets in the genus Stenopelmatus, that we rarely post a new letter unless it is interesting or has a wonderful photograph.  Your letter is unusual in that most of our submissions come from California and the Southwest, though in recent years there have been many sightings in Idaho and Wyoming.  This is the first report we have gotten from Oklahoma.  We don’t know if this represents a natural range expansion, or an accidental introduction, or if perhaps the insects were always present but since they are not common, they have not been reported.  You can check the reported sightings on BugGuide to verify how unusual your sighting is.

Letter 10 – Potato Bug in Utah

 

Subjec:  Half wasp half ???
Geographic location of the bug:  Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Date: 10/24/2021
Time: 02:16 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This bug came walking up to us while camping.  I have tried to identify and am at a loss.  Any idea?  Seen at night, on the Utah and Arizona border, October.  Thanks!!!
How you want your letter signed:  NA

Potato Bug

Dear NA,
Congratulations on your first encounter with a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, one of the most iconic insects in the American Southwest.  Not true Crickets, Potato Bugs are in a unique family of insects where its closest relatives are in Australia.   Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are most frequently encountered at night after a rain.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous to humans, but they have very powerful mandibles and they might even draw blood from thin-skinned individuals.

Hey Daniel, thank you so much for getting back to me. I guess I should’ve scrolled further on your website.  And now I know that there is a true potato bug. We called potato bugs those little black bugs that roll into a ball… Another name is it Rolly Polly!!  Thanks again for solving our mystery. We deemed it as half wasp half termite.  Haha

Letter 11 – Potato Bug Carnage

 

Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: Corte Madera , California
November 20, 2015 4:58 am
Found this crawling on floor inside home. No others found as of yet. About as long as adult thumb.
Signature: Jackie Wilkinson

Potato Bug Carnage
Potato Bug Carnage

Dear Jackie,
Clearly you can stand your ground against Potato Bugs which are harmless, subterranean dwellers that become more active in California with the winter rains.  We try to promote tolerance of the lower beasts and we hope next time a Potato Bug wanders indoors, you consider relocation over squashing.

Letter 12 – Potato Bug Carnage in Pasadena

 

Subject: Giant termite? No idea
Location: Pasadena, CA
December 5, 2014 9:22 am
Found this crawling near the air return inside my house. Unfortunately my wife killed it before I coild jar it. It was about the size of my thumb. Huge head and distinct eyes. Had a water issue in my garage and notice some damp wood looking termites but and signs of dry wood termite droppings on some rafters too. House is 100 years old. Is this big a termite? Do they get this big??!!!
Signature: Walter

Potato Bug Carnage
Potato Bug Carnage

Dear Walter,
This is not a Termite.  Your wife has squashed a Southern California icon known as a Potato Bug.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers related to crickets and grasshoppers.  Often the first heavy rains of the season drive them to the surface where they are encountered by people who are often quite startled upon seeing such a large, distinctive, almost humanoid creature for the first time.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous to humans, though they do have strong mandibles that could deliver a painful nip if they are carelessly handled.  We are tagging this an Unnecessary Carnage because we feel squashing Potato Bugs is an extreme reaction.

Letter 13 – Potato Bug causes “near wetting of pants” at high school girlfriends’ weekend reunion

 

Subject:  who is THIS?
Geographic location of the bug:  solvang California
Date: 09/18/2017
Time: 04:34 PM EDT
this bug invaded our high school girlfriends weekend reunion in cali & caused lots of screaming & near-wetting-of pants
How you want your letter signed —
queenie & lulu

Potato Bug

Dear Queenie & Lulu,
Just out of curiosity, was the high school that inspired the girlfriends’ weekend reunion from elsewhere?  The Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket is a real Southern California icon, and most children who grow up in the southland know about them.  Based on your images, it appears that it headed to the pool.  That might be a sign it has been parasitized by a Horsehair Worm or Gordian Worm, an internal parasite that causes the Potato Bug to seek water, at which point the long, hairlike worm burst out, killing the Potato Bug.  Seeing that might have caused some actual “wetting of pants.”

thank you for your reply! yes, indeed we went to high school in des moines, iowa. two of the girls live in california (we were staying at one of their homes near santa barbara, at alisal ranch) and they have lived there for many years so i guess they are lucky not to have encountered such a creepy cali icon previously!
i knew i would find out what this bug was because my one time grand dog’s portable water dish got a cricket in it that DID spawn a horsehair worm so i’ve had that experience as well….SO ICKY (did not wet my pants tho, whew).
i forwarded the girls my email to you folks with the attached note to them:  Kate, Karla & Becky…do you remember me telling you on the way to the airport I would figure out this bug based on my experience of finding out about horsehair worms that hatched out of crickets that got into Oliver’s water when I took him to nitefall on the river? HOW.CRAZY.IS.THAT.

Letter 14 – Potato Bug emerges after rains

 

Subject: GIANT ANT?
Location: San Diego, CA
January 14, 2016 8:05 pm
Scattered acroos my sidewalk as I open my door. Roughly 2.5 to 3 inches long. Tried to hide as soon a sit saw me. Looked like a giant naked ant. I HATE ANTS!!!
Signature: Justin

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Justin,
Perhaps you are relatively new to Southern California.  Meet the Potato Bug, a true Southern California icon.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are rarely seen during the hot summer months.  Winter rains bring them to the surface and most of our sightings occur shortly after the first significant rains.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous, but they do have very powerful mandibles and they will deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled.

Letter 15 – Potato Bug emerges after torrential Southern California rains!!!

