Mole cricket

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This article is about the mole cricket family, Gryllotalpidae. For the character of the same name, see Mother 3.
Mole cricket
Mole cricket02.jpg
Gryllotalpa brachyptera, Victoria, Australia
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Suborder: Ensifera
Superfamily: Grylloidea
Family: Gryllotalpidae
Saussure, 1870
Distribution of the 3 main genera of Gryllotalpidae

The mole crickets are the family Gryllotalpidae, in the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, locusts and crickets). Mole crickets are cylindrical-bodied insects about 3–5 centimetres (1.2–2.0 in) long, with small eyes and shovel-like forelimbs highly developed for burrowing.


Mole crickets vary in size and appearance, but most of them are of moderate size for an insect, typically 3-5 cm long. They are muscular, as one may verify by holding one in the hand; they are inoffensive, but the confined insect will try to dig its way out with considerable force and they can deliver a harmless, albeit painful bite. The abdomen is rather soft, but the head, forelimbs, and prothorax are heavily sclerotised. The hind legs are shaped somewhat like the legs of a true cricket, but are more adapted for shoving while digging, rather than leaping, which they do rarely and poorly. A University of Florida Entomology report suggest that the mole cricket entered the United States at Brunswick Georgia in ship's ballast from the West Indies around 1899. [1]


Most species of mole cricket can fly powerfully, if not with agility or frequency. Usually they fly only when moving long distances, such as when changing territory, or when females are searching for singing males. The adults of some species of mole cricket may fly as far as 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) during the mating season. Mole crickets are active most of the year, but spend the winter in hibernation. Last-stage juvenile insects have short wingpads where adult wings develop. Their appearance varies by species, but they are universally very tubular in shape and have short, powerful digging front legs consistent with their burrowing habits. Males have forewings with a scraper that, when rubbed against a file on the other wing, produces a pulse of sound; repeating this action produces a chirp (short sequence) or trill (long sequence). Some loosely resemble grasshoppers or very large ants or dark-colored "termites" when wings are short.

Mole crickets are omnivores, feeding on larvae, worms, roots, and grasses. Common predators of mole crickets include birds, rats, skunks, armadillos, raccoons, foxes, blue ants, and lizards.

Mole crickets are relatively common, but because they are nocturnal and spend nearly all their lives underground in extensive tunnel systems, they are rarely seen. Mole crickets amplify their song by chirping in a burrow carefully sculpted into the shape of a double exponential horn, which acts as a megaphone.[2] They inhabit agricultural fields, lawns and golf courses. They are present in every continent with the exception of Antarctica, and are commonly considered pests. In East Asia, however, they are sometimes used as food (fried).

In some places, mole cricket numbers are declining due to soil erosion and habitat destruction.

Life cycle of the mole cricket
Fossorial front leg of the mole cricket


There are several genera of mole cricket, separated into tribes:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walker T. J.; Nickle D. J. "Introduction and Spread of Pest Mole Crickets: Scapteriscus vicinus and S. acletus Reexamined" at Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 74: 158-163 (1981)
  2. ^ Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, pg. 63

External links[edit]