San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
Jerusalem cricket, photo by Tony Kotan

Stenopelmatus fuscus
Jerusalem Cricket

GRYLLACRIDIDAE

Listen to the Jerusalem Cricket:
../sounds/maleJCricket.mp3
Cricket sounds used with permission from Dustin Wood, Biologist, USGS, Western Ecological Research Center, San Diego Field Station.

Description

Few insects in San Diego County attract more attention than the Jerusalem cricket. This black-and-orange-banded, modified sand cricket is one of the most distinctive-looking creatures found anywhere. Adults can reach up to 2 inches long (30-50 mm).

Jerusalem cricket, photo by Jason WongCommonly referred to as "potato bugs," even though they do not prefer potatoes and are technically not bugs, they are also called niña de la tierra (child-of-the-earth), stone cricket or chaco. Believed by some to be fierce and poisonous, this nocturnal cricket is actually non-aggressive and possesses no poison glands, although its jaws can inflict a painful bite.

Range and Habitat

Jerusalem crickets are found throughout the western United States, along the Pacific Coast, and south into Mexico.

Usually discovered while preparing the ground for spring or winter planting, this insect never appears in large numbers and is not considered a pest that requires control. Their numbers are kept in check by birds and rodent predators, fly and worm parasites, curious cats and gardeners' hoses.

[Photo of Jerusalem Cricket.]Natural History

The Jerusalem cricket spends most of its life underground. Its large, almost humanoid head supports the necessary muscles that assist the jaws in digging in the soil and feeding on living and dead plant materials. Like most crickets, this insect also produces sound, called drumming, by hitting its spiny legs against its body.

Jerusalem crickets complete a generation within a year, beginning with the hatching of eggs in the spring and the development of adults by fall.


Text: David Faulkner, Research Associate, Entomology Department
Top photo by Tony Kotan; middle photo by Jason Wong; bottom photo ©1997 Robert Parks, SDNHM Research Associate

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