 

Subject: Bug
Location: Mayberry ave, Rancho Cucamonga CA, USA
March 4, 2014 12:04 am
I found this bug borrowing into a crack in our pavement. It was maby 1.5″ to 2″ long and 2″ to 2.5″ width wise. I have no clue what this bug is and it kind of scares me.
Signature: Buggy man

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear Buggy man,
This Potato Bug is a common Southern California insect that lives underground.  They often come to the surface after a good rain, and Saturday’s storm was a doozy.
  Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are perfectly harmless, though their strong jaws may deliver a painful pinch, possibly even drawing blood, if they are carelessly handled.

Letter 16 – Potato Bug found in shower

 

Subject: Ugly big bug
Location: Mandeville Canyon – Santa Monica, CA
March 7, 2016 11:12 am
I found this big boy in my shower today. I live in Mandeville Canyon. I think he must have come up through the drain after the big rain.
He’s about 3″ long. I don’t know what to do with him but I am curious what the heck he is…!!?!
Signature: ?

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, an iconic Southern California insect that is a subterranean dweller.  Winter rains cause them to come to the surface so most of our sighting reports are shortly after a heavy rain.

Letter 17 – Potato Bug from Colorado

 

Subject: Strange striped bug
Location: Mesa, co
August 22, 2013 9:11 am
This bug was found in the front yard if my parents house in Mesa, Colorado. It is about an inch long.
Signature: Jamie

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Jamie,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus
Stenopelmatus, not to be confused with the Colorado Potato Beetle.  When we first began What’s That Bug nearly fifteen years ago, we were not aware that Potato Bugs ranged much farther than southern California.  With the introduction of the internet and the vast information sharing potential, BugGuide now reports Potato Bugs from many states west of the Mississippi River.

Letter 18 – Potato Bug from San Francisco

 

Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: San Francisco CA
November 16, 2012 4:51 pm
Hello,
This bug of about 2 inches (without antennas) and which seems to still be a larva?? was in front of my door on Nov 14.
Could you please help me find what it was?
Thanks so much
Signature: Manuela CALVET

Potato Bug

Hi Manuela,
We are amazed at the diversity of Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets in the west.  What’s That Bug? is proof that they range much farther from the Southwest than was suspected not so many years ago.  Potato Bugs are rarely identified past the genus level of
Ste#@(*%@#s, but it is speculated that there are at least 25 species in the U.S.  Many of them may have very local distributions.  We don’t know if anyone is doing a study of Potato Bugs, but it would be a great project for children.  It might even be something that a photography program and a biology program might collaborate with with an area high school like Sonia Sotomayor on San Fernando Road where they have the river school. 

Letter 19 – Potato Bug from the Potato State

 

What’s this bug?
Location: Boise, ID
May 13, 2011 10:13 pm
Dear Bugman,
We found this critter in the garage that we recently moved into. Any ideas? Thanks!
Signature: Bugged in Boise

Potato Bug

Dear Bugged in Boise,
You will be happy to hear that despite being called a Potato Bug, this creature is no threat to your state’s signature crop.  We don’t get many requests for Potato Bug identifications outside of the arid Southwest, though they are not unknown in the northern climes.  The Potato Bug is one of our Top 10 identification requests and you can read all about them in our archives.

Letter 20 – Potato Bug identification requests continue to pour in!!!

 

what kind of bug is this?
Location: Pomona, california
December 7, 2010 7:23 pm
As of 12/7/10, my brother found this bug right outside of our garage this morning, we are in southern california on the boarder of LA county and San Bernardino county. I was freaked out by this and went and googled this picture and read something about the Jerusalem Cricket that sounds like the same description as this. Could you let me know if this could be something else or it is the infamous Jerusalem Criket? does it do any harm at all?
Signature: signed

Potato Bug: AKA Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Signed,
You are correct.  This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, though it also have other names.  It is a harmless subterranean dweller that emerges when there is a soaking rain, hence the countless identification requests we have received since the rain in Southern California Sunday night.  If carelessly handled, the Potato Bug might bite with its strong jaws, but it is not dangerous since it lacks venom.

Thank you so much for your kind explaination! greatly appreciate it!
Nicole

Letter 21 – Potato Bug in Montana

 

Weird Bug
Location: Billings, Montana USA
June 2, 2011 11:41 am
I saw tis bug around October 1st 2008 in Billings, Montana USA coordinates 45°47′12″N 108°32′14″W
I think it was about 2 inces long not sure though.
Thanks for your help. Please write back soon.
Signature: Paul Foster

Potato Bug

Ed. Note
This email identification request nearly wound up in the trash after we supplied a quick response to Paul identifying his Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and then we thought to retrieve it and post it because of several reasons.  First, Potato Bug sightings from more northern latitudes are not unheard of, but they are considerably less common than sightings from the arid Southwest.  Perhaps this has more to do with human populations as there are more people in Southern California than in Montana.  Our more selfish reason for posting this submission has to do with the urgency of the request.  We cannot really understand why a three year old photo needs to be identified soon.  We have a very small staff and we are unable to respond to even a small percentage of the requests we receive, especially during the summer months.  Since we will be out of the office the second week in June, we are preparing postings in advance so our faithful readership will not be denied a daily dose of What’s That Bug?  We appreciate your patience in our absence.  Please understand we are not checking email while visiting Mom in Ohio.  Upon our return, we expect to find hundreds of urgent requests in our mailbox. This is just a reminder that we try our best to respond to as many requests as possible.  Using a catchy subject line will get our attention and it will separate your request from the masses.  Also, including the name of an under-represented species in the subject line is sure to get our attention, and even more so if you use the scientific binomial.  Including a scientific name in the subject line will let us know that a serious fan of the lower beasts has written to us, and that intrigues us much more than a desperate housewife with a Carpet Beetle problem or a frantic college student that needs assistance with a project for a grade.  Please enjoy browsing our site in our absence.  Chances are quite good that the insect you want identified is already in our archives.

