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Mole Crickets

Summary: Mole crickets are the only insects that I know of that have hands. Well, they don't really have hands. They have front legs with appendages that look like hands. Still, you have to hand it to mole crickets. They are the only insect capable of shaking your hand.

Mole crickets were imported here on trading ships, so they have no natural predators in the USA environment. However, some parasites are very effective in limiting mole cricket populations. The sphecid wasp and larra wasp are parasitoids which lay eggs on mole crickets. The larval wasps eat the crickets, greatly reducing their numbers. The wasps are not aggressive as adults. They can be encouraged to enter your yard by planting shrubbery like false buttonwood and partridge pea wildflowers in your garden.

However, if you are looking for a fast method of controlling mole crickets I suggest using the Advion Insect Granules product. Follow the label instructions exactly. Do not over-apply the product for best results.

Parasitic nematodes provide a biological pest control alternative.  A product called Nematac S is commercially available and can be sprayed on a lawn to get rid of mole crickets. Results will be slower then when using the granular pesticide. The Nematac should be applied when the mole crickets are in the adult stage during the months of February through April or the period between September through November.

With unusual front appendages that look like hands and an affinity for hanging around golf course, I suppose mole crickets would do well with the country-club set. Shake a few hands, talk a little golf. You know! That kind of stuff! Problem is, they are only an inch or two long, so they don't make much of an impression with six-footer.

Mole crickets have fat bodies and the aforementioned adapted front limbs with spade-like fingers called dactyls that are used for digging and swimming. They are light brown in color and have beady, black eyes. They also have wings on their back that vary in length depending on the species. To me they look a lot like a cross between a prawn and a cricket, with hands like a mole.

Mole crickets are actually quite common. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, but are rarely seen because they are nocturnal and live most of their lives underground. The life of a mole cricket begins as an egg in an underground burrow. Upon hatching, the larval nymph looks like a very small version of an adult mole cricket, but has no wings. The mole cricket nymph grows and molts several times in the next few weeks. Some mole crickets become adults in the fall, while others over-winter as nymphs underground.

Mole crickets are omnivores and diet depends on species. Some mole crickets mainly eat the roots and shoots of turf grass like Bermuda grass or Bahia grass. Others have a diet consisting more of grubs and worms. They are considered a garden pest because they will eat tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and peanuts, and tobacco seedlings. Mole crickets also build long galleries underground that can sever roots and kill grass. The underground tunnels cause dead patches of grass and raised earth that can be infuriating to golfers when the tunneling is performed on a putting green. Tunnels can be twenty feet in length. That's an obstacle even Tiger Woods would find distracting.

The predators that feed on mole crickets also cause damage by digging them up. Raccoons and armadillos will dig up a mole cricket for a snack. Birds, rats, skunks and foxes will also savor a mole cricket meal. In addition, if you fail to score a reservation at your favorite restaurant, mole crickets can be fried and are fit for human consumption. Yummy!

To discover whether you have mole crickets make a solution containing one and one- half ounces of dishwashing detergent and two gallons of water. Spray or pour the solution on four square feet of grass and wait a couple of minutes to see if any mole crickets come to the surface. If you see two or more mole crickets you should consider taking further control measures.

Maintaining a healthy lawn can be a part of any integrated pest management strategy for mole cricket control. The lawn should not be cut too short, keep mower blades sharp to do as little damage as possible to the grass and do not over water the lawn. Anything that weakens the grass plant or its root system should be avoided so you don't attract mole crickets.

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