Jerusalem cricket

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Jerusalem cricket
Stenopelmatus fuscus
Scientific classification

Burmeister, 1838  [1]
plus numerous unnamed species (>30)

Jerusalem crickets (or potato bugs) [2] [3] [4] are a group of large, flightless insects of the genus Stenopelmatus. They are native to the western United States and parts of Mexico.


Despite their common names, these insects are neither true crickets (which belong to the family Gryllidae) nor true bugs (which belong to the order Hemiptera), nor are they native to Jerusalem. These nocturnal insects use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic matter but can also eat other insects. [5] Their highly adapted feet are used for burrowing beneath moist soil to feed on decaying root plants and tubers.

While Jerusalem crickets are not venomous, they can emit a foul smell and are capable of inflicting a painful bite.


There are 20 described species in the genus Stenopelmatus, [6] and at least 30 more as yet undescribed. [7] The family Stenopelmatidae contains several Old World genera, but only the genera in the subfamily Stenopelmatinae (all New World) are referred to as Jerusalem crickets. Other families in the same superfamily (Stenopelmatoidea) in Australia and New Zealand include the wetas and king crickets. They are similar to Stenopelmatus in many respects.


The Jerusalem cricket's song features a characteristic drumming sound
Stenopelmatus fuscus Stenopelmatus fuscus (Jerusalem Cricket).jpg
Stenopelmatus fuscus

Similar to true crickets, each species of Jerusalem cricket produces a different song during mating. This song takes the form of a characteristic drumming in which the insect beats its abdomen against the ground.

No species have wings with sound-producing structures; moreover, evidently none has structures it could use to hear sound. [8] [9] This contrasts with true crickets and katydids, who use their wings to produce sounds and have hearing organs to sense sounds of others. Jerusalem crickets seem unable to hiss by forcing air through their spiracles, as some beetles and cockroaches do. Instead, the few Jerusalem crickets that do make sound rub their hind legs against the sides of the abdomen, producing a rasping, hissing noise. [7] This hiss may serve to deter predators rather than to communicate with other crickets. For such purposes, Jerusalem crickets rely on substrate vibrations felt by subgenual organs located in all six of the insect's legs. [10]


Mahogany Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus n. sp. "mahogany") next to a 2.4 cm quarter Mahogany Jerusalem cricket.jpg
Mahogany Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus n. sp. "mahogany") next to a 2.4 cm quarter

Several hypotheses attempt to explain the origin of the term "Jerusalem cricket". [11] One suggests the term originated from a mixing of Navajo and Christian terminology, resulting from the strong connection Franciscan priests had with the Navajos in developing their dictionary and vocabulary. Such priests may have heard the Navajos speak of a "skull insect" and took this as a reference to Calvary (also known as Skull Hill) outside Jerusalem near the place where Jesus was crucified.

Several Navajo names refer to the insect's head: [11]

Other names include the Hopi qalatötö ("shiny bug"), [11] the Spanish niño de la tierra ("child of the earth") and cara de niño ("child's face"). [11] [12]

Jerusalem cricket in its burrow Potato Bug in its Burrow.jpg
Jerusalem cricket in its burrow

Size and shape

Female Stenopelmatus talpa, also known as the Mexican Jerusalem cricket, are seen to have larger features than male Stenopelmatus talpa. In the case of prothorax width, prothorax length, fore femur, head size, and mandible lengths, females were larger than males. However, males tended to have larger hind femora compared to females. [13]

Related Research Articles

Orthoptera order of insects (Insecta) including grasshoppers, crickets, weta and locusts

Orthoptera is an order of insects that comprises the grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, including closely related insects such as the katydids and wetas. The order is subdivided into two suborders: Caelifera – grasshoppers, locusts and close relatives; and Ensifera – crickets and close relatives.

Weta informal group of insects

Wētā is the common name for a group of about 70 insect species in the families Anostostomatidae and Rhaphidophoridae, endemic to New Zealand. They are giant flightless crickets, and some are among the heaviest insects in the world. Generally nocturnal, most small species are carnivores and scavengers while the larger species are herbivorous. Wētā are preyed on by introduced mammals, and some species are now critically endangered.