Letter 22 – Potato Bug in Wyoming

 

Looks like a huge ant
Location: Wyoming
October 22, 2011 8:14 pm
We found this bug crawling across the tarmac at an airport in Wyoming in mid October. It was about 3 inches long.
It seems like an awfully large bug for where we are at.
Signature: NutNut

Potato Bug

Dear NutNut,
Though they are most common in the arid Southwest, it seems that Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets can be found in most of the western states.

Letter 23 – Potato Bug is NOT a hideous monster!!!

 

Subject: Hideous Monster Bug
Location: Sacramento CA
November 8, 2012 1:28 pm
I have found two of these hideous monster bugs in my apartment. They walk like a pit bull on steroids. They rustle paper so loudly it sounds like a mouse. They’re enormous and disgusting.
Found in a hideous carpeted apartment in Sacramento California in October.
Signature: matthewjschneider

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Matthew,
Where is the “hideous monster” of which you speak?  This subterranean Orthopteran is at the center of a myriad of local lore.  Called a Potato Bug, Jerusalem Cricket, Niña de la Tierra, Mestizo or Cara de Niño, these harmless creatures are often feared unnecessarily.  Indeed, the are often the victims of Unnecessary Carnage.

Thanks for your assistance.  Everything I read online indicates they’re rarely found in homes, yet I’ve only seen them in my apartment but never out back.  Any ideas why that might be happening? Is it due to changing of seasons?
Thanks
M

Hi again Matthew,
Rain causes Potato Bugs to emerge from their underground dwellings.  We are not sure why they are entering your apartment, but perhaps they are just wandering in accidentally while searching for food, mates or water.

Letter 24 – Potato Bug on Alcatraz Island

 

Subject: Big guy on Alcatraz Island
Location: Alcatraz Island, California
March 19, 2013 1:50 pm
What do you think this is? It was large, say 1.5 inches long, and fast-crawling. Thanks!
Signature: Jodi

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Jodi,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a common Southern California insect.  It is interesting that they live on Alcatraz and we wonder how long it has been since the Alcatraz population has mixed and interbred with the mainland species.

Letter 25 – Potato Bug Poses for Professional Portraits

 

Potato Bug Photo
January 11, 2010
Here’s an image for your archives. Thanks to your site I could identify this crazy looking bug.
Courtesy, James Steidl
James Group Studios, Inc.
San Diego

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear James,
Your lovely professional portraits of a Potato Bug are a welcome addition to our archives.  The excellent quality of your images and the sensitive portrait techniques should help to make the Potato Bug a face that more than just a mother can love.  So that we could maximize the reproduction size on the website, we have taken the liberty of cropping your composite into its component shots.

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Letter 26 – Potato Bug from Washington

 

Subject:  What IS this???
Geographic location of the bug:  Kennewick, WA, USA
Date: 09/27/2017
Time: 02:14 AM EDT
This thing was making the creepiest tapping sound outside my door and is pretty large. (May need to zoom in on the picture). Never seen one before. Help! Should I worry???
How you want your letter signed:  Curious and a little creeped out

Potato Bug

Dear Curious and a little creeped out,
Commonly called a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, this fascinating creature is quite common in Southern California and other parts of the American southwest, but BugGuide data indicates a far greater range including Washington.  Potato Bugs are not considered harmful toward humans, however, they do have powerful mandibles and they might bite if carelessly handled.

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 – Potato Bug from Oregon

 

Subject: Creepy in Oregon
Location: Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
May 21, 2016 8:49 am
We found this guy in our kitchen this morning. (May 21st) we’ve both lived all over the country and have never see any thing like this before.
Signature: KJH

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear KJH,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus
Stenopelmatus, and though most of our sightings come from Southern California, they range much farther, according to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Potato Bug … In Florida?????????

 

Wierd bug , dont know what it is
Tue, May 12, 2009 at 2:18 PM
Hi, I found a weird bug by the back wall of my vacation house in Florida and i was hoping you could tell me what it is. I didn’t know if i should have killed it or kept it, so i decided to let it go. Please write back.
Thanks, Ryan
back wall of my vacation house in florida

Potato Bug, In Florida???
Potato Bug, In Florida???

Hi Ryan,
The identification of your Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, genus Stenopelmatus is easy enough, but the rest of your letter is quite perplexing. Potato Bugs range, to the best of our knowledge, in the western U.S. primarily in the arid Southwest, though there are reports from as far north as Canada according to BugGuide. If your letter is not a hoax, then this sighting must surely be an accidental introduction. We also wonder if this is an isolated event, or if by some odd chance Potato Bugs have been introduced to Florida and are breeding. Time will tell.

Comment: Wed, 13 May 2009 00:16:25 -0700
Daniel:
I would reach the same conclusion you have: an accidental introduction if the location is correct. They are known as far east as western Nebraska, last I heard, so I suppose it is not a huge stretch….
Keep up the great work!
Eric Eaton

Letter 3 – Potato Bug names in Spanish: Mestizo and Cara de Niño

 

Subject: Potato Bugs in Spanish
September 2, 2012 2:05 am
I just read your posts about the Potato Bug (I have encountered my share of them as well), and I noticed you say that in Spanish they are named “Niña de la Tierra”.
I’m not sure in other Spanish-speaking areas, but in central Mexico these bugs are called “Mestizo” (Half-breed) or “Cara de niño” (Literally, “face of a child”, I guess it would translate as “child-faced bug”). I’ve never heard anyone calling them “Niña de la tierra”.
Good night!
Signature: Liveswithspiders

Potato Bug photo from our archives

Dear Liveswithspiders,
Thanks for providing this valuable information on one of our Top Ten identification requests, the Potato Bug.

