There are three important species of mole crickets, Scapteriscus spp., that are economically damaging. They are the tawny mole cricket, S. vicinus; southern mole cricket, S. borelli; and short-winged mole cricket, S. abbreviatus.
The short-winged mole cricket is known to occur only in discrete areas
of Florida, whereas tawny and southern mole crickets are found
throughout the coastal southeast as well as sandy portions of golf
courses in Texas.
Bahiagrass, centipedegrass and bermudagrass are the preferred host
plants; however, St. Augustinegrass now sustains severe damage from the
activity of tawny mole crickets. The most consistent mole cricket
damage occurs in Georgia and Florida.
The various species of mole crickets are similar in size, reaching
up to 1.5 inches in length as adults. About 40 eggs are laid 3" to 12"
below the soil surface, depending on soil moisture. Eggs hatch
approximately 20 days later.
Tawny mole crickets are a light honey brown with a v-shaped space in
the foreleg “digger claw.” Their mating and egg-laying activity usually
occurs slightly ahead of southern mole crickets. Southern mole crickets
are a duller gray/brown color, often less robust in appearance than
tawny mole crickets. There may be two pale whitish spots on each side
of the prothorax and digger claws have a u-shaped space. Short-winged
mole crickets are flightless, having wings only one-third the length of
the abdomen. The hind legs of the short-winged mole cricket are
distinctly striped, helping to differentiate it from immature stages of
tawny or southern mole crickets.
Millions of dollars in damage result from the tunneling and feeding
activity of these insects on turfgrasses. Tawny mole crickets and
short-winged mole crickets are vegetarians, feeding on the underground
and above ground portions of grass plants. Southern mole crickets are
primarily predacious, feeding on earthworms and other insects. Their
damage to turf is mostly mechanical, resulting from tunneling activity
which leads to desiccation.