Mole Cricket: Mutant Demon Bug From the Underworld?
It looks like a cross between a crayfish and a cricket, -is it some terror bug from the fossil record?
No, it’s just a mole cricket, a common subterranean insect that most people have never seen before.
Resembling large brown grasshoppers with a crayfish-like thorax, the mole cricket is a thick-bodied insect with distinctive spade-like forearms, giving it a formidable appearance. These forearms are used for digging their subterranean tunnels and nests. They can fly as much as 8 kilometers when seeking a mate. At 1 ½ to 2-inches long, if you ever saw one you’d surely remember it! The Mole Cricket is quite a bit larger than an average cricket.
Image via Wikipedia
Mole crickets spend most of their life underground or well hidden. They are omnivores and will feed upon worms, the larvae of other insects and whatever else they find. They also eat plant matter such as roots and grasses. They are prey to common birds and mammals such as rats, skunks, foxes, and armadillos, etc. As a insect that eats carrion and other leavings, they might also be harbor natural but unhealthful things such as bacteria and parasites. Cats or dogs will find and eat these insects then they can get a case of pinworms, parasites which is treated by an over-the-counter medicine (for livestock, pets) called “Panacur.” One would normally have the animal diagnosed by a veterinary to determine that they have in fact, been so infected. Typically, weight-loss, lethargy and watery/shiny excreta are the immediate visible symptoms.
A Possible Parasite Problem With Crickets
I used to raise Australian Bearded Dragons and they would from time to time get pinworms. Once this was traced to a shipment of infected crickets but usually it was traced to the feeding of juvenile 'pink mice' to the reptile. Such is the requirement for a post egg-laying female who needs to quickly build back her mass with meat protein.
Pinworms are present in the feces of adult mice but not in ‘pinkie mice.’ What happens is that as a ‘pinkie mouse’ is born parasite-free, but as it begins to forage and nibble they inevitably will ingest minute traces of fecal matter from an adult conspecific (any member of the same specie) and thus, they too become the vector.
Pinworms might also be found in the guts of crickets and I would surmise that mole crickets are no better than ‘normal’ crickets in this regard. Since mole crickets and wild mice share the same habitat, I would associate the two with pinworm (also called ‘threadworm’) infestation risk.
Pinworm infestation in humans is not dangerous and is usually confined entirely to the intestinal tract in humans but it can cause rectal itching that is notable primarily at night. A simple test euphemistically known as the ‘Scotch tape test’ can be done by any physician; the sticky side of the tape is pressed against the peri-anal skin of the anus and under a microscope, examined for pinworm eggs.
For people, a different medicine is prescribed than for stock animals (again, an over-the-counter remedy I believe) which usually if effective some 95% of the time. The medicine does not eradicate the eggs of the pinworm so a follow-up treatment is often required as they eggs might hatch into the next generation of pinworms and they need to be eradicated too. Often it is necessary and advised to treat the entire family if even just one family member is diagnosed with pinworms. They can spread to clothing and through personal touching and thus, to other family members.
Wash your hands after touching or playing with dogs, cats or reptiles. You can pick up pinworm eggs under your fingernails and the next time you put your fingers to your mouth (or touch your eyes, nose, anus or vagina) you could possibly pass these parasites along to their new home.
Pinworm infestations tend to be limited to the intestinal tract only and not survive well or long in other organs or in the bloodstream, but they can sometimes get there and do damage. Washing your hands after playing with the family pet is still pretty cheap insurance.
Mole Cricket on Carpet
Mole crickets exist on every continent except Antarctica, so just because you have not ever seen one does not mean that they are not there. Nocturnal and secretive, mole crickets live underground most of their lives. In some countries, mole crickets are even used a protein source where they are fried and served regularly as food.
Mole Cricket Close-Up
Mole crickets are generally considered to be a pest, damaging crops such as potatoes, turnips, peanuts and grasses. There are different species of mole crickets (with some ten different species in America alone) and noted is a West Indian specie that is cited to be particularly harmful to the roots of sugarcane plants. Apart from the nibbling of plant roots, their tunneling loosens the soil and causes the root system to dry out which is damaging to the plant.
Image via Wikipedia
Mole crickets prefer slightly sand soil which is why they are often discovered to be resident upon golf courses. There, they leave telltale evidence; little mounds and ridges of the soil that they have excavated. Here, they need to be treated as ground pests and there are insecticides to deal with this. Not only does killing them stop their damage to the golf course, but their absence also means that there would less (or no?) nighttime foraging by skunks, raccoons, etc. digging the grassy golf course seeking these insect creatures, themselves causing even more damage.