Letter 4 – Potato Bug in Washington State

 

Subject: Pasco WA What is this bug?
Location: Pasco, Washington
November 8, 2012 12:24 am
What is this bug it keeps coming into our workshop. Is it poisonous? It looks like it has six cricket like legs, a red ants head, creeps like a spider, and the body makes me think of some type of beetle or roach. We just relocated to Pasco, Washington i have never seen such a large bug! it had to be 2” long and 3/4” wide(plus the legs), i just want to make sure it is not dangerous, I have a 1 year old just learning to walk and i just dont want him to get bit or hurt if this thing is dangerous.
Signature: totally freaked out in Pasco WA

Potato Bug

Dear totally freaked out in Pasco WA,
We get so many Potato Bug identification requests from Southern California and parts of the Southwest that we only post the smallest fraction of them, generally ones with great stories or fabulous photos.  We get a few identification requests from the Pacific Northwest, but not many, so your sighting is post-worthy.  Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are subterranean dwellers that are often driven to the surface during the rainy season.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous as they have no venom, but they do have powerful mandibles and they might produce a painful nip if carelessly handled.

Letter 5 – Potato Bug in Utah

 

Large crawling insect
Location: Northern Utah
October 17, 2011 10:06 am
Hi there,
While hiking in the Lone Peak area of Utah, I saw this large insect crawling up the trail. It looks like an enormous cross between a bee and an ant. It was about 2.5 inches long, with a body about as thick around as a nickel. Any idea what it is?
Signature: Darrin Lythgoe

Potato Bug

Hi Darrin,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a common insect in the Southwest.  They are subterranean dwellers that often come to the surface after a rain.  They represent one of our most frequently identified bugs and they are on our Top 10 list.

Letter 6 – Potato Bug comes in out of the rain

 

Large and striped during rainy season…CA
Tue, Feb 24, 2009 at 8:52 PM
I found this insect on the garage floor, not really moving around. Soon after taking the photos, it started to scurry around with its tail raised a little and trying to flip its barbed legs backwards. I imagine it was to hook something.
Recently, we have had 10″ of rain in two weeks. I don’t know if this has any relevance.
fascinated
northern california

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear fascinated,
Seems there is nothing like a good dowsing of rain to bring subterranean dwellers like your Potato Bug above ground. The Potato Bug is one of our most common identification requests in Southern California.  Potato Bugs are also commonly called Jerusalem Crickets.

Letter 7 – Potato Bug found in Texas

 

Subject: Oversized Ant-like Insect
Location: Monahans, TX
February 11, 2013 11:41 pm
Was on a geology field trip camping at Monahans Sandhils State Park when we came across this thing at night. Its head is so disproportionate to its body, its a wonder it doesn’t fall forward. A friend was brave enough to get up close and take these pictures. What is this thing?
Signature: Sara

Potato Bug

Dear Sara,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus Stenopelmatus, one of our most common Southern California sightings.  Thanks to internet reports on websites such as BugGuide, we now know that they range much farther east than was originally thought.  BugGuide even has reports from Arkansas.

Letter 8 – Potato Bug from Utah

 

Subject:  Bug Spotted on Zion Hike
Geographic location of the bug:  Zion National Park, Utah
Date: 10/28/2019
Time: 03:37 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello,
I saw this critter on a hike.  At first it was on it’s back and looked dead.  I flipped it over and it moved slightly.  It did not seem to be healthy.  My initial thought was that it somehow just passed through a predator’s digestive track.  So, what’s that bug?
P.S. I also saw a tarantula on this hike – photo also attached!
How you want your letter signed:  Zion Hiker

Potato Bug

Dear Zion Hiker,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a subterranean dwelling Orthopteran that is most often found on the surface after a good rain.  It appears to have undergone a trauma.  We are always amazed at the number of squashed insects we have seen on hiking trails.  We generally think of hikers as nature lovers, and the squashed insects seem too numerous to have been accidentally stepped on.  Rather, we believe many hikers take out their fear and loathing of insects by squashing them on hiking trails. 

Letter 9 – Potato Bug in Oklahoma

 

Found in the Sand Dunes
September 22, 2009
Hi Bugman,
We found this little creature over the weekend in the Sand Dunes of Oklahoma. Can you help identify it?
Marsha Reynolds
Oklahoma

Potato Bug in Oklahoma
Potato Bug in Oklahoma

Hi Marsha,
The Potato Bug is one of our top 10 identification requests.  We get so many identification requests for Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets in the genus Stenopelmatus, that we rarely post a new letter unless it is interesting or has a wonderful photograph.  Your letter is unusual in that most of our submissions come from California and the Southwest, though in recent years there have been many sightings in Idaho and Wyoming.  This is the first report we have gotten from Oklahoma.  We don’t know if this represents a natural range expansion, or an accidental introduction, or if perhaps the insects were always present but since they are not common, they have not been reported.  You can check the reported sightings on BugGuide to verify how unusual your sighting is.

Letter 10 – Potato Bug in Utah

 

Subjec:  Half wasp half ???
Geographic location of the bug:  Coral Pink Sand Dunes
Date: 10/24/2021
Time: 02:16 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  This bug came walking up to us while camping.  I have tried to identify and am at a loss.  Any idea?  Seen at night, on the Utah and Arizona border, October.  Thanks!!!
How you want your letter signed:  NA

Potato Bug

Dear NA,
Congratulations on your first encounter with a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, one of the most iconic insects in the American Southwest.  Not true Crickets, Potato Bugs are in a unique family of insects where its closest relatives are in Australia.   Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are most frequently encountered at night after a rain.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous to humans, but they have very powerful mandibles and they might even draw blood from thin-skinned individuals.

