Pest Information: Mole Crickets

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.

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