Gryllotalpidae

Mole crickets are brown to brownish black, and the body is usually covered with fine setae. Antennae are short and the front legs are very broad and have large spines (dactyls) for digging. These insects burrow in moist soil, usually along the edge of ponds and streams; they tunnel 150-200 mm below the surface. The males stridulate. They are capable flyers, and are attracted to bright outdoor lights at night. Mole crickets are pests of commercial turfgrass because they tunnel in soil, expose grass roots, and feed on grass and other plants. At night, mole crickets leave their underground tunnels to bite off stems and leaves of plants, which are dragged into their burrow to be eaten. Roots are eaten at any time from within the tunnels. In areas of severe damage, the surface 20-25 cm ofsoil is honeycombed with numerous galleries.

Three species of mole crickets, Scapteriscus vicinus, S. borellii, and S. albibreviatus, were introduced into southern USA from South America. Scapteriscus vicinus and S. borellii have spread throughout the coastal plain from southeastern Texas to southeastern North Carolina, with isolated populations of S. borellii in Arizona and California.

African mole cricket, Gryllotalpa africana Adults are about 25 mm long and the body is brown and covered with short setae to give it a velvety appearance. Wings do not cover the full length of the abdomen. Eggs are laid in chambers at the end of burrows 10-15 cm below the soil surface. Females construct several chambers and lay about 100 eggs; hatching occurs in 2-3 weeks. Eggs are usually laid during the rainy season and development takes about 12 months. Adults live for several months. They are attracted to lights at night. This species is common in warm regions ofAfrica and Asia, including India, China, and Japan.

European mole cricket, fen cricket, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa (Fig. 13.1c) Adults are 35-40 mm long, and reddish brown to pale brown. Antennae are short, about the length of the prono-tum. Front wings are about halfas long as the abdomen, and the hind wings are fully developed. Front tibiae have four dactyls, and the hind tibiae have several spines on the inner margin. Eggs are laid in small chambers in the soil, usually close to the surface in moist soils. Fecundity is 100-300 eggs during 1-2 weeks, but 640 have been recorded. Females remain with the eggs and groom their surface until hatching. Mold fungi often damage eggs that are not cared for by females. Hatching occurs in about 2 weeks, and nymphs remain in the egg chamber for 2-3 weeks. Development is completed the following year or longer, depending on environmental conditions. Adults are capable flyers, and they are attracted to lights at night. A closely related species, G. vineae, occurs in southern Europe.

Common mole cricket, Neocurtilla hexadactyla (Fig. 13.1b)

Adults are 25-30 mm long, brown with black markings. This species is native to North America, and it is common in eastern and southern USA.

Southern mole cricket, Scapteriscus borellii (= S. acletus)

Adults are 26-36 mm long. The body is brown to pinkish brown and has a dark pattern on the pronotum. Tibial dactyls of the front legs have a deep, U-shaped separation. Eggs are laid in batches in underground chambers. Nymphs tunnel to the surface and feed in the upper layer ofsoil and litter. Juveniles and adults make and occupy extensive gallery and tunnel systems in the soil. Adults often fly to lights at night, and may be a pest in residential gardens. S. borellii is a predator of soil arthropods, and, while searching for prey, it digs tunnels in loose soil, and in commercial and residential turfgrass. Y-shaped tunnels are excavated in soil to facilitate feeding and for an escape route. Tunneling causes mechanical root damage and subsequent desiccation. It was introduced into the USA from South America. In South America it is found in Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. In the USA, it occurs from eastern Texas to Florida and north to South Carolina and North Carolina. It also occurs in Arizona and California.

Tawny mole cricket, scapteriscus vicinus Adults are 26-36 mm long. The body is brown to dark brown. Tibial dactyls of the front legs have a short and V-shaped separation. They are distributed in southern USA. Adults fly to lights at night, and may beapestinresidential gardens and commercial turfgrass. S. vicinus is herbivorous and feeds on plant roots, and in the urban environmentitfeeds on the roots of turfgrass. Tunneling in turf also causes mechanical root damage and subsequent desiccation. Y-shaped tunnels are excavated in soil to facilitate feeding and for an escape route; the tunnels of this species are more extensive than tunnels of S. borellii. Along with S. borellii, this species was introduced into the USA from South America, where it is found in Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. In the USA, it occurs from eastern Texas to Florida and north to South Carolina and North Carolina.

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