Hey Daniel, thank you so much for getting back to me. I guess I should’ve scrolled further on your website.  And now I know that there is a true potato bug. We called potato bugs those little black bugs that roll into a ball… Another name is it Rolly Polly!!  Thanks again for solving our mystery. We deemed it as half wasp half termite.  Haha

Letter 11 – Potato Bug Carnage

 

Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: Corte Madera , California
November 20, 2015 4:58 am
Found this crawling on floor inside home. No others found as of yet. About as long as adult thumb.
Signature: Jackie Wilkinson

Potato Bug Carnage
Potato Bug Carnage

Dear Jackie,
Clearly you can stand your ground against Potato Bugs which are harmless, subterranean dwellers that become more active in California with the winter rains.  We try to promote tolerance of the lower beasts and we hope next time a Potato Bug wanders indoors, you consider relocation over squashing.

Letter 12 – Potato Bug Carnage in Pasadena

 

Subject: Giant termite? No idea
Location: Pasadena, CA
December 5, 2014 9:22 am
Found this crawling near the air return inside my house. Unfortunately my wife killed it before I coild jar it. It was about the size of my thumb. Huge head and distinct eyes. Had a water issue in my garage and notice some damp wood looking termites but and signs of dry wood termite droppings on some rafters too. House is 100 years old. Is this big a termite? Do they get this big??!!!
Signature: Walter

Potato Bug Carnage
Potato Bug Carnage

Dear Walter,
This is not a Termite.  Your wife has squashed a Southern California icon known as a Potato Bug.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers related to crickets and grasshoppers.  Often the first heavy rains of the season drive them to the surface where they are encountered by people who are often quite startled upon seeing such a large, distinctive, almost humanoid creature for the first time.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous to humans, though they do have strong mandibles that could deliver a painful nip if they are carelessly handled.  We are tagging this an Unnecessary Carnage because we feel squashing Potato Bugs is an extreme reaction.

Letter 13 – Potato Bug causes “near wetting of pants” at high school girlfriends’ weekend reunion

 

Subject:  who is THIS?
Geographic location of the bug:  solvang California
Date: 09/18/2017
Time: 04:34 PM EDT
this bug invaded our high school girlfriends weekend reunion in cali & caused lots of screaming & near-wetting-of pants
How you want your letter signed —
queenie & lulu

Potato Bug

Dear Queenie & Lulu,
Just out of curiosity, was the high school that inspired the girlfriends’ weekend reunion from elsewhere?  The Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket is a real Southern California icon, and most children who grow up in the southland know about them.  Based on your images, it appears that it headed to the pool.  That might be a sign it has been parasitized by a Horsehair Worm or Gordian Worm, an internal parasite that causes the Potato Bug to seek water, at which point the long, hairlike worm burst out, killing the Potato Bug.  Seeing that might have caused some actual “wetting of pants.”

thank you for your reply! yes, indeed we went to high school in des moines, iowa. two of the girls live in california (we were staying at one of their homes near santa barbara, at alisal ranch) and they have lived there for many years so i guess they are lucky not to have encountered such a creepy cali icon previously!
i knew i would find out what this bug was because my one time grand dog’s portable water dish got a cricket in it that DID spawn a horsehair worm so i’ve had that experience as well….SO ICKY (did not wet my pants tho, whew).
i forwarded the girls my email to you folks with the attached note to them:  Kate, Karla & Becky…do you remember me telling you on the way to the airport I would figure out this bug based on my experience of finding out about horsehair worms that hatched out of crickets that got into Oliver’s water when I took him to nitefall on the river? HOW.CRAZY.IS.THAT.

Letter 14 – Potato Bug emerges after rains

 

Subject: GIANT ANT?
Location: San Diego, CA
January 14, 2016 8:05 pm
Scattered acroos my sidewalk as I open my door. Roughly 2.5 to 3 inches long. Tried to hide as soon a sit saw me. Looked like a giant naked ant. I HATE ANTS!!!
Signature: Justin

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Justin,
Perhaps you are relatively new to Southern California.  Meet the Potato Bug, a true Southern California icon.  Potato Bugs are subterranean dwellers that are rarely seen during the hot summer months.  Winter rains bring them to the surface and most of our sightings occur shortly after the first significant rains.  Potato Bugs are not dangerous, but they do have very powerful mandibles and they will deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled.

Letter 15 – Potato Bug emerges after torrential Southern California rains!!!

 

Subject: Bug
Location: Mayberry ave, Rancho Cucamonga CA, USA
March 4, 2014 12:04 am
I found this bug borrowing into a crack in our pavement. It was maby 1.5″ to 2″ long and 2″ to 2.5″ width wise. I have no clue what this bug is and it kind of scares me.
Signature: Buggy man

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear Buggy man,
This Potato Bug is a common Southern California insect that lives underground.  They often come to the surface after a good rain, and Saturday’s storm was a doozy.
  Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets are perfectly harmless, though their strong jaws may deliver a painful pinch, possibly even drawing blood, if they are carelessly handled.

Letter 16 – Potato Bug found in shower

 

Subject: Ugly big bug
Location: Mandeville Canyon – Santa Monica, CA
March 7, 2016 11:12 am
I found this big boy in my shower today. I live in Mandeville Canyon. I think he must have come up through the drain after the big rain.
He’s about 3″ long. I don’t know what to do with him but I am curious what the heck he is…!!?!
Signature: ?

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, an iconic Southern California insect that is a subterranean dweller.  Winter rains cause them to come to the surface so most of our sighting reports are shortly after a heavy rain.

