Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mole Cricket

This is the Northern Mole Cricket, Neocurtilla hexadactyla, one of my favorite insects. I saw my first when I was 12 years old and was instantly fascinated by the strangeness of it. I didn’t see another until we moved here. Now I hear them every autumn and see one every two or three years.

Like their namesakes, Mole Crickets spend most of their time in the ground. Their oversized, flattened forelegs are held horizontally to maximize tunneling efficiency. At the end of the leg are six large claw-like projections to aid in loosening and moving the soil. A Mole Cricket will have a burrow reaching several inches into the ground and ending in a small chamber. From this base, the cricket will tunnel mole-like just beneath the soil surface in a search for food.

The hind legs are not designed for jumping. Their shape allows them to maneuver the Mole Cricket through its narrow tunnel.

The wings are not capable of flight and are used to produce the calling song. It’s a shame that something as attractive as this spends all of its time hidden away.

The cricket didn’t like being exposed and actively tried to get back under cover. Here it’s trying to burrow between my fingers. For such a small insect, it could exert an amazing amount of pressure with those front legs.

When released, the Mole Cricket didn’t waste any time getting back underground.

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic creature, wonderful photographs! I'm always surprised when I run across a completely new critter... and delighted, too!

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  2. I just found one of these, first time I have seen them other than last week seen one at the state park near here but it was all white like in a pupa stage

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  3. Hi :) i have found one of these in my pool i had no idea what it was untill now . Thing is wherever i read it says they are found in north America .. since i live in turkey im thinking maybe it isnt the same . Is it possible they could live in turkey too?
    I have some pictures if anyone would like to see.

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  4. Kim - The species shown here is a North American species, but there is a similar species that can be found in Turkey. It looks very much like what I've pictured and has similar habits.

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