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I remember very clearly the first time I ever encountered a Jerusalem Cricket aka Potato Bug (they have other, way creepier names I'll get to shortly). I was helping my grandmother in her garden by turning over her compost heap. I exposed the largest, scariest-looking insect I had ever seen in my life. I was so afraid at that moment that I dropped the shovel and went inside and- for some reason- never told anyone until now. You are the first to know my dark secret.

The second time I was in high school and had fostered a love for the weird in my heart. I caught the insect in a plastic to-go container and brought him into my high school Biology class. It was a huge specimen, about three inches long. I think I might have even gotten a point of extra credit for my efforts.

Deep Dive on Youtube
Deep Dive on Youtube

The Jerusalem Cricket is not from Jerusalem and is not a "true" cricket. It's named "Jerusalem!" as an exclamation from being startled.  Which is generally how people feel when they encounter them. They are native to the Western United States, including Texas, and parts of Mexico.

Some of their colloquial names include Potato Bug, as they are often found in potato fields, niño de la tierra, that is, "Child of the Earth", cara de niño, that is "Child's Face" and even the particularly ominous "Devil's Baby".

So what do you do if you find one in your yard?

Apparently, when I caught mine, I was lucky it didn't bite the dickens out of me with its huge mandibles. But otherwise, Jerusalem crickets are totally harmless and the best thing to do is to leave them be. They are neither poisonous nor venomous and they eat smaller insects that could be chewing up your garden. That's right, Child's Face is actually your friend. But please don't call it that around me, it sounds entirely too spooky.

If you just really dislike them and don't want them in your area anymore, get rid of areas that hold moisture. You might want to rethink your pond or how you irrigate your garden.

Fun Fact: Jerusalem cricket ladies basically "twerk" to attract mates, here is an interesting (albeit pretty gross) video of their mating rituals.

Again, don't say I didn't warn you that it's pretty yucky:


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