Stenopelmatidae

Taxonomy

Order: Orthoptera
Family: Stenopelmatidae Burmeister, 1838
Common names: Jerusalem crickets, potato bugs, sand crickets, wētās, stone crickets

Background

The family Stenopelmatidae contains two genera of large, mostly wingless, cricket-like insects in the Americas. Most stenopelmatid species occur in the New World. Members of the genera Ammopelmatus Tinkham and Stenopelmatus Burmeister, are commonly known as the Jerusalem crickets (Weissman et al. 2021). They are sometimes misidentified as wingless Hymenoptera.

How to separate from Asian giant hornet

  • Jerusalem crickets have been confused with Asian giant hornets, presumably because of the black and white striped abdomen that may look similar to that of a hornet from a distance
  • Jerusalem crickets do not have wings and cannot fly

Distribution

There are over 50 species of Jerusalem crickets and their relatives in the United States; many are still undescribed. Jerusalem crickets in the genus Ammopelmatus are found in the western half of the United States and the genus Stenopelmatus occurs throughout Mexico and Central America.

Distribution map of Stenopelmatidae by GBIF: https://www.gbif.org/species/8221

Diagnostic characteristics

  • Can be up to 7.5 cm long and weigh up to 13 grams
  • They are wingless with long antennae and a very large head
  • The front of the pronotum is nearly as wide as the head
  • The antennae are widely separated at the base
  • Tibiae are robust, with spines for digging
  • The tarsi have pads on the underside
  • The hind femora do not extend beyond the tip of the abdomen

Diversity

There are about 200 species of Jerusalem crickets found worldwide.

Host/prey associations

Jerusalem crickets feed primarily on decaying organic matter, roots, and tubers. They will also eat other insects (Milne and Milne 1980).

Nesting and general behavior

Jerusalem crickets are nocturnal, wingless insects, with highly modified spiny legs that are used for burrowing in moist soil. They use their large mandibles to feed on decaying roots and tubers and even other insects.

Most Jerusalem crickets take almost two years to go from egg hatch to mature adult. At higher elevations and more northerly latitudes they may require an extra year to mature. In most species, Jerusalem crickets mature to adults in mid-summer (Milne and Milne 1980).

Jerusalem cricket species inhabit a variety of habitats, including oak savannah, grassland, chaparral, coastal, and inland sand dunes to above the treeline (Capinera 2008). Some species are endemic to a particular dune system. Most of their lives are spent underground, and damp, sandy soil is preferred.

Known invasives

Jerusalem crickets are native to North America and are harmless to people and woody plants. Although they can occasionally damage turf and vegetables, they are generally not considered pests.

<p>Jerusalem cricket; photo by Bill Bumgarner, Flickr</p>
<p>Jerusalem cricket; photo by Sarah Zukoff, Flickr</p>
<p>Jerusalem cricket; photo by Jon Cox, Flickr</p>