Letter 17 – Potato Bug from Colorado

 

Subject: Strange striped bug
Location: Mesa, co
August 22, 2013 9:11 am
This bug was found in the front yard if my parents house in Mesa, Colorado. It is about an inch long.
Signature: Jamie

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Jamie,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket in the genus
Stenopelmatus, not to be confused with the Colorado Potato Beetle.  When we first began What’s That Bug nearly fifteen years ago, we were not aware that Potato Bugs ranged much farther than southern California.  With the introduction of the internet and the vast information sharing potential, BugGuide now reports Potato Bugs from many states west of the Mississippi River.

Letter 18 – Potato Bug from San Francisco

 

Subject: What’s that bug?
Location: San Francisco CA
November 16, 2012 4:51 pm
Hello,
This bug of about 2 inches (without antennas) and which seems to still be a larva?? was in front of my door on Nov 14.
Could you please help me find what it was?
Thanks so much
Signature: Manuela CALVET

Potato Bug

Hi Manuela,
We are amazed at the diversity of Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets in the west.  What’s That Bug? is proof that they range much farther from the Southwest than was suspected not so many years ago.  Potato Bugs are rarely identified past the genus level of
Ste#@(*%@#s, but it is speculated that there are at least 25 species in the U.S.  Many of them may have very local distributions.  We don’t know if anyone is doing a study of Potato Bugs, but it would be a great project for children.  It might even be something that a photography program and a biology program might collaborate with with an area high school like Sonia Sotomayor on San Fernando Road where they have the river school. 

Letter 19 – Potato Bug from the Potato State

 

What’s this bug?
Location: Boise, ID
May 13, 2011 10:13 pm
Dear Bugman,
We found this critter in the garage that we recently moved into. Any ideas? Thanks!
Signature: Bugged in Boise

Potato Bug

Dear Bugged in Boise,
You will be happy to hear that despite being called a Potato Bug, this creature is no threat to your state’s signature crop.  We don’t get many requests for Potato Bug identifications outside of the arid Southwest, though they are not unknown in the northern climes.  The Potato Bug is one of our Top 10 identification requests and you can read all about them in our archives.

Letter 20 – Potato Bug identification requests continue to pour in!!!

 

what kind of bug is this?
Location: Pomona, california
December 7, 2010 7:23 pm
As of 12/7/10, my brother found this bug right outside of our garage this morning, we are in southern california on the boarder of LA county and San Bernardino county. I was freaked out by this and went and googled this picture and read something about the Jerusalem Cricket that sounds like the same description as this. Could you let me know if this could be something else or it is the infamous Jerusalem Criket? does it do any harm at all?
Signature: signed

Potato Bug: AKA Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Signed,
You are correct.  This is a Jerusalem Cricket or Potato Bug, though it also have other names.  It is a harmless subterranean dweller that emerges when there is a soaking rain, hence the countless identification requests we have received since the rain in Southern California Sunday night.  If carelessly handled, the Potato Bug might bite with its strong jaws, but it is not dangerous since it lacks venom.

Thank you so much for your kind explaination! greatly appreciate it!
Nicole

Letter 21 – Potato Bug in Montana

 

Weird Bug
Location: Billings, Montana USA
June 2, 2011 11:41 am
I saw tis bug around October 1st 2008 in Billings, Montana USA coordinates 45°47′12″N 108°32′14″W
I think it was about 2 inces long not sure though.
Thanks for your help. Please write back soon.
Signature: Paul Foster

Potato Bug

Ed. Note
This email identification request nearly wound up in the trash after we supplied a quick response to Paul identifying his Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, and then we thought to retrieve it and post it because of several reasons.  First, Potato Bug sightings from more northern latitudes are not unheard of, but they are considerably less common than sightings from the arid Southwest.  Perhaps this has more to do with human populations as there are more people in Southern California than in Montana.  Our more selfish reason for posting this submission has to do with the urgency of the request.  We cannot really understand why a three year old photo needs to be identified soon.  We have a very small staff and we are unable to respond to even a small percentage of the requests we receive, especially during the summer months.  Since we will be out of the office the second week in June, we are preparing postings in advance so our faithful readership will not be denied a daily dose of What’s That Bug?  We appreciate your patience in our absence.  Please understand we are not checking email while visiting Mom in Ohio.  Upon our return, we expect to find hundreds of urgent requests in our mailbox. This is just a reminder that we try our best to respond to as many requests as possible.  Using a catchy subject line will get our attention and it will separate your request from the masses.  Also, including the name of an under-represented species in the subject line is sure to get our attention, and even more so if you use the scientific binomial.  Including a scientific name in the subject line will let us know that a serious fan of the lower beasts has written to us, and that intrigues us much more than a desperate housewife with a Carpet Beetle problem or a frantic college student that needs assistance with a project for a grade.  Please enjoy browsing our site in our absence.  Chances are quite good that the insect you want identified is already in our archives.

Letter 22 – Potato Bug in Wyoming

 

Looks like a huge ant
Location: Wyoming
October 22, 2011 8:14 pm
We found this bug crawling across the tarmac at an airport in Wyoming in mid October. It was about 3 inches long.
It seems like an awfully large bug for where we are at.
Signature: NutNut

Potato Bug

Dear NutNut,
Though they are most common in the arid Southwest, it seems that Potato Bugs or Jerusalem Crickets can be found in most of the western states.

Letter 23 – Potato Bug is NOT a hideous monster!!!

