Stenopelmatidae

These are Jerusalem crickets or sand crickets. They have a large and robust head and body; they are usually brown to blackish brown, and have bands on the abdomen. They are found under stones or in loose soil. In the USA they are most common in western and Pacific coast states. There are 16 described species in the USA and Canada, but there may be as many as 60 undescribed species. Although they are found primarily in undisturbed areas, they occur around buildings during warm months.

Jerusalem crickets, stenopelmatus fuscus, S. longispina, S. pictus Adults are 30-50 mm long. The head, thorax, and legs are shiny brown or yellowish brown. The abdomen is shiny brown with wide black bands dorsally, and ventrally pale brown. The apex of hind tibiae is ringed with large spines. Eggs are about 3 mm long, oval and yellowish white. They are laid in batches of 15-25 in holes or narrow chambers in soil below the frost line. Females use their head to excavate the holes. Hatching occurs in the fall or in the spring. Females that have overwintered lay eggs in spring. Development is through 9-11 molts and is completed in about 18 months in southern latitudes and longer in northern latitudes. Adults emerge in midsummer and mate within 4-14 days. Males produce a large, white sperm sac, which is removed and carried by the female for several hours after mating. After mating, the female occasionally consumes the male, who makes no effort to escape. There is one generation per year. Both sexes of some species stridu-late by moving the abdomen past the hind femora or the hind femora past the stationary abdomen; the abdomen has short spines and the hind femora have raised, roughened areas. The sound produced is similar to rubbing sandpaper. Stridulation may be a defense mechanism. Food for the adults and nymphs is tubers and roots of plants, dead insects, and other animal matter.

The large, human-like head of the adult has created some superstitions around these crickets. In southwestern USA and Mexico they are called nina de la tierra or child of the earth. In other regions, the common name, potato bug, has been applied to this insect. This is apparently linked to records of their feeding on potatoes in the field. These crickets occur in states west of the Rocky Mountains, from British Columbia south to Mexico.

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