Jerusalem cricket

Jerusalem cricket

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Jerusalem crickets, are a group of large, flightless insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s of the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Stenopelmatus. They are native to the western United States
Western United States
.The Western United States, commonly referred to as the American West or simply "the West," traditionally refers to the region comprising the westernmost states of the United States. Because the U.S. expanded westward after its founding, the meaning of the West has evolved over time...

 and parts of Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...


Despite their names, Jerusalem crickets are not true crickets
Cricket (insect)
Crickets, family Gryllidae , are insects somewhat related to grasshoppers, and more closely related to katydids or bush crickets . They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are about 900 species of crickets...

, as they belong to the Stenopelmatidae family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 while the latter belong to the Gryillidae family. They are not native to Jerusalem, and they do not prefer potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es for food. These nocturnal insects use their strong mandibles to feed primarily on dead organic matter
Organic matter
Organic matter is matter that has come from a once-living organism; is capable of decay, or the product of decay; or is composed of organic compounds...

 but can also eat other insects. Their highly adapted feet are used for burrowing beneath moist soil to feed on decaying root plants and tuber
Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season and they are a means of asexual reproduction...



There are a number of other genera in same superfamily Stenopelmatoidea in Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 and New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

. These are the weta
Weta is the name given to about 70 insect species endemic to New Zealand. There are many similar species around the world, though most are in the southern hemisphere. The name comes from the Māori word 'wētā' and is the same in the plural...

 and king crickets. They are similar to Stenopelmatus in many respects.


Similar to true cricket
Cricket (insect)
Crickets, family Gryllidae , are insects somewhat related to grasshoppers, and more closely related to katydids or bush crickets . They have somewhat flattened bodies and long antennae. There are about 900 species of crickets...

s, each species of Jerusalem cricket produces a different song
In music, a song is a composition for voice or voices, performed by singing.A song may be accompanied by musical instruments, or it may be unaccompanied, as in the case of a cappella songs...

 during mating
In biology, mating is the pairing of opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms for copulation. In social animals, it also includes the raising of their offspring. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization...

. This song takes the form of a characteristic drumming in which the insect beats its abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

 against the ground.

No species have wings with sound-producing structures; moreover, evidently none has structures it could use to hear sound. This contrasts with true crickets and katydids, who use their wings to produce sounds and have hearing organs to sense sounds of others. Jerusalem crickets also seem unable to hiss by forcing air through their spiracles, as some beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s and cockroach
Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattaria or Blattodea, of which about 30 species out of 4,500 total are associated with human habitations...

es do. Instead, the few Jerusalem crickets that do make sound rub their hind legs against the sides of the abdomen, producing a rasping, hissing noise. This hiss may serve to deter predators rather than to communicate with other crickets. For such purposes, Jerusalem crickets rely on substrate vibrations felt by subgenual organs located in all six of the insect's legs.


In California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, the Jerusalem cricket is often referred to as a “potato bug”. Its large, human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

-like head has inspired both Native American and Spanish names for the Jerusalem cricket. For example, several Navajo
Navajo language
Navajo or Navaho is an Athabaskan language spoken in the southwestern United States. It is geographically and linguistically one of the Southern Athabaskan languages .Navajo has more speakers than any other Native American language north of the...

 names refer to the insect's head:
  • c’ic’in lici "red-skull"
  • c’os bic’ic lici "red-skull bug"
  • c’ic’in lici’ I coh "big red-skull"
  • wo se c’ini or rositsini "skull insect"

Other names include the Navajo yo sic’ini , the Hopi
Hopi language
Hopi is a Uto-Aztecan language spoken by the Hopi people of northeastern Arizona, USA, although today some Hopi are monolingual English speakers.The use of the language has gradually declined over the course of the 20th century...

  ("shiny bug") and the Spanish ("earth child") and ("child's face").

Several hypotheses attempt to explain the origin of the term "Jerusalem cricket". John Stoffolano hypothesizes that the term originated from a mixing of Navajo and Christian terminology. He suggests that Franciscan priests
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 had a strong connection with the Navajos, particularly in the development of the Navajo dictionary and vocabulary. These priests, Stoffolano contends, heard the Navajos speak of a "skull insect" and took this to be a reference to Skull Hill
Calvary or Golgotha was the site, outside of ancient Jerusalem’s early first century walls, at which the crucifixion of Jesus is said to have occurred. Calvary and Golgotha are the English names for the site used in Western Christianity...

, the cliff outside Jerusalem near the place where Jesus was said to be crucified.

Common myths

As is true for other large arthropods (e.g. solfugids
Solifugae are an order of Arachnida, known as camel spiders, wind scorpions and sun spiders or solifuges, comprising more than 1,000 described species in about 153 genera...

), there are a number of folk tales regarding Jerusalem crickets which are untrue. First and foremost, they are not venom
Venom is the general term referring to any variety of toxins used by certain types of animals that inject it into their victims by the means of a bite or a sting...

ous; they can emit a foul smell and are capable of inflicting a painful bite, but neither is lethal as some of the tales would suggest. They also do not cry like children, nor do they rub their legs together to make sounds.

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