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A cricket of uncertain species
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Suborder: Ensifera
Superfamily: Rhaphidophoroidea
Walker, 1869
Family: Rhaphidophoridae
Walker, 1869
Subfamilies and genera

See text

The orthopteran family Rhaphidophoridae of the suborder Ensifera has a worldwide distribution.[1] Common names for these insects include the cave weta, cave crickets, camelback crickets, camel crickets, spider crickets (sometimes shortened to "criders", or "land shrimp" or "sprickets"[2]) and sand treaders. Those occurring in New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania are typically referred to as jumping or cave weta.[3] Most are found in forest environments or within caves, animal burrows, cellars, under stones, in wood or in similar environments.[4] All species are flightless and nocturnal, usually with long antennae and legs.[3] There are more than 1100 species of Rhaphidophoridae described.[1]

The well-known field crickets are from a different superfamily (Grylloidea) and only look vaguely similar, while members of the family Tettigoniidae may look superficially similar in body form.


Camel cricket

Most cave crickets have very large hind legs with "drumstick-shaped" femora and equally long, thin tibiae, and long, slender antennae. The antennae arise closely and next to each other on the head. They are brownish in color and rather humpbacked in appearance, always wingless, and up to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) long in body and 10 centimetres (3.9 in) for the legs. The bodies of early instars may appear translucent.

As the name suggests, cave crickets are commonly found in caves or old mines. However, species are also known to inhabit other cool, damp environments such as rotten logs, stumps and hollow trees, and under damp leaves, stones, boards, and logs.[4] Occasionally, they prove to be a nuisance in the basements of homes in suburban areas, drains, sewers, wells and firewood stacks. One has become a tramp species from Asia and is now found in hothouses in Europe and North America. Some reach into alpine areas and live close to permanent ice: the Mount Cook "flea" (Pharmacus montanus) and its relatives in New Zealand.[5]

Subfamilies and Genera[edit]


Genera include:

  • tribe Aemodogryllini Jacobson, 1905 - Asia (Korea, Indochina, Russia, China), Europe
  • tribe Diestramimini Gorochov, 1998 - India, southern China, Indo-China


cave crickets, camel crickets & sand treaders: North America


cave crickets: southern Europe, western Asia

Female Dolichopoda schiavazzii from Tuscany


Auth. Karny, 1937 - N. America

  • tribe Gammarotettigini Karny, 1937





cave crickets: Mediterranean


camel crickets: Canada

An as-yet-unnamed genus was discovered within a cave in Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument, on the Utah/Arizona border, in 2005. Its most distinctive characteristic is that it has functional grasping cerci on its posterior.[6]


Their distinctive limbs and antennae serve a double purpose. Typically living in a lightless environment, or active at night, they rely heavily on their sense of touch, which is limited by reach. While they have been known to take up residence in the basements of buildings, many cave crickets live out their entire lives deep inside actual caves. In those habitats, they sometimes face long spans of time with insufficient access to nutrients. Given their limited vision, cave crickets will often jump towards any perceived threat in an attempt to frighten it away. Although they look intimidating, they are completely harmless.[7]

The group known as "sand treaders" are restricted to sand dunes, however, and are adapted to live in this environment. They are active only at night, and spend the day burrowed into the sand, to minimize water loss. In the large sand dunes of California and Utah, they serve as food for scorpions and at least one specialized bird, LeConte's thrasher (Toxostoma lecontei). The thrasher roams the dunes looking for the telltale debris of the diurnal hiding place and excavates the sand treaders (range of bird is in the Mojave and Colorado deserts in U.S.)

Interactions with humans[edit]

Cave and camel crickets are of little economic importance except as a nuisance in buildings and homes, especially basements. They are usually "accidental invaders" that wander in from adjacent areas. They may reproduce indoors, seen in dark, moist conditions, such as a basement, shower or laundry area, as well as organic debris (e.g. compost heaps) to serve as food. They are fairly common invaders of homes in Hokkaido and other cool regions in Japan. They are called kamado-uma or colloquially benjo korogi (literally "toilet cricket").


  1. ^ a b Eades, David C. (2016). "Orthoptera Species File".
  2. ^ Ambrose, Kevin (2016-11-08). "Spider crickets: The bugs you don't want in your house this fall". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b Allegrucci, Giuliana; Trewick, Steve A.; Fortunato, Angela; Carchini, Gianmaria; Sbordoni, Valerio (2010-07-01). "Cave Crickets and Cave Weta (Orthoptera, Rhaphidophoridae) from the Southern End of the World: A Molecular Phylogeny Test of Biogeographical Hypotheses". Journal of Orthoptera Research. 19 (1): 121–130. doi:10.1665/034.019.0118. ISSN 1082-6467.
  4. ^ a b Richards, Aola (1987). "Distribution and relationships of the Australian Rhaphidophoridae (Orthoptera)". In Baccetti, Baccio (ed.). Evolutionary Biology of Orthopteroid Insects. Chichester, West Sussex: Halstead Press. pp. 438–449. ISBN 0745802087.
  5. ^ Trewick (2015). "weta geta".
  6. ^ "New genus of cricket found in Arizona cave". Live Science. 5 May 2006. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  7. ^ Rick Steinau. "Camelback Crickets". Ask the Exterminator.[unreliable source?]

External Links[edit]