Ugly Bug Potato Bug Jerusalem Cricket Backyard Bug California Bug Garden Bug Exotic Bug

What’s bugging you? Could it be the remarkably ugly Jerusalem Cricket aka The Potato Bug? My mother recently found a very strange looking creature in her garden. She was simultaneously repulsed and intrigued. What could this invader be? It looked like a cross between an ant and a spider. With a thick abdomen and spindly legs, large black eyes and pinchers, it resembled something that might be found while watching the Syfy channel late at night.  

Upon looking up the words “ugly” and “bug”, the intruder was identified as none other than the infamous Potato Bug, also known as the Jerusalem Cricket.   Jerusalem crickets of the genus Stenopelmatus (Greek for “narrow foot”) are found in a variety of habitats throughout much of western North and Central America. Jerusalem crickets are often the subject of fear and superstition and have been given a variety of monikers, which is unsurprising given the dramatic appearance and size of these creatures.

My mother lives in California, and in California, Jerusalem crickets are known as potato bugs due to their desire for nibbling on potatoes and other crops in direct contact with the soil. Don’t worry too much though, these bugs won’t cause too much damage to crops and gardens, it is exceedingly rare for them to do so. In fact, it might not be such a bad thing to have these guys around. They occasionally will scavenge dead animal matter, which really equates to less work for you.

These bugs are very interesting in that they can live in a variety of habitats from arid desserts to mountainous regions and even tropical forests.  Most of the species of cricket live in California but if you are in the Western United States you might be lucky enough to spot one of these guys. They are not poisonous but they do have a mighty bite and may bite if handled. In California, Potato Bugs reach adulthood during the summer which is probably the best time to try and see them.

These bugs are not without enemies however. They are plump, juicy, and nutritious and provide meals for a variety of outdoor creatures like foxes, owls, coyotes, and even bats.

While some people are wary and repulsed by these creatures, some people choose to keep them as pets. They actually can do quite well in captivity if their habitat is constructed properly and they are given the nutrition they need to survive. Humidity is a key component, as is a temperature of no less than 70 degrees. They can be fed apple, potato, romaine lettuce, oatmeal and even bits of meat from time to time to give them a healthy diet with plenty of variety.

There still is a lot that can be learned about these creatures, and for those brave souls willing to try, perhaps they may teach us the things we’ve yet to ascertain about these Jerusalem Crickets.