Mole crickets are a type of cricket that get their name from their habit of burrowing into the earth like moles. They live on lawns in the Southeastern United States and throughout Canada and damage grass by burrowing tunnels in the soil and eating the grass. This results in brown patches in the grass. They also attract predators like raccoons that damage the grass as well.
Mole crickets are roughly 3-5 centimeters long with wings and large front legs that they use to dig in soil. Most though not all species are able to fly for short distances. Mole crickets lay their eggs in the tunnels they make underneath the soil. They are nocturnal and are omnivores meaning that they eat worms and larvae as well as grass. In cold weather, mole crickets hibernate and they are generally at their most destructive from August through October.
A mole cricket infestation can be identified by brown patches on the lawn where they have eaten the roots of grass and caused it to die. If the infestation has not yet reached this stage, they can be difficult to spot due to their nocturnal nature, but they can be brought up from their tunnels by mixing 1.5 ounces of dishwashing liquid with two gallons of water. Sprinkling this mixture over a few feet of grass will produce several mole crickets within just a few minutes if the infestation is serious enough to require treatement. Mole crickets can also be a problem on golf courses and on other areas with turf. Their underground tunnels can also stretch to lengths of fifteen or twenty feet.
Some pesticides and products are available to control a mole cricket infestation. Some of the stronger products can only be handled by professionals, and pest control companies can be contacted in the case of a severe infestation. Another solution is introducing beneficial insects that will naturally keep the population of mole crickets down. For example, in Florida, the wildflowers known as shrubby false buttonweed and partridge pea will attract the larra wasp, one of the mole cricket’s natural predators. The larra wasp does not sting humans and poses no threat to the lawn.
Mole crickets pose little danger to humans. While they damage turf and can make a lawn look ugly, they are not a significant health hazard.