The Bug Box: Jerusalem cricket, potato bug

U.C. Davis

Oklahoma State University

This bug is creeping around your property. He may be friend or foe.

Name: Stenopelmatus fuscus

Alias: Jerusalem cricket, potato bug, stone cricket, niña de la tierra (child-of-the-Earth). This is a very large insect that can reach 2 inches in length. They are black and orange banded and usually active at night. They have a unique appearance as they appear to be made out of plastic. The head is disproportionately large and rather “humanoid.” The body is shiny. The upper part of the body is usually amber-yellow. The shiny abdomen is ringed tan to amber-brown against a brown to black background. It has strong mandibles that are used to feed on roots, tubers, vegetables, fruits and other insects. Its body is built for digging in the soil as opposed to jumping like its cousin the field cricket. Females have a smaller head and thorax, but a larger abdomen than the larger more massive male. The female may eat the male after they have mated. Jerusalem crickets live in burrows constructed under rocks and other cover during the day. Both adults and immature nymphs overwinter in the soil. Eggs hatch in the spring. They may take four or five years to mature.

Crimes: They are seldom found in sufficient numbers to cause problems with desirable plants. They are not poisonous but can deliver a nasty bite if carelessly mishandled. They are not aggressive.

Redeeming Qualities: They are primarily predators or scavengers of insects and spiders. The Jerusalem cricket may be kept as a pet in a terrarium, feeding it bread, grass roots, fruits, meat, small insects and vegetables such as potatoes. It is used as food by owls and probably eaten by foxes, coyotes and badgers.

Sentence: These curious insects are harmless and should not be killed. If plant damage is evident or suspected, you can physically remove and relocate them.

For more information on dangerous and beneficial bugs, call agent Wayne Jones at the Bonneville County Extension Office at 208-529-1390.