Stridulation is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts. This behavior is mostly associated with insects, but other animals are known to do this as well, such as a number of species of fish, snakes and spiders. The mechanism is typically that of one structure with a well-defined lip, ridge, or nodules being moved across a finely-ridged surface or vice versa, and vibrating as it does so, like the dragging of a phonograph needle across a vinyl record. Sometimes it is the structure bearing the file which resonates to produce the sound, but in other cases it is the structure bearing the scraper, with both variants possible in related groups. Common onomatopoeic words for the sounds produced by stridulation include chirp and chirrup.

Anostostomatidae family of orthopterans

Anostostomatidae is a family of insects in the order Orthoptera, widely distributed in the southern hemisphere. It is named Mimnermidae or Henicidae in some taxonomies, and common names include king crickets in South Africa and weta in New Zealand. Prominent members include the Parktown prawn of South Africa, and the giant weta of New Zealand. The distribution of this family reflects a common ancestry before the fragmenting of Gondwana.

Rhaphidophoridae Family of insects

The orthopteran family Rhaphidophoridae of the suborder Ensifera has a worldwide distribution. Common names for these insects include the cave weta, cave crickets, camelback crickets, camel crickets, spider crickets and sand treaders. Those occurring in New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania are typically referred to as jumping or cave weta. Most are found in forest environments or within caves, animal burrows, cellars, under stones, or in wood or similar environments. All species are flightless and nocturnal, usually with long antennae and legs. More than 1100 species of Rhaphidophoridae are described.

Mole cricket family of crickets

Mole crickets are members of the insect family Gryllotalpidae, in the order Orthoptera. Mole crickets are cylindrical-bodied insects about 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) long as adults, with small eyes and shovel-like fore limbs highly developed for burrowing. They are present in many parts of the world and where they have arrived in new regions, may become agricultural pests.

Ensifera suborder of insects

Ensifera is a suborder of insects that includes the various types of crickets and their allies including: true crickets, camel crickets, bush crickets or katydids, grigs, wetas and Cooloola monsters. It and the suborder Caelifera make up the order Orthoptera. Ensifera is believed to be a more ancient group than Caelifera, with its origins in the Carboniferous period, the split having occurred at the end of the Permian period. Unlike the Caelifera, the Ensifera contain numerous members that are partially carnivorous, feeding on other insects as well as plants.

<i>Hemiandrus</i> genus of insects

Hemiandrus is a genus of weta in the family Anostostomatidae. In New Zealand they are known as ground weta due to their burrowing lifestyle. Hemiandrus wētā are nocturnal, and reside in these burrows during the day. Ground wētā seal the entrance of their burrow during the day with a soil plug or door so that their burrow is concealed. This genus was originally said to be distributed in Australia and New Zealand, however, with recent molecular genetic methods, this is under debate. Ground weta adults are smaller than other types of wētā, with the unusual trait of having both long and short ovipositors, depending on the species. The name of this genus is said to come from this trait as hemi- mean half and -andrus means male, as the species where the female has a short ovipositor can sometimes be mistaken for a male. This genus has a diverse diet, depending on the species.

Aglaothorax is a genus of ovate shieldbacks in the family Tettigoniidae. There are about six described species in Aglaothorax.

<i>Deinacrida heteracantha</i> species of insect

Deinacrida heteracantha, also known as the Little Barrier giant wētā or wētāpunga, is a wētā in the order Orthoptera and family Anostostomatidae. It is endemic to New Zealand, where it survived only on Little Barrier Island, although it has been translocated to some other predator-free island conservation areas. This very large flightless wētā mainly feeds at night, but is also active during the day, when it can be found above ground in vegetation. It has been classified as vulnerable by the IUCN due to ongoing population declines and restricted distribution.

Cricket (insect) small insects of the family Gryllidae

Crickets, of the family Gryllidae, are insects related to bush crickets, and, more distantly, to grasshoppers. The Gryllidae have mainly cylindrical bodies, round heads, and long antennae. Behind the head is a smooth, robust pronotum. The abdomen ends in a pair of long cerci; females have a long, cylindrical ovipositor. The hind legs have enlarged femora, providing power for jumping. The front wings are adapted as tough, leathery elytra, and some crickets chirp by rubbing parts of these together. The hind wings are membranous and folded when not in use for flight; many species, however, are flightless. The largest members of the family are the bull crickets, Brachytrupes, which are up to 5 cm (2 in) long.

<i>Deinacrida connectens</i> species of insect

Deinacrida connectens, often referred to as the alpine scree wētā, is one of New Zealand’s largest alpine invertebrates and is a member of the Anostostomatidae family. Deinacrida connectens is a flightless nocturnal insect that lives under rocks at high elevation. Mountain populations vary in colour. This species is the most widespread of the eleven species of giant wētā (Deinacrida).