 

Subject: Hideous Monster Bug
Location: Sacramento CA
November 8, 2012 1:28 pm
I have found two of these hideous monster bugs in my apartment. They walk like a pit bull on steroids. They rustle paper so loudly it sounds like a mouse. They’re enormous and disgusting.
Found in a hideous carpeted apartment in Sacramento California in October.
Signature: matthewjschneider

Jerusalem Cricket

Dear Matthew,
Where is the “hideous monster” of which you speak?  This subterranean Orthopteran is at the center of a myriad of local lore.  Called a Potato Bug, Jerusalem Cricket, Niña de la Tierra, Mestizo or Cara de Niño, these harmless creatures are often feared unnecessarily.  Indeed, the are often the victims of Unnecessary Carnage.

Thanks for your assistance.  Everything I read online indicates they’re rarely found in homes, yet I’ve only seen them in my apartment but never out back.  Any ideas why that might be happening? Is it due to changing of seasons?
Thanks
M

Hi again Matthew,
Rain causes Potato Bugs to emerge from their underground dwellings.  We are not sure why they are entering your apartment, but perhaps they are just wandering in accidentally while searching for food, mates or water.

Letter 24 – Potato Bug on Alcatraz Island

 

Subject: Big guy on Alcatraz Island
Location: Alcatraz Island, California
March 19, 2013 1:50 pm
What do you think this is? It was large, say 1.5 inches long, and fast-crawling. Thanks!
Signature: Jodi

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Hi Jodi,
This is a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, a common Southern California insect.  It is interesting that they live on Alcatraz and we wonder how long it has been since the Alcatraz population has mixed and interbred with the mainland species.

Letter 25 – Potato Bug Poses for Professional Portraits

 

Potato Bug Photo
January 11, 2010
Here’s an image for your archives. Thanks to your site I could identify this crazy looking bug.
Courtesy, James Steidl
James Group Studios, Inc.
San Diego

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Dear James,
Your lovely professional portraits of a Potato Bug are a welcome addition to our archives.  The excellent quality of your images and the sensitive portrait techniques should help to make the Potato Bug a face that more than just a mother can love.  So that we could maximize the reproduction size on the website, we have taken the liberty of cropping your composite into its component shots.

Potato Bug
Potato Bug

Letter 26 – Potato Bug from Washington

 

Subject:  What IS this???
Geographic location of the bug:  Kennewick, WA, USA
Date: 09/27/2017
Time: 02:14 AM EDT
This thing was making the creepiest tapping sound outside my door and is pretty large. (May need to zoom in on the picture). Never seen one before. Help! Should I worry???
How you want your letter signed:  Curious and a little creeped out

Potato Bug

Dear Curious and a little creeped out,
Commonly called a Potato Bug or Jerusalem Cricket, this fascinating creature is quite common in Southern California and other parts of the American southwest, but BugGuide data indicates a far greater range including Washington.  Potato Bugs are not considered harmful toward humans, however, they do have powerful mandibles and they might bite if carelessly handled.

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.

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.

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.

48 thoughts on “Where Do Jerusalem Crickets Live? Uncovering Their Secret Habitats”

  1. I found this bug in my yard this morning and had’nt ever seen one before. I came across your website and oddly enough its a Potato bug. I live in Sand Springs , OK. But this isnt the only bug i have found here that i dont know what it is, lol… But i am glad i found your site. thanks…Bobbie

    Reply
  2. OMG! I just discovered one in my yard tonight! I’ve never seen one, it was alarming how big and it’s tentacles…i had to search on what it was! i’m gladtoo this site was here!
    -kim

    Reply
  3. I live in the Eastern part of Washington State and we have thus far found a total of 4 of those nasty things at our house, including one running around in the laundry room… my poor mother almost wet herself! These have to be the grossest bugs I’ve ever seen!!

    Reply
  4. this is a bug I know from my childhood in Miami, Florida. I swear to you! I just searched for it as a chinch bug, because that’s what I used to call them. I would see them in my yard and used to hear my father say we had chinch bugs if we had brown spots in the yard. I assumed that’s what a chinch bug was. Thank you for the site. I just saw a photo of a dog that looked JUST LIKE ONE! had to find a photo of this bug to show the owner of the dog.

    Reply
  5. We live in central Oklahoma and have a lake house at Eufaula in southeast Oklahoma. Over the weekend we also found one of this ugly creatures in our laundry room (at Eufaula) – had no idea what it was. OSU County Extension offices helped me to identify it. Glad to know it’s not poisonous – although a pretty scary. They told us they see them quite often here. Hope not! Don’t care to ever see another one.

    Reply
  6. I live in Western Oklahoma, close to the Texas Panhandle border. This morning I found one of these bugs by my car. I put him in a cup so my 5 year old son could see him. Then we couldn’t figure out what it was. I looked up “American Burying Beetle” pictures on the internet, and I found this site. And here is my bug! Glad to know what it is.

    Reply
  7. On the other hand, I have never heard them called any of those names. Well, one is close. I grew up calling them “niños de la tierra” which keeps them gender neutral (children) or male (boys) depending upon what translation is applied to niño. In any case, love the different names and I kind of like the cricket… As long as it stays out of my shoes, not under my couch and all of the other numerous places I have found them in.

    Reply
  8. I found the same bug in my house yesterday in San Rafael California after a big rain storm. It is a very scary bug. I caught it alive and put it in a sealed zip lock bag. It does not seem afraid of people as I caught it easily. I have it in my desk now. Should I send you a picture?

    Reply
  9. We have disscovered these horrid little creatures all in our front side and back yards they burrow everywhere. How. Can we get rid of them naturally?

    Reply
  10. This is closest photo that I’ve seen of the creature that landed on my windshield last spring(2013). No, I did’nt take a pic because I was too busy getting my windows up so it would’nt get in my car with me! The underside was white &it was HUGE(2-3) in length & maybe 2 inches wide.I (currently) live Jacksonville, Florida.

