Mole Cricket Identification and Removal

By: Kealia Reynolds How to

with bahiagrass or bermudagrass. Even more serious is the damage done to lawns by mole cricket burrowing activities. As these pests tunnel through top layers of the soil surface, they push up the ground, increasing evaporation of surface moisture, disturbing germinating seeds, and damaging the delicate roots of seedlings. Mole crickets also feed on the roots of pasture grasses and turfgrasses, drying out and damaging the plants. They do the most damage from August to October.

To prevent extensive damage to your landscaping, lawns, and gardens, learn how to identify a mole cricket infestation and eliminate these pests with natural and chemical remedies.

How to identify a mole cricket

A mole cricket is easily identified by its grayish-brown, velvety body, short wings, and large, black eyes. It has wide, claw-like front legs adapted for digging and hind legs for jumping. Adult mole crickets can grow to be about an inch long. Similar to grasshoppers and crickets, mole crickets have a signature chirping noise used for mating and back legs that resemble those of a grasshopper. The mole cricket gets its name from its mole-like shape of its body and forelegs.

Where do mole crickets live?

Three main mole cricket species were introduced from South America to the southeastern United States in the 1900s: the short-winged mole cricket, the southern mole cricket, and the tawny mole cricket. The short-winged mole cricket primarily lives in coastal areas of south Florida and Georgia, though it’s also found in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The southern mole cricket, in contrast, is found from North Carolina to Arizona and in areas of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. The tawny mole cricket can be found in North Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, but remains prevalent to the southern coastal plain. These aren’t the only species of mole crickets in the US, however, they are the most damaging. For example, the northern mole cricket is prevalent in the eastern US states west to South Dakota and Texas, but is not considered a pest.

Do mole crickets bite?

While mole crickets can technically bite you if provoked, they are not known to bite people. If you’re bitten, you likely won’t experience any symptoms or allergic reactions, as mole cricket bites are completely harmless.

Mole cricket life stages

  1. Adult mole crickets typically lay eggs in April or May, about two inches below the soil’s surface. The eggs are grayish brown and bean-shaped. They increase in size as they absorb water, eventually growing to about ¼-inch long. Duration of the egg stage is between 10 and 40 days.
  2. When the eggs hatch, the nymphs emerge and are initially white but turn dark within 24 hours. While the nymphs resemble adult mole crickets, they have poorly developed wings. The nymph mole crickets feed on grass roots and organic matter and create tunnels under the top layer of the soil. Nymphs will stay in this stage until August.
  3. Once the nymphs mature, the adult mole crickets bodies are fully formed—complete with developed wings and enlarged forelegs. During this stage, male mole crickets will produce a courtship song to attract females. Males will enlarge the entrance to their burrows to increase the volume of their call and allow for females to locate males. Mating occurs within the male burrows.

How to identify a mole cricket infestation

Two major visible signs of a mole cricket infestation are:

  1. Small, brown soil mounds
  2. Patches of brown, dying grass dappling your lawn

Since mole crickets are nocturnal, you may not be able to identify the actual pest during normal hours. To be completely certain you’re dealing with mole crickets, mix 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid with a gallon of water in a large bucket and pour the solution over a 1–2 square-foot area of your lawn that you think has been affected by mole crickets. Perform this task in the early morning or late evening. If mole crickets are present, they’ll surface within a few minutes.

How to get rid of a mole cricket infestation

Effective mole cricket control depends on the life stage of the pest and the current season. When mole crickets are small and young, they are much more easier to control. However, in the spring, when mole crickets are larger and damage is more prevalent, they’re harder to control. In the spring, map out where mole cricket damage occurs—this will help you apply the right remediation solutions in the summer.

Here are some natural and chemical methods of getting rid of a mole cricket infestation.

Natural ways to get rid of mole crickets

  • Biological pest control—According to a University of Florida study on mole crickets, biocontrol (short for biological control) is a safe, thrifty approach to combat mole crickets. Safe for humans, pets, and livestock, biocontrol can be more effective than insecticides and requires little to no maintenance. Consider using parasitoidal wasps (Larra bicolor), tachinid flies, or parasitic nematodes (Steinernema scapterisci)—all natural enemies of the mole cricket—to eliminate your mole cricket problem. Use these predator insects in early spring (March through April) or fall (September to October).
  • Host plant resistanceShrubby false buttonweed and partridge pea are much cheaper than chemical treatments and require very little maintenance. Both shrubs are perennials and can grow up to two feet tall. It’s recommended that you install these plants before encountering mole crickets, as this will greatly reduce the risk of dealing with mole crickets. If you live in Florida, contact your local county extension office to determine where you can buy these plants.

Chemical ways to get rid of mole crickets

  • Insecticides—Kill mole cricket nymphs by applying chemical insecticides in June or July. These insecticides will typically contain pyrethroids in granule, liquid, and bait formulas. Apply these insecticides when outdoor temperatures are at least 60℉ and irrigate the soil beforehand; moist soil helps the insecticide seep into the soil and encourages mole crickets to come to the surface and feed on bait. Though effective, you’ll have to reapply these pesticides regularly, potentially causing pollution to groundwater.
  • Professional exterminator—If your mole cricket infestation is proving too hard to remediate, read local pest control reviews and call a pest control company to evaluate the damage and recommend possible remediation solutions. Pest control providers like Western Pest and Terminix specialize in getting rid of various cricket species.

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