The Jerusalem Cricket: It's Really Just a Potato Bug

Updated on October 2, 2018
Casey White profile image

Dorothy is a former newspaper reporter and the author of several books. Michael is a professional landscape/nature photographer.

The Jerusalem Cricket Won't Bite (Usually) and Is Not Poisonous

The Jerusalem cricket is not poisonous and it won't bite unless it gets pestered or highly provoked.  It will almost always just turn and run away when approached, although its powerful jaws might pinch a finger if you get too close.
The Jerusalem cricket is not poisonous and it won't bite unless it gets pestered or highly provoked. It will almost always just turn and run away when approached, although its powerful jaws might pinch a finger if you get too close.

Not a True Cricket and It's Not a Native of Jerusalem

The Jerusalem cricket is native to the western United States and Mexico, and it is actually not a cricket at all, although it does resemble one. Luckily, it doesn't make that annoying sound that can keep you up all night (unless you like the sound of crickets rubbing their legs together, in which case it can help you fall asleep).

If you want to go looking for a Jerusalem cricket, you may not have much luck, as they live most of their life underground, coming out when it gets dark. You may, however, find them under a rock or other dark places. If you are a farmer and plow your field, you might literally "turn up" a few of them from time to time.

If you are a potato farmer, you might be slightly more familiar with them because they are also known as potato bugs. They love to dig beneath the dirt and feed on the roots and tubers of potato plants. People often confuse this bug with the potato beetle, which feeds on potatoes that are above ground, but there are many differences. At the end of this article is a photograph of a potato beetle, which is also called a potato bug.

This is what a Jerusalem cricket looks like in vivid detail from top to bottom.  The scientific name is Stenopelmatus fuscus.
This is what a Jerusalem cricket looks like in vivid detail from top to bottom. The scientific name is Stenopelmatus fuscus. | Source

How This Bizarre Creature Got Its Name

Native Americans called this cricket Woh-tzi-Neh (old bald-headed man). It is called “Nina de la Tierra” in Spanish (child of the earth). At one time, the Southwestern Indians once feared it, referring to it as the “child of the desert,” and although no one really knows for certain how it got its name, most agree that it was due to a confusing translation of Navajo terminology by Franciscan missionaries in the western North American territories.

The missionaries had a strong connection with the Navajos and may have heard them speak of wó see ts'inii (Navajo for skull insect). They mistakenly took this as a reference to Calvary outside Jerusalem near the place where Jesus was crucified because Calvary is also called skull hill.

The Jerusalem Cricket Has Several Predators

Nighttime predators like coyotes, badgers and fox prey on the Jerusalem cricket, which also comes out usually after dark. Owls have also been known to consider them prey.

Jerusalem Cricket Coming to the Surface

The Jerusalem cricket spends most of its time underground, so you may never have the chance to see one.  The photographer caught this one emerging from the hole he had burrowed in the ground. They usually come out when it's dark.
The Jerusalem cricket spends most of its time underground, so you may never have the chance to see one. The photographer caught this one emerging from the hole he had burrowed in the ground. They usually come out when it's dark. | Source

They Are Not Found in Jerusalem

Jerusalem crickets are found west of the Rocky Mountains, with most occurring along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Mexico. They may be unusual but they are not as rare as people have believed. There may be several species in the genus and researchers are trying to determine how many different variations exist and where each of those species make their home.

But, Can You Keep One as a Pet?

The animals you keep inside a terrarium may not be technically called "pets," but you could keep a Jerusalem cricket in one if you choose, especially if your goal is to keep it out of harm's way (yes, they do have predators). To be successful, however, you have to mimic its natural habitat as closely as possible, and to do so, we are providing some valuable pointers for you:

  • Put several inches of a light, loamy or sandy soil in the bottom of the terrarium so they can burrow (this will also provide a chamber for your female insects to lay eggs). Don't get excited about having lots more adult insects because the average time to become an adult from egg is around two years.
  • Provide plenty of hiding places, including boards, rocks, clumps of grass, etc.
  • They need plenty of fresh water and food (they are very partial to meat and a slice of potato and other vegetables, but also like bread, grass roots, some fruits and smaller insects).

