Chinch bug control in West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, FL.

Mole Cricket Identification in Florida

mole cricket west palm beach

Species Identification And Attributes

The mole cricket is an invasive insect from the family Gryllotalpidae. They get their name because they do kind of look and act like moles! They’re found in various parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and in the U.S, they’re common all around Florida and the rest of the Southeast. 

Common Species In Florida

Three prominent species of mole crickets can be found in Florida:

  • Tawny mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus vicinus)

  • Southern mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus borellii)

  • Short Winged mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus abbreviatus)

Physical Characteristics

Mole crickets have a number of physical attributes that make them easy to identify. Adult mole crickets have wings and on their front legs have dactyls, or digging claws, that enable them to burrow through soil.

Their bodies are cylindrical and range in length from 1 to 1.5 inches. They have two long cerci extending from their abdomen, which play a vital role in sensory and reproductive functions. Mole crickets also have prominent antennae that help them detect their surroundings.

Life Cycle And Behavior

They have a typical life cycle consisting of eggs, nymphs, and adult stages, and are nocturnal insects.

Eggs are usually deposited in the soil and protected from predators. Nymphs emerge from the eggs and go through a series of molts. During this stage, they look very similar to adult mole crickets, but their wings are not fully developed.

Mole crickets are effective burrowers, creating extensive tunnel systems in the soil. They feed on plant roots, causing damage to various crops and grasses. 

Their nocturnal nature and burrowing habits provide them with protection and an optimal environment for feeding and reproduction.

Habitat And Distribution

Mole crickets are commonly found in Florida and other parts of the Southeastern United States, such as North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, and even South America. 

These insects are known for their unique underground tunneling behavior that allows them to adapt to various environments and soil types.

In Florida, mole crickets are found in sandy soil. By burrowing through the soil, these insects can efficiently move through many square feet in search of food sources and mates, as well as protect themselves from predators. 

Their ability to thrive in different soil types also contributes to their widespread distribution.

Impact And Damage

Mole crickets can cause severe damage to turfgrass and lawns. They primarily feed on the roots of various grasses, like the bermuda grass and bahia grass we have here in Florida, leading to weakened  growth and eventual death of the turf. 

Common signs of mole cricket damage include spongy soil, irregularly shaped patches of yellow or brown grass, and visible tunnels near the surface.

These insects are especially harmful to seedlings and young turfgrass due to their vulnerable root systems. Mature turf may also be affected, resulting in thinned or dead patches. Golf courses, sod farms, and residential lawns are also commonly affected areas.

Mole Cricket Predators

Like other living species, mole crickets have their fair share of predators. Understanding mole cricket predators can help you maintain mole cricket populations.

  • Birds such as crows, blue jays, and mockingbirds are known to feed on mole cricket larvae and adults, particularly when the insects emerge at night or after rain showers. These avian predators can dig into the soil to capture mole cricket larvae.

  • Armadillos and raccoons both dig into the soil to find mole cricket larvae and adults. These animals actively hunt for mole crickets, however, their digging can sometimes cause additional damage to lawns and crops.

One of the most specialized mole cricket predators is the Larra wasp. This parasitoid wasp specifically targets mole crickets as hosts for its larvae. Female Larra wasps sting and paralyze mole crickets, laying their eggs on the immobilized insects. Once the wasp larvae hatch, they feed on the mole cricket, eventually killing it.

Control And Management

To effectively control and manage these pests, several methods are available, and they can be used in combination.

  • Homeowners can make soil less attractive to mole crickets with proper irrigation management. Over-watering can create moist soil conditions that are conducive to mole cricket activity.

  • Insecticides and simple fertilization can be an effective option for controlling mole crickets. Liquid insecticides are generally more effective than granular insecticides when the soil is moist and mole crickets are close to the surface.

  • Nematodes can also be a useful biological control agent against mole crickets. These microscopic worms can be applied to the affected areas and will infect and kill the mole crickets. This method is typically more effective when used in early summer, as mole cricket nymphs are still small and close to the surface.

  • Using a solution of soapy water can help flush out mole crickets from their tunnels, making them easier to spot and target with pesticides. This method, along with natural pest control, can also help homeowners determine the severity of their mole cricket problem.

It is important to begin treatments as soon as mole cricket activity is detected or suspected. Early intervention can prevent the problem from escalating and causing further damage to lawns and gardens.

Frequently Asked Questions

What If Mole Crickets Keep Coming Back?

If mole crickets keep coming back to your lawn, it may be time for professional intervention. Luckily, you can rely on Native Pest Management for lawn pest services, including mole crickets. Call us today to schedule your free lawn inspection!

How Do Mole Crickets Damage Lawns?

Mole crickets are nocturnal and most active during the warmer months of the year. They’re known for their strong, powerful front legs that they use to dig tunnels and burrows in the soil. These tunnels can be up to three feet deep and can cause significant damage to lawns, gardens, and agricultural crops.

How Do I Get Rid Of Mole Crickets?

Mole crickets can be difficult to control because of their underground habits. One way to prevent mole cricket infestations is to eliminate their food sources, such as grubs and other insects. Another method is to use traps or bait to kill or capture the mole crickets. Pesticides can also be used, but they should be applied carefully to avoid harming other beneficial insects or pets.

Are mole crickets harmful to plants or humans?

Mole crickets can cause damage to plants, particularly turf grass and seedlings, by feeding on their roots and disrupting soil structure. They are not directly harmful to humans, as they do not bite or sting. However, their tunneling activity can lead to an uneven lawn surface, which may pose a tripping hazard or inconvenience for people.

How effective are nematodes for mole cricket control?

Nematodes can be an effective biological control agent for mole crickets when used correctly. These tiny, microscopic worms parasitize and kill mole crickets by entering their bodies and releasing a bacteria that causes death. The effectiveness of nematodes depends on factors like proper application, environmental conditions, and the nematode species used.

What is the scientific name of mole crickets commonly found in Florida?

The two most common species of mole crickets in Florida are the tawny mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus vicinus) and the southern mole cricket (Neoscapteriscus borellii). Both of these species are invasive to Florida and can cause considerable damage to lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields.

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