    Reply
  11. Living in the Tampa area, the potato bug is indeed here. I see them all the time. I lived in California for many years and I can attest that it is the same bug.

    Reply
  12. I see these guys in my yard from time to time and I also live in Miami, Florida. My dad also blames them for the dead brown spots in the grass. Have found a few floating in my pool dead in the morning from time to time.

    Reply
  13. My understanding was the opposite. It’s a Jerusalem cricket that’s commonly called a potato bug. Furthermore, actual potato bugs are the little black rolly pollies because they actually will burrow to eat potatoes. Let me know where I’m mistaken please.

    Reply
    • Common names are deceptive, but both Jerusalem Cricket and Potato Bug are commonly used for members of the genus Stenopelmatus.

      Reply
  14. I’ve never heard those terms before to described these bugs and I’m mexican . I’ve these alot in southern California and family and friends – we have known these generally as ” Niño de la tierra” as Joann mentioned just not as generally termed. “niño (s) ” kids/ child .

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  15. Thanks for the identification of this bug.

    Why do people call woodlouse (Sowbug, roly poly, etc) Potato bugs when they are obviously absolutely not the same thing?

    So a Jerusalem Cricket is the same thing as a Potato Bug, right?

    And a Roly Poly-Sowbug is a Woodlouse, correct?

    So why do people call woodlouse, Potato Bugs?
    Do they have any relativity to each other?

    Thanks, Ashley

    Reply
    • We cannot account for all regional names, but the reason common names are not scientific is that they allow a single creature to have multiple names and the same name to be used for multiple creatures. Jerusalem Cricket and Potato Bug are both common names for Orthopterans in the genus Stenopelmatus. Roly-Poly, Sowbug and Woodlouse are all common names for Crustaceans in the Suborder Oniscidea.

      Reply
  16. Thanks for the identification of this bug.

    Why do people call woodlouse (Sowbug, roly poly, etc) Potato bugs when they are obviously absolutely not the same thing?

    So a Jerusalem Cricket is the same thing as a Potato Bug, right?

    And a Roly Poly-Sowbug is a Woodlouse, correct?

    So why do people call woodlouse, Potato Bugs?
    Do they have any relativity to each other?

    Thanks, Ashley

    Reply
  17. I wonder if people are confusing Jerusalem cricket sightings with mole cricket sightings, which are found in Florida. I studied Jerusalem crickets and Florida is not their range as others have stated.

    Reply
  18. I grew up in a small town near roseburg in Douglas county. I played with these guys all the time. They are often over looked because they do not just hop around like crickets and grasshoppers but actually spend a majority of their time under the ground. I used to dig for them when I was small. They are quite common in oregon especially from Douglas county south.

    Reply
  19. I found this bug twice when living in Bend, Oregon. My family and I have been trying to figure out what this bug was called for 17 years(found when I was 8, 25 now). This Potato Bug is one of the coolest creatures I have ever found. We had put it in a jar with a Scorpion and the next morning we had found that during the night it had eaten the whole Scorpion except for the stinger. Really awesome bug. We also put it with a Lizard and the same thing happen, it ate everything except for the tail.
    I really appreciate this site. Stumbled on this today by accident googling a lady larva that I found in my store.

    Reply
  20. I found this bug twice when living in Bend, Oregon. My family and I have been trying to figure out what this bug was called for 17 years(found when I was 8, 25 now). This Potato Bug is one of the coolest creatures I have ever found. We had put it in a jar with a Scorpion and the next morning we had found that during the night it had eaten the whole Scorpion except for the stinger. Really awesome bug. We also put it with a Lizard and the same thing happen, it ate everything except for the tail.
    I really appreciate this site. Stumbled on this today by accident googling a lady larva that I found in my store.

    Reply
  21. Just found one in my pool in Venice FL. I had no idea what it was but my husband knew. He had seen them a lot in CA.

    Reply
  22. My husband has killed one a day for the last 3 days, in our garage. We live in Kissimmee, Florida. We also have new, brown areas in our front yard.

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  23. Dear Zion Hiker i hope you had a nice visit. I am a local in Zion for 40 years. We just went through a record breaking cold snap starting about the time of your visit. I like to think that is what killed the Jerusalem cricket aka ” dirt baby”. It is also interesting that you saw a tarantula. A friend took photos of one just last week. This is not the season for them,it’s too late. I wonder if it is because the summer rains failed this year? Anyway i hope you don’t get tagged with “unnecessary carnage”!? Unless, of course… Come back and visit again. I love WTB and the wonderful service they provide.

    Reply
  24. Also, it could have resisted an attack by a gray fox or a jay or raven and died of injuries. At this time of year it is easy to know if there is a fox nearby because they are eating tunas and leave tuna colored turds on their favorite stations. I don’t know how they get past the spines! Wishing all best for who might read this folklore.

    Reply
  25. I’ve found a few near our barn in Brevard County, Central Florida. Definitely not mole crickets as they don’t have the front feet for digging. I’m certain these were Jerusalem crickets.

    Reply
  26. These have existed in Miami since atleast the late 1970’s. I used to find these guys under my grandmothers potted plants. 100% same insect. I don’t see much of them anymore though. Last time I have seen one was about a year ago in Homestead, Florida.. a suburb of Miami.

    Reply
  27. Yep! I remember playing with them as a kid back in the 80s — in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was so surprise to learn here (and with additional research) that they are *not* supposed to be in Florida. When I was young, they liked to come out after it rained, or we were playing with the hose. They were cute.

    Reply
  28. Just found one right outside my house in Wellington, FL. I was worried they had just been introduced because everywhere else on the internet it was said they’re from the western U.S. but this thread makes it look like they’ve been here for years.

    Reply

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