If you keep a Jerusalem cricket in a terrarium, make sure it reminds him of his native habitat and include clumps of grass, leaves, etc., like you see in both these photographs.
If you keep a Jerusalem cricket in a terrarium, make sure it reminds him of his native habitat and include clumps of grass, leaves, etc., like you see in both these photographs.
This Jerusalem cricket appears to be right at home, and happy to be there, making terrariums a suitable place to keep them out of harm's way and away from predators.
This Jerusalem cricket appears to be right at home, and happy to be there, making terrariums a suitable place to keep them out of harm's way and away from predators.

The Jerusalem Cricket Is Large, as You Can See

Their Size and Appearance

According to a fact sheet published by the University of Reno (Nevada) and its Cooperative Extension Division, the Jerusalem cricket is described as being about two inches in length, with very unusual features - "especially the disproportionally large, bald, shiny, humanoid head" - all of which make this a bizarre-looking creature. The fact sheet further describes them as this:

"The head, thorax and legs are usually amber-yellow. Occasionally the head may be rust to brown colored. Two dark, beady eyes are widely set just below long, slender antennae. Large, heavy mandibles or mouthparts (for chewing)...The shining abdomen is ringed tan to amber-brown against a brown to black background. Its stout spiny legs are well adapted for digging in the soil, but not jumping like other cricket relatives."

This is not a potato bug.  It is a potato beetle, but is often called the same thing as a Jerusalem cricket.  These beetles are true pests, as they destroy thousands of potato plants annually.
This is not a potato bug. It is a potato beetle, but is often called the same thing as a Jerusalem cricket. These beetles are true pests, as they destroy thousands of potato plants annually.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

        5 months ago from United States

        I have a link to send you but I'm going to have to find it. I will post it tomorrow after I have time to research it to make sure all of the information you need is covered. Sorry for the delay, but I need to make sure I'm telling you correct information. Thanks for reading.

      • profile image

        TV 

        5 months ago

        How do I get rid of them? I live in Bellflwer California and have seen at least 8 of them in the month that we have living here.

        I wouldn't be so concern but i have found three of them inside the house.

      • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

        7 months ago from United States

        After I started writing articles about bugs I realized that in my lifetime I must have killed many harmless little creatures thinking they were going to attack if left alone. But, we live and learn. Don't feel bad...we've all done it.

      • profile image

        Pk 

        7 months ago

        Oh, I feel so bad now. I stepped out of my French doors and right there he was. My toy poodle lie down to smell them so I told him a voice quickly and I stepped lightly on the bug mainly because I was afraid of him. I've never seen anything like this before. I didn't step down hard I kind of more tapped them. He went ahead and got away. At first I thought he might be a scorpion but I didn't see a tail. I live in Riverside California so I came in and looked up huge bugs in Southern California and was able to identify him as a Jerusalem cricket. Now I hope I didn't harm him. We have a lot of coyotes and even a cougar that roams around and has been in my backyard. Well I hope he makes it home okay and I didn't harm him.

      • profile image

        Tamara Moore 

        13 months ago

        Thank you, again :-) Smiles! Eeew, they are still wretched- looking... lol. Ha haha

      • Casey White profile imageAUTHOR

        Mike and Dorothy McKenney 

        13 months ago from United States

        I was going to send you a message but was waiting for HubPages to approve it. I guess they did! Thanks goes to you!

      • profile image

        Tamara Moore 

        13 months ago

        Eew, you wrote it! Ha hahaha... I had asked you about writing a post about Jerusalem Crickets some time ago, and you did :-) They are scary-looking... But, you have got excellent information here. Fascinating!

        Thank you sooooo much!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)