Tridactylidae family of insects

The Tridactylidae are a family in the insect order Orthoptera. They are small, mole-cricket-like insects, almost always less than 20 mm (0.79 in) long when mature. Generally they are shiny, dark or black, sometimes variegated or sandy-coloured. They commonly live in short tunnels and are commonly known as pygmy mole crickets, though they are not closely related to the true "mole crickets" (Ensifera), as they are included in the Caelifera suborder.

<i>Hemiandrus pallitarsis</i> species of insect

Hemiandrus pallitarsis is a species of ground weta endemic to New Zealand. This nocturnal species hides in burrows during the day, and can be an important food for kiwi. They can be identified by a single foretibial spine, three prolateral spines, and four retrolateral spines on the mesotibia, and their tibia lacks a tympanal membrane. The female has an unusual appendage on her abdomen, and the male has blackened hooks on his last tergite. They have a two year life cycle, and their diet is largely unknown. Unusually for an insect, the female shows maternal care towards her eggs and nymphs.

<i>Oecanthus fultoni</i> species of insect

Oecanthus fultoni, also known as the snowy tree cricket, or thermometer cricket, is a species of tree cricket from North America. It feeds on leaves but also damages fruit. The chirp of this species is often dubbed onto sound tracks of films and television shows to depict a quiet summer's night. The rate of chirp varies depending on the heat of the environment, allowing a listener to estimate the temperature.

Grylloidea superfamily of insects

Grylloidea is the superfamily of insects, in the order Orthoptera, known as crickets. It includes the "true crickets", scaly crickets, wood crickets and other families, some only known from fossils.

<i>Hemideina maori</i> species of insect

Hemideina maori, also known as the mountain stone wētā, is a wētā of the Anostostomatidae family. They are a large, flightless, nocturnal orthopteran endemic to New Zealand. Mountain stone wētā are long lived and are found on many central mountain ranges in New Zealand's South Island.

Gryllidea infraorder of insects

Gryllidea is an infraorder that includes crickets and similar insects in the order Orthoptera. There are two superfamilies, and more than 6,000 described species in Gryllidea.

Morsea is a genus of monkey grasshoppers in the family Eumastacidae. There are about seven described species in Morsea.


  1. "Stenopelmatus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  2. "Dark Jerusalem Cricket (Stenopelmatus nigrocapitatus)" . Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  3. "Jerusalem Crickets" . Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  4. McKenney, Mike; McKenney, Dorothy (2017-09-14). "The Jerusalem Cricket: It's Really Just a Potato Bug" . Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  5. Milne, Lorus and Margery (1980) The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects & Spiders. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, pp. 437. ISBN   0-394-50763-0
  6. Genus Stenopelmatus
  7. 1 2 Weissman, DB (2001). The Biology of Wetas, King Crickets and Their Allies. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CABI Publishing. pp. 351–375. ISBN   978-0-85199-408-6.
  8. L. Desutter-Grandcolas (2003). "Phylogeny and the evolution of acoustic communication in extant Ensifera (Insecta, Orthoptera)". Zoologica Scripta . 32 (6): 525–561. doi:10.1046/j.1463-6409.2003.00142.x.
  9. Robinson, DJ; Hall, MJ (2002). "Sound Signalling in Orthoptera". Advances in Insect Physiology, Volume 29. Elsevier. pp. 151–278. ISBN   978-0-12-024229-0.
  10. Weissman, DB; Vandergast, AG; Ueshima, N (2008). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Berlin: Springer. pp. 2054–2061. ISBN   978-1-4020-6242-1.
  11. 1 2 3 4 Stoffolano JG, Wright B (2005). "Sö ́sö'öpa—Jerusalem Cricket: An Important Insect in the Hopi Katsina Pantheon". American Entomologist. 51 (3): 174–179. doi:10.1093/ae/51.3.174.
  12. Eaton, Eric R.; Kenn Kaufman (2007). Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 84. ISBN   978-0-618-15310-7.
  13. Álvarez, Hugo A.; Sánchez-Xolalpa, Dinorah A.; Torre-Anzúres, Josué De la; Jiménez-García, Daniel (September 2017). "Morphometry, Behavior, and Ecology of the Jerusalem Cricket, Stenopelmatus talpa". Southwestern Entomologist. 42 (3): 745–752. doi:10.3958/059.042.0313.