Jerusalem cricket

Jerusalem cricket

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

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

Jerusalem crickets, also called "potato bugs", 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 names, Jerusalem crickets are a distinct lineage within the Orthoptera, separate from crickets (eg Gryillidae), are not native to Jerusalem, and they do not prefer potatoes for food. Active usually at night, the insects use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic material 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.



There are a number of other genera in same superfamily Stenopelmatoidea in Australia and New Zealand. These are the weta and king crickets. They are similar to Stenopelmatus in many respects.


The Jerusalem cricket's song features a characteristic drumming sound.

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.

Stenopelmatus fuscus.

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]


In California, the Jerusalem cricket is known as a potato bug.[7] Its large, human-like head has inspired both Native American and Spanish names for the Jerusalem cricket. For example, several Navajo names refer to the insect's head:[8]

  • 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 (Wóó tsiitsʼiin) "skull insect"

Other names include the Navajo yo sic’ini (Yaaʼ tsiitsʼiiní, "sand cricket"),[8] the Hopi qalatötö ("shiny bug")[8] and the Spanish niña de la tierra ("earth child") and cara de niño ("child's face").[8][7]

Several hypotheses attempt to explain the origin of the term "Jerusalem cricket".[8] John Stoffolano hypothesizes that the term originated from a mixing of Navajo and Christian terminology. He suggests that Franciscan priests had a strong connection with the Navajos, particularly in the development of the Navajo dictionary and vocabulary. These priests, Stoffolano contends, heard the Navajos speak of a "skull insect" and took this to be a reference to Skull Hill, the cliff outside Jerusalem near the place where Jesus was said to be crucified.

Common myths

Mahogany Jerusalem cricket (Stenopelmatus n. sp. "mahogany") next to a 2.4 cm quarter

As is true for other large arthropods (e.g. solfugids), there are a number of folk tales regarding Jerusalem crickets which are untrue. First and foremost, they are not venomous; they can emit a foul smell and are capable of inflicting a painful bite, but neither is lethal as some of the tales would suggest. They also do not cry like children, nor do they rub their legs together to make sounds.

Jerusalem Cricket in its burrow.


  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 Eaton, Eric R.; Kenn Kaufman (2007). Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 84. ISBN 978-0-618-15310-7. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Stoffolano JG, Wright B (2005). "Sö ́sö`öpa—Jerusalem Cricket: An Important Insect in the Hopi Katsina Pantheon". American Entomologist 51 (3): 174–179. ISSN 1046-2821. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jerusalem cricket — ☆ Jerusalem cricket n. any of a family (Stenopelmatidae) of burrowing, wingless, long horned crickets common in dry regions of W U.S …   English World dictionary

  • Jerusalem cricket — a large, nocturnal, wingless, long horned grasshopper, Stenopelmatus fuscus, occuring chiefly in loose soil and sand along the Pacific coast of the U.S. Also called sand cricket. [1945 50, Amer.] * * * ▪ insect also called  sand cricket   any of… …   Universalium

  • Jerusalem cricket — noun large wingless nocturnal grasshopper that burrows in loose soil along the Pacific coast of the United States • Syn: ↑sand cricket, ↑Stenopelmatus fuscus • Hypernyms: ↑long horned grasshopper, ↑tettigoniid • Member Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Jerusalem cricket — noun A large, flightless insect of the genus Stenopelmatus, native to the western United States and parts of Mexico mdash; not a true cricket. Syn: potato bug …   Wiktionary

  • Jerusalem cricket — Jeru′salem crick′et n. ent a reddish brown cricket, Stenopelmatus fuscus, of arid areas in W North America, with a banded abdomen and short spiny legs • Etymology: 1945–50, amer …   From formal English to slang

  • Jerusalem cricket — noun Date: 1947 a large headed burrowing nocturnal orthopteran insect (Stenopelmatus fuscus) of the southwestern United States …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cricket — cricket1 cricketlike, adj. /krik it/, n. 1. any of several jumping, orthopterous insects of the family Gryllidae, characterized by long antennae and stridulating organs on the forewings of the male, as one of the species commonly found in… …   Universalium

  • Cricket (insect) — Crickets redirects here. For the Buddy Holly band, see The Crickets. Cricket Common black cricket (Gryllus assimilis) Scientific classification …   Wikipedia

  • sand cricket. — See Jerusalem cricket. [1880 85; Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • sand cricket — noun large wingless nocturnal grasshopper that burrows in loose soil along the Pacific coast of the United States • Syn: ↑Jerusalem cricket, ↑Stenopelmatus fuscus • Hypernyms: ↑long horned grasshopper, ↑tettigoniid • Member Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

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