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Mole Crickets in Turf Grass & Lawns

- Large crickets that burrow under ground -

Summary: Mole crickets burrow in the soil where they feed on small insects and plant roots. Large numbers of mole crickets can cause damage to turf areas especially in warm climates.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Mole cricket identification

Mole crickets (see drawing right and picture of mole cricket here) are crickets, insects closely related to grasshoppers, that burrow in soil instead of living above ground like other crickets. Mole crickets have front legs that are adapted to burrowing and lack the jumping hind legs that are characteristic of some crickets and grasshoppers.

Mole crickets can be important pests in certain crops and turf grass such as home lawns, golf courses, sod farms, and so forth. Damage is caused by direct root feeding and the burrowing activity that destroys roots. Mole crickets feed on small soil insects as well as plant roots and shoots. Some species are extremely damaging to turf especially in warm climates like the southeastern US.

Mole crickets typically have only one generation per year so populations will tend to grow slowly. They exhibit a simple type of development in which immature mole crickets (nymphs) resemble adults except in size and they lack wings.

other common names: camel crickets, hump backed crickets, southern mole cricket, tawny mole cricket

mole cricket drawing

mole cricket (drawing) ~ 1" to 1-1/2" long; note front legs are adapted for digging


What does damage look like?

Turf damage occurs in warm climates like the coastal areas of southeastern US. You'll see irregular, raised burrows and dying grass. You can scout for mole crickets using a simple soapy water solution.

Starting in early summer mix a solution of about 2 tablespoons of dish soap in 2 gallons of water in a sprinkling can. Pour this solution over a 1 square yard of turf. If mole crickets are present you should see small nymphs wriggle to the surface. Repeat this procedure weekly in critical areas like golf courses. This procedure is sometimes called "flushing".

Count and record the number of mole crickets that come to the surface in response to the soapy water. The time to treat (see below) is when the numbers peak around mid-summer.


How to avoid mole cricket damage

Mole crickets can be very difficult to control because the grass and soil layer protect them from surface-applied chemicals. In commercial settings like golf courses you should contact local experts such as university or Cooperative Extension for information about treating mole crickets with insecticides.

Homeowners have had some success with entomopathogenic nematodes or imidacloprid (Bayer Advanced, Merit), a conventional insecticide that is registered for mole cricket control. Be sure to follow application instructions carefully for the individual products (see Using Imidacloprid for Lawn Pests). The best time to control mole crickets is early to mid-summer when your soapy water scouting shows significant activity.

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Jack DeAngelis, PhD,  , email: [email protected]

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