Jerusalem cricket

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Jerusalem cricket
Stenopelmatus fuscus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Superfamily: Stenopelmatoidea
Family: Stenopelmatidae
Genus: Stenopelmatus
Burmeister, 1838 [1]

Stenopelmatus cahuilaensis
Stenopelmatus fuscus
Stenopelmatus intermedius
Stenopelmatus longispina
Stenopelmatus mescaleroensis
Stenopelmatus monahansensis
Stenopelmatus navajo
Stenopelmatus nigrocapitatus
Stenopelmatus pictus
plus numerous unnamed species (>30)

Jerusalem crickets 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 name, Jerusalem crickets are not true crickets, as they belong to the family Stenopelmatidae, while true crickets belong to the family Gryllidae; 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.[2] 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 a number of other genera in the same superfamily (Stenopelmatoidea) in Australia and New Zealand. These are the weta and king crickets. They are similar to Stenopelmatus in many respects. The family Stenopelmatidae contains several genera in addition to Stenopelmatus, but only the genera in the subfamily Stenopelmatinae (all New World) are referred to as Jerusalem crickets.


The Jerusalem cricket's song features a characteristic drumming sound
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.[3][4] 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 also 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.[5] 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.[6]


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".[7] 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:[7]

  • c’ic’in lici (Tsiitsʼiin łichíʼí) "red-skull"
  • c’os bic’ic lici (Chʼosh bitsiitsʼiin łichíʼí) "red-skull bug"
  • c’ic’in lici’ I coh (Tsiitsʼiin łichíʼítsoh) "big red-skull"
  • wo se c’ini or rositsini or yo sic’ini (Wóó tsiitsʼiin/Yaaʼ tsiitsʼiiní) "skull insect"

Other names include the Hopi qalatötö ("shiny bug"),[7] the Spanish niño de la tierra ("earth child") and cara de niño ("child's face").[7][8]

Jerusalem cricket in its burrow

Also known as potato bug in some places in the U.S.


  1. ^ "Stenopelmatus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Robinson, DJ; Hall, MJ (2002). "Sound Signalling in Orthoptera". Advances in Insect Physiology, Volume 29. Elsevier. pp. 151–278. ISBN 0-12-024229-X. 
  5. ^ Weissman, DB (2001). The Biology of Wetas, King Crickets and Their Allies. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CABI Publishing. pp. 351–375. ISBN 0-85199-408-3. 
  6. ^ Weissman, DB; Vandergast, AG; Ueshima, N (2008). Encyclopedia of Entomology. Berlin: Springer. pp. 2054–2061. ISBN 1-4020-6242-7. 
  7. ^ a b c d Stoffolano JG, Wright B (2005). "Sö ́sö`öpa—Jerusalem Cricket: An Important Insect in the Hopi Katsina Pantheon" (PDF). American Entomologist. 51 (3): 174–179. 
  8. ^ 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. 

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