Who likes mole crickets?

Who likes mole crickets?

Who likes mole crickets?

Scapteriscus borellii

I do!

On a recent collecting trip to southeastern Georgia, we spent the night in Swainsboro. We found a hotel and went to the restaurant across the street for dinner. It was dark by the time we got back to the hotel, and since it was a rather warm, muggy night we did what any entomologist worth his salt would do on such a night—creep around the parking lot and building perimeter checking the lights for insects. Late May is still a tad early for checking lights, but among the small assortment of insects we did find were these slim, active insects known as mole crickets (family Gryllotalpidae). Not true crickets, though related, and certainly not moles, these odd-looking critters are immediately distinguishable by their mole-like, fossorial (digging) front legs—a remarkable example of convergence between members of two completely separate animal phyla.

Scapteriscus borellii (southern mole cricket) | Emanuel Co., Georgia.

Scapteriscus borellii (southern mole cricket) | Emanuel Co., Georgia.

Rather than fiddle with them out in the parking lot, I decided to bring them inside for studio photographs on a clean, white background. The widely separated tibial dactyls (literally, “shin fingers”) of the digging feet identify them as Scapteriscus borellii, or southern mole cricket. Despite their name they are an exotic insect, having originally come from much further south (southern South America) and arriving in the U.S. early in the 20th century. While true crickets jump, mole crickets run—and fast! They also, however, have the comical tendency to play dead for a moment when disturbed before bolting to safety. I was able to use this behavior to my advantage while taking photographs—every time he began running, all I had to do was cover him up with a bottle cap. After only a few seconds I was able to remove the cap and take a shot or two before he got the nerve to try to bolt again.

© Ted C. MacRae 2014

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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7 Responses to Who likes mole crickets?

  1. Joshua Basham says:

    Great post Ted! I collected three that night outside the hotel. Two are the southern mole cricket and then another that I haven’t put a name on yet.

    • Thanks Josh. The other species you have might be either the short-winged or the tawny. The short-winged has, obviously, short wings; while the tawny is very similar to the southern but has the tibial dactyls very close together. I wish I’d known there was more than one species present.

  2. markgelbart says:

    Swainsboro is less than an hour’s drive from my house.

    There’s a hotel in Swainsboro?

    I always see a lot of birds when I drive through adjacent Jenkins County. I always see the endangered wood stork, and I’ve even seen swallow tailed kites there.

  3. Wow your photos of mole cricket are pretty! It seem bigger than a cockcroach! Though I am not a fan of it, I like the pictures. But If my mom saw it it will probably die in a sec by a great slap coming from her high heel shoes (Just kidding)

  4. chrisjacobs269942891 says:

    Nice post! I was just writing a post about mole crickets for my own page. Someone send me a picture asking what she found, it was the european mole cricket (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa). Pretty cool animals! Apparantly they can swim too! Read that they show parental care, which is pretty cool for an insect. Nice pictures too, did you happen to see the paper in Plos One about 3D scanning of insects?

    • Thanks Chris. Yes, they are cool animals, although I’m a little disturbed by their propensity for establishing as introduced exotics. Regarding swimming – yes, their body covering of matt hairs makes them harder to wet and more buoyant, which gives them some ability to make it to land if they accidentally drop into water, but it’s not like swimming is a normal part of their biology.

  5. Mole crickets are so cool…

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