Animal Species:Mole Cricket

The loud and persistent advertisement call of male mole crickets is a familiar sound in urban Australian gardens and parklands.

Female shiny mole cricket

David Britton © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Mole Cricket

Identification

Mole crickets are brown and have characteristic shovel-like fore legs, especially adapted to digging burrows. The abdomen is very soft, and the forewings small and oval-shaped, usually less than half the length of the abdomen.

Size range

3 cm - 4 cm

Distribution

Mole crickets are found throughout Australia, but are most prevalent in well-watered vegetated areas.

Habitat

Mole crickets live in urban areas and grassy woodlands.

Seasonality

Mole crickets are most active during the summer months.

Feeding and Diet

These crickets are omnivorous, although some species are known to be pests of turf because they eat the roots of grasses.

Communication

Male mole crickets use their burrows to amplify their calls by positioning themselves at the entrance and facing inwards. It seems that females are able to determine, from the sound produced, whether the males are calling from a damp or dry site. Females are more attracted to males calling from damp sites, where they prefer to deposit their eggs.

Crickets always call at dusk or during the night, whereas grasshoppers call during the day. Mole crickets mostly call when it is wet or when rain threatens, and calling can be induced by watering the lawn in the afternoon. Both male and female mole crickets call and Gryllotalpa monanka produces about 200 pulses of sound per second, resulting in a continuous song.

Life cycle

Unlike many crickets, the female mole crickets show some degree of maternal care and remain in the burrow guarding the eggs and protecting the nymphs.

Mating and reproduction

Only the flightless males produce the loud advertisement call. They call from within a specially constructed burrow which acts as a resonator, making their call louder. This burrow is also designed to allow any interested females access, whilst providing escape routes should a predator be attracted to the call. Females do not call, but have fully developed hindwings, and are capable fliers.

Predators, Parasites and Diseases

Females of the blue "ant" Diamma bicolor (Order Hymenoptera: Family Tiphiidae) use mole crickets as hosts for their larvae. The large and brighly coloured wingless wasp lays an egg on the paralysed cricket, with the cricket then being used as food for the developing wasp larva.

Economic/social impacts

Some species are known to be pests of turf, especially in golf courses. One exotic species the Changa mole cricket Scapteriscus didactylus has been accidentally introduced to areas around Newcastle, NSW, but the impacts of this introduction are not yet clear.

Classification

Genus:
Gryllotalpa
Subfamily:
Gryllotalpinae
Family:
Gryllotalpidae
Superfamily:
Grylloidea
Suborder:
Ensifera
Order:
Orthoptera
Class:
Insecta
Subphylum:
Uniramia
Phylum:
Arthopoda
Kingdom:
Animalia

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Tags crickets, insects, arthropods, invertebrates, identification, wildlife of sydney, mole cricket,

4 comments

David Britton - 11.03 AM, 30 March 2011

Dear Ivy, there appear to be two eastern states species which have established in WA. Your specimen is probably Gryllotalpa australis.

ivycark - 2.03 PM, 28 March 2011
We just found one this morning on our garden. I've posted a couple of photos on flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivyclark/5565964399/in/photostream/). Is it normal to find them all the way over here in Perth, WA?
David Britton - 8.02 AM, 16 February 2011

Hi Letitia,

The easiest way to detect the presence of mole crickets is to listen for the male calling song. They produce a continuous trilling song usually for an hour after dusk. The only other insects that might be confused with this in Australia are cicadas, but cicadas call from trees whilst the male mole cricket is underground. They like well watered areas of soft earth, such as garden beds, and are usually common in suburban gardens.

teeshk - 2.02 PM, 03 February 2011
Hello, I have been rescuing a mole cricket from our swiming pool over the last year and a half, 2x. I had never seen one of these before they have very interesting features, very animal like and seemed to be fairly intelligent as far as na insect would go.. I noticed it pooped the first time i tried to pick it out of the pool a year or so ago... Unfortunately I found it today, but not in time... is it likely there would be more? I have only ever seen one.

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